“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!
Today was a very special Sabbath at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, where Pastor Art Grayman, of Port Charlotte, was given the privilege of baptizing his grandson, Issay. Issay has been a member of the young adult Sabbath School Class at Tampa First. I made contact with him several months ago when he told me he wanted to be baptized. Chad, is also a member of the young adult Sabbath School Class, and has received training on how to give Bible studies. I put them together and they really hit if off. Please enjoy their pictures and stories.
Chad shared with the church family today, right before the baptism:
“I have always enjoyed giving Bible studies and becoming friends with the people I have the privilege of studying with. I had started a Bible study in November 2012 but I had to give it up to the William, the Bible Worker at Tampa 1stbecause our schedules didn’t allow us to continue. I started praying that God would send me another Bible study in March, 2013 and also that He would send me a new friend as well. I didn’t think that within a week of praying that prayer that God would send me both a Bible study and a new friend all in one. In addition God worked it out for us to study when both of our schedules permitted. During the next 6 months everything went with very little problems. Issay and I have developed a friendship and I have seen him grow spiritual over our time of studying together. Seeing my friend get baptized gives me great joy!” -Chad
I was blessed to be born in a pastoral family. As a result of my father being a Seventh Day Adventist Pastor, I got to see in first hand all the good things God can do for his children and the love he has for us, even when we take it for granted. But ironically that same blessing of being a pastor son was also tough for me because people expected the very best if not perfection from me at all times. In my late teen years I didn’t deal well with the pressure of being the “the perfect Christian” so I started to do things that were not good, I started to spend more time with my non-Christians friends, therefore I started to act, talk, eat like a non-Christian. However I kept going to church every Saturday and trying to be what people expected from me, basically I was living a double life.
I wasn’t happy with my double life, it never felt right for me, because I knew that God didn’t want that life for me. So I started to truly pray to God and just be honest to him about my life I asked for forgiveness and for a second chance. I truly believed that God brought me to Tampa for a reason. I’m thankful that I met Chad and Shaunda because they have been a good support during my new chapter in my life.
The truth is that I never stopped loving God. Now I know what it really means in Proverbs 22:6 “Instruct the child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it”. I am very thankful for the family that God gave me because they never stopped praying for me and they were always there during my hard times. Today I am very excited to renew by baptismal vows and I’m looking forward to keep growing with my new family here in Tampa First.” -Issay
But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:13 NLT
And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. Galatians 3:27 NLT
The Collegiate/Young Adult Sabbath School class at Tampa First has embraced Issay in fellowship and Bible study, and celebrated with him today, with a class luncheon.
Please don’t let another day pass before you give your heart to the One who gave His heart and life for you on the cross. If you would like to know how to get to know Jesus better I would love to help. You can contact me, William Earnhardt, the Bible Instructor at LayPastor@TampaAdventist.net or call me at 813-933-7505.
As this week’s SS lesson focuses on the work of Jesus our High Priest on the day of atonement, let’s take just a moment and focus on what the people were to be doing on the day of atonement.
“This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, thatyou may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever. Leviticus 16:29-31 NKJV
Even though this is not a weekly Sabbath we are to put away our works. Now when you consider that we have been living in the literal day of atonement since 1844 it does not sound logical to do no work since 1844. So how do we apply the no working part to how we should be living in the literal day of atonement? I believe the answer is found in Galatians 5:19-21:
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Leviticus tells us to afflict our souls. What does that mean? Could it mean doing some heart searching and putting away our fleshly egos and lusts? This is where I think we need to be careful about something Paul warned us about a long time ago.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:3-5 NKJV
Hmmm….interesting….Paul says endure afflictions. Could it be that during the day of atonement, in the last days, when we should be afflicting our souls, looking for areas and rooms of our hearts that need to be surrendered to God, that Satan supplies us with false teachers with fables that make us feel so good about ourselves that we don’t feel the need to do any soul searching, much less afflict our souls or deny the lusts of our flesh and egos?
During the day of atonement, which we believe we have been in since 1844 we are to be afflicting our souls and putting away our works, so that the Holy Spirit can fill us with the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is not our works but the works of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:22-26 NKJV
On page 623 God’s messenger describes the work of God’s people during the literal day of atonement, beginning in 1844. Does this sound similar to what God’s people were told to do during the symbolic day of atonement?
