Tag Archives: sabbath school blog

Off With The Old, On With The New

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The summer of 2000 was brutally hot in Texas. It was not a good time to be trained in as a UPS delivery driver. I had worked a couple years inside the hub as a sorter, and jumped at the opportunity to become a delivery guy, but being a UPS delivery guy was unlike any other delivery job I had ever had and the heat and frustration drove me to quit and go back to working as a supervisor inside the hub.

I was very frustrated the morning I quit, and just went into my boss’ office wearing regular clothes instead of my delivery uniform, and told him I quit. Looking back I think my boss would have encouraged me to keep trying, but since I wore regular clothes instead of my uniform I had sent him a message that my mind was made up. I had repented of being a UPS delivery guy and my clothes bore testimony to that fact. My boss had no choice but to honor my decision since the uniform was mandatory for delivery drivers.

When an athlete changes teams, he changes uniforms. Along with the new clothes comes a new allegiance for his new team. By taking off his old uniform he is no longer bound to be loyal to the former team. A change has taken place.

In Zechariah 3, Joshua the priest is wanting to pledge his allegiance to God, but Satan was challenging Joshua’s claim. After all, Joshua was still wearing his old sin polluted uniform he got from Satan.

Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the Lord stood by.Zechariah 3:3-5 NKJV

Notice there was no instruction to put the new clothes over the old clothes. The old clothes had to be removed first.

No repentance is genuine that does not work reformation. The righteousness of Christ is not a cloak to cover unconfessed and unforsaken sin; it is a principle of life that transforms the character and controls the conduct. Holiness is wholeness for God; it is the entire surrender of heart and life to the indwelling of the principles of heaven. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, pages 555-556

In world War II you could not fight for Britain in a German uniform. A football player can’t play for England while wearing a German uniform either. You can’t try to wear one uniform over the other one either. Then neither side will trust you! Remember when David was hiding out with the Philistines so Saul could not find him? When it came time for battle, the Philistines sent David back. The Philistine princes said,

““Make this fellow return, that he may go back to the place which you have appointed for him, and do not let him go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he become our adversary.” 1 Samuel 29:4

No, you can’t hang on to your old uniform when you change sides. A boy does not want his girlfriend wearing her ex-boyfriend’s school jacket. He is not going to try to fit his jacket over the old jacket. The former boyfriend’s jacket has to go before the new boyfriend will let her wear his.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV

The new does not cover up the old. The old passes away. Christ’s robe of righteousness does not cover us while we willfully continue in sin. Just like with Joshua, the old clothes had to go. The good news is Christ takes away those clothes for us. Joshua did not take away those filthy rags he was wearing, but he let God have them removed. Likewise we can’t change ourselves, but if we fully surrender to God, God will take away the old uniform Satan gave us, and we will be clothed with the righteous robe of Christ. We have become turncoats. We have betrayed the side of Satan and have become traitors to the prince of darkness and that is a good thing! We have changed sides and we don’t need to wear Satan’s high school jacket anymore. We have put on Christ.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. Romans 13:14 NKJV

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

Jesus as the Sanctuary, in Light of the Cross

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In Numbers 21:1-9 God has Moses set a brass serpent on a pole so that if anybody was bitten by a serpent, they could look at this serpent on a pole and be healed. Now as real and literal as this serpent was it was only symbolic. There was no magic in the brass or the pole. This brass serpent was to point forward to Jesus dying for us on the cross and curing us form the snake bites of that old serpent the devil. Still some people started worshiping the brass serpent because they could not see past the pole and get the big picture. 2 Kings 18:4 tells us, finally Hezekiah destroyed the brass serpent because people were worshiping it instead of God. The problem was they saw the brass serpent as the end of their theology instead of looking beyond the pole to what it represented.

Today some say there is no literal sanctuary in heaven, while the Seventh-day Adventist Church continues to teach what I understand to be true, that there is a literal sanctuary in heaven. See Hebrews 8:-12. However, if your theology stops at either the literal sanctuary on earth or the literal sanctuary in heaven your theology still falls short. Just like the brass serpent was real and literally existed, those who could not see beyond the brass serpent still fell short in their theology. Yes there is a real sanctuary in heaven but even the real and literal sanctuary in heaven is not the end of our theology.

