The Priesthood and Temperance of all Believers

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

While Seventh-day Adventists have a health and temperance message to give to the world, God has been using His people in every church and age to spread this message. A while back, I visited the Congregational church in Litchfield Connecticut, which was formed back in the 1700’s. When I got home, I Googled the history of this church, and found that Lyman Beecher was the pastor of this church from 1810 to 1826.

34 years before there was a Seventh-day Adventist Church, Pastor Beecher was famous in his day for preaching abstinence from alcohol, even while other pastors of his day were social drinkers.  Thank God He has pastors in every church and age, who simply go by the Bible.

Years ago I was driving home from a Bible study in the Fort Worth Texas area, when I heard a local Baptist pastor on the radio talking about alcohol. He brought up a very interesting viewpoint, I had never thought of. He quotedLeviticus 10:8-11 NLT

Then the Lord said to Aaron,“You and your descendants must never

drink wine or any other alcoholic drink before going into the Tabernacle. If you do, you will die. This is a permanent law for you, and it must be observed from generation to generation.  You must distinguish between what is sacred and what is common, between what is ceremonially unclean and what is clean.  And you must teach the Israelites all the decrees that the Lord has given them through Moses.

He talked about how alcohol messes with the judgment center of the brain, and how Aaron’s descendants, the priests, were on a special mission and alcohol was to have no interference with their mission. They held a position which set them apart. I remembered listening to another pastor on the radio, years before, talking about why Jesus refused the wine offered to Him on the cross. See Mark 15:23. The health message is not about living longer. It is about living closer to God. Jesus was going to die on the cross if He drank the wine or not. Jesus refused the wine because He was on a mission and did not need alcohol interfering with His brain and connection with God and focus on His mission. It is the same with the priests.

The pastor in the Fort Worth area, drove home this point. While the Old Testament teaches all priests to stay away from alcohol the New Testament teaches the priesthood of all believers.

 You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. 1 Peter 2:9 NLT

His conclusion was, no priest should ever touch alcohol. Every believer is a priest on a mission. Therefore all believers should stay away from alcohol so they can accomplish their gospel mission, and fulfill their role as priest.

While many people inside the Seventh-day Adventist Church today, debate abstinence and moderation in drinking alcohol, people in various Christian churches in various ages had abstained from all alcohol, based solely on the Scriptures, which remind us of our priestly calling.

You may study this topic further here. 

“You Don’t Love me. You Love my Accomplishments.”

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Studying this week’s Sabbath School lesson, on the humility of the wise, reminded me of a conversation I had, during fellowship dinner in a church I spoke in. A mother told me she was always pushing her daughter to do her best, and win awards and honor roll certificates. She would brag about how wonderful her daughter was doing in school and sports and so forth, until one day when the girl was 15 and told her mother,

You don’t love me. You love my accomplishments.

The mother told me it felt like a slap in the face! Of course it was not true (I suppose), but the mother suddenly saw how her daughter came to that conclusion. There is a difference between teaching a child to do her best, and teaching her to be better than everyone else. I like what a young person shared on Facebook a while back.

I don’t want to be better than anyone. I just want to be better than I was yesterday.

The end of this Sunday’s lesson has a very profound statement.

You have to feel sorry for people who boast (usually it’s a cover for insecurities anyway); it shows just how self-deceived and ignorant they really are.

Could it be the mother was living vicariously through her daughter, trying to make up for her own failures? Who knows? I am no psychologist, but I think we are all needing acceptance. Now I don’t want to over analyze things. Plenty of people go to universities and get their masters degrees simply to learn how to do their job and help others. Its as simple as that. yet others do it to prove how smart or superior they are. The latter are just clamoring for acceptance. Many people spend all their time and effort to battle their way to the top of the hill so they can be accepted when all along, Jesus has already,

Made us accepted in the beloved. Ephesians 1:6 NKJV

When we accept the love God has for us we no longer feel compelled to be better than anybody else. Our goal is not worldly rank or status. It is intimacy with Christ. We don’t feel compelled to do better than others in order to be accepted, but we want to be the best we can be by God’s grace and power because we love God for accepting us no matter what.

