Category: Sabbath School Lessons

Coaching and Mentoring Vs. Grooming

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A while back I was watching my favorite show at the time, Unsolved Mysteries. This episode was about a young boy who was mentored by a young man. Since it was Unsolved Mysteries, where we’re often told to call the 1-800-876-5353 number (still works btw) to catch the bad guys, I was bracing myself for the turn in the story, when the man would harm the boy. That time never came. Instead the boy, grown, was using the show to find his mentor, to thank him for being such a great friend in his time of need. It turned out to be a heart warming story about an adult mentoring a child.

Sadly the media often shares the horror stories which have made a couple of my friends, both male and female, afraid to mentor children, even though they would make amazing mentors to worthy young people, like the boy in the Unsolved Mysteries story. The horror stories, sadly mostly true, that get passed from church to church, scare legitimate mentors away from helping children as well. They do not want their intentions to be misconstrued.

This week at school, I heard an excellent discussion about child safety, which mentioned grooming. Grooming is where an adult with ill intentions, over time gains the trust of a child, only to abuse that trust. During the talk, it occurred to me, exactly why some would-be great mentors refuse to mentor. Is it possible to them, mentoring and grooming look alike? After all Satan has to have his counterfeit for everything good. He knows how vitally important mentoring is, so he wants his counterfeit, grooming to look like mentoring. This gives him a double victory. He can destroy innocent lives through grooming, and make good people afraid to mentor for fear they will be considered groomers. As a matter of fact, before I started writing this, I Googled, “Mentoring and grooming,” and found this website saying that grooming and mentoring are synonyms! That gave me a hunch that I may be on to something.

So I thought it might be a good idea if potential mentors could have a clear picture of mentoring, and a clear picture of grooming, so they could tell them both apart. I realize I am not an authority on the subject, so I would like to paint a picture of both just to get the ball rolling, and hopefully some people a lot more skilled than I am can chime in and agree or disagree and add some insight. Here goes:

Mentoring: A coach works with a group of children and other adult coaches to give each child a sense of belonging to the group and community. When a particular child needs extra coaching, the parents and/or child approaches the coach, and the coach gives the extra one-on-one instruction on the group site, only as requested and needed. The goal of the coach is to get the child back into the group mainstream. The coach networks to get the child the help he/she needs. If Sally needs extra help memorizing her Sabbath School memory verse, the coach will share tips, like word associations, and then encourage other students and/or coaches to practice with Sally. The coach wants Sally to feel like she is a valued part of the community, and trains Sally to be a useful and healthy member of the group and community. Mentoring is community driven and social in nature.

Grooming: A coach meets a child in a group, but then isolates the child from the group, under the guise that the child needs extra and “special” training that only he/she can give. He/she may even claim that Sally should not be working with others, as she may become “confused” by the tips others may give along with the tips he/she provides. The coach wants Sally to feel like she is special when she is around her/him, instead of feeling special to the entire group. Instead of training Sally to be a healthy member of the group and community, the coach teaches Sally to rely on her/him and the special instruction only she/he can give. Grooming is one-on-one driven, and is isolating in nature.

Does this make sense? Does this help? I hope together, we can give a clear picture of what healthy mentoring looks like, as boys and girls can use, not one or two, but many positive male and female mentors in their lives. The more the merrier-and the healthier!

Modesty: It’s Not About Sex, It’s About the Holy Spirit

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I am writing today from beautiful Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. Mark 5:15 NKJV

When the demoniac became converted, he was clothed and in his right mind. So today, the closer we come to Jesus the more appropriately we dress. In Genesis 3 when Adam realized he was naked, he tried to make a garment of fig leaves, and work out a way to cover his nakedness. As always man’s works failed. God covered Adam’s nakedness with animal skins, meaning an animal had to die to cover his shame. This pointed Adam to the cross, where Jesus would die to cover our nakedness. I believe we grieve the Holy Spirit when we refuse to acknowledge our nakedness physically and spiritually. The demoniac was physically naked (Luke 8:27) and so was Adam (Genesis 3). When they both met God they both became clothed. So physical clothing is a part of the gospel. One way we show the Holy Spirit has convicted us of our need of a Savior is by dressing appropriately.

When we let Jesus’ righteousness cover our naked souls we also cover our naked bodies. This is what happened in the Bible with Adam and the demoniac.

