Is the Role of the Church in the Community Just to Baptize People?

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel…. 1 Corinthians 1:17 NKJV

Does the church have to baptize every member of the community in order to serve its purpose? Is it possible God has some people cross our paths just because they need to be loved, regardless if they join our church or not?

Years before ever becoming, or thinking about becoming a Bible Worker myself, I found myself on a church softball team, captained by the new local Bible Worker. I failed to eat breakfast before running off to play. In the middle of the game, I began to get dizzy and lightheaded. My team was up to bat when I pretty much blacked out. I was sitting right next to the Bible Worker and told him, as the batter was striking out, “I am blacking out. I can’t even see anything right now.”

His reply? He threw my mitt in my lap and said, “That’s the third out. Let’s go take the field!” Not exactly the reply I was expecting. Needless to say, I did not go out onto the field. I managed to get myself to a nearby building where I got a drink and laid down. I had heard people who had been studying with this Bible Worker say how wonderful he was. I guess already having been baptized, I was not a potential “notch on his belt,” So he was not that wonderful to me. He never even missed me when I failed to come back to the game.

At that point in my life, I was not really that familiar with the Bible Worker concept. Therefore I had never really considered becoming one, but on my way home that day, I remember thinking to myself, that if I ever did become a Bible Worker, I would not be like that one! I also told myself that if I genuinely care about people who are about to be baptized, then I would genuinely care about people who will never be baptized. Even though I was not a Bible Worker at that point, I told myself, that as a Christian as well as being theologically sound, I also want to be relationally sound. I decided to be a genuine caring friend not matter what position I ever have in church.

Ironically I did become a Bible Worker, and found myself studying with a man, in the first district I had been assigned, who finally showed up to church with his 14-year-old step-daughter. She had never been to any church. I went to the parents of teenage girls and told them this girl had never been to church before. Please have your daughters greet and befriend her. One of the mothers shrugged her shoulders and said, “But my daughters already have friends.” The father ended up getting baptized in another nearby Adventist church. We never saw his step daughter again.

Later in another district, I was studying with a war veteran who needed a ride to the veteran’s hospital one day. Wanting to connect him with members of my church, I called several retired members and asked them to give this worthy veteran a ride. One person told me they were unavailable because, “That’s the day I water my garden.” And that was the most legitimate excuse! Not only did this veteran never come to my church, but that was also the end of our Bible studies. Do you blame him?

After studying a few months with a young married couple, they became baptized and joined my church of mostly older people. One of the elders never reached out to this young couple, until finally he heard them say something in Sabbath School that was not theologically correct, so he took it upon himself to call them later in the day, to “reach out” and tell them that they were wrong! That was the only contact he had with them, and it was not long before they were out of the church. How long would you stay in a church where people only call to tell you that you are wrong?

In Texas I studied with a teenage boy, that for sake of anonymity, I will call Scott. He found a ride to church every Sabbath, as no one else in his family came to church. Shortly after his baptism he moved to Tampa Florida. We had a going-away party for him, and I wrote in his card, “Bible Workers come and go, but friends are forever.” I did not think that much about it. Eight years later I moved to Tampa Florida. I had talked with him a few times after his move. One day, shortly after moving to Tampa, I ran across his name in my address book, and the address “Tampa Florida” jumped out at me. I called the number, to find out that he was in jail. I arranged a visit. Not exactly the reunion I had planned with a former Bible student. We were glad to see each other and had a lot to talk about since our last visit. He explained to me what had been going on with him lately and how ended up in jail. Towards the end of our visit, he told me, “When I moved away, you wrote in my card, Bible Workers come and go but friends are forever. I never forgot what you wrote, and now that you have come to see me after all those years, even though I am in jail, shows me you meant what you said.” I realized even more, that being relational is just as important as being theologically sound. I realized too, that even though he had been baptized eight years ago, my work with him was not over. Scott needed a forever friend. I am glad God moved me across the country to where I could reach out to him.

As a Christian my goal goes way beyond seeing people get baptized. My goal is to see them in heaven. That means being a forever friend to those who are preparing for baptism, and to those who have already been baptized, as well as to those who I may never see get baptized.

