Tag Archives: Tampa

The Last Prayer of Woodrow Hill

I am writing from the Beautiful Tampa bay area which was home to Jean and Woodrow Hill.
I am writing from the Beautiful Tampa bay area which was home to Jean and Woodrow Hill.

This last Thanksgiving my Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church family lost a dear patriarch and friend, when Woodrow Hill passed away at 95. I had been friends with Woodrow and his wife Jean, ever since I moved to Tampa ten years ago, but I still learned some intriguing things about him, after his death, that I never knew before. Do you find like me, that you always seem to learn something you never knew about someone after they died?  Oh, I knew Woodrow was a man of God. Always a cheerful smile on his face, even when I would go see him at the hospital, or when he would be delivering bread to the church’s community service center. Woodrow and his wife Jean would always tell me they were praying for me and my ministry. That means so much to me. It also means a lot to me when people comment on my blog posts and tell me they are praying for me or even leave a prayer as a comment. It helps to know I am not alone in this spiritual warfare. However, it wasn’t until he died, and I came over to his home, to visit with the family, that I learned some amazing things.

Woody’s stepdaughter said he became her daddy when she was 12. He was the best dad a girl could ever have, and she does not have one unpleasant memory after her mom married. The daughter (she never felt like a stepdaughter) went on to talk about Woodrow’s prayer life. As she sat in her daddy’s chair, she told me “he would be up all night praying and, by listening to the way he prayed you would think Jesus must be sitting in that chair right there that you are in.” The mother and daughter then both told me that the night before he died he was up all night praying for all of his church family, blood family, and neighbors until 6 in the morning! They told me he mentioned my name in his prayer, and it sent chills down my spine to know that this godly Patriarch had prayed for me in his last prayer.  At first I thought to myself, “Wow! He really appreciated my ministry!” Later as I recalled the incident, I thought, “All they said was that he prayed for me. They didn’t say how. He may have been praying for me to repent and be saved!”

I look back, and I wonder, why did he pray all night the night before he died? Why was he mentioning every soul he ever met?  Did he have a premonition that he was about to die, and wanted to say one last, long prayer, not for himself, but for everyone else before he died? This reminds me of only one other person-Jesus! As He hung on the cross, He told John to care for His mother. He prayed for His Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him. Woodrow and Jesus were alike, as while they both faced death, their thoughts and prayers were only for those around them. Woody, like Jesus, did not waste his last breath on himself, but used those last few precious breaths to bless others one last time.

I believe Woodrow was a true disciple of Jesus, and was able to live the selfless life that Jesus lived because He prayed the selfless prayers that Jesus prayed. I don’t think we can expect to live the way Jesus lived in the multitude, until we pray the way Jesus prayed when He was all alone. In Matthew 14:1-32 we read about Jesus walking on the water, while Peter at first walked on the water and then stumbled and fell. Earlier, in that chapter we saw Jesus spending all night in prayer. I wonder, if Peter had prayed the way Jesus had prayed the night before, could he have walked the way Jesus walked on the water? Would His prayer life kept his eyes focused on Jesus instead of the waves, and those watching him? While walking on the water, Jesus was using no special powers that were not also available to Peter.  Later, in Acts 9:36-41 Peter does something remarkable that people thought only Jesus could do. Peter raises a community services leader back to life! Dorcas, the Christian Church’s first community services leader had died. Peter went over and raised her back to life! Remember me mentioning, how Woodrow delivered bread to the community services center? One day he will be raised back to life as well. This story tells me how precious community services leaders and workers are to God! I don’t read anywhere in my New Testament about a conference president, pastor or Bible Worker being raised back to life, but God raised a community services leader back to life! They must be very special to Him. Now look with me at what Peter did before he raised her to life. (Of course it was the Father, not Peter doing the work, just as Jesus said He did nothing of Himself, but it was the Father doing the works. See John 5:19-21)

But Peter asked them all to leave the room; then he knelt and prayed. Turning to the body he said, “Get up, Tabitha.” And she opened her eyes! When she saw Peter, she sat up! Acts 9:40 NLT

When Peter fell in the waves, no record of Peter praying first is mentioned. Of course when he cried out for Jesus to save him, that was a prayer which Jesus immediately answered! But here we see Peter praying the way Jesus prayed before He worked the miracles that Jesus worked. Peter could do the works that Jesus did, once He prayed the prayers that Jesus prayed.

The night before Jesus died He was up all night praying, and asked His disciples to pray with him, but when His disciples fell asleep He quickly excused their humanity, saying the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. While men in their prime of life fell asleep trying to pray, 2,000 years later, Woodrow, a  95 year -old man prayed through the night. Woodrow was a true disciple of Jesus, doing something Jesus asked His disciple to do 2,000 years ago, which they did not. Oh how precious Woodrow’s prayer must have been to Jesus!

