And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14 NKJV
While working as a Bible Worker and lay pastor in a small church in west Texas, several of the members told me they hoped I would stay there forever, because they could not survive without me. I was young and stupid enough to believe them. Fact is though, the church membership more than doubled, but not while I was there, but after I left! And, the people who came in after I left were not people I studied with. They were people who never heard of me and didn’t know I existed.
While taking the gospel and the salvation of souls seriously, I have learned not to take myself so seriously. I can rejoice even when someone rejects me because I know I presented them with an opportunity to make a choice. While I want everyone to choose Jesus I know not everyone will. Still, once the gospel has gone into all the world, and that last decision has been made for or against Jesus then He will come. Every decision for or against Jesus is one decision closer to the second coming. This is why its important to spread the gospel even if people do not accept it. Either way we hasten the second coming by just being the angel that takes the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people allowing people the opportunity to choose. So don’t be too disheartened when your missionary project does not yield the results you hoped for. It was successful in giving people an opportunity to choose either way.
But we are just that. An opportunity. Not The opportunity. Let’s not take ourselves so seriously. People can reject us and still accept Jesus. What people think about me is extremely trivial in the scheme of the great controversy. So don’t lose heart or take slights and rejections to heart. Just because someone says no to me, does not mean they will say no to the next person God sends. There is still hope.
After leaving Texas, and working in Florida as a Bible Worker for a few years, a pastor friend, from Texas called me. He asked how many baptisms my church had so far. I told him 90, with 48 of those being in the current year.
“Wonderful!” He exclaimed.
“And how many of those were from your work?” He asked.
“None of them!” I said.
Yup. After a church in Texas more than doubling its membership AFTER I left, I finally learned a thing or two.
RC (Third back on left) attended my TAA baptism class last year. This year RC is in my 5th and 6th grade Bible chain referencing class, where he has been enthusiastically chain referencing his Bible so he can share his faith with others.
I wanted to be baptized and give my life to Jesus, because He gave His life for me, and offers me a better life thank I could live for myself.
A couple of years ago, while Ashley was in the 6th grade she wanted to have personal Bible studies with me. She had also been studying with her grandmother and family, and enjoys studying the Bible with anybody she can.
I want to be baptized because I want to give my heart to Jesus. Baptism to me means to die to your old self and to become a new person, a person of God. I love to learn more about God. I always learn new things when I read the Bible and I always have questions I ask also. I am very curious when it comes to the Bible and I love doing Bible studies. When I get baptized I will feel more accepted in the church like I belong. I want to give my whole life to Jesus Christ. I want Him to lead me on the right path. I want to be an example of God and want to Change. I want God to be proud of me. I am so very excited to get baptized and I can’t wait to see what God has planned for me.
Today, August 22 Ashley was baptized by her great grandfather Pastor Obed Graham. Pastor Graham served as pastor of the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church when the church our present church was built. After serving as president of the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Pastor Graham as retired, and is still in the Florida area. Ashley was very happy that her grandfather was available to baptize her today!
Please don’t let the sun go down on your life before you give yourself to the One who gave Himself for you. If you are in the Tampa Bay area I would love to talk to you and study with you as you make this decision. If you are in another corner of the world I would like to help you find a Bible based church in your neck of the woods. Either way feel free to contact me at LayPastor@TampaAdventist.net
(A letter has been mailed out to all my contributors, but for those who can’t wait on snail mail here it is.)
Dear Faithful contributors,
I wanted to take a moment and thank each and every one of you, first for believing in me and my ministry, and for your sacrificial giving to enable my ministry to continue both at home and abroad. I would like to share just a little of how your offerings have helped.
Beyond Tampa Bay: After many months of hard work, Mike Rempfer has helped me develop the In Light of the Cross Bible study app! This app is different from all others, as you can, but do not need to connect to Wi Fi to be able to access the study guides. The format is also unique from other apps in that each presentation is presented with questions and supplied verses like the “Bible Readings for the Home” format. Now wherever you are in the world you can download this app, and at any given time and place you have a prepared Bible study presentation you can share with anyone who is interested. You can also access my blog site http://InLightOfTheCross.com and find even more resources at your fingertips on your phone or tablet. You may find the app in the Google play store by searching inlightofthecross. You may also find it on my blog linked above.
The blog continues to be accessed everyday by over 173 countries. I have received e-mails as far away as Madagascar and Red Deer Canada, north of Calgary telling me how they have used the In Light of the Cross lessons and devotionals in their churches. The blog allows you to download the lessons for free and print them out, which is very valuable in areas where money and resources are scarce. Almost every day there are several downloads from the blog where people are printing out lessons to share in their homes and churches. Pastor Glenn Aguirre of the New Port Richey Florida Seventh-day Adventist Church, has shared from his pulpit how the In Light of the Cross study guides are the only lessons he uses now.
