Proverbs in Light of The Cross; What Stewardship Really Means

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine. Proverbs 3:9-10 NLT 

When I was four years old, A family came by, who had lost everything in a fire. My parents gave them some of their own lamps and other things around the house. While the grownups were exploring the house, their little boy was watching me ride my tricycle up and down the driveway. When the grownups came out of the house, my dad walked over and told me, “the little boy does not have a tricycle or any toys.” I jumped off my tricycle and gave it to him.

Even after returning tithes and offerings, my family realized everything we had belonged to God. Some have the idea that stewardship is just about giving tithes and offering and then keeping what is left over for ourselves. Solomon says to honor God with our wealth and the best of everything we own. Stewardship is realizing everything we have belongs to God and should be used to His glory.

My car does not belong to me. It belongs to God. I use it to get to Bible studies, but also to give others a ride who need a ride. My neighbor calls me for a ride to work sometimes because she does not have a car. Actually she does have a car-mine! And she even has a chauffeur-me! I use my personal computer for blogging Bible studies and devotionals, and Bible study presentations. The food in my cupboard is not just for me. Its for whoever comes over and needs a meal, or if need be, I can bring it to them in my car. Sorry! I mean God’s car.

Honoring God with our wealth is not just about giving 10% plus an offering. Its about everything we have and are belonging to God. Stewards are managers, not owners. Stewardship is realizing everything we posses belongs to God, and we own nothing!

That is why I give thanks when I eat the food in my house, I mean God’s house. Because even the food in the house where I live belongs to God. That’s why I thank Him for letting me eat His food.

Proverbs in Light of The Cross; Search, Study, Seek

 I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 

Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding.  Search for them as you would for silver;  seek them like hidden treasures.  Proverbs 2:3-4 NLT

Sometimes I will be hanging out with a friend, who will ask me a quick Bible question, requesting a quick and simple answer. Still, as I go to my Yourversion Bible app to show my friend the Bible answer, I pause and pray with my friend, asking God to give us insight and understanding, even for one simple verse.  I have read in Steps to Christ, Page 91 by Ellen White, “Never should the Bible be studied without prayer. Before opening its pages we should ask for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, and it will be given.”

As I give Bible studies on how to study the Scriptures, I discover words like “Search” (John 5:39, Acts 17:11) and study, (2 Tim 2:15)  I share with my Bible study student that we are not encouraged to simply read the Bible like you read a newspaper, but to search and study it prayerfully, asking God for insight and understanding.

When I moved to Florida, my GPS told me to turn down Elm street till I came to Maple street where my new home was. So for several years I lived in that home telling people I lived on the corner of Elm and Maple. One day I was sitting at the light at Elm and Maple, just like I had everyday before, when I realized something I never had before. The cross sign did not say “Elm.” It said “Oak.” I then realized that Elm street later turns into Oak street. So for years I was telling people I lived at Elm and Maple when in reality I lived at Oak and Maple.  By just glancing around I assumed I was somewhere I really was not. One day I looked a little closer at the sign. I realized where I really was.  Searching and studying makes a much bigger difference than when we just read and glance at things!

Proverbs 2:3-4 reminds us to ask God for insight and understanding, and it will be given as we, not just casually glance at the Bible, but as we study, search and seek the Bible.

The story you just read is true. The street names were changed to protect the innocent.

Proverbs In Light of the Cross; Understanding

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

“Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.” Proverbs 3:13 NLT

I remember several years ago I got to thinking about the fact that I had not really learned anything exciting or new in the Scriptures lately. Since I love studying and finding new things, I asked God why that was. The thought came to me. Have I been doing all that God already showed me? If not, why would He bother showing me more, when I am not even doing what I already know to do?

The story goes of a pastor who preached the same sermon three weeks in a row. After the third time, an elder told him, “you do realize this is the third time you’ve preached the exact same sermon?” “Yes,” the pastor replied. “And you still have not done what I told you.”

Understanding means obeying. There is no reason for God to give us more wisdom, if we’re not using the wisdom we already have.

