7 A’s of Reconciliation

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Wednesday’s section of this week’s lesson reminded me about the importance of reconciliation. Reconciliation is so important to God that from Genesis 3 to Revelation 20, the theme of reconciliation.

Like King David in 2 Samuel 12:1-12, we all get mad when we hear about oppression and injustice. Like King David, most of us have been guilty of oppression  and injustice at some point. When we find ourselves guilty, it is important to make confession and reconciliation, not just to get rid of our guilt and heal our conscience, but to heal the pain of those we have hurt. In Ken Sande’s book, Resolving Everyday Conflict, he shares the 7 A’s of confession and reconciliation. I would like to take a further look at them here, along with God’s Word. In so doing, I believe we can find a genuine and successful approach to healing the pain we have caused others. Please keep in mind that not all the steps need to be followed for lesser offenses. You will need to pray and let God lead you as to exactly what steps to follow.

Image © Lars Justinen Goodsalt.com

Keep in mind also that after Adam’s sin, the Garden of Eden was no longer a safe place for him. While God forgave Adam, he was never permitted back into the Garden here on earth. What a thrilling moment it will be, when in the New Earth,  Adam is reconciled to God and Adam’s Eden home is restored! Likewise there are some extreme cases of oppression and abuse, where certain relationships will only be safely reconciled and restored in the New Earth. Meanwhile what a precious blessing and responsibility it is to restore and reconcile what can be reconciled here on earth.

The 7 A’s of Confession and Reconciliation. 

  1. Address Everyone Involved. 

Sins committed only in the heart need to be confessed to God alone. Public sins need to be confessed to all those who were hurt.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16 NLT

2. Avoid Using the words, “if” “but” and “maybe.”

Say “I hurt you.” Not, “If I hurt you.” Say “I was wrong.” Not, “I was wrong but so were you.” Say, “I know I made a mistake.” Not “Maybe I made a mistake.” Don’t shift, minimize or excuse your guilt.

People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy. Proverbs 28:13 NLT

3. Admit Specifically Where you were wrong. 

Don’t be vague.

Forgive me for shedding blood…Psalm 51:14 NLT

4. Acknowledge the Hurt.

You can even ask, “Do I understand how much I’ve hurt you?”

When Saul sinned, the throne was taken from him, because he was only sorry about what his sin had cost him personally. David sinned an even greater sin, but kept the throne, because He was truly sorry about what his sin had cost God.

Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; Psalm 51:4 NLT

5. Accept the Consequences.

Genuine repentance accepts any due penalties.

Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” Luke 19:8 NLT

6. Alter Your Behavior.

You are not really sorry if you keep willfully repeating the same offense. Ask people to hold you accountable.  You may even put your plan for change into writing. One of the reasons I am writing about this topic is to reinforce it in my own mind.

If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Ephesians 4:28 NLT

7. Ask for Forgiveness (and allow time)

If it took you a while to confess, it may take a while for the other person to forgive. Don’t push it or rush it. If you are sincere and genuine in these 7 steps, most people will be quick to forgive.

Often when we try to place the blame on others, they will turn around and place the blame on us. On the other hand, when we accept full responsibility for our actions, others will often accept responsibility for their actions.

I have attempted to simplify and paraphrase the ideas in Ken Sande’s book, to reinforce them for myself and to help others to make reconciliation. When we find ourselves being oppressed or treated unjustly it is easy to just run away or attack back. When mankind rebelled against God, God neither ran away or attacked back. Instead He presented Himself as the peace offering for our offense!  Genesis 3 to Revelation 20 deals mainly with God’s attempt at reconciliation. This tells me reconciliation is very important.

It may seem hard to make confession and reconciliation. It may seem easier to run away. It may cost us our pride to make reconciliation, but that is a small price considering it cost God His dear Son. If reconciliation is worth God’s Son, then it is definitely worth anything it would cost us.

Which Laws Were Abolished at the Cross?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Were the ceremonial or moral laws done away with at the cross? What exactly did Christ abolish on the cross? Let’s take a look at God’s Word to see.

The ten commandments were written with God’s own hand.

So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone. Deuteronomy 4:13 NKJV

The ten commandments were placed inside the ark.

And you shall put into the ark the Testimony which I will give you. Exodus 25:16 NKJV

The commandments last forever.

The works of His hands are verity and justice;
All His precepts are sure.  They stand fast forever and ever,
And are done in truth and uprightness. Psalm 111:7-8 NKJV

The ceremonial law was written in Moses’ handwriting and was placed in the side of the ark while we have seen the Ten Commandments were written by God and placed inside the ark.

