What Does it Mean to Be Absent From the Body and Present with the Lord?

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A song goes:

One day Jesus will call my name As days go by, ‘hope I don’t stay the same. I wanna get so close to Him that it’s no big change, On that day that Jesus calls my name! -Phil McHugh, One Day Jesus Will Call my Name

This takes us head on to the point of a Scriptural passage that many Adventists shy away from.

So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:6-7 NKJV

Does this verse put us into defense mode? Do we feel pressured to explain what it is not saying? We should never study God’s word in defense mode. Acts 17:11commends people for searching the Scriptures with open minds, not defensive minds. So instead of getting defensive let’s look at what Paul is saying. I find the expression Paul uses being absent from the body and present with Christ similar to the same type expression he makes in Colossians.

For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, Colossians 2:5 NKJV

Paul is simply using a figure of speech as when he says absent from the body is to be present with Christ.

As I read all of 2 Corinthians, I seem to pick up on a theme, and it is not the state of the dead. The theme to me seems to be living in the Spirit as opposed to living in the flesh or the body. In 2 Corinthians 5 that theme is very apparent. For example,

For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 NKJV

To me, Paul’s reference to being absent from the body and to be present with Christ is ongoing as we live on this earth. I see it here in Ephesians too.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:4-6 NKJV

To be present with Christ, and to sit together with Him in heavenly places would be the same, and is a currently ongoing process. In all of Paul’s writings he talks about living in the Spirit as opposed to living in the flesh. I see 2 Corinthians 5 as a continuation of his theme. Paul is describing the life in the flesh or body which separates us from Christ, as opposed to living by faith and being present with Christ right here on earth. He goes on in verse 17 and describes a new creation right here on earth.

This leads me back to the point of  Phil’s song, I want to be so close to Jesus now that it is no big change when He comes.  2 Corinthians 5 is teaching us to crucify the flesh, and live with Christ here on earth. Paul strongly hits this point again in Titus.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14 NKJV

In 2 Corinthians 5:17 and again in Titus 2:11-14 grace changes us right here on earth in the present age. And it is because of this that we look forward to Jesus’ glorious appearing.

I am in my 50’s now, and to be honest, when I was young I thought I would be a lot more like Jesus by now. I know it’s possible for me to be more like Jesus, because I see people half my age or less, who haven’t known Jesus a fraction of the time I have, and yet they are way so much more like Jesus than I am! But instead of comparing myself to others and getting discouraged I stay focused on Jesus.

forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV

I know Jesus loves me, and I keep my eyes focused on Him as His grace draws me closer to Him day by day. The Scriptures describe how Jesus’ coming will drastically change the world with earthquakes and islands and mountains falling into the sea. But the plan is that it won’t change me much. I left the flesh when I was baptized and crucified to self.The plan is, that long before the second coming it will be seen that every day I am not living in the body or flesh, but in the Spirit as I practice the presence of Jesus. See Romans 6:3-6 and Luke 9:23. My heart is not with my body. My heart is already with Christ. When Jesus comes I will continue in eternity the life Jesus began for me here on earth. Today I want to crucify the flesh and be absent from the body and live with Christ here today as well as in heaven after Jesus comes.

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

Pray For Our Leaders

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: Daniel 4:34 NKJV

I don’t know how it is around the world, but here in the last days in the United States, we are becoming very polarized politically. I am afraid it is even affecting the church. A while back a young person in the church shared a meme on Facbeook, bashing a political figure with lies. I messaged my young friend and shared the documentation with her that the cruel meme was making a false accusation. She replied back that she did not need me telling her the meme was false because she already knew it was a lie. I asked her why she was spreading lies. She replied back, “They make the point I am wanting to make.” I replied back, “so your point is a lie?” She replied back that she had an agenda and did not need me judging her integrity. If it took a lie to promote her political agenda then so be it!

Sadly that is not an isolated case. Professed Adventist Christians are spreading lies and fake news about political figures to suit their political preferences. It is being done on both sides. What really saddens me is that many professed Adventist Christians are using social media to promote earthly politics instead of sharing the gospel. Not only are they being worldly focused but they are not even using integrity even by worldly standards. They are using lies, fake news and gossip.

In Daniel 4 we see a pagan king who repents and is saved. The first six chapters of Daniel are filled with stories that will be repeated as the prophecies in the last six chapters unfold. The image in Daniel 3 is similar to the mark of the beast. I believe if Daniel 3 repeats itself then Daniel 4 will repeat itself as well. I believe ruthless pagan political leaders will be converted int he last days. Why else would Daniel 4 be in the middle of other stories that are to be repeated in the last days?

