Cultural Influence and the Bible

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I suppose most Christians around the world would agree that the Bible takes precedence over  culture as far as deciding what is right and wrong. At the same time I think all of us are sometimes confused, thinking we are following the Bible instead of culture, not realizing that our culture heavily influences how we understand the Bible.

I will provide a couple of quick examples. When Jesus tells the woman at the well in John 4, that she had 5 husbands and the man she has now is not her own, those of us in the western world quickly judge her as a loose woman jumping from man to man. However, in the Eastern world at that time, a woman could not divorce her husband. That means that 5 men had already left her and the man she was with now was not even claiming her. Jesus’ message was not that she was a slut. His message was that while everyone else had left her thirsting for love, Jesus, the Living Water, would quench her thirst for love for all eternity, as He would never leave her.

Another example is in Numbers 12, when Miriam and Aaron complain about Moses’ Ethiopian wife. Many in the western world think they looked down on her because she was black. That’s because we live in a culture that not even 200 years ago had black slaves. But remember that was not the case at the time of Moses’ day in the eastern world. The Ethiopians were not slaves. It was the Hebrews that had just been freed from slavery. Instead of looking down on her, they were probably jealous, and were insinuating that Moses thought he was all that, because he upgraded in their minds to an Ethiopian woman.  (Of course snubbing your nose at anyone based on the history of their race is nonsense in any culture. We are all equal!)

See how our culture influences our understanding of Scripture?  So we need to be careful when we claim our traditions and standards are based on Scripture. I would dare say some are and some are not. I remember studying the Bible with a teenage boy, who asked for a ride to church. The family giving him a ride each Sabbath, gave him a tie to wear since he did not have one. They felt he should wear a tie. He thanked them, but never wore it. While their tradition was to wear a tie, he was not convicted that he needed to wear a tie. To the family giving him a ride, he needed to dress appropriately for church, but to him a tie served absolutely no purpose and was nothing more than cloth jewelry.  Yet the family would tell you that wearing a tie was a Bible standard while he felt not wearing a tie was a Bible standard.

This reminds me of a story that comes from my extended family.  My cousin’s husband was a missionary many years ago in Micronesia. The native women came to church topless. To them breasts were totally utilitarian. The missionaries gave the women shirts to wear to church. They were surprised when the native women returned the following Sabbath with holes cut out of the shirts to expose their breasts. When the missionaries asked why, they were informed that in their culture only prostitutes cover their breasts. The prostitutes were sexualizing their breasts for sale. These God-fearing church ladies were not wanting to come across as being sexually alluring, which is why they actually exposed their breasts.  It reminds me of what Paul wrote to Titus,

Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted. Titus 1:15 NLT

Even in our own culture we struggle with this. A friend of mine came back from visiting a very conservative pastor and his family. My friend told me he was shocked when the pastor’s wife breastfed in front of them without a blanket. He told me, “And I thought they were conservative!” I explained to my friend that the wife was probably so conservative that she never thought of breastfeeding as a sexual thing. Like the godly women in Micronesia she saw breasts as utilitarian.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I believe in modesty. I have written about modesty. But like everything else, we have to stop and ask ourselves if our convictions are biblical or cultural. Fact of the matter is that godly families around the world, and often even in the same cultures, have different ideas about what proper modesty looks like. Of course this goes for many other topics too. I was just using modesty as an example because I thought my cousin’s husband’s experience fit so well. Remember we must do all of our rebuking with Scripture according to 2 Timothy 3:16. The Scriptures will tell us exactly on what day to rest, but the Scriptures won’t tell us exactly how many inches a woman’s skirt should be from her knees. If I tell someone exactly how to dress, am I teaching them from the Bible or from my culture?

Some Bible  teachings have nothing to do with culture. For example the Sabbath is the seventh day in every culture. Leviticus 11 defines clean and unclean foods for every culture. But even though the Bible is clear that we should be respectful, each culture has different customs and traditions of showing respect. The same is true when it comes to modesty. As a matter of fact, I could share some quotes from the Bible with you that were totally appropriate in Bible times that would not fly today in our culture. For example, this is how David said he was going to capture all the men.

