…but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. 2 Corinthians 10:12
A couple of years ago I attended the “Best Weigh” program at my church. While I wanted to lose a little weight I was not aware of just how much weight I really needed to lose. The doctor presenting the class pointed out that many people compare their weight to those around them, thinking since they are within the normal range of everyone else that they must be healthy. However, most Americans are overweight, and a third are obese. The majority of Americans are prime candidates for a heart attack. So, by making sure my weight fell within the norm of those around me, I was setting myself up for a heart attack!
Many people accept the health issues that their diets create because they are the same health issues everyone else has, so they just consider it normal. However, if we would eat according to Bible standards we may not have the same health issues everyone else has. You don’t have to accept the normal diet of those around us, and we don’t have to accept the health issues that are prevalent around us as being “normal.” A lot health issues that we consider a normal part of growing older, are only normal to those who don’t take care of themselves properly. This week’s SS lesson mentions how people were so far away from God in Jeremiah’s day, while thinking their relationship with Him was perfectly fine. They were making the same mistake many make today. They looked around and found themselves within the norm, not realizing the norm does not have a healthy relationship with God.
Let me share a quote I have not heard in a while, partly because it scares us and makes us uncomfortable. Didn’t a lot of Jeremiah’s counsel make people uncomfortable? Here it is,
It is a solemn statement that I make to the church, that not one in twenty whose names are registered upon the church books are prepared to close their earthly history, and would be as verily without God and without hope in the world as the common sinner. –Ellen White, Last Day Events, Page 172
Apparently the “norm” do not have a healthy relationship with God today, anymore than Jeremiah’s day.
It’s past time for us to stop looking around at how everyone else eats, exercises, dresses, spends the Sabbath, gives offerings, spends time in Bible study and prayer, and start comparing ourselves to the Standard of God’s Word. The “norm” is not the standard. God’s Word is the standard.
We cannot consider ourselves physically healthy just because we are like those around us. They may not be physically healthy either. In the same way we cannot consider our relationship with God to be healthy just because it is like those around us.
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14 NKJV
While working as a Bible Worker and lay pastor in a small church in west Texas, several of the members told me they hoped I would stay there forever, because they could not survive without me. I was young and stupid enough to believe them. Fact is though, the church membership more than doubled, but not while I was there, but after I left! And, the people who came in after I left were not people I studied with. They were people who never heard of me and didn’t know I existed.
While taking the gospel and the salvation of souls seriously, I have learned not to take myself so seriously. I can rejoice even when someone rejects me because I know I presented them with an opportunity to make a choice. While I want everyone to choose Jesus I know not everyone will. Still, once the gospel has gone into all the world, and that last decision has been made for or against Jesus then He will come. Every decision for or against Jesus is one decision closer to the second coming. This is why its important to spread the gospel even if people do not accept it. Either way we hasten the second coming by just being the angel that takes the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people allowing people the opportunity to choose. So don’t be too disheartened when your missionary project does not yield the results you hoped for. It was successful in giving people an opportunity to choose either way.
But we are just that. An opportunity. Not The opportunity. Let’s not take ourselves so seriously. People can reject us and still accept Jesus. What people think about me is extremely trivial in the scheme of the great controversy. So don’t lose heart or take slights and rejections to heart. Just because someone says no to me, does not mean they will say no to the next person God sends. There is still hope.
After leaving Texas, and working in Florida as a Bible Worker for a few years, a pastor friend, from Texas called me. He asked how many baptisms my church had so far. I told him 90, with 48 of those being in the current year.
“Wonderful!” He exclaimed.
“And how many of those were from your work?” He asked.
“None of them!” I said.
Yup. After a church in Texas more than doubling its membership AFTER I left, I finally learned a thing or two.
