Ever have one of those days where it seems nothing is going right? I had one of those a while back. I went to my regular barber shop, wrote my name on the waiting list and sat down to wait only for my name to never be called. People were coming and signing after me and getting waited on before me, so I went to another nearby barbershop, only to find the wait was too long.
I had no more time to waste as I had to get to a Bible study on the other side of town. After the Bible study I saw a barber shop nearby. I got waited on right away. The barber asked me where I worked, and I told him I gave Bible studies. He told me he wanted to learn more about the Bible. He did not want personal studies, but he did want the Bible study guides and some literature I had in my car. As I drove away I realized why the first couple of places never waited on me. The Holy Spirit was working on the barber’s heart across town, and so He worked things out to get me where I needed to be.
Something Similar happened to Paul and Silas.
Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. Acts 16:6 NLT
I wonder if Paul and Silas saw it that way? I mean did they realize it was the Holy Spirit that was preventing them from preaching in Asia or did they blame it on the devil? What may have looked like a victory for the dark side was actually a victory for God. Often when I lose control of a situation and things don’t go my way, I am tempted to think that evil is getting the upper hand, when in reality God is still in control. He is just not doing things my way!
God had a plan to save Asia, but Paul and Silas’ current missionary tour was not a part of God’s plan to save Asia at that time. Earlier I asked if Paul and Silas saw it that way, and maybe they did. However, I know many times today when we set out with goals we get discouraged when they are not carried out according to our plan. Its not necessarily that things did not go according to God’s plan, but they just did not go according to our plan. God had another plan for Paul.
Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas. Acts 16:7-8 NLT
Wow nothing seemed to be going right. Ever have one of those days or even years where it seems nothing was going your way? Several years ago I lost my job and my fiancée, and nothing was going right at my new job. It was so bad it made me wonder if I was even suppose to be born, or if I was an accident that God did not know what to do with! Looking back now, it was just a little bump in the road to better things and the best years of my life. Stay with me here.
That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there. Acts 16:9-10 NLT
Ah! That is why there was a roadblock on the way to Asia, Mysia and Bithynia! It wasn’t evil getting the upper hand, just like it wasn’t evil getting the upper hand when I could not get my hair cut. The Holy Spirit was using those roadblocks to get Paul and Silas to where they needed to be!
Remember God has a plan for your life even when it seems things are going wrong.
Remember when everything seems to be going wrong, God is still very much in control. He just may not be doing things our way.
The Holy Spirit is working on hearts all over the world. Instead of telling the Spirit where to work, we need to be willing to work wherever the Spirit is working. That may mean going to another side of the world, or another side of town.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. Hebrews 7:25 NLT
Charles Spurgeon was born to preach. Mother Teresa was born to care for the poor. Abraham Lincoln was born to break the bonds of slavery. Everyone was born for a reason. The verse above tells me Jesus was born with a purpose too. His eternal existence before birth also was not without purpose. It also tells us what His purpose for living and existing is. He does not live so He can be a tyrant and force people to worship Him. He does not live so He can hear angels sing His praises. He does not live so that He can sit on a throne in a golden castle in the sky. You can look as far back into eternity as eternity goes, and you can look as far into the future as eternity goes, and you will find that Jesus’ purpose for living is to be your eternal provider and Savior! “He lives forever to intercede with God on your behalf.” Not so much that He is trying to reconcile God to you as much as He works to reconcile you to God. God never ran from Adam. It was Adam who ran from God. Jesus never told the demoniacs He could not tolerate their presence. It was the demoniacs who could not tolerate His presence.
“It is no arbitrary decree on the part of God that excludes the wicked from heaven; they are shut out by their own unfitness for its companionship. The glory of God would be to them a consuming fire. They would welcome destruction, that they might be hidden from the face of Him who died to redeem them.” – Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Pages 17-18.
Jesus’ passion is winning you back to God. Again, that is why He lives.
”So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:14-16 NLT
In the moment of temptation we can go to our High Priest, and find the grace to overcome the temptation.
“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT
However if for whatever reason we do not ask for the grace to overcome, Jesus has made a fool proof way to sustain us still. We can come to the throne and ask for mercy and forgiveness.
