Glimpses of Our God; The Holiness of God

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.  And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.     And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.  Genesis 2:1-3

The Sabbath is an illustration on how the Lord makes us Holy. After all, Christianity and even more specifically, Seventh-day Adventism, is not so much about a day being holy as much as it is about a people being holy. The Sabbath did not makes itself holy. This seventh day was totally powerless and helpless. Yet God made the day holy. Likewise we can do nothing to make ourselves holy, yet God can make us holy just as He made the seventh day holy.  Thus, the Sabbath is all about grace. It is a sign that all of God’s work is complete and we can rest without trying to add anything to His work. No wonder Satan wants us to forget the Sabbath. The Sabbath points us to grace, the cross and the creating and re-creating power of God. If the Sabbath was about the law and works, Satan would care less if we kept it or not, as he is smart enough to know we are not saved by the law or works. Satan is at war with the Sabbath, because he knows it points to grace and the cross where we find salvation.

I can imagine what the first Sabbath may have been like.  Adam and Eve did not need a physical rest that first Sabbath. It’s not like they had a long week that week. But I can imagine God taking them through the garden, showing them all the wonderful things He had made, and the works He had done. On that first Sabbath, Adam and Eve realized, “It is He that hath made us and not we ourselves.” Four thousand years later, Jesus cries out on the cross, “It is finished” and completed all the work for our salvation. He rested in the grave on Sabbath. There was nothing mankind could add or needed to add to the works of Jesus. After the cross the Sabbath has double meaning. It is He who has made us and not we ourselves, and it is He who redeemed us and not we ourselves.

The works of Cain in his field could not add to the salvation God Himself worked out, by providing a Lamb. The builders at the Tower of Babel could not add to God’s salvation no matter how hard they worked. Thinking to change times and laws, and thinking to turning a work day into a Sabbath day will never add to salvation either. We cannot make ourselves holy, so how can we think we can make Sunday or any other day holy? Only God can make a day holy and only God can make a people holy. I find it odd that some have accused me of trying to be saved by my works by resting on the Sabbath. How can resting be considered work?

Every Sabbath I stand in awe of God’s works just like I imagine Adam and Eve did on that first Sabbath. I understand God made a day holy that was totally powerless to make itself holy. I understand that it is He who made me and not my own works or effort. I rest my faith in His amazing grace as He also redeemed me by His work on the cross and not by my works.  If God can make a day holy, He can make me holy too.

To study this week’s SS lesson click here.

To download the SS app to your phone click here.

For further study on the weekly Sabbath click here.

Glimpses of Grace; Family Grace

I am writing this morning from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

One summer, when I was ten years old, I spent a week at my Grandmother Holzkamper’s house in Gentry Arkansas. My mother came to pick me up and while we were still visiting with grandma, I smarted off to my mother. My grandmother told me something that has always stayed with me. She said, “You don’t talk that way to your mother.” After that I thought she would tell me how my mom is the boss and all but she didn’t. Instead she said, “You don’t talk that way to someone who would die for you.” Wow. I had never thought of it like that.

There are power struggles even in families. I wish this were not so. I have seen family members accusing other family members of being on ego trips and being power hungry. Husbands are to be respected, not because they are “the man” or the boss. They are to be respected because they would be the last ones off the Titanic. They would die for their families.

At the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church where I serve, we don’t call pastors “reverand.” We only revere God. Yet Paul tells wives to reverence their husbands! Paul is telling wives to have more respect for their husband than a church pastor. That is because of the self sacrifing love the husband has for His family.

I am sure many times the wife has this love also for her family. Disagreements happen. That is okay. I just hope that when family members disagree, that they continue to resepct each other and remember they are arguing with someone who would die for them. Reverence that love even while disagreeing!

