Nobody is Better Than Anybody Else

In Matthew 17, Peter, James and John were invited to an exclusive experience of the kingdom of God when they witnessed the transfiguration of Christ. Moses and Elijah were there as well, Moses representing those who will die before seeing the kingdom, and Elijah represented those who will be alive when Christ returns and will never experience death. Both Elijah and Moses were there to encourage Jesus in His humanity. As wonderful as it must have been to be translated without ever seeing death, who do you think was the greater comfort to Jesus? Since Jesus was facing actual death, do you think it is possible that Moses may have been able to comfort Jesus, considering that Moses actually died? On the other hand, Elijah knew what it was like to feel alone, thinking everyone was out to get him. Do you think Elijah’s experience also helped him help Jesus in a unique way?

When they returned to the bottom of the mountain after the transfiguration, they found the rest of the disciples unable to heal a boy with an evil spirit. Jesus healed the boy, but when the disciples asked why they couldn’t do it, Jesus told them,

“You don’t have enough faith”  Matthew 17:20 NLT 

You may or may not agree, but I don’t think they lacked faith in God’s healing power. They had seen plenty of that. I believe, knowing the disciples, they were feeling left out of the transfiguration experience and were doubting God’s love. They thought Jesus loved Peter, James, and John more than them. Because of their lack of faith in God’s love they were unprepared to participate in a remarkable miracle delivering a boy from demons! They did not esteem their role as being just as important as what Peter, James and John had been called to. Their lack of faith in God’s love prohibited them from accomplishing their calling.

While the prodigal son in Luke 15 was starving in a far away country, he very well may have compared himself to his “perfect” older brother who did all the right things. He may have wished he could have been more like him. However at the end of the story we see the older brother outside of the father’s home exactly like the prodigal had been, struggling with his own issues of selfishness. So as it turned out, the prodigal’s brother was no better than he was.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about the gifts of the Spirit. We all have different gifts, but that does not mean one is better than the other. Young or old, rich or poor,  Paul says,

 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:27 NLT

While Moses and Elijah had different experiences they were both vital in befriending Jesus. None was better than the other. While Peter, James and John were called to the Mount of Transfiguration, the other disciples had an important calling too. None was better than the other. While the Prodigal perceived the older brother to be “all that,” it turned out that neither was better than the other.

Each has his place in the eternal plan of heaven. Each is to work in co-operation with Christ for the salvation of souls. Not more surely is the place prepared for us in the heavenly mansions than is the special place designated on earth where we are to work for God.-Ellen White, Christ Object Lessons, Pages 326-327 

We all have different callings in life, but young or old, rich or poor, none of us are any better than anyone else.

Oh, don’t worry; we wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant! 2 Corinthians 10:12 NLT

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

4 Reasons why I Love my Ereader

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I am writing from the beautiful Tampa Bay area, where I love to relax and read my ereader.

I’ve had my ereader two weeks now and am already in love with it. Initially I got it because it doesn’t have the light, like a cell phone or tablet, that strains your eyes. Here are some more reasons it has become my favorite gadget.

  1. While several of my friends tell me they need a break from Facebook, Facebook is actually a part of my ministry. I don’t need a long break from Facebook. My ereader allows me to break away, long enough to connect with God through the Bibles on my Kindle. The Bibles I have purchased at a reasonable price are easy to navigate, similar to an app. I can read, pray and meditate without social media notifications interfering. What is cool is that I can still post passages to Facebook, through Kindle even though the ereader doesn’t have Facebook! When I use my ereader in church, I can’t be “accused” of going onto social media instead of my Bible as there is no social media on ereader.
  2. I already mentioned there is no light, which is not healthy to stare directly into for long periods of time, like a cell phone or tablet. By the way I brought my ereader to the school where I help, and a 6th grader asked me how I read it at night, since it has no light. I told her I turn on a lamp. She thought that was a splendid novel idea! Since there is no light it is so easy to read in daylight! I can take my ereader to the park on Bayshore, my favorite place to read, and there is no glare or shadow.
  3. The battery life is long. In two weeks my battery has never gotten low. I have charged it just a few times for 3 or 4 minutes to keep it at maximum. I can take my ereader anywhere without worrying about the battery going dead. This makes it more like a real book, but it is actually an entire library.
  4. In just two weeks I am finding that my reading time has become much more focused, meaningful, and intentional. I select specific books to read and am not distracted by other articles on the Internet, that are nothing more than petty distractions. I’m sorry! Were you reading something important before you clicked on this article? I won’t distract you any longer then, so you can get back to your important reading. Just remember, ereaders are cool!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             “You can search for Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes and Noble Nook ereaders on Google.” -Captain Obvious istock_e-reader

Don’t Pray Often, Pray Always

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray….Luke 18:1 NLT

As Sunday’s lesson talks about abiding in Christ, I have found for myself that praying often is not the answer. I must pray always.

I used to have a golf cart relationships with Jesus. Golf carts charge their batteries early in the morning and then disconnect from their source of power and run all over the golf course on their own power the rest of the day. So I would get up early, pray and read several chapters in the Bible and then (I don’t want to say that I actually disconnected from God), run off to meet the day in the power I had “charged up.”