“Disobedience has closed the door to a vast amount of knowledge that might have been gained from the Scriptures. Understanding means obedience to God’s commandments. The Scriptures are not to be adapted to meet the prejudice and jealousy of men. They can be understood only by those who are humbly seeking for a knowledge of the truth that they may obey it.”  Ellen White, Christ Object Lessons, page 111

Proverbs in Light of The Cross; No Higher Ordination Than That of a Parent

I am writing today from beautiful Florida.

I am writing today from beautiful Florida.

 

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 not only the first teacher but 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.

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, the families who remained in the church after growing up, were families that had worship every night in the home. They also encouraged their children to study the Bible for themselves.That is why they 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 athiest, 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* and Bible together, and prayer.

The mother and father are more to a child than any priest, pastor, teacher, or even general conference president will ever be. The ordination of mother and father is a much higher ordination than any priest or pastor, and a child should learn to listen to and respect their parent more than they respect any priest, pastor or teacher.

*SSNET has a tab in their menu for lessons for every age group.

Proverbs in Light of the Cross; Oppression and Human Nature

I am writing today from beautiful Florida.

I am writing today from beautiful Florida

Do not envy the oppressor, And choose none of his ways;  For the perverse person is an abomination to the LordBut His secret counsel is with the upright. Proverbs 3:31-32 NKJV

I already know you are not going to like this, but I have heard it said, “The only difference between Adolf Hitler and us, is that Hitler had the opportunity and we didn’t.” Now that is a terrible thing to say, but is it true? Let’s be honest. When left to our our human nature don’t we try to manipulate people and situations as much as is legal and socially acceptable in our situation? Do we try to control other people as far as we are allowed? If so, then that’s all Hitler was doing, controlling people as far as he was allowed. We don’t want to be called a “control freak” but we all know where the line is before we cross over into becoming a control freak. Do we try to get as close to that line as possible?

During the dark ages of papal reign and folks being burned at the stake for exercising their freedom to think for themselves, many fled to a new world where they would not suffer papal oppression.

Yet honest and God-fearing as they were, the Pilgrims did not yet comprehend the great principle of religious liberty. The freedom which they sacrificed so much to secure for themselves, they were not equally ready to grant to others. “Very few, even of the foremost thinkers and moralists of the seventeenth century, had any just conception of that grand principle, the outgrowth of the New Testament, which acknowledges God as the sole judge of human faith.”–Ibid., vol. 5, p. 297. The doctrine that God has committed to the church the right to control the conscience, and to define and punish heresy, is one of the most deeply rooted of papal errors. –Ellen White, Great Controversy, Pages 292-293

So these pilgrims, fled oppression and then, while meaning well, became the oppressors, once the opportunity was available to them. People use the term “papal” to describe someone who is being bossy, narrow minded and controlling. Yet it is not a papal issue. It is a human nature issue. Without God’s grace we all are as papal as the situation will allow.

See now, why some say the only difference between Hitler and us is Hitler had the opportunity and we did not? It may be an extreme illustration, but maybe not as extreme as we would like to imagine. I realize too, there have been people who had opportunities equal to Hitler who were very nice and not the least bit oppressive. Still, it’s something to consider.

Of course hopefully there is one difference. Hopefully we are living in the Spirit instead of the flesh.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1 NKJV

The only way to make sure we are not a Hitler, or a papal oppressor is to crucify self and let God’s Spirit live in us.

 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:24 

Jesus did not die to control us. He died to set us free from the sin that was controlling us.

 

Proverbs in Light of The Cross; Is Trusting God Practical?

I am writing tonight from beautiful Florida.

I am writing tonight from beautiful Florida.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT

Many years ago, a small church where I was a Bible Worker, had a wealthy member who owned his own business. He told me to do the exact opposite of what the pastor instructed me. I told the wealthy member, “no.” Not just because it contradicted the pastor but it was also just plain wrong.