So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that [pertain] to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.  1 Samuel 25:22 KJV.

Newer versions word it a different way now – way that we say is more appropriate. But apparently in David’s day and in King James’ day, that was a totally appropriate way to talk and write to mixed company of all ages. So even when the Bible clearly teaches us to watch our mouths, the Bible itself words some things differently than we do today. That is because culture has greatly influenced our understanding of the Bible.

A few years ago I found a children’s Bible trivia quiz book that actually had a category for circumcision.  While I have publicly taught about Bible circumcision with all ages, the thought of using it as trivia in a children’s Bible game was a little too much for me, so I chose not to use that category.  At the same time I did not tear the section out, as  some have done, because I did not think it was appropriate. I decided not to use it myself and left it for the next person to decide for themselves.

We need to keep in mind that while Scripture does indeed take precedence over culture, that even Jesus recognizes that some things do vary from culture to culture, without contradicting the Bible. When that happens, Jesus gave us a simple rule to follow.

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. Matthew 7:12 NLT

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

What Makes Jesus Angry?

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A Facebook meme reads,

“When asking what would Jesus do? Remember turning over tables and throwing a whip around are all within the realm of possibilities.”

I don’t know if the person who wrote that meant to be funny or not but they make a very valid point. Many times when people ask what would Jesus do? They are suggesting we just take the path of least resistance, but that was not always Jesus’ way. It is not a sin to be angry.

“Be angry, and do not sin”: Ephesians 4:26 NKJV

This verse tells us we can be angry and not sin. Did Jesus ever express anger? Yes He did. Besides turning tables over in the temple, He became angry when the people refused to extend mercy to a man who needed healing on the Sabbath.

And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. Mark 3:5 NKJV

When Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers in Mark 11:15-18 it was not because they were selling items inside the church. I remember as a child listening to someone complain about the Heritage Singers selling their albums in the church lobby. They took Mark 11 to mean that we should not sell things in the church, but that was not what Jesus was angry about. Jesus tells us what made Him angry.

Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? Mark 11:17 NKJV

The Jewish leaders had instructed the people that at Jerusalem they were to be taught to worship God. Here during the Passover week large numbers assembled, coming from all parts of Palestine, and even from distant lands….

The dealers demanded exorbitant prices for the animals sold, and they shared their profits with the priests and rulers, who thus enriched themselves at the expense of the people….

The worshipers had been taught to believe that if they did not offer sacrifice, the blessing of God would not rest on their children or their lands. Thus a high price for the animals could be secured; for after coming so far, the people would not return to their homes without performing the act of devotion for which they had come. The priests and rulers were called to be the representatives of God to the nation; they should have corrected the abuses of the temple  court. They should have given to the people an example of integrity and compassion. Instead of studying their own profit, they should have considered the situation and needs of the worshipers, and should have been ready to assist those who were not able to buy the required sacrifices. But this they did not do. Avarice had hardened their hearts. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Pages 154-157

The problem wasn’t buying and selling in the temple. It was doing it in a way that was not friendly to those who came from distant lands, and those who had little money. They did not care that God’s house was to be a house of prayer for all nations, and not just the greedy money changers and priests.

So, when we see Jesus angry it is most always when someone is not being treating with mercy. Jesus is not passive when He sees others being abused, and He does not expect us to be either. Jesus definitely does not take a passive approach to child abuse.

It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Luke 17:2 NKJV

Sounds like a threat to me! From Jesus! You know, Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek when we ourselves are mistreated, but Jesus never told anyone to turn the other cheek when a child or their aging parent is being mistreated. Many God-fearing Christians will turn the other cheek if you hurt them, but if you hurt their family that is a different story!

Just this morning, I was reading in John 11 about the resurrection of Lazarus, when I came to this passage,

When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him,[f] and he was deeply troubled. John 11:33 NLT

I wondered why Jesus would have such a deep anger in this situation? I checked the commentaries, and one suggested that Jesus was angry with the way some of them were so hypocritical in their mourning, especially seeing how many of them would turn around  right after Lazarus’ resurrection and plot Lazarus’ death!

Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, John 12:10 NLT

John 11 goes on to tell that many at the resurrection ran to report what had happened in a way that showed they were not happy with the outcome, revealing  they only pretended to be mourning about his death.

So what makes Jesus angry? lack of compassion and hypocrisy.  Let’s ask Jesus to give us true compassion for others.

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

Conservative Towards Ourselves, Liberal Towards Others

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Monday’s section of this week’s lesson reads,

Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Try placing your name where the word “love” appears. How well does it fit? Ask Jesus to bring these qualities of love into your life by His Spirit. What changes might the Spirit prompt you to make in order to reach this Christian ideal?

I heard of this idea several years ago, and now whenever I am asked to perform a wedding ceremony, I always include 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. I read it twice, The first time I replace the word love with the groom’s name, and the second time I replace it with the bride’s name. It always brings smiles to the  bride and groom as well as the entire wedding party. Still I trust the Holy Spiriting is impressing the sacredness of love upon their hearts.

For some reason, what seems to bring more smiles than anything else is the part in 1 Cor 13:5 where it says in several versions that love keeps no record of being wronged. Now remember, God is love. So we can just as easily replace the word love with the word “God” and get an accurate description of God. But doesn’t God keep a record of all of our wrongs? Let’s let Scripture answer that.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you. Psalm 130:3-4 NLT

Remember resurrection morning when the angels told the women in Mark 16:7, to tell Peter  as well as the others that Jesus would meet them in Galilee? Peter had denied He even knew Jesus just a few nights before, but apparently Jesus didn’t have any record of that in His heart. For the sake of unity Paul pleads with us to have the same attitude with others.

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:13 NLT

Make allowances for each other’s faults? But what about character development? What about Bible standards? First, forgiveness is a Bible standard and should be included in our own character development. Second, Jesus gave us an example of being conservative towards ourselves while being liberal towards others. In other words hold yourself to a higher standard while cutting everyone else some slack. Jesus was conservative towards Himself when he fasted 40 days in the wilderness, but we was liberal towards others when He fed the multitudes. Jesus was conservative towards Himself while He prayed all evening in Gethsemane, but He was liberal towards the disciples when they fell asleep while praying. Jesus could have been hard on them and still spoken truth had He told them, “Hey, I have come down here in the same flesh you have, so if I can pray without falling asleep so can you!” According to Romans 8:3 that statement would have been exactly true!

He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. Romans 8:3 NLT

But as true as such a statement would have been, instead of condemning them for not being like Him, He sought to excuse them by saying, “For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” See Matthew 26:41.

Paul endorses this idea of being conservative towards ourselves while being liberal towards others. We’ve seen in Colossians 3:13 how he says to make allowances for each other’s faults, which is being liberal towards others. Then, in Romans Paul says,

Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires. Romans 13:14 NLT

Paul is teaching us to make allowances for the fault’s of others while not indulging in sin ourselves. Conservative towards ourselves, liberal towards others. This attitude of keeping no record of the wrongs of others, while reaching a higher standard for ourselves, is not just for grooms and brides. Its for children and parents, and brothers and sisters, and cousins and neighbors. We have all heard, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” What happy homes and churches we can have if we will all shred those records of other people’s mistakes, and be liberal towards others, while being conservative towards ourselves!

Sleeping in While Jesus Knocks at the Door

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

While this week’s lesson mentions Song of Solomon, a passage comes to my mind from chapter 5, that maybe should be compared with Jesus knocking on the heart’s door of the church of Laodicea. Most of us are familiar with this passage in Revelation:

“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

We are familiar with Revelation, borrowing imagery from the Old Testament. Christ’s message in Revelation 3 is to His beloved church.  Song of Solomon could be a metaphor of Christ’s love for His church. In Song of Solomon 5 we find a man possibly representing Christ knocking at a woman’s door, and we all know a woman represents the church throughout the Bible. Could this passage be a sad ending to the scene in Revelation?