In later years I realized I am not a golf cart. I am a trolley car. Trolley cars have to stay connected to the cable the entire day. The moment they separate from the cable they can no longer move an inch. That’s me today. I have gone from dedicating my life to Jesus, to dedicating hour by hour to Jesus. For years right before I would preach, I would meet with the elders in a special room to pray and surrender myself to the power of the Holy Spirit for the time I would be preaching. However, I realize I need to surrender myself to the Holy Spirit for the other 167 hours in the week, and do so just as intentionally as I do for the worship hour.

I used to pray before reading my Bible. Now I also pray before reading any book. After all there may be some object lessons in there. If I feel “funny” praying about reading a certain book, then I ask myself if I should be reading it at all. To not pray before reading or doing something because praying during that activity makes me feel uncomfortable, I must ask myself why? If I choose to go ahead and do the activity without praying, then I have just intentionally disconnected myself from Christ! I can’t afford to do that. I am a trolley car and not a golf cart. I have no power on my own. I have learned by experience the truth in the old Hymn, “I Need Thee Every Hour.” After all, I was created to be home for the Holy Spirit. I was created for communion with my Creator. We can talk to God throughout the day. As we lie in bed, dress for work, go about our daily tasks, we can continue our prayer throughout the day. We don’t need to say “amen” as the prayer never has to end.

Although there may be a tainted, corrupted atmosphere around us, we need not breathe its miasma, but may live in the pure air of heaven. We may close every door to impure imaginings and unholy thoughts by lifting the soul into the presence of God through sincere prayer. Those whose hearts are open to receive the support and blessing of God will walk in a holier atmosphere than that of earth and will have constant communion with heaven. -Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Page 99

They key to victory is not to pray often, but to pray always.

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

Is Being Fruitful That Simple?

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. John 15:5 NLT

Is it that simple? Can I be fruitful by just remaining and abiding in Christ?

I was reading John 15 the other morning, when this phrase jumped out at me. If I just live in Jesus I can be fruitful. Now living in Christ does not mean being idle. Yet the passage seemed so simple. I don’t need to hype up my evangelistic series. I don’t need a cutting edge technology-filled worship service to compete with all the other really cool livestream services.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s wonderful that my 91-year-old aunt can livestream her church worship service when she can’t make it to church. But let’s be careful. Vacations lose their meaning when they become all about the photo opps for Facebook, instead of the actual vacation. Do we get so wrapped up in making sure our livestream worship service is as smooth and hip as that “really cool mega church” that we forget our worship service is just that – a worship service?

Several years ago I had a Bible study group made up of non-churched youth. One week my church was having an evangelistic series with all the hip modern music, so I decided, why not take the kids and their parents to see this instead of our regular Bible study? Let’s show them we do more than just study. Let’s show them how “with it” we are. So all the kids and a few of their parents came. The music was wild, and while it was not my taste, I was happy, thinking the kids would be impressed. After the service I asked a 13-year-old in my study group, how it went over.  With shrugged shoulders he said, “I wish we would have had the Bible study instead.”

That was several years ago and I have since learned what Google has known all along. People like simple. Google doesn’t busy their home page with ads and articles like so many other search engines. They wisely keep it simple.

In Tampa I have a Thursday afternoon teen Bible study with mostly non-churched teens. Recently the kids and I were separated because of the public school holiday break. When we came back together, a high school Junior shared some questions she had come up with while studying the Bible on her own. She told me she thought Elijah’s story was similar to end-time events, and why. I agreed. Her family was not studying with her. She had no study guides. Just a young girl and her Bible alone with the Holy Spirit making amazing discoveries! So simple.

In Plant City, I have been assisting our pastor with a Wednesday night youth Bible study group. We started off playing games, serving refreshments and having a short Bible study at the end. Over time the game time has become shorter and shorter, and the Bible study time is becoming longer and longer. Not by the pastor or my design, but because over time the youth wanted to study more and play less! This tells me people today are not hungry for fancy programs. They are hungry for the simple Word of God. At Plant City we sometimes have hymns, we sometimes have the latest praise songs and teams, but every Sabbath young and old show up for the Word of God.

Come to find out, people are not hungry for particular worship styles and fancy programs. They are hungry for God. Jesus tells us if we simply abide in Him and His Word, we can bear fruit to feed a starving world.

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

What’s the Point of Being Holy?

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them! Luke 15:1-2 NLT 

Companion means someone you eat bread with. “Com” is Latin for “with” and “pan” is
Holiness is in the sanctuary message but the goal is intimacy.Latin for “bread.” So when Jesus was publicly eating with sinners He was publicly declaring them His companions and friends! This infuriated the pharisees, who prided themselves from staying away from sinners. Problem is, their pride also kept them away from Jesus! Jesus knew the only way sinners could ever become holy is if they hung out with Him all the time. Now, what if I told you, that if you are friends with Jesus so that you can be holy that you are missing the whole point? What if I told you Jesus does not want perfection as much as He wants intimacy? Jesus does not befriend sinners so He can make them Holy. He makes them Holy so the friendship can become more intimate.

“Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them.” Exodus 25:8

God doesn’t live among us so He can make us perfect. He perfects our love to make our relationship more intimate. Another key Adventist belief is the second coming, but with the same goal.

I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. John 14:3

God wants intimacy with us, and that is why He wants us to be Holy.

For I, the Lord, am the one who brought you up from the land of Egypt, that I might be your God. Therefore, you must be holy because I am holy. Leviticus 11:45 NLT

What does it mean to be holy? Does it mean living in the attic of a monastery at the top of a mountain? Does it mean only having baptized SDA members as contacts in my Google contacts? Does it mean eating Worthington Veggie Links instead of Hebrew National hot dogs?  Does it mean I only listen to the Heritage Singers and never set my radio dial to a secular station?

The English word “holy” dates back to at least the 11th century with the Old English word hālig, an adjective derived from hāl meaning “whole” and used to mean “uninjured, sound, healthy, entire, complete”. –Wikipedia 

If you Google “What does holy mean” you will find answers like “dedicated” and “set apart.” God is not looking for outward perfection. He is looking for inner intimacy. He totally dedicated to us. He is “wholey” dedicated to an intimate relationship with you, and wants you to be “wholey” dedicated to intimacy with Him. This goes back to why Jesus was eating with Sinners. He wanted to be their friends. By being friends with us His removes our unbelief and we trust and obey Him, not to be self righteous but to become even more intimate with Him!

When I was younger I wished I could be righteous like Enoch so I could walk close to God. Then I realized Enoch did not walk close to God because he was righteous. He sensed his weakness and this made him stick close to God. Just like the tax collectors and notorious sinners knew how weak they were, when they ate with Jesus and made themselves companions and friends with Jesus. Jesus wants to make you holy His just like He is Holy yours. He wants to be your friend and companion.

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” Revelation 3:20 NLT

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Why I Can’t Believe in Myself

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A while back I was having a conversation with a young man who was studying eastern religions. He asked me about my faith so I told Him I believed in Jesus. “But this faith in Jesus leads you to believe in yourself, right?” He asked. “No.” I said. “It actually makes me not believe in myself at all. Only in Jesus.” The young man did even try to hide his scowl, and as to this date has not wanted to hear anymore about my faith.  Apparently believing in yourself is very important to this young man, but how can I believe in myself, when I know all too well what Paul confesses?

 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. Romans 7:18 NKJV

Hard for me to believe in something where nothing good dwells.

But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Romans 7:23-24 NKJV

Romans 7 knows me all too well. This is why I wrote in a previous article, “The Bible is the only book that knows me.” But there is hope! Not in me but in Jesus.

 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. Romans 7:25 NKJV

My mind wants to serve God but my flesh wants to serve sin. So what is the solution? Paul shares the solution in chapter 8.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4 NKJV

Jesus took my flesh with nothing good in it and crucified it. Now I can walk in the spirit and the law of love can be fulfilled in me.

 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:24 NKJV

In the physical world one must be born before they can die. In the Spiritual world one must die before they can be born.

For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. Galatians 5:17 NKJV

When the Spirit wars against the flesh is it the good things or the bad things we cannot do? Which is stronger? The Holy Spirit or the flesh? The previous verse makes it obvious.

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 NLT

So if I walk in the Spirit I have victory over the flesh. Why do I need victory over my flesh? Why can’t I believe in my own flesh like my friend wanted me to? Let’s examine the works of the flesh and see how many of them are good things that I can believe in.

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 NKJV 

Eeeww, I didn’t find anything good in there, did you? No wonder Jesus had to crucify my flesh on the cross, and I must crucify it daily. See Luke 9:23 You may ask how does one crucify the flesh? To be honest, I don’t know! Good thing Jesus took my flesh to the cross and did it for me! When I look at the cross the pride of the flesh dies.

For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. Galatians 6:13-15 NKJV

Its impossible to look at the cross and glory in my flesh.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride. -Isaac Watts

What is justification by faith? It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself. When men see their own nothingness, they are prepared to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. -Ellen White, Faith I Live by, Page, 111

Now that my glory is laid in the dust look at what is possible.

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:22-26 NKJV

 Notice while these fruits of the Spirit are seen in my life, they are not my works! We saw earlier how disgusting all my works are. No, these are not the results of my works, they are the result of the Holy Spirit living in me and producing His own fruit. 

When we live by faith on the Son of God, the fruits of the Spirit will be seen in our lives; not one will be missing. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 676 

See why I told my friend the answer is not for me to believe in myself?

 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, Philippians 3:3 NKJV

The circumcision are those like Abraham, who stopped trusting his flesh to produce the fruit that only the Holy Spirit can produce. God had Abraham put away the part of the flesh he was trusting in so He could trust God’s promises instead. I pray God will give me another opportunity to talk to my friend again, so I can explain all that is possible when we stop believing in ourselves and believe in Jesus. Then again, the Holy Spirit can have anybody explain that to him. What the Holy Spirit does in me He can do in anyone. After all, its not me working. It is the fruit of Spirit.

You may study this week’s SS lesson on the Holy Spirit here.