Tag Archives: sabbath school network

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.

Everything About Him Was All Wrong, Except For The Fact That He Was Perfect

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

Have you every brought up an idea in a committee meeting, only to have it ignored, and then ten minutes later someone a little bit more popular than you, says the same exact thing you just said, except this time, instead of it being ignored everyone loves the idea! And you are sitting there thinking to yourself, “That’s what I just said ten minutes ago!”  

Sometimes its not what is being said but who is saying it. A while back, after teaching a group of young people how to chain reference their Bibles, to give Bible studies, I then had one of them lead out in an actual Bible study group. I was there for encouragement, but they were the teacher. Maybe I should not have even showed up at all, because what happened was, while the young person had all the answers from the Bible, the people in the group kept directing their questions at me, instead of the young person who was teaching the class. Awkward! Somehow the group members thought my life experience trumped the authority of this young person, but not so! This young person was getting all their information from the Word of God, and I don’t care how much life experience someone has or titles behind their name, nothing trumps the Word of God!

In John 4:1-54 Jesus meets with a woman at a well, and counsels her about her promiscuous relationships. What gave Him the right? He had no marriage counseling license. He had no marriage experience. Yet this is not the only time He counseled people about their sex lives. In John 8:1-11 Jesus not only counsels with a woman taken in adultery, but He also counselled the men involved, by writing in the sand. In Matthew 5:27-32 Jesus preaches about marriage, sexual temptations and divorce.  Instead of referencing His personal life as many do today, Jesus referenced the Scriptures. The Scriptures trump human experience.

Jesus counsels the woman at the well about her relationships, by helping her realize that she has been trying to fill a void in her life that only God can fill. Each sexual escapade just left her thirsty. Just like people try to use Pepsi to quench their thirst, only to find Pepsi actually dehydrates you and leaves you even more thirsty for water, likewise inappropriate sex was leaving this woman thirsty for the living water that is only found not in sex, but in a relationship with God.

Could it be that while having no wife or children, Jesus was an authority on relationships because He had a perfect relationship with God the Father? While giving counsel in John 8, Jesus says “let him without sin throw the first stone.” This was from the Levitical law, so Jesus was basing his counsel on Scripture as well as His relationship with His Father.

In Matthew Matthew 6:24-34 Jesus is giving financial advice. What gives Him the right? He was not a Wall Street wizard. He has no place to lay His head and relied on friends for a place to stay. If a man with no money in the bank and no home or property were to hold a financial seminar today, how many people do you think would listen to him?

The story goes of a very rich business man who tried to school a poor man about wealth. The rich man from Chicago was vacationing in Mexico and doing some fishing. A local came along and threw his reel in the water and a few minutes later had caught four fish, which he put in his bucket and started to leave. The rich business man stopped him and asked,

“Why are you leaving already? You are doing great!”

The local replied, “I caught all the fish I need for my family. I am going home now to eat with them and relax and spend time with the family.”

The business man exclaimed, “But you are doing so well! If you stay longer you can catch even more fish!”

“What would I do with them?” The local asked.

“You could catch enough fish to sell them and buy a boat!” the man answered.

“Then what?” The local asked.

“You could catch even more fish with a boat! Then you could sell even more fish and buy more boats and catch and sell even more fish.” The business man exclaimed, somewhat frustrated that the local was not catching the vision.

“What would I do after all of that?” The local replied,

to which the rich business man answered, “Then you could retire.”

“What would I do while I’m retired” asked the local.

“You can eat with your family and relax and spend time with them!” The rich man declared! Wondering why this simple local could not follow his logic and financial advice! But was it logical? Wasn’t the local already on his way to eat and spend time with family now? Why should he spend his life planning only for tomorrow never knowing for sure if there would even be a tomorrow?