It’s no mystery how Woodrow was able to leave such a legacy behind for his family. Woodrow was able to live the way Jesus lived, because he prayed the way Jesus prayed.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson on prayer and Discipleship here.

Judged by our Works?

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

Since 1981, when I began preaching in high school, I have preached in many churches from Chiclayo, Peru, to Torrington, Connecticut.  I have spoken to large and small congregations with various needs.  I have illustrated to some conservative churches the need to be a little more liberal, and to liberal churches, how to be a little more conservative, as we all seek a Christ-like balance.

One Sabbath several years ago, I was preaching in one of the most conservative churches I have been in. No, “conservative” is not the word for it. Right-out legalistic is more like it! You’ll see why I say so in a moment.

I was preaching about how we are saved by grace – fairly fundamental Adventist Bible belief, so I thought. After the sermon I barely made it off the platform before I was greeted by a woman who had appointed herself to be the theology police for the church. She had a copy of The Great Controversy in her hand. Condescendingly she asked me if I had ever read The Great Controversy. I told her I had. She retorted, “How dare you then tell these people we are saved by grace when The Great Controversy clearly says we are saved by works! Your sermon today almost deceived even me. And if it almost deceived me I know you deceived everybody else!” (Did this woman maybe have a pride issue?)

Now let me stop before I go any further. If you have never read The Great Controversy, let me assure you that it does not say we are saved by our works. I have read the book several times cover to cover, and the theme I find over and over is that we are saved by grace and not by works, and that we should worship God according to our conscience and not according to man-made traditions and regulations. One of the star characters in the book is Martin Luther, who is applauded by the author for presenting salvation by grace and not works!

So, where was this lady coming from? Sure she was way off, but she had to get her idea from somewhere. She told me where it was. She told me to read the chapter, Facing Life’s Record, and I read:

The books of record in heaven, in which the names and the deeds of men are registered, are to determine the decisions of the judgment. –Ellen White, The Great Controversy, Page 480

True. Deeds are mentioned here, but if I remember correctly from diagramming sentences in my third grade English class, which I thoroughly hated doing by the way, “books” is the subject of the sentence, and the books determine the decisions, not the deeds.

However the Apostle John mentions deeds or “works” as well:

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.  Revelation 20:12

So do we have a conflict here? Not at all. In any investigative judgment you need evidence to determine your verdict. Our works provide evidence of salvation, but grace is the source of our salvation.

Speaking of Abraham, Genesis 15:6 says:

And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

Abraham’s belief or faith was counted as righteousness. God said it is enough that Abraham believes in my saving grace.

But when Abraham’s name comes up in the judgment what evidence will there be that he believed? Especially since he lied about his relationship with Sarah in order to save him from Egypt’s ruler. He trusted a lie to save him instead of trusting God to save him. No evidence of faith there.

However if we go to Genesis 22:1-24, we will see the evidence of Abraham’s faith, when he obeyed God and offered up his son on the altar. Now we have evidence that Abraham believed in God’s grace! Abraham will not be saved by his works, but his obedience of God’s soul-shattering command later in life – his “works” – demonstrates his faith in God. And God could count his faith as righteousness.

Just like smoke is evidence of fire, works are evidence of  God’s grace at work in the life. Where there is smoke there is fire, and where there is grace there are good works. Let’s do a little detective work ourselves here, and investigate three passages.

Let’s begin with Romans 1:5.

By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name.

Hhhmm … Seems to me here that Paul is telling the Romans that the grace they received was to lead to their obedience. Hence their works of obedience are evidence of grace at work.

Our next clue is found in Ephesians 2:8-10

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Sure enough the passage tells us that we are saved by grace and not by works, but still we find God creating good works in us at the scene of grace. Let’s move on. We need more evidence.

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.  Titus 2:11-14

Just as you see smoke where there has been a fire, so we again see good works where there is grace. Just like smoke is evidence there has been a fire, likewise living soberly, righteously, godly lives zealous of good works, is evidence that grace has been here.

If we trust God we will obey Him. Our works of obedience are presented as evidence in the judgment that we trust God’s amazing grace.

Satan may still point at Abraham’s lie in Egypt, but,

The character is revealed, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts.  –Ellen White, Steps to Christ, p. 57.

When your name comes up in the judgment, will there be evidence that God’s grace was allowed to penetrate your heart?

Now there is also such a thing as false evidence. Legalistic works done for the glory of self would be false evidence that the Judge can see right through.

Yet a faith that works by love (See Galatians 5:6) is the exact evidence that will convince the Judge that we have received His amazing grace. I hope the lady who confronted me that day, with the Great Controversy, understands that doing works in order to be saved is just conjuring up false evidence. The faith that saves us is the faith that is motivated by love and grace and not a hope of reward and self-glory.

It’s just like the little girl standing by the side of the pool. She can’t swim, but her father promised to catch her if she jumps in. If she jumps we know she believes in her daddy. If she refuses to jump it is clearly evident she does not believe in her daddy.

