Why I Can’t Believe in Myself

Ciera 006

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A while back I was having a conversation with a young man who was studying eastern religions. He asked me about my faith so I told Him I believed in Jesus. “But this faith in Jesus leads you to believe in yourself, right?” He asked. “No.” I said. “It actually makes me not believe in myself at all. Only in Jesus.” The young man did even try to hide his scowl, and as to this date has not wanted to hear anymore about my faith.  Apparently believing in yourself is very important to this young man, but how can I believe in myself, when I know all too well what Paul confesses?

 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. Romans 7:18 NKJV

Hard for me to believe in something where nothing good dwells.

But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Romans 7:23-24 NKJV

Romans 7 knows me all too well. This is why I wrote in a previous article, “The Bible is the only book that knows me.” But there is hope! Not in me but in Jesus.

 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. Romans 7:25 NKJV

My mind wants to serve God but my flesh wants to serve sin. So what is the solution? Paul shares the solution in chapter 8.

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. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4 NKJV

Jesus took my flesh with nothing good in it and crucified it. Now I can walk in the spirit and the law of love can be fulfilled in me.

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

In the physical world one must be born before they can die. In the Spiritual world one must die before they can be born.

For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. Galatians 5:17 NKJV

When the Spirit wars against the flesh is it the good things or the bad things we cannot do? Which is stronger? The Holy Spirit or the flesh? The previous verse makes it obvious.

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 NLT

So if I walk in the Spirit I have victory over the flesh. Why do I need victory over my flesh? Why can’t I believe in my own flesh like my friend wanted me to? Let’s examine the works of the flesh and see how many of them are good things that I can believe in.

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 NKJV 

Eeeww, I didn’t find anything good in there, did you? No wonder Jesus had to crucify my flesh on the cross, and I must crucify it daily. See Luke 9:23 You may ask how does one crucify the flesh? To be honest, I don’t know! Good thing Jesus took my flesh to the cross and did it for me! When I look at the cross the pride of the flesh dies.

For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. Galatians 6:13-15 NKJV

Its impossible to look at the cross and glory in my flesh.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride. -Isaac Watts

What is justification by faith? It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself. When men see their own nothingness, they are prepared to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. -Ellen White, Faith I Live by, Page, 111

Now that my glory is laid in the dust look at what is possible.

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:22-26 NKJV

 Notice while these fruits of the Spirit are seen in my life, they are not my works! We saw earlier how disgusting all my works are. No, these are not the results of my works, they are the result of the Holy Spirit living in me and producing His own fruit. 

When we live by faith on the Son of God, the fruits of the Spirit will be seen in our lives; not one will be missing. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 676 

See why I told my friend the answer is not for me to believe in myself?

 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, Philippians 3:3 NKJV

The circumcision are those like Abraham, who stopped trusting his flesh to produce the fruit that only the Holy Spirit can produce. God had Abraham put away the part of the flesh he was trusting in so He could trust God’s promises instead. I pray God will give me another opportunity to talk to my friend again, so I can explain all that is possible when we stop believing in ourselves and believe in Jesus. Then again, the Holy Spirit can have anybody explain that to him. What the Holy Spirit does in me He can do in anyone. After all, its not me working. It is the fruit of Spirit.

You may study this week’s SS lesson on the Holy Spirit here.

Hesed

Here is the video of Tojie and Anthony’s baptism as well as my sermon presentation at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, on God’s Hesed, relentless promise keeping and relentless love. The baptism is at 17:10. The sermon is around 100:00, but you will also enjoy the music and testimonies in between as well.

Tojie and Anthony’s Baptism

dsc_0036

Today Tojie and Anthony’s friends, family and teachers from Tampa Adventist Academy came to the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church to support Tojie and Anthony as they both gave all themselves to Jesus in baptism, because Jesus gave all of Himself for them. You may watch the video of the baptism and service here. Baptism starts at 17:10.

 

dsc_0021

Tojie is now in the 9th grade. When he was in the 5th and 6th grades he was in my Bible chain referencing class at Tampa Adventist Academy. Tojie told me a while back that he wanted to be baptized. Tojie and Anthony agreed to be baptized together so today was the day! Tojie writes,

“When I hear the word “baptism” the first thing that comes to mind is when Jesus got baptized by John the Baptist. Jesus didn’t need to be baptized. He was virtually perfect, but he did it anyway. Not because he had to, because he wanted to. Jesus wanted to set an example for us all. I think we should do the same.”

dsc_0039

I met Anthony this year at Tampa Adventist Academy, where he is in the 8th grade. I enjoyed studying with Anthony as he is very transparent and sincere, and was not afraid to ask questions if there was something he was not sure about. His sincere quest for truth and Jesus has led Anthony to a very good understanding of the Bible and relationship with God. Anthony writes,

Baptism to me means that as I go under the water all my sins are being washed away, and as I come up out of the water I am free with a new start. I also believe I will have a stronger connection with God. I think he will have a stronger voice when He talks to me. When I read His Word I feel like things will be more visible. As I spread the gospel I will have a better understanding of God and He will reveal things to me.