So it was, when Moses had completed writing the words of this law in a book, when they were finished,  that Moses commanded the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying: Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there as a witness against you;  Deuteronomy 31:24-26 NKJV

The ceremonial laws written by Moses lasted only until the reformation.

concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation. Hebrews 9:10 NKJV

It was ordinances that were handwritten by Moses that were done away with at the cross. The ceremonial laws like the feast Sabbath days like the Passover, which pointed towards the cross no longer served a purpose after the cross. The weekly Sabbath in the ten commandments was instituted before the law was ever given (Genesis 2:1-3) and continued throughout the New Testament by Jews and Greeks alike (Acts 18:4) and will continue in the new earth. (Isaiah 66:23)

having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Colossians 2:14-17 NKJV

Note: the requirements that were against them was the record of their rebellion we saw in Deuteronomy 31:24-26. The Ten commandments were not against them. They were there for their blessing and protection. See Psalm 19 and 119.

The sacrificial system ceased at the cross. The ten commandments never ceased.

Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,
Even until the consummation, which is determined,
Is poured out on the desolate.” Daniel 9:27 NKJV

In the new testament commandment keeping continues.

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. John 15:9-10 NKJV

He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  1 John 2:4 NKJV

The ten commandments convict us of sin after the cross just like before.

but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.  For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.  So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. James 2:9-12 NKJV

Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 1 John 3:4NKJV

Jesus did not die to do away with the law. He died so we could be obedient and live righteously.

who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 1 Peter 2:24

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, Titus 2:11-12 NKJV

Those who keep the commandments by God’s grace will inherit eternal life.

Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. Revelation 22:14 NKJV

Summary and conclusion: The handwritten ordinances and sacrificial systems that pointed towards the cross were no longer needed after the cross. The Ten commandments were not handwritten by Moses but by God and do not point towards the cross. The ten commandments endure for all eternity.

Why Kindergarten is a Part of Your College Degree

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The podcast version of this article is available here.

As this week’s lesson emphasizes the importance of the law in our education I am reminded of what Jesus said regarding the principle of the entire law.

Do to others as you would like them to do to you. Luke 6:31 NLT

Many are familiar with the phrase, ‘All I really needed to know I learned in Kindergarten.” This phrase came from Robert Fulghum’s book, with the same title as the phrase. The main idea is that in kindergarten one learns simple hygiene practices as well as the importance of a nap every afternoon.  Sounds great, right? Fulghum goes on to explain how kindergarten taught him not to take things that did not belong to him and how to share what he had. In short, kindergarten taught him to be fair and considerate of others needs and rights. Of course since the book came out, kindergarten has progressed to be more like first grade when I was starting school way back in the mid 1900’s. Still, kindergarten teaches  basic citizenship skills about how to get along with others. How to be responsible in cleaning up your own mess as well as being considerate and helpful to others. I believe Jesus would sum all these kindergarten lessons up with “Do to others as you would like them to do to you.”

After kindergarten many of us went on to “greater” things. We learned algebra and geometry.  Some of us went on to learn calculous (well I surely didn’t but some of us did.) We learned science and chemistry and biology. Yet in all of our learning we were never to forget what we learned in kindergarten. While doing algebra and geometry it is still important o know that 1+1=2. Yes we go on to much greater things than we could ever have imagined in kindergarten but we must never forget 1+1=2. When a math major receives her college degree certificate at Harvard, what she learned in kindergarten about 1+1=2 is a substance and the foundation of the degree that she now proudly hangs on her office wall.

Do you know what else is a substance of our greater education? the things we learned in kindergarten about treating others fairly and honestly. Doing for others what we would want them to do for us. Jesus told us this is the foundation of the law. Therefore if the law is the foundation of our education then doing for others what we would want them to do for us must be the foundation of our education. No matter how far you go in math 1+1 will always equal 2. That fundamental law will always stay with you. No matter how far you go in life climbing the corporate ladder “do for others what you would like them to do for you” will always be a fundamental law in your education and career.

When you walk off the platform at Andrews University or Avondale or Newbold, or any other university with your college degree you do not get to throw away your kindergarten education. Your kindergarten education is a fundamental part of your college education. It doesn’t go away. If you ever forget that 1+1=2 your math degree will become useless. If you ever forget to treat others the way you would want to be treated then your entire education becomes meaningless.

The law is the foundation of our education. Do for others what you would like them to do for you is the foundation of the law. Therefore do for others what you would like them to do for you is the foundation of education.

I can’t really say all I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten, but I can honestly say I will always need all I learned in kindergarten.

A Christian Home is Christian Education

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

My child, listen when your father corrects you. Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction. What you learn from them will crown you with grace and be a chain of honor around your neck. Proverbs 1:8-9 NLT

Ephesians 5:33 in the KJV calls for wives to reverence their husbands. That is powerful, because the Bible never tells anyone to reverence a priest or a prophet. That word “reverence” for the father tells me, a parent is  the first teacher and also the first and most important pastor.

