Author: In Light Of The Cross

Liberal Towards Others, Conservative Towards Ourselves

“I could say the same things if you were in my place. I could spout off
criticism and shake my head at you. But if it were me, I would encourage you. I would try to take away your grief.” Job 16:4-5 NL
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Seems Job’s friends were being easy on themselves, but hard on Job. How often do we see this today? In the church and in politics we hear of two camps – liberals and conservatives. However we are seldom in one camp or the other. Many of us are liberal in some ways and conservative in other ways. Or we are liberal towards ourselves, but conservative towards others. In other words, we cut ourselves some slack, but we expect everyone else to step it up a notch and hold to the standard. Is that how we should be?

Let’s look at Jesus as our example. Was He in the liberal camp or the conservative camp? Like us, He was in both camps, but instead of being liberal towards Himself, and conservative towards others, He was the exact opposite. When He fasted in the wilderness 40 days, He was conservative towards Himself, but when He worked a miracle to feed the multitude He was liberal towards others.

It is rare to find someone who is truly 100% liberal or 100% conservative. I have heard some preachers preach some pretty liberal sermons, but saw them actually live pretty conservative lives, while I have also heard preachers who preach quite conservative sermons on such topics as diet and Sabbath keeping, but in their personal lives, they are quite liberal in what they allow themselves to eat or do on the Sabbath.

I have met several families who follow Jesus’ example of being liberal towards others but conservative towards themselves. One Sabbath I brought my cheese enchiladas to church, only to find out there was no fellowship dinner that day. A family that was strictly vegan, invited me to their home. They told me, “bring your enchiladas over to our house, and fellowship with us. You can warm them up in our oven, and eat them while we eat what we have prepared.” First they realized how important fellowship is, and did not tell me how terrible I was for eating cheese or tell me I could not bring it into their home. They were liberal towards me, but conservative towards themselves.

Years later I was eating with another family, who had generously given large sums of money to the church for evangelism and had recently given an extremely generous contribution for a youth mission trip. However, in the course of conversation they mentioned, what appeared to me, to be a relatively modest vacation one of their children wanted to take, but the parents said, “We don’t have that kind of money.” Wow! I thought to myself, they can give thousands to evangelism and mission trips, but when it comes to their own vacations they say, ‘We don’t have that kind of money to take a modest vacation for ourselves.” They were liberal towards the needs of the church but were conservative when it came to their own wish list.

As I read the book of Job, it appears to me that he was conservative towards himself but liberal towards others. It appears to me also that his friends were liberal towards themselves but conservative towards Job. So when Job’s entire community, including himself, were conservative towards Job, but everyone including Job were liberal towards his friends, this created a very unbalanced and unhealthy community. A church and community become balanced when like Jesus, each member is liberal towards others but conservative towards themselves.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

The Two Resurrections and the Second Death

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The Bible teaches two different resurrections. Jesus spoke of one resurrection for those who are saved, and another resurrection for those who are lost.

Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. John 5:28-29 NKJV

Paul was aware of separate resurrections for the saved and unsaved when he wrote that when Christ comes the saved will rise first. This means everyone who has died will come back to life again. Some for eternity, and others long enough to see their condemnation is just, and then to die for eternity.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 NKJV

The saved will then judge the unsaved for a thousand years.

And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them….. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power…Revelation 20:4-6 NKJV

The saved only die once. When they are resurrected in the first resurrection they will live eternally. They will not die a second time. But when the unsaved are resurrected at the end of the thousand years, Satan will tempt them to try and destroy the New Jerusalem, and that is when the fire will come down from God and destroy them. They will be tormented day and night forever, or in other words for the rest of their lives-until they die, and will never live again. 

Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Revelation 20:7-10 NKJV

Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:14-15 NKJV

The unsaved will then experience the second-eternal death, never to live again, while the saved enjoy the new earth for all eternity, never to die again. We see these concepts in the story where Jesus resurrected Lazarus.

