Abigail and the Least of These

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay Area.

A couple of years ago, the divorced mother of a young girl I was studying with for baptism called me. Her daughter had a piano recital that Sunday afternoon and her father was going to be a no-show, as usual. The mother shared that it would mean a lot if I could be there. I dropped what I was doing and ran to the recital. Sure, the daughter was happy to see me, but when a daddy rejects his little girl, it leaves a hole in her heart that an entire village will never fill. There are private wounds that a million public accomplishments will never heal. 

I can’t read David’s heart, but if he was anything like the rest of us, I’m sure he had a private wound in his heart. The prophet Samuel came to the house to anoint someone in David’s family as king, and Jesse, the father, invited everyone but David. You can read about it in 1 Samuel 16:1-13. Wow! David’s dad invites everyone but him. Talk about rejection. When Samuel passes over the other brothers and asks Jesse if there are anymore, look at the father’s response. 

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse replied. “But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.” 1 Samuel 16:11 NLT 

That “but” might as well have been a “never mind. He is out in the fields watching the sheep and goats. That’s all he’s good for. That’s why I didn’t bother inviting him.” Its not like someone else could not have watched the sheep for the family so David could have been invited to meet the prophet with his family. Rejection. Rejection by your own dad and brothers. Yes, Samuel calls for him and anoints him as king. God did not reject David and neither did the prophet. To a little girl at a piano recital, smiling while the crowd cheers, the clapping sounds hollow as she listens for her daddy’s missing applause. Just so, David had a prophet who believed in him, and he would one day hear the crowds singing, “David has slain his tens of thousands!” But that would never drown out the screams of REJECTION! My own father and brothers did not even include me in the family meeting. I’m just a worthless shepherd boy to them. 

Maybe the private hurt and rejection explains why David wanted to  react with such bitter revenge against Nabal’s rejection. While running from Saul, David hears the news of Samuel’s death. Samuel believed in David even when his own family did not, Now Samuel is gone.  Saul the king is out to kill David. His own family rejected him. Samuel, the one person who believed in David is gone now. David could be struggling with insecurities right now. Yes he stood tall and strong before Goliath. I am not saying David lost faith. What I am saying is, that while we all stand strong as we do our duties for God, there can still be a hole in our heart that no one can fill, except for the loved one who never filled it. That one single hole in the heart of a mighty conqueror makes him no stranger to rejection and insecurities. And while all of this is going on, David sends his men to ask Nabal for some food, and this was Nabal’s response,

“Who is this fellow David?” Nabal sneered to the young men. “Who does this son of Jesse think he is? There are lots of servants these days who run away from their masters.  Should I take my bread and my water and my meat that I’ve slaughtered for my shearers and give it to a band of outlaws who come from who knows where?” 1 Samuel 25:10 -11NLT 

Samuel, the one who believed in David is gone, and Nabal slaps David in the face with rejections and insecurities. “Who is this David?” He’s a nobody! Just like his father suggested when he told Samuel he was not invited to the family meeting because all he was good for was watching sheep. “Who does this son of Jesse think he is?” Sounds like David’s brothers in 1 Samuel 17:28. When David was ready to fight Goliath, they told him to go back and watch those few sheep. Who do you think you are? You’re not even that great of a shepherd, which is why we only left you a few sheep to watch. Go back to where you came from. You are not wanted here. Uninvited. Uninvited to family meetings. Uninvited to the battle. Uninvited to anything that matters! And Nabal confirms all those rejections and insecurities haunting David’s heart. David is once again uninvited! This time to Nabal’s home. 