Abraham showed a lack of faith in God’s love when he trusted a lie instead of God to protect him in Egypt. Yet when Abraham placed his son on the altar the whole universe saw the evidence that God’s grace was now in Abraham’s heart.

The Bible is clear. We are saved by grace and not by works. The Bible is also clear that where there is grace, there are good works.

A smoking gun is evidence that it has been put into action. Good works are evidence of grace put into action. Where you find smoke you find fire. Where you find grace you find good works.

Good works, done out of love, are evidence that we have been saved by amazing grace.

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

The Spirit of Christmas

Christmas gallaria

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

It was my first Christmas season in Florida. Shortly after Thanksgiving, a father showed up to our Bible study, very discouraged. It was his daughter’s 11th birthday, and due to finances at home he did not have a single dime to buy her a gift. Several days later, I was surprised when his daughter called me at the church, asking to put an ad in the church bulletin. She was organizing a group at her school to collect Christmas gifts for kids who had no gifts. In talking to her, it was clear that she was excited about this, and she definitely was not thinking about any gift for herself. That really touched my heart. This child understood more than the meaning of Christmas. She understood the meaning of life! She was so busy thinking of others that she had no time to feel sorry for herself. I appreciate the Christmas season as it helps me to see the good that is in people all year long. I’m sorry not everyone sees it that way.

Imagine this scenario. It’s a beautiful sunny Florida day. You call me and say, “William, let’s go to the beach and enjoy a beautiful sunset.” I respond, “No way! Don’t you know that some pagans worship the sun, therefore we should have nothing to do with it!” Not very balanced thinking huh? Likewise just because there may be some pagan things pertaining to Christmas it should not keep us from worshiping the Son on that day! I have heard that Christmas is a Catholic holiday. Does that make it wrong? Just because you are not a Catholic does not mean everything they do or have done is bad. Catholics operate good hospitals all over the world where people of all faiths and beliefs receive compassionate care. If we are not Catholic does that mean that we should not have good hospitals just because they do? There are many good Catholics who pray every day. Should we refrain from prayer because Catholics pray? Of course not. So why should we refrain from celebrating a holiday that makes the whole world think of Jesus? Remember, like Christmas, Martin Luther’s origins were Catholic too, so as good protestants should we reject him too? No. We need to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21  Please remember that in Romans 13 Paul tells us to go along with things as long as they don’t go against the Word of God. While Sunday observance opposes the Sabbath observance, celebrating Christmas does not oppose anything Biblical.

Please remember, that while Paul clearly taught that the feast days were no longer binding, but were a shadow of things to come (See Colossians 2:14-17) that he still went up to Pentecost, as it was an opportunity for him to share Jesus with everyone. (See Acts 20:16 and 1 Corinthians 16:8) with the same missionary Spirit that Paul had, should we not also take advantage of celebrations that enable us to share Jesus, including Christmas and Easter?

The Spirit of Prophecy that rested upon Paul stays consistent as it rested upon Ellen White, who tells us Christmas serves a good purpose.

As the twenty-fifth of December is observed to commemorate the birth of Christ, as the children have been instructed by precept and example that this was indeed a day of gladness and rejoicing, you will find it a difficult matter to pass over this period without giving it some attention. It can be made to serve a very good purpose. –Ellen White, Adventist Home, Page 478

I believe that if Christmas was a day that we should ignore, that God’s prophet would have instructed us so very clearly. She does not instruct us to ignore this day. God gave her no such message.

Nor does the Spirit of Prophecy tell us that a Christmas tree within itself is pagan.

God would be well pleased if on Christmas, each church would have a Christmas tree on which shall be hung offerings, great and small, for these houses of worship. Letters of inquiry have come to us asking, Shall we have a Christmas tree? will it not be like the world? We answer, You can make it like the world if you have a disposition to do so, or you can make it as unlike the world as possible. There is no particular sin in selecting a fragrant evergreen, and placing it in our churches; but the sin lies in the motive which prompts to action, and the use which is made of the gifts placed upon the tree.  –Ellen White, Review and Herald, December 11, 1879 par. 15

Yes, we all know Jesus was not born on December 25. We do not need to celebrate it as Christ’s actual birthday. We celebrate the fact that Jesus became a man and died for our sins. Maybe Christmas was inspired by pagan motives. Joseph’s brothers had “pagan” motives when they sold him to the Ishmaelites. No matter. God used it for good and made Joseph a savior of his times. So today, we have an excellent opportunity to allow God to use a day set up by sinful mankind to turn peoples’ minds and hearts to the Savior. The original motives good or bad do not matter at this point. God can use it for good. This does not contradict Bible doctrine.

