What is Jesus Saying About You?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Jesus has an amazing promise for the church of Sardis and all those who listen.

He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. Revelation 3:5 NKJV

Imagine your name rolling off the lips of Jesus! Imagine Jesus telling the Father how faithful you are, while all the angels listen and nod their heads in agreement. Too often we get worried about what others think about us, especially if we think our future may be in their hands, whether its a prospective employer or prospective father-in-law or what have you. Yet,

If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31 NKJV

Too often we needlessly worry about what others think of us. I have learned it does not matter. Years ago I heard a friend say, “What others think about me is none of my business!” I have adopted that as my own motto, though I have to admit I have not been 100% perfect at it. Still I have grown to understand that we all perceive things differently. The youngest child in the family perceives family dynamics so much differently than the oldest child, that experts say it is like growing up in totally different families. If a family can be perceived differently by different people, then so can an individual. We simply cannot control how the world around us perceives us. So let’s just leave all of that in God’s hands. The good news is it doesn’t really matter. Instead of worrying about what others say about us here on earth, our focus should be on the throne of God in heaven. What is Jesus saying about you before the Father and the angels? That is all that matters. If your name is rolling off the lips of the Son of God, as He declares you an over comer then it doesn’t matter what anyone else says!

“Listen to me, you who know right from wrong, you who cherish my law in your hearts. Do not be afraid of people’s scorn, nor fear their insults. For the moth will devour them as it devours clothing. The worm will eat at them as it eats wool. But my righteousness will last forever. My salvation will continue from generation to generation.” Isaiah 51:7-8 NLT

PS : As we study the Great Controversy in Revelation, we find another reason why we should not be alarmed by what others may think about us. The Great Controversy is not about little us anyway. Its about Jesus!

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

Why It’s a Good Idea to Use Various Bible Translations

Kids Studying Bible

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

When I preach a sermon in English, which is the only language I can preach in by the way, if you had three people translating it into Spanish, each one would translate it differently. To get the big picture you would not choose one translation and throw the rest away. You would put all three together to get the big picture. Likewise I do not think it is wise to try to find one perfect Bible translation. I think it is wise to examine several to get the big picture. for example, in my personal Bible study time this morning I ran across this passage in the New Living Translation.

With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever. Hebrews 9:12 NLT

I thought that makes it sound like Jesus was already in the Most Holy Place before 1844. I remembered hearing someone before reference this verse  trying to destroy the Adventist understanding of the sanctuary. So I thought, in the spirit of the Bereans, I need to check this out. I quickly found that the KJV does not say “Most Holy Place” in this verse. It only says “Holy Place.”

Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. Hebrews 9:12 KJV

Now I must remember the KJV is also a “version.” The KJV is not the original manuscripts. The KJV is an extremely reliable version, but it does not automatically trump all other versions on every text. Having translated messages in ASL and having had studies translated for me from English to Spanish, I understand what all translators understand, that no translation is 100% accurate. This includes the KJV. So I did a little more research and found that even the NKJV, which is a highly esteemed version did indeed use the phrase” Most Holy Place,” not “Holy Place.” This caused me to research even further. I found that The Message translates it this way.

But when the Messiah arrived, high priest of the superior things of this new covenant, he bypassed the old tent and its trappings in this created world and went straight into heaven’s “tent”—the true Holy Place—once and for all. Hebrews 9:11-12 MSG

This was an aha! moment for me. The word being translated “most” in other translations except for the KJV actually meant “true” or real. This makes perfect sense and is understandable why so many would translate it ‘most.” The context of Hebrews 8- 9 is not about when Jesus went into the most holy place, but rather that Jesus went into a real and literal sanctuary

There he ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle, the true place of worship that was built by the Lord and not by human hands. Hebrews 8:2 NLT

See! There is the word “true” in the NLT. Hebrews 9:12 is saying that Jesus went into a real and true sanctuary. The word “most” in the other translations is not an unfortunate translation, when you understand by “most” it is comparing the heavenly sanctuary to the earthy sanctuary, instead of comparing the most holy and holy compartments.

There are conspiracy theorists who see modern translations as a plot to destroy Adventist theology. I say if the KJV is the only version that supports our theology then we better re-examine our theology! I believe sound theology will be supported by various versions, and I believe the sanctuary message can be supported by various translations.