I love Christian schools, and have dedicated my time and money to them. I believe in their mission with all my heart. Yet, sometimes when we promote Christian schools, I think we sometimes give credit to the schools that actually belongs to the parents. Of course I understand it is the parents who utilize the school in their home ministry. Christian education does not begin in a school building. It begins in the home. I promote Christian schools over public schools but I also realize a child can get a Christian education at home even if he/she is in a public school. last week’s lesson showed us how the Garden of Eden was the first classroom. The home is a child’s first classroom and it is a continuous classroom.

I went to Adventist Schools from Grades 1 through college. My schools averaged around 100 students a year with different students coming and going throughout my 12 grades. A while back, I went through my year books, and I could count on both hands, and maybe a couple of toes the number of kids who remained in the church after we grew up. Upon further investigation I found, for the most part, my schoolmates  who remained in the church after growing up, had worship every night in the home. Their parents also encouraged their children to study the Bible for themselves. That is why their children are still in the church.

Church schools are great, they are wonderful, they are ordained by God, but they are not ordained to take the place of the mother and father and do the work the mother and father are ordained to do. (I understand there are situations, like my late friend Quong, who came to the United States from Vietnam, and was put in an Adventist School, only because it was private. While his parents were atheist, Quong, accepted Jesus, and was forced out of his home at 14 years of age! He slept at the school every night till he found a new family to live with. Thank God for that school!)

A while back I was giving a devotional for chapel at a Christian School. I asked the lower grade students how many of them have family worship at home. Out of about 45 students only 5 hands were raised. I begged the other students to ask their parents to have family worship with them every night, by studying the children’s Sabbath School lessons (Click on age groups tab on menu at the top of the screen.) and Bible together, and prayer.

Again I have dedicated much of my life and resources in support of our Adventist schools. At the same time when we have an ‘Education Sabbath” it grieves me that the church will give credit to the schools that actually belongs to the parents. As already stated family worship and a Christian home is the key contributor to keeping children in the church after they grow up. A Christian home is Christian education.

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

Today I Realized why my Golf Buddies Don’t all Keep Score

I love keeping score. I love statistics. I have entered on my computer every score of every match I have played and where I placed. I know I have annoyed a few of my golf buddies by adding up the score in the middle of a round. I learned early on some of my golf buddies don’t want their scores recorded, which as a statistics buff I found odd, but I learned to live with this uncanny fact. Granted I learned that there was more I needed to control on the golf course besides my swing. I needed to control my attitude. Your opponents, sand traps, water and woods can create some real challenges and obstacles, but all of those are beyond my control. I found there was an attitude inside my head that if I did not control it will surely do me in.

I tried not worrying about the score for the first several holes. I learned that most pro golfers do not even look at the leader board until they are over half way through the course.

I tried not worrying about the ball I just sent into the water or the other one that just now landed me in the woods. The only swing that matters is your next swing. The present is the only thing that matters. Do your best now. The past is gone.

I tell myself most of all enjoy a beautiful day on a beautiful golf course with your buddies. After all aren’t friends what life is all about. What golfer on his death bed wants to be surrounded by his trophies? None. They all want to be surrounded by their family and friends. I agree with this concept, yet I know after a super bowl victory Tom Brady does not text on Twitter, “Spent a fun evening with friends playing football.”

So what is it about the game of golf that makes it such a gentleman’s game (or ladies game just the same) to the point that score rarely matters when playing with friends if it matters at all?

Today while reading about Tiger Woods’ drama off and on the golf course over the years something just as profound as it is simple and obvious dawned on me. Fist of all I do not mean to single Tiger out as an example. Fact is we all have our struggles and demons. The pressure placed on him in childhood may have been less than ideal. His own expectations in adulthood may have been unreasonable. Like many of us he tried so hard to control all of the obstacles around him that he lost control of himself. While becoming a famous household name he was known by millions, but did he know himself anymore? Admittedly he did not. Relationships were unsatisfying. Instead of seeing people as friends he only saw them as obstacles in his way of greatness.

This is when the profound, simple and obvious dawned on me. I also Googled Arnold Palmer this afternoon, and found when Arnold Palmer was on his death bed in a Pittsburg hospital he was surrounded by family and friends. He was not surrounded by his trophies and awards. People were not obstacles in his way of greatness. People were what Palmer’s life was all about.

I realized why so many of my golf buddies don’t keep score or at least not as meticulously as I do. The happiest person on the golf course is not the one with the best score. It is not the one with the most money in their wallet. The happiest people on the golf course are the ones who are at peace with themselves. They control their own attitude instead of controlling the people around them. Their integrity buys them peace in the woods and sand traps as well as on the fairways and greens.

The greatest opponent is the one inside your head. The greatest achievement in golf is to walk off the 18th green at peace with yourself. And a score card wont ever reveal the peace in your heart.

Don’t be Afraid to Try!