My mind goes back to another Christmas I celebrated with my church in Fort Worth Texas. Christmas fell on a Sabbath that year. My church decided to spend Sabbath feeding lunch to the homeless downtown. We had several kids of all ages with us. They were delighted to serve. Now, most of these families waited till sundown to celebrate Christmas and open their gifts, so even though it was late in the afternoon, these children had not opened their gifts yet. After we served and cleaned up I figured, and the parents figured too, that the kids would now be in a hurry to rush home in time for sundown to open their gifts. That is not what happened. These kids begged us to let them stay and serve the evening meal as well, even though another group was coming in to do that. The kids were so excited that they got to stay and serve total strangers instead of rushing home to open their gifts.

Friends the Christmas Spirit these kids manifested, and the Christmas Spirit of my Bible study student’s  daughter was not a pagan spirit. It was a spirit of self sacrificing love, which is what true Christianity is all about!

When Joseph found out Mary was with child, he thought it was rather obvious she had an affair. Wouldn’t it seem obvious to you too? Joseph was wise to hold his peace and not say anything publically against Mary. Good thing he didn’t say anything, because Joseph found out that what had happened was actually done by the Holy Spirit. I am saddened when people judge the motives of people celebrating the Christmas Spirit, by calling them pagan, when in fact they are actually moved by the Holy Spirit celebrating the meaning of life which is Christ Himself.

Tampa Bay Storm

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. (Yeah right!)

After seeing pictures on the news last night of Bayshore Blvd all flooded, I went down early this morning with my camera to see what I could see. The street was not flooded anymore but you can still see a little flooding.  I take pictures of Tampa Bay all the time in the sunshine, when it looks so beautiful. Today’s picture does not look so beautiful does it? But you know what? All the trash you see, that has washed up on the bay, was around the whole time when I took the other beautiful pictures of the bay. The storm did not make the trash, it only revealed the trash that was already there. I thought about my life. Some times on sunny days, when all is going well, I may think I am a beautiful person. However when the storms of life come I may find some garbage in my heart. The storms of life don’t make the garbage in my heart. The storms only reveal what has been there all along. I think David knew that when he pleaded with God, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties;And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalms 139:23-24 NKJV The storms of life may show us all the garbage in our heart, but God’s love can clean it all up for us and make us beautiful inside and out!

See what great love   the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!   And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends,   now we are children of God,   and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,  we shall be like him,   for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 1 John 3:1-3 NIV

Watch the 23 second video I took here.

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Want to Get Away?

I am writing tonight from the slightly overcast but still beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In the United States, we have an airline, called Southwest, who ask on their commercials, “Want to get away?” In each commercial someone will find themselves in an embarrassing situation, where they would gladly fly to the other side of the world and hide under a rock. The airline then suggests, getting on their plane to get away from it all.

In Mark 5 we read about a man who was in a very embarrassing situation before his conversion. When I tell you everything that happened with this man, you will agree with me, that after his conversion, he would gladly hop on an airplane to get away. However, Jesus sends him on a mission trip-back home!

For sake of time, I am going to highlight the story but you can read it for yourself here.

Sadly, demon activity has not changed much over the years. This man is hanging out in tombs, obsessed with death, much like those controlled by demons today. Jesus is life, and when we don’t have Jesus, all that’s left is death. He refused to be “tamed”, “taught” or “controlled.” The exact words may vary based on your favorite translation, but the idea is the same. He was not going to be bound by Biblical standards, like so many today, who do not want to hear what is right and wrong.

He cut himself. Today many cut themselves trying to find healing, not realizing, Jesus was already cut and wounded to bring them healing. The demoniac was tormented by the presence of Jesus. Today, an unconverted person does not want to be where Jesus can be found. They want nothing to do with Bible study, prayer meeting or family worship.

None of these demonic demonstrations phase Jesus. He heals the man and he becomes converted.  In verse 15 it tells us after his conversion, the man is clothed and in his right mind. Luke 8 tells us this man was naked at the beginning of the story. Mark tells us at the end that after the conversion he is clothed. Another sign of demonic activity is wanting to dress improperly or not at all. When we become converted we dress appropriately.

Now that the man is converted we see that he wants to be with Jesus. He tells Him in verse 18 that he wants to be with Jesus. Now I am imagining that if I had been seen by my  community, running around naked in a cemetery, that I would now like to jump on a Southwest airlines jet, or any jet for that matter and get away!  I think a nice mission trip to the other side of the planet is now in order, so I can preach the gospel about as far away as I can get from the people who saw me running around a cemetery naked, cutting myself.  But in verse 19 Jesus sends him on a mission trip-back home! Jesus tells the man to go back home and tell what wonderful things Jesus has done for him. Friend, if Jesus has done wonderful things for you, if He really has changed your life, you don’t need to get away. While foreign mission trips are fun, fruitful and rewarding, chances are Jesus may have a mission field for you right in your very home. Jesus doesn’t send everyone to the other side of the planet, as much as we may sometimes like that idea, especially after an embarrassing moment when we want to get away. Jesus may have a mission trip planned for you right in your very home.  The people saw the change in this man. So much so that in verse 15 it says it scared them or made them afraid! It must have been a real shock when the reality of what Jesus had done in this man’s life was seen.