This Sunday’s lesson asked the question, “Who do you think you are?” I have learned not to get too excited when I do well, and not to be too dejected when I fail, because at the end of the day, either way, I’m still just me. I wrote this poem a while back, which answers the question in Sunday’s lesson for me.

It’s Just me

I’ve been chauffeured in the back seat of a Cadillac.

I’ve been behind the wheel of an old Volkswagen Beetle.

I’ve eaten in fancy restaurants with all my friends.

I’ve eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches all alone.

But all in all I’m just me, it’s just me.

I’ve laughed out loud with the rest of the crowd.

I’ve cried alone where no one else could hear.

I’ve been in first place at the end of a race.

I’ve been so far behind, when will this game just end?

But after all is said and done, I’m just me, it’s just me.

I preached sermons that have moved congregations to tears.

I have preached sermons that have lulled congregations to sleep!

My friends have given me too much praise for a human being.

My adversaries have given me too much criticism, give me a break!

But at the end of it all, I’m just me; it’s just me.

Into every life a little rain and sunshine must fall.

Sometimes I feel small, and other times I feel tall.

I’m no more a person when I do well.

I’m no less a person when I fail.

But either way, I’m just me; it’s just me.

So don’t think that I am perfect all of the time.

Surely you don’t expect all my poems to rhyme.

I often succeed, but I also fail time and again.

Please don’t praise or condemn, just be my friend.

Because win or lose, I’m just me, it’s just me.

Proverbs in Light of the Cross; Rebukes

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.. Proverbs 27:5-6 NLT

When I was about 9 or so I was playing soccer (futball) with my neighbor. An argument broke out about what the out of bounds markers were. It must have gotten a little out of hand, because my neighbor’s father came over and started lecturing us about sportsmanship. He was quite stern. So stern, I started thinking to myself, he’s not my dad! He can’t talk to me like that! Who does he think he is?

Later I read where Jesus said in Revelation 3:19 NLT

I correct and discipline everyone I love.

I realized how my neighbor’s father always made me feel like family. I was always over at their house watching soccer games together on TV. They took me to the lake and to the park. I was family! I realized my friend’s dad had a right to rebuke and lecture me because he cared about me!

They say rules without relationship leads to rebellion. Having rules and relationships make us feel loved and wanted. Years ago I went with the church youth group leader and the youth to a baseball game. The game went into extra innings. This was just before everyone and their dog had a cell phone, so I had the teens use the pay phones to call and let their parents know the game was going into extra innings and we would be back later. After several kids completed their calls, a girl called her mother. She hung up, and looked at the rest of the group with disappointment and hurt. It wasn’t that her mom was upset her daughter would be home late. The girl said, “My mom just chewed me out for waking her up.” The other kids looked at each other puzzled. Who chews their kid out for offering accountability? 

While none of the kids were rebuked or disciplined for the game going into extra innings, they were still offering accountability and recognizing boundaries in their relationship with their parents. I think the girl who got chewed out for waking her mother up, would rather have been rebuked for being out too late. At least then she would have known her mother cared!

With loving relationships comes rules, boundaries and accountability, which make us feel safe, secure and loved.

You may study this week’s lesson on Proverbs here.

Proverbs in Light of The Cross; We are the Evil People

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Don’t envy evil people. Proverbs 24:1 NLT

While studying the book of James, I wrote an article entitled, “I am the Rich Person James is Talking to.” The article brings our attention to the fact that, we are not the poor but rather the rich who God is talking about. Likewise we should not assume that others are evil and we are righteous.

Something good happens to us, and we flatter ourselves that God must be with us because we are so righteous. Then something good happens to someone “bad” and we marvel, How did that happen? 

We are forgetting a couple of things. One, we are not so good and righteous ourselves. Secondly, rain and sunshine fall on good and bad alike.

No one is righteous- not even one. Romans 3:10 NLT

Most of us have heard of the book, “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People.” I am sure it is a wonderful book. There is only one problem. There are no good people for bad things to happen to!   