It is in this life that we are to separate sin from us, through faith in the atoning blood of Christ. Our precious Saviour invites us to join ourselves to him, to unite our weakness to his strength, our ignorance to his wisdom, our unworthiness to his merits. God’s providence is the school in which we are to learn the meekness and lowliness of Jesus. The Lord is ever setting before us, not the way we would choose, which seems easier and pleasanter to us, but the true aims of life. It rests with us to co-operate with the agencies which Heaven employs, in the work of conforming our characters to the divine model. None can neglect or defer this work but at the most fearful peril to their souls. –Ellen White, The Great Controversy, Page 623
Jesus will not force an entrance into our hearts. He will come into our hearts when we have taken a good look at our hearts and sense our need of a Savior. This means putting away the pride and works of the flesh and asking the Holy Spirit to replace our works with His fruit. While Jesus does not wish to harm the dignity of the individual, it is impossible for us to sense our need of Him, until through affliction, the ego has been crucified. This is how Leviticus 16:29-31 is fulfilled, when we afflict our souls and do no works of the flesh.
And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity. Acts 2:44-46 NLT
As an extremely rich Bible Worker I would like to speak out today on a social issue. It seems we have more and more conservative Christians ridiculing the liberal Christians for wanting to help the poor. In the posts that I read from these conservative Christians, they assume all poor people are lazy, and thus do not deserve help. This is a misnomer. They also assume all rich people are hard workers who have earned every cent they have, another misnomer.
They forget that when the landowner in Matthew 20:7, asked the people why they had been standing around all day, it was not because they were lazy but “They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.” They also forget that in Daniel 4:27 King Nebuchadnezzar was greatly humiliated because he refused to take the prophet’s advice to “Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor.” They also forget Nebuchadnezzar was greatly humbled when he took credit for his riches! “‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’Daniel 4:30 NLT
Before I go any further, let me explain why I call myself a very rich Bible Worker. First of all, I am filthy rich, not just because I have a car while 91% of the earth’s population has no car. It is not because I have a nice clean home while millions are homeless. According to over a billion people walking this earth, I am filthy rich because I have access to clean drinking water!
I am also a rich Bible Worker, because my church, the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist church believes in supporting its Bible Worker with a fair salary. They also provide me with full medical benefits. I know many Bible Workers who do not make half of what I do. A few years ago I was actually offered my own church with a pastoral stipend position out west, but I turned it down because it would have been a huge pay cut. Why take a pay cut for a bigger headache? Many Bible Workers do not have benefits or their own place to live. Since I am well taken care of, after my tithe and local giving, I often send money to help other Bible Workers who are not being supported anywhere as well as I am. Why do I say this? Isn’t our giving supposed to be in secret? Yes it is. But while we live in a world of conservative Christians thinking they have earned everything they have and that all poor people are lazy, I want to share why I give to other Bible Workers. The reason? Because while many of them are doing a much better job than I am, they are not getting paid anywhere close to what I am! In order to be fair I feel I need to share some of my blessings that have been given to me. God has given me a wonderful working situation in South Florida. I have not earned it! Here are a few things we need to understand.
While God has been blessing the Tampa First Church with many baptisms and church growth over the last several years I have been here, it does not mean I am working harder or better than anyone else. I am in a fertile field. There are Bible Workers you have never heard of because they can’t afford their own website or computer to post their experiences, but they are working long hours on hard soil.
A while back after I baptized a couple of my Bible study students, an elderly lady walked up to me, and said, “We can see by these baptisms you have been working very hard.” Granted, I have. However, there are Bible Workers out there working twice as hard as I am but without any baptisms. They are working in hard places where the soil is not fertile and the financial support is weak. I would be crazy, and the laughing stalk of angels, if I thought I was getting paid more or getting baptisms because I was working harder and doing a better job than anyone else.
Please understand I was not always a rich Bible worker. Well I guess I was because I always had clean drinking water available, but I didn’t always have a great salary. There were times I was really struggling. There were times a certain church did not have the money to pay me, but I still put in the time, and spent my own gas money and paid for my own supplies, and at the end of the month I was in debt, because the money for my pay did not come through. There was also a time I sent my car to be repaired by a brother in the church so that we could mend fences, but instead of fixing it, he destroyed it leaving me without a car or money to get one, as he refused to give me my money back after destroying my car, by what the other mechanics said was a “gross and deliberate error.”
Still I survived and made it through thanks to those who knew the situation, and understood I was a workman “Worthy of his hire” and not just some lazy charity case. Sure, I also sought part time and sometimes full time secular employment to provide for my needs and even my ministry. Still, I was not a charity case. Speaking to gospel workers, Christ Himself says, “Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve their pay.” Luke 10:7 NLT
Today, when I give my money to Bible Workers who are working hard in hard places, I do not consider it charity. I do not consider it giving my money away. They have earned it. They deserve it. It is not a gift. God has given the money into my hands so that I may pay them what they have worked for and earned.