 

“I saw that God had especially guarded the Bible, yet when copies of it were few, learned men had in some instances changed the words, thinking that they were making it more plain, when in reality they were mystifying that which was plain, by causing it to lean to their established views, which were governed by tradition. But I saw that the Word of God, as a whole, is a perfect chain, one portion linking into and explaining another. True seekers for truth need not err; for not only is the Word of God plain and simple in declaring the way of life, but the Holy Spirit is given as a guide in understanding the way to life therein revealed.” -Ellen White, Early Writings, Pages 220,-221

The first point I appreciate about this passage is that Ellen White understood errors were made with the best of intentions instead of a conspiracy plot. I am sure when the coma was misplaced in the KJV in Luke 23:43 it was with the best of intentions. The second point I appreciate is that the Holy Spirit has protected the Word of God so that the way to life will not be lost, and the Holy Spirit can help us find truth in the different translations we read.

When I preach a sermon in English, which is the only language I can preach in by the way, if you had three people translating it into Spanish, each one would translate it differently. To get the big picture you would not choose one translation and throw the rest away. You would put all three together to get the big picture. Likewise I do not think it is wise to try to find one perfect Bible translation. I think it is wise to examine several to get the big picture.

Baptism Pictures and Stories from Homosassa

Homosassa Bible Study

In 2018 I was invited to speak at the Homosassa Seventh-day Adventist Church. I was told several young people wanted to be baptized and we began a baptism class. After just one week, I was informed several adults were interested in learning more about the Bible and the Adventist church as well. One Bible study group quickly grew into two Bible study groups. One for the young people and one for the not exactly so young people. For several months we enjoyed studying and hanging out together. Yesterday 6 precious souls gave their lives to Jesus through baptism, and we believe there are more on the way.

Bill

Bill is a real miracle! During our studies he went into the hospital twice, once with a heart attack! By God’s grace he quickly recovered and kept right up with the study group, hardly breaking any stride. Bill is an animal lover and has a horse. Some of the kids enjoyed stopping on their way to church each Sabbath to feed a horse some carrots along the way. Just the other day they found out it was Bill’s horse. Small world. Bill has quickly made friends with the church family. I am thankful for Bill’s friendship.

Connie

Connie has stepped out in faith and quit working on the Sabbath, so she can put all of her trust and faith in Jesus instead of her own works.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV

Connie’s daughter Mariah also made her decision for Jesus in our class as well.

Mariah

Mariah is already bringing friends to church and inviting them for Bible studies. She also is a faithful Bible student herself, and often asks very thoughtful questions. Mariah, like her mother and father, has a big heart and is often praying and asking others to pray for those in need.

Ricky

Ricky is a faithful Bible student, often having his lessons completed even before class. Ricky also has a talent for art, and is often drawing pictures to encourage those in his church family. Every church should have a Ricky!

Amberlynn

When Amberlynn heard there was a baptism class she let it be known she was joining! Even when her older sister Macayala was sick and unable to come Amberlynn still made sure she was there. Amberlynn loves Jesus and her church and is there whenever the doors are open.

Macayala

In one of my first sermons at Homosassa I asked the congregation a question and Macayala quickly rose her hand and answered. Macayala told her Sabbath School teacher that she loves it whenever I preach because, “I understand everything he says and then he sits down!” Everyone needs a Macayala on their side. Macayala encourages her friends at school as well as at church.

I want to thank the Homosassa Seventh-day Adventist Church for letting me be a part of their family. I am enjoying every moment. If you would like me to share Jesus with your church or family at home please contact me at Plantcitysdachurch@Gmail.Com . Let’s continue praying for our new members and each other!

The Morning Star in a World of Darkness

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

God has always had a people. Even during the dark ages there were those who overcame the darkness. Jesus promised them,

And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations— ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’— as I also have received from My Father; and I will give him the morning star. Revelation 2:26-28 NKJV

John Wycliffe has often been referred to as the morning star of the reformation. How wise God was not to send all the light all at once. I remember our dean at Oklahoma Adventist Academy waking us up early in the morning, before daylight, by flipping a switch that turned all of the lights on in our dorm rooms. Going from total darkness to total light was blinding! It hurt our eyes!

God knew after 1260 years of darkness not to turn all the light on all at once. As the morning star gently pierces the darkness before the sun gently rises, so God gently pierced the spiritual darkness with the morning star of the reformation, and gradually brought more and more light until “the earth was illuminated with his glory.” Revelation 18:1 NKJV.