When Jesus first heard Lazarus was sick He said,

This sickness is not unto death…John 11:4 NKJV

Yes, Lazarus died, but that was not the end of the story. Jesus raised Lazarus back to life! So we can be sure that when our loved ones, who are in Christ die, that is not the end of their story either. They will be raised back to eternal life. Another reason why Jesus may have said Lazarus’ sickness was not unto death, is because Jesus refers to the first death as sleep, since after all, after the first death everyone will be woken up again at one of the resurrections.

He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” John 11:11 NKJV

Lazarus’ sisters were disappointed, when Jesus allowed him to die. Jesus said something very interesting to his sister.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. John 11:25-26 NKJV

What did Jesus mean by “though he may die, he shall live?” I believe Jesus was referring to the first resurrection, where the dead in Christ will live to never die again. What did Jesus mean by “whoever lives and believes in me shall never die?”Remember Jesus referred to Lazarus sleeping. Jesus refers to the first death as sleep. If we live and believe in Jesus we may sleep, but we will be raised to life in the first resurrection, to live for eternity, and will never die the second death of the unsaved, which is the true and eternal death.

This is where we see the amazing love of Jesus! Jesus tasted the second death for us! 

He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2:9 NKJV

Jesus calls the death before the resurrection, “sleep.” Hebrews 2:9 does not say that Jesus “slept” for everyone, but “died” for everyone. Revelation 14:10 speaks of the unsaved drinking from a cup. I believe that is the cup that Jesus chose to drink for us in Gethsemane. See Matthew 26:36-46. I believe the cup in Matthew 26 and Revelation 14 is the second death. Remember, Jesus does not save us from the first death, which He calls sleep. We die that death ourselves. Jesus saved us from the second death, and therefore must have tasted the second death. An inspired writer, who wrote very passionately and lovingly about Jesus’ sacrifice agrees.

Satan with his fierce temptations wrung the heart of Jesus. The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal. Christ felt the anguish which the sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer plead for the guilty race. It was the sense of sin, bringing the Father’s wrath upon Him as man’s substitute, that made the cup He drank so bitter, and broke the heart of the Son of God. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 753.

When Lazarus died or fell asleep as Jesus called it, He told his sister Martha,

“Your brother will rise again.” John 11:23 NKJV

Because of Jesus dying the second death in our place, if you have a brother or sister sleeping in Christ, you may say with Martha,

“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” John 11:24 NKJV

And when those who are sleeping in Christ are awaken, they will live forever never to taste the second death.

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

The Man Who Never Got to Die

Heron Channelside (5)
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Job scraped his skin with a piece of broken pottery as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.” But Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. Job 2:8-10 NLT

Like Job’s wife, many have been pushed to the breaking point, to where they see death as the only way out. Fortunately Job realized how foolish this is. Sometimes when we focus on our problems they become bigger than the solution. For example the Sun is infinitely larger than a coin. But if you hold the tiny coin close enough to your eye it will block out the huge sun, only because the coin is closer to your eye than the sun. Sometimes our problems are closer to our minds than God is, and so the tiny problems seem bigger than they really are. This leads some to foolish thinking, and illogical solutions, such as suicide.

It can happen to anyone. After boldly standing for the right, Elijah had a meltdown while running from the queen.

He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die.1 Kings 19:4 NLT

Elijah was short sighted and could only find one solution-death. His problem was like a tiny little coin so close to his eyes that it seemed larger than the sun. This caused him to act and pray foolishly. Look at what happened next.

Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. 1 Kings 19:5 NLT

Elijah was stressed and just needed some rest. When we get tired our emotions get the best of us, and we start thinking foolishly, just like Elijah and Job’s wife. Thank God for the Sabbath rest!

God often uses three different ways to answer prayer. He may say “yes,” “no,” or “wait a while.” In his nearsighted desperation Elijah asked to die. God did not grant this request when it was given, or later. God said “No!” Elijah asked to die, and is one of only two people to never get to die! God had a better idea than death. Instead he took Elijah to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11). God had a solution Elijah had could never dream up! In our desperate times God is not confined to our shortsighted solutions.