I slept, but my heart was awake, when I heard my lover knocking and calling: “Open to me, my treasure, my darling, my dove, my perfect one. My head is drenched with dew, my hair with the dampness of the night.” But I responded, “I have taken off my robe. Should I get dressed again? I have washed my feet. Should I get them soiled?” My lover tried to unlatch the door, and my heart thrilled within me. I jumped up to open the door for my love, and my hands dripped with perfume. My fingers dripped with lovely myrrh as I pulled back the bolt. I opened to my lover, but he was gone! My heart sank. I searched for him but could not find him anywhere. Song of Solomon 5:2-6 NLT

By, “I Slept, but my heart was awake,” many take this to be a dream. The woman hesitates to open the door, and apparently hesitates too long, as by the time she opens the door, the dream turns into a nightmare as her lover is gone. The seventy weeks of Daniel 9, tell us God knocked on the door of Israel’s heart for 490 years. The stoning of Stephen in A.D. 34 as a nation Israel closed the door on Jesus. In Matthew 23:37 Jesus seems to cry over Jerusalem as they closed the door on His love. If Laodicea represents the last day church, then we have examples of the 5 foolish virgins in Matthew 25 being locked outside the wedding. While a whore represents the apostate church in Revelation, a virgin represents Christ’s remnant people. (See Revelation 14:4). So the parable in Matthew 25 is about the remnant church, and five of them are foolish and locked outside of the wedding feast.

Let’s not be lulled into a fatal false sense of security. The dream which turned into a nightmare in Song of Solomon may be a wake up call. In Song of Solomon the woman finds her lover gone when she left the door closed while she was sleeping. In Matthew 25,five virgins find the door closed because they slept. Belonging to the right church is not enough. If we are asleep in the remnant church then we might as well just be asleep anywhere. Sleeping in the remnant church won’t save you. While God loved and cherished His Old Testament Church they still had some pretty severe wake calls, like their captivity in Babylon for just one example. While Jesus loves and cherishes His Remnant last day church, we too have had some severe wake up calls. The burning of the Review and Herald in 1902 for just one example.

The five wise virgins were not welcomed into the wedding feast just because they were virgins, or the remnant church. They were welcomed because they woke up. They had their lanterns or Bibles, and they had their oil which was the Holy Spirit. I am a 5th generation Adventist. My family Adventist heritage goes back to the beginning of Adventism. My great grandparents, who were 2nd generation Adventists were married in Uriah Smith’s home in Battle Creek. They would have met Ellen White had she not been in Australia at the time, but my great aunt did meet Ellen White. But my Adventist heritage means nothing. Being 5th generation Adventist does not get me or my family anywhere. If I am going to boast about anything, rather than boasting that I am 5th generation Adventist, I should boast that my family has always known and loved Jesus, probably well beyond 5 generations!

But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken! Jeremiah 9:24 NLT

Song of Solomon 5 is about a nightmare that could happen to us, but definitely does not have to happen to us. Let’s wake up now and answer the door to God’s love!

What if I Told You Life is not About Being Married?

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

“Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” Revelation 19:9 NKJV

I talk to people right along, and I am sure you do too, who are very lonely, isolated and feeling unfulfilled in their marriages. You might think such experiences would make me feel validated in my singleness but they don’t. Jesus validates me, without comparing me to others. Jesus wants married people to be just as happy as single people, and so do I. But what if I told you marriage was never designed to bring fulfillment? What if I told you marriage is not the goal in life? What if I told you, rather than making you fulfilled, marriage was designed to point you to the God who brings fulfillment? What if I told you marriage only points you to the real goal in life, which is the marriage of Christ to His church at the second coming?

I believe that is the point Jesus was making In Matthew 22. Some rulers tried to trick Jesus by asking him about marriage in heaven. Jesus said there would be no marriage in heaven. Why? I suppose because everything marriage ever pointed to will be fulfilled. Christ and His church will be married.