A church in Florida beyond Tampa Bay, and a church in southeast Oklahoma are arranging for me to conduct soul winning meetings and workshops this fall. I pray this is only the beginning.
Tampa Bay: I have several current small group studies in the Tampa area. On Friday nights I have been studying with 8 to 11 previously unchurched people who have just recently began attending Tampa First SDA Church. Nani Corujo, one of the members, writes:
“Bible studies has been a wonderful God learning experience. We always start with our week’s highs and lows (high good, low bad). Pastor William then asks us a question about a certain experience we have lived and from there he leads us to what the class will read and talk about. Pastor William has taught my family and iI how to look up verses in the bible and not just read through what it says but also explain what it means. My kids, nephews, husband, bro-in-law, sis-in-law and myself have learn and still learning so much from what Pastor William has been teaching us from God’s work and words. Now we attend Saturday Sabbath in search more from our lord and savior. Thank you pastor William for being a awesome teacher and helping us understand more clearly and fully the word of our lord, and our God.”
In one of my other small groups, I am studying with three previously unchurched teenagers who are now wanting to be baptized in the near future. I also have a few personal studies looking at baptism and we even have a date, October 24 for one of them at Tampa First.
As well as giving Bible studies in Tampa, I am also training others to give studies. I recently baptized Cindy Reyes a couple of years ago, and she is now leading out in a Bible study I connected her with near her home.
The teachers at Tampa Adventist Academy are looking forward to me coming back to teach Bible chain referencing classes and baptism and after school Bible study classes. I am also continuing my New Believer’s Sabbath School class at Tampa First.
Plant City: While I love being able to continue being a part of Tampa First, I also love being a member, elder and local Bible Worker of the Plant City SDA Church. While I love Tampa and Florida very much, Plant City also reminds me of smaller towns and areas I have worked in the past, though Plant City actually turns out to be much bigger than I realized and holds so much potential.
We have a Wednesday night youth group where several youth from the community as well as the church enjoy Bible studies, games and fellowship. I have been taking young people door to door in the community where we now have several Bible studies and hopefully more to come.
I have always enjoyed working with several churches together and the Plant City SDA Church enjoys teaming up with the regional SDA and Spanish SDA churches in our town for community and evangelism projects. I also enjoy bringing in people from other area churches to help us in door to door evangelism as well as small Bible study groups. I am currently working with a family who lives in Plant City but attends a larger church in East Pasco County, to have a group Bible study in their home in Plant City. I believe we can all think outside the box and work together for Jesus even while being members of different churches.
I am also preaching twice a month at Plant City as well as other churches far and near.
Thank you for taking the time to let me share just a few of the many things I am excited about this summer and fall. Too keep up with me and my ministry on a day to day basis, please friend me on Facebook!
For years, I would leave a Bible study where someone had just given their heart to Jesus, and would get in my car praying, “Lord I will keep giving Bible studies and leading people to you as long as you keep making it possible.” I thank God He is using you to keep making this possible!
Your Christian Servant,
Plant City SDA Church
PO Box 5379
Plant City, FL 33563
(Please mark contributions “Bible Worker Fund” thank you!)
Ever wished you could be a missionary but never felt like you had the opportunity? Opportunities are everywhere! Just ask Jesus. He has a place for everyone to do missionary work. He uses everyday people like you and me in everyday life.
A few years ago, one morning I was checking in on an elderly, physically handi-capped man who is housebound. As always we had prayer before I left. In his prayer the man asked for God to lead us to people who we could share our faith with that day. I mused to myself, why did he say “we’? I’m the only one of us who will have an opportunity to meet people today. He will be bound to his chair at home all day. He won’t be meeting anyone.
later that evening, after my last Bible study, I checked my voice mail messages and there was a message from my elderly friend I had visited that morning. I called him back and he told me some exciting news. He told me that the cable repairman had come by to fix the TV and saw some Sabbath tracts on the end table by the door. He picked them up and told my friend that He was searching for a church. My friend invited him to church and gave him an enrollment card for Bible studies!
It wasn’t till after I hung up the phone (If you can even hang up a cell phone!) that I remembered what my friend prayed that morning. I thought it was a futile prayer given my friend’s condition, but God answered His prayer! Even though my friend could not get out of his chair in his home, God sent someone for him to minister to.
I have learned to never underestimate the opportunities God can provide for all of us to be missionaries.
