While I love being with friends, it does not bother me to be alone. Being alone does not make me lonely. Being misunderstood makes me lonely.
In a youth group I asked the young people what specific things do others not understand about you that you wish they did. An ordinarily quiet group suddenly became very vocal. Everyone wants to be understood. Well not all the time. Sure, when our motives are pure we wish people could understand us, but not so much when our motives are selfish.
That’s why persecution can be so valuable. When we keep on doing good even when our motives are maligned and we are not rewarded, it lets us know we are doing good out of love, and not just for a pat on the back.
While we may find solace in the fact that God truly understands us and knows our hearts, is that really good news? I mean – deep down, are we all really goodpeople? Paul tells us in Romans 7:18 that there is nothing good deep down inside him. 1 Samuel 16:7 tells us that, while man looks at appearances, God looks in our heart. And that’s not always good news.
When I was in the third grade, I hated diagramming sentences. I had learning disabilities, which only meant I needed to try harder. My class would receive an assignment to diagram 20 sentences. Well, after 10 I got tired. So, one day after deciding that 20 sentences was just too much, I just circled random words as nouns, verbs and pronouns, and then on the back of the paper I wrote “I did my very best, I did my very best” over and over until the entire page was filled. My teacher showed the paper to my mother and said, “We are pushing little William way too hard. Look how hard he is trying and how frustrated the poor little guy has become. He is doing his very best!”
Confession: I was not doing my best at all! I wanted everyone to think I was doing my best, so they would leave me alone and let me be lazy! All those wonderful promises about God understanding us and knowing our hearts only meant God understood me better than anyone else, and what God understood was that I could do a lot better.
I hear a lot of people use the term “God understands” to automatically mean He knows we have the best of intentions. Not so. Sure He understands when we have good intentions, but He also understands when we have evil intentions.
The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Jeremiah 17:9 NLT
Could this be why James 1:26 says, “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself…?”
Sorry, but there is no biblical support for the idea that God knowing our hearts means that He understands how good we really are. In fact I find just the opposite. This is why John tells us,
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 1 John 1:8-9 NLT
If we stop trying to fool ourselves and others by pretending to have pure motives all the time, Jesus will forgive us for being so full of self, and He will cleanse us from the selfish motives hidden deep within the heart.
I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you… Ezekiel 36:26 NLT
While I get frustrated and lonely when people don’t understand my good intentions, I’m quite relieved when they think I have good intentions while being selfish.
Only God knows my heart, and when He reads my heart, what does He think? He does not see any good in it. It’s so bad He wants to throw my heart away and give me a brand new one. More than finding solace in the fact that God knows my heart, I find solace in the fact that He can change my heart to be like the heart of Jesus.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
A Bible student was excitedly telling me about a movie he saw where someone died and went to heaven and saw his dead loved ones. When I confronted him about the state of the dead, he told me, well maybe they did not actually die. Maybe it was a dream. “But you said he saw his dead loved ones in heaven,” I said. My student suggested it was just a future vision then. He was quite emotional about the movie and told me it had strengthened his faith in God. What could be wrong with that? Several things are wrong, but for now lets just look at one. What if he saw another movie validating evolution? Do we put our faith in movies? Do movies validate or discredit the Word of God? No! If my student had read the Word of God but only believed because a movie said the Bible is true then we have a very serious fundamental problem. We don’t go by appearances. We go by the Bible.
I’m not sure if it was Halloween or not, but Satan dressed up as a serpent. He offered Eve a treat, but it turned out to be a trick. Eve heard the Word of God concerning the fruit from a certain tree,
Well sure that’s what God’s Word said, but now Eve sees this serpent who not only ate the fruit and did not die but can also talk now. Pretty convincing evidence if seeing is believing. It appears that not only can you disobey God and not die, but you actually get special powers and advantages you never had before. If the serpent could talk after disobeying God then what possibilities were there for Eve? Eve decided God’s Word was not true since it did not go along with what she saw and heard.
The serpent appeared to be more credible than God’s Word since the proof was right there in front of her. You can’t disprove something you see and hear right? Wrong! Eve ate the fruit and she is now dead. That serpent Satan used is dead too, and one day Satan himself will die. It may have appeared God’s Word was not true but it was very true!
In Matthew 3 Jesus is baptized and God’s voice is heard from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son.” In Matthew 4, after 40 days of fasting, Satan appears to Jesus as an angel of light. He tells Jesus there was an angel who was kicked out of heaven, and insinuates Jesus, in His humanity weakened by fasting sure looks like that fallen angel. “If” Said Satan, “You are the Son of God turn these stones into bread.” Jesus may not have felt like, nor in the wilderness appeared to be the Son of God, but He had heard God’s Word say, “This is my Son.” Jesus did not go by feelings or appearances. He told Satan He would live by God’s Word and God’s Word said “This is my Son.”