If you run to the other side of the world people won’t see the change. If Jesus has changed your life, you don’t need to be afraid. You can proudly go back home, clothed with the righteousness of Christ and in your right mind, and tell them what wonderful things Jesus has done for you.

To go to the Sabbath School Network click here. To download the SS lessons to your cell phone click here.

Glimpes of Our God; The Promise of His Return

I am writing tonight from beautiful Lake Placid Florida, which is famous for its murals on many of the town buildings, each one telling a story about the city.

As Seventh-day Adventists recently celebrated the 150th anniversary of our name, one important question comes to mind concerning our name. The “Advent” part pertaining to the second coming. Is the second coming still on? Are we still planning on it? Is it still a part of who we are?

 

Growing up a Seventh-day Adventist I remember hearing people talking about how Jesus was surely coming in the next five years. We thought for sure the oil crisis in the 70’s was the end of the world. I still remember looking at the form the Tulsa Roughnecks Soccer team sent me when I was a teen, asking me to renew my season tickets for the 1980 season. You are going to laugh at me, but I stared at that form in disbelief that I actually saw the year 1980 in print. There is no way the world will last that long I thought. Well that was 30 years ago and we are in a totally new century. So what happened to the second coming? Is it still on?

 

In the mid ‘80s I joined a new Adventist church in the suburbs of Tulsa. I had just started dating a girl who went to that church so I  switched from the central Adventist church in Tulsa to her church. We just started dating when she dumped me. Oh well, I still stayed at this new church for the simple reason that I did not want people to think I changed churches just for her. Besides, this church seemed to really be on fire. The weekly prayer meetings were very spiritual, and everyone was praying for the power of the Holy Spirit to prepare them for the second coming. We had about as many people attending prayer meeting that attended our Sabbath Worship services. We were sure Jesus was coming soon and we were getting ready. Then something sad happened. People stopped coming to prayer meeting. Some decided “Growing Pains” was just too funny of a show to miss for prayer meeting. People stopped coming to church all together. This was not suppose to happen! Discouraged, I asked God why He did not come back when our church was at its spiritual peak, when we had it all together. He waited too long and now look what happened. I believe the Holy Spirit revealed to me why Jesus did not return when the church was on top of its game. Our church was on a spiritual roller coaster. Jesus is not coming back for a church on a spiritual roller coaster. He is not coming back for a people who walk with him off and on. A groom does not want to marry a bride who’s love and devotion goes in cycles. Neither does Jesus. Enoch walked with God many years before being translated. God will come back for a church who will consistently walk with Him year after year after year, and not on some roller coaster. The church is a woman. For centuries God’s church has loved to flirt with Him, but it also loves to flirt with the world. God’s church likes to date Jesus, but it also likes to date other things too. Jesus is not returning for a date, He is returning for a wedding. When God’s church decides to stop dating and flirting with Jesus and decides to get married He will return.

 

During this same time period our church in suburban Tulsa was also asking the Holy Spirit to get sin out of our lives so we could be ready for Jesus to come. We did not, or at least at the time I did not realize how legalistic that was. Jesus is not coming back for a legalistic group who get their act together so they can have some great reward like heaven. Jesus is coming back for a people who love Him because He first loved them. Today I ask the Holy Spirit to remove sin from my life, not because Jesus is coming back but because my sin breaks God’s heart. I do not want to break His heart anymore, regardless if He is coming back tomorrow or a hundred years from now.

 

Now that I am older I don’t hear people talking about Jesus coming back in the next five years. So is the whole thing off? One of Satan’s best weapons are over zealous religious fanatics. They tell people Jesus is coming back during a certain time table, and then when their “prophecy” fails, people then doubt that Jesus is coming back at all. However this is all Satan’s plan. To get us to give up right before it happens. Concentration camp survivors say they survived because they never set a date for their rescue. Some wanted to be rescued by Christmas, and then when that came and went, they wanted rescued by Easter, and then when Easter came when went they gave up hope. Others just knew that they would be rescued some day and they survived. As Seventh-day Adventists we must believe Jesus is returning, without setting dates. Some have gone to the other extreme now and don’t even preach the second coming at all. They preach social sermons which they find more practical in everyday living. While we must be practical we must also realize God formed our church 150 years ago for a specific reason. If we are just going to preach social sermons like the ones you can hear in any church or denomination, you must ask yourself why we even bother existing if we have no message to offer other than what the other denominations are preaching. Are we embarrassed by our message? I am sure the disciples were embambarrassed when Jesus was crucified, but there was no reason for them to be. Are we afraid people will not believe our message, so instead we just preach things we know the world will accept? If so, shame on us! We are doing our Savior and neighbor no justice by hiding our special message.