Sometimes the church school where I give Bible studies asks me to substitute teach for the day. One day when I did so I had some trouble with a hyper student. The next time that I subbed, he came up to me and declared that he was not going to cause me any trouble. I could see the sincerity in his eyes, but by lunch time he was being disciplined. Tears were in his eyes. I could sense his frustration of not living up to his promise, and letting me down. While he saw
So, when people ask why bad things happen to good people, I am wondering where all these good people are? Fact is, there are no good people for bad things to happen to. Fact is,good things happen to bad people, like us all the time.himself as a “troubled child” and me as “the righteous Bible teacher” I had to let him know I knew just how he felt! Many times I promised Jesus, I was not going to cause Him any trouble only to be in trouble by lunch time. I too have cried those tears. No, there is none righteous, no, not one.

He [God] gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. Matthew 5:45 NLT

A former pastor decided to go a year without God, and see what happens. A year later he concluded there was no God because He could not see any difference in his life. He forgot one simple thing. While He forgot about God, God did not forget about him! God was still blessing and sustaining him, regardless if he recognized it or not.

Both good and bad things fall on us all, regardless of how good or bad we think we are. I was doing a series of Bible studies with a lady who was extremely bitter towards her ex-husband. She wanted him to die! One day while studying the state of the dead, I told her she did not need to waste time wishing her husband would die. He would die whether she wanted him to or not. We all will. You don’t have to wish for evil to fall on your enemy, because it is going to regardless. And it will happen to you too. Its how we learn. Its how we grow. Its how we wake up and see a God who loves us even though we are not all that, even though we are nothing!

While I have been tempted to see my cause as righteous, and those opposing me as evil, this quote helped me see things as they really are.

 Humans are very seldom either totally sincere or totally hypocritical. Their moods change, their motives are mixed, and they often themselves are quite mistaken as to what their motives are. – C.S. Lewis

All of us who have worked with young people, find that some kids are going to misbehave no matter how much you discipline or bribe them. While we find other kids, who always behave without any bribes or threats. They may even see other kids getting away with bad behavior, but they do not copy them, for the simple reason that is not who they are. They have decided to do what is right simply because it is right. They do not deem themselves more righteous than anyone else, it is just their lives have been touched by God’s amazing grace. Even though they see good and bad falling on obedient and disobedient alike, they choose to obey for one simple reason, Jesus said,

 “If you love me, obey my commandments.” John 14:15 NLT

You can study the Proverbs Sabbath School lessons here.

Proverbs in Light of the Cross; Group Think

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.Proverbs 15:22 NLT

…..victory depends on having many advisers. Proverbs 24:6 NLT

None of us enjoys getting our ideas shot down by a committee or board. Yet there is safety in numbers only if everyone speaks their mind in a humble and Christlike way. I have talked to new church board members who told me, they aren’t really sure what to do, so they just watch and vote the way everyone else is voting. There is no point in having many advisers if they all think alike. There is also no point in having many advisers if they don’t warn us of the consequences of the board or committee’s choices. Also the board must realize their loyalty must belong to the mission of the group and not just to the leader of the group.

While I was taking a Speech and Communications class, at a local community college, the professor introduced me to the phrase “Group Think.”

According to my professor, group think is a phenomenon, where being a part of the group is actually more important than the mission or beliefs and values of the group itself. It is where you are afraid of disagreeing with the group,           in order to protect the mission of the group, for fear of being separated from the group.

Symptoms of group think are when the group over estimates its power and authority, and becomes close minded. Group members experience pressure to conform, regardless if conforming is actually helping the group accomplish its mission. Membership in the group actually becomes more important than the mission of the group.

My professor gave some examples. In Watergate all the President’s men agree to break in and bug the democratic headquarters. Later many confessed they knew it was wrong, but they complied for fear of no longer being able to work next to the President. Being a part of the group became more important than the mission of the United States government.