When we, like Job’s wife and Elijah, feel like giving up, let’s remember that the Son is so much bigger than the little problems before our eyes, just like the sun is so much bigger than the little coin we hold before our eyes. Thoughts of giving up and dying are foolish thoughts. Both Job and Elijah saw brighter days, and so will we, when we let God answer our prayers according to His infinite love and wisdom, instead of taking matters into our own foolish hands.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

When Everything Goes Wrong

Fort Desoto Love Letters 030
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Curse that day for failing to shut my mother’s womb, for letting me be born to see all this trouble. Job 3:10 NLT

While our experience may be different than Job’s, many of us have been in situations, so dire, that we even question our existence.

Wayne’s parents never married. Growing up, he learned to shrug off the names he was called on the church school playground, and ignore the older ladies whispering behind his back in church.

Wayne managed to work his way through school. He got a job, and then got engaged to his best friend. Finally he had someone who loved him and would never leave him, unlike the father he never even knew. He vowed to himself as much as to his fiancee that he would create the perfect home for her, and unlike his biological father, would always be there to provide for his future children. As he looked forward to the wedding, he hoped to begin a new and better life.

But then Wayne’s whole world came crashing down. First, his fiancee broke off their engagement. Then he lost his job. And when he thought he had found a new job at least, his new supervisor told him things were not working out.

Wayne came home to his empty apartment and threw himself down on the floor. Feeling as low as you can get, Wayne felt a huge void in his life.

No one called from church to check up on him either. What’s the point of surviving in a world where no one cares if you survive or not?  Wayne cried out, asking God why nothing was going right. Suddenly a thought came to him – but not from God. He reasoned that his parents never should have had the affair that brought him into this world, and therefore he was never supposed to be born! That has to be it, Wayne reasoned. Nothing works out for me, because God does not have a plan for my life, seeing how my parents never should have made me. His fiancee did not want him. His old job did not want him. Now things were not working at at his new job, and he wondered if anyone needed him or wanted him at all? It sure did not feel like he was wanted or needed by anyone. He was all alone, and it seemed nobody cared if he lived or died. And if no one cared if he lived or died, why should he? Who would miss him if he just vanished away? Obviously no one from his work, or his ex-fiancee.

Wayne was so sure his theory was correct, that the following day at lunch he shared it with a friend from church. When Wayne explained that nothing was working out because he was not supposed to be born, his friend surprised him, by responding, “That is the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard!” Wayne’s friend was close enough that only he could get away with a response like that, but it woke Wayne up enough to realize his theory simply was not true. After all, Solomon was a product of Bathsheba and David’s sinful encounter, yet Solomon went on to write inspired proverbs and became an ancestor of the Savior.

Long story short, Wayne discovered that God did have a plan for his life. Although he’s had his ups and downs, he has had many opportunities to see God’s hand in his life. And God used him and is continuing to use him to pastor his flock.

Like Job, even though God greatly loved and had a plan for Wayne’s life, did not mean his life was just a walk in the park. Even Mary, Jesus’ mother had her moments.

Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you! ” Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! Luke 1:28‭-‬30 NLT

Mary was chosen. She was favored and the Lord was with her. I’m sure she didn’t feel that way when she heard her Son being called a demon and folks questioning the legitimacy of His birth, or when she watched Him being crucified. Still, she was chosen and favored, and God was with her.

If your heart is fully surrendered, take heart. Whatever storm you are going through. You are chosen. You are favored, and the Lord is with you. And yes! God has a plan for your life!

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

The Job Challange

Al Lopez Park
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Whenever a new year rolls around, we see new devotional books come out. Some have been written by friends of mine and I am very proud of them. Occasionally the author will share a gem from the Bible, that quite frankly, I never would have found on my own. Still, my favorite devotional book is still the Bible itself. To me, nothing can replace the actual Bible, and as we study the Bible on our own, God Himself reveals those precious gems. Of course, my friends who write devotional books are not trying to replace the Bible. They encourage the readers to read the Bible.

