Tag Archives: Sabbath School Lessons

Apostasy! What it is and What its Not

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

One Friday morning, I was helping a friend get their house “presentable” to have a group of Bible study students over for Sabbath afternoon. I was pulling weeds in their flower bed near their front door, when I got a little carried away, and found in my hands, not a clump of ugly weeds like I was suppose to have, but instead, before I could stop my over zealous hands,I realized I had just murdered a totally beautiful and innocent begonia! I snapped it before the root and there was no way now I could save it. In my mind I could hear Jesus telling me,

“See why I don’t let you go pulling weeds in my church? You can’t tell a beautiful begonia from a weed. There is no way I am going to let you destroy a totally innocent member of My church, just because you think they are a heretic. I will do My own weeding thank you. I can tell a weed from a begonia. Obviously you can’t.”

I am going to cut straight to the chase. I have become very concerned lately how easily the word “apostasy” gets thrown around Adventist circles these days. If someone does not agree with us, some of us accuse them of apostasy. That is a strong word! Apostasy simply means a renunciation or abandonment of a belief, but yet it carries with it an even greater connotation within our circles, of abandoning God Himself.  Funny, some people put themselves in God’s place of defining heresy and apostasy, yet I don’t ever find Jesus accusing anyone in the Bible of being an apostate or heretic, so I am confused as to why so many of His professed followers have taken up the practice.

Apostasy does not mean renouncing a doctrine because another church teaches it too. Remember, the Seventh-day Adventist Church grew out of many denominations. The purpose of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is not to disagree with everybody else. The purpose of the Seventh-day Adventist church is to

 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21

In the mid 1800′s a group of Advent believers from many denominations sat down together with their Bibles. Rachel Oakes, a Seventh-day Baptist in that group introduced the Sabbath. The group found it to be quite Biblical so it was adopted by the group. The group found that the Baptist church was quite Biblical concerning baptism by immersion so that was adopted as well. However, the group found the immortality of the soul to be found nowhere in the Bible so that was not accepted. You see, this group did not say “Oh we don’t believe that! This is what the Baptists believe or that is what Catholics believe!” If we are going to use that logic we are going to have to give up the Sabbath because that is what Seventh-day Baptists believe! We would also have to give up the Trinity because that is what Catholics believe!

If our goal is to be the exact opposite of Catholics, then we are going to have to stop praying for loved ones in the hospital because that is what Catholics do. Actually we will have to stop running our hospital systems all together, because after all, having hospitals that provide compassionate care is something the Catholics do. And we don’t want to be like them, right? Friends, just because the Catholics do something does not make it wrong, and just because we do something does not make it right! Catholics are very reverent in their worship service. Shall we run and scream in God’s house just to prove we are not Catholics? Of course not! Like Paul said, we want to hold on to what is good instead of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

I have met bitter former Adventists who have made it their religion to bash the Adventist church. Instead of lifting up Jesus they love to go online and bash the Adventist church. I have news for them. Bashing Adventism in not a religion. Now I have some news for some of us Adventists. Bashing Catholicism is not a religion either! Jesus, our example never made a religion out of bashing people for their beliefs.

This message must be given, but while it must be given, we should be careful not to thrust and crowd and condemn those who have not the light that we have. We should not go out of our way to make hard thrusts at the Catholics. Among the Catholics there are many who are most conscientious Christians, and who walk in all the light that shines upon them, and God will work in their behalf.–Ellen White, Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 243.

Right and wrong is determined by the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16) and not by religious denomination. 

We are not to hold on to our beliefs because they are what our pioneers taught. If we do that then we are making an idol of our pioneers. We also become steeped in tradition if we only believe what our pioneers believe. It was never Martin Luther’s desire to bash Catholicism. It was his desire to take the Bible over tradition and the teachings of man. If we now set up our Adventist pioneers and Adventist traditions as the standard, then we are falling back into Babylon! The only way we can stay out of Babylon is to use the Word of God as our standard, instead of worshiping as idols the pioneers of our church even when they may be wrong, and bashing other churches even when they may be right!

Let’s be careful who we call apostates and what we call apostasy. Recently I have heard people saying the trinity is not an Adventist doctrine while it most definitely is! Many people are accusing other people of apostasy while they are in apostasy! So let’s be careful how we use that word, and not use it all if we can avoid it. It is not a word I read Jesus using. Let’s try to be more like Jesus.

Let’s not accuse someone of apostasy because they do something a Catholic or Baptist does. If we do, we will need to stop baptizing by immersion and having compassionate hospitals. Not everything they do is wrong and not everything you do is right. Let’s just go by the Bible.