Some say I should be saving that money for my own retirement instead of helping other Bible Workers. Well you know what? If I end up retiring under a bridge in the Florida Keys instead of a nice Adventist retirement village guess what? There are millions before me who have retired and lived under a bridge, who probably deserved a retirement home much more than I do! I understand the home I have now and the clean drinking water are gifts from God, which I do not deserve, and God can take those gifts away anytime He wants. I haven’t earned a thing!
I’m not bragging or boasting. I am just being real and transparent. Two Thousand years ago the entire church realized they had not earned anything or deserved anymore than the poorest church member. That’s why, “all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity.” Acts 2:44-46 NLT
So please fellow conservative Christians, please stop calling all poor people lazy. There are poor people who deserve a lot more than they are getting, and a lot of rich people like me who haven’t earned a dime!
Before I go, I would like to thank those who have supported the Bible Worker in all the places I have served over the years, and for supporting other Bible Workers around the world! I will be thanking you throughout all eternity!
One Sabbath afternoon I received a phone call from the mother of a child I had corrected earlier at church, who had smarted off to me, when I told her to stay out of a room that was off-limits. The mother told me, “My daughter wants to tell you she is sorry, but before she gets on the phone, I wanted to ask you, when she says she is sorry, don’t tell her it is okay. Just tell her she is forgiven.”
“Wow!” I thought. This mother gets it! Forgiveness is not saying it is okay. So many are slow to forgive, because what happened to them was so wrong they can’t just sweep it under the rug. The deed deserves to be punished. What they don’t understand is that forgiveness is not sweeping it under the rug and saying it is okay. Then what is it saying?When I share the gospel presentation, I always share this passage from the Desire of Ages. It is so clear and simple, and to me, sums up the whole plan of salvation.
“Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. “With His stripes we are healed.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 25
Now I would like to take this passage to the next level – beyond the plan of my personal salvation. I understand that Jesus took the punishment for my sins so that I can now be treated the way He deserves to be treated. Now I need to understand, that the sins my enemy committed have not been swept under the rug. Jesus was also treated the way my enemy deserves to be treated, so that I may now treat my enemy the way Jesus deserves to be treated.
Jesus did not only suffer for my sins, He suffered also for sins committed against me. Why do I need to take it out on my enemy when it has already been taken out on Jesus?
They made fun of me and humiliated me!
Jesus was mocked and humiliated on the cross in their place.
They killed my son! They deserve to die!
Jesus died because they killed your son.
They sexually abused me! They deserve to be sexually abused!
Jesus hung naked on a cross in front of the whole universe, including His own angels!
Earlier this year I was reading through the Old Testament, and when I came to Isaiah 53 something jumped out at me, when I read:
Suddenly I realized something I had never seen before. I realized that retaliation against my enemy will never bring me healing. I am healed by the stripes of Jesus, and not the stripes of my enemy. Jesus suffering for my sins can only bring partial healing and partial reconciliation. I am made whole, and totally reconciled, not just to Jesus but to my brothers, when I realize Jesus suffered for their sins too.
In the story in Matthew 18:21-35 a man is forgiven who did not ask to be forgiven. He only asked for more time to pay the debt. However the master forgave the debt anyway. This is important for us to note, because the master represents God who forgave us without us even asking. In the Lord’s prayer we find we are to forgive as we have been forgiven, meaning that we are to forgive in the same manner. God expects us to forgive without being asked to forgive, just as the man was forgiven while only asking for more time to pay the debt.
After the man was forgiven, he goes out and sees a brother who owes him a much smaller debt. Even after being forgiven he refuses to forgive. In the parable the unforgiving man ends up in prison until his full debt is paid.
Wait a minute! Wasn’t his debt forgiven? Separated as far as the east is from the west and into the depths of the sea? How did it come back? I believe it’s this way: When I refuse to forgive my brother, what I am saying is, “I don’t think Jesus’ death on the cross was enough to pay for what was done to me.” Well guess what? If Jesus’ death is not enough to pay for my enemy’s sin, then it is not enough to pay for my sin either! By not allowing Jesus to pay for my enemy’s sin on the cross, I have just disqualified the cross as a payment for sin and therefore I must still pay for my sins – and the only way I can do that is to die an eternal death.