When Jesus came to this earth He referred to His body as a temple. See John 2:19. A temple is a dwelling place. Today we dwell in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. See Ephesians 2:6. Jesus was the most the Holy Place and his humanity was the veil shielding us from the glory so as not to destroy us.  As real as both the earthly sanctuary is, and as real and literal as the heavenly sanctuary is, neither sanctuary is the goal of our theology. Jesus is the goal of our theology!  For years while I have been writing and preaching about the sanctuary and making Jesus the center of my preaching and writing, I have had people call upon me and remind me that there is a real sanctuary in heaven. That is nothing that I have ever refuted. I teach there is a real sanctuary in heaven. I just don’t make the real sanctuary building in heaven the goal. I make Christ the goal. Still people want to remind me that there is a real sanctuary in heaven. That makes about as much sense as someone reminding me about the brass serpent when I teach about the cross! Yes, I know there was a real brass serpent but that real brass serpent was not the goal. The cross of Christ is the goal. In the sanctuary message Christ is again the goal.

Everything in the sanctuary points to the goal and end of our theology, which is Christ.

Christ is the Lamb of God that took away the sins of the world.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29 NLT

Christ is the light of the world that lightens every man.

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12 NLT

Christ is the living bread who came down from heaven to give us eternal life

Yes, I am the bread of life!  Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”John 6:48-51 NLT

Christ is the mercy seat (propitiation), through whose redemption we have salvation full and complete

Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.  For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past. Romans 3:24-25 NLT

Christ is our intercessor against the accusations of Satan

My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.1 John 2:1 NLT

By the way, when we join Satan in making accusations, we fire Jesus as our advocate and hire Stan to replace him! Jesus can plead your case without making accusations against other people. Accusing others is Satan’s game plan.

Christ is the curtain that bore our sins in His flesh

 And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death,Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. Hebrews 10:19-20 NLT

The Sanctuary Revealed the Fall and Restoration of Man.  In Adam, humanity sinned, was defiled, and condemned to death. In Christ, the same humanity was reconciled to God, cleansed from all defilement, and justified to life.

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Romans 5:18 NLT

Through faith in Christ, sinners experience salvation.  This is the good news of the gospel and the truth of righteousness by faith. All this was revealed in the Sanctuary model given to Moses:

The Sanctuary was where God met sinners

I will meet with you there and talk to you from above the atonement cover between the gold cherubim that hover over the Ark of the Covenant. From there I will give you my commands for the people of Israel. Exodus 25:22 NLT

Today He meets us in Christ

 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:19 NLT

The Sanctuary was where God revealed Himself to sinners

and they will know that I am the Lord their God. I am the one who brought them out of the land of Egypt so that I could live among them. I am the Lord their God. Exodus 29:46 NLT

Today He reveals Himself to us in Christ

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!  John 14:9 NLT

The Sanctuary was where God accepted sinners

Lay your hand on the animal’s head, and the Lord will accept its death in your place to purify you, making you right with him.Leviticus 1:4 NLT

Today He accepts us in Christ

To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. Ephesians 1:6 KJV

Whenever I am preaching, giving a personal Bible study or writing for SSNET.org, I always have this quote from the book Evangelism in mind:

The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary. I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption–the Son of God uplifted on the cross. This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers.—Ellen White, Gospel Workers, p. 315.

Friends, the foundation for the discourse on the sanctuary message is not the literal temple on earth or in heaven. Yes, there is a real sanctuary up in heaven, I know. However, according to our prophet, in Gospel Workers page 315, the foundation of the sanctuary message is the sacrifice of Christ Himself. Just like the brass serpent on a pole pointed us to Christ, likewise the literal heavenly sanctuary points us to Christ.

You may study this week’s SS lesson on the sanctuary here.

What is the Sabbath School Network, SSNET?

Fort Desoto

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

“The Sabbath school affords to parents and children an opportunity for the study of God’s Word. But in order for them to gain that benefit which they should gain in the Sabbath school, both parents and children should devote time to the study of the lesson, seeking to obtain a thorough knowledge of the facts presented and also of the spiritual truths which these facts are designed to teach. We should especially impress upon the minds of the youth the importance of seeking the full significance of the scripture under consideration.” -Child Guidance, Page 511

Sabbath school is a very vital part of the church. While the worship service is more for worship, hence why it is called the worship service, Sabbath school is where most of the interacting and learning takes place. For years now, part of the purpose of this blog is to share posts based upon the themes of the Sabbath School quarterly. In addition to writing on this blog, for a little over a year now, I have also been writing for, and working with the Sabbath School Network. On most all of my posts I have provided a link to the Sabbath School Network only to learn later, that many people have not clicked onto the link because they were unaware of exactly what it is. Please allow me to show you.