Let’s not set up our Adventist pioneers as infallible and above the Word of God. If we tell the Catholics not to worship Mary and St.Peter, then its only fair we not worship Uriah Smith and Ellen White. Yes, I know Ellen White wrote under inspiration but so did Peter. Let’s not worship either one of them. Let’s worship Jesus. If we tell Catholics not to put their traditions above the Word of God then lets not put our traditions above the Word of God. Let’s not make a religion out of bashing other people’s beliefs and churches. Let’s make a religion out of lifting up Jesus!

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

The Type of Kingdom That Lasts Forever

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

Daniel 2:1-48 is a prophecy that assures us God’s Kingdom is coming, and that it is coming soon. But that is not all it teaches. It also shows us the character of the people who make up God’s kingdom.

When the wise men could not tell Nebuchadnezzar his dream, Nebuchadnezzar orders all the wise men to be killed, and that included Daniel. When they went for Daniel this was the first he had heard about it and asked for time to tell the king his dream. When God showed Daniel the same dream the king had, notice Daniel’s response.

Then Daniel went in to see Arioch, whom the king had ordered to execute the wise men of Babylon. Daniel said to him, “Don’t kill the wise men. Take me to the king, and I will tell him the meaning of his dream.” Daniel 2:24 NLT

If I had been Daniel my first reaction would probably be to just get myself down to the king, tell him the dream and save my own neck! Not Daniel. His first reaction was to save the other wise men who were actually phony wise men. And so it is, that the wicked will never know how much they owe to the righteous for all the blessings they receive.

Remember when the disciples were with Jesus on that boat in the storm? They pleaded for Jesus to calm the storm and He did. When Jesus calmed the storm He did not just calm it for the disciples little boat. All the boats on the water in that storm enjoyed the peace and calm that the disciples requested.

It reminds me of a parable Jesus told about someone needing bread.

 “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.” Luke 11:5-8 NLT

The lesson here is not about persistence only. Jesus is telling us that God blesses our prayers when we are seeking to be a blessing to others. The person in the story is not just asking for bread for themselves. They are asking for bread to share with their friend. The disciples’ request on the stormy sea secured safety for everyone. Not just themselves.  Likewise Daniel’s prayer not only saved his life. It saved all the lives of the wicked wise men too. Now I wonder to myself. I realize these are Babylonian wise men, and it was actually the Persian leaders who had Daniel thrown in the Lion’s den, but is it possible that some of those men could possibly be some of the same men Daniel saved in Daniel 2? If so, then it shows us how God cares for us, even when we make ourselves vulnerable in caring for others.

Either way Daniel was being selfless in his prayer life and attitude towards others. His first concern was the wise men and not just saving his own neck. A careful Bible study of the image in Daniel 2, teaches us several things about the kingdom of God. It teaches us that while other nations rise and fall, that the kingdom of God will never fall. It is the only thing that is sure to last for ever. Spain won the world cup in 2010 but this year has already been eliminated. Fame and fortune is fleeting in this world. Even though the men tried to kill Daniel he was the lone survivor. Likewise while people try to destroy God’s kingdom, it is the only kingdom which endures forever.

 Those who are righteous will be long remembered. Psalms 112:6 NLT

Their good deeds will be remembered forever. They will have influence and honor. The wicked will see this and be infuriated. They will grind their teeth in anger; they will slink away, their hopes thwarted. Psalms 112:9-10 NLT

Daniel 2 also teaches us that we are living in the days of the toes. The next event in this prophecy is the coming of God’s kingdom, and we can be sure, that just as accurately as every other kingdom in this prophecy has come and gone, that God’s kingdom is surely coming and will never end.

Just as importantly as the accuracy of the prediction about the nearness of the kingdom is the description of those who make up the kingdom. All who make up the kingdom of God will be like Daniel. People whose first thoughts, even in the face of death, is for the welfare of others and not just their own. People who have a prayer life that seeks to bless others and not just themselves. Those are the people who will last forever.

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

Are you a Prisoner of Circumstances or a Prisoner of the Lord?

I am writing today from the beautiful, yet slightly overcast, Tulsa Oklahoma area.
I am writing today from the beautiful, yet slightly overcast, Tulsa Oklahoma area.

Have you ever felt like you were a victim of circumstances? Due to lack of education or money you have missed opportunities? Maybe if you had not married right out of high school you could have explored the world instead of getting tied down. Now you are sacrificing your own dreams in order to create a better life for your family. Meanwhile someone else wishes they had married so they could be experiencing a family. Now those are examples of being a victim of your own choices and not necessarily circumstances beyond your own control. Other people feel like they were born victims.