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. Ephesians 5:25

Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. Ephesians 5::33

Glimpses of Grace; Help to Overcome

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

While God monitors the planets to make sure they don’t colide, he also monitors your temptations, to make sure nothing comes your way that you can’t handle with His strength. Often times I have been given a task that seems overwhelming.  I don’t have the time, energy or skills to complete it. Then someone reminds me I don’t need to do it alone. I need to delegate and find other people to help me accomplish the task. People are standing by ready to help. In the classic Great Controversy, p 560, I am reminded that all heaven is standing by ready to help me when I am tempted. “He [God] would sooner send every angel out of heaven to protect His people than leave one soul that trusts in Him to be overcome by Satan.”

Glimpses of Our God; Mulligans and Grace

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Friday’s section of this week’s SS lesson asks the question, “What’s the deadly spiritual trap of thinking that because we’re saved by grace, it doesn’t matter what we do? How can you protect yourself against falling into that deception?”

On the golf course we have another word for grace. It is called a “mulligan.” After you make a terrible shot, your partner may offer you a mulligan. You take another shot and the first shot does not count. It’s like it never happened. I love grace and I love mulligans. However, one day, when I first took up golf, I was golfing with Ron, my good friend and golf mentor. We were on the 6th fairway at the Rivard Golf Course in Brooksville. It is a par 5. I was about 50 yards away from the green and about to make my third stroke. If I hit the green I would be on in 3 strokes, and with two putts could easily make par. My third stroke went wide left and hit a tree. Ron, who is very gracious and forgiving told me to take a mulligan. I graciously accepted and dropped another ball at the original spot and tried again. I hit the tree again. Frustrated I grabbed another ball and dropped it and hit again with the same result. Now I was becoming very frustrated because I knew I could do it, it just wasn’t happening. It was just bad luck and I was determined I wasn’t going to let bad luck control my scorecard. I dropped another ball and got ready to experience more “grace” by taking another mulligan. Then it occurred to me that I may have been taking advantage of the mulligan system. Many take one mulligan but I was taking several. I asked my friend Ron, “does anybody else do this?” Referring to taking multiple mulligans. Ron, who is very forgiving and graceful, shook his head in disbelief and with a hint of frustration in his voice firmly said, “no!”.

Grace is a wonderful thing, but it is not intended to let us make the same mistakes over and over. Sure, there is always forgiveness.  When our heart is broken because of sin, the Psalmist declares in Psalms 51, “a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” I know with all my heart that God will never turn away a heart that is broken because of a sin no matter how many times sin has broken that heart before. At the same time grace is more than just forgiveness. Grace is a power that helps us overcome our failures.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.  Ephesians 2:8-10

Grace gives us good works.

By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith. Romans 1:5

Grace gives us obedience

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. Titus 2:11-12

Grace gives us power to live Godly lives in this present world.

We have a relatively new senior pastor at our church who likes golf. Pastor Brad  allows me to take mulligans, but  he never takes them himself. He holds himself to a higher standard than what he requires of me.  To me that is a model Christian. Freely forgiving others while holding himself to a higher standard. Funny thing is he wins all the time.

One day we were playing on the Babe Zaharias golf course near our church in Tampa. The second hole is a par 4. My first drive went short and wide left towards some trees. I wanted to take a mulligan, but since Pastor Brad wasn’t taking them, I thought I better just play it straight and accept another double or triple bogey. Strange thing happened on my second shot. Using my fairway wood, my second shot sailed close to 200 yards and the ball landed next to the green. I chipped onto the green and my first putt fell in the hole for par! I walked off the green and thought, “Wow! Even with a bad drive I made par without taking a mulligan.” That felt good.

To me, my friend Ron and my friend Pastor Brad, make a good combination of grace. Ron sitting in the golf cart patiently as I kept hitting the tree over and over with my chip shot, and Pastor Brad challenging me by holding himself to a higher standard. I have learned in golf, that what I need instead of a mulligan is a really good second stroke. I have also learned that when I make double par the world does not come to an end. I need both Ron and pastor Brad in my life as well as my golf game. They give me the proper balance I need to improve my game. While I may not always need mulligans, I will always need grace, because grace is  more than a second chance. Grace is the power to improve my game and my life.