By clicking here you can study the current Sabbath School lesson. These are available for adults and as well as the collegiate, young adult,  youth and children. You can also get an app for your phone or I-pad. This makes it very easy to study the lesson at home and on the go. If you are out of town or missed church, or don’t even have a church in your area, you still have the current lesson always available here.

The Sabbath School Network also offers Resources for Bible Study, Fundamental Beliefs, and other links for Study.

In addition to personal Study, the Sabbath School Network, SSNET.org is like an actual online interactive Sabbath School Class. During the week, writers like Lillianne Lopez, Jennifer Schwirzer, myself and others write posts related to the current lesson theme, where you can comment with questions or your own ideas, and share with other Sabbath School students around the world. Since being a part of SSNET I have a better understanding and appreciation for how Seventh-day Adventists think and worship around the world. For some in remote areas of the world or without transportation, SSNET is their primary Sabbath School family.

SSNET also has a Sabbath School Discussion E-mail list group. You can email and exchange questions and answers, thoughts and ideas with other Sabbath School students around the world.

For Sabbath School teachers, Michael Fracker has a lesson plan for each Sabbath lesson. I have yet to attend a Sabbath School class which made it all the way through the week’s lesson. Most usually get to Monday or Tuesday before they run out of time. Michael Fracker’s lesson plans let you cover the entire lesson. I started using his lessons about ten years ago. They are very easy to use, especially if you are a new teacher.

There is a lot more to SSNET than what I can show you right here. The About Page can tell you more. Please take a look around. If you are like me you will be glad you did! Hundreds of Thousands of other people around the world are glad they did too!

You can also like SSNET on Facebook.

Why Go To Church?

I am writing today from beautiful Tulsa Oklahoma (Boston Avenue Methodist Church)

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”  Hebrews 10:25

Over the years, I have heard many people tell me they don’t need a church. They can just study the Bible for themselves. They don’t need to go to a church that is filled with hypocrites, even if there is always room for one more. However, you can’t have a “one-person” church and fulfill the counsel in Hebrews 10:25. By setting up His church, God does more than command us to study and worship. He commands us to do more than spread the gospel by ourselves. Hebrews 10:25 is a command to be social. Paul does not merely say, “Do not give up hope and do not stop studying the Scriptures. He says, “Do not stop meeting together in a social setting.”

Paul, of all people, knew the importance of a church. Once he was converted in Acts 9, God directed him to the city where he met Ananias and Barnabas and the rest of the church. Even though Paul had a one-on-one encounter with God, he still needed to understand the importance of living and growing in a church setting.

Paul counseled us to keep being social, because he knew it was not good for man to be alone. Now think about this for a moment. God creates Adam. Adam has God and God has Adam. Yet God does not say, “Adam has Me, and I am all that he needs.” No, God Himself says, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Genesis 2:18

Now let this soak in. God Himself is saying, “I am not all Adam needs! He needs a community.”

If you believe God is all you need and that you don’t need anyone else in your life, then you are contradicting the God you serve! He Himself says He is not all you need. You need a community of believers. God created a mate for Adam, and thus fulfilled some other obvious needs of Adam, but ultimately they fulfill God’s purpose of creating a community. God knew Adam needed more than just to be able to worship God alone. He needed to be able to worship and serve God with a community of believers.

If you ever date someone who tries to isolate you from your family and friends, be very concerned about that. If their love is a Godly love, they will love like God and encourage you to be social and active in your family and community. If God Himself realizes we need more in our lives than just Him, how dare a mere mortal human being tell us they are all we need!  If their love is from God they will not be egotistical and tell us we don’t need anyone but them. God’s love is a healthy love which does not isolate. A love that tries to isolate is very unhealthy.

Worshiping in a social setting such as a church, means we will meet hypocrites, and they will meet hypocrites when they meet us. Hypocrites are just people who do not live up to all of their ideals, and that is all of us. But by God’s grace, He is getting us there and will get us there. In the meantime we need each other to get there.