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV
Ever been haunted by your past? Sometimes I will have a flashback of some off-the-cuff smart remark I made to an elder when I was kid, and I will still cringe and want to go hide under a rock 40 years later! I believe Paul’s history of persecuting Christians may have haunted him too. Except for the fact that Paul never persecuted the Christians. That was Saul. Paul was a new creature,
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV
The story goes of a man who was driving down an old highway out in the country when he accidentally ran over a cat. He pulled over and inspected the cat, which sure enough was dead. He looked and saw a house in the distance at the top of a hill. He took the dead cat to the door and knocked. An old lady answered the door, and he said, “I am sorry Ma’m is this your cat?”
“Well it was she responded.” The man told her how sorry he was that he had just hit and killed her cat. She forgave him and they both took the cat to the backyard and buried it. A few weeks later the man found himself driving past the house again. The terrible memories came back again, and he drove up to the house, went in the backyard, dug up the dead cat and took it to the front door again. When the lady answered, he started telling her all over how sorry he was! She reminded him she already forgave him and she helped the man bury the cat again. A few more weeks went by and the man found himself driving by the house again and once again was overcome with grief, and went and dug the cat back up and took it to the house. By this time the woman was fed up and ordered him to stop bringing the dead cat to her door!
God does not want us bringing dead cats to His door either. Don’t go digging up what His grace has buried. He wants us to leave our dead cats behind us and press for the goal. God wants to make you a new creature, just like He made Saul a new creature and turned him into Paul.
RC (Third back on left) attended my TAA baptism class last year. This year RC is in my 5th and 6th grade Bible chain referencing class, where he has been enthusiastically chain referencing his Bible so he can share his faith with others.
I wanted to be baptized and give my life to Jesus, because He gave His life for me, and offers me a better life thank I could live for myself.
A couple of years ago, while Ashley was in the 6th grade she wanted to have personal Bible studies with me. She had also been studying with her grandmother and family, and enjoys studying the Bible with anybody she can.
I want to be baptized because I want to give my heart to Jesus. Baptism to me means to die to your old self and to become a new person, a person of God. I love to learn more about God. I always learn new things when I read the Bible and I always have questions I ask also. I am very curious when it comes to the Bible and I love doing Bible studies. When I get baptized I will feel more accepted in the church like I belong. I want to give my whole life to Jesus Christ. I want Him to lead me on the right path. I want to be an example of God and want to Change. I want God to be proud of me. I am so very excited to get baptized and I can’t wait to see what God has planned for me.
Today, August 22 Ashley was baptized by her great grandfather Pastor Obed Graham. Pastor Graham served as pastor of the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church when the church our present church was built. After serving as president of the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Pastor Graham as retired, and is still in the Florida area. Ashley was very happy that her grandfather was available to baptize her today!
Please don’t let the sun go down on your life before you give yourself to the One who gave Himself for you. If you are in the Tampa Bay area I would love to talk to you and study with you as you make this decision. If you are in another corner of the world I would like to help you find a Bible based church in your neck of the woods. Either way feel free to contact me at LayPastor@TampaAdventist.net
(A letter has been mailed out to all my contributors, but for those who can’t wait on snail mail here it is.)
Dear Faithful contributors,
I wanted to take a moment and thank each and every one of you, first for believing in me and my ministry, and for your sacrificial giving to enable my ministry to continue both at home and abroad. I would like to share just a little of how your offerings have helped.
Beyond Tampa Bay: After many months of hard work, Mike Rempfer has helped me develop the In Light of the Cross Bible study app! This app is different from all others, as you can, but do not need to connect to Wi Fi to be able to access the study guides. The format is also unique from other apps in that each presentation is presented with questions and supplied verses like the “Bible Readings for the Home” format. Now wherever you are in the world you can download this app, and at any given time and place you have a prepared Bible study presentation you can share with anyone who is interested. You can also access my blog site http://InLightOfTheCross.com and find even more resources at your fingertips on your phone or tablet. You may find the app in the Google play store by searching inlightofthecross. You may also find it on my blog linked above.
