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The Irony of Sympathy

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.Matthew 5:6-7 NKJV

I’ve been told the beatitudes are building blocks to a complete conversion. I find it interesting that after we are filled with God’s righteousness, instead of seeing ourselves as holier than others, we become merciful.

Several nights ago, as I was falling into my bed to go to sleep for the night, I heard a loud crash followed up by a boom! boom! boom! thud! I looked out my window expecting to see another fender bender on the little street outside my home. Instead I saw a broken-down fence and upside-down car on the grass. The man inside the car got out okay. Apparently he made the turn from one residential street to another a little too fast.

Years before I would have thought to myself, what an idiot! How can you have such an accident on a little street, while making a simple maneuver! However that is not what I thought this time. True, he was going too fast, but over the years I have learned the lesson not to make fun of people who make silly mistakes, because just as sure as I do, I will turn around and do something twice as crazy! Instead of making fun of him, or scolding him, the rest of the bystanders and I just made sure he was okay and had what he needed while we waited for help to arrive.

At UPS John, a seminary student, worked with me as a sorter. He was very mild-mannered and never lost it, even in the most stressfull situations. One day our belt was getting overloaded and I asked the unloaders to wait for us to clear the belt before adding any more packages. They did not listen, and more and more packages overloaded the belt. I became angry and said some things I should not have said. I caught myself and told John I felt bad for reacting that way. He assured me that this was a very stressful job, even more so when the unloaders don’t listen to you. He was right, but I marveled that even though he understood and was sympathetic, he still never lost it. He sympathized with me with his words, but he rebuked me like a slap across the face by simply living out a better example! It wasn’t what he said, it was what he did that showed me there was a better way to live.

My pastor once suggested that it is best to be “liberal” towards others and “conservative” towards ourselves. Hold yourself to a higher standard while cutting those around you a little slack.

Jesus is our perfect example in constantly forgiving all those around Him.

Here are some words to live by.Just like Peter, you don’t have to worry about forgiving your friends too many times. No one will ever sin against you more often than you sin against Jesus, and you will never need to forgive anyone as often as Jesus forgives you. I am going to throw in the oldest cliche of all time, just because it fits so perfectly here. “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” To be Christlike we must hold ourselves to a higher standard, while at the same time forgiving those around us. Jesus is the only One who ever lived a perfect life, and while He did so He sympathized with and encouraged sinners.

Often He [Jesus] met those who had drifted under Satan’s control, and who had no power to break from his snare. To such a one, discouraged, sick, tempted, and fallen, Jesus would speak words of tenderest pity, words that were needed and could be understood. Others He met who were fighting a hand-to-hand battle with the adversary of souls. These He encouraged to persevere, assuring them that they would win; for angels of God were on their side, and would give them the victory. Those whom He thus helped were convinced that here was One in whom they could trust with perfect confidence. He would not betray the secrets they poured into His sympathizing ear. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Pages 91-92. 

How ironic that the One who has never sinned would be the most sympathetic and understanding friend a sinner could ever have.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

She did so Much for me, and I Never got to Thank her

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In evangelism workshops its almost become a cliche now,

Jesus…reached the hearts of the people by going among them as one who desired their good. ….. He met them at their daily vocations, and manifested an interest in their secular affairs.-Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 151. 

But how interested are we really in other peoples own good, even when we do not profit from their prosperity? In my ministry I have been asked to speak at numerous funerals. Before the funeral I like to meet with the family in their home, to get stories and learn more about the deceased. I can know somone all my life and still be surprised what I learn after they are gone. I will be sitting in the family room, listening to selfless heroic stories about the dearly departed, and it touches my heart so deeply, I get emotional and I think to myself that I too, want to be a selfless loving person, but I joke with my friends, that by the time I walk out the door and get to my car, that emotion of being selfless and caring has already passed over.

Case in point. When I lived in Texas I had started a cleaning business on the side. Nancy was a friend of mine from church. She was a nurse and told a few doctors and nurses about my business and I was soon cleaning for them. Nancy and I would go to dinner or lunch occasionally, and I offered to pay since she was my best advertiser. She assured me she did not want anything in return. She was just happy to help me out and see me do well.

We were both in our mid 30’s, when one morning I got the shocking news that Nancy had suddenly died during the night. It was quite a shock as we had plans to got to lunch that day. When you are in your mid ’30s and your friends seem healthy, it is very unsettling to hear the friend you have lunch plans with for that day just died! Leter as I went to clean for a client Nancy gave me, the thought struck me, She did so much for me, and I never got to thank her! I realized on this earth I never would get to thank her by paying her back for her interest in my good. That’s when I told myself, to live a giving life just like her, so that when I am gone, people will say the same about me, he did so much for me, and I never got to thank him.

