Anything Except What God Says!

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In 1 Samuel God wanted to be the king of Israel, but Israel wanted to be like the other nations and have their own king. Instead of being a peculiar people they wanted to blend in with the world as much as possible. Even today I have heard Christian leaders boast how the church resembles worldly establishments, as though they were the standard, but I digress. The fact is that Israel pleaded for and got their own king, someone besides God Himself.

 

Later, I was reading about Jesus being crucified,

“What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back. John 19:15 NLT

When I read this my mind flashed back to Israel saying they didn’t want God to be their king. Here they are telling Pilate give us any king but God!

This week’s lesson talks about Romans 14 and Paul telling us not to judge people by observing certain Sabbaths or days. We understand from Colossians 2:14-17 that Paul is speaking of ceremonial Sabbaths that pointed towards the cross. The weekly Sabbath is spoken of as singular in most Bible versions while ceremonial Sabbaths are spoken of as plural as in Colossians 2 and Romans 14. Also the weekly Sabbath is not a shadow of the cross as it existed before the need of a cross, (Genesis 2:1-3) and after the cross has accomplished its goal, (Isaiah 66:23Acts 18:4Hebrews 4). So we as Adventist Bible students understand that the weekly Sabbath is still in effect, and it was the ceremonial Sabbaths that were a shadow of things to come, and now Paul says don’t judge anyone either way regarding ceremonial Sabbaths.

My point now is this. People will tell me it does not matter which day I keep as the weekly Sabbath, but then they turn around and get frustrated with me for keeping the Bible Sabbath over Sunday. Is this the same mentality of the Jews in 1 Samuel and John 19? Is this not saying, we will have any King but God, and we will keep any Sabbath except for the one God says to keep? Is that within itself a rebellious attitude, saying anything except what God says? If it doesn’t matter what day I keep then why do other Christians get upset when I keep Saturday? Why do they want me to keep any day but the one God said?

The world will always be pressuring us to conform to its ways over God’s ways. Meanwhile Paul writes in Romans,

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 NLT

I choose to Follow God instead of the world, especially when the world says, “not God’s way but my way!” God’s way is good, it is pleasing to both God and me, and it is perfect. I don’t want to be like those of old who say “anything except what God says.”

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

6 Everyday Childhood Habits of Jesus

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. 

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Luke 2:52 NKJV

Would you have loved having the boy Jesus in your Sabbath School class, or would you become annoyed by His constant questioning? (See Luke 2:46) Would you have enjoyed having Jesus as your childhood playmate, or would you become annoyed when He would not join you in mischief? (See Luke 2:40) The amazing thing is, Jesus was such as much God as child as an adult. Even with all the wickedness our children face in our world today, Jesus is still an example and Savior to them.

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15 NKJV

No child of humanity will ever be called to live a holy life amid so fierce a conflict with temptation as was our Saviour. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 71

So how did Jesus escape all this temptation as a child? Of course it helps that He was born of the Spirit! Thankfully in John 3, Jesus offers us all that same opportunity! Thankfully God sent a messenger, who gave us a beautiful insight into the childhood of Jesus, and shares with us 6 everyday childhood habits of the Son of God.

1. He always studied God’s Word.
“Every child may gain knowledge as Jesus did. As we try to become acquainted with our heavenly Father through His word, angels will draw near, our minds will be strengthened, our characters will be elevated and refined. We shall become more like our Saviour.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 70

2. He always prayed.
Communion with God through prayer develops the mental and moral faculties. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Pages 70-71

3. He cultivated thoughts on spiritual themes.
“and the spiritual powers strengthen as we cultivate thoughts upon spiritual things.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 71

4. Jesus kept busy as a child.
” In His industrious life there were no idle moments to invite temptation.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 72

5. He was intentional and purposeful with His time.
“No aimless hours opened the way for corrupting associations.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 72

6. Even though He was tempted in all points, Jesus did not invite temptation.
“So far as possible, He closed the door to the tempter.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 72

The life of Jesus was a life in harmony with God. While He was a child, He thought and spoke as a child; but no trace of sin marred the image of God within Him. Yet He was not exempt from temptation. The inhabitants of Nazareth were proverbial for their wickedness. The low estimate in which they were generally held is shown by Nathanael’s question, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” John 1:46. Jesus was placed where His character would be tested. It was necessary for Him to be constantly on guard in order to preserve His purity. He was subject to all the conflicts which we have to meet, that He might be an example to us in childhood, youth, and manhood.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 71

Our Reasonable Service

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Several years ago, an American restaurant chain had commercials suggesting the different reasons to go out to eat at their restaurant and celebrate. Maybe you found 50 cents in the pockets of some old jeans, or maybe you hit all the lights green on your way home from work. The lighthearted message of the commercials, was there is always something to celebrate. The makers of the commercials knew they were being a little silly. But I wonder if society today is getting a little carried away with participation trophies, and celebrating first downs in American football, when we used to only celebrate actual touchdowns. Are we praising ourselves for doing everyday things that should just be automatically done as no big deal? 