Glimpses of Grace; The Truth About John 3:16

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Last weekend, during the Broncos-Patriots playoff game, Focus on the Family ran a beautiful add where some cute kids recited John 3:16. I was so excited to see this add on national TV and was presented wonderfully! I do hope that people also understood in this verse that God is a God of love and will not be torturing sinners throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. No, the verse very clearly says the unbeliever will perish, not burn for all eternity.

To me the greatest lie that has ever been told about my heavenly Father is that He is a physco path who will torment you for all eternity if you don’t love Him back. I am thankful that He is a God of love. He gave His Son Jesus. He did not just offer Him to us. There is a difference. He gave, not offered. Jesus has been given to you and you must reject him now to get rid of Him! Please don’t reject Him. God also gave Him to us forever. He did not loan us His Son, He gave us His Son to be our Savior and advocate for all eternity!

For more on the truth about the unbeliever perishing instead of being tortured for all eternity please click here.

Glimpses Of Grace; Grace And The Birthright

I am writing this morning from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.  Romans 9:12-13

Some people use this verse to teach pre-destination, saying that God had already decided before Esau was born that he would not be saved. God says that He hated Esau, right? Before we jump to conclusions lets see how Jesus uses the word “hate.” In Luke 14:26, Jesus says, “If any [man] come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” 

Of course Jesus does not want us to hate our families as think of the word “hate.” In the Bible, we see love is preferring someone before self or someone else. All He is saying is we must prefer Jesus above our families. So in Romans 9:13 when God says, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau have I hated” all He is saying is, I preferred Jacob to have the birthright rather than Esau. This is very clear as verse 12 tells us that “the elder shall serve the younger.” The context is very clearly about the birthright and not Esau or Jacob’s personal salvation.

Jesus desires everyone to experience salvation!

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,  looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.  Titus 2:11-14  

http://seg.sharethis.com/getSegment.php?purl=http%3A%2F%2Fchristianservant.wordpress.com%2Fwp-admin%2Fpost-new.php%3Fpost_type%3Dpost&jsref=&rnd=1326804030902I would like to invite you to experience this salvation at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church. If you are not in the Tampa Bay area you can find a grace loving church in your part of the world here.

 

Glimpses of Grace; My First Black Friend

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. day, I wanted to share a story that happened while I was living in this house in Tulsa, Oklahoma cerca 1971.

Rodney and William Cerca 1971

My Friend Rodney and I, playing cowboys cerca 1971. I would love to see him again if anyone recognizes him in this picture who knows him now.

My Tribute to Rodney, My First Black Friend

I originally wrote this in February 2003

 “First black friend” probably sounds silly to a child of today, but when I was a young kid in 1970 we lived in a white neighborhood. A white neighborhood in Tulsa, the city famous for the Race Riot of 1921. My kindergarten class had not been integrated yet.  We went to the white Seventh-day Adventist church while the “black” church was across town.  I had nothing against black people I just didn’t know any. That was until Rodney and his mother showed up at my front door step on a Summer Evening in 1970.

I had seen him before. My family watched them move in across the street a few days before. My mother suggested I go across the street and say hello and welcome the new black boy to the neighborhood. I was too afraid to. Afraid of what? I have no clue. Had no clue back then either. I wasn’t racist, I was prejudiced. Prejudiced is just another word for stupid. I can remember more than once riding home seeing him across the street, mother telling me to go over and say hi. No way! Why? Who knows? Fear of the unknown?

One evening as we were getting ready for an evangelistic meeting at our church there was a knock on the door. We answered the door and there stood a black woman and a little black boy. My parents said “hi” welcomed them into our house.  I said nothing. Just stared. Why? I don’t know. Everyone introduced themselves and said “hi.” Everyone but me, I just stared. Rodney was the little black boy. His mother said he wanted to come over and meet me. I just stared. He looked at me. I stared at him. Even at my age I could sense the loneliness in his eyes. He took a step towards me and reached out his hand. Everyone watched as I took a step back, still staring.  Everyone sensed the awkwardness. My parents and sister were embarrassed by my reaction to his gesture. His mother was the only one who was not surprised by my rudeness.  He took another step towards me and tried to touch me! I took another step back. Why? That’s what I have been asking myself for the last 42 years!  To ease the tension my parents said we were getting ready to go to church and invited them both to join us. Join us at the white church? Yes, the white church.