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Does the past ever haunt you? Do you ever wish you could go back and do something differently? Every baseball season I am haunted by something that I did, or actually didn’t do when I was 12. Many springs ago, I was a Little League baseball player. It was my first year of organized baseball, while my peers had been playing for years. I had never played fastball before, and those 11 and 12-year-old pitchers threw fastballs by me so fast, that, to me, I might as well have been facing Nolan Ryan! While I did manage to get on base a few times by walking, my career hit total equals 1.

Funny thing is, while my parents came to most all my games, they missed the one game where I got a hit. When I hit that ball into right field, my teammates jumped off the bench and started celebrating like we had won the World Series. The other team was looking over at them, trying to figure out what the big deal was. I told the first baseman it was my first hit. Turns out my only hit.

Eventually I made it to third base, and what happens next, or didn’t happen, is what has haunted me ever since. While I was on third base, the batter squared to bunt. The infield came way in towards home, allowing me to take a gigantic lead off of third base. The pitch landed in the catcher’s mitt. The catcher slowly and carelessly tossed the ball back to the pitcher. That is when I thought, hey, I have such a huge lead off third base already, and the catcher is throwing the ball back to the pitcher so slowly, that if I break for home as soon as the catcher releases the ball, I can steal home before the pitcher throws it back! I waited for my chance. Sure enough the next pitch lands in the catcher’s mitt and the catcher repeats his same slow, careless toss back to the pitcher. However I did not break for home. Instead I thought, wait a minute. The coach is not telling me to run, and if I do get out I will look like an idiot in front of everyone. So I never tried to steal home plate. I was afraid to fail, so I never tried. Now, whenever I see Carl Crawford or B.J. Upton steal home plate, I think to myself, I could have done that too if I had just tried. Looking back now, I am sure I could have made it easily. Only my fear of failure kept me back.

I learned a lesson from standing on third base on that spring afternoon so long ago. Go ahead and try! Even if you don’t make it, at least you will know, instead of wondering about it for the rest of your life, like I have. Many people are afraid to knock on a door to tell somebody about Jesus.

When I was 15 years old, I learned my lesson from when I was 12, and I went door to door in my neighborhood, asking people if they wanted to study the Bible. Many said “no.” At least now I knew, instead of wondering if they did for the rest of my life. One family said “yes” and later accepted my invitation to come with my family to church! Many people tell me they are afraid to give a Bible study to a friend, because they may not be able to answer a question. I tell them, just do what I do. Say, “I don’t know.” The people won’t kill you for not knowing, and you can research it later, and come back with the answer.

A story infinitely sadder than my baseball story happened while I was a Bible worker in West Texas. An elderly married couple in my church told me that another husband and wife, their friends for many decades, had both died. They sadly told me they had never tried to share Jesus with them because they were afraid they would lose their friendship if they saw how “religious” they were! They were more afraid of losing a friend in this life, than they were of losing them eternally.

Friends, don’t be afraid of sharing Jesus. Like all things, you will meet with failure but also much success. Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:14, that the gospel will be preached in all the world before He returns. Every time we invite someone to Jesus, regardless if they accept or reject the invitation, it is still one invitation, one decision closer to Jesus returning. Let’s remember too, that if someone rejects us, it is okay. We are an opportunity, but not their only opportunity. Go ahead and try. That is better than spending the rest of your life wondering what might have been.

When Michael Jordan, a famous basketball player tried to play baseball with the Chicago White Sox, the world laughed at him. He did not make it, but his words have always stayed with me. “I am not afraid of failing. I am afraid of not trying.” If that is true in sports, it is infinitely more true in evangelism! Don’t let the past haunt you. Go ahead and try!

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

The Bible Compared to Modern Christianity

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area

What the Bible says compared to what modern Christianity says.

Bible: He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, Hebrews 5:9
MC: All you have to do is believe. You don’t have to obey.

Bible: Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. Luke 9:23
MC: You are favored and God will give you whatever you want.

Bible: You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. James 2:24
MC: If someone says you are justified by works they must be a cult leader.

Bible: “For David did not ascend into the heavens Acts 2:34
MC: David is in heaven now.

Bible: But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments. Matthew 19:17
MC: Don’t let the Adventist Church trick you into commandment keeping. They are a cult.

Study the Bible for yourself.

Three Angels With a Message Worth Sharing

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” Revelation 14:6.

Who is this first angel and who are the three angels?

Revelation 1:20 says that the seven stars are the seven angels of the seven churches. So an angel would be like a leader or messenger to a church. Jesus begins His message to each church with, “Write unto the angel of the church of…” so He must be referring to an angel as being a terrestrial leader. When John saw the seven stars in Jesus’ hand, those stars were the angels, or ministers and leaders of the church.

