Seeking a Kingdom of Materials or Righteousness?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33 NKJV

Driving along Bayshore Drive in Tampa, I noticed some huge houses. I wondered what it might be like to have a huge home. Then I asked myself, why would I need a house with 20 rooms that I am not in? I can only be in one room at a time. What difference would it make if there were 19 more empty rooms in my house?

Often people say they are happy to live in a little cottage on earth, knowing up in heaven they have a mansion. Do they really need a mansion in heaven? Is the goal of heaven to live in a mansion? If so, are we not just as materialistic as people who love things here on earth? What difference does it make where our things are? First of all there is nothing wrong in and of itself about having a huge house. Some people buy huge houses, not to show off, but because they have the spiritual gift of hospitality, and so they need a big house to meet the needs of their guests.

My point is simply, that if we are seeking mansions in heaven then we are just as materialistic as those seeking mansions on earth. The only difference is our materials are somewhere else, but they are all still materials just the same. In Matthew 6:33 Jesus says to seek more than a material kingdom. He says to seek “His righteousness.” Whether I live in a cottage or mansion, what I really need is the righteousness of God. We are not to be looking for a kingdom of mansions, but a kingdom of righteousness.

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

Naomi’s Baptism Pictures and Stories

This morning at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist church, I had the privilege of baptizing Naomi, who wanted to give all of herself to Jesus, since Jesus gave all of Himself for her.

Naomi Bible Study

When Naomi was in the 4th grade, she attended my baptism class at Tampa Adventist Academy.  (Naomi is in the red shirt.) After the class, I asked her when she wanted to get baptized. She hinted that she really was not ready yet, so I left it alone. I don’t like to pressure people to get baptized. It is a very personal and meaningful event between them and God.

As the years went by, I could see God working in Naomi’s life. Naomi

In 5th grade Naomi attended my Bible chain referencing class, where I taught my students to give Bible studies. In her family worships at home, Naomi asked to give the Bible studies she had learned in class. In 6th grade I had all the students give a Bible study presentation on video for a grade. You can watch Naomi’s presentation here. 

Profile

This year Naomi is now in the 7th grade. I became aware of several deliberate and intentional choices Naomi was making in her life to get closer to Jesus and honor God. I had not talked to Naomi about baptism since she was in the 4th grade. Like I said, I don’t like to pressure people, but something told me to just casually mention it to her again. When I did, she told me she was already thinking about it, and we arranged the date for her baptism today. Her birthday is tomorrow.

DSC_0036

Naomi’s mother Helen, writes,

“Naomi was born and raised as a Seventh-day Adventist, but saw no need of baptism or Bible studies, until William asked her. She had worship at home, went to church, and went to TAA where she had Bible classes. William asked her to take a Bible study class and she decided to go. After the Bible study class she went about her daily routines, and started doing some worships at home with the Bible William showed her how to chain reference. Nothing was said about baptism. One day, recently, William asked her, “Are you thinking of baptism?” She said she was interested! Thanks to William, she took the Bible studies, chain referenced her Bible, and has now made her decision to be baptized! Thank you William, and those faithfully supporting his ministry.

You may watch Naomi’s baptism, as well as Pastor Rolando’s first sermon at Tampa First, here.

 

 

Don’t let the sun set on your life before giving your life to Jesus! I would love to help you make this decision. You may contact me at Bibleworker@TampaAdventist.net

The Most Precious Gift of all

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The night my mother was dying, I made an emergency flight to get out to see her. Problem was, my connection flight, in Love Field in Dallas, arrived several hours late, due to a tornado in Amarillo, where it was coming in from. I arrived home in Tulsa at 1:30 in the morning. I had an old friend from grade school scheduled to pick me up and take me to the hospital, when the plane was still scheduled to arrive on time. Even though it was a weeknight, with regular activities scheduled the next day, she insisted on still picking me up in the middle of the night, and driving me across town to the hospital, where I saw mom just hours before she passed away. Who would have ever dreamed, forty years earlier, when we were back in grade school, that one night, while living 1200 miles away, my friend would be there to help me in the middle of my worst night ever?

That night my friend gave me the most precious gift in the universe, which was time. She gave her time in the middle of the night, which gave me one more time with my mother.

