Yes, But….

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. I am sure where you are living is beautiful as well. 🙂

A few years ago I was  visiting family and friends in an Adventist University community. Several different family and friends attend several different Adventist churches in the area. Sabbath, I decided to join a particular friend at his church. The sermon was on how we are not to judge others. As I sat and listened to the sermon, I could not help, but in my mind think of texts that say we are to judge, Like 1 Corinthians 5- 6. I thought the sermon was very much one-sided. Then I believe the Holy Spirit spoke to me. William there are about 20 Adventist churches in the area God could have sent you to this morning, but I sent you to this church so you could hear this particular message. This is the side of the topic that you need to hear! 

Suppose I have a friend in New Zealand who has been battling depression, because she misses her home in South Africa. One morning she gets  up and is trying to look at the bright side of the situation, so she posts a picture of a beautiful New Zealand sunrise on Facebook, with the message, “New Zealand sure has some beautiful scenery.” Then suppose all of her friends in America and South Africa start commenting back about how beautiful their land is too. No doubt South Africa and America are beautiful too, but wouldn’t that distract from the point that is relevant to my friend in New Zealand?  My friend in New Zealand is already aware that America and South Africa are beautiful. But that is not the point. Instead of commenting back with, “Yes, but…..America is beautiful too!” maybe I should just agree, “Yes! That is a very beautiful sunrise. You live in a wonderful land” and just leave it at that! It is not going to help my NZ friend battle depression by totally exhausting the subject of beautiful places to live on her post.

Believe it or not Jesus Himself did not exhaust every subject in every discourse. He spoke words that needed to be heard in that particular situation. Over time and by cross-examining Scripture we get the big picture. Jesus’ sermon in Luke 4 is an example of how Jesus  purposely left out certain points because they were not relevant to the specific group He was addressing.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come. Luke 4:18-19 NLT

Jesus was quoting from Isaiah 61:1-2 which went on to read, “and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.” But Jesus left that part out! Jesus knew the crowd He was talking to would become a little too happy about God’s anger on their enemies, so He left that out. It was totally true but not a truth that they needed to hear!  So when we accuse a preacher or Sabbath school teacher of not preaching truth, because they leave out the morsel of truth we enjoy feasting on,  we are making an unwarranted judgment of “heresy.” We can have unity by listening to what others have to say without constantly bickering and arguing, even with a “yes….but.” Sometimes those “yes….buts” are a distraction from what God wants us to see. Often times the point in the “yes….but” has already been well established, and the other person is not trying to disagree, but just give the topic a proper balance, and if we reply back with a “yes…but,” we throw the topic off balance again.

We can encourage oneness and promote unity by listening to understand instead of just listening to reply with our opinion. We don’t always have to bring up the other side of the topic. Maybe God knows you are already grounded on one side and now need a more balanced understanding of the topic by hearing some other truths on the topic. That is what I realized God was telling me while listening to the sermon in my friend’s church that Sabbath.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

Adventist Beliefs in Light of the Cross

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. –Ellen White, Gospel Workers, Page 315 

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. 

Sabbath’s lesson this week says, “This week we look at some essential biblical teachings that make us Adventists and that shape our unity in faith.” As we take a look at these teachings, it is important to remember that we are saved by God’s love alone. So why is our understanding of these teachings so important? Bible teachings, or doctrines morph our understanding of God’s love, and our relationship and acceptance of God depends greatly on our understanding of His love. Bible teachings have to be correctly understood in order to correctly understand God’s love. For example, I have read testimonies from not just one, but various former atheists, who testified that the true Bible teaching about the punishment of the wicked helped them accept Christianity. Before, they could not comprehend a God who would torture sinners throughout all eternity. They could not believe such a god exists, and they are right! The god they were told about who tortures sinners for all eternity does not exist!

It is also important for us to remember that these Adventist beliefs were discovered by pioneers of various denominations. They all sat down together putting aside previous notions, and decided to go by the Bible alone. Together they found the truths Adventists hold dear today. However, they did not do all this searching, digging and studying for us! They studied for themselves and we must study for ourselves. So let’s begin,

Sunday’s lesson mentions Salvation in Jesus.

