Religious Toleration

Heron Channelside (5)
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A while back, I was a member of a church that joined other community churches of various denominations, in a social justice group. The idea was good. They wanted to help homeless people get cell phones, so they could leave a number on job applications. They wanted buses running later at night for people who work various shifts. My first red flag something was not healthy in the group came before one of our meetings, with a city councilman. Our social justice group was instructed by the leader not to applaud or even smile at the councilman until he agreed to all our demands. The message was basically, be ice cold towards him until he does what we want. After we manipulate him, we can make him feel loved and welcomed. To me, this was not social justice. This was bullying! I left the “social justice” group, because it wasn’t very social or just.

This is nothing new. Martin Luther thought he had a just cause for wanting Anabaptists put to death. After all, in his mind they were cutting children off from God by not baptizing them at birth. In his mind Jews were also worthy of death since they rejected Jesus. Luther had a lot of good ideas, but even he was tempted by the reasoning, that a just cause excuses us from being loving and civil to each other. Luther wanted religious tolerance for himself, because he considered his cause just. But he did not exercise tolerance towards those whose causes he did not consider just.

While the Reformers rejected the creed of Rome, they were not entirely free from her spirit of intolerance. -Ellen White, Great Controversy, Page 293

Do we do the same?

While traveling through Samara, James and John did not like the way Jesus was being rejected, so in their religious zeal they offered to call down fire from heaven and burn those Samaritans up! Like Luther and the rest of us, they had a lot to learn about the love of God. Jesus said,

 “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” Luke 9:55-56 NKJV

Jesus never condoned sin, but always loved the sinner. Too often we love the sin and hate the sinner!

The same John who wanted to burn up the Samaritans, later realized, “God is love.” 1 John 4:8. Since God is love, I don’t care what you believe or how well you understand the Bible, without love your theology is incorrect! I heard Wintley Phipps say, “Our love for God is no stronger than the love we have for the person we like the least.”

Even Martin Luther and John the Beloved needed to learn how to love. Do you think we still need to learn to love? May God help us all to love!

You may read this week’s SS lesson here.

Overcoming Sexual Sin When You are Single

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I have talked to more than one single Christian, who told me, “When I promised God I would wait until I was married, I figured I would be married by now.” Other singles, even in the church, seem to think no sex before marriage just means no sex while you are a teenager. Age isn’t the issue.

Today there are more and more divorced Christians, and people who have other ambitions, who are putting off marriage until later in life. Being single, I find myself in single circles, where single Christians, both men and women voice their sexual frustration. They are not trying to be provocative or seductive. They are just being real. They want to be Christians, but they are still sexual. We are not made sexual at marriage. We are made sexual at birth.

Being made sexual at birth, how do Christians control sexual appetite until they are married? How do Christian divorced people control their sexual urges? How do Christian widows and widowers satisfy their sexual needs? I don’t imagine after 60 years of healthy sex, that the desire dies when your spouse dies. Does God meet the sexual needs of all these single people?

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 NLT

If it says God will supply all our needs, we have to understand that includes sexual needs of single people. If we can trust God to provide for our financial needs, we can trust Him to provide for our sexual needs as well. We can go to Him and tell Him about all our needs. Then we can trust Him to provide in a way that is best for us. We are familiar with a phrase in Desire of Ages,

Our heavenly Father has a thousand ways to provide for us, of which we know nothing. Those who accept the one principle of making the service and honor of God supreme will find perplexities vanish, and a plain path before their feet. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 330.

Was sex the context here? No. Am I taking things out of context if I say God has a thousand ways to provide for our sexual needs, when we serve and honor God? Maybe, but please hear me out. First, we need to understand that marriage does not guarantee sex. Sadly there are celibate marriages for various reasons we won’t get into here. Having said that, sex does not guarantee intimacy. I once read in a sexual purity book long ago, that some people will have sex to avoid intimacy! Instead of talking and being intimate with their hearts and emotions, they will just be physical to avoid being intimate. Now that’s not good either, because sex should involve intimacy. But here is my point: Many of us think we crave sex when we actually crave intimacy. All sex should be intimate, but not all intimacy has to be sex.