As my professor explained, I started thinking of some examples of “group think” in the Bible. The Jews all agreed to crucify Jesus and release Barabbas because that’s what the leaders wanted. This actually brought unity to the group, but at what expense! People were afraid to confess Jesus for fear of being thrown out of the group or synagogue. Yet Jesus was the whole purpose of the synagogue! When this phenomenon occurred the group defeated its purpose of being a

group just in order to be in the group. They may have even thought they were protecting the group from Roman persecution by having Jesus crucified, but without Jesus the group meant nothing.

Having many advisers will keep us focused on our mission only if they are not afraid to speak up.

The greatest want of the world is the want of men– men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall. -Ellen White, Education, Page 57.

You may study the Proverbs Sabbath School lesson here.

Proverbs in Light of the Cross; Let God Pay You Back

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Don’t say, “I will get even for this wrong.” Wait for the Lord to handle the matter. Proverbs 20:22 NLT 

A while back, after a friend had wrongfully taken money from me, I was reading in Romans 12:19,

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

While I had read this many times before, this particular time I saw it in a new light. Yes,  it is true that people will hang on their own gallows, Yet rather than just seeing those who have wronged us getting paid back for their wrong, I saw God was telling me, He would repay me what my friend had wrongfully taken.

In Philemon 1:17-18 NLT Paul is pleading for everyone to give Onesimus a second chance in the ministry. Paul tells them,

So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me.  I, PAUL, WRITE THIS WITH MY OWN HAND: I WILL REPAY IT. AND I WON’T MENTION THAT YOU OWE ME YOUR VERY SOUL!

Likewise I heard God telling me in Romans 12, “if your friend has robbed you, don’t worry. I will pay you back what they owe you. Don’t take it out on him. Leave him alone, and let Me make it right.”

That is exactly what happened. Right after I read Romans 12, another friend called who had bought some new furniture and wanted to give me their old furniture even thought it was still in excellent condition. God has continued to bless me in many other ways. God has more than paid me back for what my friend had stolen from  me.

You can study more Proverbs here. 

Proverbs in Light of The Cross; The Clutch Savior

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

You need not be afraid of sudden disaster or the destruction that comes upon the wicked, for the Lord is your security. Proverbs 3:25-26 NLT 

This year with the game on the line the Seattle Seahawks needed a clutch play to win   the Super Bowl. The coach called for a questionable play which resulted in disaster. That’s okay. Its just a silly game.

With retirement on the line, a stockbroker makes a bad investment, costing his client millions. That’s okay. Its only paper.

A doctor misdiagnoses an illness costing his patient his life. Now if you are going to get upset about a bad call, here is something to finally get upset about. But even here all is not lost.

Gethsemane was a trillion times a trillion times bigger than any super bowl. Angels were watching intently as Jesus made His way from the garden to the cross. Satan was breathing down Christ’s neck. If He could get Jesus to back out, hesitate, or just make a mistake it was all over, not just for a football team but for the entire world. At any point, one wrong decision would cost not millions of dollars, but millions and millions of lives. Not just in this life, but eternally. The pressure was on. This was infinitely greater than any two minute drill ever seen in football. There was no margin for error and everything went perfect! Yes everything had to be perfect and everything was!

With the team, no the universe on His back Jesus saved the world! Super bowls, bear markets and bull markets are so anti-climactic after the cross. Even a wrong move by a doctor can still be saved in the hereafter. When Gethsemane and Calvary had their clutch moment like no clutch moment the New  England Patriots, New York Yankees or Manchester United has ever seen, Jesus delivered! He delivered us all from disaster. He delivered us from all our failures when the game was on the line for us. No matter what mistakes we have made in the past, we all, through Christ are more than conquerors! We are eternal champions because of Jesus our clutch Savior!

The angel came not to take the cup from Christ’s hand, but to strengthen Him to drink it, with the assurance of the Father’s love. He came to give power to the divine-human suppliant. He pointed Him to the open heavens, telling Him of the souls that would be saved as the result of His sufferings. He assured Him that His Father is greater and more powerful than Satan, that His death would result in the utter discomfiture of Satan, and that the kingdom of this world would be given to the saints of the Most High. He told Him that He would see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied, for He would see a multitude of the human race saved, eternally saved. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Pages 693-94.