Why is studying salvation in light of the cross so important?

In pagan religions man makes the sacrifices to obtain the pleasure and acceptance of his “god”. Some pagan tribes have offered up human sacrifices just to make sure the sun would rise the next day. They also brought gifts for their “gods” hoping to gain their love and blessing. In Christianity it is the exact opposite. Our God sacrifices Himself on the Cross to obtain not His but our pleasure and acceptance. While we were the guilty ones He did not wait for us to bring a gift or peace offering, but made Himself the peace offering. Revelation 12 tells us of a war in heaven. Not with machine guns and tanks, but a war of the minds. Isaiah 14 tells us Satan wanted God’s seat to the point where he was willing to kill God Himself to get it. He convinced a third of the angels that it would be in the best interest of the Universe if he was in control rather than God. Satan came to this earth and in Genesis 3 convinced Eve and thus mankind that he was more interested in our welfare than God was. For years a great controversy has raged over who has our best interest in mind.

The Cross settles the controversy of who has our best interest in mind once and for all. At the Cross we see the true character of both God and Satan. While we see Satan manipulating men to kill God, we see a tyrant who is willing to kill anyone who gets in his way of being number one. In contrast we see a God who is willing to give His life to save the world. The Cross shows who is really interested in our welfare and who is just using us as pawns for his own selfish purposes. While Satan pretended to be on our side and acting in our best interest we see what he is really up to. We can also see the God whom Satan claimed did not really care about us is actually at peace with us and on our side!

You may find a Bible based study on the plan of salvation in light of the cross here. 

Monday’s lesson mentions the second coming of Jesus. 

Why is studying the second coming in light of the cross so important?

There is a difference between believing Jesus will come, and loving His appearing. Children who are misbehaving at home while mother is out running errands believe she is coming again but since they have misbehaved and made a mess out of the house they do not love her appearing. A true Adventist is one who not only believes in Jesus’ coming but is in love with Him and His appearing. They are like Paul in Galatians 6:14 and in love with the Cross and crucified to the world! The Bible often refers to the church as a woman (Revelation 12). Revelation 19:7 mentions a bride who is ready for marriage with the Lamb. Who could the Lamb be but Jesus and who could this bride be but His church? I have heard it said that the church wants to flirt with Jesus and even date Him, but the church also wants to flirt and date with the world. Jesus is not coming back to flirt and date His church. He is coming back for a wedding, to marry His bride! It is at the cross, where the church falls in love with Jesus and decides to stop dating the world and marry Jesus.

You may find a Bible based study on the second coming of Jesus here. 

Tuesday’s lesson mentions the Sanctuary. 

Why is studying the sanctuary in light of the cross so important? 

At the cross we see a God who provided a sacrifice to reconcile the world to Himself. In the sanctuary we see Jesus mediating between the Father and the world, not convincing the Father to love and accept the world, but convincing the world to love and accept the Father. The sanctuary shows us the purpose of the cross was not to appease and angry God, but to appease an angry race. 

You may find a Bible based study on the sanctuary and cleansing of the sanctuary here. 

Wednesday’s lesson mentions the Sabbath.

Why is studying the Sabbath in light of the cross so important?

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.”

You may find a Bible based study on the Sabbath here. 

Thursday’s lesson mentions death and the resurrection. 

Why is studying death and the resurrection in light of the cross so important?

First of all if you don’t really die then Jesus did not really die for us and we still need a Savior. The lie that we don’t really die destroys the cross and everything Jesus endured and accomplished on it. If Jesus was not really tasting death like Hebrews 2:9 says He did, then we have just minimized the cross to a six hour pain endurance marathon. I remember sitting in a funeral a while back for a little girl who was hit and killed by a car. Her mother sat on the front pew sobbing uncontrollably. Meanwhile the pastor talked about how happy the little girl and Jesus were right now up in heaven. Do you know how cruel that made Jesus look to the poor mother? Would Jesus tear a mother’s heart apart just to go have fun with her daughter? I think not! The little girl is resting in her grave and will be united with Jesus in heaven when the mother is reunited with her at the second coming.