So when David declares he is gong to kill all of Nabal’s men, it wasn’t just one rejection that set David off like that. It was probably a life time of rejections all adding up until he just couldn’t take it any more. I know I am showing you the side of a mighty warrior you may have never seen before. David stood like a man before Goliath, but speaking for all men, I know there are times we feel like a little boy inside, no matter how tall we stand before the rest of the world. Why would it be any different with David? Elijah stood tall before the Baal worshipers and then ran away from the queen like a little boy. I have been a boy and now I am a man, and I can tell you, there is a man inside every little boy and there is a little boy inside every man. And when David meets with Nabal’s condescending rejection, I believe it was the voice of a very hurt little boy that said, 

May God strike me and kill me if even one man of his household is still alive tomorrow morning!” 1 Samuel 25:22 NLT 

David and Nabal’s egos are both flaring out of control. How is God going to solve this when both men are mad beyond reason? Enter Abigail, Nabal’s wife, God’s perfect solution. You see, Abigail is a woman. Later when Haman’s ego was out of control and countless Jews were about to be destroyed, God sent a woman to save the day.Esther, a  woman with no ego, whom God brought in for such a time as this, to save the Jewish race by putting her ego aside and saying, “If I perish I perish.” Now, right here in 1 Samuel 25, God is using a woman to save the day as well as lives! Just like in Esther’s day, Abigail uses the same humility as Esther to diffuse two egos that are about to explode. 

Look how Abigail heals David’s ego. 

When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed low before him. 1 Samuel 25:23 NLT

Abigail showed respect. She didn’t treat David like some outlaw bandit as Nabal suggested. She respected him as the new king of Israel. 

She fell at his feet and said, “I accept all blame in this matter, my lord. Please listen to what I have to say. 1 Samuel 25:24 NLT 

Abigail forsook her ego and took all the blame on herself so she could be  a peacemaker. By looking like the fool in the situation, which she wasn’t, she saved David from making himself into a fool. She also saved the lives or her husband and his men. By making herself look like an idiot she was the hero! 

The Lord will surely reward you with a lasting dynasty, for you are fighting the Lord’s battles. And you have not done wrong throughout your entire life. 1 Samuel 25:28 NLT

Abigail confirms the dynasty of David’s kingdom. He is not a runaway shepherd boy as Nabal and his brothers and even father insinuated. He is a king. Samuel is not the only one who believes in him. 

Even when you are chased by those who seek to kill you, your life is safe in the care of the Lord your God, secure in his treasure pouch! But the lives of your enemies will disappear like stones shot from a sling! 1 Samuel 25:29 NLT 

I love this woman! She knows all the right things to say. David is running from Saul, and while Saul’s attacks and Nabal’s rejection makes him feel insecure, Abigail tells him his kingdom is secure! He is established!  I love her reference to the stones and sling. She is reminding David of his great victories. In the story she feeds David some food. He is invited! But more than feeding his stomach food, she feeds his insecure heart with confidence! 

Abigail will hear the words, from Jesus, “When I was hungry you fed me.” She will hear Jesus say, “When you did it for one of the least of these,” (and at that point David probably felt like the least of all his brothers), “you have done it for me.” 

But as I said at the beginning. There are  private wounds that a million public accomplishments will never heal. A little girl playing the piano for a pleased crowd would rather be playing alone for her daddy instead. A shepherd boy whom everyone hails as a king, except his own daddy who thinks the only thing you can do is watch a few sheep, is hurting. Public accomplishments will never heal those wounds, but God will! I know God will because David himself said, 

He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. Psalm 147:3 NLT 

Abigail ministered to a man who felt rejected like a dog, and was the least of these in his family and possibly even nation. Turned out she was ministering to a king, and that is how she saw him. When we reach out to the least of these around us let’s do so as if we were ministering for a king. If we do, we will one day be thanked by the King of Kings. 

You may study this week’s lesson here. ssnet.org

Why You Can’t Go Home Again, And Don’t Really Need to

While some folks say, things aren’t what they used to be, I say, yes, but they never were what they are now.

I am a historian by nature. When I visited the Litchfield Congregational church, built in Connecticut in 1721, I tried to imagine all the sin-weary souls who had come to hear the Gospel preached for over three centuries inside those consecrated walls.

In 1991 I drove  to a remote little town in extreme western Oklahoma, to preach. When I arrived at the church, I went downstairs to get water. While downstairs I saw several Sabbath School classrooms, all totally vacant and abandoned.  The elderly couple who invited me home for lunch explained that all those rooms were packed with children back in the day. But they all grew up and moved away to find jobs. The husband was the school master back in the day, but had since  retired for decades, and, with no children around any more, the only traces of the school were distant memories. I remember a feeling of sadness coming over me as I thought of the hollow classrooms once full of life. I can’t say if it was the evangelist or the historian in me that made me wish there was a way to fill those classrooms with lively children again.