 

 There is no reason to water down our message. Several years ago I was leading out in a youth small group study with another family in my neighborhood. One Sabbath afternoon when it was time for our study, we received an invitation to a youth meeting at our church. There was to be a lot of contemporary music for the kids. I thought, why not? Lets skip our Bible study this week and go to this contemporary concert and show the kids that we have fun too. After the concert I asked one of the kids how they liked the concert, hoping they thought it was a lot of fun and that our church was really with it. This young person, about 13 years old at the time, looked at me with disappointment in their eyes and said, “I wish we would have had the Bible study instead.” People, there are kids out there starving for our gospel message! Why disappoint them by feeding them what the world is feeding them? Furthermore what is the point of a church that is just like the world? I am not saying all contemporary music is wrong and we should never offer that. I am saying let’s offer more than just that. And if the church only feeds people what is in the world then why does the church even bother existing? Have we given up on the second coming and decided to just join the world and be a social club with good morals? How legalistic is that!

 

The Seventh-day Adventist church has a message that will more than prepare people to live nice little lives in this world. We have a gospel that will prepare people for the world to come! We must let everyone know the second coming is still on! There are twice as many prophecies about the second coming than there were about Jesus’ first advent. He came the first time, so we know beyond a shadow of a doubt He is coming the second time. Jesus warns against setting times for His return when He tells us, “ in the hour you think not, the Son of man cometh.” Satan has been using religious fanatics for years to get us all excited and then disappointed that He has not returned. Satan wants us to give up and think Jesus is not returning at all. There is great danger in what I was always hearing growing up, about Jesus coming in the next five years, because it does two things, it makes you give up hope when He does not return in those five years and it also makes you think you have five years to prepare. One day we won’t have five years to prepare. We won’t have one year to prepare. In the hour we think not, He will come! Don’t get ready, be ready! Be ready not because He is coming back but because we love Him because He first loved us! The Adventist church, the church that believes the Bible prophecies about the second coming has a reason to exist! If we just preach social day by day sermons that you can hear anywhere else then we are not fulfilling our purpose for coming into existence 150 years ago.  A true Adventist more than believes Jesus is coming. We love His appearing! We have a message to give to world and believe it or not the world is hungry for our message so why not give it? Jesus loves them and wants to be with them forever!

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.  Download the SS app to your phone here.

 

For more studies on the second coming and our special message click here.

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Glimpses of Our God; The Promise of Prayer

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.  Isaiah 65:24

In the summer of 1991 I was enjoying my first full year of Literature Evangelism, as I was selling books all over Oklahoma and even the surrounding states. So far I was leading my conference in sales and hours worked. However, around Oklahoma camp meeting time I hit a slump. I mean a real slump. Three weeks without a single sale! Suddenly my perspective changed. I started doubting my calling. Earlier, I had read in Colporter Ministry that this work was second to none.

Not wanting to doubt the spirit of prophecy I began to rationalize. Maybe it was a great work back before radio and 3ABN. It may have been out there already, but in 1991 I had yet to hear of the Internet. Still, I figured TV and radio were getting the word out now so maybe the literature work was obsolete.

I had a lead card for a Baptist grade school near Tahlequah Oklahoma, around 50 miles from where I lived in Tulsa at the time. I set up an appointment and set out to Eastern Oklahoma. On my way I began to pray. I remember the exact words I prayed. “Lord if this is still an important work for this time please let me know.” I drove across the hills and curves of Highway 51 while my wandered off from my prayer. I arrived at the little school and met the principal in his office. He liked the books and ordered them! My first sale in 3 weeks! As I was writing up the order form, he was writing out the check. As he wrote, he paused, looked at me and said, “This is an important work you are doing.” I looked up from y order form and smiled, but it did not dawn on me that my prayer was being answered, until he paused again, and said, “And you know, especially for this time.” That’s when it dawned on me. Wow! He repeated back to me the exact same words I had prayed in my mind alone in my car!

I drove back to Tulsa  very excited, not just about a sale or even that my prayer was answered, but just the fact that I knew in my heart God heard me! He heard me and repeated back to me the very words I had prayed to Him. This is not the only time this happened. Earlier, I was praying for the Lord to work on a friends heart who stopped attending church. Every night I would pray alone in my apartment, “Lord please send you Holy Spirit to work on Jill’s heart.” After a few weeks, Jill called me out of the blue and I met her at a restaurant. During dinner Jill says, I have something to say but you may think its funny. I assured her, that  she could tell me and I would not laugh. She then told me, “I feel like the Holy Spirit has been working on my heart.” Wow! Jill was repeating back to me the exact same words of my prayer!