John the Baptist was there at the baptism and heard the Word of God too. However, John later found himself in prison, and while he wanted to believe God’s Word he struggled because it did not appear to be true, as he sat there staring at prison walls. He sent a message, asking Jesus if He was the Messiah. Why did he have to do that when He already heard God’s Word say “This is my Son?” John made the same mistake Eve and millions have made. They only believe God’s Word if it goes along with what they see. Eve and John the Baptist would have been kept safe if they would have trusted God’s Word instead of illusions.
During World War two, Arthur Maxwell wrote an article for Signs of the Times Magazine, assuring everyone Hitler would be defeated, as Daniel 2 says there will never be a one world empire in Europe again. His boss saw Hitler raging all over Europe invading one country after another, and told Maxwell to hold off on publishing the article as there was no way of knowing what Hitler might do. it appeared Hitler would indeed take over Europe. While Hitler was raging all over Europe setting up concentration camps and destroying his enemies, Maxwell knew it was impossible for Hitler’s army with all of their Flak Cannons to succeed. How did he know? Seven simple words in Maxwell’s Bible read,
While Maxwell’s boss was joining Eve and John the Baptist at looking at appearances, Maxwell joined Jesus and trusted God’s Word. Maxwell published his article very confident that Hitler would fail in taking over all of Europe. Spoiler alert! Hitler lost the war. The Bible was right-again.
Jesus has warned us that in the last days that some..
shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Matthew 24:24
Spiritualism, insinuating that the dead are not really dead but can talk to us will be one of the greatest illusions. During the Religious Awakening, the Fox Sisters appeared to be communicating with the dead in their secret chambers, but Jesus warned in Matthew 24:26 that He would not be there. Even though it may appear that the dead can speak, just as it appeared a serpent can speak, the Scriptures will keep us from being deceived.
Someone may say to you, “Let’s ask the mediums and those who consult the spirits of the dead. With their whisperings and mutterings, they will tell us what to do.” But shouldn’t people ask God for guidance? Should the living seek guidance from the dead? Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark. Isaiah 8:19-20 NLT
A friend of mine was visiting some friends when their young son went missing. Tragically they found him face down in the pool. As they rushed him to the hospital, the mother was frantically praying to Mary to save her son. Mary could not save her son. She was dead. Sadly the boy died. In times of trouble shall we call upon the dead, or Jesus Who is alive and has conquered the grave? Shouldn’t we have a personal relationship with Jesus instead of dead people?
Saul lost his personal relationship with God and was so desperate he called upon Samuel who was dead. Saul seeks a medium and according to 1 Samuel 28:14“perceives” he is talking to Samuel. When I was 5 years old, I was at the mall with my parents, and went to one store with my dad while my mom went to another store. When my dad and I came out of our store I saw a woman with some bags who I “perceived” to be my mother. I ran up to her and hugged her, but as I looked up, instead of seeing my mother I saw a very surprised stranger. Hopefully she needed a hug that day, but she was not my mom even though I “perceived” her to be. Samuel was not talking to Saul just like the serpent wasn’t really talking to Eve. It was an illusion created by Satan. Further more, why would Saul be seeking comfort from a dead person instead of the living God and the Scriptures?
Saul should have sought counsel from God’s Word instead of an illusion. Today we should seek counsel and courage from the Bible instead of movies based on spiritualism. Movies appearing to prove spiritualism to be true should not be our source of encouragement. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 Paul describes the second coming and resurrection. Then Paul says,
When we lose a loved one, our encouragement does not come from the words, “They’ve gone home to be with the Lord.” Those words are never insinuated in Scripture. Paul did not tell us to encourage each other with those words, or with exciting tales about after death or near death experiences. He described for us how those who are dead and sleeping in Christ will be raised at the resurrection at the second coming and will meet the living in the air to be with Jesus to live forever. He tells us, encourage each other with these words.
You may study this week’s SS lesson and more here.
Several years ago, one of my superiors made a false accusation against me at church. I asked a couple of friends how I should refute what was said. One friend answered wisely, “Don’t defend yourself against the accusation. Doing so will only give the accusation merit.” My friend was right. Sadly, the leader who made the accusation left the Adventist Church shortly after. As I continued my ministry I realized everyone forgot what he said. It may sound cliche, but some things become cliche because they are true. Sometimes silence is golden.
Jesus promised us,
So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you! Luke 21:14-15 NLT
In training people to give Bible studies, and how to use the Bible to answer certain questions, I occasionally find someone who is frustrated because someone debated them, and they did not know how to answer. They trusted the Holy Spirit to give them words to say, but they were speechless. Did Jesus let them down? No. Remember, not even Jesus answered every question. Sometimes, like us, He had nothing to say.
