Tag: st. petersburg

What’s the Difference Between Appearing as Evil and Just Being Misjudged?


I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Abstain from all appearance of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 KJV

A misunderstanding of this verse has crippled the success of many missionaries. A young student loses his parents, and his teacher is afraid to put her arm around his shoulder and comfort him for fear she might be accused of evil. A pastor is having studies with a bar tender in his home and needs to swing by the bar to pick up his umbrella he left, at the bar tender’s home. What will people think if they see him walk into a bar? Is that giving the appearance of evil? No! It is just giving the appearance of walking into a bar!

My purpose here is not to lessen the accountability of Gospel workers. My point is to help us, as missionaries, be healthy and balanced. Yes we must be careful not to put ourselves in compromising positions, but at the same time we must realize, there are some unbalanced people out there who will misconstrue and misrepresent just about everything, and we can’t allow them to cripple our ministry. It reminds me of when, after 9-11, President George Bush told his fellow citizens to go on with their daily lives, regardless of terrorist threats, otherwise the terrorists win. Likewise, if Satan can cripple our ministry by making us over-analyze and stretch our imagination to see how each action and motive can be misconstrued into something evil, then Satan wins.

The truly converted soul is illuminated from on high, and Christ is in that soul “a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” His words, his motives, his actions, may be misinterpreted and falsified; but he does not mind it because he has greater interests at stake. –Ellen White, Testimonies, Vol. 5, Page 569

There is a line between giving “the appearance of evil” and someone else judging us.
I have seen other gospel workers’ ministries become totally paralyzed by their understanding of what Paul said about not appearing evil. The NLT version of Paul’s earlier quote simply says,

Stay away from every kind of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 NLT

Just because someone else judges us does not automatically mean we have given the appearance of evil. And by the way, just because someone claims to have the gift of discerning spirits does not mean they really have that gift. They may just have the gift of judging and causing dissension. Jesus’ own disciples were surprised when they saw Him talking to a woman at the well. The Pharisees judged Jesus for hanging out with prostitutes and publicans, but He never gave “the appearance of evil”! They were judging.

A teacher can put her arms around a hurting child and still stay far from evil.  A pastor can walk into a bar without it appearing to be evil, so long as he does not walk like he is drunk or make jokes about drinking. Joking about drinking oractually insinuating you are doing something evil is when you give the appearance of evil. Just because something can be misconstrued by someone with a dirty mind does not mean it is giving the appearance of evil. It simply means someone has a dirty mind.

Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted. Titus 1:15 NLT

Satan will use unhealthy, unstable people to misconstrue and misjudge our every move. We cannot let God’s work be paralyzed by people with wild and dirty imaginations. The key, I believe, is to have a healthy understanding of where the line is between giving the appearance of actual evil, and someone else just judging according to their unhealthy imagination. We can’t let unhealthy imaginations dictate our mission. It’s a matter of healthy boundaries – knowing where our responsibility ends and others’ responsibility begins.

Joseph had his motives and actions misjudged and misconstrued but in the end Pharaoh himself said,

“Can we find anyone else like this man [Joseph] so obviously filled with the spirit of God?” Genesis 41:38 NLT

Obviously the prior accusations against Joseph did not mean anything to Pharaoh. He could see right through the false accusations and see Joseph’s mission was filled with the spirit of God. So long as our mission is filled with the Spirit of God, balanced healthy people will see through any false insinuations and God will make our mission successful just like He did for Joseph.

You may study this week’s SS lesson on Biblical Missionaries here.

The Innkeeper Did Have Room For Jesus!

Christmas Tree Cerca Pier

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.


And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

When the story of the birth of Jesus is told, the innkeeper often gets a bum wrap. How could you not have room for a pregnant lady? How could you not have room for the Son of God! Wait a minute. The innkeeper did have room for a pregnant lady. He did have room for the Son of God. He had room for them in the barn. It was a long day, with many weary travelers coming up to the counter needing lodging, and he did his best to please everybody. Then at the end of the day comes Mary and Joseph, and the innkeeper replies, “Well, here is what’s left.”

Can you identify with the innkeeper? At the end of a long day do you fall on your pillow, and send up a brief weak prayer before falling asleep? It’s not that you forgot God. You didn’t. It’s not that you had no room for Him in your day. You did. Just like the innkeeper had a barn left over for Jesus, you had a brief, weak prayer left over for Jesus.

Not too terribly long before the birth of Jesus God spoke through Malachi.

Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible.