Some blame the location of where they were born on how their lives turned out. Several years ago a friend came to visit me from South America. We were stopped at an intersection where a man was begging. My friend was amazed that their were poor people in the United States. She thought all Americans were wealthy. No matter where we come from or what our lot is in life, it is sometimes easy to see ourselves as victims of circumstances.

While I enjoy my freedom of being single, there are times I miss having a family. By the way, just because I am happy being single does not mean I have chosen to remain single. I am just happy being single until God brings me the right woman. I am not desperate. I am happily content. Anyway, I was talking to a friend the other day about one of the things I miss about not having my own family.  I miss having someone to share my story with. I don’t have a wife to share my school yearbook with and tell her my high school and college stories. I don’t have any children to tell my, “when I was a kid” stories to. Then again, I know married people who sadly, don’t have anyone in their family who wants to hear their story either.

My friend then made an amazing comparison. She told me while I have no family to share my stories with that I share them with my church family and extended family on my blog. She told me Paul was the same way. Maybe that is why he wrote so much and loved his church so much, because, having no immediate family, the church was his love and passion and he wrote sharing his story and testimony with them. Maybe that is why he wrote so much! Now I have no doubt Paul wrote because God told him to, and I write too (While I do not share Paul’s inspiration or authority) because God places things on my heart. But it got me to thinking about Paul’s circumstances and one thing I have always noticed.

While being persecuted and in prison Paul never thought of himself as a victim of circumstances. He never even though of himself as a victim of the Jews or Romans while in prison. Paul writes,

 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles..Ephesians 3:1

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you… Ephesians 4:1

Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner:2 Timothy 1:8

Paul never refers to being a prisoner of the Romans or Jews. He does not talk about being a prisoner of circumstances. Even while in prison Paul saw himself as a prisoner of the Lord! He knew he was right exactly where God wanted him to be. Paul did most of his writing from prison. If he had been free to travel and talk to people in person, he would not have written so much, and we would not have had all of his writings preserved in the New Testament that we have today. Paul was well aware of how an angel freed Peter from prison. Paul was well aware of how Philip just disappeared from one place and appeared in another. Paul knew that the iron bars and soldiers were not really holding him there. He knew he was right where God needed him to be, so he calls himself a prisoner of the Lord instead of a prisoner of man or circumstances.

I have a friend who recently took a job that she was well over qualified for. Based on her education and degree she should be somewhere else making much more money. She may have even faced ridicule from her friends and family for “lowering” herself to take this job, but where she is living, and based on other “circumstances” this was the best she could do for now. However she never complains. Instead she tells me of the people she meets there who need Jesus, that she never would have been able to reach out to if she was not working with them. They never would have come to her church. She never would have met them working anyplace else. She is glad she is where she is because she is being used by God to reach people who need Him! And really isn’t that where we all should be?

No matter where we are born and raised and work, our real home is in heaven and we are just missionaries to this world, sent from God to share the good news with others. Some of us may be missionaries in places of poverty. Some of us may be missionaries in our families, or if we have no immediate family then in our church family and communities. Some of us may be missionaries in difficult work places, and some of us may be missionaries in literal prisons. Either way we are not prisoners of circumstances. If we love God and have chosen to serve Him, we are only prisoners of the Lord.

You can study this week’s SS lesson here. 

Better Promises Make A Better Covenant

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

The story goes of a man who got a job chopping down trees. The first day his foreman noticed he had chopped down only ten trees while the other men had cut down a hundred or so. “Oh well,” thought the foreman, “it was his first day,” But the next couple days went the same way, so the foreman decided to have a talk with the new worker. “I am sure you have noticed you are not chopping down nearly as many trees as the others are” the foreman began. “Yes I know sir, but I am having trouble with this saw you gave me,” said the new worker. The foreman took a look at the saw and pulled the cord to start the motor. The buzz of the motor on the saw scared the new worker, and he jumped back shouting, “What is that sound?”

The new worker did not realize he was not expected chop down a hundred trees in his own power. He did not realize what power was available to him. It’s the same way with us.

Many people shirk at keeping the law, thinking it is an impossibility, not realizing they were never expected to keep it in their own power, and like the power saw, there is plenty of power available. If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it.  But when God found fault with the people, he said:

“The day is coming, says the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel and Judah.
This covenant will not be like the one
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
and led them out of the land of Egypt.
They did not remain faithful to my covenant,
so I turned my back on them, says the Lord.
But this is the new covenant I will make
with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds,
and I will write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people. Hebrews 8:7-10

There are those who would have us believe that the Ten Commandments were done away with because God realized they were unreasonable and could not be obeyed. However that is not the case.