After serving as a full time Bible Worker for 11 years at one church, I have recently become a part time Bible Worker for the Plant City Florida Seventh-day Adventist Church. It is only part time so I have picked up another job working part time, two days a week in a sandwich shop at an Adventist Hospital. Last Monday the full time sandwich shop worker was on vacation so I had to fill in for her. Sure I would rather have been doing my Bible Worker job that day, but I prayed and decided to make the best of it.
A lady came in and ordered a breakfast sandwich and sat down to eat. While I continued waiting on customers I noticed her watching me. After the line went away, she came up to me and asked, “Why are you so happy and cheerful? You are beaming.” I told her I am just a happy person. She looked at me like she expected more, so I said a little prayer, not wanting to sound preachy, and told her my relationship with Jesus makes me very happy. Her eyes lit up. “That’s what I thought!” She exclaimed. She said that she used to be very happy walking with Jesus but after a while Satan started attacking her more the closer she got to God, and it discouraged her away from God. I told her that if her relationship with God was making Satan upset that was a good thing and she should not relent. God was blessing her and it was making Satan mad. She told me she lives in Chicago and was here to help a friend having surgery. Since she was out of town I followed up by giving her the address to my In Light of the Cross Website and told her there were some articles and studies that may encourage her. I then went to wait on another customer.
After waiting on the customer I returned to the lady’s table and found she was already reading one of the studies on her phone. Then something interesting happened. Around 10:30 every morning that I work, the hospital cafeteria sends someone to cover for me so I can take a short break. Well, it was only 9:30 when someone happened to come to give me a break. This freed me up to talk more with the lady without being interrupted by customers. I shared with her how Jesus tells the church of Philadelphia that He opens a door that no one can shut, but yet He tells the Laodiceans that He knocks at their heart’s door. Heaven’s doors are always open. Its only our doors that close. I invited her to ask Jesus in her heart again. We prayed together right there in the sandwich shop. When we finished praying I still had some time left on my break, but I quickly and politely excused myself so I could go get some supplies from the store room. By quickly disappearing after our prayer it left our prayer and her decision resonating in her mind instead of some idle chit chat killing time.
On my way to the store room I realized that filling in at my temporal job that day did not prevent me from also doing my job as a Bible Worker missionary. Just like being bound to a chair in his house did not keep my elderly friend from being a missionary.
June 20, 2015 was a very special Sabbath at the Iglesias Adventista Hispana de Efeso in Miami and in heaven as Estefania gave all of herself to Jesus, because He gave all of Himself for her.
Estefania and her brother really enjoyed their first year at Tampa Adventist Academy, where they both joined my baptism classes. Estefania was also in my Bible class, where she eagerly participated in choosing to have a close, real and personal relationship with Christ.
After attending my baptism classes at Tampa Adventist Academy Estefania shared a desire to be baptized in the summer at the church in Miami that is very dear to her heart. You can see she is very dear to their hearts too.
Estefania was baptized by Pastor Samuel Diaz.
Estefania writes of her baptism:
It meant that I was a new person and that God had forgave me for all my sins. That also meant was I can be with God when he comes back to save us so we can go to heaven with him. Also I feel a new person in Jesus Christ.
Don’t let the sun set on you before you decide to give your life to the One Who gave His life for you. I would love to help you in this decision. You may contact me at LayPastor@TampaAdventist.net
Critics of Christianity will often argue that Jesus knew beforehand that, though He would die, He would be resurrected to life. Thus, they ask, what was the big deal about His death when He knew it would be only temporary?
My mother knows that flying in an airplane is safer than traveling by car. She knows the sad statistics that people are killed every day on the highways, while a rare jet crash makes headlines around the world. Knowing all this, when my mother gets on an airplane she sure does not feel that it is safer! There is a difference between knowing and feeling. Jesus died as a man, not as God.
As a man, this is what Jesus experienced;
“In that thick darkness God’s presence was hidden. He makes darkness His pavilion, and conceals His glory from human eyes. God and His holy angels were beside the cross. The Father was with His Son. Yet His presence was not revealed. Had His glory flashed forth from the cloud, every human beholder would have been destroyed. And in that dreadful hour Christ was not to be comforted with the Father’s presence. He trod the wine press alone, and of the people there was none with Him.”-Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 753, 754.
“The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal. Christ felt the anguish which the sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer plead for the guilty race. It was the sense of sin, bringing the Father’s wrath upon Him as man’s substitute, that made the cup He drank so bitter, and broke the heart of the Son of God.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, p. 753.