Jesus calls us all to have a ministry in the church and a message to share with the world, and it’s comforting to know, that while we are messengers for Jesus, He holds all of us in His hand. Wherever in the world you are reading this – whether in a country with few Christian churches, and even persecution, or whether you are trying to share Jesus with your family members who all seem opposed to your message – rest assured, Jesus has you right in His hand and you are very special to Him! He will take care of you and make your ministry prosperous. You may find your ministry in a difficult place, but it is right in Jesus’ hands.

I believe the three angels in Revelation 14 make up the message that the Seventh-day Adventist church has to give to the world. These angels are sent out after the rise of the United States in Revelation 13, so this would fit the time prophecy. Thus I believe that the members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church are the three angels in Revelation 14, and, even more specifically, the three angels are you and I.

The Seventh-day Adventist church has a very important message to give to the world, so let’s see what it is.

The first angel has the everlasting gospel.

Now don’t all churches have the gospel? Yes, many people will be in the Kingdom because a Baptist, Methodist, Catholic or Lutheran etc. missionary shared the love of God with them. However, as the book of Revelation changes scenes from the Dark Ages to the earth being “lightened with His glory” the gospel will be shining brighter than ever before.

The everlasting gospel which the Seventh-day Adventist church shares overcomes the legalism of Babylon. This last message is filled with grace and the glory of God and not the works of man. It shows the love of God more clearly than the gospel presented by most other churches.

Many churches preach that Jesus died for us, and then they turn around and tell us people don’t really die. If that is the case, then Jesus did not really die, and if He did not really die, then He did not die for us.

Many churches preach that sinners will be eternally tormented in hell while John 3:16, which is the crux of the gospel, says that sinners will perishRomans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death, not eternal torment in hell. It’s impossible to fall in love with a God who has a “love-me-or-I’ll-torment-you-for-eternity-in-hell” mentality. While sin and those who cling to it at any cost must perish, God will not be delighting in their eternal torture. The punishment, which is death, is eternal; the punishing is not.

Many churches focus on the physical torture Jesus endured. The physical torture was terrible, but Jesus suffered way more than a six-hour pain endurance marathon. Hebrews 2:9 tells us Jesus “tasted death” for all men. It obviously was not the death of the righteous that He tasted; we all taste that first death for ourselves. Obadiah 16 tells us the wicked will be as though they never were. Jesus faced more than nail-scarred hands and feet on the cross. He tasted the death of the wicked, which means He experienced total separation from God. This could be why He was crying out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” instead of singing hymns of praise while He died, like John Huss did. You see, Jesus died a totally different death than John Huss. John Huss died the death of the righteous while he burned at the stake for his faith. Jesus was dying the death of the wicked.

Many teach that Jesus saves us in our sins while Matthew 1:21 tells us clearly that Jesus will save us from our sins. We can’t call Jesus a Savior unless He actually saves us, and according to Ephesians 2:1-10 we are saved by grace. What His grace saves us from is our sinful life.

So we see, Seventh-day Adventists not only teach a different day of worship, we also teach the fullness of the gospel. Our job description, in being messengers for Jesus, is to let the whole world know the love of Jesus.

You don’t have to be a TV evangelist to have a ministry and share this message. This gospel is so amazing that many will not even believe it when they hear or read about it. However, they will believe it when they see these principles of self-sacrificing love manifested in your life.

I remember a story about a man who was married for 50 years. At breakfast he always insisted on having the heel of the bread loaf for toast. He acted as though it was his favorite part of the bread. Fifty years later after his wife died, he stopped eating the heel. His nephew asked him why he didn’t like it any more. The old man explained that he never did like it. He just knew his wife did not like it either, so for fifty years he pretended he loved it so she would not have to eat it. That made a great impact on the nephew, and it helped him understand the gospel better than any evangelist preacher ever could.

The first angel teaches about judgment

Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. Revelation 14:7

This angel is telling us of the judgment which began in 1844. Interestingly the angel says the hour of His judgment has come. What does this mean? It means God is the one being judged!

The judgment is not to see if God will accept us, Ephesians 1:6 tells us we are already accepted in the Beloved. The judgment is to see if we will accept God. Seventh-day Adventists preach a time of probation, but many do not realize that it is actually God who is on probation. God is being judged by the universe: Is God the mean control freak and tyrant that Satan makes Him out to be, or is He a God of love? Is God a good God or some psychopath saying, “Love me or I’ll kill you?”

Satan first attacked the character of God in heaven. Revelation 12 says there was war in heaven, but not with machine guns and tanks; it was a battle of the minds. Satan wanted God’s power but not his character.

I can see Satan playing mind games with the angels. I can see him going up to one of the other angels and saying, “You did a great job on that project God gave you. Did God give you any special recognition for it? He didn’t? Why that’s too bad. You know if I was God I would have thrown a banquet in your honor.”

And so Satan started these mind games trying to make the angels believe that he should be God and that God was not a God of love who was interested in their welfare.