Psalms 19:7 KJV says,

 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.

A legend tells about a huge ship that spotted a light off in the distant fog and radioed the source of the light telling it to change its course 15 degrees to avoid a collision. The source of the light radioed back that the ship needed to change its course instead. The arrogant sea captain once again demanded the other vessel change its course instead, only to find out the source of the light was not coming from a vessel but from a lighthouse.

So it is in life. Many people want the law to be changed just like the ship wanted the lighthouse to change, but lighthouses don’t move out of the way and neither does the law. The law is perfect. The law does not need to change.

That the law which was spoken by God’s own voice is faulty, that some specification has been set aside, is the claim which Satan now puts forward. It is the last great deception that he will bring upon the world. He needs not to assail the whole law; if he can lead men to disregard one precept, his purpose is gained. For “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10. By consenting to break one precept, men are brought under Satan’s power. By substituting human law for God’s law, Satan will seek to control the world. This work is foretold in prophecy. Of the great apostate power which is the representative of Satan, it is declared, “He shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand.” Daniel 7:25-Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 763

No, the law is not faulty. Hebrews 8:8 NLT says the fault was not with the law but with the people. So why would God change the law when the law was not the problem?

The fault of the people was in trying to keep the law in their own power. God made a covenant with the people, and instead of them asking for God’s help they eagerly replied,

“We will do everything the Lord has commanded.” Exodus 19:8 NLT

God knew this was never going to work from the get-go.

He who is trying to reach heaven by his own works in keeping the law is attempting an impossibility. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 172

God never intended for man to keep the law on His own. This is why God says in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah 31:33 NLT,

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

You see, the old covenant was not called old because it was the first covenant. It was called old because it was a useless covenant that God never asked them to make. He never asked Abraham to have a son on his own. He never asked us to keep the commandments on our own. This is what Paul is talking about inHebrews 8:6 NLT when He says the new covenant is, “based on better promises.”

In the first covenant the people in Exodus 19:8 were the ones making promises God never asked them to make. I don’t need to tell you how worthless man’s promises are. The new covenant is based on better promises because they are God’s promises!

And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. 2 Peter 1:4 NLT

The law was never the problem. The problem was the people and their worthless promises. Even in the Old Testament we find the new and better covenant when Abraham becomes the father of Isaac, based on God’s promise. We find the new and better covenant based on better promises in Jeremiah 31:33 when God is promising to write and establish the perfect law in the hearts of men, not by their own power and promises, but by His power and promises.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Glimpes of the Cross Day 19; Why Jesus Lives

Dolphin Cruise Con Don Y Eva 065

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. Hebrews 7:25 NLT

Charles Spurgeon was born to preach. Mother Teresa was born to care for the poor. Abraham Lincoln was born to break the bonds of slavery. Everyone was born for a reason. The verse above tells me Jesus was born with a purpose too. His eternal existence before birth also was not without purpose. It also tells us what His purpose for living and existing is. He does not live so He can be a tyrant and force people to worship Him. He does not live so He can hear angels sing His praises. He does not live so that He can sit on a throne in a golden castle in the sky. You can look as far back into eternity as eternity goes, and you can look as far into the future as eternity goes, and you will find that Jesus’ purpose for living is to be your eternal provider and Savior! “He lives forever to intercede with God on your behalf.” Not so much that He is trying to reconcile God to you as much as He works to reconcile you to God. God never ran from Adam. It was Adam who ran from God. Jesus never told the demoniacs He could not tolerate their presence. It was the demoniacs who could not tolerate His presence.

“It is no arbitrary decree on the part of God that excludes the wicked from heaven; they are shut out by their own unfitness for its companionship. The glory of God would be to them a consuming fire. They would welcome destruction, that they might be hidden from the face of Him who died to redeem them.” – Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Pages 17-18.

Jesus’ passion is winning you back to God. Again, that is why He lives.

 ”So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.  This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:14-16 NLT

In the moment of temptation we can go to our High Priest, and find the grace to overcome the temptation.

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT

However if for whatever reason we do not ask for the grace to overcome, Jesus has made a fool proof way to sustain us still. We can come to the throne and ask for mercy and forgiveness.