“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 1:9 NLT
“How careful is the Lord Jesus to give no occasion for a soul to despair. How He fences about the soul from Satan’s fierce attacks. If through manifold temptations we are surprised or deceived into sin, He does not turn from us and leave us to perish. No, no, that is not our Saviour…. He was tempted in all points like as we are; and having been tempted, He knows how to succor those who are tempted. Our crucified Lord is pleading for us in the presence of the Father at the throne of grace. His atoning sacrifice we may plead for our pardon, our justification, and our sanctification. The Lamb slain is our only hope. Our faith looks up to Him, grasps Him as the One who can save to the uttermost, and the fragrance of the all-sufficient offering is accepted of the Father.
If you make failures and are betrayed into sin, do not feel then you cannot pray … but seek the Lord more earnestly.
The blood of Jesus is pleading with power and efficacy for those who are backslidden, for those who are rebellious, for those who sin against great light and love. Satan stands at our right hand to accuse us, and our Advocate stands at God’s right hand to plead for us. He has never lost a case that has been committed to Him.” –Ellen White, Our High Calling, Page 49
“We may plead for our pardon, justification, and our sanctification.” Before I fall, I can go to Jesus, and find grace so I don’t have to fall. His grace sanctifies me and frees me from the power of sin.
“ For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God,while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.” Titus 2:11-14 NLT
Even though grace leaves me with no excuse to sin, Jesus still offers mercy and forgiveness!
“The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” Psalms 51:17
The question is not how long will God be willing to forgive me, but rather, will I ever ask for forgiveness? I can go to a home to give a Bible study, and knock on the door. As long as I can hear somebody inside making their way to the door, I will wait as long as it takes. However, if I realize I could wait forever and they will never open the door, then and only then do I walk away. It is the same with Jesus. Probation closes when the sanctuary is forced out of business, because it no longer has “customers” asking for mercy. Jesus has reconciled those who are willing, and sadly walks away from the heart’s door of those who will never accept His reconciling grace. The fact that they would never accept God’s grace is seen by the fact that no one repents during the last plagues and of course nobody repents at the end of the thousand years. The problem is not that they can’t but that they won’t. God did not send them to the point of no return. They reached that point by themselves.
When Jesus forgave the repentant thief, while hanging naked on the cross, he was sending out a message to men and to Satan. “You can take away my clothes and dignity. You can take away my crown and replace it with thorns. You can even take away my life, but you will never take away my power to forgive sin!” Imagine that! Jesus-King of the Universe let go of all of His divine rights, except for the right to forgive sin! Jesus would rather die than give up His right to be your sustain-er and Savior. Why? Because the only reason why He lives is so He can save you! His death was all about you. His life is all about you. He is in love with you!
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17-19 NKJV
Occasionally, while giving Bible studies, I will hear someone say, “Once Jesus fulfilled the commandments He did away with them. He fulfilled them so we don’t have to.” Well, let’s take a look at that. Does fulfill mean to do away with? My Websters Dictionary tells me that fulfill means to carry out. I don’t think carrying something out and abolishing it can be the same definition. My Roget’s Thesaurus tells me fulfill is the same as pleasing or sufficing. I don’t think you please of suffice something by abolishing it either.
Now that we have looked at Roget and Webster’s definition of the word “fulfill,” more importantly let’s see how the Scriptures use that word. Even more important and accurately, how Matthew himself uses that word.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. Matthew 3:13-14 NKJV
So Jesus fulfilled the rite of baptism. Did He abolish it after He fulfilled it? No, of course not. We know that the command to be baptized is all over the New Testament. Matthew, the same writer who tells us Jesus fulfilled the rite of baptism also records Jesus’ command,
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… Matthew 28:19 NKJV
So Jesus did not abolish baptism when He fulfilled that rite, but rather set an example for us to follow. Likewise, Jesus did not abolish the law by fulfilling it, but rather gave us an example to follow.
