Seeking a Kingdom of Materials or Righteousness?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33 NKJV

Driving along Bayshore Drive in Tampa, I noticed some huge houses. I wondered what it might be like to have a huge home. Then I asked myself, why would I need a house with 20 rooms that I am not in? I can only be in one room at a time. What difference would it make if there were 19 more empty rooms in my house?

Often people say they are happy to live in a little cottage on earth, knowing up in heaven they have a mansion. Do they really need a mansion in heaven? Is the goal of heaven to live in a mansion? If so, are we not just as materialistic as people who love things here on earth? What difference does it make where our things are? First of all there is nothing wrong in and of itself about having a huge house. Some people buy huge houses, not to show off, but because they have the spiritual gift of hospitality, and so they need a big house to meet the needs of their guests.

My point is simply, that if we are seeking mansions in heaven then we are just as materialistic as those seeking mansions on earth. The only difference is our materials are somewhere else, but they are all still materials just the same. In Matthew 6:33 Jesus says to seek more than a material kingdom. He says to seek “His righteousness.” Whether I live in a cottage or mansion, what I really need is the righteousness of God. We are not to be looking for a kingdom of mansions, but a kingdom of righteousness.

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

Naomi’s Baptism Pictures and Stories

This morning at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist church, I had the privilege of baptizing Naomi, who wanted to give all of herself to Jesus, since Jesus gave all of Himself for her.

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When Naomi was in the 4th grade, she attended my baptism class at Tampa Adventist Academy.  (Naomi is in the red shirt.) After the class, I asked her when she wanted to get baptized. She hinted that she really was not ready yet, so I left it alone. I don’t like to pressure people to get baptized. It is a very personal and meaningful event between them and God.

As the years went by, I could see God working in Naomi’s life. Naomi

In 5th grade Naomi attended my Bible chain referencing class, where I taught my students to give Bible studies. In her family worships at home, Naomi asked to give the Bible studies she had learned in class. In 6th grade I had all the students give a Bible study presentation on video for a grade. You can watch Naomi’s presentation here. 

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This year Naomi is now in the 7th grade. I became aware of several deliberate and intentional choices Naomi was making in her life to get closer to Jesus and honor God. I had not talked to Naomi about baptism since she was in the 4th grade. Like I said, I don’t like to pressure people, but something told me to just casually mention it to her again. When I did, she told me she was already thinking about it, and we arranged the date for her baptism today. Her birthday is tomorrow.

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Naomi’s mother Helen, writes,

“Naomi was born and raised as a Seventh-day Adventist, but saw no need of baptism or Bible studies, until William asked her. She had worship at home, went to church, and went to TAA where she had Bible classes. William asked her to take a Bible study class and she decided to go. After the Bible study class she went about her daily routines, and started doing some worships at home with the Bible William showed her how to chain reference. Nothing was said about baptism. One day, recently, William asked her, “Are you thinking of baptism?” She said she was interested! Thanks to William, she took the Bible studies, chain referenced her Bible, and has now made her decision to be baptized! Thank you William, and those faithfully supporting his ministry.

You may watch Naomi’s baptism, as well as Pastor Rolando’s first sermon at Tampa First, here.

 

 

Don’t let the sun set on your life before giving your life to Jesus! I would love to help you make this decision. You may contact me at Bibleworker@TampaAdventist.net

Anything Except What God Says!

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In 1 Samuel God wanted to be the king of Israel, but Israel wanted to be like the other nations and have their own king. Instead of being a peculiar people they wanted to blend in with the world as much as possible. Even today I have heard Christian leaders boast how the church resembles worldly establishments, as though they were the standard, but I digress. The fact is that Israel pleaded for and got their own king, someone besides God Himself.

 

Later, I was reading about Jesus being crucified,

“What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back. John 19:15 NLT

When I read this my mind flashed back to Israel saying they didn’t want God to be their king. Here they are telling Pilate give us any king but God!

This week’s lesson talks about Romans 14 and Paul telling us not to judge people by observing certain Sabbaths or days. We understand from Colossians 2:14-17 that Paul is speaking of ceremonial Sabbaths that pointed towards the cross. The weekly Sabbath is spoken of as singular in most Bible versions while ceremonial Sabbaths are spoken of as plural as in Colossians 2 and Romans 14. Also the weekly Sabbath is not a shadow of the cross as it existed before the need of a cross, (Genesis 2:1-3) and after the cross has accomplished its goal, (Isaiah 66:23Acts 18:4Hebrews 4). So we as Adventist Bible students understand that the weekly Sabbath is still in effect, and it was the ceremonial Sabbaths that were a shadow of things to come, and now Paul says don’t judge anyone either way regarding ceremonial Sabbaths.