I have a community Bible study where people of all faiths are invited to our church on Wednesday mornings. One morning an elderly lady said something that has always stayed with me. She said, “If someone in the church keeps rubbing you the wrong way, maybe God is just using them to polish your character.” I think she is right. God says it is not good for us to be alone. We need a community of believers. Some will encourage us, and even those we don’t get along the best with, will help polish our characters.

We need each other!

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Growing in Christ; From Flower Girl to Bride

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  1 Corinthians 13:11

Many of us became Christians for childish reasons. We just wanted to go to heaven. That is okay. Jesus tells us to come as children, but He does not tell us to stay like children. “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we [henceforth] be no more children…” Ephesians 4:13-14 In 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter, Paul tells us, when it came to love he used to think like a child. Children obey when there is a reward involved. But as Paul grew and became a man, be put those childish motivations away, and his love developed into a mature, agape love.  An immature Christian may offer their body to burned or martyred if there is a reward involved, but a mature agape Christian will do it purely out of love. A mature agape Christian loves and obeys because Christ first loved us.

“ It is not the fear of punishment, or the hope of everlasting reward, that leads the disciples of Christ to follow Him. They behold the Saviour’s matchless love, revealed throughout His pilgrimage on earth, from the manger of Bethlehem to Calvary’s cross, and the sight of Him attracts, it softens and subdues the soul. Love awakens in the heart of the beholders. They hear His voice, and they follow Him.” –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, p. 480

In the church today, we often hear the phrase, “salvation issue.” Some people will say they are not worried about a certain standard because it is not a salvation issue. That may be so, but wouldn’t we be selfish and un Christian to only concern ourselves with things that only relate to our own personal salvation? What about  concerning ourselves with glorifying God issues, rather than just salvation issues?

In Exodus 32, the children of Israel, worship a golden calf, and God threatens to wipe them out, and raise up a race named after Moses. However, it is Moses who intercedes and tells God if He does this, His reputation will be at stake. “Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth?” Exodus 32:12 Moses even goes so far as to say, “Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin–; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.” Exodus 32:32 Moses is more interested in honoring God’s reputation than he is in his own salvation! Moses has grown up from “salvation issues” to “glorifying God issues.”

Revelation 15 speaks of an entire multitude in the last days who “And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.” Many songs are about stories or experiences. What experience do Moses and the Lamb have in common? Like Moses, Jesus the Lamb was willing to say goodbye to life forever if that’s what it took to honor the Father. “The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb.” –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, p. 753 In Revelation 15 an entire multitude have grown up from thinking only of their own personal salvation issues, to glorifying God issues. Glorifying God is more important to them than their own salvation.

A flower girl comes to a wedding all prepared and ready. She is prepared and ready for the cake and punch that comes after the service. The bride has made herself ready, not for the cake and punch, but for the groom. We may come to Jesus like a flower girl all excited about the cake and punch, golden streets and mansions, but let’s grow up into a bride who cares about the Groom. We love Jesus not for the cake and punch, golden streets and mansion. We love Him because He first loved us.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Who is The “Man of Sin?” Could it be you?

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Monday’s section of this week’s SS lesson asks the question, “In what subtle ways are each of us susceptible to having the same kind of attitude as we see revealed here in this “man of sin”?

As Adventists, we often think of the anti-Christ as the leader of a system reveled in the book of Revelation. While Revelation does identify a specific leader within a specific system, setting himself up as God, and thus an anti-Christ, John the revelator also tells us in 1 John 2:18, “even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.” So the Scriptures warn of many anti-Christs.  So who are all these anti-Christs?

To answer this question, let’s back up a little bit. In studying the three angels message, we see that a so called religious system, Babylon falls. Again we know from studying Revelation that this is a specific system. However, we also see that this system has an attitude. That attitude is legalism. Man- made laws, man- made day of worship, leading to a man -made way of salvation, outside of trusting in the merits of Jesus and His blood.  While Revelation pinpoints this system, that fact is clear, that this attitude can be found in other systems as well, and history has proven it has been. Were not the Sadducees and Pharisees making their own laws and trusting their own works for salvation? Yet they were not Babylon. So could it be that if I am not careful to crucify self and die daily, that this same attitude of Babylon could be found in my heart too?