dsc_0070

After the baptism Tojie and Anthony were welcomed into the church family along with Anthony’s parents, Leighcraft and Sherri-Lee, who were already baptized.  Pastor Brad Cassell went over the baptism vows and awarded them their certificates with the the Adventist fundamental beliefs.

dsc_0071

Indian Rocks 2

Please don’t let another day go by before giving your heart to Jesus. After all, you are not going to be able to keep your life anyway, so why not give it to the One who can save it for all eternity? I would love to help you with this step. You may contact me at LayPastor@TampaAdventist.net

Marreta’s Profession of Faith Picture

meretta

On Sabbath, October 22, 2016 Maretta rejoined the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Plant City. Earlier in the year Maretta was invited to some meetings being conducted by some young men from Southern Adventist Univeristy. Maretta attended more meetings than anyone else, and was soon coming to Sabbath School and church and helping out with our fellowship meals. She fit right in right away and has never looked back. Like most people who have fallen in love with Jesus, Maretta has been taking a friend with her regularly to Sabbath and School and church, who has also been having Bible studies with us. Maretta is glad to be back in God’s church and we are glad she is here!

Lying to the Holy Spirit

beautiful-day-027

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 

Once, I was talking to a church treasure who told me every week she finds a few empty tithe envelopes turned into the offering plate. She figured it was kids turning them in. I was more skeptical and wondered if it was adults wanting to look like they were giving an offering. This was before online giving. Either way, the church has always had people pretending to be more giving than they are.

You may say, “Well that’s really none of your business William!” and you are right. It is none of my business. It is nobody’s business but God’s. In the dark ages the church would bribe, guilt and bully people into giving them their money, and there are churches and ministries that do this today. Some ministries and individuals expect certain people to help them financially and are disappointed when they don’t, forgetting that everyone has the right to do what they want with their own money. Jesus tells a parable about some people working in a vineyard that were expecting the owner to give them more than others, but the owner rightly answered,

Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Matthew 20:15 NLT

God always provides, and even though I support God’s work faithfully, it was doing quite well before I came along and will continue to thrive after I am gone. God doesn’t need my money. I need to express my thankfulness to God for His love, and systematic giving is one way I do so. Notice what Paul says,

 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 2 Corinthians 9:6 NLT

I see three important things here.

1. You must decide how much you are going to give. This goes for tithe as well. Yes it is 10%, but some say you should tithe on your gross, others say net. Of course if you own a business you tithe on your profit, and only you would know what that is. For example, when I am studying with someone about tithes and offerings, I ask them, if your neighbor pays you $50.00 to mow their lawn, and you spent $5.00 on gas then how much did you make? You made $45.00, so you would tithe on the $45.00. (See Deuteronomy 14:22.) Bottom line is that Paul says you must decide in your heart. Be honest. I have my own convictions about tithing on the gross but I have no business telling you what to do and neither does anyone else. Paul says decide in your heart, that is, follow your conscience based on what you have read in God’s Word.

2. Paul says don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. If you don’t want to give, then don’t! God doesn’t need your money. The church and various ministries will survive and thrive without it. But your spirit will whither and die unless you give!

3. Paul says “God loves a cheerful giver” and so He wants us to give cheerfully. Giving is worship, and the Psalmist says enter His gates with praise and thanksgiving. Giving otherwise is not worship. God wants us to give where we can give cheerfully and what we can give cheerfully.

In one of my first districts as a Bible Worker I was looking for a place to live. At prayer meeting one night a family told me in front of everyone that they owned a place where I could stay for free. They said in front of everyone, that they were pleased to have me do Bible work for the church and stay at their place at no charge. When I got to where I was staying that night, they called me privately, to tell me they actually did want some rent. What they wanted the church to hear was different from what they were actually willing to do. That’s where the problem begins. In Acts 5 when Ananias and his wife sold their land, the problem was not that they did not give all the money to the church. The problems is they said they were giving all while they were not.

He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. Acts 5:2 NLT

The problem is that He was lying, saying he was giving it all while he was holding some back. Are we lying when we claim to be returning an honest tithe but are holding some back? Peter went on to say,

“Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” Acts 5:3-4 NLT 1

While it was nobody’s business what Ananias did with his money he was still lying to the Holy Spirit, which was much worse than lying to people! So while we may say it is nobody’s business what we give, it is God’s business, and we need to be honest with Him. God needs us to give where and how we can cheerfully, and honestly.


  1.  By the way, notice Peter says Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, and then later said he lied to God, thus demonstrating that the Holy Spirit is God. Some say that the Spirit is just the “spirit” or attitude of Jesus, but one doesn’t lie to someone’s attitude. One lies to a person. The Holy Spirit is a Person.
  2. You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

Why Didn’t He Say Anything?

DT Tampa july 4

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am re-sharing this post I wrote a couple years ago, as we are currently studying about the Holy Spirit. 