Some people think they can’t give Bible studies, but if I can, anybody can. Even so, what a teenage girl needed in a church long ago, was not just Bible studies, but a friend. A veteran just needed a ride to the hospital. A young couple needed someone from the church, to call them just to say hello, instead of just to tell them they were wrong. A young man sitting in jail needed to know someone still cared, even though he was less than perfect.

That morning on the ballfield, I needed a friend. I needed someone who cared for me regardless if I was someone about to be baptized or not. I needed what every other person needs, and that is a forever friend. Do the people in your community know that regardless if they ever get baptized or not, that they can find forever friends at your church?

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

Uzzah and God’s Mercy and Justice

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Many people think God was dealing harshly with Uzzah when he steadied the ark of the covenant, while it was being moved, but if we look carefully we will see God’s mercy even in His justice.

So they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart. 2 Samuel 6:3 NKJV

Do you already see a problem here? They are moving the ark on a cart. This is not how God instructed for it to be carried. That is how the philistines carried it when they returned it. How did God tell Israel to move the ark?

And the children of the Levites bore the ark of God on their shoulders, by its poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord. 1 Chronicles 15:15 NKJV

The Israelites knew better than to carry the ark on a cart. They knew it was to be carried on two poles by the levite priests. Now here is where we see God’s mercy and reasonable thinking. Earlier when the Philistines returned the ark they put in on a cart, and let the oxen carry it back to the Israel camp. None of them were struck dead. God knew they did not know any better. God is always merciful when there is a lack of information and people are doing the best they can. The same merciful God in the New Testament Who, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent,” is the same merciful God of the Old Testament. God does not hold us accountable for things we do not know.

However Uzzah knew better and never should have driven the cart to begin with.

And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand
to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. 2 Samuel 6:6-7 KJV

While God was merciful towards the Philistines who acted out of ignorance, but with good intention, God held Uzzah accountable, who made a mistake many make today. Instead of worshiping God according to God’s law, Uzzah thought he could imitate the world and worship God the way everyone else does. After all, what difference does it make if the ark is on a cart or two poles? Doesn’t really matter does it? Eve didn’t think it really mattered which tree she ate from. What was the big deal? A tree is a tree, right? So many say today, what difference does a day make, Sunday or Saturday? A day is a day, right? Well apparently it did make a difference to God if it was a cart or a pole, just like it mattered which tree Eve ate from, and there is a difference between the seventh day and the first day.

Upon Uzzah rested the greater guilt of presumption. Transgression of God’s law had lessened his sense of its sacredness, and with unconfessed sins upon him he had, in face of the divine prohibition, presumed to touch the symbol of God’s presence. God can accept no partial obedience, no lax way of treating His commandments. By the judgment upon Uzzah He designed to impress upon all Israel the importance of giving strict heed to His requirements. Thus the death of that one man, by leading the people to repentance, might prevent the necessity of inflicting judgments upon thousands. –Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, Page 706.

Now remember that even though Moses had to die because of his sin, God was still merciful and gave him eternal life. I imagine that God’s mercy may still save Uzzah at the ressurection as well. So even this severe act of justice was a merciful act, leading many people to repentance so thousands may be saved as well.

Even when God is just He is still merciful. In Mercy God winks at the ignorance of the world. In mercy God gives us warning and opportunity to follow His instructions on how to worship Him, instead of worshiping the custioms of the world.

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

Paul, Cleaveland, and Han’s Baptism Pics and Stories

As many of you already know, I spent most of last June in Oklahoma, because of the death of my mother, so I missed the baptisms of some of my Bible study students, who were baptized during the HOPE meetings at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church during that time. I would like to thank Pastor Brad and Dan Ferree for continuing to study with and mentor my Bible study students while I was away. God’s work is moving forward to Jesus’s soon coming where we will all meet with our loved ones agains and with Jesus, never to part!

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I began studying with Paul before he and his wife Shayla had their son, William who is now in grade school. I am positive they named him after me. LOL Paula and Shayla are wonderful people. They have opened their home to foster children and have also adopted, creating a wonderful Christian home envirement for some very fortunate children.

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I have also really enjoyed studying with Hans, who works at Florida Hospital and has become a valued member of our Tampa First SDA Church family. Hans loves Jesus with all of his heart, and is looking forward to helping with small study growth groups.

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Hans was also baptized during the HOPE meetings, encouraging many others to give their lives to Jesus as well.