But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise.Matthew 27:12-14 NLT
Could it be that Jesus knew their hearts were hardened, and that until the Holy Spirit had softened their hearts, it would do no good to say anything? When dealing with conflict, a pastor once told me, “You don’t have to swing at every pitch.” Baseball fans know what he meant. For everyone else, lets use more cliches and just say choose your battles well, and you don’t have to die on every hill. Sometimes it’s okay to be silent, and give the Holy Spirit opportunity to work. Sure there are times to speak up, but if the Holy Spirit has not given us words to speak, its best to remain silent, lest we ruin everything with our own foolishness.
Let me leave you with a thought that a wise teacher shared with some parents, which applies to more than just parents and children.
Children may not always be listening to you, but they are always watching you!
More important than finding the right word is doing the right action. Maybe the real reason Jesus needed no words, to answer their question is because His life already answered them.
One hot July afternoon at an Oklahoma Camp meeting, I visited a friend in her tent. Just outside sat my friend’s 13-year-old daughter with a friend she had just met. This was her friend’s first camp meeting. He had come with his grandfather who just became a Christian. He did not know what to think about all the meetings and asked my friend’s daughter, “What do you think about Jesus? What is He really all about?” My ears perked up, as I was quite interested how she would answer.
“Before my mom and I met Jesus, we argued and yelled at each other all the time, and I could not stand my home, but now that we met Jesus we don’t yell anymore, and I love my home now.”I will never forget what she said.
Interesting. She introduced her new friend to Jesus as a literal friend Who had literally changed her life, and not as some pretend theory.
I heard a radio preacher once say, “in order to be able to call Jesus your Savior He has to actually save you from something.” He was right. Many people speak of faith almost like it is pretending. Some use a very Biblical term, “perfect in Christ,” but then they add, “but it is only by faith.” By saying “only by faith,” they make it sound like faith is only pretending. When we read in Hebrews 11:30 about the walls of Jericho falling by faith, we take that to mean that the walls of Jericho literally fell and did not just pretend to fall. So when we read in Colossians 1:28, “that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus,” should we not take that “perfect in Christ” to be literal also and not just pretense?
… we should seek to become perfect in Christ. Not even by a thought could our Saviour be brought to yield to the power of temptation. Satan finds in human hearts some point where he can gain a foothold; some sinful desire is cherished, by means of which his temptations assert their power. But Christ declared of Himself: “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.” John 14:30. Satan could find nothing in the Son of God that would enable him to gain the victory. He had kept His Father’s commandments, and there was no sin in Him that Satan could use to his advantage. This is the condition in which those must be found who shall stand in the time of trouble. It is in this life that we are to separate sin from us, through faith in the atoning blood of Christ.
If faith literally made the walls of Jericho fall, then we have to believe that faith will also make a literal and practical change in the way we live our lives.
On that hot summer afternoon, so many years ago, my friend’s daughter gave an example of how her faith literally changed her life, thus showing faith is not just make-believe, but instead makes things practical and literal. I am totally powerless to tear down the strongholds Satan has set up in my life, but the same faith that made the walls of Jericho come crumbling down will also make those strongholds in my life to come down as well.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
I have grown up in a seventh day adventist home since I was born. I followed the rules and did what was expected of me. It wasn’t until about two years ago that I really realized why I’m here. I realized that God had a special purpose and plan for my life and that it was my duty to fulfill it. But I was still scared. I still had that little thought in my head that I’m not good enough just yet. So I waited. Waited to find a change in myself before I found myself “worthy”.
A few weeks ago, I went to the annual high school bible retreat at camp kulaqua. It wasn’t until then that I really realized that I’ll never be worthy of the grace of God, but that’s okay because in his eyes, I am. I felt him calling me, so how I felt about myself didn’t matter anymore. I am “Unfinished” but God tells me that he’s that missing piece to complete me.
Pastor Claudette enjoyed studying with Celeste a couple years ago, using the In Light of The Cross Bible Study Guides. Celeste is an outstanding young lady both in our church family as well has her school where she is a high school senior. Still Celeste had not made her decision to baptized, and while Pastor Claudette and I invited her to, we did not want to pressure her. Baptism is a personal decision one must make on their own. As Celeste wrote, a few weeks ago I went as one of the chaperons to the high school Bible retreat. The theme was “Unfinished” and how we all are unfinished and imperfect without Jesus. I was very happy when I saw Celeste respond with several others to an altar call for baptism. I know the theme for the retreat was designed by God, and Celeste took her stand.
Many people, like Celeste think they must wait to be better to come to Jesus. But as Celeste realized, this is not so.