That was over 20 years ago, and since then God has answered even more remarkable prayers. I hope to go into those one day when the time is right. Each time, what amazes me is just the fact that I know the Creator and King of the universe is listening to my prayer! He does not merely hear me, He listens to me. Friend He does the same for you. Here is one of my favorite quotes on prayer, found on page 100 of Steps to Christ:

Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him. He who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the wants of His children. “The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” James 5:11. His heart of love is touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything that perplexes the mind. Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds up worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our peace is too small for Him to notice. There is no chapter in our experience too dark for Him to read; there is no perplexity too difficult for Him to unravel. No calamity can befall the least of His children, no anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere prayer escape the lips, of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest. “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3. The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son.

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Glimpses of Grace; The Tower of Babel and the Ark

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area

While studying Genesis 6-11, a thought occurred to me. The tower of Babel was a futile attempt of man to save himself from calamity by his own works. However, while the ark, a symbol of grace and God’s salvation was a success, man still participated in working and building it. So while man can’t save himself, he can still cooperate with God and work where God is working and not on his own.

Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. Psalms 127:1

The laborers work and build either way. Question is, are you working on your own or are you working with God?

Garments of Grace; A Garment of Innocence

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. Genesis 3:7

As soon as sin began legalism began. Adam tried to cover his shame by his own works. However that did not work. Just three verses after Adam makes his own garment, he tells God he ran from Him because he was naked. Why did Adam feel naked after making the fig leaves? Because in the presence of God we look naked, clothed in our own works. Later in verse 21 God clothes Adam in sheepskins, showing him that for his nakedness to be covered the Lamb of God would have to die. Only the death of the Lamb of God can cover our spiritual nakedness.

 

Many look at the modesty, or lack thereof, issue in the light of sex. As we become more and more comfortable seeing everybody’s flesh, sexual immorality is abounding. There is a greater danger to immodesty than just sexual immorality. To really see the danger of immodesty we must look at it in light of the cross. The greatest danger is not immoral sex, but not sensing our shame and need of a Savior. Thus modesty becomes a salvation issue.

Let’s begin in the Garden of Eden. Contrary to popular belief, while Adam and Eve “were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed,” it was not exactly like a nudist colony today. Page 311 of Christ’s Object Lessons says, “A beautiful soft light, the light of God, enshrouded the holy pair. This robe of light was a symbol of their spiritual garments of heavenly innocence. Had they remained true to God it would ever have continued to enshroud them. But when sin entered, they severed their connection with God, and the light that had encircled them departed. Naked and ashamed, they tried to supply the place of the heavenly garments by sewing together fig leaves for a covering.” 

So they weren’t really walking around naked as we think of the word “naked” to begin with. They had a covering. This is why Adam felt naked when he sinned; the covering had been lost. By his own works he tried to cover his nakedness with fig leaves (his own works) but that did not work.. Likewise today, our good works can never cover our spiritual nakedness. Even after making his own clothes from fig leaves, Adam still felt naked in God’s presence. Only Jesus could cover Adam’s shame. Genesis 3:21 says, “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” Here is the whole modesty issue in light of the cross. An animal had to die to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness and shame. Likewise Jesus would have to die naked on a cross in order to ultimately cover our shame. Those who have a sense of modesty and nakedness know they need a Savior to cover their shame. Those who have no sense of shame and modesty sense no need of a Savior.

So more than being a sex issue, proper dress becomes a salvation issue that can only be properly understood, as all other doctrines, in the light of the cross. The fact of the matter is, the further away from God we are the more clothes we take off, but the closer we come to Jesus and accept Him as our Savior, the more we dress properly. In Genesis 3 Adam was naked while running from God. When God found him and presented the plan of salvation and the cross, Adam was then clothed with the animal skins, pointing to Jesus who alone can cover our shame. In Luke 18:27 we find a man wearing no clothes and possessed of devils. However, in verse 35, when he becomes converted we see him clothed and “in his right mind.” Thus, while far from God he had no sense of modesty, but as he became converted and “in his right mind”he began dressing appropriately. This has nothing to do with sexual lust as I seriously doubt such a naked lunatic hanging out in graves would really be a sexual temptation for anyone. So it is today.  The issue today is the same as it was in Luke 18. The man had no sense of modesty when he had no sense of a need for a Savior. Once he sensed his need of a Savior and accepted Christ, he began dressing appropriately as he now saw the issue of dress in the light of the cross.

Now some may say that modesty is a cultural issue. The heathen tribes of Africa all parade around naked because that is their culture. Let’s remember they are called “heathen” tribes for a reason. Also, let’s remember too what Paul says in Galatians 6:14. “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” In this verse we see that Paul is crucified to the world. The world would be his culture, correct? So it is now the cross and not Paul’s culture that dictates how he dresses and behaves. We also see in Galatians 6:14 that Paul does not glory in his body but in the cross.

