What Role Does the Bible Play in a World Where Everyone Does Whatever Seems Right In Their Own Eyes?

 

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I am writing tonight from beautiful Florida

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In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. Judges 17:6 NLT

We are created to follow our own conscience and moral convictions. Does that mean that we just do whatever is right in our own eyes? Lately I have heard people telling me that the Bible is a good book, but God gave us a brain to figure out for ourselves when to follow it and when not to follow it. Many believe human reasoning trumps God’s Word. Many pastors dance around the Bible and by the end of their sermons haven’t really said anything, because they were afraid to say anything, because they don’t want to offend anyone. They want everyone to decide for themselves what is right and wrong.  What could be wrong with that?

For one thing, the idea that you can decide for yourself what is right and wrong is exactly how sin began. Let’s take a careful look at the serpent’s lie after Eve told him they would die if they disobeyed and ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5 NLT 

The serpent assures Eve she won’t die for disobeying God. After all, how dare God tell us what is right and wrong, much less give us consequences for having our own opinions and way of doing things! The Serpent tells Eve she will be like God. God makes the rules. God is the judge between right and wrong. If Eve becomes like God she will make the rules and decide for herself what is right and wrong.  This was implied in the serpent’s comment to Eve, “you will know both good and evil.”  In other words,

She would be a god. She would be a law unto herself. -Ellen White, Christ Triumphant, January 16. 

This is why it is so important that we follow our personal conscience and convictions based on God’s Word, instead of just following our own inclinations. Be careful when people tell you God gave you a brain to figure it out for yourself. The serpent was teaching Eve to rely on her own brain instead of God’s Word.

People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart. Proverbs 21:2 NLT 

There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. Proverbs 14:12 NLT 

The problem is, everyone is right in their own eyes. The kindergartner on the playground, who hit his classmate who called him a name, is doing what is right in his own eyes. The man having an affair with another man’s wife is doing right in his own eyes. The woman is lonely and not being shown enough affection from her husband. In his eyes what he is doing is not lust. It is love. The husband and father who is cheating God by not returning an honest tithe, is just trying to make enough to support his family, so it is right in his own eyes. The possibilities are endless when we do what is right in our own eyes.

While people tell us to use our own brains to figure out right and wrong, this is what God’s Word says,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 NLT 

Jesus gave us the perfect example of not depending on our own understanding. Jesus was not a philosopher of sorts. As a matter of fact in Luke 12:14 Jesus refused to play judge.  In His humanity Jesus did not use His own reasoning or set Himself up as a judge as to what was right or wrong. So what did Jesus do? He did exactly what the serpent told Eve not to do, He went by God’s Word alone!

In Matthew 4 Jesus answers each of satan’s temptations with “The Scriptures say….” See Matthew 4:4, 7, 10. Jesus came to save the world, and satan told Jesus he would give it back to him if he would just worship him. Jesus could have reasoned that it made more sense to do that than to die on the cross. He could have used situation ethics and philosophized that saving the whole world would be worth worshiping satan, especially since He was going to die like a sinner on the cross anyways. But Jesus never used human reasoning, or His own brain as some say. He did not philosophize. He simply went by what the Scriptures say.

In Matthew 22 some religious leaders presented a story to get Jesus to reason with them about the resurrection. Jesus would not “reason” with them. He did not share His own ideas about how He thought it might work. All he did was reference the Scriptures. See Matthew 22:29.

In Luke 10:25 an expert in the law asked Jesus how to have eternal life. Instead of saying, “Well this is how I see it,” Or “my opinion is,

Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”  Luke 10:26 NLT 

The serpent advised Eve to disregard what the Word of God said, and use her own brain to decide what was right and wrong. Jesus gave us an example of disregarding what we think is right and wrong, and to just go by Scripture, which is the Word of God.

If we follow the serpent’s plan we will just follow our personal whims and inclinations based on our preferences. When we follow Jesus’ plan we will follow our personal conscience and convictions based on Scripture.

Good News for a Wretched, Miserable, Poor, Blind, and Naked Church!

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Picture it. Wewoka Woods, July, Oklahoma Adventist Conference Camp meeting 1992. I had planned on going down for the day, but some friends encouraged me to stay the night in a tent they had available next to theirs. When I went to lay down on the cot, my friends offered me blankets. I told them no one needs blankets in Oklahoma during July. Well guess what? Come three in the morning it gets cold in Oklahoma in July! While shivering on a cot at 3 am I realized why Jesus said,

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. Revelation 3:15 NKJV

When I was cold I wanted to go get a blanket and change my situation. As I laid there shivering I sensed my need. Lukewarm people don’t sense their need of anything. They have no desire to change their situation.

But how can we be lukewarm when Jesus knows we have good works? When we do good deeds for others it “warms” their hearts. Malachi 4:2 talks about the Sun of righteousness. The Bible likens righteous deeds with heat. In John 3:19 as well as other places, the Bible likens evil to darkness, which without light or heat is cold. I go and see grandma in the nursing home every week and that is good. That is hot. But the only reason I go is to make sure I’m in her will, which is dark and cold. So in the end, after seeing grandma I am just lukewarm, and my hypocrisy makes Jesus so sick He wants to throw up! See Revelation 3:16.

Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—  I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. Revelation 3:17-18 NKJV

Why does Jesus say to buy the gold and white garments? Isn’t salvation free? Jesus is referring to the bartering system.  He wants us to trade in our self-righteousness which makes Him want to throw up, in exchange for His robe of righteousness. He wants to take self out of righteousness since it is self that makes righteousness lukewarm. Lukewarm is not the absence of good works. It is the presence of self.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. Revelation 3:20 NKJV

Its hard to sense our need of Jesus when we are full of ourselves. But if we find our self-righteousness unappetizing, and hunger and thirst for Jesus’ righteousness (See Matthew 5:6) He will come into our hearts and dine with us and feed us His own righteousness.

Remember the door in heaven, in the message to Philadelphia? That door was open. Heaven’s doors are wide open. But when Jesus comes to Laodicea, He finds a heart that has works, but is so full of self it has locked Jesus out! Heaven’s door is open but Laodicea’s door is closed. When Jesus came to earth He was born in a stable because there was no room for Him in the inn. Later Jesus tells us there is plenty of room for everyone in His Father’s house. (See Luke 2:7 and John 14:1-3). Heaven has plenty of room. Heaven has an open door. If we are lost it’s because we had no room for Jesus and our heart’s door was closed.

Jesus hasn’t given up on Laodicea. He hasn’t given up on us! He has high expectations for His lukewarm, poor, miserable, blind and naked church!

To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. Revelation 3:21 NKJV

Working at UPS one day, my supervisor got frustrated about a mistake I made and berated me. He made me feel like I was useless and about to get fired, when he turned around and said something that gave me hope! He said, “You may think I am overreacting by getting so upset about this, but when you become a supervisor, you will understand why I got so upset.” In the middle of censoring me, he told me he expected me to get promoted. In the same message Jesus calls His people poor, wretched, miserable, blind and naked, He also talks about them overcoming just as He overcame!” Jesus encourages all of the 7 churches to overcome, but the church that represents the time of the cleansing of the sanctuary, He expects to overcome “as I also overcame.”

There is wonderful news for a wretched, poor, miserable, blind, and naked church that recognizes it is cold and needs a Savior. Jesus stands at the door of your heart. Open the door. Give Him your rags, which only make you lukewarm and still leave you naked. He will clothe you with His robe of righteousness, so you won’t have to be cold, miserable and naked any longer. Heaven’s door is open. There is plenty of room. What do you say?

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

An Open Door No One Can Close

What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open: “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. Revelation 3:7-8 NLT

The church of Philadelphia represents the church that found the open door into the Most Holy Place in 1844.  This church also found a book open that had previously been sealed.

But he said, “Go now, Daniel, for what I have said is kept secret and sealed until the time of the end. Daniel 12:9 NLT

Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, surrounded by a cloud, with a rainbow over his head. His face shone like the sun, and his feet were like pillars of fire. And in his hand was a small scroll[book] that had been opened. He stood with his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land. Revelation 10:1-2 NLT

If the details in Revelation 10 follow the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1840 in Revelation 9, then the time period is around 1844, when the book of Daniel became an open book and the time of the end began.  Revelation 10:4 says that John was getting ready to write something down that the Thunders spoke, but was told not to write it.

What did they say and why was he told not to write it down? Obviously I have no clue for sure! But I do have an idea. In Revelation 10:8-10 John is told to eat a book that tasted sweet in his mouth but turned bitter in his stomach. Many believe that refers to the great disappointment in 1844 when people misunderstood that Jesus was coming to earth instead of going into the Most Holy Place ministry which had just begun. I wonder if the Thunders told John about the great disappointment, but he was told not to write it down? If I happen to be right, why would they tell him not to warn everybody so they wouldn’t be so disappointed? Because some things have to be learned by experience. Sometimes we have to experience problems personally so we can work out the solution clearly in our minds and see why that is the solution.

Most math books have some or all of the answers in the back. But it is not enough to just write the answer down. The teacher wants to see your work. She doesn’t just want you to know the answer, she wants you to write out and work out the problem so you know why it is the answer. The Bible tells us Jesus is the answer, but we encounter problems in life so we can know why Jesus is the answer. God wanted his precious church represented by Philadelphia to work out the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation so they would know by experience what the answer is, instead of just reading what the answer is.

Now back to the open door. While many believe the door is the door into the Most Holy Place, other scholars point at doors of evangelism that were open in those days. The American Bible Society was opened in the early 1800’s in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, of all places! Publishing and spreading sacred literature became easier during this time. Add to this that when Jesus said, “what he opens no one can close, and what he closes no one can open,” I don’t think that applied to just one door. I think that is true about any door. If anyone has ever closed a door of opportunity on you, you can be sure of this, Jesus never opened it for you! If He had opened it for you no one would have been able to close it. No matter how things turn out for us we can be sure that man does not control our destiny. The same hands that were nailed to the cross and turned around and opened the seven seals holds our destiny.

It is also interesting that the church of Philadelphia is shown an open door in heaven, yet later when Jesus comes to the church of Laodicea He finds a closed door. If we are lost it won’t be because Jesus would not open heaven’s door. Heaven’s door is open. If we are lost it will only be because we would not open our heart’s door to Jesus. Next time we will take a look at the message to Laodicea.

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

What is Jesus Saying About You?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Baptism Pictures and Stories from Homosassa

Homosassa Bible Study

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

Bill

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

Connie

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

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

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

Mariah

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

Ricky

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

Amberlynn

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

Macayala

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

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

The Morning Star in a World of Darkness

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

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

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

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

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

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

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