So, if it is possible for me to have the attitude of Babylon, would it also be possible for me to have the same attitude as the anti-Christ, thus making me one of many anti-Christs? An anti-Christ is someone who sets himself up as Christ, just as the man of sin mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”  Here we see that the man of sin, or anti-Christ sits in the place of God. So how could I possibly be an anti-Christ, sitting in the place of God? Isaiah 33:22 tells us; “For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver.” Our Lord God is our lawgiver and judge. So, when I set myself up as judge of other peoples motives, or think that I can interpret the law for everybody, I am usurping the seat of God and setting myself up as God, and thus becoming an anti-Christ!

Like Babylon, Anti-Christ is more than a system. It is an attitude. In the book, Great Controversy, Pages 292-3, Ellen White explains, that while the pilgrims came to the new world, to escape the anti-Christ, that they carried the attitude of anti-Christ with them to the New World. “It was the desire for liberty of conscience that inspired the Pilgrims to brave the perils of the long journey across the sea, to endure the hardships and dangers of the wilderness, and with God’s blessing to lay, on the shores of America, the foundation of a mighty nation. Yet honest and God-fearing as they were, the Pilgrims did not yet comprehend the great principle of religious liberty. The freedom which they sacrificed so much to secure for themselves, they were not equally ready to grant to others. “Very few, even of the foremost thinkers and moralists of the seventeenth century, had any just conception of that grand principle, the outgrowth of the New Testament, which acknowledges God as the sole judge of human faith.”–Ibid., vol. 5, p. 297. 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.”

2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that the Scriptures are profitable for doctrine and correction. I can only define God’s law by what is in the Scriptures , but not by my personal opinions or traditions, like the Pharisees in Christ’s time, and religious leaders in the dark ages did.  I am not the interpreter of the law for the whole world, nor, can I think to change times and laws to meet with my own opinions or inclinations. Simply put, I am not the lawgiver, and cannot judge people by my own standards. Also, while open sin must be dealt with, according to 1 Corinthians 6, as a church we may have to address outward actions, but I as an individual cannot judge inward motives. In judging outward actions we must still be careful. Joseph almost put poor Mary away thinking he had all the evidence of an affair. Even with his overwhelming evidence he was wrong! Even with all his evidence he tried to put her away privately without any public embarrassment. What a great example for us to imitate. Even with his overwhelming evidence, Joseph was not going to judge Mary’s heart.

In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul teaches churches, not individuals to judge open and outward actions very carefully. Paul teaches no one to judge the heart and inward motives. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us God and the Scriptures alone tell us what is right and wrong. I am not the lawgiver or the interpreter of the law for the rest of the world.  The Lord our God is our lawgiver and judge. When we judge people according to our own standards, opinions and understanding, we usurp the throne of God and become an anti-Christ.

“If The President Does it, Then it is not Illegal.” Really?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Sunday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson states, “In some cultures, there is a tendency to distrust and challenge leadership; in others, to blindly submit to it. How has your own culture’s attitude toward authority impacted the church in your area?”

In an interview with David Frost, Richard Nixon, a former United States President, forced to resign due to a scandal, defended himself by saying, “If the President does it, then it is not illegal.” This bold statement shocked David Frost, and every other competent thinker! I believe, 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 the President must hold to. The Constitution also declares who ultimately has the authority. It reads, “We the people.” Not “me the president” or “me Thomas Jefferson, or James Madison, or Ronald Regan or Barak Obama.” The power and authority of the constitution comes from ‘The People!” Therefore our president is not above the law.

In the church we have the Scriptures as our sole authority, and our leaders must be held accountable. Also the church as a body has authority,

”God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority.” –Last Day Events, page 56.

Just like in the United States, the President is not above the people, likewise church leaders are not above the church.

“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.- Desire of Ages, Page 414.

Many years ago, I heard the testimony of a church leader, defending himself for some shady deals, saying his boss 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.  –Patriarchs and Prophets, Page 719.

We need to be respectful of authority, but remember where authority ultimately comes from. And while respecting those in leadership, and even being in leadership, we must remember we are accountable to the Scriptures and God’s church, of which Christ is the Head.