I think we crave healthy relationships more than we crave sex. I think Mary Magdalene found something in Jesus that satisfied her desire for sex, even though it wasn’t sex, and Jesus was the perfect Gentleman with her. I think she found something in Him greater than sex. She found true love and intimacy. She needed true love and intimacy more than she needed sex. So do we.

God does not require us to give up anything that it is for our best interest to retain. In all that He does, He has the well-being of His children in view. Would that all who have not chosen Christ might realize that He has something vastly better to offer them than they are seeking for themselves. –Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Page 46.

I have to believe this passage includes sexual activity. If God has not given you a Christian sex life right now, it is only because He has something vastly better for you right now. He knows all your needs, not just the needs of your bank account. He knows your sexual needs too. He cares for you in all your ways.

The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. Psalms 84:11 NLT

If sex was good for single people God would give it to them, but sex is not good for single people, which is the only reason He does not give it to them. But love and intimacy is good for single people, and He gives that to them, through church, family, and a personal relationship with Him.

Though I don’t have all the answers, I believe God can supply the sexual needs of His single people, with pure love and intimacy, and a thousand other ways we know nothing about. The solution is to trust God with your sexual needs just like any other need.

Please let me paraphrase a popular passage.

Keep your [sexual] wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him. He who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the [sexual] wants of His children. “The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” James 5:11. His heart of love is touched by our [sexual] sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything [including sex] that perplexes the mind. Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds up worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our [sexual] peace is too small for Him to notice. There is no chapter in our experience too dark for Him to read; there is no perplexity too difficult for Him to unravel. No [Sexual] calamity can befall the least of His children, no anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere prayer escape the lips, of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest. “He healeth the [sexually] broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3. The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son. -Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Page 100.

God loves single people just as much as He loves married people, and He makes single people just as happy as married people.  God can appropriately meet the sexual needs of single people as easily as He can meet the sexual needs of married people. Believe in His love, and He will meet all your daily needs.

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

Michelle’s Profession of Faith

Maretta

About a year and a half ago, I met Maretta at the evangelistic meetings we were having at the Plant City Seventh-day Adventist Church. We studied together for a while before she rejoined the Adventist church on profession of faith. Maretta has since been sharing Jesus with her friends and family. Maretta and I began a Bible study group with Maretta’s daughter Kay, and longtime friend Michelle. We enjoyed studying together on Wednesday evenings before prayer meeting. Kay, recently moved up north and is finding an Adventist Church family in her new home. Michelle joined the Adventist church for the first time here in Plant City!

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Michelle was very happy to join the Adventist church this morning! She has been sharing Jesus with her family, even introducing them to the Discover Bible Study Guides she has been doing as well from the Plant City SDA Church. Maretta introduced Michelle to Jesus, who is now introducing her friends to Jesus, just like Andrew.

Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ” John 1:41 NLT

Please pray for Maretta and Michelle, that they both will continue being blessed with more and more opportunities to share Jesus with others!

Eden Restored

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

As a child on family vacations, I loved standing on the ocean’s shore, imagining what lay on the other side. I would watch the waves roll in from who knows how far away. I would see ships sailing for far-away lands that I could only dream about.

After I grew up and became very busy, I was looking at a picture of the ocean and sighed, realizing that I was much too poor and busy to ever see the ocean again. For a while, I was so busy working two jobs that I never even got to enjoy a sunset. I could not see out of the busy rut I was in. Finally one weekend, while living in North Texas, I sneaked down to Galveston for a weekend to see the ocean. It had literally been decades since I had seen the Gulf or ocean, and, for all I knew, it would be the last time. Little did I know, that the next year, God would be moving me to the Gulf coast of Florida!

I now have thousands of ocean sunset pictures that I thought I would never see again!

Have you ever lost something you thought was gone forever, only to find it again?

One of the most romantic things I ever saw my father do for my mother was when she accidentally dropped a beautiful precious collectible plate that shattered into hundreds of pieces. My mother was crying, she was so heartbroken. Dad swept up the hundreds of pieces and took the dustpan into the garage, but he did not throw them into the waste basket. He placed them on his work bench, and over the next few nights carefully glued all the pieces back together. He did a great job! When my dad presented the plate to her, all put back together again, my mother cried tears of joy!

