RC and Ashley’s Baptism Pictures and Stories

This summer saw some more baptisms from my baptism classes at Tampa Adventist Academy. 

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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.

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On July 21st 2015 RC gave all of himself to Jesus through baptism because Jesus had given all of Himself to RC. RC was baptized by Pastor Rex Frost in the Brandon Seventh-day Adventist Church. 

RC Writes,

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.

Ashley William

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.

Ashley writes,

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 DSCF0222very 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

An Open Letter to My Faithful Contributors and Prayer Partners

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

(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,

William

Plant City SDA Church

PO Box 5379

Plant City, FL 33563

(Please mark contributions “Bible Worker Fund” thank you!)

Is the Sign of Jonah Fuzzy Math?

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

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. 

“That’s Why I’m Here!”

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

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. 

Everyday Missionaries

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

Ever wished you could be a missionary but never felt like you had the opportunity? Opportunities are everywhere! Just ask Jesus. He has a place for everyone to do missionary work. He uses everyday people like you and me in everyday life.

A few years ago, one morning I was checking in on an elderly, physically handi-capped man who is housebound. As always we had prayer before I left. In his prayer the man asked for God to lead us to people who we could share our faith with that day. I mused to myself, why did he say “we’? I’m the only one of us who will have an opportunity to meet people today. He will be bound to his chair at home all day. He won’t be meeting anyone.

later that evening, after my last Bible study, I checked my voice mail messages and there was a message from my elderly friend I had visited that morning. I called him back and he told me some exciting news. He told me that the cable repairman had come by to fix the TV and saw some Sabbath tracts on the end table by the door. He picked them up and told my friend that He was searching for a church. My friend invited him to church and gave him an enrollment card for Bible studies!

It wasn’t till after I hung up the phone (If you can even hang up a cell phone!) that I remembered what my friend prayed that morning. I thought it was a futile prayer given my friend’s condition, but God answered His prayer! Even though my friend could not get out of his chair in his home, God sent someone for him to minister to.

I have learned to never underestimate the opportunities God can provide for all of us to be missionaries.

After serving as a full time Bible Worker for 11 years at one church, I have recently become a part time Bible Worker for the Plant City Florida Seventh-day Adventist Church. It is only part time so I have picked up another job working part time, two days a week in a sandwich shop at an Adventist Hospital. Last Monday the full time sandwich shop worker was on vacation so I had to fill in for her. Sure I would rather have been doing my Bible Worker job that day, but I prayed and decided to make the best of it.

A lady came in and ordered a breakfast sandwich and sat down to eat. While I continued waiting on customers I noticed her watching me. After the line went away, she came up to me and asked, “Why are you so happy and cheerful? You are beaming.” I told her I am just a happy person. She looked at me like she expected more, so I said a little prayer, not wanting to sound preachy, and told her my relationship with Jesus makes me very happy. Her eyes lit up. “That’s what I thought!” She exclaimed. She said that she used to be very happy walking with Jesus but after a while Satan started attacking her more the closer she got to God, and it discouraged her away from God. I told her that if her relationship with God was making Satan upset that was a good thing and she should not relent. God was blessing her and it was making Satan mad. She told me she lives in Chicago and was here to help a friend having surgery. Since she was out of town I followed up by giving her the address to my In Light of the Cross Website and told her there were some articles and studies that may encourage her. I then went to wait on another customer.

After waiting on the customer I returned to the lady’s table and found she was already reading one of the studies on her phone. Then something interesting happened. Around 10:30 every morning that I work, the hospital cafeteria sends someone to cover for me so I can take a short break. Well, it was only 9:30 when someone happened to come to give me a break. This freed me up to talk more with the lady without being interrupted by customers. I shared with her how Jesus tells the church of Philadelphia that He opens a door that no one can shut, but yet He tells the Laodiceans that He knocks at their heart’s door. Heaven’s doors are always open. Its only our doors that close. I invited her to ask Jesus in her heart again. We prayed together right there in the sandwich shop. When we finished praying I still had some time left on my break, but I quickly and politely excused myself so I could go get some supplies from the store room. By quickly disappearing after our prayer it left our prayer and her decision resonating in her mind instead of some idle chit chat killing time.

On my way to the store room I realized that filling in at my temporal job that day did not prevent me from also doing my job as a Bible Worker missionary. Just like being bound to a chair in his house did not keep my elderly friend from being a missionary.

You can study about Biblical Missionaries here. 

The God-Forsaken God

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

As millions study about the death and resurrection of Jesus this week, I feel impressed to share an article I wrote several years ago.