 And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts. Malachi 1:7-8

Many of us, at least in North America can be materialistic. We think of wealth in terms of money or possessions. Yet Solomon says,

“a living dog is better than a dead lion.” Ecclesiastes 9:4

A lion may be the king of the jungle but a living dog is better off than a dead king because he is still alive, and still has time. Therefore time is the most valuable and precious gift you can give. When you give someone your time you are literally giving them your life! Also, when we give time to God or the church we are often saving the church money. A modest family in a large church may not be able to give $1,000.00 a month to the church, but when they volunteer to clean the church, so the church does not have to hire someone, they are literally donating $1,000.00 a month by saving the church that money.

Even though time is the most precious gift we can give, we need to ask ourselves if we are really giving the best of our possessions. Am I really giving, when I give clothes to the community service center that I would otherwise throw away? Remember, what you do to the least of the brethren you are doing for Jesus. Is Jesus worth more than my throw away clothes? Then so is my brother. Am I giving the best I have, or like the innkeeper, just whatever is left?

Am I giving my best effort in both my time and money to save the lost? Jesus gave His life to save the vilest sinner. If the vilest sinner is worth the life of God’s own son, wouldn’t the vilest sinner also be worth my life as well? After Jesus gave everything He had to save sinners, would I not be considering my life of more value than His, if I do not give my life as well?

Am I giving my best for Jesus or like the innkeeper, am I just giving whatever is left? Am I giving the world my best, or just whatever is left over?

So as we evaluate the story of Jesus’ birth we see the innkeeper did indeed have room for Jesus. However since it wasn’t the room Jesus deserved, we pretty much consider it having no room at all! Maybe instead of picking on the innkeeper, we should evaluate our own lives and our own gifts.  Sure, like the innkeeper we all are giving something, but are we giving what is left over, or are we giving Him our best?

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Oh, and let me be the first to wish you a merry Christmas this year! 

Would Jesus Have Been Judas’ Facebook Friend?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21 NIV

Facebook now lets you label all your friends and place them in categories. I can label them, family, close friends, just friends and even acquaintances, if I don’t think they quite measure up to friend. You have more control and power over your Facebook world than you do the real world. On Facebook you can delete a friend if they let you down. Can’t do that in the  real world, or at least not without going to prison.  If someone is posting evil things on Facebook I can just delete them. But years before Facebook, how did Jesus label His friends and deal with evil?

In Matthew 26 Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss. If I had been Jesus my reply may have been, “you backstabber!” or “Traitor!” But look at Jesus’ response. “Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.”Matthew 26:50 NIV Friend? Did Jesus call Judas, “friend?” yes He did. Was Jesus just trying to take the “high road?” Was Jesus Himself just trying to set a good example? I don’t think Jesus was just trying to be nice. Jesus was always straight with the people, especially the Pharisees when He called them hypocrites. Jesus called it the way He saw it. So when He called Judas friend, I am sure as far as Jesus was concerned they were friends.  Jesus looked beyond Judas and realized, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12 NIV Jesus considered Judas a friend, realizing that the real enemy, being more than flesh and blood, was beyond Judas, and was actually Satan.

If Jesus refused to label Judas anything other than “friend,” C.S. Lewis explains why we  in our humanity can’t really label people as being sincere or fake friends. ““Humans are very seldom either totally sincere or totally hypocritical. Their moods change, their motives are mixed, and they are often themselves quite mistaken as to what their motives are.”

Judas was not the only disciple that night, who we in our humanity would have trouble labeling on our Facebook. “When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.” Luke 22:49-51 NIV John tells us this disciple was peter, who later that night denied he even knew Jesus. Peter wanted to stand up for Jesus which was commendable, but his method was not. Peter thought he could overcome evil with the sword, but by healing the man’s ear, Jesus overcame evil with good. I am so glad that the same Jesus who healed the man who Peter hurt, can also heal the brother that I accidentally hurt in my misguided zeal for defending truth.

Jesus refused to label Judas an enemy. He saw past the mind games Satan wanted to play with Him, and realized Satan was the only real enemy. Satan tries to play mind games with us too. We can overcome evil with good when we see beyond the flesh and blood, and identify the real enemy as Satan. Satan will always use our friends and family unwittingly to hurt us. Many times they don’t even know they are causing us harm. They are not the enemy. Satan is the enemy. They are our friends. They may, by their misguided zeal cause wounds like Peter did, but just like Jesus, we can overcome evil with the healing power of Jesus’ goodness.

You can enjoy studying this week’s SS lesson here.