The wealthy member then threatened me, by saying  most all the money in the church came from him, and if I did not do as he said, he would withdraw his support of the church, and there would go my salary. I told him, “no” again. I also told him his church donations do not support me. God supports me! The wealthy man then became angry and told me to get real and be practical. He claimed he supported me and not God!

You know what really broke my heart? This man was an elder in the church, and here he was telling me God’s promises are not practical or real. I lost a lot of respect for that man, not just for trying to threaten me, but for saying his money was more real and trustworthy than God’s promises.

Sadly the wealthy man left our church, once he realized he could not control us with his money. Not only did the church survive without him, it thrived! While he claimed the church and I could not survive without his money, God richly blessed me more than ever after he left, and the church built a new fellowship hall and several classrooms. All paid for. Years later, when I left to take another assignment, the little church hired another Bible Worker and the church has been growing by leaps and bounds.

Yes, trusting in the Lord with all your heart instead of man’s understanding is a very practical thing to do!

 

Proverbs in Light of The Cross; The Two Paths

I am writing tonight from beautiful Florida.

I am writing tonight from beautiful Florida.

 

Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. She offers you long life in her right hand, and riches and honor in her left. She will guide you down delightful paths; all her ways are satisfying. Proverbs 3:15-17 NLT

The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like total darkness. They have no idea what they are stumbling over. Proverbs 4:18-19 NLT

The only thing that is harder than being saved is being lost! The only thing harder than obeying God is disobeying God. The upward path may be more narrow but it is also more pleasant. The downward path may appear to be easier but it is hard and painful.

In order to go in the path that leads to destruction, there is no need of searching for the way; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad, and the feet naturally turn into the path that ends in death….

But the way to life is narrow and the entrance strait. If you cling to any besetting sin you will find the way too narrow for you to enter….

Yet do not therefore conclude that the upward path is the hard and the downward road the easy way. All along the road that leads to death there are pains and penalties, there are sorrows and disappointments, there are warnings not to go on. God’s love has made it hard for the heedless and headstrong to destroy themselves. It is true that Satan’s path is made to appear attractive, but it is all a deception; in the way of evil there are bitter remorse and cankering care. We may think it pleasant to follow pride and worldly ambition, but the end is pain and sorrow. Selfish plans may present flattering promises and hold out the hope of enjoyment, but we shall find that our happiness is poisoned and our life embittered by hopes that center in self. In the downward road the gateway may be bright with flowers, but thorns are in the path. The light of hope which shines from its entrance fades into the darkness of despair, and the soul who follows that path descends into the shadows of unending night…..

If we take Christ for our guide, He will lead us safely. The veriest sinner need not miss his way…

Christ Himself has trodden the rough way before us and has smoothed the path for our feet.  Ellen White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, Pages 138-140.

What’s So Different About a New Believer’s Sabbath School Class?

I am writing from the beautiful Tampa Bay area, where my New Believers Sabbath School class loves to have class at parks near the beach sometimes.

I am writing from the beautiful Tampa Bay area, where my New Believers Sabbath School class loves to have class at parks near the beach sometimes.

 The Sabbath school should be one of the greatest instrumentalities, and the most effectual, in bringing souls to Christ.-Ellen White, Counsels on Sabbath School Works, Page 10

A few seasoned Adventists think of Sabbath School as a place where they like to “spar” and debate with their fellow seasoned Adventist friends about the 144,000 being a symbolic or literal number, or whether Jesus came with a prelapsarian nature or postlapsarian nature. Surprisingly enough, that is not the purpose of Sabbath School. The purpose of Sabbath school is to introduce people to Jesus who do not know Him.

While the worship service is orientated for believers, the Sabbath School is designed for evangelism. There were no Sabbath Schools as such in Bible times. Seventh-day Adventists got the idea for Sabbath School from the protestant Sunday Schools which began in Great Britain in the 1780’s as a way to teach poor children to read and learn the Bible.*  As the Bible Worker for the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, I lead out in our New Believer’s Sabbath School class. The sole purpose of this class is to lead new believer’s or seekers to Jesus.