Over the years those hollow classrooms occasionally haunt my mind. Of course in my lifetime, I have seen changes in my own childhood church. It still has a thriving church school and Sabbath School department, but when my friends and I go home to visit, we remember days gone by when the church was much fuller. But I have to keep in mind that when we were kids our church was The Adventist Church in the area.  Today there are several Adventist churches in the area, and there really is no “The”  Church now. This is where the evangelist in me wars with the historian in me. The historian in me wants to re-create the church I grew up in. I want to go home again. The evangelist in me rejoices that there are new churches, and the gospel is being preached all over the area now, instead of in just one place. I understand my childhood church is slightly smaller now because people are spreading out to other churches to share the gospel beyond my little neighborhood.

Now my mind looks  back to those empty Sabbath School classrooms in the middle of nowhere in  Western Oklahoma. Is it really sad that the kids grew up and moved on to bigger places where they could find jobs? Not if moving gave them more opportunities to share Jesus with those in need! Now I look back at those empty classrooms in a different way. Maybe the primary Sabbath School teacher did not realize it at the time, but she was doing a lot more than teaching the children in her small town about Jesus. She was training them to be missionaries and take the Gospel from those little rooms and spread it all over the world! The historian in me looks into those vacant rooms and sees a church that died. The evangelist in me looks into those hollow rooms and sees scores of children leaving those sacred halls to share the Gospel in new places, meeting people around the world who need Jesus.

The church is a movement, not a history museum. The church is a people and not an old building standing out in a field where there used to be a town. While reality tells me that many of the kids probably left the church, I am sure many stayed in the church. Many of the children who  filled those old Sabbath School classrooms in western Oklahoma took the church with them when they moved away! The Sabbath School class did not die in those classrooms in western Oklahoma; the class just outgrew its walls! They grew all over the world! I look back now and realize children with whom I sat in Primary Sabbath School class in my home church are now scattered from the South Pacific Islands to New England and beyond. And you know what’s cool? We left four walls we used to meet in, but we never left the church. We took it with us! Just as importantly, we never left each other. We are in touch on Facebook and Sabbath School Net, where we still share ideas from theology to evangelism strategies. And of course we still get together personally when we can. A couple years ago, a former classmate, now a teacher, helped me put my Bible curriculum together while living 1200 miles away. You see, our little Sabbath School classroom did not die. Just the opposite. We grew so big we exceeded the boundaries of our four little walls.

I believe it to be the same with the little classrooms in a small town in Western Oklahoma. If I ever get a chance to return, and I hope I do, I will go downstairs and look into those empty classrooms again. This time instead of trying to imagine a class that once was, I will see a class that still is and even more. I will see a classroom that has grown into something much bigger and greater than it ever was. I won’t see a class that died in a little room. I will see a class that grew all over the world to help people all over the world who need Jesus.

When I think of my experience in the church, I realize in one sense, I can never go home again. The building I worshiped in as a child will never be what it was. That’s just fine. It was never meant to stay what it was. It was meant to grow. It was meant to grow beyond those walls into the rest of the world where people need Jesus. My church is now all over the word. So in one sense, I can never go back to my home church  again. In an even more real sense, my home church is all over the world now and is everywhere I go. And the even greater reality is, that I’ve never been home and never will be until Jesus comes. While the historian in me wants to reminisce about the way the church used to be, the evangelist in me says to keep growing the church. It’s not finished yet!

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

William and Angelina’s Baptism Pictures and Stories

Today all of heaven and the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist church rejoiced, as William and Angelina gave all themselves to Jesus, because Jesus gave all of Himself for them. After having studied with Angelina and William’s parents, and cousins it was quite a privilege for me to be asked to study with and baptize William and Angelina this Summer.