Critics of Christianity will often argue that Jesus knew beforehand that, though He would die, He would be resurrected to life. Thus, they ask, what was the big deal about His death when He knew it would be only temporary?

My mother knows that flying in an airplane is safer than traveling by car. She knows the sad statistics that people are killed every day on the highways, while a rare jet crash makes headlines around the world. Knowing all this, when my mother gets on an airplane she sure does not feel that it is safer! There is a difference between knowing and feeling. Jesus died as a man, not as God.

As a man, this is what Jesus experienced;

“In that thick darkness God’s presence was hidden. He makes darkness His pavilion, and conceals His glory from human eyes. God and His holy angels were beside the cross. The Father was with His Son. Yet His presence was not revealed. Had His glory flashed forth from the cloud, every human beholder would have been destroyed. And in that dreadful hour Christ was not to be comforted with the Father’s presence. He trod the wine press alone, and of the people there was none with Him.”-Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 753, 754.

“The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal. Christ felt the anguish which the sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer plead for the guilty race. It was the sense of sin, bringing the Father’s wrath upon Him as man’s substitute, that made the cup He drank so bitter, and broke the heart of the Son of God.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, p. 753.

Foxe’s book of Martyrs tells us John Huss was singing songs of praise as he burned at the stake for his faith. We wonder if John Huss, a mere mortal man, could be singing songs of praise as He died at the stake, why couldn’t Jesus sing songs of praise instead of crying out “My God My God why have You forsaken me?”

It is because John Huss died a totally different death than Jesus died. John knew he would be resurrected. He knew he was at peace with the Father. But on the cross Jesus was being treated the way we deserve to be treated so we can be treated the way He deserves to be treated. Think about this, Jesus always called God His Father.

“In my Father’s house are many mansions.”
“I always do those things that please my Father.”
“I and my Father are one.”

But when Jesus was on the cross being treated the way we deserve to be treated He could not call God His Father! He did not know that He would be resurrected. Instead He cried out, “My God! Why have you forsaken me?” This fulfilled the prophecy of Psalms 22 of Jesus dying the second death.

Jesus was not crying out, “Why have you forsaken me till Sunday morning?” You don’t forsake someone when you leave them for the weekend. When I tell my Sabbath School class I will be preaching at another church next Sabbath, none of them ask me why I have forsaken them. They know I will be back the following week. When Jesus cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?” He felt abandoned forever. He felt what the wicked will feel.

Obadiah 1:16 says the wicked will be as though they had never been. Jesus was not facing a mere six-hour pain endurance marathon. A lot of cancer patients would gladly trade their years of battling cancer for six hours on a cross. The physical pain is not what made it the supreme sacrifice. What Jesus was facing was going into total oblivion and being as though He had never existed! While Satan was willing to sacrifice anyone who got in his way of being number 1, Jesus was willing to go into total oblivion if He could just save even one of us.

Hebrews 2:9 tells us Jesus tasted death for everyone. Jesus and Paul both refer to the first death as sleep. Jesus did not save us from that death, as we plainly experience that death ourselves. Paul did not say Jesus tasted sleep for every man. No, He tasted death, the death of the wicked. Yes, He prophesied of His own resurrection, but that was while He still felt the presence of His Father. When Jesus felt the Father turn His back on Him, He felt, as a man, that the promise of the resurrection had left with the Father. Jesus became the God-forsaken God.

Some say, how could Jesus have died the second death while He never lost faith in His Father? Remember Jesus had no sense of self-preservation. The sense of self-preservation belongs to Satan. Jesus had faith, but His faith was not that He would be saved but that you and I would be saved!

Some have a hard time wrapping their minds around this awesome love. Some refuse to believe that Jesus would be willing to die forever to save us. In that case they have made Moses more loving than Jesus. In Exodus 32:32 Moses is willing to be wiped out of eternity in order to save the children of Israel. Do you think Moses loved them more than Jesus loves sinners? Of course not! Only when Moses experienced the self-sacrificing love of God could he express such love. If you don’t believe that Jesus was willing to say good-bye to life forever in order to save us, then you believe that Moses demonstrated more love than Jesus.

Since the Jews were accusing Jesus of blasphemy they could have just stoned Him to death. According to Leviticus 24:16, blasphemers were to be stoned and not crucified. Yet Jesus was crucified. Why? Because Deuteronomy 21:22-23 tells us those who are hung are cursed by God. Someone could plead for mercy and have the hope of salvation, just like John Huss had, even though they were stoned to death. However, being hung was a sign you were cursed by God. Joshua 10 tells the story of five kings who refused to accept Israel’s God and were hung from five trees, telling the world they had rejected God and so there was no salvation for them. It was good-bye to life forever.