What Makes a New Believer’s SS Class Different From All The Rest?

1. Curriculum: While we have at times used the regular SS quarterly, when it is based on themes for evangelism, we mostly use lessons to help introduce people to Jesus and basic Bible teachings. our class has enjoyed the In Light of the Cross Study Guides, which are also available with the New Living Translation and inSpanish. These lessons present our basic Bible teachings in the light of the cross, and avoid legalism while preserving Bible standards. I have heard from other churches in Florida as well as a few around the world telling me these lessons have been greatly appreciated in their classes for new believers. I developed the New Living Translation edition, when I realized how many of my immigrant Bible students were having trouble reading English, let alone 17th century English. We have also used the Growth Group Dialogues by Pastor Denis Sand.

2. Setting: While Sabbath Schools are not found in the Bible home churches are. We try to give our classroom a home feeling, with comfortable chairs or couches. We sit in a circle, which encourages members to feel comfortable sharing questions related to the study. When you sit in rows with the speaker up front, it makes people feel like they are in the worship service, and should not talk or ask questions. I have visited churches where the Sabbath School was is the sanctuary, and I left feeling like I heard two sermons and had no Sabbath School.

3. Conversation: We begin each class with the members sharing one high, which is something good that happened that week, and one low, which is something not so good that happened that week. Or we just ask for praise reports and prayer requests. I have assigned a member to write down the prayer requests and e-mail them to the class in the middle of the week to remind us to keep praying for them. At one time we had a praise team leader who led out in a couple of songs before our study time, but they left us to start their own young adult class which is growing by leaps and bounds. Often times we will use ice breaker questions to lead into the study. This does not detract from the study time. People learn more from a study when they feel like they are a part of it, and have invested themselves into the lesson. Conversation time is important to the study. Jesus did not learn about His interests while He was lecturing them, but rather while He was visiting with them. Earlier this year I was holding a prophecy seminar, which was basically a lecture. I invited my prophecy seminar members to join a Bible study growth group I was starting, and am I glad I did! The prophecy members mentioned how much better we were all getting to know and understand each other in the Bible study group. That never would have happened in the prophecy class where I lecture, and yet it’s very important to understand people’s backgrounds and ways of thinking when discussing something as crucial as Prophecy. So now you can see why conversation time is so important in a new believer’s Sabbath School class. So what happens when a new believer becomes a seasoned believer? We have a spiritual gifts Sabbath school class where the teacher gives my new members an invite when they are not so new anymore. This helps them find where they are best orientated to serve in the church. I like the teacher of the next class inviting them instead of me, as I could never ask someone to leave my class. I love them too much and of course we always remain friends! Now some take the invite, others, after baptism go looking for a new class on their own. Still others remain in my class as mentors and even co-facilitators. I think it is important to keep some seasoned members in my new believer’s class to help mentor the new ones.

4. Social: The new believer’s class is a family. We study together, pray together, and socialize together. The New Believer’s class is for all ages. We have socials where teens and senior citizens are playing games together and forming friendships that flow over into Bible study. One week, when I was preaching elsewhere and no adults would volunteer to teach the class, I had a middle school girl lead out. When I came back the next week, I found out that she had brought muffins for everyone and led out in a tremendous Bible study presentation. Suddenly I was not the most popular teacher anymore as she could teach and bake! Outside of class we go to classical concerts together, ball games and enjoy lunches and get togethers in each others homes.

If your church does not already have a class for new believers or seekers, you may ask God if He wants you to start one. Why not talk to your pastor and Sabbath School superintendent about it today? But remember, all Sabbath Schools are intended to be used to win souls for Jesus. Are you making sure your class is seeker friendly and winning souls for Jesus?

*http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/asktheexpert/whendidsundayschoolstart.html

Growth Group Lesson #1 – Growth

DIALOGUE # 1 – GROWTH
by Pr Denis Sand – sanddenis@gmail.com

Objective of today’s dialogue: Invite people to choose and commit to grow by being connected daily with God.