Summer Studies

For a couple of summers, several of the church school children, as well as a few from the community, had a weekly Bible study group, so we could continue our walk with Jesus, and keep in touch over the summer. William (with is back to the camera) and Angelina’s parents were a couple of the parents who assisted me each summer. When the summer ended William and Angelina and their family wanted to keep meeting even once school started. They love Jesus and having Bible study!

William Parsons Scripture

As well as studying the Bible William and his family love sharing God’s Word and taking an active part in church activities. Here William is reading the Scripture for the regular worship service.

Breaksfast Study

This summer William and Angelina and I had our baptism studies in the mornings. Each morning of our studies, their mother had a delicious breakfast prepared when I arrived. Healthy fruit and yogurt and sometimes some cinnamon rolls. Yum yum! I loved our breakfast discussions while eating before we would begin our studies. William and Angelina always had insightful observations and questions about God and the Bible.

IMG_8310

William wrote his thoughts on his baptism and shared them today. William wrote:

I want to be baptized because I want to give my life to God. Jesus died for me and took my sins. He forgives me and everyone. God is perfect in every way.

Angelina Reading

Angelina also read her thoughts on her baptism,

I want to be baptized because Jesus died on the cross for us. I want to start a new life with no lies and put God first. I don’t want Satan in my life, he is evil and mean. Satan tempts people to do wrong things. I choose Jesus in my life. He is strong, mighty and kind. God loves us and cares about us. He wants what’s best for us. And that’s why I choose Jesus and that’s why I want to be baptized.

 

Angelina

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. Galatians 3:26-27 NLT 

William Parsons

For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. Colossians 2:12 NLT 

fb_img_1527902060544938515662.jpg

If you have not chosen Jesus as your Savior please don’t waste another day.

What are you waiting for? Get up and be baptized. Have your sins washed away by calling on the name of the Lord. Acts 22:16 NLT 

I would love to help you with this decision. You can contact me at 813-933-7505.

Why God and Teenagers Find Some Worship Services Repulsive

20180418_1546441942904207.jpg

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I want no more of your pious meetings.

Does the above phrase sound like a rebellious teenager?

How about this?

I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals. They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them!

You may think that sounds like an even more rebellious teen, but fact is that’s God Himself speaking! That’s right, teens are not the only ones who have a hard time stomaching pious, hypocritical religious worship services. God may actually have more in common with rebellious teenagers than He does with pious worshipers! Not in all cases of course, but in many still, when a worship service is conducted with a Pharisaical attitude,  God Himself rejects it as well as some teenagers. God tells us exactly why He rejects some religious worship services.

When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony?  Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting— they are all sinful and false. I want no more of your pious meetings.  I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals. They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them! When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims.  Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. Isaiah 1:12-17 NLT

God and teens are both  repulsed by false worship. False worship is not only worshiping on the “wrong day,” it is also worshiping the wrong way on Sabbath. God is not impressed with stuffy, dry, formal, ceremonial worship any more than your teenager is. But worship service doesn’t have to be that way.  Just earlier this summer I was visiting a church out of state with a friend. They were having communion service. When it came time during the service to dispense the bread, the pastor realized he had forgotten the bread, and his wife had to run out to the car to get it. Everyone chuckled. The pastor had announced earlier that he was going on Sabbatical right after the service. I joked with my friend that it appeared he was already on Sabbatical. I joked about it not to be critical, but because I could identify with his need to get away. Waiting for his wife to run to the car to get  the bread did not ruin the service at all. I hardly imagine the original communion service in the upper room being a “formal” service. I imagine it to be quite casual, though very sacred and meaningful. You don’t have to be formal and stuffy to be sacred. Sometimes formal and stuffy can be a way to cover our sin and hypocrisy. When that happens, both teenagers and God Himself turn up their noses at our so-called worship services.

We tell our teenagers straight from the Bible,

“Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, Isaiah 58:13 NLT

Then, many of us shake hands with the visitor, and smile to let them know they are welcomed. Then we quickly forget they are even there, so we can go to our favorite Sabbath School class, where we love to debate theology with our best friends. Debating theology while ignoring the needs of others on the Sabbath? Sounds like pleasure seeking to God! Here, I will let God speak for Himself.