Friend, does this help you understand how much Jesus loves you? He could have come down from the cross and returned to heaven where He could wear His kingly Crown instead of the crown of thorns. He could have left the road to Calvary and walked on streets of gold. He could have left the mocking mob and returned to hear angels sing His praise. He could have returned to His mansion. Why didn’t He do just that? Because the thought of going back to heaven without you did not appeal to Jesus. Heaven would not be paradise without you, as far as Jesus is concerned.

There is nothing I would rather be preaching than this message here. It is the everlasting gospel in the three angels’ messages. This kind of love changes everything. It changes how we look at the cross and how we look at sin. Most of all it changes our hearts. The disciples were just a bunch of self-ambitious men until they saw this love displayed on the cross. After they saw this love they were willing to give everything – even their own lives. Revelation 15 tells us there will be a multitude singing the song of Moses and the Lamb. They will be filled with this self-sacrificing love just like Moses and Jesus. They will hate sin more than they hate death and they will love God more than they will love their own lives or self preservation.

Jesus’ love for you goes deeper than the nail scars. He loves you more than He loves life itself. He was willing to go into total oblivion and be as though He had never existed if that is what it took to save you!

Salvation is Not Based on Rank or Title

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

Years ago Brett Favre, a famous American football quarterback said in a commercial,

“the history books won’t record me as a quarterback, but as a football player.”

As well as setting all kinds of passing records as a quarterback, Favre also was not afraid to block or even make tackles if the other team got the ball. While the quarterback position is considered a glamorous position, Favre was eager to work just like everyone else to win. He did not let his position define who he was. He let his hard work define him. When I saw that commercial I remember thinking to myself, I don’t want to be remembered as a Bible Worker or lay pastor. I want to be remembered as a Christian.

Jesus received His authority by his behavior and not by any title. Jesus was willing to work as a Servant to help others become winners.

But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45 NKJV

While Jesus had not titles or glamorous positions neither did Enoch. Yet God took Him to heaven not because He was a high priest. He wasn’t. He wasn’t a king either. He was not the head elder at church or Bible Worker or pastor. Enoch was known for one thing. And that one thing is why He went to heaven without ever seeing death.

And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. Genesis 5:24 NKJV

Enoch was not taken to heaven for being a priest or king. He was taken to heaven because He walked with God.

Ellen White, In Gospel Workers Page 255 tells this story.

God’s messengers must tarry long with Him, if they would have success in their work. The story is told of an old Lancashire woman who was listening to the reasons that her neighbors gave for their minister’s success. They spoke of his gifts, of his style of address, of his manners. “Nay,” said the old woman, “I will tell you what it is. Your man is very thick with the Almighty.”

No matter what your talents, gifts or positions or titles are, your success comes from being “very thick with the Almighty.” Your entrance into heaven will be because you walked with God.

No one was ever taken to heaven for being a king or priest, pastor or elder. God takes those who walk with Him.

The Journal of the Prodigal Son’s Father

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

Sivan 30,

I am so grieved I can barely write. My younger son asked for his inheritance, and has taken it and left home. I thought he loved me, but he only loved the things I gave him, and apparently wants nothing to do with me personally. My only solace is in my oldest son, who is still by my side and there whenever I need him. At least one of my sons loves me.

Av 29,

It has been two months since my youngest son walked out of my life. Oh how I long to have my son back! My servants have been filling in, doing all the tasks that he used to do, and even my oldest son has pitched in after all of his work but they can’t take the place in my heart that only he can fill. Its not the work he did that I am worried about. I miss our walks together. I miss our conversations at the dinner table. Now I am so sad I can’t even eat. Many nights I find myself skipping dinner and just sitting on the front porch staring out over the hills. Sometimes the children will be playing on the hills and it reminds me of when my son was young and would play on those hills. He would see me from a distance, when I stepped out onto the porch, and he would know dinner was ready and would come running to the house. Many nights I dream of him running home to me again. While my older son can never fill the void in my heart that my younger son has created, I cherish my time with my older son even more. Now I know how precious those moments are. I am so glad my older son loves me!