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I enjoyed studying with Cleaveland before his baptism during the HOPE meetings, and am continuing to study with him and his wife, as she also wants to become a Seventh-day Adventist Christian.

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As always I would love to help you in making your decision for Christ as well. If you are in the beautiful Tampa Bay area, or any other beautiful part of the world you can contact me at LayPastor@TampaAdventist.net. I look forward to hearing from you.

How Homosexuality Attempts to Defy Creation

Tulsa SDA

I am writing today from beautiful Tulsa Oklahoma.

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 NLT

Many, even Christians do not fully grasp the importance of understanding Satan’s goal in promoting same sex marriages. Marriage, like the Sabbath goes back to creation. While we have the sun to mark a year, the moon to track a month, the earth’s rotation to mark a day, the one and only source of our 7 day week is the creation story, ending with the Sabbath. You simply cannot explain where we got a 7 day week, or where the idea of the Sabbath came from (regardless if you want to keep it or not) without going to the Biblical account of creation. Satan’s goal of making man forget the Sabbath goes a lot farther than just forgetting there is a law. Satan’s goal is for us to forget that there is a God who loves us!

The same with marriage. First of all if you want to believe in evolution, you have to believe that something was here in the first place to evolve. Where did that “something” come from? I heard an atheist, on national TV telling everyone there was no reason to believe in God after we discovered the atom. Really? May I ask who created the atom? If we all just came from a big bang, what exactly went bang, and where did it come from? The creation story tells us. God spoke and bang there it was! So, don’t you believe it is pretty spectacular that we have human life? Some take this as a coincidence from some sort of big bang. Well what is remarkable is not only was there a big bang, but after the big bang we have life. Wait a minute, not only do we have have life, we have humans who just happen to have counterpart reproductive organs where they can create even more life! What a coincidence! Not! Yet that is what those who are promoting gay marriage are claiming, that there we no design or reason for us to be created male and female. It was all a big fluke and you can choose whatever gender you want and marry whatever gender you choose to marry. Homosexual marriage, (well lets stop right here. There is no such thing as homosexual marriage. It simply does not exist. Man cannot make laws creating gay marriage anymore than man can make laws changing the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday.) attempts to defy more than just God’s law. It tries to defy more than just the Bible. Homosexual marriage defies that we have a creator who created us male and female. Homosexual marriage attempts to defy that we have a loving Creator.

The fact that we have so called homosexual churches should not surprise us. If there are churches openly defying the 4th commandment, why be surprised there are churches defying any other Bible teaching? Again marriage and the Sabbath all go back to creation. Marriage and the Sabbath tells us there is a God. This is a truth many people find too inconvenient. As the Bible Sabbath is being attacked, we should not be surprised that Bible marriage is as well. After all it is God Himself Who is being attacked.

I once heard someone say, that they did not think it was fair for God to let someone be born homosexual. Now many argue over whether nor not someone is actually born homosexual. It doesn’t matter. We are all born sinners. We are all born selfish. We are all born with the lust of the flesh, which is why Jesus tells everyone, hetero-sexual and homo-sexual, we all must be born AGAIN! Someone saying they were born homosexual is no more an excuse to stay homosexual, than being born selfish is an excuse to stay selfish. We all must be born again.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT

Jesus wants to restore all things. He does not want to destroy the sexually immoral. He wants to save them.

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. John 3:17 NKJV

There is an old song by Bill Gaither that goes like this,

Something beautiful, something good All my confusion He understood All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife But he made something beautiful of my life.

This world is filled with people who are not only confused about which day is the 7th day, but also confused about their sexuality. Jesus understands! Give your broken sexuality to Him. He can restore your broken and torn spirit. Give Jesus your confused and tarnished sexuality, and let Him make you sexually whole again. God created sex at creation. Let Him recreate and restore your sex as you give your life to Him right now.

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

Texting or Calling When A Loved One Dies

Arkansas River

I am writing today from beautiful Tulsa, Oklahoma.

A few years ago, when a friend of mine lost her mother, she would text me. I tried to call, to be more personable, but it seemed right after the loss, all she wanted to do was text. After my recent loss I get it now.