Do not listen to the enemy’s suggestion to stay away from Christ until you have made yourself better; until you are good enough to come to God. If you wait until then, you will never come. When Satan points to your filthy garments, repeat the promise of Jesus, “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” John 6:37. Tell the enemy that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin. Make the prayer of David your own, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7.-Christ Object Lessons, Page 205-206
If you see your sinfulness, do not wait to make yourself better. How many there are who think they are not good enough to come to Christ. Do you expect to become better through your own efforts? “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.” Jeremiah 13:23. There is help for us only in God. We must not wait for stronger persuasions, for better opportunities, or for holier tempers. We can do nothing of ourselves. We must come to Christ just as we are. -Steps to Christ, Page 31
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:19-20
All smiles! All beautiful smiles!
Please don’t let the sun set on your life before you give your life to Jesus. You will never be compete or “finished” without Jesus! Wherever you are, whatever your situation is, you can come to Jesus and He will accept you just as you are! Jesus will accept you even if you feel you are still a great ways off. God will run to meet you where you are.
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
Jesus loves and accepts unfinished and incomplete people!
If you want to come to Jesus and want someone to talk to or pray with, you can always contact me at LayPastor@TampaAdventist.net or (813) 933-7505.
Have you ever messed up really badly and when you expected only condemnation and judgment, you were given mercy, grace, and forgiveness instead?
Peter vowed to follow Jesus even if it cost him his life. When Jesus was arrested, Peter whipped out his sword and swung at a soldier’s heard catching only his ear. Then Peter finds himself in the judgment hall.
A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.” But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Matthew 26:69-70 NLT
Peter was ready to fight the soldier, but could not handle the snickering of a cute young lady. This happened not just once but three times! May I dare say, it was becoming a habit? When the rooster crowed,
Roy Riegels* picked up a fumbled football in the 1929 Rose bowl. Being spun around by an opponent he lost his sense of direction and ran the wrong way, for 69 yards, until he was finally tackled by his own quarterback, thus saving him from making a score for the other team!
After the play, Riegels was so distraught that he had to be talked into returning to the game by coach Nibs Price for the second half. Riegels said “Coach, I can’t do it. I’ve ruined you, I’ve ruined myself, I’ve ruined the team. I couldn’t face that crowd to save my life.” Coach Price responded by saying “Roy, get up and go back out there — the game is only half over.”
Riegels gave one of his best performances ever in the second half of that game, including blocking a punt from the other team. Riegels won first team all-american honors that year.
Sure you say, the coach could leave him in the game, because it is just a silly little game anyway. But Peter was caught up in the middle of the greatest controversy and battle between good and evil of all time! Still, after not just one or two but three terrible blunders, Jesus does not kick Peter off the team. After the Resurrection, an angel gives a message to the women at the tomb. It also contains a special note for Peter, to let him know He is still a part of the team.
Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there…. Mark 16:7 NLT
Peter did not take this grace for granted! He never denied Jesus again, even when threatened with prison or death. Aren’t you glad Jesus does not kick us off the team when we mess up? Like Peter, lets not take this grace for granted, but show our appreciation by accepting Jesus’ grace and forgiveness, and doing our best out of love for Jesus.
“What do you say to those who claim that because of the grace of Christ, they are free from the law? What do they often really mean by that, and how would you answer them?”
I have heard Christians tell me not to worry about keeping the law because we are no longer under the law. We are under grace.(Funny thing is, they only tell me that when it comes to Sabbath keeping. They never tell me I am free to kill or steal. Just free to break the Sabbath. Some people say the ten commandments should be posted in our schools and courthouses, and then the moment you mention the Sabbath, they turn around and tell you the commandments were done away with.)Let’s take a look at that motif in its context.
For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:14 NKJV
The context here, tells us it is sin that we are free from. 1 John 3:4 tells us sin is the transgression of the law.
…sin is the transgression of the law.
So grace frees us from sin so we can keep God’s law. Therefore we are no longer under the condemnation of the law. Let’s suppose that I am driving 160 KPH down a highway where there is no speed limit. An officer pulls me over and says, “You were going 160 KPH. I was thinking of giving you a ticket but I will just let you go.” Would that be grace? No! There was no speed limit. So what would I need his grace for? If there is no law I don’t need grace. I can’t break a law that is not there. The fact that we need grace tells me there is still a law. By electric company gives me a ten day grace period to pay my bill after the due date. A grace period would mean nothing without a due date, and God’s grace would mean nothing without a law.
Lets now suppose I am driving down a highway where there is indeed a speed limit of 75 KPH. I am driving the speed limit. Can an officer pull me over and give me a speeding ticket? No. Why? Because I am in harmony with the law and not under the officer’s condemnation. This is what Paul is talking about,when he says we are not under the law but under grace. He makes this clear in the following passage.
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:15-18 NKJV
God’s grace keeps me in harmony with the law, so I don’t fall under its condemnation.