Kislev 12,

It’s my older son’s birthday today. Oh what a joy and comfort he is to me! He is always there for me. I treasure every moment we spend together. I had planned to prepare a goat for his birthday celebration but then I thought better of it. I am sure my son is grieved that his brother is still missing, and would not feel like celebrating while his brother is gone. After all, he can have a goat anytime he wants. Besides, I would rather eat soup with both my sons than to have a feast without them. I am sure my older son feels the same way. I sure do love him and am so glad he loves me and has not run away too.

Nissan 1,

I am so excited I can hardly write! Tonight I was standing on my porch staring off into the hills, and at first I thought I was dreaming when I saw my son coming home. Next thing I knew I was running out to meet him. I kept hugging and kissing him making sure it was really him and not just a reoccurring dream I have been having over and over ever since he left. It was really him! He is home! All my dreams have come true! He is home! Tomorrow my older son returns from his business trip. I will have both my sons home! I am going to kill the fatted calf and celebrate both my sons being under the same roof again! I am so happy we will all be together again I won’t be able to tell if I am eating streak or eating soup, but what better way to celebrate than having both my sons together under the same roof again!

Nissan 2,

I am heartbroken again! This time it was my oldest son who tore my heart apart. When he got home and saw the celebration he refused to come inside. Then he tells me, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!” How those words tore my heart apart! All this time I comforted myself with the thought that my older son stayed with me because he loved me as much as I loved him, only to find out he did not love me at all. He was trying to earn something instead. A silly goat! A calf? We could have had either one of those on his last birthday, but I thought the important thing was that we were together. That we loved one another. All these years he served under my house I never cared what we were eating so long as we were together and had each other. Tonight I found out he was not serving me because he loved me like I love him. He was hoping to get some kind of reward out of it instead. I found comfort in my older son when the younger son took his inheritance and left me, showing he only cared about my possessions and not our time together. Well tonight I found out my older son feels the same way towards me. All this time he never cared about our precious moments together. All those years I thought he was serving me because he loved me, when in reality it wasn’t about me at all. It was about some silly calf!

Its like my oldest son was never even here. His heart was never with me. It was with all my possessions. he was sleeping right under my roof while his heart was as far away from me as his brother was.

Do any of my children truly love me? Can any of them look past the inheritance and my goats and calves, and love their father who loves them more than anything he owns?

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Mentoring the Youth on Common Ground

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

Occasionally, the school where I teach a weekly Bible class will ask me to sub for the entire day. One day when I was assigned to teach for the entire day, a delightful but rambunctious boy, who had typical behavioral issues in the past, came up to me and promised he was not going to cause me any problems at all today. I believe he meant it with all his little heart, but before noon we were already making a trip to the principal’s office. The boy was in tears. His promise earlier that day was so sincere but how soon it was broken! The cause of his tears was not the trip to the office, but of a broken promise he made. He cried tears of shame, thinking because I was a teacher and he was a young boy that I would have no idea how he felt. But I did! I had to let him know I knew exactly how he felt. I know to well what its like to tell God how good I am going to be, only to let Him down by noon. The boy was surprised to learn I have cried the same tears he has. By sharing common ground I was able to mentor him and share how I have accepted Jesus’ forgiveness and trusted in His promises to be a little less rambunctious.

Several years ago, a teenage girl who had several tragedies in her life, started visiting our church with her parents. She was still trying to figure out who God was and who she was. Other kids started making fun of her blue hair and strange wardrobe, so she declared she was not coming back to this church! She went to the atrium, where she sat on a bench. Soon an elderly traditional and conservative elder came and sat beside her. Now you wouldn’t think an old man in a traditionally stuffy suit would have a chance to reach the heart of a teenage girl with blue hair, now would you? But this old man was from Vietnam and came to the United States as a teenage boy. He too was made fun of because of his cultural differences and even because of his religion. He explained to this young girl that he did not let people making fun of him stop him from coming to church, and told her not to let people making fun of her stop her either. So on that bench you had an elderly Vietnamese man in a stuffy grey suit, sitting next to an american teenage girl with blue hair as they talked about all the things they had in common. It was at the elderly man’s funeral that the mother of this young girl shared with me the difference he made in her life.

In Luke 1:39-45 Mary, a young teenage girl is getting ready to have a baby, as promised by the angel. She visits her much older cousin Elizabeth, who’s husband is high priest so they are probably around retirement age. This was before the days of “youth church” and “grown up church” when families worshiped together on common ground. While there was a vast age difference, being with child was the common bond between the two. Elizabeth’s age and wisdom was a comfort to young Mary, while Mary’s youth and vigor strengthened and comforted aging Elizabeth.