Ever heard the saying, “Some people are so poor all they have is money?” The local, like Jesus realized you need more than money to be wealthy. Some people give up their health and friends in an effort to make more money, only to find out that money is not the substance of life. Good relationships are what make you wealthy in the long run. Years ago a friend of mine went to hear a financial motivational speaker. The speaker told them, “In order to be rich, the first thing you need to do is drop your poor friends and only hang out with rich people.” Some one raised their hand and asked, “Won’t we be losing a lot of good friends doing that?” “Sure the financial wizard explained, “But if they are are good friends they will understand.” True story! My point here is financial wizards don’t always give the best advice. Sometimes the best advice comes from a Teacher who had no money in the bank and “no place to lay His head.”

While Jesus had no marriage or financial experience according to our standards, He was the perfect counselor. Like my young friend teaching the Bible study group, Jesus was often heard saying, “It is Written.” When asked questions instead of relying on personal experience Jesus would often say, “What saith the Scriptures?” Jesus made the perfect counselor, not because He had a degree or license  or the perfect wife and children and perfect home, but because He had a perfect relationship with His heavenly Father and a perfect understanding of the Scriptures.

Looking at first glance Jesus was totally the wrong person to be giving advice, except for one thing, He was perfect.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School 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.

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.

Marriage and Sex, Sacred or Sinful?

Will

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil…Isaiah 5:20

I occasionally hear people, both single and married,  tell demeaning jokes about marriage. For example, a Three Stooges fan told me about an episode where Moe asked someone, “Are you married or happy?” That’s a sad joke. Marriages should not be known for unhappiness. Marriage is a sacred gift from God. How would we like it if people made jokes about our valuable gifts?

While many of us are happily single, we can still appreciate happy marriages, and hurt with those in unhealthy marriages, instead of making jokes.

Marriage reminds us of the creation and our Creator, just as the Sabbath and the weekly cycle do. Even married atheists must somehow recognize that there must be some validity to the creation story in Genesis 1 and 2. Where else does the weekly cycle and marriage come from, except creation?

Let me share something else that concerns me. Sex also goes back to creation and is a gift from God. I often hear people refer to sex as bad when in fact it is a blessing from God. I am not being sacreligious when I say I don’t think anyone appreciates sex more than God. He invented it, and I believe He is happy when married couples enjoy good sex. There are many spiritual lessons to be found in healthy, sexual relationships. Some of these are seen in the book Song of Solomon. Just the fact that the Bible says that “Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived” Genesis 4:1 gives us an idea of what it means to really know someone, and how intimate a relationship Christ wants with us.

While the Bible is quite open and even graphic about sex and passion, in many of the cultures of today we are not comfortable with that. We focus more on pure Biblical love being a principle instead of a passion. I submit to you that pure Biblical love is both principle and passion. After all it was not just principle that made Adam and Eve conceive. When they knew each other it was a combination of principle and passion. When those combined, Adam and Eve produced more people. Do you think that if our church would add a little passion to our principles we also could produce more Christians? Our God is a God of principle but He also created us to be passionate! He is passionate. We don’t call the week before the crucifixion passion week for nothing. God created passion and sex to help us understand God and His love. He also gave us marriage, so we could see that passionate love also has principles and faithfulness. While Solomon wrote much about the principles of a Godly wife, He also wrote unashamedly, “ let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.”  Proverbs 5:19

It may not seem like a big deal to you, but I think we give kids the wrong message about sex when we say, “That movie is bad because there is sex in it.” I think instead we should say, “That movie is bad, because there is immoral sex in it.” This way we make a distinction between God-sanctified sex and immoral sex.

People complain about the sex in today’s sitcoms. To me, what makes something appropriate or inappropriate is not just the subject, but how often the subject is addressed. The Cosby show was appreciated by many Christian homes. The subject of sex was rarely discussed, but there were a couple of episodes where it was discussed quite openly. Many Christian homes appreciated those episodes too because it was discussed tastefully and it was not discussed in every episode, so when it was introduced it was appreciated. The Cosby Show demonstrated how sex can be wholesome in its proper place.

We don’t need to be afraid of sex, nor do we have to be obsessed with it. Sex becomes inappropriate, like anything else, when it is discussed too much or in an inappropriate context. Like sex, death, money and other topics, it should be openly discussed, while keeping in mind that different people have different comfort levels when these things are discussed. One comfort level is not better than the other, but people are just different and react in different ways.