Satan got a third of the angels to buy his lie. There may have been some angels who stayed in heaven but were not convinced who was right or wrong, until the cross. Then the whole universe saw the true character of Satan, who was willing to kill anyone who got in his way of being number one, contrasted with the true character of God who was willing to die on a cross and say goodbye to life forever to save others.

This is why Satan does not want us to understand the everlasting gospel. The everlasting gospel tells the truth about the character of God and the character of Satan. In the hour of His judgment those who clearly understand the everlasting gospel, free of legalism, will demonstrate that God is indeed a God of love. When we accept God we accept more than eternal life, we accept God Himself, along with all of His righteousness and goodness and power to live a victorious life.

The second half of this verse – “and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” – reminds us of the language used in the fourth commandment about the Sabbath. Many times we quote the fourth commandment from Exodus 20: 8-11 but let’s take a look at it in Deuteronomy 5:12-15.

“Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee. Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day [is] the sabbath of the LORD thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and [that] the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.”

In Egypt the king made all the Hebrew slaves work so he could rest. God delivered the Hebrews from their works and gave them the Sabbath, explaining that it was God who created and made everything and did all the work so they could rest. God is reminding Israel that He saved them from the slavery of the Egyptians, and that it was not their works that saved them. Likewise God Himself will save us from the slavery of sin, by His grace and not by our works. The Sabbath is clearly a sign that it is God who sanctifies us and not our own works. We see this also in Exodus 31:13. We rest from our works on the Sabbath, remembering that our salvation comes from resting our faith in His amazing grace and not in trusting our works to save us.

The Sabbath also reminds us of our Creator whom Satan wants us to forget. If the Sabbath had never been forgotten, atheism would never exist. For example we use the sun to mark a year, the moon marks a month and the earth’s rotation marks a day, but what do we have to mark a week? The only thing we have to mark a week is the creation week which ends with the seventh-day Sabbath. So how do atheists explain the seven-day week?

During the reign of terror the French tried to do away with the seven-day week and replace it with a ten-day week. This did not work.

The Sabbath reminds us that we have a Creator who did all the work in creating us. It reminds us that we did not make ourselves by our own works. Even more, the Sabbath reminds us that we were redeemed by the works and sacrifice of our Creator and not by our own works. By resting on the Sabbath we show that the gospel is practical and not just a theory. He literally rested, and we literally rest our faith in Jesus, believing that He literally saves us.

And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. Revelation 14:8  

Many say that Babylon means confusion. Well it may, but it is not so much confusion about certain doctrines as much as it is about the gospel itself. When legalism mixes our works with God’s grace, it gets confusing. In Galatians 2:20 Paul gives us the pure gospel when he says, “Not I but Christ.” So many of us want to make it a combination of me plus Christ. Problem is, any time I make “me” a part of the gospel I have a corrupt gospel because “me” is corrupt. Does this mean doing away with good works? Not at all! It just means realizing that it is God who is working in us and not us. Philippians 2:13

Seventh-day Adventists teach that Babylon is a religious system which it is, but it is more than that. It is an attitude – an attitude that can be found in any system. Babylon is the attitude that I can save myself by my own works. It began with the tower of Babel.

Babel meaning “gate” and El meaning “God.” At the tower of Babel man decided they could work and build their own way to heaven. They did not think they could trust God to save them from another flood so they decided to build a tower and by their works save themselves. Thus Babylon symbolizes salvation by our own works, or legalism. Cain had the attitude of Babylon when he brought the works of his field and offered his own system of worship. But God could only accept Abel’s sacrifice – a lamb which pointed to the Lamb of God who could only save. Since then man has been presenting his own system of worship and even day of worship thinking he can save himself by inventing his own religion instead of accepting the gospel.

Years later Daniel 1 tells us that God gave Jerusalem into Nebuchadnezzar’s hands, but in Daniel 4 Nebuchadnezzar says “is this not Babylon which I have made?” And God says, “No! I made it and gave it to you.” But here is the attitude of Babylon again – that it is my works that save me.

During the Dark Ages people were taught that their works would save them. They could buy and work their way to heaven. They were also given a work day to worship instead of the Sabbath day of rest. So they were like Cain, worshiping their works instead of our Creator and Redeemer. When the everlasting gospel is proclaimed in all its glory, Babylon will fall! Man will see that we are not saved by our own religious works and inventions but rather are saved by the grace of God alone!

The third angel’s message assures us of the victory of grace over the legalism of Babylon.

Ellen White comments:

Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel’s message, and I have answered, “It is the third angel’s message, in verity.”– The Review and Herald, April 1, 1890. {1SM 372.2}

If you are like me, your first glance at the third angel’s message does not make you think of justification by faith. As a matter of fact many people get wrapped up in works over this passage. Let’s take another look and see why it’s not about works but rather justification by faith.