Several years ago one of my superiors made a false accusation against me at church. I asked a couple of friends how I should refute what was said. One friend answered wisely, “Don’t defend yourself against the accusation. Doing so will only give the accusation merit.” My friend was right. Sadly, the leader who made the accusation left the Adventist Church shortly after. As I continued my ministry I realized everyone either forgot what was said or were never paying attention in the first place. Others shrugged it off, knowing it wasn’t true. It may sound cliche, but some things become cliche because they are true. Sometimes silence is golden.

Jesus promised us,

So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you!  Luke 21:14-15 NLT

In training people to give Bible studies, and how to use the Bible to answer certain questions, I occasionally find someone who is frustrated because someone debated them, and they did not know how to answer. They trusted the Holy Spirit to give them words to say, but they were speechless. Did Jesus let them down? No. Remember, not even Jesus answered every question. Sometimes, like us, He had nothing to say.

But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent.

“Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded.

But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise. Matthew 27:12-14 NLT

Could it be that Jesus knew their hearts were hardened, and that until the Holy Spirit had softened their hearts, it would do no good to say anything? When dealing with conflict, a pastor once told me, “You don’t have to swing at every pitch.” Baseball fans know what he meant. For everyone else, let’s use more cliches and just say, “Choose your battles well,” and “You don’t have to die on every hill.” Sometimes it’s okay to be silent, and give the Holy Spirit opportunity to work. Sure there are times to speak up, but if the Holy Spirit has not given us words to speak, it’s best to remain silent, lest we ruin everything with our own foolishness.

Let me leave you with a thought that a wise teacher shared with some parents, which applies to more than just parents and children.

Children may not always be listening to you, but they are always watching you!

More important than finding the right word is doing the right action. Maybe the real reason Jesus needed no words, to answer their question is because His life already answered them.

Hugs From Heaven

Rays Port Charlotte-Skyway Bridge 082

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I love giving and receiving bear hugs at church. Of course I realize not everyone does, so if you’d rather have a hand shake that’s fine, and if you’d rather, a fist pump will do too, especially if you think you have a cold. If you would rather not touch at all, I am happy to just smile and wave at you. With my Christian sisters I accept sideways hugs, so as not to misconstrue the intent of the hug. Of course some of the old-fashioned elderly ladies have no concept of a sideways hug, and just give me a huge bear hug as though I was their son, and so I graciously just grin and “bear” their big bear hugs. I know their motives are pure.

Some people are afraid to hug or touch others, for fear of it being misinterpreted, and that is exactly what Satan wants! Satan knows how important appropriate hugs and touching are to one’s physical and emotional health. In Matthew 8:2-3 Jesus heals a man’s leprosy by saying “I will, be thou clean.” But He touched the man in order to heal his loneliness. Of course we should only touch people who want to be touched, and only the appropriate ways I already described.

Now in Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, and 1 Thessalonians 5:26 Paul says to greet each other with a “holy” or “sacred kiss,” depending upon the translation you use, but it all translates to a literal kiss. I am not suggesting we give literal kisses today, and would prefer a hug myself, but my point is that the Bible encourages appropriate touching beyond husband and wife. If you are not sure what appropriate touching means in your Christian culture, I strongly recommend, no, demand that you stick with just smiling and waving. Smiles cure loneliness too.

Do you know that the Holy Spirit likes to give big bear hugs too?

And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. Luke 15:20 NKJV

This is one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible. The father, who represents our heavenly Father, ran out and fell on his son’s neck. Does that mean he tripped and fell on his neck? No, of course not! It means he gave his son a big bear hug. The phrase, “fell on” is an old English term for “bear hug.”

When Peter was speaking to the Gentiles, and the Holy Spirit “fell upon” them, we can see that as the Holy Spirit giving them a big bear hug!

Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. Acts 10:44 NLT

Again we see the phrase “fell upon” which does not mean tripping and falling, but actually giving a big bear hug! The Holy Spirit loves to give bear hugs! Let that sink in.  When God sends His Spirit, He’s not sending us power to do legalistic works in legalistic self righteousness. No! When God gives us the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit gives us a big bear hug, giving us all of heaven’s love so that our works and righteousness will be filled with God’s love!

I published an article a while back, about how I was praying one night that God would continue supporting my ministry so I could continue sharing His love with others. The following morning I went to my church community center, where an elderly lady from church gave me a big bear hug, and told me that God knew about all my needs and that He would continue supporting my ministry. It was as though she heard my conversation with God the night before. That is when I realized the bear hug she gave me was just as much from God, as the words of hope she shared.

Friend, as important as physical hugs are, you may have had some unfortunate experiences that prohibit you from giving hugs or receiving them. And when I say prohibit, I mean  you may even be legally prohibited because of a mistake you made in the past. God wants to restore and heal you. He wants to forgive and change your life, and if you are never able to physically hug another person on earth, please know the Holy Spirit’s hugs are real. Ask for the Holy Spirit and let God give you a big bear hug!

You can study this week’s SS lesson on the Holy Spirit here.