Many years ago when I was a literature evangelist, I found myself working one day in the rolling green hills of North East Oklahoma. I remember meeting a lot of rejection early in the day. What bothered me the most as I was selling Christian books, was that many saw me only as a salesman, instead of appreciating my passion for sharing Jesus. Rejection plus being misunderstood equaled loneliness for me. About midday, I walked into a Taco Mayo restaurant for lunch. Long before cell phones were common, and Bible apps created, I carried my Bible with me everywhere I went. I sat down at a table and opened my Bible “randomly” and found this verse,
Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, Bearing seed for sowing, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, Bringing his sheaves with him. Psalms 126:5-6 NKJV
That verse hit the spot! My career in soul winning was just beginning, and this was long before I would begin Bible studies with a family who would start attending church only after I studied with them for seven years in their home first. This was long before I would meet Fred, a man I studied with in Oklahoma, who got baptized later after I had already been serving in Texas years later. It was also years before I would meet the members of a small Pentecostal Sabbath keeping church, who would all become members of the Mineral Wells, Texas Seventh-day Adventist Church, after studying with them and just as importantly befriending them for four years. (I tell people the entire Pentecostal church became Adventist which is true. I also tell them the entire church consisted of 5 members.)
As a rookie evangelist I had only had time to plant seeds, but not to watch them grow. I needed to learn patience. If I could have seen the future harvest, I doubt I would have felt so discouraged, as I sat there eating my burrito, before I found that verse full of comfort and hope. Still, I could have remembered a passage that my leader had written inside the Colporteur Ministry book he gave me.
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…. 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. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Pages 679-680
While I sat in that Taco Mayo in Grove Oklahoma back in 1990, my evangelistic career was too young to see the results that years and years of patient toil brings. However I had stories and testimonies from veteran laborers, like Denton James, my union publishing director. He and his family found the way, when they moved into a home, and found an old Bible Readings for the Homelaying in the attic. Denton found the Adventist church through that book and became a literature evangelist, who trained many more people, like myself to be literature evangelists. Back in 2008 I worked with his granddaughter in Tampa Florida, who was serving as an ASI Bible Worker. Not long ago, Denton fell asleep, after many years of soul winning. All those souls and trained Bible Workers and Literature evangelists can all trace their success back to Denton James, who traced his success back to an old book found in an attic.
I often wonder who the Literature Evangelist was, who sold that book to the family, that left it in the attic to be discovered by Denton’s family moving in years later. Whoever it was, I wonder if they ever got discouraged like I did, that day I was working in North East Oklahoma. Whoever it was they may have seen many people get baptized as a result of their labors, or it is possible they saw no one get baptized. One thing is sure, that literature evangelist went to their grave with no clue that years later a man would pick up one single book that had been laying around in an attic for years, dust the cover off and read it, and not only become a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, but lead hundreds to find Jesus, who would also lead hundreds more to find Jesus.
Since I don’t know who sold the book Denton found, I can speculate. Is it possible that was the only book he or she ever sold? Is it possible they quite soon after that because “it just wasn’t working out?” Still there will be thousands in heaven because of that one single book, that lied lost in an attic for who knows how long. I can see the evangelist coming home at the end of that day when they sold that one single book, and writing in their journal,
“It was a terrible day today. I worked hard all day long and met nothing but rejection, and doors slammed in my face over and over. Finally a man bought just one copy of Bible Readings for the Home,from me, but I heard his wife scoffing at him, saying something like, its just going to end up thrown away up in the attic with all the other junk you buy from peddlers. This is so discouraging I might as well quit. At this rate I will never help anyone find Jesus.”
Or I could have it all wrong, but I do know this. The literature evangelist who left that book, walked away from that home having no idea that hundreds would be in the kingdom because of an exchange that probably only took a few moments and netted only a few dollars or even cents.
Just like that book, that was buried in a dark attic for years, so it is with the literature and words I shared on that frustrating day in Oklahoma so many years ago,
The good seed may for a time lie unnoticed in a cold, selfish, worldly heart, giving no evidence that it has taken root; but afterward, as the Spirit of God breathes on the soul, the hidden seed springs up, and at last bears fruit to the glory of God. In our lifework we know not which shall prosper, this or that. This is not a question for us to settle. We are to do our work, and leave the results with God….. “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” Psalm 126:6. -Ellen White, Christ Object Lessons Page, 65.
It is also true of the seeds you sow as well.
Click here for an archived copy of the March 1968 Southwestern Adventist Record magazine as Denton’s story was told long ago. His story is on page 19.
Sunday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson suggests that “Over the long centuries, people have struggled to understand the role and function of government and how citizens should relate to it. What gives rulers the right to rule?”
I believe it is worthwhile to think about the role of government and our individual responsibility.