Imagine if Jesus had told Peter when He first met him, “Come follow me Peter and you will die upside down on a cross.” Peter might have run the other way! So Jesus revealed truth little by little to Peter instead of giving him all the truth all at once. In the end Peter was prepared to give his life to Jesus.

We need to pray for the same wisdom when sharing Jesus with out friends. Sometimes we wonder why our friends can’t see plain Bible truth, but it may be God Himself who is shielding them from light that may be too overwhelming for them right now. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would “guide us into all truth.” John 16:13 NKJV. It is important for us to let the Holy Spirit do His job, and for us not to assume the responsibility of the Holy Spirit. The same Holy Spirit that brought a reformation out of the Dark Ages, is the same Holy Spirit that can bring our friends out of darkness too. The Holy Spirit may not want to use us as a blazing sun, but possibly as a morning star, gently piercing the darkness to prepare the soul for more light to come.

Where in the World Are You Studying the Bible?

Al Lopez Park

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

To me, the Bible is the  most personal and universal book ever written. When I read it I know God is personally talking to me, just as He was personally talking to Martin Luther as he read the Bible chained to the monastery wall in Europe in 1517, and Ellen White as she read the Sacred pages on the  Alameda as it sailed the South Pacific on its way to Australia is 1891, and the business secretary who read the Bible app on her tablet commuting on the New York subway last evening. The Bible brings me into a one on one personal relationship with Jesus. It also ties me to billions of people around the globe throughout earth’s history.

Last Christmas while I was on vacation, I went golfing with a buddy in Western Arkansas near Ozark Adventist Academy. On our way to the golf course we stopped in a diner for brunch, where we coincidentally ran into my cousin Paul, who was sitting at the community table, studying his Sabbath School lesson on his tablet. We joined him and had an enjoyable conversation, before we went chasing golf balls all through the woods. I had never seen a community table before, where everyone was welcome to sit together, where strangers become friends. Now that I think about it, I guess its like the bar stools at diners back in the 50’s so maybe the idea isn’t so novel. The small town diner enchanted me with its social atmosphere, with people visiting, coming and going at their leisure.

It made me think about SSNET, the Sabbath School lesson website I write for, as well as my personal blog, In Light of the Cross. Both are a social online community where people can come and visit, study and share ideas at their leisure. I got to thinking about my cousin Paul who was studying his Sabbath School lesson at the diner, in a social setting. It made me think about people studying their Bibles and Sabbath school quarterlies around the world. I got to wondering where all people are studying their own Bible around the world. Are people studying right now at a  Starbucks in Seattle? You know Starbucks sells bottled water and fruit juices too. Is someone reading their lesson on a park bench in Birkenhead park in Liverpool? Is someone having their devotional on their back patio in Cape Town? It is summer time there now you know? Is someone passing the time on their Sabbath School app while waiting on a plane at the Perth airport?

I just thought it might be nice to share where in the world we enjoy studying our Bibles and or Sabbath School lessons. Many I suppose have a special place inside your comfy home or flat God blesses them with, while others may have a special restaurant, park bench or special meeting place. Even Jesus had a special place of prayer and worship, which was the Garden of Gethsemane. Do you have a special place for your Bible study and prayer time? Years ago in Samaria, a woman met Jesus at a well. They had a one on one conversation, but Jesus also mentioned to her about worshiping in the Spirit. John worshiped in the Spirit while on Patmos. So you have two people, one in Samaria and one on Patmos both worshiping in the same place-the Spirit! So you see why I say our Bible study time is very personal and universal all at the same time. Pretty cool, huh?

I would be interested in meeting you, and finding out not only what country you are from, but where you enjoy studying the Bible. Are you like many of my nostalgic friends who still enjoy holding an actual book or quarterly in your hands, or do you use an electronic device? Please comment below and let me know where in the world you like to study God’s Word. Then the next time I am enjoying my alone time in the Spirit with God’s Word, I will know who I am studying alone with, and I can say a prayer for God to bless your study as well as mine.

What’s Worse Than Persecution?