What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. Isaiah 58:4 NLT

Isaiah 58:1-14 describes what Sabbath keeping and true worship is all about. Pleasure seeking is not just when a teenager plays a video game on the Sabbath. Pleasure seeking on the Sabbath also includes church leaders ignoring the needs of those around them, so they can enjoy their own Sabbath School class and worship service just the way they like it, before inviting their favorite friends home for lunch.

While the offering system is a systematic way to get outside of ourselves with our possessions, Sabbath worship is a chronic way to get outside of ourselves with our time. God tells us what Sabbath keeping and worship looks like to Him.

“No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people.  Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!  Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Isaiah 58:6-10 NLT

How do I know God means Sabbath keeping and worship by calling it a fast? Because right after this He says,

“Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly.  Then the Lord will be your delight. I will give you great honor and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob. I, the Lord, have spoken!” Isaiah 58:13-14 NLT

Following our own interests on the Sabbath is not limited to secular entertainment. Following our own interests on the Sabbath includes doing church your favorite way with your favorite people while ignoring the needs of the least of these around you.

The Tampa First  and Homosassa Seventh-day Adventist  churches are a couple of the several churches I currently work with here in Florida. Both of these churches have worship service on Tuesday. Oh, they still have Sabbath services, but they keep worshiping God throughout the week. On Tuesdays they have worship service by feeding and clothing the hungry in their community. Before you laugh and say, “That is not a real worship service,” read Isaiah 58 carefully again. It is exactly a real worship service. It is worshiping God by serving others. See Matthew 25:31-46. Real worship services are not formal and stuffy. One of the biggest mistakes we make as Adventists is thinking formal and stuffy means sacred and reverent. Sacred and reverent can also be casual and informal. Sacred and reverent does not mean formal worship. Sacred and reverent means sincere worship.

I have seen teenagers eager to get involved in clothing the homeless and feeding the hungry, because they can sense they are making a real hands on, practical  difference in the community, unlike sitting on the back pew listening to a dull sermon. If we do worship the way God describes in Isaiah 58, we can create a worship service both God and teenagers can accept.

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

The Class of ’57 Had Their Dreams

bradenton 028

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

…people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 NLT

In 1972, the Statler Brothers released the song, “The class of ’57 Had Its Dreams.” The song talks abut how their high school class had their dreams and then goes on to describe how each class member “today” has turned out to just be working regular jobs and living an “everyday” life. After describing various class members everyday life the chorus rings,” but the class of ’57 had their dreams.” The point of the song is that their dreams never came true. They just turned out to be ordinary people living ordinary lives.

This has me wondering, am I the only one who is living the dream, just enjoying everyday life?  My life is very routine. I am your everyday Bible Worker, except that I am the only Bible Worker I know who has never had a baptism by just going door to door, and believe me I have tried. I read stories about evangelists having interesting life-changing visits with the person seated next to them on the plane. I fly on a plane and no one knows I am there, until I accidentally push the stewardess call button while turning on the light. I duck into a quiet restaurant for an appetizer with a couple of close friends and I am just another face in the crowd. No one sees anything out of the ordinary about me, because there isn’t anything special about me.

I drive a Hyundai. My home is very modest, the kind you overlook. If I want to take a vacation from my church responsibilities, it is easy to find a nearby church where nobody knows my name. I am just an average guy living an average life, and you know what? I love it! I love my everyday life! I love my everyday routine! I love being an average everyday guy living an average everyday life. This is my dream! I enjoy my one-on-one Bible studies. I enjoy my quiet friends at the neighborhood restaurant. I enjoy reading at home alone late in the evening, just my iced water with a hint of orange juice, and  soft background music, as I bask in my solitude and anonymity.

Is it okay that I don’t have more ambition and loftier dreams? I don’t suppose I would be the dream son-in-law for an ambitious father. That’s okay. I know I am fulfilling my purpose in life by simply doing what I know is right – the best I can at least – being merciful to those in my community, and walking humbly with my God. There! That is my ambition in life – to walk humbly with my God! No wonder I feel so fulfilled while living such an ordinary everyday life. I am sorry the class of ’57 does not realize they are living the dream! Everyday ordinary life is the dream! God does not call upon us to do anything “great.” He only requires that we walk humbly with Him.