As we prepare for the end time, instead of means that even the world recognizes as immoral, such as fake news, lies and gossip to bash political leaders who we think are pagan, lets instead pray for their conversion.

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 NKJV

May I also suggest that instead of hiding behind an electronic device on social media, to hurl insults at others, that sensitive issues are better discussed face to face in real life? I have yet to see social media solve a social issue yet. Social issues are better solved in social real life discussions. It also helps us to be more responsible and Christlike with our comments.

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

Persecution of the Peacemakers

That very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for previously they had been at enmity with each other. Luke 23:12 NKJV

Jesus was the common foe uniting political enemies. So it will be in the last days.

Political enemies will be united as commandment-keeping Christians become the common foe of all nations.

you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. Matthew 24:9 NKJV

Some people challenge the Adventist interpretation of Revelation 13, because they can’t imagine the Unites States persecuting Christians, yet even Jesus says God’s people will be hated by all nations, and that includes the United States.

Jesus knew that in a sinful world commandment keeping would not be accepted. This may be why He said,

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. Matthew 10:34 NKJV

Many think this statement is out of character for Jesus. After all He is the Prince of Peace, and didn’t the angels sing, “peace on earth” at His birth? May I suggest that it is the actual peacefulness of Christians that will stir up the ire of the world in the last days?

The beatitudes are building blocks to a complete conversion. As the conversion process comes to completion Jesus says,

Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9 NKJV

But look what happens next to the peacemakers!

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10-12 NKJV

Like Ahab persecuted Elijah for being faithful to God, accusing him of being the trouble maker (See 1 Kings 18:17), so the leaders accused Jesus of stirring up dissension. (See Luke 23:5) This will be repeated right before Jesus comes. Many Christians will deny Christ and the commandments, thinking it better to be at peace with the world. When Hitler rose up in Europe, many of his neighbors wanted peace at any cost, but it turned out that the only thing uglier than war was cowardice! This is why John said,

But the cowardly….shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8 NKJV

Peter said,

For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 1 Peter 3:17 NKJV

In the last days we are to be peacemakers, but that does not mean being cowards in keeping God’s law. Let it be said of us, what was said of Daniel,

“We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” Daniel 6:5 NKJV

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

Nancy and Ashley’s Baptism Pictures and Stories

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Just a few months ago, Sheldon (Left) invited Ashely, (2nd Left) his friend from work, to visit the Plant City Seventh-day Adventist Church.  The next Sabbath Ashley’s mother Nancy came with her. They both were very interested in learning more about Jesus and the Bible, so we began a group Bible study. In the group Bible study Nancy and Ashley both shared a desire to be baptized, and our group study quickly transitioned into a baptism class.

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We enjoyed having Jose join our studies as well as Sheldon, Henry, (Sheldon’s father pictured above) and Marie on several occasions.  After fellowship lunch every Sabbath we wold get together with whoever wanted to join us. Nancy and Ashley soon became a part of our church family, becoming very active in Sabbath School and fellowship lunches and socials. They often join us for Wednesday night Bible study as well.

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Ashley wanted to give all of herself to Jesus, since Jesus gave all of Himself for her.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14 NKJV

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Nancy is a very compassionate nurse, and like Ashley loves animals and care for all of God’s creatures. They spread God’s love everywhere they go, sharing God’s grace and mercy.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV

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Don’t let the sun set on you before you give your life to Jesus, Who gave His life for you! I would love to help you make this step. You can contact me at PlantCitySDAChurch@Gmail.com

Truly Worshiping God Means Truly Trusting Him

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Tuesday’s section of this week’s lesson asks,

“How can we make sure we aren’t involved in any false worship?”

It seems the question between true worship and false worship boils down to who we really trust. For example, the children of Israel turned to Aaron’s golden calf when they didn’t trust Moses to return. Saul trusted his own sacrifices when he didn’t trust Samuel to show up. When David numbered his army it showed he trusted in numbers more than God. So, how can we make sure we aren’t involved in any false worship now? One way is by relying upon God now instead of or own works or inventions.

Do I return an honest tithe, or withhold some or all to put bread on my family’s table, instead of trusting Jesus to put bread on my family’s table?

If I return an honest tithe than I am truly worshiping Jesus. If I withhold tithe to provide for myself then I am trusting my money instead of Jesus. I am worshiping money which has become my false God. Notice I am not worshiping it necessarily because I love money more, but simply because I trust money more than I trust God.

Do I work on the Sabbath because my family needs the money, or do I rest from my works on the Sabbath and put my trust in God to provide?