“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” 1 John 1:9 NLT

“How careful is the Lord Jesus to give no occasion for a soul to despair. How He fences about the soul from Satan’s fierce attacks. If through manifold temptations we are surprised or deceived into sin, He does not turn from us and leave us to perish. No, no, that is not our Saviour…. He was tempted in all points like as we are; and having been tempted, He knows how to succor those who are tempted. Our crucified Lord is pleading for us in the presence of the Father at the throne of grace. His atoning sacrifice we may plead for our pardon, our justification, and our sanctification. The Lamb slain is our only hope. Our faith looks up to Him, grasps Him as the One who can save to the uttermost, and the fragrance of the all-sufficient offering is accepted of the Father.

If you make failures and are betrayed into sin, do not feel then you cannot pray … but seek the Lord more earnestly.

The blood of Jesus is pleading with power and efficacy for those who are backslidden, for those who are rebellious, for those who sin against great light and love. Satan stands at our right hand to accuse us, and our Advocate stands at God’s right hand to plead for us. He has never lost a case that has been committed to Him.” –Ellen White, Our High Calling, Page 49

“We may plead for our pardon, justification, and our sanctification.” Before I fall, I can go to Jesus, and find grace so I don’t have to fall. His grace sanctifies me and frees me from the power of sin.

“ For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.  And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.  He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.” Titus 2:11-14 NLT

Even though grace leaves me with no excuse to sin, Jesus still offers mercy and forgiveness!

“The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” Psalms 51:17

The question is not how long will God be willing to forgive me, but rather, will I ever ask for forgiveness? I can go to a home to give a Bible study, and knock on the door. As long as I can hear somebody inside making their way to the door, I will wait as long as it takes. However, if I realize I could wait forever and they will never open the door, then and only then do I walk away. It is the same with Jesus. Probation closes when the sanctuary is forced out of business, because it no longer has “customers” asking for mercy. Jesus has reconciled those who are willing, and sadly walks away from the heart’s door of those who will never accept His reconciling grace. The fact that they would never accept God’s grace is seen by the fact that no one repents during the last plagues and of course nobody repents at the end of the thousand years. The problem is not that they can’t but that they won’t. God did not send them to the point of no return. They reached that point by themselves.

When Jesus forgave the repentant thief, while hanging naked on the cross, he was sending out a message to men and to Satan. “You can take away my clothes and dignity. You can take away my crown and replace it with thorns. You can even take away my life, but you will never take away my power to forgive sin!” Imagine that! Jesus-King of the Universe let go of all of His divine rights, except for the right to forgive sin! Jesus would rather die than give up His right to be your sustain-er and Savior. Why? Because the only reason why He lives is so He can save you! His death was all about you. His life is all about you. He is in love with you!

 

Strange Laws for Strange People

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

There are some pretty strange laws out there.

In Oklahoma it is against the law to spit on the sidewalk. I’m not sure what the penalty is though. But I do know the penalty for making an ugly face at a dog is a fine or jail sentence. I guess it depends on just how ugly of a face you make. In Texas it is against the law to milk another person’s cow, or to shoot a buffalo from the second floor of a hotel. In Alaska it is considered an offense to shove a live moose out of an airplane.*

While these laws sound pretty crazy, I bet if we searched the history behind them, some of them might actually start to make sense. Apparently someone at one time in Alaska must have tried to shove a moose out of an airplane. There is a spirit behind each of these strange laws, which is consideration for other people and creatures. Spitting on the sidewalk may seem innocent enough, until your ten year old son walks barefoot down a sidewalk that a man with a hacking cough just passed by! Making an intimidating face at a dog that brings it to the point of violent frustration is not very considerate either. Therefore we have come up with millions of laws, some of them quite bizarre, just because there are people out there who have no consideration for others.

In heaven Lucifer rebelled against God’s law of love. He thought it would be better to have a lawless society. Well, guess what? The more lawless a society becomes, the more laws it needs. The Spirit of God’s law is simple,

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.  Luke 10:27

Apparently Lucifer thought being considerate of your Creator and His created beings was just too much to ask for.  However, if we would have just respected our Creator and His creatures we would not need all the millions of strange and not so strange laws we have today. If we loved others and were thoughtful of their needs, we would not need a law book at the courthouse telling us we can’t spit on the sidewalk or take milk from our neighbor’s cow. Likewise if we would just love our spouses we would not need divorce laws, alimony laws, child custody laws, child support laws and even restraining orders.

It is not so much strange lawmakers who create strange laws but rather strange and selfish behavior. Even in the Old Testament we have some laws that some people find quite strange, for example, why did God have to give this command in Leviticus 20:2?

Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death.