I would also like to share a parting thought. In my years of Gospel Work around the country, 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. So this is what I say to all. No matter how young, old, rich or poor you are, you need to speak your mind in these meetings. And, no matter how young, old rich or poor you are, you need to be nice when you do. Everyone has a right to speak, and everyone has a responsibility to be nice when they do so.

Forever Friends

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Years before ever becoming, or even thinking about becoming a Bible Worker myself, I found myself on a church softball team, captained by the new local Bible Worker.  I failed to eat breakfast before running off to play. Not too bright. In the middle of the game, I began to get dizzy and lightheaded. My team was up to bat when I pretty much blacked out. I was sitting right next to the Bible Worker, and told him, as the batter was striking out, “I am blacking out. I can’t even see anything right now.” His reply? He threw my mitt in my lap and said, “That’s the third out. Let’s go take the field!” Not exactly the reply I was expecting. Needless to say, I did not go out onto the field. I managed to get myself to a nearby building where I got a drink and laid down until my sight came back. I had heard people who had been studying with this Bible Worker say how wonderful he was. I guess already having been baptized, I was not a “notch under his belt,” So he was not that wonderful to me. He never even missed me when I failed to come back to the game. I never heard from him again.

At this point in my life, I was not really that familiar with the Bible Worker concept. My church never had one. Therefore I had never really considered becoming one, but on my way home that day, I remember thinking to myself, that if I ever did become a Bible Worker, I would not be like that one! I also told myself that if I genuinely care about people who are about to be baptized, then I would genuinely care about people who have already been or will never be baptized too. So, years later when ironically I became a Bible Worker, I told myself that as well as being theologically sound, I also want to be relationally sound. I decided to be a genuine caring friend, as well as someone who  taught theology.

I was studying with a man, in the first district I had been assigned as a Bible Worker, when he showed up to church with his 14 year old  step-daughter. She had never been to any church before. I went up to the parents of teenage girls in the church, and told them, a young girl is here who has never been to church before. Please have your daughters greet her and befriend her. One parent , who had two teen girls, shrugged her shoulders and said, “My daughters already have friends.” I could not believe what I heard.  The girls did not befriend her. Her step-father eventually went to another nearby Adventist church where he got baptized. I do not know the fate of his step-daughter.

Later in another district, I was studying with a war veteran, who needed a ride to the veteran’s hospital one day.  Wanting to connect him with members of my church, I called several retired members and asked them to give this worthy veteran a ride.  One person told me they were unavailable because, “That’s the day I water my garden.” And that was the most legitimate excuse! Not only did this veteran never come to my church, but that was also the end of our Bible studies. Do you blame him?

After studying a few months with a young married couple, they became baptized and joined my church of mostly older people.  One of the older elders never reached out to this young couple, until finally he heard them say something in Sabbath School that was not theologically correct, so he took it upon himself to call them later in the day, to reach out and tell them that they were wrong! That was the only contact he had with them, and it was not long before they were out of the church. How long would you stay in a church that only called you, to tell you that you were wrong?

In Texas I studied with a teenage boy, that for sake of anonymity, I will call Scott. He found a ride to church every Sabbath, as no one else in his family came to church. Shortly after his baptism he moved to Tampa Florida. We had a going away party for him, and I wrote in a card, “Bible Workers come and go, but friends are forever.” I did not think that much about it. 8 years later I moved to Tampa Florida. I had talked with him a few times after his move. One day, shortly after moving to Tampa, I ran across his name in my address book, and the address “Tampa Florida” jumped out at me. I called the number, to find out that he was in jail. I arranged a visit. Not exactly the reunion I had planned with a former Bible student, huh? We were glad to see each other and had a lot to talk about since our last visit. He explained to me what had been going on with him lately and how he ended up in jail. Towards the end of our visit, he told me, “When I moved away, you wrote in my card, Bible Workers come and go but friends are forever. I never forgot what you wrote, and now that you have come to see me after all those years, even though I am in jail, shows me you meant what you said.” I realized even more, that being relational is just as important as being theologically sound. I realized too, that even though he had been baptized 8 years ago, my work with him was not through.  Scott needed a forever friend. I am glad God moved me across the country to where I could reach out to him.

As a Bible Worker my goal goes way beyond seeing people get baptized. My goal is to see them in heaven. That means being a forever friend to those who are preparing for baptism, and to those who have already been baptized, as well as to those who I may never see get baptized.