Jesus’ message to Laodicea draws a close parallel between physical nakedness and spiritual nakedness.

… you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed. Revelation 3:17-18 NKJV

When the Holy Spirit convicts us of the need of a Savior, to cover our spiritual nakedness, we dress appropriately physically as well. By dressing inappropriately what we are saying is “I don’t need a Savior.” This greatly grieves the Holy Spirit!

While the Bible uses men illustrating the need for modesty, we usually use women today. We talk about how men are stimulated by sight so women need to be careful how they dress. In discussions on modestly, you can always count on a woman saying she dresses modestly to keep men from lusting at her. It doesn’t sound modest at all. It sounds arrogant and assuming. It takes the focus off of the cross, placing it on sex instead. I have listened to Christian people talking about modesty, in a way, that would make you think sex was the focus of their life instead of the cross of Jesus.

When we accept the Holy Spirit, and acknowledge our need of a Savior, we dress appropriately, because we sense the presence of God. Truly modest people don’t assume their beauty is a stumbling block. When we are truly modest, meek and poor in spirit, we cover up, because we realize people need to see less of us and more of Jesus. Our dress is not in response to who may or may not be turned on. Our dress is in response to the Holy Spirit telling us we need a Savior. After all, the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus, those who have the Holy spirit, glorify Jesus in their words, actions and dress. When we do so we make the Holy Spirit happy!

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

“In the Spirit”

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.  John 4:24

I am sure that you have friends that no matter how long you are apart from them, once you get together, your friendship resumes right where it left off, as though you had never been apart. This may sound weird, but maybe in one dimension you never were apart! We have physical dimensions such as time and space, but have you ever thought that there is another dimension we can be in that is not bound by time or space? To me, that dimension is the Holy Spirit. I believe why many of our Christian friendships take up right where they left off even after long periods of no physical contact is because we have actually been together the whole time “in the Spirit!”  Why do those friendships take up right where they left off as though no time has passed by? Because we are in the great “ I AM”. With God there is no time. He is in one eternal Now. He is not the “I WAS” or “ I WILL BE”, He is the I AM.  Same with space, The Holy Spirit is everywhere. The Holy Spirit is with our Christian friends, so if we are in the Spirit and our friends are in the Spirit then we are together.

As a matter of fact, all the love we receive from our friends actually comes from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when I left my friends in Texas and went to Florida and made new friends there, I still received the exact same love I had in Texas. Love does not come form human beings. We can not generate love; all we can do is let the Holy Spirit’s love flow through us. Therefore, the love I receive from people half way across the world is the same exact love I receive from the people I live with right here. It all comes form God. So as long as you have God’s love you can’t miss a friends love, because the only love they gave you came from God and He is still with you!

I am so thankful for all my friends whom I can share God’s love with! Thank you all, who are my friends on SSNET, as well as my offline friends, for being a part of my life. I hope God has been able to love you through me as we worship Him in Spirit.

Satan’s Counterfeit Gift

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

Last week we studied about the gifts of the Spirit. This week we are studying about the Holy Spirit and the church. Satan has a counterfeit for most everything. There are some people in the church, who claim to have the gift of “discerning spirits,” when in reality they have Satan’s “gift” of judging and condemning.

1 Corinthians 13:5 tells us that love thinks no evil. Titus 1:15 NKJV tells us,

To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure.

When we are filled with the Holy Spirit we look for good. Those who truly have the gift of discerning spirits will find good as well as evil, but I have witnessed too many people in the church, claiming to have the gift of discernment, who could only discern evil. But those with the mind of the Holy Spirit gravitate towards,

whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy— Philippians 4:8 NKJV

In a former district there was a woman, who would not allow her husband to even talk to women at church, because she “knew” they all wanted him. She would not allow her teenage daughters to date even in groups, because she could “discern” what “all” the boys were up to. I thought the woman was really strict and conservative, until her trustworthy family members confided in me, that she had numerous affairs of her own. I should not have been surprised. Paul says,

Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. Romans 2:1 NKJV

Satan accused God of being a tyrant when in reality Satan was the tyrant. I have often found that when people talk about others, they are really talking about themselves.

Those who truly have the gift of discerning spirits don’t make a habit of accusing others. Jude talks about those in the church who make bold accusations, while Michael, who definitely could discern spirits, made no accusations.

 Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Jude 1:8-9 NKJV

So what do those with the real gift of discerning spirits know and do?

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:13-14 NKJV

The Holy Spirit teaches and inspires the Word of God. See 2 Peter 1:21. Those with spiritual discernment can tell when ideas come from man, or from the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 16:17 Jesus tells Peter that his revelation came not from flesh and blood but by the Father. Later in Matthew 16:23, during the same conversation, Jesus says, “Get thee behind me Satan!” When Peter comes up with an idea that was not from the Father or Holy Spirit. Jesus was not calling Peter “Satan”, right after telling him his previous revelation came from the Father. Jesus was not accusing Peter of being Satan. Jesus just discerned which of Peter’s ideas were from the Holy Spirit and which were not. The gift of discerning spirits is just that, discerning spirits, not people. Those with the gift of spiritual discernment can reject an unbalanced idea without condemning the person, just as Jesus did with Peter.

Let no accuser of others credit himself with discernment; for in so doing he clothes the attributes of Satan with the garments of righteousness. -Ellen White, Review and Herald, March 12, 1895

Nobody is Better Than Anybody Else

In Matthew 17, Peter, James and John were invited to an exclusive experience of the kingdom of God when they witnessed the transfiguration of Christ. Moses and Elijah were there as well, Moses representing those who will die before seeing the kingdom, and Elijah represented those who will be alive when Christ returns and will never experience death. Both Elijah and Moses were there to encourage Jesus in His humanity. As wonderful as it must have been to be translated without ever seeing death, who do you think was the greater comfort to Jesus? Since Jesus was facing actual death, do you think it is possible that Moses may have been able to comfort Jesus, considering that Moses actually died? On the other hand, Elijah knew what it was like to feel alone, thinking everyone was out to get him. Do you think Elijah’s experience also helped him help Jesus in a unique way?

When they returned to the bottom of the mountain after the transfiguration, they found the rest of the disciples unable to heal a boy with an evil spirit. Jesus healed the boy, but when the disciples asked why they couldn’t do it, Jesus told them,

“You don’t have enough faith”  Matthew 17:20 NLT 

You may or may not agree, but I don’t think they lacked faith in God’s healing power. They had seen plenty of that. I believe, knowing the disciples, they were feeling left out of the transfiguration experience and were doubting God’s love. They thought Jesus loved Peter, James, and John more than them. Because of their lack of faith in God’s love they were unprepared to participate in a remarkable miracle delivering a boy from demons! They did not esteem their role as being just as important as what Peter, James and John had been called to. Their lack of faith in God’s love prohibited them from accomplishing their calling.

While the prodigal son in Luke 15 was starving in a far away country, he very well may have compared himself to his “perfect” older brother who did all the right things. He may have wished he could have been more like him. However at the end of the story we see the older brother outside of the father’s home exactly like the prodigal had been, struggling with his own issues of selfishness. So as it turned out, the prodigal’s brother was no better than he was.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about the gifts of the Spirit. We all have different gifts, but that does not mean one is better than the other. Young or old, rich or poor,  Paul says,

 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:27 NLT

While Moses and Elijah had different experiences they were both vital in befriending Jesus. None was better than the other. While Peter, James and John were called to the Mount of Transfiguration, the other disciples had an important calling too. None was better than the other. While the Prodigal perceived the older brother to be “all that,” it turned out that neither was better than the other.

Each has his place in the eternal plan of heaven. Each is to work in co-operation with Christ for the salvation of souls. Not more surely is the place prepared for us in the heavenly mansions than is the special place designated on earth where we are to work for God.-Ellen White, Christ Object Lessons, Pages 326-327 

We all have different callings in life, but young or old, rich or poor, none of us are any better than anyone else.

Oh, don’t worry; we wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant! 2 Corinthians 10:12 NLT

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

Don’t Pray Often, Pray Always

Sail Boat

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray….Luke 18:1 NLT

As Sunday’s lesson talks about abiding in Christ, I have found for myself that praying often is not the answer. I must pray always.

I used to have a golf cart relationships with Jesus. Golf carts charge their batteries early in the morning and then disconnect from their source of power and run all over the golf course on their own power the rest of the day. So I would get up early, pray and read several chapters in the Bible and then (I don’t want to say that I actually disconnected from God), run off to meet the day in the power I had “charged up.”