They politely declined and my parents told them they were welcomed back  anytime.

On the way to church my sister asked me why I was so rude to that nice little boy. I told her he was black. She said that didn’t matter. My parents agreed. Finally I got the nerve and went over to his house and said hi. Before you knew it we were best friends. Playing Cowboys and Indians and cops and robbers and everything else that kids played in the early 70’s.  When we moved a couple of years later Rodney and his mother came over to visit us in our new home. It was great seeing my friend again.

The reason I want to tell this story is because of something that never dawned on me until I was much older, and I put myself in Rodney’s position. A young black boy moving into a white neighborhood in the early ‘70s, just a couple of years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination when racial tensions were high. I could have been a great ambassador for world peace right there in my neighborhood by just walking across the street and extending my hand to the new black family. Instead I took a step backwards every time he mustered up the courage to take a step forward. Rejection. Fear. Hatred? After being rejected by me the first time he musters up the courage to take another step forward. I took another step backwards. Rejection…again. Why? Who knows? All I can say is I am so glad he was persistent enough to keep stepping forward when I kept stepping backwards. He turned out to be a great friend! I turned out to be a great friend too after the prejudice (stupidity) wore off.

My little friend Rodney reminds me of some one else who came to make friends with the world but was rejected. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” John 1:11 Thank God for people like Jesus and Rodney who look past the rejection, prejudice and pain and keep loving anyway!  Where would I be without them? If it wasn’t for the persistent love of people like Jesus and Rodney I wouldn’t have developed the wonderful friendships that I enjoy today with all kinds of people, red and yellow, brown and black and white.

I have not seen Rodney in several years, but I think about him every time I meet some one new. I take a step forward and extend my hand. I smile and say “hi.” I remember that Summer Evening in 1970. I won’t make the same mistake again.

Thanks Rodney wherever you are, for moving into my white neighborhood and mustering up the courage to cross the street and meet me. I’m sorry I did not have the courage to cross the street first.

Glimpses Of Our God; God As Redeemer

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

As a Bible Worker I work on the front lines of the battle between good and evil. Many times I have seen families and individuals appear to be overcome by Satan, and it has brought me to tears on many occasions, but then I pray and then remember the power of my Redeemer.

For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.  1 John 3:8

And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,  Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.  And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. Luke 22:41-43

The worlds unfallen and the heavenly angels had watched with intense interest as the conflict drew to its close. Satan and his confederacy of evil, the legions of apostasy, watched intently this great crisis in the work of redemption. The powers of good and evil waited to see what answer would come to Christ’s thrice-repeated prayer. Angels had longed to bring relief to the divine sufferer, but this might not be. No way of escape was found for the Son of God. In this awful crisis, when everything was at stake, when the mysterious cup trembled in the hand of the sufferer, the heavens opened, a light shone forth amid the stormy darkness of the crisis hour, and the mighty angel who stands in God’s presence, occupying the position from which Satan fell, came to the side of Christ. The angel came not to take the cup from Christ’s hand, but to strengthen Him to drink it, with the assurance of the Father’s love. He came to give power to the divine-human suppliant. He pointed Him to the open heavens, telling Him of the souls that would be saved as the result of His sufferings. He assured Him that His Father is greater and more powerful than Satan, that His death would result in the utter discomfiture of Satan, and that the kingdom of this world would be given to the saints of the Most High. He told Him that He would see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied, for He would see a multitude of the human race saved, eternally saved. -Desire of Ages, p. 693

I still remember one night in Texas, when I was alone in my home praying for a family that was slipping away from God. I opened my book Desire of Ages to the passage above in the chapter titled Gethsemane. I still remember the chills that went down my spine as I rejoiced to read those last words, “He would see a multitude of the human race saved, eternally saved.” I was so thrilled to read those words! I have never forgotten them. Since then I have clung to those words as over the years I have watched families and individuals triumph over drugs and alcohol, hurt and bitterness, sexual immorality and more. Meanwhile, that family that I was praying and crying for that night? Over the years now the parents have returned to God and are in church every week. The children who seemed so distant from God have grown up. They are in church now and their children are in church.