The way Paul writes about circumcision tells me this was not really a private matter at all to him. He even mentions Timothy by name as not wanting to be circumcised. Today some people would freak out if a person’s name was mentioned in such a discussion. In reading my Bible I have never found anything to make me believe that sex was a taboo subject as far as God is concerned. Moses wrote quite frankly about it, and I find no reason not to believe these words were read to the people in mixed company with children present.

A couple of years ago, a well known speaker by the name of Nancy Van Pelt, came to our church to speak about sexual purity. Parents had their children present to hear the much needed presentation. During the presentation I overheard an older gentleman sitting in the pew behind me, say to his wife, “They need to get the children out of here! She is talking about sex!” I chuckled to myself, because I knew children were her target audience.

A few years before that, a friend invited me to attend a men’s ministry seminar on sexual purity. The pamphlet said you had to be at least 17 to attend. I was a few decades over that. When we arrived at the seminar, we both were surprised to find that it was way more than a simple sexual purity seminar. It was more like a workshop for recovering sex addicts! During the seminar I listened to men talk about when their addictions began. Many began at age 11 or 12 or sooner. I remembered the brochure saying you had to be at least 17 to attend. I thought to myself, this does not make sense. The problems begin at 11 or 12 but you have to deal with it on your own until you are 17? No wonder there is so much sexual dysfunction in the world and church today!

Some people talk about how dirty shows are today, and say back in their day, Lucy and Ricky did not even sleep in the same bed. I have to be honest with you, and say that I don’t think that is practical either. I don’t think that really sends an appropriate message about sex and marriage to our young people. Like I said in an earlier post, we must avoid extremism. Taking sex to either extreme is from Satan, not from God.

There is a difference between sex and inappropriate sex, and there is an appropriate way to discuss sex openly and an inappropriate way. Sex is a part of life, and to me, a sitcom that pretends sex does not even exist is not any more healthy and just as extreme as a sitcom that obsesses on sex. When my parents told me about sex, they did it as easily and openly as when they told me how to change the oil in my car. Talking about car maintenance should not be awkward, and neither should talking about sex be awkward.

Back to marriage now. Marriage is a gift from God. While I am happily single, I am definitely open to being married some day. Meanwhile, I hurt when families hurt, and I am happy when I see happy, healthy marriages. I have observed that people in healthy marriages seem to be more outgoing and social, thus creating a greater blessing for the church and community, while unhealthy marriages tend to isolate the couple, thus robbing the church and community of the blessings they could be to it, and it cuts the couple off from receiving the blessings the church and community could be to them.

While God has given us the gift of marriage and sex, let’s not speak of them as bad or negative. Paul says that marriage is honorable, and sex within marriage is undefiled. See Hebrews 13:4  Do not call evil what God calls good. God has designed His gifts to be great blessings when properly appreciated.

Enjoy this week’s SS lesson on marriage at SSNET.

Its 2013 And Jesus is Breaking Out The New Wine!

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Every creation of Jesus is better than His creation before.

Bruce Springsteen sings a song called “Glory Days.” In the song he talks about running into old friends and talking about glory days gone by, when they were much younger. I can relate. When I was young I loved to play basketball. However, about a year ago, after teaching an evangelism class at the nearby church school, I walked into the gym and saw a basketball. I picked it up and started shooting baskets. No, truth is, I tried shooting baskets. I could not make a basket to save my life. As I walked out of the gym I told myself, this must be why old men like me play golf. We just can’t do what we did when were young anymore.

This morning I picked up my Bible started reading the book of John, as I am reading through the New Testament. I read in chapter 2, where after Jesus turned the water into the wine, the host of the party accuses the servants of saving the best wine till last. I thought to myself, that is how it is with Jesus! God’s plan is not for us to grow old and talk about glory days gone by. The best is always yet to come! Jesus has created a new year, and like the new wine, every creation is better than before.