Only a few days later, at UPS the line I was supervising was short handed. I walked over to another line where there was a supervisior that I had helped out several times. I asked him if he could send someone from his line over to help me. He said, “no” I can’t spare anyone right now. Granted he was right, but at the same time it bugged me because I had often been in situations where I could send him help, but he never seemed to be able to help me. Frustrated I told myself to stop helping him becuase he never paid me back! Then it dawned on me, wait a minute! I told myself I wanted to help others so that when I died they could say I always helped them and they never got a chance to pay me back. But when the chance actually came I did not feel that way at all! Once again I was touched by the selfless love of a caring friend, telling myself that I wanted to be just as loving and giving, but when the rubber met the road I was back to being my same old self again.

Of course all that happened way back in my ’30s. Jesus never made past his ’30s here on earth but was still the perfect example. My friend Nancy, never made it past her ’30s but left me with an example that even in my ’50s I still struggle to immulate. After being raised in the church all my life, I often sigh and think, 50 years later, shouldn’t I be more like Jesus by now? So many people with not even half the advantages I have had are so far ahead of me. Yet the secret is not rocket science. Jesus went about seeking the good of others even in their secular affairs. Nancy did the same. The next time someone needs my help, instead of asking myself how they will thank me, I can tell msyelf, this is my opportunity to be like Jesus. If Jesus helped Nancy, He can also help me to be one who seeks the good of others, even though they may never be able to thank me.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

Is the Role of the Church in the Community Just to Baptize People?

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel…. 1 Corinthians 1:17 NKJV

Does the church have to baptize every member of the community in order to serve its purpose? Is it possible God has some people cross our paths just because they need to be loved, regardless if they join our church or not?

Years before ever becoming, or thinking about becoming a Bible Worker myself, I found myself on a church softball team, captained by the new local Bible Worker. I failed to eat breakfast before running off to play. In the middle of the game, I began to get dizzy and lightheaded. My team was up to bat when I pretty much blacked out. I was sitting right next to the Bible Worker and told him, as the batter was striking out, “I am blacking out. I can’t even see anything right now.”

His reply? He threw my mitt in my lap and said, “That’s the third out. Let’s go take the field!” Not exactly the reply I was expecting. Needless to say, I did not go out onto the field. I managed to get myself to a nearby building where I got a drink and laid down. I had heard people who had been studying with this Bible Worker say how wonderful he was. I guess already having been baptized, I was not a potential “notch on his belt,” So he was not that wonderful to me. He never even missed me when I failed to come back to the game.

At that point in my life, I was not really that familiar with the Bible Worker concept. Therefore I had never really considered becoming one, but on my way home that day, I remember thinking to myself, that if I ever did become a Bible Worker, I would not be like that one! I also told myself that if I genuinely care about people who are about to be baptized, then I would genuinely care about people who will never be baptized. Even though I was not a Bible Worker at that point, I told myself, that as a Christian as well as being theologically sound, I also want to be relationally sound. I decided to be a genuine caring friend not matter what position I ever have in church.

Ironically I did become a Bible Worker, and found myself studying with a man, in the first district I had been assigned, who finally showed up to church with his 14-year-old step-daughter. She had never been to any church. I went to the parents of teenage girls and told them this girl had never been to church before. Please have your daughters greet and befriend her. One of the mothers shrugged her shoulders and said, “But my daughters already have friends.” The father ended up getting baptized in another nearby Adventist church. We never saw his step daughter again.

Later in another district, I was studying with a war veteran who needed a ride to the veteran’s hospital one day. Wanting to connect him with members of my church, I called several retired members and asked them to give this worthy veteran a ride. One person told me they were unavailable because, “That’s the day I water my garden.” And that was the most legitimate excuse! Not only did this veteran never come to my church, but that was also the end of our Bible studies. Do you blame him?

After studying a few months with a young married couple, they became baptized and joined my church of mostly older people. One of the elders never reached out to this young couple, until finally he heard them say something in Sabbath School that was not theologically correct, so he took it upon himself to call them later in the day, to “reach out” and tell them that they were wrong! That was the only contact he had with them, and it was not long before they were out of the church. How long would you stay in a church where people only call to tell you that you are wrong?