One night earlier this summer, I went with my men’s small study group to a baseball game. We didn’t have a suite. We sat in the grandstands like everybody else and spilled nacho cheese on our shirts, as we enjoyed being just another face in the crowd. We enjoyed each others’ company on the drive home, as we studied the small study group lesson via our cell phones. The driver listened as he watched the road. They dropped me off at my humble home, where I went inside to enjoy my late-night reading in anonymity and solitude. While reading on my laptop I saw an email. It was from a student I had a long time ago in my Bible chain-referencing class at school. She is all grown up now and doing well. In the email she asked if she could call me to ask a Bible question. A couple of seconds later we were talking on the phone. After all these years, she said she thought to call me, because in her words, I was one of the greatest influences on her life and why she is a Christian today.

When I hung up the phone, I sat there in my humble little chair in my humble little home, marinading in the recent conversation. Sure, to the usher that night who showed us to our seats and to the stranger sitting next to me, on whose jeans I accidentally spilled cheese sauce, I was a total nobody, If I was anything at all to them I was a minor nuisance and nothing more. But to one young woman who had a Bible question that night I was somebody. I remembered what I had heard before, “To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world.”

So to the Statler brothers I want to say, the class of ’57 is living the dream! Enjoy your everyday life. Enjoy just being an ordinary everyday face in the crowd living an average ordinary everyday life. That is the dream! Live the dream of walking humbly with your God. It’s okay if you are just one person to the world. By just walking humbly with God every day you will still be the world to one person. Probably more.

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

The 7 A’s of Confession and Reconciliation

20170402_194812

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa bay area.

Like King David in 2 Samuel 12:1-12, we all get mad when we hear about oppression and injustice. Like King David, most of us have been guilty at some point of oppression and injustice. When we find ourselves guilty, it is important to make confession and reconciliation, not to get rid of our guilt and heal our conscience, but to heal the pain of those we have hurt. In Ken Sande’s book, Resolving Everyday Conflict, he shares the 7 A’s of confession and reconciliation. I would like to look a further look at them here along with God’s Word. In so doing, I believe we can find a sincere, genuine and successful approach to healing the pain we have caused others. Please keep in mind not all the steps need to be followed for lesser offenses. You will need to pray and let God lead you as to exactly what steps to follow. Please keep in mind too, that after Adam’s sin the Garden of Eden was no longer a safe place for him. While God forgave Adam, he was never permitted back into the garden here on earth. What a thrilling moment that will be, when in the New Earth, Adam is reconciled to his garden and Eden is restored! Likewise there are some extreme cases of oppression and abuse, where certain relationships will only be safely reconciled and restored in the New Earth. Meanwhile what a precious blessing and responsibility it is to restore and reconcile what can be reconciled here on earth.

The 7 A’s of Confession and Reconciliation. 

  1. Address Everyone Involved. 

Sins committed only in the heart need to be confessed to God alone. Public sins need to be confessed to all those who were hurt.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16 NLT

2. Avoid Using the words, “if” “but” and “maybe.”

Say “I hurt you.” Not, “If I hurt you.” Say “I was wrong.” Not, “I was wrong but so were you.” Say, “I know I made a mistake.” Not “Maybe I made a mistake. Don’t shift, minimize or excuse your guilt.

People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy. Proverbs 28:13 NLT

3. Admit Specifically Where you were wrong. 

Don’t be vague.

Forgive me for shedding blood…Psalm 51:14 NLT

4. Acknowledge the Hurt.

You can even ask, “Do I understand how much I’ve hurt you?”

When Saul sinned, the throne was taken from him, because he was only sorry about what his sin had cost him personally. David sinned an even greater sin, but kept the throne, because He was truly sorry about what his sin had cost God.

Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; Psalm 51:4 NLT

5. Accept the Consequences.

Genuine repentance accepts any due penalties.

Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” Luke 19:8 NLT

6. Alter Your Behavior.

You are not really sorry if you keep willfully repeating the same offense. Ask people to hold you accountable.  You may even put your plan for change into writing. One of the reasons I am writing about this topic is to reinforce it in my own mind.