A couple weeks ago at a home game, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a ceremony remembering their super bowl championship 10 years ago. Some friends of mine and I kind of laughed to ourselves, that you know things are pretty sad for the team when you have to go back ten years to find something to celebrate. This is not how God has designed life to be. In Psalms 23:6 David declares, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” David did not serve a God of glory days gone by.  He served a God ready to bless and prosper Him every day. After years of captivity, when Israel was tempted to long for their glory days gone by, Jeremiah reminded them that the best days were yet to come! “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV

As I enter 2013, I am not looking to make it like the good ole days. No, I am looking for it to be better than ever!  When the Israelites entered Canaan they were to take all of the land. However Judges 1 tells us, “And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.” Really? Those chariots of iron were just too much for God, huh? I don’t think so. That was no excuse, and God knew it.

Earlier in Joshua 17:18 God Commanded, “for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong.” So what was the problem? Zephaniah wrote about the church, “And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees.” Those who are settled on their lees, are riding on their past experience. I imagine this was true of the Israelites when they entered Canaan. They had crossed through the Red Sea and the Jordan River. God had seen them through a lot. Let’s stop now and just rest. Why go further? The iron chariots were just the excuse they used to stop where they were, content to rest. They became a bunch of has-beens, relying on past experiences.

When I was in my early 20s I drove out to a little town in Western Oklahoma to preach one Sabbath. I went downstairs into the basement where the drinking fountain was and I saw several nice large children’s Sabbath School rooms- all empty! During lunch after church, an old patriarch told me those rooms used to be filled with children, and I could tell by the way they looked, that he was telling me the truth. He explained how those children have all grown up and moved away and started families elsewhere. Logical explanation, and I am sure a lot of children had grown up and just moved away. Even so, even as a young Bible Worker at the time, I had enough experience to know that if you gave me a church directory from a few years ago, I could still find a lot of them right there in town. I will never forget the feeling I had, standing alone in that empty hallway on Sabbath morning, peering into all those empty classrooms, imagining what they looked like full, back in their day. Back in their day? That is a term God does not even know! He is the Great I AM! Not the Great has been!

Friends I can guarantee you, God never would have given us 2013 if He did not think it would be better than any year before! There are fresh victories to be gained. We may even have to change our ways and try something new. When I was a kid I tossed the basketball around and never thought about golf. Today I stand in tee boxes facing fairways I have never seen before, or even thought about when I was younger. I’m not a kid anymore. Life is moving on and my God is moving along with me, taking me to new challenges and victories. I remember when my late grandmother went into a nursing home for a while. Many would have seen that as the end, but my grandmother made new friends!

In 2013 we will meet new people, new opportunities and new victories! Let the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrate their super bowl of ten years ago- while I celebrate new victories each and every day in 2013. By God’s grace, instead of looking at how vibrant my church was in days gone by, I will be looking at it in 2013 and think, wow! I have never seen such life before. Sorry Bruce. I can’t sing that song of glory days gone by with you. I am still experiencing God’s glory today!

It’s 2013 and I can see Jesus breaking out the new wine!

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Why Its Easy To Be Saved And Hard To Be Lost

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom [is] as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.  Revelation 20:7-9

As sad as this picture is, the people in this passage have accomplished an incredible feat. More miraculous than breaking the 4 minute mile, more incomprehensible than swimming the English Channel, with more stamina than those who have climbed mount Everest, these people have accomplished a feat totally un-matched. These people have managed to be lost!

Early Writings, Page 88 promises us, God “would sooner send every angel out of glory to the relief of faithful souls, to make a hedge about them, than have them deceived and led away by the lying wonders of Satan.” Yes, but these people described in Revelation 20:7-9 fought hard day and night over a lifetime to overcome all the angels in heaven, and even the Godhead itself in order to be lost! This feat is as remarkable as it is tragic!