Foxe’s book of Martyrs tells us John Huss was singing songs of praise as he burned at the stake for his faith. We wonder if John Huss, a mere mortal man, could be singing songs of praise as He died at the stake, why couldn’t Jesus sing songs of praise instead of crying out “My God My God why have You forsaken me?”
It is because John Huss died a totally different death than Jesus died. John knew he would be resurrected. He knew he was at peace with the Father. But on the cross Jesus was being treated the way we deserve to be treated so we can be treated the way He deserves to be treated. Think about this, Jesus always called God His Father.
“In my Father’s house are many mansions.”
“I always do those things that please my Father.”
“I and my Father are one.”
But when Jesus was on the cross being treated the way we deserve to be treated He could not call God His Father! He did not know that He would be resurrected. Instead He cried out, “My God! Why have you forsaken me?” This fulfilled the prophecy of Psalms 22 of Jesus dying the second death.
Jesus was not crying out, “Why have you forsaken me till Sunday morning?” You don’t forsake someone when you leave them for the weekend. When I tell my Sabbath School class I will be preaching at another church next Sabbath, none of them ask me why I have forsaken them. They know I will be back the following week. When Jesus cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?” He felt abandoned forever. He felt what the wicked will feel.
Obadiah 1:16 says the wicked will be as though they had never been. Jesus was not facing a mere six-hour pain endurance marathon. A lot of cancer patients would gladly trade their years of battling cancer for six hours on a cross. The physical pain is not what made it the supreme sacrifice. What Jesus was facing was going into total oblivion and being as though He had never existed! While Satan was willing to sacrifice anyone who got in his way of being number 1, Jesus was willing to go into total oblivion if He could just save even one of us.
Hebrews 2:9 tells us Jesus tasted death for everyone. Jesus and Paul both refer to the first death as sleep. Jesus did not save us from that death, as we plainly experience that death ourselves. Paul did not say Jesus tasted sleep for every man. No, He tasted death, the death of the wicked. Yes, He prophesied of His own resurrection, but that was while He still felt the presence of His Father. When Jesus felt the Father turn His back on Him, He felt, as a man, that the promise of the resurrection had left with the Father. Jesus became the God-forsaken God.
Some say, how could Jesus have died the second death while He never lost faith in His Father? Remember Jesus had no sense of self-preservation. The sense of self-preservation belongs to Satan. Jesus had faith, but His faith was not that He would be saved but that you and I would be saved!
Some have a hard time wrapping their minds around this awesome love. Some refuse to believe that Jesus would be willing to die forever to save us. In that case they have made Moses more loving than Jesus. In Exodus 32:32 Moses is willing to be wiped out of eternity in order to save the children of Israel. Do you think Moses loved them more than Jesus loves sinners? Of course not! Only when Moses experienced the self-sacrificing love of God could he express such love. If you don’t believe that Jesus was willing to say good-bye to life forever in order to save us, then you believe that Moses demonstrated more love than Jesus.
Since the Jews were accusing Jesus of blasphemy they could have just stoned Him to death. According to Leviticus 24:16, blasphemers were to be stoned and not crucified. Yet Jesus was crucified. Why? Because Deuteronomy 21:22-23 tells us those who are hung are cursed by God. Someone could plead for mercy and have the hope of salvation, just like John Huss had, even though they were stoned to death. However, being hung was a sign you were cursed by God. Joshua 10 tells the story of five kings who refused to accept Israel’s God and were hung from five trees, telling the world they had rejected God and so there was no salvation for them. It was good-bye to life forever.
Friend, does this help you understand how much Jesus loves you? He could have come down from the cross and returned to heaven where He could wear His kingly Crown instead of the crown of thorns. He could have left the road to Calvary and walked on streets of gold. He could have left the mocking mob and returned to hear angels sing His praise. He could have returned to His mansion. Why didn’t He do just that? Because the thought of going back to heaven without you did not appeal to Jesus. Heaven would not be paradise without you, as far as Jesus is concerned.
There is nothing I would rather be preaching than this message here. It is the everlasting gospel in the three angels’ messages. This kind of love changes everything. It changes how we look at the cross and how we look at sin. Most of all it changes our hearts. The disciples were just a bunch of self-ambitious men until they saw this love displayed on the cross. After they saw this love they were willing to give everything – even their own lives. Revelation 15 tells us there will be a multitude singing the song of Moses and the Lamb. They will be filled with this self-sacrificing love just like Moses and Jesus. They will hate sin more than they hate death and they will love God more than they will love their own lives or self preservation.
Jesus’ love for you goes deeper than the nail scars. He loves you more than He loves life itself. He was willing to go into total oblivion and be as though He had never existed if that is what it took to save you!
