Glimpse of the Cross Day 1; Gethsemane Shows the Value of one Soul

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This is my first post of a series of 21 glances at the cross and resurrection, that will continue daily for the next 21 days.

The value of a soul, who can estimate? Would you know its worth, go to Gethsemane, and there watch with Christ through those hours of anguish, when He sweat as it were great drops of blood. Look upon the Saviour uplifted on the cross. Hear that despairing cry, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Mark 15:34. Look upon the wounded head, the pierced side, the marred feet. Remember that Christ risked all. For our redemption, heaven itself was imperiled. At the foot of the cross, remembering that for one sinner Christ would have laid down His life, you may estimate the value of a soul.
If you are in communion with Christ, you will place His estimate upon every human being. You will feel for others the same deep love that Christ has felt for you. Then you will be able to win, not drive, to attract, not repulse, those for whom He died. None would ever have been brought back to God if Christ had not made a personal effort for them; and it is by this personal work that we can rescue souls. When you see those who are going down to death, you will not rest in quiet indifference and ease. The greater their sin and the deeper their misery, the more earnest and tender will be your efforts for their recovery. You will discern the need of those who are suffering, who have been sinning against God, and who are oppressed with a burden of guilt. Your heart will go out in sympathy for them, and you will reach out to them a helping hand. In the arms of your faith and love you will bring them to Christ. You will watch over and encourage them, and your sympathy and confidence will make it hard for them to fall from their steadfastness. -Christ Object Lessons, Pages 196-197

Sex is one of the Greatest Evidences There is a God

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In light of recent debates on creation or the existence of God, here are my thoughts, I am sharing simply because I have not seen them shared anywhere else and I believe they are important.

  1. Its infinitely impossible to believe we came from a big bang or just evolved. Its infinity times infinity impossible to believe that we just evolved or came from a big bang, and oh by the way, we just happen to be able to reproduce with each other.
  2. If the Biblical guidelines for sex are not real, then why does sex outside of those guidelines leave us with emotional scars that can only be healed by the forgiveness and agape love found in the Bible? (An unbeliever may say the scars come from our  man made “religious hangups”  about sex, yet unbelievers are scared by immoral and sexual abuse too, so it has to be more than just our own man made “hangups.”)
  3. At creation we were given the Sabbath and marriage/sex. Satan has done his best to make us forget we have a Creator by making a counterfeit Sabbath and counterfeit (immoral) sexual relationships which lead us back to number 2.

Strange Laws for Strange People

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

There are some pretty strange laws out there.

In Oklahoma it is against the law to spit on the sidewalk. I’m not sure what the penalty is though. But I do know the penalty for making an ugly face at a dog is a fine or jail sentence. I guess it depends on just how ugly of a face you make. In Texas it is against the law to milk another person’s cow, or to shoot a buffalo from the second floor of a hotel. In Alaska it is considered an offense to shove a live moose out of an airplane.*

While these laws sound pretty crazy, I bet if we searched the history behind them, some of them might actually start to make sense. Apparently someone at one time in Alaska must have tried to shove a moose out of an airplane. There is a spirit behind each of these strange laws, which is consideration for other people and creatures. Spitting on the sidewalk may seem innocent enough, until your ten year old son walks barefoot down a sidewalk that a man with a hacking cough just passed by! Making an intimidating face at a dog that brings it to the point of violent frustration is not very considerate either. Therefore we have come up with millions of laws, some of them quite bizarre, just because there are people out there who have no consideration for others.

In heaven Lucifer rebelled against God’s law of love. He thought it would be better to have a lawless society. Well, guess what? The more lawless a society becomes, the more laws it needs. The Spirit of God’s law is simple,

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.  Luke 10:27

Apparently Lucifer thought being considerate of your Creator and His created beings was just too much to ask for.  However, if we would have just respected our Creator and His creatures we would not need all the millions of strange and not so strange laws we have today. If we loved others and were thoughtful of their needs, we would not need a law book at the courthouse telling us we can’t spit on the sidewalk or take milk from our neighbor’s cow. Likewise if we would just love our spouses we would not need divorce laws, alimony laws, child custody laws, child support laws and even restraining orders.

It is not so much strange lawmakers who create strange laws but rather strange and selfish behavior. Even in the Old Testament we have some laws that some people find quite strange, for example, why did God have to give this command in Leviticus 20:2?

Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death.

If parents would have just been faithful to their children we would never have needed this “strange” law.  It is not God who was strange, thus necessitating this strange law but rather a strange society. Strange and unnatural laws become necessary for a society that does not have natural love.  Natural love creates natural laws that are simple and brief, written on our hearts so that obeying them comes as naturally as following our own hearts.   As a matter of fact God’s law could be as simply stated this, “Have a heart people!” And with that one simple law being accomplished we would need no other law, for having a heart for God and his creatures would make laws about offering your children to Molech and shooting buffalo from the second floor of a hotel totally unnecessary.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

* http://www.dumblaws.com/

Raising the Standard

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

My 9th grade algebra teacher graded our tests on the curve. This meant that the highest grade would be counted as 100%. So if the highest grade was 80, our 70 would be considered 70/80 instead of 70/100, thus raising our percentage and grade considerably. There was only one problem. The same girl got 100% right on every test, so we never got a break! The standard always stayed right where it belonged at 100, instead of 70 or 80. The mornings after our tests, we would be anxious to get out results, and to see what kind of a break we got with the curve, and every morning following our tests, we would be disappointed to find that there was no break. Someone kept the standard right where it belonged. That someone was not a popular person with the rest of the class. Why? Because they kept the standard where it belonged, and left the rest of us with no excuse for getting the poorer grades that we got. She was plenty popular the rest of the school year when she acted just like us, but when it came time for tests, her study habits made the rest of us look bad, and it was just easier to ridicule her for her study methods, than it was to actually study ourselves. Likewise, as long as our church blends in the world we will never be ridiculed or persecuted either. Satan has no reason to persecute a church that looks just like the world. As long as this girl was acting like us it was fine, but we found her study habits to be annoying.

I imagine Judas found the woman washing Jesus’ feet with the expensive perfume to be quite annoying. Not that the perfume did not smell good, but Judas clearly had no intentions of giving all he had for Jesus. On the contrary, instead of giving he tried to take whatever he could. But how do you justify your selfishness in the face of someone else’s giving spirit? Easy, you make them look like a fanatic. “What a waste” Judas said, “The money she wasted on perfume could have been better spent on the poor.” I guess Judas considered himself to be poor, since he wanted the money himself. So he makes the woman out to be fanatical. Do we do this today? Someone gives more of their time and effort for Jesus than we are willing to give, and so to make us look balanced, we portray them as extreme. The woman was no fanatic. She was in love with Jesus! But when people are doing more out of love than we care to do, we label them “legalistic,” “extreme,” or “fanatical” when in fact they are just simply in love with Jesus. Judas was not irked by her behavior when she was sinning all over the place. That did not make Judas look bad. But when she gave all she had to Jesus out of love, that exposed Judas’ selfishness and Judas became offended by her converted behavior.

In Matthew 5:1-12 Jesus gives us the beatitudes which are also stepping stones to a complete conversion. Once the conversion is complete Jesus says,

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Matthew 5:10 NLT

Once God’s people become filled with righteousness and pure in heart, by God’s grace they will keep the standard right where it belongs, not because they are legalistic or fanatical, but because they are in love with Jesus. Now here is the key. Jesus blesses those who are persecuted for doing right. Sometimes we bring persecution on ourselves by doing what is wrong. We deserve that, and there is no reward for that. I once heard a man who kept getting harassed by creditors, saying he was being persecuted for being a Christian. No he wasn’t! He was persecuted for not paying his bills!

When God’s grace converts  us our standards will rise above the world’s standards, and just like the kids in my algebra class, and Judas, they will not like that. They will persecute us, but Jesus says to rejoice! For ours is the kingdom of heaven.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

One Single Book

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Many years ago when I was a literature evangelist, I found myself working one day in the rolling green hills of North East Oklahoma. I remember meeting a lot of rejection early in the day. What bothered me the most as I was selling Christian books, was that many saw me only as a salesman, instead of appreciating my passion for sharing Jesus. Rejection plus being misunderstood equaled loneliness for me. About midday, I walked into a Taco Mayo restaurant for lunch. Long before cell phones were common, and Bible apps created, I carried my Bible with me everywhere I went. I sat down at a table and opened my Bible “randomly” and found this verse,

Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, Bearing seed for sowing, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, Bringing his sheaves with him. Psalms 126:5-6 NKJV

That verse hit the spot! My career in soul winning  was just beginning, and this was long before I would begin Bible studies with a family who would start attending church only after I studied with them for seven years in their home first. This was long before I would meet Fred, a man I studied with in Oklahoma, who got baptized later after I had already been serving in Texas years later.  It was also years before I would meet the members of a small Pentecostal Sabbath keeping church, who would all become members of the Mineral Wells, Texas Seventh-day Adventist Church, after studying with them and just as importantly befriending them for four years. (I tell people the entire Pentecostal church became Adventist which is true. I also tell them the entire church consisted of 5 members.)

As a rookie evangelist I had only had time to plant seeds, but not to watch them grow. I needed to learn patience. If I could have seen the future harvest, I doubt I would have felt so discouraged, as I sat there eating my burrito, before I found that verse full of comfort and hope. Still, I could have remembered a passage that my leader had written inside the Colporteur Ministry book he gave me.

Christ did not fail, neither was He discouraged, and His followers are to manifest a faith of the same enduring nature. They are to live as He lived, and work as He worked, because they depend on Him as the great Master Worker. Courage, energy, and perseverance they must possess. Though apparent impossibilities obstruct their way, by His grace they are to go forward…. They are to have power to resist evil, power that neither earth, nor death, nor hell can master, power that will enable them to overcome as Christ overcame. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Pages 679-680

While I sat in that Taco Mayo in Grove Oklahoma back in 1990, my evangelistic career was too young to see the results that years and years of patient toil brings. However I had stories and testimonies from veteran laborers, like Denton James, my union publishing director. He and his family found the way, when they moved into a home, and found an old Bible Readings for the Home laying in the attic. Denton found the Adventist church through that book and became a literature evangelist, who trained many more people, like myself to be literature evangelists. Back in 2008 I worked with his granddaughter in Tampa Florida, who was serving as an ASI Bible Worker. Not long ago, Denton fell asleep, after many years of soul winning. All those souls and trained Bible Workers and Literature evangelists can all trace their success back to Denton James, who traced his success back to an old book found in an attic.

I often wonder who the Literature Evangelist was, who sold that book to the family, that left it in the attic to be discovered by  Denton’s family moving in years later. Whoever it was, I wonder if they ever got discouraged like I did, that day I was working in North East Oklahoma. Whoever it was they may have seen many people get baptized as a result of their labors, or it is possible they saw no one get baptized. One thing is sure, that literature evangelist went to their grave with no clue that years later a man would pick up one single book that had been laying around in an attic for years, dust the cover off and read it, and not only become a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, but lead hundreds to find Jesus, who would also lead hundreds more to find Jesus.

Since I don’t know who sold the book Denton found, I can speculate. Is it possible that was the only book he or she ever sold? Is it possible they quite soon after that because “it just wasn’t working out?” Still there will be thousands in heaven because of that one single book, that lied lost in an attic for who knows how long. I can see the evangelist coming home at the end of that day when they sold that one single book, and writing in their journal,

“It was a terrible day today. I worked hard all day long and met nothing but rejection, and doors slammed in my face over and over. Finally a man bought just one copy of Bible Readings for the Home,from me, but I heard his wife scoffing at him, saying something like, its just going to end up thrown away up in the attic with all the other junk you buy from peddlers. This is so discouraging I might as well quit. At this rate I will never help anyone find Jesus.”

Or I could have it all wrong, but I do know this. The literature evangelist who left that book, walked away from that home having no idea that hundreds would be in the kingdom because of an exchange that probably only took a few moments and netted only a few dollars or even cents.

Just like that book, that was buried in a dark attic for years, so it is with the literature and words I shared on that frustrating day in Oklahoma so many years ago,

  The good seed may for a time lie unnoticed in a cold, selfish, worldly heart, giving no evidence that it has taken root; but afterward, as the Spirit of God breathes on the soul, the hidden seed springs up, and at last bears fruit to the glory of God. In our lifework we know not which shall prosper, this or that. This is not a question for us to settle. We are to do our work, and leave the results with God….. “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” Psalm 126:6-Ellen White, Christ Object Lessons Page, 65.

It is also true of the seeds you sow as well.