Former United States President Richard Nixon, defended himself in the Watergate scandal, by telling reporter David Frost, “If the President does it, then it is not illegal.” This bold statement shocked David Frost, and every other competent thinker! I suspect that in the United States, people really started to question their leaders after Nixon’s downfall.
I believe we keep a healthy balance of respect for leadership, without blind submission, when we ask for accountability and checks and balances. In the United States we have a constitution with which the President must conform. This Constitution declares who has the ultimate authority. It reads, “We, the people.” Not “I, the President” or “I, Thomas Jefferson, or Ronald Reagan or Barack Obama.” The power and authority of the Constitution comes from “The People!” Therefore the United States president is not above the law.
In the church we have the Scriptures as our sole authority, and our leaders must be held accountable. And the church as a body has authority derived from the Scriptures and the leadership of Jesus Christ as represented in the body of the church.
God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority.” -Ellen White, Last Day Events, p. 56.
Just as in the United States, the President is not above the people, the church leaders are not above the church. While working in a different Adventist conference many years ago, my boss told me to do something on the Sabbath which my conscience did not think was appropriate. My boss told me the conference president expects me to do it so I better do it no matter what! (Please keep in mind my boss said this and the conference president never actually made such a threat.) I thought to myself, Sorry, Jesus died for me, not the conference president. I have to be faithful to Jesus.
It does not matter what church affiliation you belong to, you have to follow your conscience and what the Holy Spirit has convicted you is truth based on Scripture. If any leader, secular or ecclesiastical, tries to place his authority above your conscience based on the Scriptures, then consider,
The doctrine that God has committed to the church the right to control the conscience, and to define and punish heresy, is one of the most deeply rooted of papal errors. -Ellen White, Great Controversy, Pages 292-293
Papal errors are not confined to the papacy. The church in Christ’s day was quite papal when they crucified Him even though the word “papal” was not recognized yet.
“The church is built upon Christ as its foundation; it is to obey Christ as its head. It is not to depend upon man, or be controlled by man. Many claim that a position of trust in the church gives them authority to dictate what other men shall believe and what they shall do. This claim God does not sanction. …. Upon no finite being can we depend for guidance. The Rock of faith is the living presence of Christ in the church. Upon this the weakest may depend, and those who think themselves the strongest will prove to be the weakest, unless they make Christ their efficiency. “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.” The Lord “is the Rock, His work is perfect.” “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” Jeremiah 17:5; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 2:12. (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, p. 414)
Jennifer Schwizer wrote a compelling post on clergy sexual abuse. However sexual abuse is only one form of abuse of power. Pressuring people to violate their conscience in any way whatsoever is abuse. The ugliness of sexual abuse is not so much what it does to the body, but even more so what it does to the soul and conscience. You don’t have to use sex to rape someone’s soul and violate their conscience. Anytime someone puts their power over your conscience it is rape. (Thank God for the millions and millions of clergy members throughout the ages and across all denominational lines who have ministered to God’s children faithfully, without ever harming a single soul. Because of them we have confidence in the clergy, and people can find in them the mercy and love of Jesus.)
Many years ago, I heard the testimony of a church leader, defending himself for some shady deals, saying his boss (another church leader) told him to do it, therefore he had no choice but to obey his boss who had “authority.” I am sure Joab was thinking the same thing when King David told him to put Uriah on the front lines of the war. Please read what God’s messenger has to say about Joab’s rationale.
“And Joab, whose allegiance had been given to the king rather than to God, transgressed God’s law because the king commanded it. David’s power had been given him by God, but to be exercised only in harmony with the divine law. When he commanded that which was contrary to God’s law, it became sin to obey. “The powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1), but we are not to obey them contrary to God’s law. The apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, sets forth the principle by which we should be governed. He says, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1. (Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 719)
While we need to be respectful of authority, we also need to remember the ultimate source of authority. And while we respect those in leadership, we must remember we are accountable to the Scriptures and God’s church, of which Christ is the Head. Even Martin Luther, the great leader of the Protestant Reformation, tried his best to be respectful of the leaders of his church. It was not his goal to start a new church, much less a movement that would change the world. He sought to bring his leaders into harmony with the Scriptures, and it was only after his efforts to work within his church failed, that he felt he had to make a choice between allegiance to God or allegiance to his leaders. Martin Luther was loyal to the only One who loved him enough to create him and die for him. Likewise we should make every effort to submit to our leaders as far as we can without being disloyal to the One who died for us.