If parents would have just been faithful to their children we would never have needed this “strange” law.  It is not God who was strange, thus necessitating this strange law but rather a strange society. Strange and unnatural laws become necessary for a society that does not have natural love.  Natural love creates natural laws that are simple and brief, written on our hearts so that obeying them comes as naturally as following our own hearts.   As a matter of fact God’s law could be as simply stated this, “Have a heart people!” And with that one simple law being accomplished we would need no other law, for having a heart for God and his creatures would make laws about offering your children to Molech and shooting buffalo from the second floor of a hotel totally unnecessary.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

* http://www.dumblaws.com/

Pray a New Prayer

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

My parents tell me, when I was two years old, one Sabbath morning the elder kept praying and praying in church, and I got tired of kneeling on my two year old little knees, so I finally stood up on the pew and started shouting, “Amen! Amen! Amen!” Well let me tell you something, I have felt like doing it a few times since then. Even at two years old I must have realized that public prayers are suppose to be brief.

“Our prayers in public should be short…” -Ellen White, Prayer, Page 176

In recent years I have been kneeling in congregational prayer for what felt like an eternity, and have thought to myself during the long drawn out prayer, “Why doesn’t the elder praying just ask the pastor if he can preach sometime. I am sure he would let him, and then that way the elder wouldn’t have to use prayer time to preach a sermon.” 

Jesus mentored His disciples to pray longer prayers in private, Or at least He tried to in Gethsemane the night of His arrest, in Matthew 26:36-46. Jesus led by example, in long personal prayers, even lasting all night (Luke 6:12). He also taught that prayers should be genuine and not rehearsed.

“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.” Matthew 6:7 NLT

When we pray we are to talk to God as a friend. I even heard of an elderly Bible Worker, who when driving to Bible Studies, would make sure nothing was in the passenger car seat, because He pictured God sitting there, riding with Him to the Bible study as he prayed and drove. (I hope he kept his eyes opened as he prayed and drove!)

Many times in my Bible studies I ask people to have the opening prayer, and many are shy and say they don’t know how. I never pressure anyone to do anything they don’t feel comfortable doing, but several have been surprised how easy it is when I tell them. One man, who had already heard me pray many times, told me he wanted to pray but did not know what to say. I told him, “Just say “Dear heavenly Father, please send your Holy Spirit to be with us in this Bible study, in Jesus’ name amen.” His eyes opened wide and he smiled when he realized how easy it was.

God wants us to talk to Him as a friend. God also does not wanting us just babbling the same words over and over. He wants to have a real conversation with us. The psalmist talks about singing a new song (Psalms 40:3) and a song is like a prayer as songs and prayers are stories of our experiences. Just as God enjoys new songs He also enjoys new prayers.

While Jesus mentored His disciples to pray in private, He also mentored them to pray in public. He gave them a model prayer, not to be repeated over and over word for word necessarily, but a model for us to use to form our own prayer. God loves creativity. Not every song has to be sung the exact same way and by no means does every prayer have to be prayed the same way. While Jesus prayed long private prayers, notice how short His public prayer is.

Our Father in heaven,may your name be kept holy. Matthew 6:9 NLT

Jesus starts by addressing His Father and setting a tone for reverence and awe. Our prayers may also be prayed with confidence knowing our requests are reaching the throne of the universe.

May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10 NLT

I have a friend who was taught long ago by his parents to always ask people how their day was, and listen to them, before going on about yourself and your day. You may think you had a tough day, but before you dive into your prayer, telling God all about your heartaches, have you ever asked God how His day went? God saw way more heartaches in one day than we will see in a lifetime. We want God’s will to be done and His kingdom to come soon, not just to end our suffering, but to end God’s suffering, as He suffers not just with you and me, but with everyone in the world who suffers.

Give us today the food we need, Matthew 6:11 NLT

When Daniel asked for God to reveal the kings dream to him, Daniel did not save himself only, he saved the lives of all the kings men (Daniel 2:24). InMark 4:39 Jesus calms the storm at the disciples request, but the sea was not only calmed for their tiny boat. Like wise, all the other boats on the water benefited from the calmness. Jesus does not pray for Himself alone to have food. He prays for everyone to have the food they need. There is no selfishness in Jesus’ prayer. There is no selfishness in any genuine prayer.

“and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” Matthew 6:12 NLT

Jesus could have prayed, “Father forgive everyone else for their sins, but as you know I have never sinned,” but again there is nor self or pride in Jesus’ prayer.

And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. Matthew 6:13 NLT

Jesus overcame by asking for the Father’s help along with everyone else. We can ask for His help and overcome as well. Jesus ends His prayer the way He began, by exalting the Father, Who gives us the confidence we need in our personal lives and ministry when we worship and follow Him.