Sometimes it appears Satan is getting all the victories, but I know: Christ rejoiced that He could do more for His followers than they could ask or think. He spoke with assurance, knowing that an almighty decree had been given before the world was made. He knew that truth, armed with the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit, would conquer in the contest with evil; and that the bloodstained banner would wave triumphantly over His followers. He knew that the life of His trusting disciples would be like His, a series of uninterrupted victories, not seen to be such here, but recognized as such in the great hereafter.  -Desire of Ages, p.  679 

Sometimes the success of the gospel appears small, but even in my little world over time I have seen tremendous victories. I have seen a lady joyfully singing in church who years before told me bitterly she would never step foot in church again. I have seen families laughing and playing together who a while before seemed divided forever. I have seen enough to know the victories are not small and scarce. Multitudes are being redeemed. Eternally redeemed!

Here is one of many testimonies on why I never give up.

To study this week’s SS lesson online click here. To download the SS lesson guide app. to your cell phone click here.

Glimpses of Grace; Victory in Jesus

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. This is my view of Tampa, from a bench in Ballast Point Park, where I often go to pray at night after a full day of Bible ministry. I love to look out over the city that I am praying for as I pray. I do not only pray for the city. I pray also for myself, that God will give me the skills and opportunity to share His grace amongst great obstacles. When I pray for God’s help in my ministry I am often encouraged by the passages below. Thanks to my friend Adam, who took this picture with his camera, as my camera doesn’t do too well at night.

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us Ephesians 3:20

I wanted to share a passage from The Desire of Ages, page 679 that has always brought me hope and encouragement in my ministry.

Christ rejoiced that He could do more for His followers than they could ask or think. He spoke with assurance, knowing that an almighty decree had been given before the world was made. He knew that truth, armed with the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit, would conquer in the contest with evil; and that the bloodstained banner would wave triumphantly over His followers. He knew that the life of His trusting disciples would be like His, a series of uninterrupted victories, not seen to be such here, but recognized as such in the great hereafter. 

  “These things I have spoken unto you,” He said, “that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Christ did not fail, neither was He discouraged, and His followers are to manifest a faith of the same enduring nature. They are to live as He lived, and work as He worked, because they depend on Him as the great Master Worker. Courage, energy, and perseverance they must possess. Though apparent impossibilities obstruct their way, by His grace they are to go forward. Instead of deploring difficulties, they are called upon to surmount them. They are to despair of nothing, and to hope for everything. With the golden chain of His matchless love Christ has bound them to the throne of God. It is His purpose that the highest influence in the universe, emanating from the source of all power, shall be theirs. They are to have power to resist evil, power that neither earth, nor death, nor hell can master, power that will enable them to overcome as Christ overcame. 

Glimpses Of Grace; When God Ran

I am writing this morning from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.  Luke 15:20

I love this parable about the prodigal son. I love how when the son turns back to his father, who represents our Heavenly Father, that while he is still a great ways off the Father has compassion. God does not wait for us to get our act together before He accepts us as His children. I love this verse too, because this verse is the only time we see God run. God does not run to hear angels sing His praises. God does not run to congratulate a Superbowl or world cup champion. But when a rebellious sinner turns his eyes towards home, when a sinner wants to escape satan’s grasp and needs help getting free, God does not walk He runs! As a matter of fact, it’s the only time in the Bible you see Him run!

I would like to invite you to celebrate this agape love with us at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church. If you are not in the Tampa Bay area you can find a grace filled church here.

Click here and let the song “When God Ran” by Phillips Craig and Dean bless your heart today.