Additional resources: Read and study from Desire of Ages, Chapter 73, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled, pp 674-677, 

Welcome (15) – Fellowship

• Give a warm welcome and express the purpose of Growth Groups: to grow closer to God and to help others who don’t know Him yet experience the same.
• Go around and ask each one to share their names and one thing that makes them good friends.
• What kind of things brakes relationships?
• What do you do to maintain your friendships?
• What practical things would you do if you wanted to make a relationship grow?

Worship (15) – Worship
Psalm 92:1-6
I’m a friend of God
Draw me close to you
Sanctuary
• Giving thanks: ask people to share reasons why they are thankful to God today. Take time to pray. Do a popcorn prayer with only thanksgiving.

Word (30) – Discipleship
• Read John 15:1-8
• Who is the gardener, the vine and the branches?
• What is the only way to have spiritual growth and why? v5
• In what way does God prune our characters? v2
• Since Christ is the Vine and we are the branches, how should we relate to this world/ground? What would this mean practically?
• What does it mean to remain in Him? v4-8
• How can we practically remain, live, stay connected to God in the midst of all we daily do?
• What does it mean and how can we bear fruit as a Christian? v8
• What kind of fruits are you producing and which ones would you like to produce? Why?
• What do you sense God telling you tonight?
• What changes will you do this week in order to make sure you remain connected to Christ?

• To do: Write now on a small card the key text of this week John 15:5. Carry it in your wallet or pocket, place it in your fridge and make sure you memorize it.

Works (15) – Ministry & Evangelism
• Share the vision with the group! Multiplication is our goal. Growth is our daily prayer.
• Ask: Do you have friends that need to grow in their relationship with God?
• Please write down their names and invite them to next week group meeting.
• How can we pray for each one’s challenges this week? share your requests
• Pray in groups of two

Refreshments– Fellowship
• Make sure you get to talk and know visitors!

Growth Group Lesson #2 Comforted

DIALOGUE # 2 – COMFORTED
by Pr Denis Sand – sanddenis@gmail.com
Objective of today’s dialogue: Challenge the group to live comforting others while we are at the same time receiving comfort from God.

Welcome (15) – Fellowship
• What could be some of the most hard and challenging situations one can face?
• How do you normally react to hardship and suffering?
• Do you have a story to share of some hardship and how you were comforted when you were a child?
• Why do people sometimes blame God for difficult circumstances?

Worship (15) – Worship
• Read Psalm 145:1-5
Shout to the Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
• Ask the group to share why they are thankful to God tonight, and then have them pray giving thanks in groups of two.

Word (30) – Discipleship
• Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
• What kind of God do we have according to v3?
• Why is God called the father of comfort? v3
• Why is it that God comforts us? v4
• How is it that God comforts us when we are troubled? v4
• What do you think is God trying to teach us in verse 6?
• How can we practically comfort others in their problems?
• How have other Christians helped you in difficult times? How did it feel? Share about that experience in a minute.
• Did God ever use you to comfort another person? How did it feel?
• How can we learn to rely more on God for comfort than on ourselves?
• What is God telling you tonight?
• Read Isaiah 51:12
o “I, even I, am he who comforts you. Who are you that you fear mortal men, the sons of men, who are but grass, NIV
o “I, I’m the One comforting you. What are you afraid of—or who? Some man or woman who’ll soon be dead? Some poor wretch destined for dust? MSS

• To do: Write now on a small card the key text of this week, 2 Corinthians 1.6. Carry it in your wallet or pocket, place it in your fridge and memorize it.

Works – Witness (15) – Ministry & Evangelism
• Do you know anyone who might be going through deep waters, troubled times, or hardship?
• What could we do this week, as a group, to show love, concern for that person?
• Consider writing a card as a group, visiting them, etc.
• Invite them to next week group meeting
• Remind you group that we are here for those who are not here yet!

Refreshments– Fellowship
• Mingle and share life with people.