But wasn’t marriage the goal when God said, “It is not good for man to be alone?”  I believe God was implying something vastly greater than marriage. He was implying a community for Adam. Of course by nature and design that had to start with Eve and marriage. But marriage was a means to the goal which was a greater community. When people tell me that they can worship God at home and don’t need to go to church, I tell them God disagrees. Adam had God when God said Adam should not be alone. Obviously even God recognized He was not enough for Adam. Adam needed community and so do we. That is why we should not “forsake the assembling of ourselves together.”

Marriage is not the goal for intimacy or the cure for loneliness.  As a matter of fact we miss out on many forms of companionship and intimacy by believing marriage is the goal in life that brings fulfillment. When David’s best friend Johnathon died, David cried,

I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; You have been very pleasant to me; Your love to me was wonderful, Surpassing the love of women. 2 Samuel 1:26 NKJV

Now we know from all of David’s wives and concubines, including his escapade with Bathsheba, that David was very much heterosexual. So what did he mean by saying his love for Jonathan surpassed his love for women? He meant there was a level of intimacy with Jonathan that went deeper than sex and romance. David’s love for Jonathan was deep and intimate but had absolutely nothing to do with sex. It’s sad that we live in a world that thinks sex and romance is the only kind of love there is. We see it in all the love songs we hear on the radio. Very seldom do we hear a love song about anything other than a sexual relationship. The idea that sex and marriage is the only kind of love there is places undo stress on the marriage relationship, expecting it to meet and fulfill our needs that God and community were meant to fulfill. It also makes us miss out on all the other loves and meaningful relationships that are meant to fill our lives.

The idea that life is all about being married and is the goal in life is an unhealthy idea for both married people as well as singles. It makes a god out of your spouse by expecting your spouse to meet all of your needs and fulfill you. Philippians 4:19 says God supplies all of our needs, not a spouse. God supplies all of our needs regardless if we are married or single. God’s love is too great to be experienced by sex and marriage alone. Marriage is too small to teach us everything about God’s love. It takes community.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

A Special Plea for my Bible Worker Fund

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First, I would like to thank you all for supporting my ministry these last four years that my ministry has been 100% reliant on financial contributions from people like yourself. God has used people like you to provide for my ministry, and more and more opportunities for sharing the gospel are presenting themselves all the time. However in recent months many have  become unable to continue contributing for understandable reasons. Monthly contributions have been consistently lower lately while opportunities to share the gospel still flourish. I pray those who are giving can continue, and God will provide new contributors so that my ministry will not need to break stride. Again, thank you for your prayers and support! Contributions can be sent to the Plant City SDA Church, P.O. Box 5379 Plant City Fl 33563. Please mark checks “Bible Worker Fund.”

Below is a special appeal letter from Pastor Mark Swaisgood. Thank you for taking the time to pray and consider this ministry.

Plant City Seventh-day Day Adventist Church

P.O. Box 5379, Plant City, FL  33563(813) 752-4694

April 12, 2019

Dear Ministry Supporters and Future Supporters,

Nearly every day I hear a news report that makes me think that the second coming of Christ is very near.  With this feeling of His nearness in my heart, I also think of our need to get the invitation out for all people on earth to have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit.  I believe God’s will is that all would be saved and live eternally with Him (even though we know many will not) when He makes “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1).People everywhere need what Jesus offers, they need to know God’s great love for them, and they need the hope, comfort, and strength that only God’s Holy Spirit can provide us.  You and I need to maintain a living relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, and share His love and words of hope with our family, friends, and neighbors, inviting as many others as we can to have a living, loving, and saving relationship with God because Jesus IS coming again, and it could be very soon, even today.  So, I want to begin this letter by saying thank you to all the people who have so faithfully supported evangelism efforts through their financial contributions to conference pastors (through tithing) and to other gospel workers like Elder Earnhardt (in this case, through his Bible Worker Fund).  If you are, or have been, a financial supporter, THANK YOU.