Some people think they can’t do Bible work and give Bible studies. Believe me, if I can, anybody can. Even so, what a young teenage girl needed in a small church long ago, was not a Bible Worker but a friend. A veteran just needed a ride to the hospital. A young couple needed someone from the church, to call them just to say hello, instead of just to tell them they were wrong. A young man sitting in jail needed to know someone still cared, even though he was less than perfect. Bible workers may get people baptized, but in order to see them all the way into the kingdom, it takes more than a Bible Worker. It takes a forever friend. Will you be that forever friend?

You can study this week’s SS lesson here.

1st and 2nd Thessalonians: The Messiah Part 2

I am writing tonight from the dark and stormy Tampa Bay area.

Several years ago, I was showing a set of Christian books to a lady. There were several hardbound books in the set, which also included beautiful art work. The lady loved the books, and asked how much they were. I told her, “Four-twenty-nine.” She was delighted, and exclaimed, “Is that all!” I said, “Yes.” I  went on to explain the payment plans, of cash, credit card, or down payment of 15% and then 12 monthly payments. She looked confused, and then disappointed when she realized, that by four-twenty-nine I meant $429.00 and not $4.29.

The lady was like most all of us. We hear what we want to hear. We read the Old Testament Prophecies that depict Jesus’ sacrifice, like Isaiah 53, and wonder why the Jews did not understand, that the Messiah was coming to die for our sin and not set up an earthly kingdom. The Jews were looking for a Savior from Roman tyranny because they read  prophecies,  such as Isaiah 52:13, “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.” And also Isaiah 9:7, “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.” They thought Jesus would come and set up an earthly kingdom. The prophecy in Daniel 2, and rock carved out without man’s hands, should have made clear to them, what Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36

Even the disciples misunderstood and heard only what they wanted to hear as well. Jesus told them in Matthew 16 amongst other places, that He would be crucified, but Peter and the others simply refused to hear of it. The weekend of the crucifixion they were devastated. It was a great disappointment. There was nothing wrong with the prophecies. The prophets were right on. The Jews, the disciples, the lady I was trying to sell  books to were all just like us. We hear what we want to hear. Crucifixion weekend was not the last time God’s church would endure a great disappointment. In 1844 another group of people, misunderstood Daniel. Daniel was right on. Again God’s Church just heard what it wanted to hear, this time regarding the cleansing of the sanctuary in Daniel 8:14. They thought the sanctuary was the world and Jesus was coming back to cleanse the earth with fire and create the New Earth. Nowhere in the Bible does it call the sanctuary the earth. Also we know Jesus said nobody would know the day nor the hour when He returns. Some scoff at them for not knowing better, but are we any better than they are? Do we not make the same mistakes? For example, When asked for a sign from the Jews, Jesus gave them the sign of Jonah. Jesus said, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matthew 12:40 For years now, people have been trying to fit Jesus in the tomb for three nights. To do this some have even backed up the crucifixion to Wednesday while others explain that part of a day counts as the whole day, but that still does not put Jesus in the tomb for three nights. The confusion is quite simple. Nowhere in the Bible does it say the tomb is the heart of the earth. When Jesus said, “For God so loved the world,” He wasn’t talking about the dirt. He was talking about the people. When Jesus said the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, He was not talking about the dirt, He was talking about the people. Take a day for a year in Bible Prophecy and for three days you have Jesus ministering in the heart of the earth, where the population was, not in the dirt. The sign of Jonah, was simply that while Gentiles, publicans, and sinners were believing in Jesus, the Jews who should have believed were not. Just like the story of Jonah where a wicked city like Nineveh believes, but the prophet Jonah who should have believed and obeyed did not want to.

The sign of Jonah is just one example of how today, we may get the time right but the place wrong. In 1844 they had the time right but the place wrong, and in Jesus’ time, many had the time of the Messiah right  from the book of Daniel, but they had the place wrong. Jesus’ kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. We look forward to a New Heaven and a New Earth.