When Adam sinned he lost his precious home. With bitter regret Adam had traded paradise for tears of sorrow. Instead of leisurely enjoying the fruit of the garden, with sweat he worked the cursed ground for his food. As sad as this story is, it has a happy ending!

In another garden, Jesus, the Second Adam, sweat drops of blood as He clung to the cursed ground. Jesus died on a tree if you will, so Adam could have the tree of life back again! Now that I have access to the ocean again, I treasure every moment I am on the beach. I am glad I have the memory of my dad making my mother so happy when he presented her with the once-shattered plate he made whole. But what really gives me Godbumps is realizing one day we will see this:

Transported with joy, he [Adam] beholds the trees that were once his delight–the very trees whose fruit he himself had gathered in the days of his innocence and joy. He sees the vines that his own hands have trained, the very flowers that he once loved to care for. His mind grasps the reality of the scene; he comprehends that this is indeed Eden restored, more lovely now than when he was banished from it. The Saviour leads him to the tree of life and plucks the glorious fruit and bids him eat. He looks about him and beholds a multitude of his family redeemed, standing in the Paradise of God. Then he casts his glittering crown at the feet of Jesus and, falling upon His breast, embraces the Redeemer. He touches the golden harp, and the vaults of heaven echo the triumphant song, “Worthy, worthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and lives again!” The family of Adam take up the strain and cast their crowns at the Saviour’s feet as they bow before Him in adoration. -Ellen White, Adventist Home, Page 541

Thanks to Jesus, our Second Adam, all the damage the first Adam caused has been totally undone! Adam’s dream, once shattered, will be handed back to him whole. Eden will be restored more lovely than it even was before!

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

Faith Does All the Work


 I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. 

I want to share two passages, that many claim contradict each other. 

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Romans 3:28 NKJV

You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. James 2:24 NKJV

When I run into apparentcontradictions in the Bible, I eventually realize I was reading something into one of the passages that wasn’t there, or was missing something that was there. Verse 22 of James 2 offers something that may have been missed.

Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? James 2:22 NKJV

Did you catch it? It is not man that is working in James 2:22. Faith is working! This idea goes along with Galatians 5:6 which tells us faith works by love. Again it is faith that is working. 

 In Galatians 2:20, Paul tells us that it is not him working but Christ who is working in him. While He lives by faith Christ lives and works in him.

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20 NKJV

James tells us,

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? James 2:21 NKJV 

James says Abraham was justified by works, but he does not say it was Abraham who was working. James 2:22 says it was faith that was working.

The faith the justified Abraham was not faith in his own works, but a faith that God would perform His own works through him.

He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He [God] had promised He was also able to perform. Romans 4:20-21 NKJV

So when Abraham had Isaac it was God working through him and performing His own work through faith. It was God who worked through Abraham taking Isaac to the altar. Abraham’s works did not take Isaac to the altar, it was God’s faith working through Abraham that took Isaac to the altar. Remember Galatians 2:20 “Not I, but Christ.” 

James and Paul do not contradict each other. They both realize it is faith doing all the work. Neither James or Paul preached faith and works. They both preached a faith that works by love. 

For the love of Christ compels us…2 Corinthians 5:14 NKJV

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson at ssnet.org. 

Saved by His Life

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

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

How successful have your efforts in law-keeping been? What should that answer tell you about the futility of trying to be saved by keeping the law?

What if I told you that just as assuredly as you already sinned in Adam, you have also already lived a perfect life in Christ?

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19 NKJV

Paul is not merely saying Adam’s sin caused us all to sin. He is saying we all sinned in Adam when Adam sinned. It’s the same idea Paul was using in Hebrews 7:5 when he said Levi paid tithes in Abraham since he was in Abraham’s loins when Abraham paid tithe. Likewise, we were all in Adam when Adam sinned, causing us all to sin in Abraham. Romans 5:19 goes on to say that we are all made righteous by one man’s obedience.