Revelation 14:9-12 And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive [his] mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here [are] they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.

The third angel’s message is justification by faith in verity because those who refuse the mark of the beast will not be allowed to buy or sell or do any business to provide for themselves or their families. They will be resting on the Sabbath and not working. Therefore they trust God to provide for them, and not their own works. This is justification by faith. Those who accept the mark so that they can buy and sell are not resting in Jesus or trusting Him to provide for them. Rather they are saying, “I do not trust Jesus to provide for me, so I am accepting the mark so that I can work and provide for myself.” This is salvation by works.

It is very important to notice that the ones who accept the mark and are trying to be saved by their works are rejecting the cross of Christ. The “cup of His indignation” is the cup that Jesus asked to be passed from Him, in Gethsemane. However, He drank that cup for us, at Calvary. Those who reject the seal of God, and the Sabbath are really rejecting the cross. They say, “I will accept the mark of the beast and provide my own salvation.” When they do this they reject the Salvation provided at Calvary, and instead of letting Jesus drink that cup for them, they must drink it themselves!

After all, if you do not trust Jesus enough to provide your daily bread, but rather accept the mark so that you can do business and put bread on the table yourself, how can you trust Him to provide for your eternal salvation? On the other hand, by rejecting the mark (works) and keeping the Sabbath and seal of God we are accepting the cross and justification by faith. Jesus drinks the cup mentioned in the third angel’s message so we don’t have to! We can all exclaim with Abraham at Moriah, “Jehovahjireh” My Lord Will provide!”

The third angel’s message is the climax of the battle between faith and works. For centuries man has been taught by tradition to save himself by worshiping a man made religion and even a man made Sabbath which is Sunday. Those who put their faith in Jesus triumph over the legalism of man made religions as they rest their faith in the One who gave all to save them. They cherish His Sabbath which is a sign that we are not saved by works but rather by His amazing grace!

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

Faith or Presumption?

In 2017 hurricane Irma came through Florida and many of us evacuated. I went to Tennessee to be with my sister. The morning the hurricane hit Tampa where I live, I received a text from a friend there who was unable to evacuate. She said she was afraid but she knew God was with her and that she would not get hurt. I thought to myself though, God was with my mother when she drew her last breath and died. Of course I did not text my friend back and tell her that God has been with many people while they drew their last breath. Just because God is with us does not mean we won’t die. When a storm comes having faith that God is with me is one thing, but having faith that I will not die is presumption. After all millions of people have died in various storms throughout earth’s history. I would have to be a blatant fool to think I’m a better Christian than millions of other people or even that I have more faith than those who have died in storms. 

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area

Its the same when I get in a car. I pray for safety and I know God is with me. I also know I have heard testimonies from people who survived a car accident where a loved one died. They say they too prayed for protection before their trip. A pastor friend of mine was killed in a car accident just a few Christmases ago. He was in his forties. Am I still alive because I am a better Christian than he was or because I have more faith? Of course not! To think I have survived storms and car accidents because I am a faithful Christian is beyond presumption. It is absurd! Millions more worthy than me have perished in storms and car accidents. I know God is with me regardless of my fate. While Hebrews celebrates the victories of the faithful it also recognizes the deaths of the faithful.

Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—  of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. Hebrews 11:35-38 NKJV

Faith is knowing what God has promised. God has promised me eternal life. See Titus 1:2. Presumption is assuming what God has not promised. God never promised me I would never die in a storm or car accident. 

So now let’s get to the title of our topic here. How do I know I have the assurance of salvation in Jesus and am not just being presumptuous that I am saved? Let’s take a look at some Biblical examples of people in the Bible who were being faithful and those who were just being presumptuous. 

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? James 2:18-20 NKJV

In the book of James we are taught that true faith will bear the fruits of good works and obedience. “Faith” that does not bring forth good works and obedience is a presumption which will not make us any better off than the demons who believe and tremble. 

Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so.  And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?”  Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. Acts 19:11-16 NKJV

The sons of Sceva were presumptuous because they did not know Jesus for themselves. By the way 1 John 2:4 says if we say we know Jesus but do not obey the commandments that just makes us liars. We know they did not know Jesus for themselves because they said. “The Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Paul knew Jesus. They did not. They were being presumptuous thinking the name of Jesus was a magic word like abracadabra. Jesus and Paul are not magic. They both got their power from an obedient relationship with the Father. 