At the cross we see the modesty issue as a human dignity issue rather than a sexuality issue. At the cross, while Jesus was being crucified naked, the women “stood afar off”. This had nothing to do with sex. They were not tempted to lust after Jesus as they were there only to show their compassion. As they did so, they did not want to look upon His nakedness in order to protect His human dignity. At the cross we see the importance of human dignity. And when we appreciate the human dignity of all mankind we will not encourage scantily clad bodies on the beach, or on our magazine covers, or anywhere else. In light of the cross, we will teach modesty in dress to all regardless of their age, gender, or culture, as people of all ages, genders and cultures are human and thus all deserve to be treated with the same human dignity that these women showed Jesus.

The Pier in St.Peterburg

At the Pier in St.Petersburg you can enjoy all the beauty of the water without any of the immodest distractions you sometimes see at the beach. 

 

Even in the medical world, where doctors are not necessarily looking at the body in a sexual way, dignity is still a factor. In Counsels on Health, page 364, Ellen White writes: “There should be a much larger number of lady physicians, educated not only to act as trained nurses, but also as physicians. It is a most horrible practice, this revealing the secret parts of women to men, or men being treated by women. Women physicians should utterly refuse to look upon the secret parts of men. Women should be thoroughly educated to work for women, and men to work for men. Let men know that they must go to their own sex and not apply to lady physicians.” Please keep in mind this one paragraph is borrowed from its original context. A balanced view of Sister White’s writings allows us to see that this practice should be followed when and where possible, but in emergencies or extreme situations we may need to be treated by the opposite sex and just trust that they will treat us with the same dignity the opposite gender showed Jesus at the cross. Fact is reality and balanced thinking tells us there are times when clothing or lack thereof is not an option, but let’s let common sense and the Holy Spirit tell us when that is and not our own feelings or even culture.

 

 

Most male doctors will not lust after a female patient as most female doctors will not lust after a male patient. However, lust is not the issue in the light of the cross, but rather human dignity. If modesty and human dignity are an issue in the doctor’s office and at the cross, then would it not also be an issue on the beach, on billboards signs, the silver screen and everywhere else including in the church?

 

Jesus gave His life not only to save us from death but to also cover our nakedness. Wouldn’t dressing modestly be a great way to thank Jesus for dying for us? Likewise, knowing that our brothers and sisters make up the body of Christ, wouldn’t refusing to look upon their naked or half-naked bodies also be a way of treating Christ Himself with the same human dignity that the women showed Jesus at the cross? 

Glimpses of Our God; The Sabbath in Light of the Cross

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The Sabbath In Light Of The Cross

Brief overview: The Seventh-day, Saturday is God’s holy Sabbath where 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. 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 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 because he wants 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 as the lamb God instructed him to bring pointed to Jesus: the Lamb of God who would be sacrificed for our sins. Abel, more than just worshiping as God had instructed was saying he trusted in Jesus to save him and not 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 Cross 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.

The story goes of a little boy years ago who had built his own wooden sailboat. Tied 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 is window shopping downtown when he sees his boat in a toy store window. He goes inside and tells the owner, “That’s my boat in the window.” The owner of the store not sure if he should believe the young lad tells the boy he will have to purchase the boat if he wants it back.

The boy does several chores around the home and neighborhood to get the few dollars the boat costs. He returns to the store and purchases his own boat. Walking home, holding his boat close to his chest he was over heard 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.”

Further study on the Sabbath:

Which day is the Sabbath?

But the seventh day [is] the sabbath of the LORD thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates: 

For [in] six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them [is], and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.  Exodus 20:10, 11

 

Who was the Sabbath made for?

And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:  Mark 2:27

 

Whose day is the Sabbath?

Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.  Mark 2:28

 

 

What does God call the Sabbath?                 

If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, [from] doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking [thine own] words:  Isaiah 58:13

 

When is the Sabbath to be observed?

From even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.   Leviticus 23:32

 

What marks the beginning of a day?

And the evening and the morning were the first day.  Genesis 1:5

 

What did Jesus do on the Sabbath?

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.  Luke 4:16

 

What else should be done on the Sabbath?

And, behold, there was a man which had [his] hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. 

And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift [it] out? 

How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Matthew 12:10-12

 

What are we to “remember” to do?

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Exodus 20:8

 

What are we to refrain from on the Sabbath?

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 

But the seventh day [is] the sabbath of the LORD thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates: 

For [in] six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them [is], and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.  Exodus 20:9-11 

 

Why were the Jews carried into captivity?

In those days saw I in Judah [some] treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all [manner of] burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified [against them] in the day wherein they sold victuals. 

There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. 

Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing [is] this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? 

Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath.  Nehemiah 13:15-18

 

What are we to learn from this?

There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 

For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God [did] from his. 

Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.  Hebrews 4:9-11

 

What does God want us to be?

And [they that shall be] of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.  Isaiah 58:12

 

How only is this possible?

If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, [from] doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking [thine own] words:  Isaiah 58:13

 

What is God’s promise?

Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken [it].  Isaiah 58:14

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