Forgiveness and reconciliation is not saying “It’s okay.” It is saying, “I realize Jesus suffered for your sins on the cross.” It is realizing I am healed by the stripes Jesus received and not by the stripes my enemy receives. We have to be pretty sick ourselves to think that in order for us to be healed, someone else has to be hurt. Jesus does not have to hurt my enemy in order to heal me.
“Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves.” Christ was also treated as my enemy deserves, that I may now treat my enemy the way Christ deserves to be treated.
Since this is my 20th year of being a Bible Worker Lay Pastor, in keeping with the theme of “20”, here is my list of 20 things your Bible Worker will never tell you. While I have put the list together mostly myself from my own experiences, it is not entirely my own. A couple other Bible Workers have chipped in too with a couple contributions of their own. No names, as the whole purpose was to give them a voice while remaining anonymous, so they can truly tell you what they will never tell you. If some of these points seem a little harsh, they are not intended to be. They are only intended to be real.
Twenty Things Your Bible Worker Will Never Tell You
If I seem pre-occupied when you try to have a conversation with me at church, it’s because I am. I’m teaching Sabbath School, probably preaching too, and keeping an eye out for the people I invited to church today. Call me during the week and I can give you my undivided attention.
I really appreciate the $25.00 gift card you gave me for Christmas. I know since I’m still wearing my worn out shoes it looks like I haven’t used it yet but I have. I used it to buy school supplies for a struggling family I’m working with.
Tell me you can’t read and I can work with you and help you. Keep telling me you forgot your Bible or can’t find it and we will never get anywhere.
When you tell me your family is praying for me every day, it means the world to me. When you call me and pray with me it makes my day.
When I called and told you about a Bible student I have who needs a ride to church, and you told me it’s not on your way, I wasn’t really asking if it was on your way. I was just asking if you would do it. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but I go out of my way for people all week long. Why should I be the only one? Fact is I do try to match people up in the same area, but I also try to match personalities and male to male and female to female.
Don’t be afraid to hang out with me because I may see you’re not perfect. I’m not perfect either.
You may have driven by and seen me on the golf course this afternoon. What you didn’t see was me spending the entire night before, in the Emergency waiting room, praying with one of my Bible students, while their wife had emergency surgery.
I mean it when I say call me anytime. If everyone is afraid to call because I may be busy then that means no one will call and I won’t be busy. I depend upon you to call and keep me busy. I like to be busy.
You may not feel like you know the Bible very well, but that observation and comment you just made about that verse we just read was pretty good. I will be sharing it with all the people I study with from now on. Thanks!
When I am studying with your children in your home I would really like you to join us. If you do not care to join us, please don’t leave the house to run errands. I know you trust me, but the question is, do I trust your family?
I really am interested in what you have to say, but I can’t answer your question until you quit talking.
I use my lap top when giving Bible studies, and following up on leads and making appointments. That’s why it looks like I’m on Facebook a lot. Plus Facebook is another way I stay in touch with my Bible students.
I may use you as an illustration in one of my sermons, but I won’t use your name and may even switch your city and gender in my story to protect your identity.
I truly appreciate your offerings in support of evangelism and the Bible Worker fund, but just so you know, I work for Jesus and not the richest person in the church. He is the One who died for me and the One I am going to be faithful to.
When I ask you to greet for an evangelistic meeting I need you there for the whole night. I may need something handed out at the end, plus it does not look good for you to greet everyone and then, them watch as you get in your car and go home. Same for special music. Watching you come up on stage, sing a song, and then go home before the speaker begins, does not do much for the continuity of the meeting.
The literature in the literature rack in the church lobby is for visitors. Please buy your own literature if you are a member.
I wish you wouldn’t use that study Bible, or would at least understand that the study notes are not inspired and are not 100% accurate.
On my day off I will gladly explain to you the plan of salvation, but I really don’t want to use my day off debating whether Adam had a navel or not.
Remember last fellowship lunch, when you were huddled with your little clique and the visitor I am studying with was sitting by himself? Yes, after I asked you went over and invited him to your table, but he saw me ask you. It would have been a lot more effective if you had reached out to him without me having to ask. Thank you for offering to give him a ride to the doctor that week though. Connecting with him outside of church was a nice touch.
Our study group has 10 members and meets for 75 minutes. We really care about you and what you have to say, and will give you the floor all night if you really need it. At the same time please be respectful of the other members of the group and that they too may have something on their hearts as well. Thank you to those who are mindful of the math and realize 10 people can’t talk for 20 minutes each within 75 minutes.