 In Numbers 10:33-35 Moses sent the ark out before their battles and victories. However when Israel was in apostasy their faith i the ark turned into presumption and the ark itself was captured by the enemy in 1 Samuel 4:1-22. The ark was not magic. The ark was not a symbol of presumption. It was a symbol of their faith and obedience toward God. Without obedience the ark had no power for them. Much like Samson’s hair. There was no magic in his hair. His long hair was a sign of his loyalty to God. When he was no longer loyal to God the long hair was meaningless. See Judges 13:5

Romans 1:5 talks about faith that leads to obedience and Revelation 14:12 tells us God’s last day saints will have faith and keep the commandments. True Biblical faith produces obedience. A supposed “faith’ without obedience is mere presumption. In Matthew 4:5-7 Satan tells Jesus to jump off a cliff and have faith that God would save Him. However there no command from God to jump off a cliff. Jesus knew that jumping off the cliff would not be in accordance with God’s commands and would not be an obedient faith but mere presumption. By they way, today we wear seat belts in our cars and masks at church because while we have faith in God we were given no command to be careless and presumptuous with our safety and health. Jesus gave us an example of using common sense and faith in God at the same time. One does not cancel out the other. 

By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. Hebrews 11:30 NKJV

But a few days later the children of Israel were defeated when disobedience led to presumption. See Joshua 7:1-26

While Romans 1:5 and Revelation 14:12 talk about faith and obedience David links presumption with sin. 

Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Psalm 19:13 NKJV

Faith is when we claim a promise in the Bible such as God is with us. Presumption is when we claim assurance the Bible never gave us such as I will never die in a storm or car accident. Or even that I will never get the COVID-19 therefore I do not need to wear a mask or social distance. In the wilderness Jesus used faith and common sense and so shall I. 

Faith leads me into good works. See Ephesians 2:8-10. Faith leads me into commandment keeping. See Revelation 14:12. Presumption encourages me to carelessness and sin. See Psalm 19:13

Matthew 7:21-27 teaches me claiming salvation without obeying Jesus is mere presumption. When I put God’s Word into practice I have the assurance of salvation. 

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

Resources for Healthy Small Bible Study Groups

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Shortly after returning home from college in the spring of 1985 I received a phone call from a friend from church on a Friday evening. He said a few friends were getting together for a Bible study and invited me. I accepted the invitation and what transpired was a long lasting fellowship and close friendships that continue to this day. There were six of us, and while we studied that week’s Sabbath School lesson together every Friday evening, we also had pizza parties on Saturday nights and went to ball games together and even worked together in different ways with our daily secular jobs. As a young person who lacked self confidence this group gave me a real sense of belonging and the encouragement that I needed. We studied together. We prayed together. We played together. We went to church meetings and camp meetings together.  Some by nature moved away and over time have lost regular contact. Still others I see every time I go home to visit, and we talk on the phone or Facebook almost every week. Funny thing is we did not really think of ourselves as a small study group. We were just friends who studied together. But years later after facilitating and coaching several small study groups I realize that is exactly what we were. That small study group that began in the spring of ’85 met every Friday night for several years. Even when “life” finally broke up the weekly continuity of study time the friendships continue to this day.  

Group Bible Study

While no small study group is perfect nor should it be expected to be, here are some things that I look back and see that made my first ever small study group healthy. 

  1. Diversity. We had mixed races. We had mixed ages. I was 19 and the oldest one in our group was in his 40’s. A couple in our group were married. The rest were single but another couple in our group got married as we were all studying together. You could not put a label on our group as far as race, gender or age or marital status. 
  2. Though close, we were not a clique. We often invited people to join us and some did for a while. Our friendship circles went well beyond our small group, and we always accepted each other’s friends at church and social activities. 
  3. We reached out and ministered to others. We checked in on the elderly. We befriended visitors and new members on both spiritual and social levels. I will always remember the trip a few of us made to the Eureka Springs passion play where we also took a new church member who was longing for friendship and we all had a great time. 

As I said earlier our small group studied the Sabbath School lessons together. That worked out well since our small group lasted for several years, and there are not too many Bible study curricula that will last for years, unless of course you want to just study the Bible itself which is a good idea. About ten years ago the church I was with started several small study groups. We found a wonderful group of lesson plans by Denis Sands. After asking permission I shared them on my website. You may find them here. I have used them for years now in several various small groups and they have been well received. The focus on building your personal relation with Christ and with others. Each lesson takes about an hour and fifteen minutes. Each lesson has a time for dialogue, fellowship, worship, Bible study and discipleship, and ministry and outreach in evangelism. Focusing on all these areas every week keeps our groups close and personal while also ministering and sharing with others. 

I would like to encourage you to be a part of a small group. It is a great way to grow spiritually and help others along the way. It  also gives you a sense of belonging and purpose in a worldwide church. Don’t let the current virus pandemic stop you. I actually have a new small study group that meets every Friday night on FaceTime. We have members in Florida and Tennessee who love meeting together every week. The possibilities are endless! It doesn’t have to be complicated to be healthy and effective. Like I said earlier, we did not even really think of ourselves as a small study group. We were just a group of friends studying together and helping others. I would like to encourage you to start your group today! 

let me know if you have any questions or need any help. 

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