 

Rays Port Charlotte-Skyway Bridge 082

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Last week I wrote about the church of Smyrna which endured great persecution for being faithful to God, even when facing death. Bible Scholars agree the church of Smyrna represents the Christian era from 100 to 313. This brings us to the church of Pergamum, which  represents the time period of 313 to 538. During this time period persecution of the church seemed to cease. Why did persecution cease? Here is what Jesus says about Pergamum,

But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin.  In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching. Revelation 2:14-15 NLT

While the world appeared to convert to Christianity, in reality the church was converting to the world! Christ had nothing to criticize at all about the persecuted church of Smyrna, but when the church started to compromise to gain the approval of the world, it began to lose the approval of Christ.

The nominal conversion of Constantine, in the early part of the fourth century, caused great rejoicing; and the world, cloaked with a form of righteousness, walked into the church. Now the work of corruption rapidly progressed. Paganism, while appearing to be vanquished, became the conqueror. Her spirit controlled the church. Her doctrines, ceremonies, and superstitions were incorporated into the faith and worship of the professed followers of Christ. –Ellen White, Great Controversy, Pages 49-50

Persecution is what kept the church pure, and I believe persecution will one day purify the church again. In order to avoid persecution the church began to compromise its standards and beliefs.   As the church compromised to gain the world’s approval paganism seeped into the church. Such compromise was worse than persecution.  Now there is a balance we need to be aware of. I mean you have Daniel living smack dab in the heart of Babylon, and yet the king was his friend. Daniel had a way of never compromising truth and yet still being promoted by a Babylonian king! In Daniel 4 the king is converted. I pray in the last days for men and women of integrity in high positions to influence pagan leaders to give their hearts to Jesus. The stories in Daniel 3 and 6 will be repeated in the last days, and I believe the story of a converted pagan politician in Daniel 4 will be repeated in the last days as well. This calls upon Christians to use tact. With much prayer and Spiritual wisdom I believe we can live with the non-compromising faith of Daniel and Jesus, while being  friends with sinners. See Luke 15:1-2.  Even so, I realize that Daniel was still thrown in the lions den, and Jesus was crucified. We can’t make every sinner our friend, but we can use Christian tact to win many. And Christian tact does not, and in fact cannot include compromise with evil. Compromise with evil does not convert the world to the church, it converts the church to the world.

The sad thing is, even when the church made peace by compromising with the world, persecution still continued towards God’s faithful followers. Because the church was trying to win the approval of the world, the church itself began persecuting its own members who put the Word of God above the traditions of the world. It was no longer politically correct to call sin by its right name. It was no loner politically correct to put the Bible above human philosophy. I will let Paul explain what went on.

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. 2 Timothy 4:2-4 NLT

To win the world to the church and escape persecution, the Pergamum church decided to start preaching what everyone wanted to hear, and not preach the things people did not want to hear. Did this please God?

God would be better pleased to have six truly converted to the truth as the result of their labors, than to have sixty make a nominal profession, and yet not be thoroughly converted. –Ellen White, Evangelism, Page 320

When the Waldensians wanted to continue following the Bible they were seen as troublemakers invoking persecution on the church. To avoid being persecuted by the world the church joined the world in persecuting those who still followed the Bible! So by compromising with the world the church organization was no longer being persecuted, but the faithful members continued to be persecuted not only by the world but also by the church! When I was taking 9th grade algebra, our teacher graded on the curve. The highest score was considered 100%. So if they highest score was 80 and my score was 60 then I got 60 out of 80 instead of 100, which of course would raise my percentage score. There was only one problem. The same girl on every single test got 100%. So we never got a break! This girl was not popular when we all got our test scores back, because she made the rest of us look bad by keeping the standard where it was supposed to be. Likewise when the church is trying to lower the standard to make the world look good and feel comfortable in their sins, those in the church who keep the standard right where it belongs stick out like a sore thumb.

Years ago, my friends were telling me about how their daughter was being ridiculed and persecuted in her new Adventist School for being vegan. They were surprised because no one teased her about it when she was in public school. The public school kids thought veganism was novel and admired her for being a free spirit and standing apart from the crowd. So her parents were disappointed when the Adventist kids gave her such a hard time about being vegan. The public school kids were not offended by her veganism but the Adventist kids were, because they took it as a rebuke to their lifestyle. She was raising the standard and they all thought it made them look bad for not maintaining the same standard. Of course my friend’s daughter never thought was better than anyone else just for being vegan, but we often condemn ourselves when we see others following their convictions while we ignore our own convictions. And if we can persecute and find fault with them, then it makes us feel all better about ourselves.