1st and 2nd Thessalonians: The Messiah

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The Messiah

This week’s SS lesson talks about Paul approaching the Jews concerning the Messiah. This study will take the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah and show the New Testament fulfillment of these in the life and death of Jesus. When Paul approached the Jews about the Messiah, these were probably some of the scriptures He used from the Old Testament.

The place of His birth ————————— Micah 5:2; Luke 2:4-7

His virgin birth ——————————- Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:26-31


You know, Joseph thought he had the facts he needed to prove that  Mary had been unfaithful. Still he was wrong. If Joseph could be wrong even with the outstanding evidence he had, is it also possible that we sometimes jump to conclusions and misjudge people also?

The slaughter of the children —– Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:16-18

His flight into Egypt ——————– Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:14, 15

The time of His baptism ————- Daniel 9:24, 25; Luke 3:1, 21, 22              

His rejection by the people ———————- Isaiah 53:3; John 1:11

His entrance into Jerusalem ———- Zechariah 9:9; Luke 19:29-38

His betrayal by a friend ——————- Psalm 41:9; Luke 22:47, 48

The price of His betrayal ———– Zechariah 11:12; Matthew 26:15

Spat upon and beaten ——————— Isaiah 50:6; Matthew 26:67

Crucified between two thieves ———- Isaiah 53:12; Mark 15:27, 28

The wounds in His body ——— Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34; 20:27

His words on the cross ———————— Psalm 22:1; Mark 15:34

Given vinegar and gall to drink ——– Psalm 69:21; Matthew 27:34

Gambling for His clothes ——- Psalm 22:17, 18; Matthew 27:35, 36

None of His bones were to be broken — Psalm 34:20; John 19:32, 33

To be buried with the rich ———— Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57-60

His resurrection ——————————- Psalm 16:10; Luke 24:1-7

Seeing how Jesus met all the Old Testament predictions affirms our faith that He is indeed the Messiah. It also affirms our faith in the Bible. Greater yet, it affirms our faith that He will come the second time, just as the Bible promised He would come the first time. There are actually twice as many Bible promises about His second coming than there are about His first.

Check out the current Sabbath School Lesson guide here.

Glimpses of Our God; God as Artist

This week’s SS lesson portrays God as an Artist in various ways.  Once while taking a walk near my apartment in Benbrook, Texas I saw a patch of Bluebonnets along with some Indian Paintbrushes. Unfortunately someone had mixed a little garbage in with the beautiful flowers. Still, I thought to myself, even in a world marred by sin, God still preserves His beauty amongst all the litter and garbage. “The whole earth is full of his glory.” Isaiah 6:3

As beautiful as a sunset on the sea may be, God is just too glorious and beautiful for that one scene to express His majestic splendor. Same with an enormous snow capped mountain, or valley filled with Bluebonnets and Indian Paint Brushes.

Please allow me to share just a morsel of the beauty I have captured with my camera over the last few years.

^This picture was taken last week near the Skyway Bridge near St.Petersburg, Florida. I had hoped to catch a cruise ship sailing under the bridge, but God blessed me with this scene instead.

This was taken at St, Pete Beach around 2007. I love the sunsets on the beach. As the sun sets on the beach, an erie calm and mysterious quietness seems to settle on everyone as they watch the spectacular sunset. Most people want a clear sky to watch the sunset, but often the couds reflect some interesting colors, adding to the beauty. Sunsets are my favorite photo subjects, but I have learned to take pictrures of other things too, after friends back home have asked me, “Are sunset pictures the only thing you can take pictures of?”

I took this pictue at Pine Lake Retreat, In north central Florida, back in 2007. I took several pictures for a friend back in Texas who loves horses. I call this picture, “More Than Friends.” God can express the beauty of love through animals as well as people.

In 2006 I went on a mission trip to Peru where I was a part of a large team holding meetings all over Chiclayo. All together we had over a thousand baptisms. Later we toured Machu Picchu. This is a picture I took from the bus as we were still climbing the mountain.  Every part of the world has its own beauty. Again, God is too great of an artist to be able to portray His greatness in one scene or one work of art.