One night, when I first got to Tampa, I was doing Bible work, when my car broke down. A friend who lived nearby, who had to work in the wee morning hours drove over and cheerfully helped me get my car fixed. Another case of a friend sacrificing his time for me.

When we think about stewardship, we mostly think of money. However, time is the most precious gift you can share. Time is the substance of life. When you give someone your time you are literally giving them your life.

As if that was not important enough, time is also money. A family may not be able to give $500.00 a month to the church, but they can give their time to clean the church, and save the church from spending $500.00 on a janitor, which in turn is the same as giving $500.00.

When I lived in the Dallas area, there was a sports coach who was a little rough around the edges, and wasn’t the most popular celebrity in the community. After he resigned, a lady wrote in to the newspaper to express her appreciation for the coach. She had attended a social gala with several area celebrities. She brought her 9 year old son, who had a rare disease, I’m sorry I don’t remember exactly what it was. She wrote that several of the celebrities patted him on the head, and then went on to their hobnobbing with the other celebrities, but the coach sat down with him and talked to him for over 30 minutes! The coach’s time with her son meant the world to the mother!

While we study stewardship this quarter, lets remember time is the most precious gift we have to share.

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

Anything Except What God Says!

Cruise Ship 011

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In 1 Samuel God wanted to be the king of Israel, but Israel wanted to be like the other nations and have their own king. Instead of being a peculiar people they wanted to blend in with the world as much as possible. Even today I have heard Christian leaders boast how the church resembles worldly establishments, as though they were the standard, but I digress. The fact is that Israel pleaded for and got their own king, someone besides God Himself.

 

Later, I was reading about Jesus being crucified,

“What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back. John 19:15 NLT

When I read this my mind flashed back to Israel saying they didn’t want God to be their king. Here they are telling Pilate give us any king but God!

This week’s lesson talks about Romans 14 and Paul telling us not to judge people by observing certain Sabbaths or days. We understand from Colossians 2:14-17 that Paul is speaking of ceremonial Sabbaths that pointed towards the cross. The weekly Sabbath is spoken of as singular in most Bible versions while ceremonial Sabbaths are spoken of as plural as in Colossians 2 and Romans 14. Also the weekly Sabbath is not a shadow of the cross as it existed before the need of a cross, (Genesis 2:1-3) and after the cross has accomplished its goal, (Isaiah 66:23Acts 18:4Hebrews 4). So we as Adventist Bible students understand that the weekly Sabbath is still in effect, and it was the ceremonial Sabbaths that were a shadow of things to come, and now Paul says don’t judge anyone either way regarding ceremonial Sabbaths.

My point now is this. People will tell me it does not matter which day I keep as the weekly Sabbath, but then they turn around and get frustrated with me for keeping the Bible Sabbath over Sunday. Is this the same mentality of the Jews in 1 Samuel and John 19? Is this not saying, we will have any King but God, and we will keep any Sabbath except for the one God says to keep? Is that within itself a rebellious attitude, saying anything except what God says? If it doesn’t matter what day I keep then why do other Christians get upset when I keep Saturday? Why do they want me to keep any day but the one God said?

The world will always be pressuring us to conform to its ways over God’s ways. Meanwhile Paul writes in Romans,

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 NLT

I choose to Follow God instead of the world, especially when the world says, “not God’s way but my way!” God’s way is good, it is pleasing to both God and me, and it is perfect. I don’t want to be like those of old who say “anything except what God says.”

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

6 Everyday Childhood Habits of Jesus

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. 

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Luke 2:52 NKJV

Would you have loved having the boy Jesus in your Sabbath School class, or would you become annoyed by His constant questioning? (See Luke 2:46) Would you have enjoyed having Jesus as your childhood playmate, or would you become annoyed when He would not join you in mischief? (See Luke 2:40) The amazing thing is, Jesus was such as much God as child as an adult. Even with all the wickedness our children face in our world today, Jesus is still an example and Savior to them.

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15 NKJV

No child of humanity will ever be called to live a holy life amid so fierce a conflict with temptation as was our Saviour. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 71

So how did Jesus escape all this temptation as a child? Of course it helps that He was born of the Spirit! Thankfully in John 3, Jesus offers us all that same opportunity! Thankfully God sent a messenger, who gave us a beautiful insight into the childhood of Jesus, and shares with us 6 everyday childhood habits of the Son of God.