Same issue as tithe, right? It all comes down to trust. What makes us think we will be true to God’s Sabbath during the mark of the beast, when we are not even keeping it during times of peace and prosperity? If I think my job is going to save me then I am worshiping my job, which is false worship. By resting from my works on Sabbath I am trusting God and thus truly worshiping Him.

While taking a test do I cheat to make sure I pass, or do I trust Jesus to work things out for me even if I fail?

Even if we fail a test or even have to take a class over, God can work all that out for our own good. We truly worship God in school as we truly trust Him in school.

When I make a mistake do I try to lie my way out, or do I tell the truth and trust Jesus to save me?

Revelation 21:8 says all liars will be in the lake of fire. We can’t say we trust Jesus while trusting our lies to save us. When we lie we worship our lies instead of worshiping Jesus.

False systems of worship seem to come from not trusting what God has already set in place. When we learn to trust Jesus we won’t need counterfeit systems of worship.

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

The Immortality of the Soul and Satan’s Seeing is Believing Trick

Tulsa By River

I am writing today from beautiful Tulsa, Oklahoma

A Bible student excitedly told me about a movie he saw where someone died and went to heaven where he saw his dead loved ones. When I reminded him about thestate of the dead, he told me, “Well maybe they did not actually die. Maybe it was a dream.” He was quite emotional about the movie and told me it had strengthened his faith in God.

What could be wrong with that?

Well, it raises the issue of whether we regard movies as authoritative, or not. Do we put our faith in movies or other visual media? Bible-believing Christians regard the Bible alone as authoritative in matters of faith. Sadly, all too often entertainment films promote popular misconceptions rather than presenting what the Bible says.

Satan has been using the “seeing is believing” strategy right from the beginning. When Satan dressed up as a serpent, he offered Eve a treat that turned out to be a trick. God’s Word said, “If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” (Genesis 2:17 NLT), but then Eve saw that this serpent not only appeared to have eaten the fruit and did not die, but could also talk. This was pretty convincing “seeing is believing” evidence for her. You could disobey God and not die and at the same time enjoy benefits. If the serpent could talk after disobeying God, then what were the possibilities for Eve? The serpent appeared to be more credible than God’s Word because the visible proof was right there.

Eve believed what she saw more than what God had told her. How wrong she was! Eve ate the fruit and ultimately died. The serpent that Satan used died too, and one day Satan himself will die. It may have initially appeared God’s Word was not true, but God’s Word proved to be very true indeed.

Satan uses the seeing is believing trick in many other ways besides just death. During World War 2 many Bible believing Christians were sure Hitler was going to take over all of Europe, even though Daniel 2 says Europe will never again have a one world empire. After all it sure looked like He was going to win!  While Jesus traveled with His two companions on the road to Emmaus, it sure looked to them like Jesus was not the Messiah after all. Instead of having them recognize Him, he showed them in Scripture the truth about the Messiah. Why go to Scripture instead of just opening their eyes and letting them see Him? Because Jesus doesn’t want us going by the seeing is believing mentality. Seeing is believing is Satan’s trick. God doesn’t use that. He uses Scripture. Scripture is our safeguard from the seeing is believing deception.

Jesus has warned us that in the last days that :

“… some shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect”. Matthew 24:24.

He was warning us that we need to be aware of how easily we can be deceived by what we see.

The belief that the dead can communicate with us has been one of the greatest delusions playing on the emotions of the bereaved by insinuating that the dead are alive in a different dimension and can talk to us. In parallel with one of the great Awakening movements in the United States, the Fox Sisters appeared to be communicating with the dead in their bedrooms. However Jesus warned us in Matthew 24:26 that He would not be in secret places, such as bedrooms. Those who place their trust in the Bible need not be deceived even though it may appear that the dead can speak.

Someone may say to you, “Let’s ask the mediums and those who consult the spirits of the dead. With their whisperings and mutterings, they will tell us what to do.” But shouldn’t people ask God for guidance? Should the living seek guidance from the dead? Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark. Isaiah 8:19-20 NLT

The popular media are full of accounts of near-death experiences – in which people supposedly died briefly on the operating table or in other situations – and then “came back” through medical intervention or other means. They tell vivid accounts of what they experienced while dead. While there are scientific explanations for such experiences,1 most people seem to take these as genuine glimpses into the afterlife, particularly those who have had these experiences. After all, seeing is believing. This plays well into Satan’s overall plan of deceiving the people of this world.

A friend of mine was visiting some folk when their young son went missing. Tragically they found him face down in the pool with little sign of life. As they rushed him to the hospital, the mother was frantically praying to the Virgin Mary to save her son. But Mary could not save her son. She was dead. Sadly the boy died too.