Click here for an archived copy of the March 1968 Southwestern Adventist Record magazine as Denton’s story was told long ago. His story is on page 19.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Pray a New Prayer

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

My parents tell me, when I was two years old, one Sabbath morning the elder kept praying and praying in church, and I got tired of kneeling on my two year old little knees, so I finally stood up on the pew and started shouting, “Amen! Amen! Amen!” Well let me tell you something, I have felt like doing it a few times since then. Even at two years old I must have realized that public prayers are suppose to be brief.

“Our prayers in public should be short…” –Ellen White, Prayer, Page 176

In recent years I have been kneeling in congregational prayer for what felt like an eternity, and have thought to myself during the long drawn out prayer, “Why doesn’t the elder praying just ask the pastor if he can preach sometime. I am sure he would let him, and then that way the elder wouldn’t have to use prayer time to preach a sermon.” 

Jesus mentored His disciples to pray longer prayers in private, Or at least He tried to in Gethsemane the night of His arrest, in Matthew 26:36-46. Jesus led by example, in long personal prayers, even lasting all night (Luke 6:12). He also taught that prayers should be genuine and not rehearsed.

“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.” Matthew 6:7 NLT

When we pray we are to talk to God as a friend. I even heard of an elderly Bible Worker, who when driving to Bible Studies, would make sure nothing was in the passenger car seat, because He pictured God sitting there, riding with Him to the Bible study as he prayed and drove. (I hope he kept his eyes opened as he prayed and drove!)

Many times in my Bible studies I ask people to have the opening prayer, and many are shy and say they don’t know how. I never pressure anyone to do anything they don’t feel comfortable doing, but several have been surprised how easy it is when I tell them. One man, who had already heard me pray many times, told me he wanted to pray but did not know what to say. I told him, “Just say “Dear heavenly Father, please send your Holy Spirit to be with us in this Bible study, in Jesus’ name amen.” His eyes opened wide and he smiled when he realized how easy it was.

God wants us to talk to Him as a friend. God also does not wanting us just babbling the same words over and over. He wants to have a real conversation with us. The psalmist talks about singing a new song (Psalms 40:3) and a song is like a prayer as songs and prayers are stories of our experiences. Just as God enjoys new songs He also enjoys new prayers.

While Jesus mentored His disciples to pray in private, He also mentored them to pray in public. He gave them a model prayer, not to be repeated over and over word for word necessarily, but a model for us to use to form our own prayer. God loves creativity. Not every song has to be sung the exact same way and by no means does every prayer have to be prayed the same way. While Jesus prayed long private prayers, notice how short His public prayer is.

Our Father in heaven,may your name be kept holy. Matthew 6:9 NLT

Jesus starts by addressing His Father and setting a tone for reverence and awe. Our prayers may also be prayed with confidence knowing our requests are reaching the throne of the universe.

May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10 NLT

I have a friend who was taught long ago by his parents to always ask people how their day was, and listen to them, before going on about yourself and your day. You may think you had a tough day, but before you dive into your prayer, telling God all about your heartaches, have you ever asked God how His day went? God saw way more heartaches in one day than we will see in a lifetime. We want God’s will to be done and His kingdom to come soon, not just to end our suffering, but to end God’s suffering, as He suffers not just with you and me, but with everyone in the world who suffers.

Give us today the food we need, Matthew 6:11 NLT

When Daniel asked for God to reveal the kings dream to him, Daniel did not save himself only, he saved the lives of all the kings men (Daniel 2:24). InMark 4:39 Jesus calms the storm at the disciples request, but the sea was not only calmed for their tiny boat. Like wise, all the other boats on the water benefited from the calmness. Jesus does not pray for Himself alone to have food. He prays for everyone to have the food they need. There is no selfishness in Jesus’ prayer. There is no selfishness in any genuine prayer.

“and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” Matthew 6:12 NLT

Jesus could have prayed, “Father forgive everyone else for their sins, but as you know I have never sinned,” but again there is nor self or pride in Jesus’ prayer.

And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. Matthew 6:13 NLT

Jesus overcame by asking for the Father’s help along with everyone else. We can ask for His help and overcome as well. Jesus ends His prayer the way He began, by exalting the Father, Who gives us the confidence we need in our personal lives and ministry when we worship and follow Him.

You can study this week’s SS lesson here.