I love our young people, and I support and encourage them. But I wonder if we praise a little too much sometimes? 

The Bible has little to say in praise of men. Little space is given to recounting the virtues of even the best men who have ever lived. This silence is not without purpose; it is not without a lesson. All the good qualities that men possess are the gift of God; their good deeds are performed by the grace of God through Christ. Since they owe all to God the glory of whatever they are or do belongs to Him alone; they are but instruments in His hands. More than this–as all the lessons of Bible history teach–it is a perilous thing to praise or exalt men; for if one comes to lose sight of his entire dependence on God, and to trust to his own strength, he is sure to fall. Man is contending with foes who are stronger than he. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in high places.” Ephesians 6:12, margin. It is impossible for us in our own strength to maintain the conflict; and whatever diverts the mind from God, whatever leads to self-exaltation or to self-dependence, is surely preparing the way for our overthrow. The tenor of the Bible is to inculcate distrust of human power and to encourage trust in divine power. –Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, Page 718 

As I work with various churches across the country, I see some churches where a teenager is praised without end for reading a Scripture in church, while in other churches young people participate in the service as though it were just expected as no big deal. Aren’t young people just as much a part of our church as anyone else? Do they require a pat on the back for every little job done right? Shouldn’t these things be expected? 

When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’? No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’ And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’” Luke 17:7-10 NLT

A teacher was trying to get her students caught up on their work. Once they started catching up, she started praising them, but as soon as she did, she lamented that they started falling behind again! Are we living in a society that praises and celebrates when in reality there is not that much to praise or celebrate? Shouldn’t students be getting their work done simply because that’s their job?

In 2006 an Amish school was attacked by a gunman. While the teacher ran to get help, realizing help would not arrive in time, a thirteen year old girl asked the gunman to shoot her first in order to buy time for the other children. The crazed gunman obliged. In a newspaper article it was pointed out that at this girl’s funeral she was not praised! The Amish do not praise the dead. Didn’t Jesus tell His followers to pick up their cross everyday and follow Him? Isn’t that what this young girl was doing-her reasonable service? While I see this girl as a remarkable heroine, the Amish see her as a child doing what she was taught to do and supposed to do-put others first. 

I pray that we are pointing our young people to the cross, so that they can fall in love with Jesus, and serve Him because they love Him instead of serving for praise. Giving all because Jesus gave all is our reasonable service. 

Study the Sabbath School lesson further at ssnet.org

 

Elia, Amalia, Yessiana, Antonio and Lilly’s Baptism Pictures and stories.

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When I first came to the Plant City SDA Church, Pastor James and Elder Jerry Hill, had a game night/Bible study group for the youth in our community, none of which were members of the church. We would have games and snacks followed up with a Bible study. Occasionally we would go go cart racing or to a restaurant in the area. I noticed with no design of Pastor James or myself, that the game time became shorter and the Bible study time longer. The youth had a lot of questions and we enjoyed helping them find the answers in their Bibles.

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I soon began a baptism class with the youth on Sabbath mornings, which transitioned into a New Believer’s class with Pastor James and myself as the co-teachers.

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While we had the youth Bible study groups going on Wednesday nights, the parents would invite me to their home to study with them. After a couple years, the parents started meeting at the church to study with me, while the kids studied with Pastor James, and our youth night became a family night. It was during these studies that Elia, the grandmother, and Amalia, the mother decided they both wanted to be baptized with their children and grandchildren.

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Lilly was the first to be baptized, so she could lead the way for her family. In our new believer’s Sabbath School class, Lilly asked if we might one day be put in prison for being faithful to God. I told her that was possible, but one way to make sure it never happens is to not be faithful to God. Lilly did not even consider that as a possible scenario. She could see herself in prison but she could never imagine being unfaithful to Jesus!

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Long before being baptized, Antonio has been one of our most faithful ushers, taking up the offerings every Sabbath in church. Anytime he sees anyone setting up tables or chairs, or doing any kind of work around the church during the week, he pitches in to help before anyone has a chance to ask him. Long before baptism, Antonio had a strong sense of belong to the Plant City SDA Church, and the church belonging to him. Antonio loves Jesus and His church!

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Yessiana was the first to express and interest in baptism, and has been a positive role model for her younger brother and sister, and for anyone wanting to know Jesus.  She is active in our Pathfinder club, especially when it comes to missions. She is earning her Bible marking badge in the Patfinders Bible marking class, and eagerly participates in all our community mission projects.