Same with the Sabbath School quarterly authors. Our Sabbath School lesson quarterlies are well prepared and written. Like devotional books though, the purpose of the Sabbath School quarterlies is to get us to study the Bible. Last year, when our Sabbath School lesson was on the book of Matthew, Maurice Ashton challenged us  all to read the book of Matthew. That challenge was well received by many of you. Since the current lesson is on the book of Job, I would like to encourage everyone to read the book of Job for themselves this quarter. Those 42 chapters cover everything from the conflict between good and evil, and the gospel, and good news of a Redeemer. We find practical doctrinal teachings about death and the hope of a resurrection, as well as practical examples of how to help those who are suffering, and yes, how not to help those who are suffering.

Now if you are not an avid reader, 42 chapters may seem like a lot. If you just break it down to only 3 chapters a day, you can cover the entire book in just 2 weeks. Since the book is also divided by different people doing the talking, you break it up into sections that way as well. That way you get the complete thought that may over lap a chapter. If you don’t like reading, you may enjoy listening to someone else read. Remember, in Revelation 1 there is a blessing to those who read the book and listen to the book being read, (See Revelation 1:3). I believe that blessing goes for every book of the Bible, including Job. Maybe you can read or listen as your family reads for family worship, or you can study it with your small group. The other night in bed, I went to Job on my Youversion Bible app, and selected my favorite version and listened to several chapters before falling asleep.

This quarter I am reading the entire book of Job again, and I encourage and challenge you to do the same.

If you have already read it recently, may I suggest reading it again in a different version? I always find new gems when I try different versions. Again if you don’t like reading, I challenge you to listen to it. You will find that BibleGateway.org offers audio options for many Bible. You will also find Audio Bibles in the Android and IPhone/IPad app stores. Some can be used off-line, others require a connection.

Either way, I invite you to share on the Sabbath School Network discussions, the things God has shown you. God promises you a blessing if you do!

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

Was Job Just a Guinea Pig?

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Occasionally I hear people ask why God used Job for a guinea pig. Why did God allow Job to be tortured just for the sake of making a point to Satan? Was Job just a pawn in God and Satan’s chess game?

At first glance it may appear so, but let’s look a little closer. Fist of all it is said of God,

In all their suffering he also suffered, Isaiah 63:9 NLT

Whatever pain Job felt, God felt it too. While watching a documentary on the holocaust, I heard a woman talking about seeing a small child killed by a concentration camp officer. She said, when that happened, she stopped believing in God. If only she had understood that God was suffering with that poor child. No, that in and of itself does not answer all the questions as to why God allowed Job to suffer and the holocaust to happen, but it does tell me God is not using humanity or Job as a guinea pig or as pawns in some chess match with Satan, if He is suffering just as much as everyone else. I don’t have to have all the answers to trust God. If God allowed sin and suffering, knowing it would cost Him His own dear Son on the cross, then I know there must be a good reason.

Job’s friends came up with a quick answer to the problem of suffering. Surely Job brought this upon himself! For some reason we feel better about God allowing pain and suffering if we figure they somehow deserve it. When we do this we misunderstand the character of God. Fact is God does not want to see anyone suffer, even if they deserve it.

Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign Lord. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live. Ezekiel 18:23 NLT

So while we are prone to draw peace form knowing people deserved to suffer, or brought it upon themselves, the fact that they may deserve it is no consolation to God. He hurts just the same.

Even though Job’s friends might not have had the right attitude, Job did learn and grow through his suffering. While he maintains his innocence for the most part of the story, at the end, Job said,

I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance. Job 42:6 NLT

While Job’s friends may have been more than a little rough on him, Job did have some precious lessons to learn, and yes, some precious revelations of God’s grace that could only be found through suffering. Even though God bragged on Job in the first chapter, He did not imply that Job had “arrived.” Job still had some things to learn about himself, and his need for God’s righteousness. Theologians have been trying to answer the question for ages, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” In fact, they’ve come up with a fancy name for it – theodicy. 1 The question why bad things happen to good people is actually hypothetical, because, there are no good people for bad things to happen to!

No one does good, not a single one. Romans 3:12 NLT

Job grew throughout the story, and in his suffering became more intimate with his Redeemer.

But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought! Job 19:25-27 NLT

God did not allow Job to suffer like a guinea pig so God could prove a point to Satan. Job had to suffer to learn obedience just like Jesus did.

Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. Hebrews 5:8 NLT

The suffering and obedience led both Jesus and Job into intimacy with the Father. Again, I do not know why. Maybe you do and can comment below. But for now it is enough for me to know that if Jesus had to suffer too, there must be a good reason. My theory is simply that anything that was proven to Satan was not the main event. Job’s character growth and intimacy with God was the main event. The things Job endured were not just to put on some show for the devil to see. They were to bring Job closer to God, and to realize joys and victories, and yes and intimacy with God, that could not have been realized any other way.

  1. Theodicy covers a little more ground than just the question of why good people suffer. It deals with the questions of God’s goodness in the presence of evil.
  2. You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

The Need for Un-Traditional Evangelism

Tampa Cross
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Mary, an elderly lady in my Tampa First SDA Church family, told me how she became a Seventh-day Adventist in the early ’30s in British Honduras, now Belize. She was school age, when her little brother noticed a huge tent going up in town. He told their mother he wanted to go to the circus. His mother told him there was no circus, as nothing was said about a circus in the papers or radio.

Still, little brother would not relent, so mother took the family on a walk to make sure there was no circus in the tent. At the tent, the mother told the boy to go look inside. It only took a moment for him to come back out and inform the family, “We can go home now. They are just having church in there!” The mother said, “I am too tired to walk any more now. Let’s go inside and rest a while.” The family then heard the gospel message which changed their lives forever. This is how my friend Mary, now in her 90’s, became a Seventh-day Adventist Christian and married a Seventh-day Adventist pastor.

In addition to all my small group Bible studies, I also have a golf group that meets the fourth Sunday of each month. I have formed a real camaraderie with the other guys over 18 holes, searching for golf balls in the woods and creek beds. While this group does not study the Bible on the golf course, we do have some in-depth discussions sometimes, waiting for the groups in front of us to tee off. One discussion resulted in some Bible studies after the game, which led to a father and son baptism. One Sunday after a round of golf, I went with one of the guys to lunch. He had been visiting our church, and commented that he wished the other guys would have had time to join us for lunch as he is really enjoying getting to know them. Hence, our golf group is bonding us not just to woods and sand traps, but to those who need Jesus. As a result, during our discussions, people are learning more than just how to improve their swing, but also how to improve their walk with God.

Some people may complain that our approach to evangelism is becoming too worldly. They say we should not try to imitate the world to win people to Jesus. I agree to a point. But I have even heard a couple of people say, we need to go back to our roots and those old-fashioned tent meetings. Old-fashioned tent meetings? Those old-fashioned tent meetings looked like the worldly circuses of the day! And because of the circus-like tent meetings, my friend Mary spent over 50 years of ministry as an Adventist pastor’s wife.  She is also a very “traditional,” balanced, well-versed in the Bible lady.

When people say we need to go back to the old-fashioned forms of evangelism, they often forget that at the time, those were actually pretty “modern” forms of evangelism – to arrest the attention of the people in that era. So today we need to do likewise.

Let every worker in the Master’s vineyard, study, plan, devise methods, to reach the people where they are. We must do something out of the common course of things. We must arrest the attention. We must be deadly in earnest. We are on the very verge of times of trouble and perplexities that are scarcely dreamed of.–Letter 20, 1893.
From Christ’s methods of labor we may learn many valuable lessons. He did not follow merely one method; in various ways He sought to gain the attention of the multitude; and then He proclaimed to them the truths of the gospel.–Ellen White, Evangelism, Pages 122-123

Sure, there are boundaries to everything, even evangelism, but when you hear someone say that a current form of evangelism is not traditional enough, remember we have been counselled to do “something out of the common course of things.” We must try various methods to gain the attention of the multitudes who so desperately need to hear about Jesus. Back in the day, we used “old-fashioned” tent meetings because they looked like “old-fashioned” circuses, which always drew a crowd. Today old-fashioned tents and circuses no longer draw crowds, so we must find new ways to draw people to hear about Jesus in our day, just like the tent people did in their day.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.