If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Ephesians 4:28 NLT

7. Ask for Forgiveness (And Allow Time)

If it took you a while to confess, it may take them a while to forgive. Don’t push it or rush it. If you are sincere and genuine in these 7 steps most people will be quick to forgive.

Often times when we try to place the blame on others they will turn around and place the blame on us. Often times when we accept full responsibility for our actions, others will then accept responsibility for their actions. Here I have attempted to simplify and paraphrase the ideas in Ken Sande’s book, to again reinforce them for myself, and to help others to make reconciliation. When we find ourselves being oppressed or treated unjustly it is easy to just run away, or attack back. When mankind rebelled against God, He neither ran away or attacked back. Instead He presented Himself as the peace offering for our offense!  Genesis 3 to Revelation 20 deals mainly with God’s attempt at reconciliation. This tells me reconciliation is very important.

It may seem hard to make confession and reconciliation. It may seem easier to run away. It may cost us our pride to make reconciliation, but that is a small price considering it cost God His dear Son. If reconciliation is worth God’s Son, then its definitely worth anything it would cost us.

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

The Letter of the law and the Spirit of the law

Ciera 006

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The question has been asked, “What is the difference between the spirit of the law and the letter of the law?” To me, it all comes down to motivation.

When I stop at a red light to avoid getting a ticket, I am only obeying the letter of the law. Would I go ahead and run the red light and risk hurting someone if there was no risk of paying a fine? If so, then that doesn’t really make me an obedient person. It only makes me  afraid of getting fined.

If I keep from running a red light because I don’t want to hit and hurt someone, then I am now obeying the spirit of the law, which is “others first” or “consideration for others.”

Here is one example of how the pharisees were looking at the letter of the law, while Jesus was looking at the spirit of the law.

At about that time Jesus was walking through some grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them.  But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, “Look, your disciples are breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.”  Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry?  He went into the house of God, and he and his companions broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat.  And haven’t you read in the law of Moses that the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath?  I tell you, there is one here who is even greater than the Temple!  But you would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’[ For the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!” Matthew 12:1-8 NLT

First of all, I think the Pharisees were greatly exaggerating by calling taking a few heads of grain “harvesting”! Today some Sabbath keepers will not flip a light switch to avoid “starting a fire” on the Sabbath. But I do not think God was referring to light switches when He said, “don’t start a fire on the Sabbath.”  See Exodus 35:3. back then a lot more work was involved in starting a fire than today. There is also a lot more involved in harvesting, than taking a few heads of grain. Now if you disagree with me, obviously that is fine. We all have our own convictions when it comes to these matters. For example, I do not eat out on the Sabbath because I do not want anyone to work for me on Sabbath (Exodus 20:10), and I do not want to buy and sell on Sabbath (Nehemiah 13:15-18).  Some of my Sabbath-keeping friends do not see it that way, and do not consider the cooks or waitresses as their servants, and they consider Nehemiah was referring to a lot more work in loading and unloading food, than just serving it. Fine. Each to his or her own. We must all be convicted ourselves, but the motivation should always remain the same, which is love and consideration for God and others.

Second, Jesus refers to David eating the bread that was only for priests when he and his men were hungry. When you consider the fact that the law of God is love, then you can see how mercy here would be a higher priority than the letter of the law. Another example is in the story of the Good Samaritan. Many wonder if the priest and Levi thought the hurt man might be dead. If so they were not to touch him by law (See Leviticus 21:1-3 and Numbers 19:11-122). But even so, mercy always takes priority over the letter of the law. The law is love. If we put the letter of the law above love then we have just defeated the whole purpose of the law which is love.

Paul explains what it means to keep the Spirit of the law, which is love.

If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law. Romans 13:8-10 NLT

Love does not do away with the commandments. It is because we love God and others that we keep the commandments. I can’t say I love my neighbor if I lie about her and steal from her. Love fulfills the Spirit of the law, which is love and consideration for God and others, while a sense of self preservation and selfishness fulfills only the letter of the law.

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