In Texas I studied with a teenage boy, that for sake of anonymity, I will call Scott. He found a ride to church every Sabbath, as no one else in his family came to church. Shortly after his baptism he moved to Tampa Florida. We had a going-away party for him, and I wrote in his card, “Bible Workers come and go, but friends are forever.” I did not think that much about it. Eight years later I moved to Tampa Florida. I had talked with him a few times after his move. One day, shortly after moving to Tampa, I ran across his name in my address book, and the address “Tampa Florida” jumped out at me. I called the number, to find out that he was in jail. I arranged a visit. Not exactly the reunion I had planned with a former Bible student. We were glad to see each other and had a lot to talk about since our last visit. He explained to me what had been going on with him lately and how ended up in jail. Towards the end of our visit, he told me, “When I moved away, you wrote in my card, Bible Workers come and go but friends are forever. I never forgot what you wrote, and now that you have come to see me after all those years, even though I am in jail, shows me you meant what you said.” I realized even more, that being relational is just as important as being theologically sound. I realized too, that even though he had been baptized eight years ago, my work with him was not over. Scott needed a forever friend. I am glad God moved me across the country to where I could reach out to him.

As a Christian my goal goes way beyond seeing people get baptized. My goal is to see them in heaven. That means being a forever friend to those who are preparing for baptism, and to those who have already been baptized, as well as to those who I may never see get baptized.

Some people think they can’t give Bible studies, but if I can, anybody can. Even so, what a teenage girl needed in a church long ago, was not just Bible studies, but a friend. A veteran just needed a ride to the hospital. A young couple needed someone from the church, to call them just to say hello, instead of just to tell them they were wrong. A young man sitting in jail needed to know someone still cared, even though he was less than perfect.

That morning on the ballfield, I needed a friend. I needed someone who cared for me regardless if I was someone about to be baptized or not. I needed what every other person needs, and that is a forever friend. Do the people in your community know that regardless if they ever get baptized or not, that they can find forever friends at your church?

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

Uzzah and God’s Mercy and Justice

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Many people think God was dealing harshly with Uzzah when he steadied the ark of the covenant, while it was being moved, but if we look carefully we will see God’s mercy even in His justice.

So they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart. 2 Samuel 6:3 NKJV

Do you already see a problem here? They are moving the ark on a cart. This is not how God instructed for it to be carried. That is how the philistines carried it when they returned it. How did God tell Israel to move the ark?

And the children of the Levites bore the ark of God on their shoulders, by its poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord. 1 Chronicles 15:15 NKJV

The Israelites knew better than to carry the ark on a cart. They knew it was to be carried on two poles by the levite priests. Now here is where we see God’s mercy and reasonable thinking. Earlier when the Philistines returned the ark they put in on a cart, and let the oxen carry it back to the Israel camp. None of them were struck dead. God knew they did not know any better. God is always merciful when there is a lack of information and people are doing the best they can. The same merciful God in the New Testament Who, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent,” is the same merciful God of the Old Testament. God does not hold us accountable for things we do not know.

However Uzzah knew better and never should have driven the cart to begin with.

And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand
to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. 2 Samuel 6:6-7 KJV

While God was merciful towards the Philistines who acted out of ignorance, but with good intention, God held Uzzah accountable, who made a mistake many make today. Instead of worshiping God according to God’s law, Uzzah thought he could imitate the world and worship God the way everyone else does. After all, what difference does it make if the ark is on a cart or two poles? Doesn’t really matter does it? Eve didn’t think it really mattered which tree she ate from. What was the big deal? A tree is a tree, right? So many say today, what difference does a day make, Sunday or Saturday? A day is a day, right? Well apparently it did make a difference to God if it was a cart or a pole, just like it mattered which tree Eve ate from, and there is a difference between the seventh day and the first day.

Upon Uzzah rested the greater guilt of presumption. Transgression of God’s law had lessened his sense of its sacredness, and with unconfessed sins upon him he had, in face of the divine prohibition, presumed to touch the symbol of God’s presence. God can accept no partial obedience, no lax way of treating His commandments. By the judgment upon Uzzah He designed to impress upon all Israel the importance of giving strict heed to His requirements. Thus the death of that one man, by leading the people to repentance, might prevent the necessity of inflicting judgments upon thousands. –Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, Page 706.

Now remember that even though Moses had to die because of his sin, God was still merciful and gave him eternal life. I imagine that God’s mercy may still save Uzzah at the ressurection as well. So even this severe act of justice was a merciful act, leading many people to repentance so thousands may be saved as well.

Even when God is just He is still merciful. In Mercy God winks at the ignorance of the world. In mercy God gives us warning and opportunity to follow His instructions on how to worship Him, instead of worshiping the custioms of the world.