My point now is this. People will tell me it does not matter which day I keep as the weekly Sabbath, but then they turn around and get frustrated with me for keeping the Bible Sabbath over Sunday. Is this the same mentality of the Jews in 1 Samuel and John 19? Is this not saying, we will have any King but God, and we will keep any Sabbath except for the one God says to keep? Is that within itself a rebellious attitude, saying anything except what God says? If it doesn’t matter what day I keep then why do other Christians get upset when I keep Saturday? Why do they want me to keep any day but the one God said?

The world will always be pressuring us to conform to its ways over God’s ways. Meanwhile Paul writes in Romans,

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 NLT

I choose to Follow God instead of the world, especially when the world says, “not God’s way but my way!” God’s way is good, it is pleasing to both God and me, and it is perfect. I don’t want to be like those of old who say “anything except what God says.”

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

6 Everyday Childhood Habits of Jesus

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. 

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Luke 2:52 NKJV

Would you have loved having the boy Jesus in your Sabbath School class, or would you become annoyed by His constant questioning? (See Luke 2:46) Would you have enjoyed having Jesus as your childhood playmate, or would you become annoyed when He would not join you in mischief? (See Luke 2:40) The amazing thing is, Jesus was such as much God as child as an adult. Even with all the wickedness our children face in our world today, Jesus is still an example and Savior to them.

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15 NKJV

No child of humanity will ever be called to live a holy life amid so fierce a conflict with temptation as was our Saviour. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 71

So how did Jesus escape all this temptation as a child? Of course it helps that He was born of the Spirit! Thankfully in John 3, Jesus offers us all that same opportunity! Thankfully God sent a messenger, who gave us a beautiful insight into the childhood of Jesus, and shares with us 6 everyday childhood habits of the Son of God.

1. He always studied God’s Word.
“Every child may gain knowledge as Jesus did. As we try to become acquainted with our heavenly Father through His word, angels will draw near, our minds will be strengthened, our characters will be elevated and refined. We shall become more like our Saviour.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 70

2. He always prayed.
Communion with God through prayer develops the mental and moral faculties. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Pages 70-71

3. He cultivated thoughts on spiritual themes.
“and the spiritual powers strengthen as we cultivate thoughts upon spiritual things.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 71

4. Jesus kept busy as a child.
” In His industrious life there were no idle moments to invite temptation.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 72

5. He was intentional and purposeful with His time.
“No aimless hours opened the way for corrupting associations.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 72

6. Even though He was tempted in all points, Jesus did not invite temptation.
“So far as possible, He closed the door to the tempter.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 72

The life of Jesus was a life in harmony with God. While He was a child, He thought and spoke as a child; but no trace of sin marred the image of God within Him. Yet He was not exempt from temptation. The inhabitants of Nazareth were proverbial for their wickedness. The low estimate in which they were generally held is shown by Nathanael’s question, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” John 1:46. Jesus was placed where His character would be tested. It was necessary for Him to be constantly on guard in order to preserve His purity. He was subject to all the conflicts which we have to meet, that He might be an example to us in childhood, youth, and manhood.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 71

Extending Grace to Others

Is there someone to whom you need to show mercy, who perhaps doesn’t deserve it? Why not show this person that mercy, no matter how hard that might be to do? Isn’t that what Jesus has done for us?

After running from God, Jonah had given up on life, and told the men on the boat in the storm to throw him overboard. However God’s grace provided a fish to save his life! God’s grace never gives up on us, even when we give up on ourselves.

On December 2, 1979 Elvita Adams woke up in the Bronx, and decided she had given up on life. She went to the Empire State Building, and went to the 86th floor observation deck and jumped! She was in midair and had nothing to hold on to, but God’s grace was holding on to her! A gust of wind came and threw her inside the 85th floor. She had a full and complete physical and emotional recovery.

When God’s grace miraculously saves us, it usually creates in us a graceful attitude towards others, but not for Jonah. Instead of praising God for His amazing grace Jonah is angry that God is graceful.

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Jonah 4:1-2 NKJV

Apparently Jonah did not appreciate the fact that the same grace that saved Nineveh was the same grace that provided a fish to save him. Jonah was given grace, but he did not extend that grace on to others, like Paul, who wrote,

But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:16 NLT

Jonah had a wonderful opportunity to go to Nineveh and use himself as an example of what God’s grace can do for the worst of sinners, so they could believe and have eternal life too. Thankfully God’s amazing grace worked in spite of Jonah to save Nineveh instead of because of Jonah.

I heard an old-time Adventist preacher once say that God will finish His work in spite of the church, not because of the church. Let’s not be stingy with God’s grace and force Him to finish the work in spite of us. Let’s extend the grace we have received to others, so God can save others through us instead of in spite of us.