I also want to share with you a “last days” vision for evangelism(when the laity will finish the work) in the Plant City and Tampa Bay area, as well as around the world.Not long ago the Florida Conference added the Plant City SDA Church to my ministry district, in addition tothe Lakeland SDA Church which I already had. This has brought me into a closer relationship with Elder William Earnhardt, who is currently serving as Plant City SDA Church’s Head Elder andas a Bible Worker in Plant City, Homosassa, and the Tampa Bayarea.Since my time is divided between two churches, I am very thankful to God for Elder Earnhardt’s calling and ministry to the Plant City SDA Church and beyond.  He is providing solid spiritual leadership. With his inspiring, Biblical, Christ-honoring sermons, worship service attendance has increased from just over 20 to almost 50.Our weekly prayer meeting is thriving for both young and old.  I am leading out in our youth studies and William is leading out in our adult studies. The former Plant City pastor letme knowthat Elder Earnhardt baptized 9 people, and he brought 3 more into church membership by profession of faith,in the Plant City SDA Church during the previous 4 years.  In the eight months since I have been the senior pastor at Plant City William has brought growth to God’s kingdom by preaching, facilitating Bible studies and seminars,and conducting baptisms at both Plant City and Homosassa SDA Churches.  This is one way the laity will be used to finish the work of Christ on the earth before He returns.  If you are already a donor, “Thank you.”  If you are not a donor yet, you too can be a partner as you support Elder Earnhardt’s Bible Worker Fund.

Elder Earnhardt has a unique ministry which is fully supported by contributions from people like you around the country.While Plant City members are among his ministry contributors, the Plant City SDA Church does not have the resources within itself to provide for his level of ministry to the area. Everything Elder Earnhardt receives for his Bible Worker ministry is from a Bible Worker Fund, which is maintained by faithful contributors, ordinary people with a vision to reach people for Jesus, people like you.

 

Elder Earnhardt’s Bible Worker Fund is currently being held for him by the Plant City SDA Church and his contributors are from near and far, as his ministry extends around the country. Elder Earnhardt is currently conducting Bible studies, seminars and evangelism training all over Florida, and even in other states through the power of the internet.  You can follow William’s ministry on Facebook, or check out his website at www.inlightofthecross.com.Recently, the Homosassa SDA Church had Elder Earnhardt in their church to baptize 6 precious souls he had been working with.  He also had a recent Week of Prayer in the New Port Richey SDA School, which lead to 15 baptisms.William recalls that over the years hehas performed countless baptisms in Tampa First SDA Church, Tampa Adventist Academy,and other parts of Florida.

Beyond our state’s boarders, Elder Earnhardt has also traveled to Peru, Connecticut, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas to hold evangelism meetings, revivals, and training seminars, which have led to even more baptisms.  Even while he is in Florida, William reaches around the globe with his personal blog ministry, as well as writing for Sabbath School Net. E-mails have come in from as far away as Australia, Peru, Chile, Africa, Canada, etc., sharing how William’s articles and “In Light of the Cross” Study Guides have led people to Jesus.

I first became acquainted with William at Camp Kulaqua, our beautiful Florida Conference summer camp and church retreat facilities, where I have worked for several years with our academy young people, as the guest pastor for Outdoor Education. Elder Earnhardt has mentoreda number of young people over the years, at Tampa Adventist Academy and Gulf Coast SDA School, who he brought to Camp Kulaqua for Outdoor Ed. That is how we got acquainted.  When I recently began pastoring in Plant City, I learned that William’s Bible Worker Fund had been supporting him four years so far.  William relies on monthly supporters and one-time contributors alike. William has also sought part-time employment in other types of work to supplement his income.However, it has come to my attention that in recent months the funds received for each month are not enough to cover his hours of work for each month and the Bible Worker Fund is being depleted faster than it is being replenished. Meanwhile,William‘s ministry is flourishing, with opportunities for even more and more Bible studies, revivals and seminars.  With so many people in our area and around the globe coming to Christ, and growing in Christ, throughhis ministry, and with the time of Christ’s coming getting closer every day, it would be sad to see his Bible Worker Fund become unable to continue to support his ministry in the months ahead.