In times of trouble shall we call upon the dead, or shall we call on Jesus who is alive and has conquered the grave? Shouldn’t we have a personal relationship with Jesus instead of dead people?

The story of King Saul clearly illustrates the danger of losing sight of our relationship with God. Saul, frustrated with not getting the message from God that he wanted, chose to consult a medium to call back Samuel from the dead. The medium in 1 Samuel 28:14 created the illusion that Saul was talking to Samuel, leading to a set of tragic results for him and his family.

The KJV says Saul “perceived” he was talking to Samuel. Samuel was not talking to Saul. It was an illusion created by Satan. Furthermore, it raised the question why Saul looked for comfort from a dead person to whom he had not listened while he was living, rather than listen to the living God.

Saul should have sought counsel from God instead of an illusion. Today we should seek counsel and courage from the Bible rather than movies and accounts of near-death experiences that depict popular misconceptions. Movies depicting people “crossing over” from the “other side” should not be our source of encouragement.

We can be confident in Scriptures like 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 where Paul describes the second coming and resurrection. He described for us how those who are dead and sleeping in Christ will be raised at the resurrection at the second coming and will meet the living in the air to be with Jesus to live forever.

Paul adds: “Encourage each other with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:18 We don’t need to be encouraged by Media Fiction or phrases like “They have gone home to be with the Lord” Which are found nowhere in the Bible. We can encourage each other with the hope found in the Scriptures which are tried and true.

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


Did the Repentant Thief get off Easy?

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Many Christians squirm and struggle with the story of the repentant thief being saved without “putting in his time” or “earning” it. This story alone makes salvation look too easy. My response is, where in Scripture does it say salvation is supposed to be hard? How hard did Adam and Eve work to be placed in paradise to begin with? How hard did the angels work to be created in heaven?

Sure Jesus said,

“Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life.” Matthew 7:14

But does narrow and strait have to be hard?

Against popular belief, the Bible actually says,

The way of the transgressors is hard. Proverbs 13:15

Why? Because God’s love has made it hard for sinners to destroy themselves.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. Lamentations 3:22

At the beginning of my ministry I was working with a pastor who was very popular for his sound Adventist theology. He taught the importance of the law and obedience. He preached that Jesus saves us from sin not in sin. One night providence had us both at the bedside of a dying saint. An elderly woman who spent her entire life giving Bible studies, and baking pies to feed the needy. She was true to Bible doctrine. That night I watched while the pastor held this dear lady’s hand, and asked, “Do you love Jesus?” She would open her eyes long enough to smile and then quickly appear to fall asleep again. the pastor told her over and over, “Just rest in Jesus. He died for you and loves you.” What amazed me that night is what the pastor of righteous living did not say. He did not mention her avid Sabbath keeping, or Bible studies given, or how she fed the needy. I watched this lady die as the pastor encouraged her to cling to one thing, and one thing only-the cross!

Friends that  is how we are all saved, from the repentant thief to Methuselah with his 969 years of service, we are all saved by grace alone!

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

Nicodemus was equivalent to a General Conference official today. In John 3 Jesus never flattered Nicodemus with his position, titles or accomplishments. In John 3:14-17 He pointed him straight to the cross, as his only hope. The same hope given to the thief on the cross. So General Conference presidents are saved the same way the repentant thief on the cross was saved. This explains why Ellen White, wife of early GC president James White, asked him over and over on his death bed, “Do you love Jesus? Is Jesus precious to you?” She never mentioned his positions, titles or accomplishments. She knew those were worth garbage. She presented to her dying husband what Jesus presented to Nicodemus- the cross and the cross alone!

Sure it is important to point out that the repentant thief showed his repentance, not by saying he was sorry. He actually never said he was sorry. He did something drastically more important. He changed his attitude! He addressed Jesus not only as Savior but as Lord of his life. He made a confession that was backed up by the way he behaved in front of an unbelieving multitude.  That is exactly how we all are saved.

If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

This is exactly what the repentant thief did on the cross. And we all have the promise,

For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:13

It is worth pointing out that the thief was not playing games. He was not thinking to live as he pleased and then just repent at the last second. That of course is not genuine repentance. Because his repentance was sincere, he was saved the exact same way every repentant sinner is saved.

The dying thief rejoiced to see That fountain in his day; And there may I, though vile as he, Wash all my sins away: Wash all my sins away, Wash all my sins away; And there may I, though vile as he, Wash all my sins away. -There is a Fountain, William Cowper 1772.

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