God’s best artwork is with His people. While we are still in Peru, I want you to meet Juan Carlos and his family. Juan, seated on your right, was 18 years old in this picture. He had cancer, to which he had already lost one leg. Still, once hearing about our meetings, He walked, on crutches and one leg, over a mile each way to get to the meetings we were having. I might add these roads were full of pot holes and probably not the easiest to maneuver with crutches. He gave his heart to Jesus and was baptized before dying shortly after we left. I can’t wait to see Juan again in heaven! Juan and all the people we met in Peru were beautiful people. The people in the church were amazing! When we arrived from the bus to our Hotel, we were greeted my several Pathfinders welcoming us on a school night. I knew they did not have much, and I offered one who could speak English, money so they could go out and get some ice cream, but she said they did not want money for ice cream, they were just very excited we were in their city to tell people about Jesus. What really impressed me was that after flying from the United States to Peru, the same church, or Body of Christ, that bid us farewell from Florida, was there to welcome us when we got to Peru. God is everywhere! No matter where you go God is already there waiting on you! I thought the people in America were wonderful, but just like God has His beauty in nature all around the world, He also has his beautiful people all over the world. When I came to Peru I did not meet any strangers, only hundreds of friends I just hadn’t met yet!

Back in Florida now, God has created some beautiful Jacaranda trees. Mostly seen in Central and South America, but a few are found in South Tampa.

I took this picture recently at a friend’s house where I have had a few Bible studies. God’s artwork is seen in both the catepilar and butterfly, illustrating God’s artistic nature in re-creating us and making us all new creatures.

At my friend’s home, I also found this female cardinal guarding her nest.

I found the father not far away. I think cardinals are one of the most beauitful birds God has made, even though I don’t appreciate what they did to my Texas Team in the world series last year!

Even though I have shown my friends back home, that I can take pictures of more than just sunsets, still they are my favorite artwork of God. This was taken last Christmas season at Marco Island.

Key West Christmas season before last.


St. Pete

St. Pete

Clearwater, Florida

Glimpses of Our God; The Holiness of God

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.  And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.     And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.  Genesis 2:1-3

The Sabbath is an illustration on how the Lord makes us Holy. After all, Christianity and even more specifically, Seventh-day Adventism, is not so much about a day being holy as much as it is about a people being holy. The Sabbath did not makes itself holy. This seventh day was totally powerless and helpless. Yet God made the day holy. Likewise we can do nothing to make ourselves holy, yet God can make us holy just as He made the seventh day holy.  Thus, the Sabbath is all about grace. It is a sign that all of God’s work is complete and we can rest without trying to add anything to His work. No wonder Satan wants us to forget the Sabbath. The Sabbath points us to grace, the cross and the creating and re-creating power of God. If the Sabbath was about the law and works, Satan would care less if we kept it or not, as he is smart enough to know we are not saved by the law or works. Satan is at war with the Sabbath, because he knows it points to grace and the cross where we find salvation.

I can imagine what the first Sabbath may have been like.  Adam and Eve did not need a physical rest that first Sabbath. It’s not like they had a long week that week. But I can imagine God taking them through the garden, showing them all the wonderful things He had made, and the works He had done. On that first Sabbath, Adam and Eve realized, “It is He that hath made us and not we ourselves.” Four thousand years later, Jesus cries out on the cross, “It is finished” and completed all the work for our salvation. He rested in the grave on Sabbath. There was nothing mankind could add or needed to add to the works of Jesus. After the cross the Sabbath has double meaning. It is He who has made us and not we ourselves, and it is He who redeemed us and not we ourselves.

The works of Cain in his field could not add to the salvation God Himself worked out, by providing a Lamb. The builders at the Tower of Babel could not add to God’s salvation no matter how hard they worked. Thinking to change times and laws, and thinking to turning a work day into a Sabbath day will never add to salvation either. We cannot make ourselves holy, so how can we think we can make Sunday or any other day holy? Only God can make a day holy and only God can make a people holy. I find it odd that some have accused me of trying to be saved by my works by resting on the Sabbath. How can resting be considered work?

Every Sabbath I stand in awe of God’s works just like I imagine Adam and Eve did on that first Sabbath. I understand God made a day holy that was totally powerless to make itself holy. I understand that it is He who made me and not my own works or effort. I rest my faith in His amazing grace as He also redeemed me by His work on the cross and not by my works.  If God can make a day holy, He can make me holy too.

To study this week’s SS lesson click here.

To download the SS app to your phone click here.

For further study on the weekly Sabbath click here.

Glimpses of Grace; Help to Overcome

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

While God monitors the planets to make sure they don’t colide, he also monitors your temptations, to make sure nothing comes your way that you can’t handle with His strength. Often times I have been given a task that seems overwhelming.  I don’t have the time, energy or skills to complete it. Then someone reminds me I don’t need to do it alone. I need to delegate and find other people to help me accomplish the task. People are standing by ready to help. In the classic Great Controversy, p 560, I am reminded that all heaven is standing by ready to help me when I am tempted. “He [God] would sooner send every angel out of heaven to protect His people than leave one soul that trusts in Him to be overcome by Satan.”