You Can HelpFirst, I ask you to pray for Elder Earnhardt and his ministry, that God will continue to direct his path and provide for him and his ministry’s needs.Second,I ask you to either keep supporting William, or consider supporting his ministry with either a one-time donation, or, even more importantly, on-going monthly contributions.Third, please share this letter and invitation to become a supporter of the work of the laity, like William, who we are told will finish the work in the last days before Christ’s return.As the Holy Spirit leads, please send your tax-deductible contributions payable to Plant City SDA Church, P.O. Box 5379, Plant City, FL 33563.  Indicate on your check that this is for the “Bible Worker Fund.” I thank you, I know William thanks you, and, most of all, the many people William consistently reaches for Jesus will thank you in heaven.

In Christ’s Service,

Pastor Mark Swaisgood

Enjoy all the Days of Your Life

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

But the godly will flourish like palm trees…..Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. Psalm 92:12-14 NLT

When I was young I was inspired by John Kennedy, because he was the most youthful U.S. president, and he showed what younger people can do. Now that I am older, I am inspired by Ronald Reagan, because he showed us what older people can do.

When I was 19 I was invited to join a home Bible study group. Everyone else was in their mid twenties to early forties. As well as studying the Bible together we did a lot of social activities, and as a 19 year old I thought it was cool that people in their twenties and even forties would hang out with me. Over thirty years later, I found myself at a restaurant, eating nachos with one of my college age Bible study groups, and I thought it was cool that people in their early twenties will hang out with someone in his fifties!

Its funny how our perspective changes as life changes. Many people fear getting older. I don’t. Long before I turned 50 a few years ago, a few people in their 70’s and 80’s told me the 50’s were the best years of their life. There are three reasons to love being in your 50’s. 1. People take you seriously. 2. Usually you are financially solid by 50. 3. Most people in their 50’s are still in reasonably good health. Some joke that while 50 is the new 30, 9 pm is the new midnight. It is true that in my early twenties whenever I would have a Bible study finish early in the evening, I would run over to the baseball stadium to catch the rest of the game. Today whenever a Bible study finishes early in the evening, I think, “Great! I can get to bed early tonight!” Sometimes I will force myself to do things I used to do, just to prove to myself that I am still young.

There are other advantages to growing older. Having worked with so many different churches and conferences over the years I know a lot of people. My friends list keeps growing. A couple of years ago when I had to evacuate Florida for a hurricane, there were several families between Texas and Tennessee that let me know their homes were open for me. As you get older you get wiser in choosing your friends, and over the years you have more friends to choose from. Also as more young faces appear in my life, I have more people to share my old stories with, who have not already heard them a hundred times. By the way, when an older person tells you the same story a hundred times, it is not because he forgot he already told you. It is because he gets to relive it every time he tells the story.

Speaking of younger faces, I have found working in the education field that everyone likes working with young people whether it is coaching and teaching, or just coming to school one day on career day to talk to kids about their career. I believe we all find hope for ourselves by believing we are making a positive difference in a young person’s life. Also kids keep us full of life. I remember a few months after my mother died, I was visiting family, which of course made me think of my mother. I left the visit to go join the 5th and 6th grade class from the school I worked with at an outdoor ed camp. While driving I became very sad thinking about my mother. I told myself once I got to the camp and was surrounded by youthful 5th and 6th-graders their presence would cheer me up and I would be happy again. Sure enough that is what happened. Those kids had no clue how they helped me overcome my grief!

Two thousand years ago, Mary, a young girl, probably around 14, was told by an angel she was having a baby. She went to see her cousin, Elizabeth, who was on the other side of the child-bearing age margin, but was also with child. Their visit must have been very meaningful as Mary’s youth must have inspired aging Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s experience must have inspired a very young Mary. They both needed each other. Today we all need each other. We should not be afraid of growing old. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago. Psalm 23 tells us God’s goodness and mercy follows us all the days of our life. As a youthful Kennedy and an aging Reagan have both inspired my life, we all need both young and old people in our lives. What is more, whether we are old or young, people need us in their lives. Enjoy your youth. Enjoy your old age. Enjoy all the days of your life!

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