The blog continues to be accessed everyday by over 173 countries. I have received e-mails as far away as Madagascar and Red Deer Canada, north of Calgary telling me how they have used the In Light of the Cross lessons and devotionals in their churches. The blog allows you to download the lessons for free and print them out, which is very valuable in areas where money and resources are scarce. Almost every day there are several downloads from the blog where people are printing out lessons to share in their homes and churches. Pastor Glenn Aguirre of the New Port Richey Florida Seventh-day Adventist Church, has shared from his pulpit how the In Light of the Cross study guides are the only lessons he uses now.
A church in Florida beyond Tampa Bay, and a church in southeast Oklahoma are arranging for me to conduct soul winning meetings and workshops this fall. I pray this is only the beginning.
Tampa Bay: I have several current small group studies in the Tampa area. On Friday nights I have been studying with 8 to 11 previously unchurched people who have just recently began attending Tampa First SDA Church. Nani Corujo, one of the members, writes:
“Bible studies has been a wonderful God learning experience. We always start with our week’s highs and lows (high good, low bad). Pastor William then asks us a question about a certain experience we have lived and from there he leads us to what the class will read and talk about. Pastor William has taught my family and iI how to look up verses in the bible and not just read through what it says but also explain what it means. My kids, nephews, husband, bro-in-law, sis-in-law and myself have learn and still learning so much from what Pastor William has been teaching us from God’s work and words. Now we attend Saturday Sabbath in search more from our lord and savior. Thank you pastor William for being a awesome teacher and helping us understand more clearly and fully the word of our lord, and our God.”
In one of my other small groups, I am studying with three previously unchurched teenagers who are now wanting to be baptized in the near future. I also have a few personal studies looking at baptism and we even have a date, October 24 for one of them at Tampa First.
As well as giving Bible studies in Tampa, I am also training others to give studies. I recently baptized Cindy Reyes a couple of years ago, and she is now leading out in a Bible study I connected her with near her home.
The teachers at Tampa Adventist Academy are looking forward to me coming back to teach Bible chain referencing classes and baptism and after school Bible study classes. I am also continuing my New Believer’s Sabbath School class at Tampa First.
Plant City: While I love being able to continue being a part of Tampa First, I also love being a member, elder and local Bible Worker of the Plant City SDA Church. While I love Tampa and Florida very much, Plant City also reminds me of smaller towns and areas I have worked in the past, though Plant City actually turns out to be much bigger than I realized and holds so much potential.
We have a Wednesday night youth group where several youth from the community as well as the church enjoy Bible studies, games and fellowship. I have been taking young people door to door in the community where we now have several Bible studies and hopefully more to come.
I have always enjoyed working with several churches together and the Plant City SDA Church enjoys teaming up with the regional SDA and Spanish SDA churches in our town for community and evangelism projects. I also enjoy bringing in people from other area churches to help us in door to door evangelism as well as small Bible study groups. I am currently working with a family who lives in Plant City but attends a larger church in East Pasco County, to have a group Bible study in their home in Plant City. I believe we can all think outside the box and work together for Jesus even while being members of different churches.
I am also preaching twice a month at Plant City as well as other churches far and near.
Thank you for taking the time to let me share just a few of the many things I am excited about this summer and fall. Too keep up with me and my ministry on a day to day basis, please friend me on Facebook!
For years, I would leave a Bible study where someone had just given their heart to Jesus, and would get in my car praying, “Lord I will keep giving Bible studies and leading people to you as long as you keep making it possible.” I thank God He is using you to keep making this possible!
Your Christian Servant,
Plant City SDA Church
PO Box 5379
Plant City, FL 33563
(Please mark contributions “Bible Worker Fund” thank you!)