You can study this week’s SS lesson here. 

Discipling the Nations, or Being Discipled by the Nations?

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

In the Old Testament God wanted to be Israel’s king, but in 1 Samuel 8:5-7 Israel rejected God as their king and said they wanted to have a king like all the other nations have. Centuries later, Pilate asks the Israelites,

Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.  John 19:15

So for centuries God’s own people were basically saying, “Give us any king but God!”  Instead of discipling the nations, they were discipled by the nations.

God’s own people wanted to be like the other nations so much so that they were willing to deny their Savior so they could fit in with the world. Much of their compromise with the world was to avoid being persecuted or even just laughed at. In John 11:50, Caiaphas suggests getting rid of Jesus so that the whole nation does not perish. What He was suggesting was, getting rid of Jesus’ teachings which, if not done away with would bring down the wrath of Rome. What Caiaphas was forgetting was, if they did away with Jesus then the nation had no reason to exist! What is the point of preserving something if it no longer serves a purpose? Why exist just to exist?

Do we find the same mentality in our day? For example–

Let’s water down our teachings lest someone ridicule us. No reason to invite persecution, we can preserve ourselves by making our teachings look as much like all the other churches as possible.

If we do that, we have defeated our entire purpose of existing as a church! After the reformation, during a religious awakening, God did not bring the Seventh-day Adventist Church forth to blend in and look like all the other churches. Think about it. There were already churches, even Sabbath-keeping churches, that looked like all the other churches. Why would God bring forth a church if it would be like what was already there?

Other churches have a gospel that will prepare you to die, and that is all well and good, but God has brought forth the Seventh-day Adventist Church with a sanctuary message and a gospel that will prepare you to never die! See Malachi 3:1-3. Should we be ashamed of this gospel? Should we try to water it down to look like all the other gospels out there?

Even now Rome is extending her hand to the Protestant churches, saying we all understand salvation by grace instead of works. We all get what Luther was saying now, so let’s all come together. However, you cannot say you understand salvation by grace while observing a man-made day of worship, one that man worked out on his own! When you understand salvation by grace, you rest from your works and man-made religion by resting your faith in the Creator on the day that He made holy.

Years ago I met with another Adventist family in my neighborhood for a Neighborhood Youth Bible Study on Sabbath afternoons. One Sabbath our church was having a “revival” with some Christian rock music. Someone from the church invited me and my youth study group to come. I thought, why not? Instead of a Bible study for this week, let’s just show the kids that we also have fun. After the concert, I asked a teenager in my group how they liked the concert. I was hoping they thought it was really cool. Instead, they looked at me disappointed, and said, “I wish we would have just had the Bible study instead.” Their statement hit me like a two-by-four right between the eyes! I realized then, what was being offered they could find anywhere, but we have a special message that is not just found anywhere.

Instead of blending in we need to stand out. In Samuel’s day Israel had a special message that would have saved the world, but instead of discipling the nations they were discipled by the nations. Likewise, we are told by Jesus to go and make disciples of other nations, not become disciples of other nations.  Caiaphas thought the best way to preserve the church of his day was to get rid of Jesus and His gospel.

The Lord directed Ezekiel in giving His message. And I believe it is still valid today:

“You must give them my messages whether they listen or not. But they won’t listen, for they are completely rebellious!” Ezekiel 2:7 NLT

Today, companies will sometimes change their products to meet consumer demand, but we cannot do that, because the product (the message) is the Lord’s. However, we can learn something else from modern companies. More often they change the packaging of a product to make it more appealing to customers, and that’s what we can and should do in our culture. We need to communicate the same age-old truth in a way that our culture can understand.

I pray that the Lord will give us the wisdom to present His unchanging truth in a way that this generation can understand.

You can study this week’s SS lesson here.

Living My Life So People Will Remember me When I die is too Small a Cause to Live for!

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

I sat at a funeral dinner, with the grown children of the dear lady whose service I had just conducted.  One of her sons was talking about adding a patio to the back of his house. Her daughter was talking about doing some work on her home too. I sat there listening, and thought to myself,“This lady has just died and her children are talking about everything but her! I don’t even have kids, just think how quickly I will be forgotten when I die!” I started getting depressed thinking about how quickly I will be forgotten. As the family talked on, not necessarily to me, I discreetly checked my Facebook on my phone beneath the table. I was stunned when I read one of the first status updates from a friend. It read, “Living my life so that people will remember me after I die is too small a cause to live for.” I felt like I had just been hit between the eyes with a 2 X 4! That day I realized, even though I had already been baptized long ago, I still needed to make a full surrender. Just because I told people I had surrendered all, and even sang the song with tears in my eyes, did not necessarily mean anything had actually been surrendered. Full surrender is an action not a profession.