Dispute over biblical truth did not stop with the age of Luther. It is our job to continue to press forward and put into action the truth that is contained in Scripture. And sometimes that makes people uncomfortable. Sometimes it causes heated arguments. And sometimes leaders weigh in with their opinions on one side or the other. Any particular interpretation of a biblical passage is not automatically more “right” because a church leaders says so. God has designed the governance of our church in such a way that, if we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us individually, the mind of the Spirit will be met through the vote of the church body. And that is why the vote of the General Conference should be regarded as authoritative.
No one person or relatively small group of persons has authority to dictate his or their opinion to the rest of the church body, no matter how strongly they feel on the matter. Leaders need to respect the vote of the members, and members need to respect the position of leadership, as far as it is biblical.
I have met people who are afraid to speak up in board meetings or church business meetings, because they feel they are too young or poor, and their influence would not be felt. I have also observed people abusing their age or money to hurt others. I would like to encourage all—no matter how young, old, rich or poor you are—you need to speak your convictions in these meetings. And, no matter how young, old rich or poor you are, you need to respect others when you do. We all have a right and a responsibility to speak, and we all have a responsibility to respect each other when we do so.
Sometimes we think something is over when it hasn’t even begun yet.
Texas has some beautiful sunsets. I don’t know why I didn’t get any pictures of them while I was living there. I wasn’t really a photographer back then, and didn’t realize how few pictures I had of my life in Texas until I got ready to move. I wanted pictures to take with me, so my good friend and photographer Danielba, started taking all kinds of pictures of my friends and myself so I could take the memories of Texas with me to Florida.
As a child we often took vacations to the beaches along the Gulf of Mexico from Texas to Florida, and also the Pacific and Atlantic. However as an adult I did not have much opportunity for travel. I remember living in North Texas, and seeing a picture book someone had of ships, and thought to myself that I probably won’t ever see any ships again like I did when I was a kid. Finally in the fall of 2003 I had a weekend where I was not scheduled to preach anywhere. I decided that was my chance, to finally see the Gulf of Mexico again, so I drove down to Galveston and spent the weekend. I thought I better take advantage of this opportunity because it had been so long since I had seen the gulf I did not know when and if I would get another chance. In the fall of 2003 I had no clue that the spring of 2004 would find me living in Tampa, Florida just minutes from the Gulf of Mexico and just over a couple hours from the Atlantic Ocean.
The last few years of my life in Texas I worked in the middle of the night to early morning at UPS and then went to my day job, where I got off work just in time to go home to bed and start all over again. Often I would get home from my day job late, and would hurry from my car to my apartment just so I could go to bed and get up at 2 AM to go to work again. As I walked briskly to my apartment I would pass my neighbors sitting on their patios barbecuing, or just enjoying a lemonade (yeah I’m sure that’s what it was) and a sunset. I thought to myself, that I am so busy working all the time I will never get a chance to just relax and see another sunset. I was too caught up in my daily routine to realize it was only temporary.
After moving to Florida, while I still work hard and long hours for God, He blesses me with moments, when He calls me to relax with Him for a while and enjoy some sunsets, that at one time my overworked and fatigued mind thought I would never see again.
Here are some of my favorite sunset pictures I have taken over the years here in Florida.
This picture is one of the first I ever took, and hundreds of pictures later, is about my favorite. I like the way the sun and colors reflect off the clouds. I love being on the beach at sunset, as an eerie calm, seems to quiet and still everyone on the beach as they watch the sunset. A timeless feeling creeps over everyone as the same sun that set over the waters six thousand years ago completes another circuit.
Daytona Beach is a sunrise picture of course. A few days after buying my brand new 2007 Hyundai Accent, I woke up one morning at 3AM. As I laid in bed wide awake, it dawned (pun intended) on me that if I left right now I could get to Daytona in time to see the sunrise. So I did. Then I had breakfast at McDonald’s and drove back home and went to work.
I bet you’ve seen enough so I will stop there. Thanks for letting me share my pictures and memories with you. I know God has more wonderful memories and scenes of His majestic grandeur to come for both you and I!
So after working so many 16+ hour days, with no time to even pause to watch a sunset, God knew the desires of my heart, and has blessed me with many memorable sunsets. God knows the desires of your heart too and loves you just as much!