True, Jesus says in Matthew 7:14, “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way” “Yet do not therefore conclude that the upward path is the hard and the downward road the easy way. All along the road that leads to death there are pains and penalties, there are sorrows and disappointments, there are warnings not to go on. God’s love has made it hard for the heedless and headstrong to destroy themselves.” –Thoughts From The Mount of Blessings, Page 139.  “The way of transgressors is hard,” but wisdom’s “ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace.” Proverbs 13:15; 3:17

The fact that these all these people wind up being destroyed shows they fought hard against God’s will and plan. When the Son of Man sadly appoints them to their destination He also tells them they are lost because they took control of their own fate, instead of surrendering to God’s will and plans. “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:” Matthew 25:41 Hell is prepared for the devil and his angels. Hell is not prepared for you! If you end up there it is because you waged a great fight against all the powers of heaven. It also means you fought hard to earn the right to be destroyed. The wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23. Wages come from working hard, and you have to work hard to be destroyed when all heaven is working to save you.

While Hell is prepared for the devil and his angels, Jesus tells us what is prepared for us. “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Matthew 25:34 “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2 Hell is not prepared you for my friend. Hell is prepared for the devil and his angels. The kingdom of God is prepared for you. Instead of working hard in order to earn the wages of sin which is death, why don’t you surrender. Yes, I am asking you to surrender your battle against God and all His angels. I am asking you to surrender your just wages of death, which you rightfully have worked hard for and deserve. If you give up all that sin and death stuff which is rightfully yours. After all you have worked hard for it, and surrender it to Jesus, He would love to give you His gifts, which you have not worked for at all. Jesus has an everlasting kingdom prepared for you. He has rooms in His mansion where you can live Him and his Father. Surrender your will of self destruction to His will of giving you the gift of eternal life and an everlasting kingdom He has prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Don’t be in the multitude who accomplish the incredible feat of overcoming all the powers of heaven, scratching, biting, kicking and clawing their way to destruction.  Surrender the hell that you have earned for yourself, for the eternal life which God has prepared for you.

“The sinner may resist this love, may refuse to be drawn to Christ; but if he does not resist he will be drawn to Jesus; a knowledge of the plan of salvation will lead him to the foot of the cross in repentance for his sins, which have caused the sufferings of God’s dear Son.” Steps to Christ, Page 27

You may explore this quarter’s SS lesson and other SS lesson related blog posts here.

What Does it Mean To Live Like A Seventh-day Adventist?

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This week’s SS lesson asks, “What does it mean to “live like an Adventist?” Here is what inspiration tells us about this name.

“No name which we can take will be appropriate but that which accords with our profession and expresses our faith and marks us a peculiar people. The name Seventh-day Adventist is a standing rebuke to the Protestant world. Here is the line of distinction between the worshipers of God and those who worship the beast and receive his mark. The great conflict is between the commandments of God and the requirements of the beast. It is because the saints are keeping all ten of the commandments that the dragon makes war upon them. If they will lower the standard and yield the peculiarities of their faith, the dragon will be at peace; but they excite his ire because they have dared to raise the standard and unfurl their banner in opposition to the Protestant world, who are worshiping the institution of papacy. The name Seventh-day Adventist carries the true features of our faith in front, and will convict the inquiring mind. Like an arrow from the Lord’s quiver, it will wound the transgressors of God’s law, and will lead to repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. {1Testimonies, p. 224.1}

The “Seventh-day” part of our name is very important because it identifies us as a people who are resting our faith in Jesus as our sole hope of salvation. It is only Jesus who can save us so we rest from our works and observe God’s grace on the Sabbath that He is Lord of (Mark 2:27-28). Remember you can keep the other nine commandments and worship any God you choose. The Sabbath Commandment reminds us Who God is. By observing the Seventh-day Sabbath we show that we want to follow our only example, Jesus Christ, in observing the day that he taught us to observe by example (Luke 4:16). Often we abbreviate the name to just “Adventist” because it is shorter, but I think we rob the world of a wonderful witness and testimony of God’s saving grace and rest from works and legalism when we do this. Satan wants us to forget that Sabbath commandment, and he wants us to forget the “Seventh-day” in our name because both point to God’s saving grace apart from works.

The Adventist part is special too. A true Adventist does not just believe Jesus is coming again, but loves His appearing! We are a people in love with Jesus and want to be with Him. We have a hope for a hurting world that is out of this world. Our name is a beacon of hope, pointing them to the rest that is in Jesus and the hope of His soon return.