You may find a Bible based study on death and the resurrection here. 

How do these Bible teachings in light of the cross help you to appreciate the love of God?

My Fall 2018 Open Newsletter to my Contributors

Its hard to believe that 31/2 years later, my ministry is still going, based mostly upon contributions from people like yourself. Many of you have been contributing faithfully every month. Many of you have given faithfully when you can. All is greatly appreciated! Some have no longer been able to give which is understandable. I pray God will provide new contributors and keep this ministry going strong. Every time I leave a home where I know God has used me, I promise God as I get in my car to leave, that as long as He keeps making it possible for me to share the gospel I will continue to do so!

Many of you follow this ministry on Facebook, but I just wanted to share a few ways God has blessed since last Spring. First here is a testimony from Sue Halstead, pictured below, front right.

SueMy husband Bob and I teach a Youth Sabbath School Class at the Homosassa SDA Church in Florida.

We have engaged William Earnhardt to teach  a baptismal class. God has given him a special gift to gain an instant rapport with the young people and the adults alike.
One eleven year old , Macayla , put it this way
 “As a teacher, he makes every subject understandable and entertaining so it holds my attention”. she goes on to say, ” as a speaker at church, he gives 100% good messages; he uses real life situations to make his point.”
We especially appreciate how God is using him to “tell the old, old story ” in such a refreshing way. God is doing a mighty work through him!  If you would like to be part of winning souls through his ministry, you can contribute by sending one time or monthly contributions to the Plant City SDA Church P.O. Box 5379 Plant City, Florida  33563. Please mark your check, “Bible Worker Fund.”
Bob and Sue Halstead
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I am still working closely with the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, as well as the Plant City Seventh-day Adventist church, where God has continued to let me bring people to Him in baptism.

Pastor Davis, the pastor of the Emanuel SDA Church, our sister church in Plant City, had me giving a weekly Bible chain referencing to his church family, teaching them how give Bible studies and get decisions for Jesus. There were about 30 attending the class regularly. Pastor Brad, at the Tampa First SDA Church also had me giving the same class to his church family on Wednesday nights.

This ministry is still reaching people around the world in over 175 countries via this blog site and the Sabbath School Net. 

Last Spring about 16 students from the New Port Richey Seventh-day Adventist church school were baptized as a result of the week of prayer principal Keith Nelson invited me to do. I also continued studying with the young people.

I want to thank those of you who follow my ministry on Facebook and support me with your prayers and contributions!

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. Acts 20:24 NLT

Thank you for continuing your faithful contributions, or for considering becoming a new contributor. As always thanks for all your prayers for my ministry and those around the world doing the same!

Tax deductible contributions can be sent to the Plant City SDA Church, P.O. Box 5379 Plant City FL 33653. 

Sergio and Isael’s Baptism Pictures and Stories

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Back in November of 2007, Janjay (left) and her sister Tinsey gave their lives to Jesus. Ever since then, like all of Jesus’ true disciples, they have both been sharing Jesus with their friends.

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This year Janjay invited her friend Sergio to church. There he met Pastor Roly who not only studied with Sergio but became his good friend. Because Janajay and Pastor Roly both shared God’s love with Sergio, he fell in love with Jesus and gave his life to Jesus in baptism today.

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Sergio had declared years ago that he would only be baptized by a fellow Cuban, and only when he feared death. Sadly, this last year Sergio lost his father, and the sting of death led him to look into Jesus more intently. Also when he met Pastor Roly he discovered he was a fellow Cuban! Jesus made it so Sergio would be baptized exactly the way he said he would do it. It was not an easy road, but it is rewarding for Sergio to now be in the family of God and have the hope of the resurrection in Christ!

Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death?For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him.When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Romans 6:3-11 NLT

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In this picture Isael (right) is praying with his friend William during a communion/footwashing ceremony we had at Tampa Adventist Academy. Years ago I began an after school Bible study at TAA, for whoever wanted to come, and Isael faithfully came for several years. Later he was in my 5th and 6th grade Bible class, where he also learned the Seventh-day Adventist fundamental beliefs, and how to give a chain referenced Bible study so he could share the hope we have in Jesus with his friends.

A couple of weeks ago, when I was at Tampa First for Alex’s baptism, Isael approached me and asked if he could be baptized in a couple of weeks.

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Today I was proud to present Isael his own baptism certificate, which also included all of the Bible teachings we had been studying together for several years. Isael writes,

The reason I want to be baptized is because I know and understand the life that God wants for me. When you get baptized its like starting a new life Christ, and that’s what I want to do today.

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For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. Colossians 2:12 NLT

Thank you for supporting my ministry with your tax deductible contributions, which allow me to continue bringing people to Jesus so they can be trained and equipped to bring people to Jesus as well!

Plant City SDA Church

Bible Worker Fund

PO Box 5379

Plant City, FL

33563

You are That Man!

Their only suggestion was that we keep on helping the poor, which I have always been eager to do. Galatians 2:10 NLT

Do you remember Ingathering? I wish we still did this door to door, where we would collect donations for our community services, going door to door around Christmas time. Several times as a child, while ingathering, we would mention, “the poor” and the people we were talking to would joke, “Well I am poor. Will you help me?” As this week’s lesson talks about helping the poor, it may be a good idea to ask ourselves if we are poor or rich?

King David heard a story about oppression and became very angry about it, until Nathan told him, “You are that man!” Like King David, I have to admit, for years  I thought I was among the poor that God’s justice would vindicate. After all, I have lost money to dishonest and greedy people, and I compared myself to those who had more. Then I realized there are many who consider me rich! With almost 7 billion people on the planet, there are only 1 billion cars. 1 This does not mean that 1 out of 7 people owns a car, because there are many people and companies who own many cars, meaning there are over 6 billion people who do not own a car. So if you own a car, even if its a 1980 Ford Pinto, you have something that over 6 billion earthlings do not have.

The other night when you got sick in the middle of the night and had to run to the toilet down the hall, you may not have realized what a luxury that midnight run was. Over two billion people don’t have a toilet to run to in the middle of the night. 2 So their experience with sickness may be a little different than yours. The other night I got a headache and my bones became a little achy, so I took a hot bath and presto! Headache disappeared and my bones felt brand new. Again, a hot bath would not be an option for billions of people. What a luxury!

I now realize when the Bible talks about the poor and rich, I am one of the rich people. That means when I read the passage below, I need to read it, thinking of myself as one of the rich people, instead of considering myself one of the poor people.

Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags.  Your gold and silver are corroded. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This corroded treasure you have hoarded will testify against you on the day of judgment.  For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.  You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every desire. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter. James 5:1-5 NLT

But how could I be holding back the wages of the workers in the field? I don’t even own a field. How about the gospel workers in God’s field? Do I return an honest tithe and offering? If not, then I am cheating the field workers of their wages just like James says. Do I give an honest tip to the waitress, barber, or the boy who carried my grocery bags to the car? If not, I am the cheater James is talking to. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Withholding money which rightfully belongs to others is not the only form of oppression. How about when we snub someone from our social circle because they don’t conform to our beliefs or opinions? That is emotional oppression! How about when we sneer at the kid who just let the ball go in the other goal, costing our kid’s team the game? That’s emotional oppression. So you don’t have to be a millionaire to be oppressive.

No matter what my losses in life have been, I am still the rich person James is warning in James 5.

If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Romans 8:31-32 NLT

If I give my bread to someone who never pays me back that is okay. My Father will give me all the bread I need. If I love someone who never loves me back, that is okay. My Father gives me all the love I need. Whenever the Bible gives warnings to the rich, I know those warnings are for me personally. Nathan woke David up by saying, “You are that man!” When I read James 5 the Holy Spirit woke me up by saying, “You are that man!