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Every time I visit the home of Elia’s son and daughter-in-law Jose and Adella, and she is there, she loves to open the Word of God and have a Bible study. When we began the adult Bible study on Wednesdays at the church, she was the first to join. She also loves helping out with pathfinders, and is always helping out with fellowship lunches making sure everyone gets enough to eat and has a good time. She is the Abuela of everybody’s dreams.

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Amalia loves to study God’s Word, and it was her idea for us to study the book of Revelation in our Wednesday Bible study. She wanted to follow the Bible exactly instead of tradition. When friends asked why she was making certain lifestyle changes, they asked if it had to do with the new church she was attending. She said, “No. It has to do with the Bible.” Amalia loves Jesus and wants to follow His example!

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At the end of our service today, Pastor James welcomed our new members into the church, and gave them plants for each family. Pastor James explained that as plants need to be watered in order to grow and stay alive, so our relationship needs continual care, like personal Bible study, prayer and church fellowship, in order to thrive.

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Don’t let the sun set on your life before giving yourself to the One who gave His life for you! If you are interested in baptism and following Jesus I would love to help you. I can be reached at Bibleworker@TampaAdventist.net

As always thank your for your much needed contributions to keep me sharing Jesus with others.

Extending Grace to Others

Is there someone to whom you need to show mercy, who perhaps doesn’t deserve it? Why not show this person that mercy, no matter how hard that might be to do? Isn’t that what Jesus has done for us?

After running from God, Jonah had given up on life, and told the men on the boat in the storm to throw him overboard. However God’s grace provided a fish to save his life! God’s grace never gives up on us, even when we give up on ourselves.

On December 2, 1979 Elvita Adams woke up in the Bronx, and decided she had given up on life. She went to the Empire State Building, and went to the 86th floor observation deck and jumped! She was in midair and had nothing to hold on to, but God’s grace was holding on to her! A gust of wind came and threw her inside the 85th floor. She had a full and complete physical and emotional recovery.

When God’s grace miraculously saves us, it usually creates in us a graceful attitude towards others, but not for Jonah. Instead of praising God for His amazing grace Jonah is angry that God is graceful.

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Jonah 4:1-2 NKJV

Apparently Jonah did not appreciate the fact that the same grace that saved Nineveh was the same grace that provided a fish to save him. Jonah was given grace, but he did not extend that grace on to others, like Paul, who wrote,

But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:16 NLT

Jonah had a wonderful opportunity to go to Nineveh and use himself as an example of what God’s grace can do for the worst of sinners, so they could believe and have eternal life too. Thankfully God’s amazing grace worked in spite of Jonah to save Nineveh instead of because of Jonah.

I heard an old-time Adventist preacher once say that God will finish His work in spite of the church, not because of the church. Let’s not be stingy with God’s grace and force Him to finish the work in spite of us. Let’s extend the grace we have received to others, so God can save others through us instead of in spite of us.

Sandra and Ben’s Baptism and Profession of Faith

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As summer ended, Sandra showed up with her son Ben, for my kids summer Bible study group. Sandra wanted Bible studies as well, so we continued studying during the fall. Today Sandra rejoined the Seventh-day Adventist Church at Tampa First, and Ben was baptized for the first time.

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This Sabbath Pastor Brad presented Sandra to the church family, as she came in on profession of faith.

Sandra writes,

“I can not thank God enough for everything He has done for me,  especially for accepting me as His child through Jesus. I got baptized at the age of 18, received the gift of singing on that day and I never regretted it for one second of my life. Today I am renewing my faith as it it was the very first time. I am seeking for that 1st love on the day that we met. Unfortunately due to life circumstances, I wasn’t able to attend church regularly, but I always felt guilty about it and prayed God for deliverance. All those years that I prayed asking, “Oh Lord, when am I going to observe Your Sabbath and take my sons to church as I should? Then this past July God answered my prayer and brought me to Tampa and directed me to Tampa First SDA Church, where I found many blessings. He blessed me with another career adjustment that allowed me to observe the Sabbath.”

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Ben writes,

I want to start a new life with God.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT

Ben, like his mother, studied the Storacles Bible study guides with me.  Ben is very interested in the sciences, as well as criminal justice. He is at the top of his class this year. When Ben we study together, Ben likes to tell me all he is learning in school, and asks me about ways he can serve God though various careers. Ben wants to put God first in all that he does.

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Don’t let the sun go down on your life, without finding Jesus as your personal Savior. If you are interested in learning more about Jesus I would love to study with you in a personal or group Bible study. You can contact me at BibleWorker@TampaAdventist.net

Thank you for your monthly contributions to my ministry so I can continue sharing Jesus with others!