Being a Seventh-day Adventist means to live like you are leaving. Living like a Seventh-day Adventist is also about living closer to Jesus in the here and now. This is where our health message comes in. While the December 2005 issue of National Geographic, mentioned that Seventh-day Adventists live on average eight years longer, what the health message is really about is not so much living longer, but living closer to Jesus. Now being a veggie-link eating Adventist will not make you holy. However, eating and drinking healthy, not only makes you physically healthy, but also clears the mind for the Holy Spirit to make greater impressions. When on the cross, Jesus was offered wine to drink (Mark 15:23), and if the health message were only about living longer, Jesus might as well have gone ahead and drunk the wine. He was dying soon anyway. But Jesus was on a mission, and He needed his mind to be clear and focused on His mission. This is why he refused the wine. In the Old Testament priests were especially forbidden to drink wine (See Leviticus 10:9), and the New Testament teaches the priesthood of all believers. (See 1 peter 2:5,9) Therefore as a part of the priesthood, we all are on a sacred mission and should treat our bodies as the temple of the God. Healthy bodies lead to healthy minds, which should lead to healthier decisions.

Speaking of priests and the sanctuary, in the sanctuary service the priests wore jewels on their uniforms “for glory and for beauty“ (Exodus 28:2). In the Bible we read again and again that all glory belongs to God for glory is His character. So the priests officiating in the sanctuary wore jewelry because they were to represent God’s character to the people. The jewelry represented God’s glory and character, which is perfection.

Since we have not reached perfection of character, I believe we are not worthy to wear the jewels. However, just like the prodigal son, when we go home with Jesus, He will give us the jewels to wear (James 1:12, Revelation 2:10). And just as the prodigal son did not place the jewelry on himself but let his father do it, we are not to place the jewels on ourselves. But when we get home, our Father will give us the jewelry to wear.  And even then we will cast our crowns of jewels at His feet because we will feel unworthy to wear them! If we will feel unworthy to wear jewelry in heaven after our characters have been perfected, why would we want to wear it now in our sinful condition?

Now before we  start pointing fingers, let’s keep in mind that the problem with jewelry is pride. For too long, Seventh-day Adventists have told people to take off their jewelry but not get rid of their pride. So the pride just showed up in other places, like expensive cars or watches. Some Adventists are proud that they don’t wear jewelry, and that is still pride! So why is it wrong for a young woman to wear a nice set or earrings, but okay for the rich elder to make sure everyone saw the hundred-dollar bill he causally tossed in the offering plate? Both can be a sign of pride. And yet we cannot judge the wearers of jewelry, because we cannot judge hearts.

To live like a Seventh-day Adventist means keeping our eyes on Jesus and not people. This means we neither imitate or judge our brothers or sisters. Living like a Seventh-day Adventist means having a balanced work week which also includes a Sabbath rest. It means to live practical lives day to day, while keeping in mind that Jesus is coming and this world is not our home. It means having a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, so that we live closer to Jesus and not just longer. Our only glory is in the cross, and not in what we wear or don’t wear.

As Seventh-day Adventists, we believe our salvation in Jesus alone, and we demonstrate that by seeking to follow Jesus’ example of holiness and humbleness.

 

Glimpses of Our God; Creation Care

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

As you can see by this picture, I enjoy the great outdoors. I appreciate the environment. I don’t know that I can really call myself an environmentalist though. It’s not really a soap box issue for me. I do like to recycle. I hate picking up a napkin while at Taco Bell and using it one time and then throwing it away. It is such a waste. And while I don’t make it my soap box, personally I do like to recycle and not waste things. I am aware I am a steward of this earth, and if I am faithful in small things God will give me an even greater world to inhabit.

However, while studying this week’s SS lesson, I have to be honest. I did not have any real inspirations to write about this week’s topic. However, I have read a couple of amazing posts on the Sabbath School Network website. Apparently somebody was inspired and I would like to share their posts here.

Lillianne lopez writes, A Thin Green Line – Christian Environmentalism

Cindy Tutsch writes, Was Ellen White Green?

Click here for the SS Lesson phone app.

Enjoy!