So it is today. The young still need the “old” and the “old still need the young. We all need each other to stay healthy, balanced and happy.

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

Is the Sabbath the Goal or a Means to the Goal?

DTTFL

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

More than a couple of times in my life, I have heard someone say, “My friend just accepted Jesus as their Savior. Now all we have to do is teach them about the Sabbath!” Whether they mean to or not, they are making it sound like the Sabbath is the goal. God’s love is the goal. The Sabbath is not the goal. It is the means to the goal. The Sabbath is designed to help us see God’s love so that we are led to Jesus Who is the goal.

With this thought in mind, I would like to share a study from the “In Light Of The Cross Bible Study Guides,” which I prepared so that people can see our sacred truths in the light of God’s love as opposed to the legalistic view we are often accused of.

The Sabbath In Light of The Cross New England Churches 074

Brief overview: The seventh day of the week, Saturday, is God’s holy Sabbath on which we are to rest from all secular work and activity. God sanctified the Sabbath day and made it holy. See Genesis 2:1-3, Exodus, 20:8-11, Exodus 31:13, John 14:15,Revelation 14:12

Why it is important to understand the truth about the Sabbath:

The Sabbath is the only commandment that begins with “remember” while it is also the one commandment man has forgotten. While many agnostics believe that God created us and then left us on our own, the Sabbath tells us that our Creator wants to have a relationship with us. The Sabbath also tells us who our God is. You can keep the other nine commandments and worship any god you choose. You can have no other gods before you besides television and not bow to any other god than television and so forth. The Sabbath commandment is the only commandment that tells us who the Lord is. He is the Creator. This is why Satan wants us to forget this commandment. He wants us to forget God. He wants to be our god instead!

The Sabbath is a sign that we belong to the true God, the one who created us and died for us.

Why it is important to understand the Sabbath in light of the cross:

Satan does not want us to forget the Sabbath in order for us to forget the law. Satan knows we are not saved by the works of the law but by grace. The Sabbath is a sign of God’s grace. We do no work on that day, demonstrating that it is not our works that sustain or save us but rather God’s work, both at creation and the cross, that sustain and save us. We rest on the Sabbath, showing that we are resting our faith in the only One who can save us, Jesus Christ. I can imagine God walking with Adam and Eve through the garden, as He showed them all He had made for them, and the wonders of not their works but His works. Adam and Eve realized that day with God, “it is] He [that] hath made us, and not we ourselves.” (Psalms 100:3) Before and after the cross, the Sabbath is a sign that it is God’s work that creates and sustains us.

The Sabbath commandment reminds us that God is our Creator and we refrain from work and worldly activities on the Sabbath day as we rest our faith in God’s power to save and provide for us, instead of our own works and ability to do business and make money.

The same principle is seen in the story of Cain and Abel. In Genesis 4 we read about Abel worshiping the way God had commanded in bringing a lamb as a sacrifice. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice because the lamb God instructed him to bring pointed to Jesus – the Lamb of God who would be sacrificed for our sins. Abel, beyond just worshiping as God had instructed, was saying he trusted in Jesus to save him, rather than his own works. He was looking to the cross. Cain’s sacrifice was refused because he did not worship the way God had instructed, and he brought his own fruit, the work of his own hands. God cannot accept our works and could not accept Cain’s works either. Only the Christ can save us.

Today, many people like Cain, try to be saved by worshiping their own way. Jesus says about them, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). Our own works and man-made ways of worship will never save us.

There’s a story of a little boy years ago who had built his own wooden sailboat. After tying it to a string he set the boat out to sail in a nearby creek, and then would use the string to reel it back in. One day the string broke and the little boat fell victim to the rapids and sailed away. Several days later the boy was window shopping downtown when he saw his boat in a toy store window. He went inside told the owner, “That’s my boat in the window.” The owner of the store, not sure if he should believe the young lad, told the boy he would have to purchase the boat if he wants it back.

The boy did chores around the home and neighborhood to earn the few dollars the boat cost. He returned to the store and purchased his own boat. Walking home, holding his boat close to his chest he was overheard saying, “Little boat, you are twice mine. First I made you, and then I bought you.” That is what Jesus is telling us through the Sabbath today. As we rest from our works on the Sabbath and put our faith in Him, He tells us, “You are twice mine. First, at creation I made you, and then at the cross I bought you.”

No wonder why Ellen White wrote,

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.–Gospel Workers, p. 315. 

Click here for further studies on love and obedience, the law and the Sabbath.

Click here to study this week’s Sabbath School lesson.