  1. Immediately after the death of a loved one, there are many arrangements to be made. You are very busy and physically and emotionally drained. It is easier to text someone while in a conference with the funeral home director than it is to take a phone call.
  2. It is easier to text and cry at the same time than it is to talk and cry at the same time. I am not embarrassed to cry over the phone. That is not the point. It is just that crying and talking at the same time is not as effective as texting and crying at the same time.
  3. Right after the death of a loved one, you have a lot to process emotionally. You want to be in contact with those you love and you need their support. Texting on your time table allows you to be more in control of the process instead of answering the phone whenever it rings.

So, if I did not answer the phone when you called immediately after my mother died please do not take offense, and please do not think that your thoughtfulness was not appreciated-it was! I would have never known it was better to text than call right after a friend loses a close loved one until it happened to me. I get it now. Chances are though that some people may actually prefer a call instead of a text. If so please comment and share your feelings below.

When Prayer Doesn’t Move Mountains

Tulsa By River
I am writing today from beautiful Tulsa Oklahoma.

“For most of us the prayer in Gethsemane is the only model. Removing mountains can wait.” -C.S. Lewis

I was told a couple Fridays ago that my mother, my biggest champion and one of the biggest prayer warriors in my ministry had less than 30 days to live. She had been in poor health for a long while. Actually, in 2004 she was given 2-3 years to live, and here it was 12 years later. My mother, who lived 1,200 miles away was fading in and out of consciousness, mostly out. I had to get out there to see her! Last Sabbath (I am writing this Sabbath June 18, 2016) I was crying and pleading with God to give me at least one more time to tell her that I loved her. Of course I know we will always want one more time. A million emotions and memories were flooding through my soul, as I cried out to God, “One more time God! One more time!” 

That afternoon, after fellowship lunch at church, I took off by myself to one of my mother’s favorite beaches, where she visited me in Florida. While there, my sister called, and told me mother was awake if I wanted to call her. I called her hospital room, and we talked for a few minutes as I stood on mother’s favorite beach, watching the waves she loved so much. I told her I loved her a hundred times. She told me she loved me. I promised I was coming out as soon as I could. She said “I hope so.” The conversation seemed timeless if you know what I mean. It didn’t seem like our last conversation. It seemed like one we would have had during any period of life.

I thank God for that answered prayer, because mom then faded back into unconsciousness, never to return. I flew out to see her, and said goodbye and that I loved her, but she could not respond. I arrived at the hospital Tuesday morning at 2Am. By 6:30AM she was gone. The 30 days were more like just 4.

The Sunday after the Sabbath I talked to mom, right before flying out, I had a real Gethsemane with God. I was crying. No I was wailing! I am sure my neighbors heard. I pleaded with God to save my mother! I did not want to lose her! I told God I believed He could heal her. He can move mountains! But in my Gethsemane, no mountains were moved.

I looked to Jesus in His Gethsemane. No mountains were moved there either. Jesus simply surrendered to His Father’s will. I thought about His mother, later standing at the cross, having to submit her will too. Now remember, Jesus and God the Father were in on the plan of Him being crucified from the very start, but I don’t know that poor Mary was ever given a choice. She was a willing, submissive participant the entire time. I tried to imagine what was going on in her heart and soul during her mother/son separation. Then I realized, as ugly and painful as it was, little did Mary realize at the cross, just how close the resurrection was. Just right around the corner actually!

Life goes by so fast. Things like graduations, weddings, retirement parties, and yes the death of a loved one all come way too soon it seems. We expect these things, we just don’t expect them to come so fast, even though we have been told a thousand times how short life is and how quickly it all goes by.

Even though my mother lived over 80 years, I still can’t believe her life is already over. Yes, we have been promised the second coming of Jesus and the resurrection for years, maybe to the point where we get lulled to sleep by it. But I believe just like every other major event in life, that sneaks up on us, once the second coming and resurrection actually happen, we all, saved and unsaved, will be thinking, “Already?! Wow that was quick!” And of course, after all, didn’t Jesus say,

Surely I am coming quickly. Revelation 22:20

When Jesus comes, mountains will be moved out of their places. For now, I pray the prayer of Gethsemane, “Not my will, Your will be done.” I realize when Mary said goodbye to Jesus she did not realize how close she already was to seeing His resurrection. I am not a date and time setter. I realize I will have to miss my mother more than the three days Mary missed Jesus, but I do know this with all my heart; no matter the pain, no matter the sorrow, no matter the wait, when Jesus comes, we will all sigh with a great joyful, “Wow! Already?!” 

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