When I first came to the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, 11 years ago, Ailyn (left) and Alexander’s (Middle) mother asked me to have baptism studies with Ailyn, who was about 12 at the time. Shortly after Ailyn’s baptism her mother introduced me to another family in the neighborhood that wanted to have Bible studies. And thus begun my longest continuous study group ever, lasting 9 years!
Gus, Ana, Eneida, Natalie, Stephanie and Kimberly are the family Ailyn and Alexander’s family introduced me to. This picture was taken back in 2007. Kimberly, the youngest did not know how to read when we first began studying, and would bring her picture Bible to our studies. When I would have everyone turn to a verse, Kimberly would ask me to show her the verse in her picture Bible. Of course the verse was not in her picture Bible but I would find a suitable picture and tell her that was the verse, and she would be satisfied. Kimberly recently turned 16. She still talks about her picture Bible and me helping her find the right “verses.”
Over 9 years our study group had many other members, and venues. Here you can see Natalie, who was just recently baptized, in blue, enjoying my enchiladas at my apartment after one of our Bible studies back in 2008.
Occasionally our group would take advantage of the Florida scenery for our Bible study venues. This picture was taken in 2007. While Natalie already has found the verse, you can see Stephanie helping Kimberly find the right verse in her picture Bible.
On November 8, 2014, Natalie, her friend Leo, and family went to Chilis to celebrate Natalie’s sister Enedia’s birthday. The fact that Eneida was actually 1,400 miles away in Texas, serving for us in the military did not keep us from still celebrating her birthday. During our 9 years of having our study group together, there would be short periods of times that members would get distracted and we would stop studying together for a while. Were will still family though, and would keep hanging out together. Eventually Natalie’s family would tell me while we were hanging out that they wanted to start the Bible studies back up and again and we would.
Once, after Natalie and Leo graduated high school I met them for lunch at Taco Bell. Being the “grownup” I assumed I was paying. I was used to always paying when hanging out with the youth unless their parents paid. I was very impressed when Natalie and Leo insisted on buying lunch that day. I appreciated the fact that they valued their time with me, and saw me as a friend. They were hanging out with me because they treasured our friendship and not because I was “paying.”
Natalie is already quite mature and responsible. Last year when we were celebrating her sister Stephanie’s graduation, their mother told the waitress to put all her kids on her ticket. Natalie, said, “No. I am twenty. I pay for my own food.” I told her, “Don’t tell my parents about that rule!”
Even at an early stage of her adult life, Natalie has learned financial responsibility, and has a mature and sincere appreciation for family and friends.
When this picture was taken above, after 9 years of Bible studies, Natalie’s family was coming to church. It was at this dinner, while we were hanging out that Natalie asked to be baptized. This is why friendships and relationships are so important. It was not during a Bible study that she asked to be baptized, but while we were just enjoying our friendship hanging out together.
I want to thank William for baptizing me and for being my friend the past nine years. He was not only a friend but a follower of Christ who brought me closer to the Lord. He influenced my decision to live the rest of my life for Christ who died for our sins. Before meeting William, I did not know too much about what it meant to be a seventh day Adventist and how important it is to seek God for every situation but now I know how important those two things are. One day at Chili’s with my family and William, I decided to become baptized and I told William about it. Every Thursday morning after that, William and I studied many important concepts in the bible such as death, salvation, stewardship, and etc. These study guides were tremendously helpful and I learned lot from reading and studying it with William. After we were done studying the study guides, I was ready to complete my commitment to Jesus. On April 11th on a Saturday morning, I was baptized and it feels amazing to know that I had accepted Jesus into my heart and that I have a brand new family, the church.
For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. Galatians 3:26-27 NLT
When we first began our study group with Ailyn and Alexander’s family, Natalie was 11 years old. When Natalie was baptized this April she was 20 years old. I thank God for the privilege of being a part of Natalie’s family for these 9 years and the joy it has given me to see her grow up making such wise and mature decisions all the time. I think this was her best decision ever!
The story does not end here. My Bible study and friendship with Ailyn and her family led me to meet and begin a 9 year Bible study group with Natalie and her family. After studying for several years with Natalie and her family, they introduced me to their cousins, and we have now been studying on Friday nights for two years now. We have up to 11 members in our study group and a few of them have just recently started coming to church on Sabbath!
If you are in the Tampa Bay area and would like to start a study group like the ones you have just read about I would be glad to help you. Just email me at laypastor@TampaAdventist.net. If you are not in the Tampa Bay area still contact me. I can find a study group for you in your neck of the woods!