In later years I realized I am not a golf cart. I am a trolley car. Trolley cars have to stay connected to the cable the entire day. The moment they separate from the cable they can no longer move an inch. That’s me today. I have gone from dedicating my life to Jesus, to dedicating hour by hour to Jesus. For years right before I would preach, I would meet with the elders in a special room to pray and surrender myself to the power of the Holy Spirit for the time I would be preaching. However, I realize I need to surrender myself to the Holy Spirit for the other 167 hours in the week, and do so just as intentionally as I do for the worship hour.

I used to pray before reading my Bible. Now I also pray before reading any book. After all there may be some object lessons in there. If I feel “funny” praying about reading a certain book, then I ask myself if I should be reading it at all. To not pray before reading or doing something because praying during that activity makes me feel uncomfortable, I must ask myself why? If I choose to go ahead and do the activity without praying, then I have just intentionally disconnected myself from Christ! I can’t afford to do that. I am a trolley car and not a golf cart. I have no power on my own. I have learned by experience the truth in the old Hymn, “I Need Thee Every Hour.” After all, I was created to be home for the Holy Spirit. I was created for communion with my Creator. We can talk to God throughout the day. As we lie in bed, dress for work, go about our daily tasks, we can continue our prayer throughout the day. We don’t need to say “amen” as the prayer never has to end.

Although there may be a tainted, corrupted atmosphere around us, we need not breathe its miasma, but may live in the pure air of heaven. We may close every door to impure imaginings and unholy thoughts by lifting the soul into the presence of God through sincere prayer. Those whose hearts are open to receive the support and blessing of God will walk in a holier atmosphere than that of earth and will have constant communion with heaven. -Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Page 99

They key to victory is not to pray often, but to pray always.

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

Is Being Fruitful That Simple?

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. John 15:5 NLT

Is it that simple? Can I be fruitful by just remaining and abiding in Christ?

I was reading John 15 the other morning, when this phrase jumped out at me. If I just live in Jesus I can be fruitful. Now living in Christ does not mean being idle. Yet the passage seemed so simple. I don’t need to hype up my evangelistic series. I don’t need a cutting edge technology-filled worship service to compete with all the other really cool livestream services.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s wonderful that my 91-year-old aunt can livestream her church worship service when she can’t make it to church. But let’s be careful. Vacations lose their meaning when they become all about the photo opps for Facebook, instead of the actual vacation. Do we get so wrapped up in making sure our livestream worship service is as smooth and hip as that “really cool mega church” that we forget our worship service is just that – a worship service?

Several years ago I had a Bible study group made up of non-churched youth. One week my church was having an evangelistic series with all the hip modern music, so I decided, why not take the kids and their parents to see this instead of our regular Bible study? Let’s show them we do more than just study. Let’s show them how “with it” we are. So all the kids and a few of their parents came. The music was wild, and while it was not my taste, I was happy, thinking the kids would be impressed. After the service I asked a 13-year-old in my study group, how it went over.  With shrugged shoulders he said, “I wish we would have had the Bible study instead.”

That was several years ago and I have since learned what Google has known all along. People like simple. Google doesn’t busy their home page with ads and articles like so many other search engines. They wisely keep it simple.

In Tampa I have a Thursday afternoon teen Bible study with mostly non-churched teens. Recently the kids and I were separated because of the public school holiday break. When we came back together, a high school Junior shared some questions she had come up with while studying the Bible on her own. She told me she thought Elijah’s story was similar to end-time events, and why. I agreed. Her family was not studying with her. She had no study guides. Just a young girl and her Bible alone with the Holy Spirit making amazing discoveries! So simple.

In Plant City, I have been assisting our pastor with a Wednesday night youth Bible study group. We started off playing games, serving refreshments and having a short Bible study at the end. Over time the game time has become shorter and shorter, and the Bible study time is becoming longer and longer. Not by the pastor or my design, but because over time the youth wanted to study more and play less! This tells me people today are not hungry for fancy programs. They are hungry for the simple Word of God. At Plant City we sometimes have hymns, we sometimes have the latest praise songs and teams, but every Sabbath young and old show up for the Word of God.

Come to find out, people are not hungry for particular worship styles and fancy programs. They are hungry for God. Jesus tells us if we simply abide in Him and His Word, we can bear fruit to feed a starving world.

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