Many times we think diet and dress reform and other topics are important issues, but what they all boil down to is one primary issue, the issue of a full surrender. I have met people who are proud of their extravagant wardrobe and I have met people who are proud of their simplicity. On both sides of the issue there is a pride problem! There is need for full surrender.

Jesus met and conquered the self and pride for us when He made a full surrender in Gethsemane. He cried out,

“If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me.”Matthew 26:39 NLT

Here Jesus was praying in His humanity what all humanity has prayed. Is there a way for me to get around this issue other than a full surrender?  Hebrews 5:8says Jesus learned obedience by suffering. His flesh, like ours, suffered when it did not get its own way. In describing the destruction of the wicked, Obadiah 1:16 NLT says they will “disappear from history.” That was my fear at the funeral dinner, and Jesus faced this fear for me and overcame, when He made a full surrender and prayed,

“Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Matthew 26:39 NLT

Whatever issue we face, we can try to skirt around it with all kinds of human reasoning and logic as to why we don’t need to make a full surrender, but surrender is the only solution, no matter the issue.

Surrender is the key to being anointed when we are sick.

Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. James 5:14-15 NLT

The anointing is saying the sick person is the property of God. Their sickness is now God’s problem and not theirs. They have made a full surrender and have given everything to God including their sins and diseases. God may heal them by removing the sickness right then, or He may heal them through a recovery process that will reveal God’s love and power day by day. Still, God may heal them by letting them go to sleep. The KJV of James 5:15 reads,

“ And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up”

Jesus may raise the person up that very moment, or He may heal them by letting them sleep, and “raise him up” at the resurrection. The key to this passage of Scripture is that sins are forgiven and there is salvation when one has been anointed and become fully surrendered.

You can study this week’s Sabbath School lesson on discipling the sick here.

Discipling Children By Integrating Not Segregating

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As we contemplate the Sabbath School lesson on discipling Children, I am reminded of a blog post someone shared with me on Facebook a while back, that really hit home with me and  my personal observations. The article, “Youth Groups Driving Christian Teens to Abandon Faith” mentions that many (not all) church youth groups help teens connect with each other, but fail to connect teens with the church or God. So, when they outgrow the youth group, they leave the church and God, which they never were connected to anyway.

Some youth leaders have even confessed to me that they had no relationship with Jesus themselves, and wanted me to teach the kids how to have the assurance of salvation, since that was something the youth leaders confessed they have not even experienced themselves. The youth leaders connected with the kids, but were not connected to Jesus, therefore it ended there, instead of going on to becoming disciples for Jesus.  What we need are youth leaders who can connect with kids and connect with Jesus.

If not designed and executed properly youth groups can actually shoot themselves in the foot. Some youth groups isolate kids from the church family instead of integrating them into the church. For example, I once had a 20 year old lady tell me, “I don’t want to go to that church meeting tonight because it will all just be grownups and I want to hang out with kids my age.” The youth group failed this young woman, because at age 20 she still saw herself as a kid instead of identifying herself with the grownups which she is now a part of! She is now too old for the youth group, but does not realize that she is now an adult. She is now on the outside as she is too old for the youth group, but never was connected to the church family, let alone God. And no, the solution is not a young adult group. I am not saying it is wrong to have one, I am just saying there is a problem when a 20-year old does not realize they are not a little kid anymore, and putting them in another bracket will not fix the problem. At age 12 Jesus did not become a youth or young adult. He became a man. The term teenager was not even recognized until the 19th century.   There were no youth groups as anyone 12 or older was now a part of the regular church congregation. 

I have served in smaller churches with no youth groups so to speak, and saw teens thriving in the church family. There was no segregation between young and old. In one church in West Texas, the bulletin editor was 13 years old, and was probably the most responsible bulletin editor I ever saw. She was home schooled, and if I did not have my sermon information called in before 1 pm Wednesday, she was calling me! She is now married with two children, in her early 30’s and still very active in her church family, and more importantly has an experience with God. She never made the transition from youth church to the “real” church, because she was brought up in the  “real” church from the git-go. Unlike the 20-year old woman I mentioned earlier, she sees herself as a grownup and has for a long time. She stopped seeing herself as a little kid, back when she was 13 putting the bulletin together every week.

Youth groups, like any other type of Church group, is purposeful only as it helps young people feel connected to Christ and a part of the entire church family, instead of just a part of a little group only connected with themselves.