How so? After we all sinned in Adam, Jesus became one with our flesh,

Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh…Romans 1:3 NKJV

Since the wages of sin is death, (Romans 6:23) Jesus took our sinful flesh to the cross, where we all died the death we deserve in Christ.

by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh…Romans 8:3 NKJV

What has happened so far? We all sinned in Adam, and deserved death. Jesus took our sinful flesh and went to the cross. Therefore our sinful flesh was crucified with Christ. The wages of sin is death, and I died that death with Christ.

knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him…Romans 6:6 NKJV

So I have died the death I deserve in Christ. I still need a perfect life but fall short of God’s glory. See Romans 3:23.  Here is the good news! Just assuredly as I died in Christ I have also lived a perfect life in Christ. Jesus did not only die for me, He died as me. Jesus also did not only live a perfect life for me, He lived a perfect life as me! I am not only saved by His death. I am saved by His life!

much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Romans 5:10 NKJV

I don’t have a perfect life to offer, but Jesus’ perfect life counts as my perfect life! Jesus is not cheating when He credits His perfect life as my perfect life, because He took my flesh and lived a perfect life with my flesh, just as Abraham paid tithes with Levi’s flesh.

The good news is, when I accept Jesus I am accepting way more than just forgiveness. When I accept the life of Jesus the power of His life becomes the power of my life!

…reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. Romans 6:11-12 NKJV.

Thus Jesus’ life is my justification and sanctification! I am saved by His life!

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

“Send us Infinity People!”

St.Pete With Curtis

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God Romans 3:23 NKJV

One night I was lamenting to God, about all the apostasy, and outright rebellion going on even in Christian cultures. As I was “interceding” for the “fallen” I felt the Holy Spirit tap me on the heart, and ask,

What if I told you some of the people you are praying for are actually better Christians than you?

Often, we are concerned about others when we should be more concerned about ourselves. Fact is, we have all sinned. Fact is, there is hope for all of us!

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19 NKJV

How many are made righteous? The many who were made sinners was a staggering amount, so since the same word is used for those who are made righteous, I figure that must be a staggering amount too. I just checked my concordance, and found that both times the word “many” is used in Romans 5:19, it is the word “polus.” Definitions for “polus” include, large, abundance, plenty, and even “most.”

When we see evil all around it is easy to get discouraged. We read,

you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked…Revelation 3:17 NKJV

We lament the sins going on in our Christian circles, and think there is no hope. We doubt God will even be able to save 144,000 since in Noah’s day God only saved 8. Be careful! We often project our faults onto others. See Romans 2:1. If I think the church is dead, there is a good chance I am dead.

After reading the sobering message in Revelation 3, I need to heed the warning myself. I need to open my heart to Jesus. I need to realize that amid all the dire things Jesus has to say about me, He still plans on me overcoming!

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

Notice the contrast brought about by God’s grace. The one church that Jesus had absolutely nothing good to say about, is the one church that Jesus expects to not just overcome, but to overcome as I overcame!

While we wonder how many will be saved, while we wonder if the number will be closer to 8 than it is to 144,000 John sweeps our skepticism and criticism away with a staggering number who overcome!

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, Revelation 7:9 NKJV

 

“Which no one could number?” “Of all nations?” Is John telling me there will be more people saved from the most hopeless situations than I can even count? Why yes, yes he is! When things look hopeless and we think a sinner is out of reach of God’s grace, remember,

Often we regard as hopeless subjects the very ones whom Christ is drawing to Himself. –Ellen White, Christ Object Lessons, Page 71 

My Wednesday prayer meeting group was praying for some upcoming evangelism meetings. People were praying for God to send us several people or even a lot of people, but then a 9 year old girl prayed, “Send us infinity people!” We all chuckled inside. Doesn’t she know that’s impossible? Doesn’t she know that will never happen, especially when you look at the shape our world is in? Well, turns out she knew what she was praying about after all. One day this little girl and Jesus will be walking together hand in hand, and He will thank her for praying a prayer that made His dream come true: “A great multitude which no one could number.”

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.