One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority.” But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. “The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent. Matthew 12:38-41 NLT
When I am on the campus of our Community Adventist school, and a student walks up to me with their Bible and asks a question, it makes me feel important and needed. When a student walks up to me with their composition paper and asks for me help it makes me feel like my passion for writing is recognized and appreciated. When a student walks up to me with their history book it makes me feel knowledgeable and helpful. But when a 5th grader walks up to me with their math book it makes me feel stupid and useless! Math was never my thing. But I don’t feel alone. I know a lot of parents who have trouble helping their kids with math, and I have met a few teachers who are lost without their answer sheets. Math baffles the best of us, and the math in Matthew 12:38-41 has baffled many.
Because of a misunderstanding of the point Jesus is making here, many have lost faith in the Friday crucifixion and have tried to move it to Wednesday, so they can fit Jesus in the tomb for three full days. Others have lost faith in the Bible completely because they say the math just does not add up here. That is very sad and unfortunate because believe it or not, Jesus’ point and the sign He is giving is really not about math at all.
Okay, some of you are not convinced, so let’s address the math issue first there. I will do so quickly because I want to get to the point, and I am not a math teacher. There are two theories. One theory is that any part of the day counts as a whole part of the day. The same is true for years. If a king became king on December 31 and lost his throne on January 1 the record books would say he ruled for 2 years, even though it wasn’t even a full year or even a full two days. So since Jesus was in the grave part of Friday, all of Sabbath, and part of Sunday, it was three days.
The second theory is that the heart of the earth is not even the grave. Remember how the Millerites thought the sanctuary was the earth that was going to be cleansed by fire in 1844? Turns out they had the time of the prophecy right, but the place wrong. They made an assumption that the earth was the sanctuary with no Biblical confirmation to their assumption. When it says “God so loved the world” inJohn 3:16 it is not saying God loved the rocks and the dirt. He loved the people. So when Jesus says the son of man will be in the heart of the earth, could He have simply been talking about the people and the population? If you take a day for a year in Bible prophecy (See Ezekiel 4:6) you have Jesus preaching in the heart of the earth for three years or three prophetic days. After all Jesus was in a tomb not the earth or ground.
I am not going to recommend which theory to believe here, because like I said, math is not my thing. I will say this. I am sure there was nothing fuzzy about Jesus’ math. He created math! I am also not going to recommend which theory to believe because the math part distracts us from the whole point Jesus was making.
In the story of Jonah you had a prophet who was more worried about his status and reputation as a prophet than he was about the salvation of souls. When his prediction of Ninevah being destroyed did not come true Jonah says,
Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” Jonah 4:3 NLT
Say what?! Jonah cared more about his status and reputation than he did about the salvation of 120,000 souls! If he wasn’t going to look good he did not want any part of it. Sadly this is how the religious leaders in Jesus’ day thought too! This is why Jesus used the sign of Jonah. In the story of Jonah you had the wicked Ninevites humbling themselves so they could be saved, and you even had the pagan sailors praying to God when they had throw Jonah overboard. In the story of Jonah everyone humbled themselves except the prophet who should have known better and been the first to humble himself! The sign of Jonah is that while Jesus was walking the earth Samaritans and gentile kings humbly worshiped Jesus but the proud Jewish leaders were not about to humble themselves and do so. This is the point Jesus was making. Don’t let the math distract you either way. Don’t let your pride get in the way of accepting Jesus as your Savior and don’t let your pride get in the way of leading others to Jesus. Pride was the downfall of Jonah and the religious rulers of Jesus’ day.
Is pride and arrogance still an issue in our church today? Are there some who are more worried about their status and reputation than the salvation of souls? Like I said before, I am no mathematician. A few times when I have had to sub for the entire today at our church school I have problems with the math part. A 5th grade girl brought a math problem to me one day, and I had to confess I was just as stumped as she was. Then I thought to myself, why are you telling a kid how dumb you are? Then I told myself, hey, if me looking stupid made the little girl not feel better about herself for not understanding then I did my job! Sometimes we can help people by humbling ourselves and not looking so high and mighty.