1. He always studied God’s Word.
“Every child may gain knowledge as Jesus did. As we try to become acquainted with our heavenly Father through His word, angels will draw near, our minds will be strengthened, our characters will be elevated and refined. We shall become more like our Saviour.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 70

2. He always prayed.
Communion with God through prayer develops the mental and moral faculties. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Pages 70-71

3. He cultivated thoughts on spiritual themes.
“and the spiritual powers strengthen as we cultivate thoughts upon spiritual things.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 71

4. Jesus kept busy as a child.
” In His industrious life there were no idle moments to invite temptation.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 72

5. He was intentional and purposeful with His time.
“No aimless hours opened the way for corrupting associations.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 72

6. Even though He was tempted in all points, Jesus did not invite temptation.
“So far as possible, He closed the door to the tempter.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 72

The life of Jesus was a life in harmony with God. While He was a child, He thought and spoke as a child; but no trace of sin marred the image of God within Him. Yet He was not exempt from temptation. The inhabitants of Nazareth were proverbial for their wickedness. The low estimate in which they were generally held is shown by Nathanael’s question, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” John 1:46. Jesus was placed where His character would be tested. It was necessary for Him to be constantly on guard in order to preserve His purity. He was subject to all the conflicts which we have to meet, that He might be an example to us in childhood, youth, and manhood.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 71

Our Reasonable Service

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Several years ago, an American restaurant chain had commercials suggesting the different reasons to go out to eat at their restaurant and celebrate. Maybe you found 50 cents in the pockets of some old jeans, or maybe you hit all the lights green on your way home from work. The lighthearted message of the commercials, was there is always something to celebrate. The makers of the commercials knew they were being a little silly. But I wonder if society today is getting a little carried away with participation trophies, and celebrating first downs in American football, when we used to only celebrate actual touchdowns. Are we praising ourselves for doing everyday things that should just be automatically done as no big deal? 

I love our young people, and I support and encourage them. But I wonder if we praise a little too much sometimes? 

The Bible has little to say in praise of men. Little space is given to recounting the virtues of even the best men who have ever lived. This silence is not without purpose; it is not without a lesson. All the good qualities that men possess are the gift of God; their good deeds are performed by the grace of God through Christ. Since they owe all to God the glory of whatever they are or do belongs to Him alone; they are but instruments in His hands. More than this–as all the lessons of Bible history teach–it is a perilous thing to praise or exalt men; for if one comes to lose sight of his entire dependence on God, and to trust to his own strength, he is sure to fall. Man is contending with foes who are stronger than he. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in high places.” Ephesians 6:12, margin. It is impossible for us in our own strength to maintain the conflict; and whatever diverts the mind from God, whatever leads to self-exaltation or to self-dependence, is surely preparing the way for our overthrow. The tenor of the Bible is to inculcate distrust of human power and to encourage trust in divine power. –Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, Page 718 

As I work with various churches across the country, I see some churches where a teenager is praised without end for reading a Scripture in church, while in other churches young people participate in the service as though it were just expected as no big deal. Aren’t young people just as much a part of our church as anyone else? Do they require a pat on the back for every little job done right? Shouldn’t these things be expected? 

When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’? No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’ And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’” Luke 17:7-10 NLT

A teacher was trying to get her students caught up on their work. Once they started catching up, she started praising them, but as soon as she did, she lamented that they started falling behind again! Are we living in a society that praises and celebrates when in reality there is not that much to praise or celebrate? Shouldn’t students be getting their work done simply because that’s their job?

In 2006 an Amish school was attacked by a gunman. While the teacher ran to get help, realizing help would not arrive in time, a thirteen year old girl asked the gunman to shoot her first in order to buy time for the other children. The crazed gunman obliged. In a newspaper article it was pointed out that at this girl’s funeral she was not praised! The Amish do not praise the dead. Didn’t Jesus tell His followers to pick up their cross everyday and follow Him? Isn’t that what this young girl was doing-her reasonable service? While I see this girl as a remarkable heroine, the Amish see her as a child doing what she was taught to do and supposed to do-put others first. 

I pray that we are pointing our young people to the cross, so that they can fall in love with Jesus, and serve Him because they love Him instead of serving for praise. Giving all because Jesus gave all is our reasonable service. 

Study the Sabbath School lesson further at ssnet.org