May God give us the wisdom to be people of integrity while being friends to sinners. Jesus and Daniel did not compromise God’s Word in order to be friends with sinners and neither should we. That is nothing new. The Jews crucified Jesus in order to secure favor with Rome. So today so called Christians are persecuting those who “follow the Lamb Wherever He goes” in order to secure favor with a sinful world.

Jesus Himself never purchased peace by compromise. His heart overflowed with love for the whole human race, but He was never indulgent to their sins. He was too much their friend to remain silent while they were pursuing a course that would ruin their souls,–the souls He had purchased with His own blood.-Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 356

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

Remain Faithful Even When……What?

bradenton 028

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life. Revelation 2:10 NLT

 

Kevin o’Rourke grew up dreaming of being a firefighter one day.  He could not imagine being anything else. When he finally became a firefighter, knowing the dangers involved, Kevin loved his job more than anything else in life. Sadly, on September 11, 2001 in New York City, his love for being a fireman cost him his life. From what I have read about Kevin and his family, I believe he would have rather died a faithful firefighter at age 44, than to have lived to be 100 without being faithful to his calling.

In 2006 an Amish school girl asked a crazed gunman at her Amish school, in an effort to buy time for help to arrive to save the other students, to shoot her first. The Amish treasure the Bible, and I can’t help imagining this young girl receiving her very first Bible, and proudly holding it close to her little heart, as she treasured the sacred pages that would teach her to give up her life. The church of Smyrna loved Jesus so much they were faithful even when facing death and will receive at the resurrection, the crown of eternal life!

So are Kevin O’Rourke and the Amish school girl extreme cases or does Jesus expect all of us to be faithful even when facing death?

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23 NLT

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.1 John 3:16 NLT

As someone who has been giving Bible studies since the 1980’s I don’t know if it is just my imagination or not, but it seems people have a harder time these days grasping the idea of being totally committed to Jesus,and being faithful even to death. Many of us are only faithful until its inconvenient! Bible students have told me that surely God does not expect a poor widow to return an honest tithe and offerings. In 1 Kings 17 we meet a poor widow who tells Elijah, “I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.” 1 Kings 17:12 NLTSo this woman is at the point of death. What does Elijah tell her to do? “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son.” 1 Kings 17:13 NLT The woman is at the point of death, but Elijah still expects her to be faithful to God and His messengers first. Even when facing death! Of course we read on about how the oil and flour never ran out after she supported God’s servants first.

So today, does God expect us to be faithful even when facing death, or just until life gets a little hard or difficult? A while back I told an embarrassing story about when I was in my early twenties and held back my tithe money for a while. So now please let me share a a couple stories where I actually did something smart. I was working for a family-owned business, and one Friday the owner called everyone into his office. He was very upset about everything being unorganized, so he said everyone would have to come in the next day, Sabbath, and work to straighten it all out or lose their jobs. My first thought was I had lost my job. I was already imagining myself losing my apartment and moving back home. What I never imagined was me working on Sabbath! I didn’t get a chance to imagine very long, before our boss looked at me and said, “I understand tomorrow is a religious holiday for you. So we won’t see you but I better see everybody else!” God saved me!

Years later I was working for UPS, and had the opportunity to become package deliverer and drive the big brown trucks. Human resources told me there may be some times I would have to work on Friday nights after sunset. I told them there was no way I would. They asked, “What if your truck breaks down, and by the time we get you another truck, it is dark?” I summed it up for them quickly. I told them, “Many people have died for their faith, and I am not going to give up my faith just to save my job!” That ended the discussion and I became a delivery driver.

I share those two stories, because so many times I have studied with people who supposedly accepted the Sabbath, only to turn around and take the first job offer that required them to work on Sabbath. I have baptized Bible study students who later told me they could not come to church on Sabbath because they had to work. When I asked them what their boss said when they asked for Sabbath off, I found they never even asked. By not being faithful, they are missing wonderful opportunities to see God work in their behalf! If we want God to be real to us we have to be real to Him.

Many never see how real God is because they never give Him a chance to do anything real in their life. We must be like the three Hebrew children in Daniel 3, who said God could deliver them, but even if He didn’t they would still remain faithful unto death! If they hadn’t taken that stand, they would not have had the experience of Jesus walking with them in the fire.

In a world that bases everything on convenience instead of faithfulness,  in a world where  surviving  is more important than sacrifice,  Jesus still promises eternal life to those who are faithful, not until it becomes hard, but until death.

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