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

Paul, Cleaveland, and Han’s Baptism Pics and Stories

As many of you already know, I spent most of last June in Oklahoma, because of the death of my mother, so I missed the baptisms of some of my Bible study students, who were baptized during the HOPE meetings at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church during that time. I would like to thank Pastor Brad and Dan Ferree for continuing to study with and mentor my Bible study students while I was away. God’s work is moving forward to Jesus’s soon coming where we will all meet with our loved ones agains and with Jesus, never to part!

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I began studying with Paul before he and his wife Shayla had their son, William who is now in grade school. I am positive they named him after me. LOL Paula and Shayla are wonderful people. They have opened their home to foster children and have also adopted, creating a wonderful Christian home envirement for some very fortunate children.

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I have also really enjoyed studying with Hans, who works at Florida Hospital and has become a valued member of our Tampa First SDA Church family. Hans loves Jesus with all of his heart, and is looking forward to helping with small study growth groups.

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Hans was also baptized during the HOPE meetings, encouraging many others to give their lives to Jesus as well.

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I enjoyed studying with Cleaveland before his baptism during the HOPE meetings, and am continuing to study with him and his wife, as she also wants to become a Seventh-day Adventist Christian.

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As always I would love to help you in making your decision for Christ as well. If you are in the beautiful Tampa Bay area, or any other beautiful part of the world you can contact me at LayPastor@TampaAdventist.net. I look forward to hearing from you.

How Homosexuality Attempts to Defy Creation

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I am writing today from beautiful Tulsa Oklahoma.

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 NLT

Many, even Christians do not fully grasp the importance of understanding Satan’s goal in promoting same sex marriages. Marriage, like the Sabbath goes back to creation. While we have the sun to mark a year, the moon to track a month, the earth’s rotation to mark a day, the one and only source of our 7 day week is the creation story, ending with the Sabbath. You simply cannot explain where we got a 7 day week, or where the idea of the Sabbath came from (regardless if you want to keep it or not) without going to the Biblical account of creation. Satan’s goal of making man forget the Sabbath goes a lot farther than just forgetting there is a law. Satan’s goal is for us to forget that there is a God who loves us!

The same with marriage. First of all if you want to believe in evolution, you have to believe that something was here in the first place to evolve. Where did that “something” come from? I heard an atheist, on national TV telling everyone there was no reason to believe in God after we discovered the atom. Really? May I ask who created the atom? If we all just came from a big bang, what exactly went bang, and where did it come from? The creation story tells us. God spoke and bang there it was! So, don’t you believe it is pretty spectacular that we have human life? Some take this as a coincidence from some sort of big bang. Well what is remarkable is not only was there a big bang, but after the big bang we have life. Wait a minute, not only do we have have life, we have humans who just happen to have counterpart reproductive organs where they can create even more life! What a coincidence! Not! Yet that is what those who are promoting gay marriage are claiming, that there we no design or reason for us to be created male and female. It was all a big fluke and you can choose whatever gender you want and marry whatever gender you choose to marry. Homosexual marriage, (well lets stop right here. There is no such thing as homosexual marriage. It simply does not exist. Man cannot make laws creating gay marriage anymore than man can make laws changing the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday.) attempts to defy more than just God’s law. It tries to defy more than just the Bible. Homosexual marriage defies that we have a creator who created us male and female. Homosexual marriage attempts to defy that we have a loving Creator.

The fact that we have so called homosexual churches should not surprise us. If there are churches openly defying the 4th commandment, why be surprised there are churches defying any other Bible teaching? Again marriage and the Sabbath all go back to creation. Marriage and the Sabbath tells us there is a God. This is a truth many people find too inconvenient. As the Bible Sabbath is being attacked, we should not be surprised that Bible marriage is as well. After all it is God Himself Who is being attacked.

I once heard someone say, that they did not think it was fair for God to let someone be born homosexual. Now many argue over whether nor not someone is actually born homosexual. It doesn’t matter. We are all born sinners. We are all born selfish. We are all born with the lust of the flesh, which is why Jesus tells everyone, hetero-sexual and homo-sexual, we all must be born AGAIN! Someone saying they were born homosexual is no more an excuse to stay homosexual, than being born selfish is an excuse to stay selfish. We all must be born again.

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

Jesus wants to restore all things. He does not want to destroy the sexually immoral. He wants to save them.

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. John 3:17 NKJV

There is an old song by Bill Gaither that goes like this,

Something beautiful, something good All my confusion He understood All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife But he made something beautiful of my life.

This world is filled with people who are not only confused about which day is the 7th day, but also confused about their sexuality. Jesus understands! Give your broken sexuality to Him. He can restore your broken and torn spirit. Give Jesus your confused and tarnished sexuality, and let Him make you sexually whole again. God created sex at creation. Let Him recreate and restore your sex as you give your life to Him right now.

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