Unlike Jonah and the rulers of Jesus’ day, Jesus had no pride. Jonah would rather the whole world perish than for him to look like a fool. On the other hand, Jesus chose to look like a fool on the cross rather than let the world perish. Are you more like Jonah or more like Jesus?
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
The late evangelist Ron Halverson tells a story where he was knocking on a door one night in Harlem New York. A young woman answered the door who grew up a pastor’s daughter, but had become a prostitute. The woman looked at the Bible in Halverson’s hand and said, “I’m not interested!” Quick witted Halverson responded as she tried to slam the door, “I know you’re not interested! That’s why I’m here!”
Granted, such an approach would not normally work, but this time it woke the young lady up to a need she had been neglecting. Sometimes we look at our mission field and think the grass is greener in other mission fields. Fact is, the green mission fields don’t need us as much as the parched fields do. The young lady, who answered the door to Pastor Halverson, may not have looked promising, but she actually needed his message more than anyone else in Harlem that night.
Once I was working in a church that seemed just as worldly as the….well, world! The youth teachers openly confessed to me, that they entertained the kids instead of teaching them, because they themselves did not know anything about the Bible. When I held evangelistic meetings the greeters were never around to hand out lesson outlines, because they went home when the meetings started! The musicians would come in and play before my presentation, and everyone would watch as they walked out and went home as soon as they were through playing. An elder in the church told me his neighbor wanted to come to the meetings and would I please give him a ride. I asked the elder why he could not just bring his neighbor to the meetings himself, since after all, they lived right next door. The elder told me he would not be coming to the meetings since he already heard it all before. It was very discouraging! I asked God why he sent me to such a spiritually parched church. God told me, because the church was my mission field just as much as the community. This changed my attitude, and instead of getting upset because the youth leaders did not know their Bibles, I took advantage of the opportunity to teach them about the Bible and Jesus. The leaders in the church became my mission field. Before long God sent other missionaries more skilled than myself, to help turn the church around. When I left, the church was not at all like I first found it. Thanks to God, and the other missionaries He sent, the youth leaders grew (and sadly some left) and there was a totally different spiritual climate among the entire church family.
I would rather have been in a church where the youth teachers knew their Bibles and the members were are on fire to do evangelism, but you know what? A church like that would not have needed me as much as this one did. While it may be easier and a lot more fun to work with people who are spiritually mature and on fire for the Lord, Pastor Halverson realized he was needed where people did not seem interested. I learned the same lesson.
When I was 11, I started piano lessons but quit after just a few weeks. A couple years ago, at the age of 48 I started taking lessons again. So I don’t like to say I actually quit when I was 11. I just took a 37 year sabbatical. When I started back up, my teacher just happened to be a college musician who I actually met a few years ago when she was only 11. She is more than young enough to be my daughter. Fact is, if I had stayed with my piano lessons when I was 11, I may have been able to teach her instead of her teaching me. Instead, at the age of 48 I began taking piano lessons from a 19 year old. She’s never said anything like, “You are almost 50 you should know all this by now.” She never said, “Look at how old you are. You should be teaching me but instead I am teaching you.” Instead she enthusiastically seized the opportunity to teach me in the here and now.
Sometimes we get discouraged when we see people in the church who we think should know more by now. Maybe they should, but instead of getting discouraged let’s seize the opportunity to teach. I need a good teacher like my piano teacher, because I don’t have it all together. I struggle with my timing among other things, so I need a good teacher. If I was a polished musician I would not need her. If everyone in the church already knew their Bibles and had it all together they would not need me. There may be more gifted musicians in the world that are easier to teach than I am, but it is because I am not a gifted musician that I need my piano teacher so much.
So if your mission field looks parched and pitiful, and you are tempted to think the grass would be greener in another mission field, remember, a greener mission filed would not need you, like the parched pitiful mission field does. If you look around your mission field and don’t see much potential or interest just remember what Pastor Halverson remembered, that’s why you’re here!
You may study this week’s SS lesson on missions here.