Sandra and Ben’s Baptism and Profession of Faith

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As summer ended, Sandra showed up with her son Ben, for my kids summer Bible study group. Sandra wanted Bible studies as well, so we continued studying during the fall. Today Sandra rejoined the Seventh-day Adventist Church at Tampa First, and Ben was baptized for the first time.

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This Sabbath Pastor Brad presented Sandra to the church family, as she came in on profession of faith.

Sandra writes,

“I can not thank God enough for everything He has done for me,  especially for accepting me as His child through Jesus. I got baptized at the age of 18, received the gift of singing on that day and I never regretted it for one second of my life. Today I am renewing my faith as it it was the very first time. I am seeking for that 1st love on the day that we met. Unfortunately due to life circumstances, I wasn’t able to attend church regularly, but I always felt guilty about it and prayed God for deliverance. All those years that I prayed asking, “Oh Lord, when am I going to observe Your Sabbath and take my sons to church as I should? Then this past July God answered my prayer and brought me to Tampa and directed me to Tampa First SDA Church, where I found many blessings. He blessed me with another career adjustment that allowed me to observe the Sabbath.”

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Ben writes,

I want to start a new life with God.

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

Ben, like his mother, studied the Storacles Bible study guides with me.  Ben is very interested in the sciences, as well as criminal justice. He is at the top of his class this year. When Ben we study together, Ben likes to tell me all he is learning in school, and asks me about ways he can serve God though various careers. Ben wants to put God first in all that he does.

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Don’t let the sun go down on your life, without finding Jesus as your personal Savior. If you are interested in learning more about Jesus I would love to study with you in a personal or group Bible study. You can contact me at BibleWorker@TampaAdventist.net

Thank you for your monthly contributions to my ministry so I can continue sharing Jesus with others!

No Condemnation

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1 NKJV

He told her he loved her. Said she was beautiful. Promised her she would be special. Next thing she knew she was being dragged out of bed by the friends of him who had dragged her into bed, and he who had praised and flattered her just stood and watched her being dragged away.

Now she was kneeling half naked, humiliated before Jesus. Eyes closed, not wanting to see the stones that would soon be crushing her head, she waited in terror. It seemed like eternity. When would it be over?

“Woman…”Barely peeking through one eye she sees Jesus doing something in the sand. Not sure what. She hears footsteps as men walk away. What is going on? Then she hears a word she had not heard in years directed at her.

Jesus didn’t call her a “slut,” or “whore.” He called her “woman.” He was addressing her with the same title of respect that He gave to his own mother, who spoke with angels and gave birth to the Son of God.

“….where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” John 8:10 NKJV

She opens her eyes and looks around. They are all gone! She makes no accusations against the men. We know little about the background of this woman. She may or may not have been a victim of sex trafficking. But we do know that, terrified as she was, she was ready to face the consequences without blaming anyone else for the choices she had made, and the role she had played, which now brought her half-naked and humiliated into the presence of Jesus. Yet incredibly, as guilty as she was, it was her accusers who slunk away. As she lay helpless at His feet, there was no one to condemn her! When we fall helplessly at the feet of Jesus, there is no condemnation for us either.

He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10 NKJV)

She said, “No one, Lord.” (John 8:11 NKJV)

What was next? A sermon? A lecture? Nowhere is it recorded, but I can imagine Jesus placing His coat over her near-naked body.

The Holy One Who would be hanging naked on a cross in front of the entire universe one day, takes off His robe and covers this woman, protecting her human dignity more than just covering her sexuality.

He doesn’t preach to her. He ministers to her.

Did you know you don’t have to be a preacher to be a minister? Ministering to sinners doesn’t always have to include a sermon. An-ill timed sermon can do more harm than good. Jesus could preach with the best of them, but He knew when to preach and when not to preach. He also knew when to minister.

He called her “woman.” He placed His coat over her near-naked body and gave her the sense of dignity she had been promised by the man who betrayed her trust. Then He did not preach to her with words, He ministered to her with words.

“Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:11 NKJV

His words were brief and clear, yet somehow we get them mixed up. Have we ever told someone “Go and sin no more, and then I will stop condemning you!” That’s notwhat Jesus said.

Jesus said clearly, “Neither do I condemn you.” Present tense.

“Go and sin no more.” Future tense.

The world told her they would stop condemning her once she stopped sinning. Jesus promised not to condemn her, so she could stop sinning.

They called her a whore and a slut.
Jesus called her a woman.

A man promised her she would be special, and then humiliated and betrayed her.
Jesus gave her dignity back and made her special.

There was no condemnation for this woman at the feet of Jesus, and there is no condemnation for you, when you kneel at the feet of Jesus.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1 NKJV

Jesus does not condemn us, so we too may walk in the Spirit instead of the flesh.

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