Jeremiah 23:6 promises to save the kingdom of Judah. “In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”  . This led the people to dream of a kingdom prosperous and above all others. However the text also promised righteousness for the people.  It seems the people were not so interested in the righteousness as they were in the prosperity. That is just like us today. In Matthew 6:33 Jesus says,” But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Many today are seeking the kingdom and all those other things that will be added to us, but how many of us are seeking His righteousness? How many of us today are taking up our cross daily and following Him? How many of us just want the prosperity? Even if we are seeking a heavenly kingdom above an earthly kingdom, we are still just being materialistic, unless we are really seeking His righteousness.   Could we today be like the children of Abraham, dreaming only of prosperity, and forgetting that God once asked father Abraham to sacrifice his son and future prosperity?

When Paul was reasoning with the Jews, showing them that Jesus was the Messiah, he had his work cut out for him.

Just a side note before I go. Last year many people were making fun of and ridiculing a famous pastor in the United States for saying that Jesus was coming in April of 2011. I heard many Adventists making fun of him. Seeing how we make mistakes too, in our understanding, and how we have had great disappointments ourselves, should we be making fun of people when they make mistakes? I don’t think so. At the crucifixion the disciples were devastated and hurting. In 1844 God’s people were devastated and hurting. God looked past the mistakes of His people and saw the pain. We should be just as sympathetic. Whether it is towards the Jews 2,000 years ago, or a mistaken preacher today, let’s all take heed lest we fall.

Check out the current Sabbath School study guide here.

Want to Get Away?

I am writing tonight from the slightly overcast but still beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In the United States, we have an airline, called Southwest, who ask on their commercials, “Want to get away?” In each commercial someone will find themselves in an embarrassing situation, where they would gladly fly to the other side of the world and hide under a rock. The airline then suggests, getting on their plane to get away from it all.

In Mark 5 we read about a man who was in a very embarrassing situation before his conversion. When I tell you everything that happened with this man, you will agree with me, that after his conversion, he would gladly hop on an airplane to get away. However, Jesus sends him on a mission trip-back home!

For sake of time, I am going to highlight the story but you can read it for yourself here.

Sadly, demon activity has not changed much over the years. This man is hanging out in tombs, obsessed with death, much like those controlled by demons today. Jesus is life, and when we don’t have Jesus, all that’s left is death. He refused to be “tamed”, “taught” or “controlled.” The exact words may vary based on your favorite translation, but the idea is the same. He was not going to be bound by Biblical standards, like so many today, who do not want to hear what is right and wrong.

He cut himself. Today many cut themselves trying to find healing, not realizing, Jesus was already cut and wounded to bring them healing. The demoniac was tormented by the presence of Jesus. Today, an unconverted person does not want to be where Jesus can be found. They want nothing to do with Bible study, prayer meeting or family worship.

None of these demonic demonstrations phase Jesus. He heals the man and he becomes converted.  In verse 15 it tells us after his conversion, the man is clothed and in his right mind. Luke 8 tells us this man was naked at the beginning of the story. Mark tells us at the end that after the conversion he is clothed. Another sign of demonic activity is wanting to dress improperly or not at all. When we become converted we dress appropriately.

Now that the man is converted we see that he wants to be with Jesus. He tells Him in verse 18 that he wants to be with Jesus. Now I am imagining that if I had been seen by my  community, running around naked in a cemetery, that I would now like to jump on a Southwest airlines jet, or any jet for that matter and get away!  I think a nice mission trip to the other side of the planet is now in order, so I can preach the gospel about as far away as I can get from the people who saw me running around a cemetery naked, cutting myself.  But in verse 19 Jesus sends him on a mission trip-back home! Jesus tells the man to go back home and tell what wonderful things Jesus has done for him. Friend, if Jesus has done wonderful things for you, if He really has changed your life, you don’t need to get away. While foreign mission trips are fun, fruitful and rewarding, chances are Jesus may have a mission field for you right in your very home. Jesus doesn’t send everyone to the other side of the planet, as much as we may sometimes like that idea, especially after an embarrassing moment when we want to get away. Jesus may have a mission trip planned for you right in your very home.  The people saw the change in this man. So much so that in verse 15 it says it scared them or made them afraid! It must have been a real shock when the reality of what Jesus had done in this man’s life was seen.

If you run to the other side of the world people won’t see the change. If Jesus has changed your life, you don’t need to be afraid. You can proudly go back home, clothed with the righteousness of Christ and in your right mind, and tell them what wonderful things Jesus has done for you.

To go to the Sabbath School Network click here. To download the SS lessons to your cell phone click here.