Enjoy all the Days of Your Life

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

But the godly will flourish like palm trees…..Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. Psalm 92:12-14 NLT

When I was young I was inspired by John Kennedy, because he was the most youthful U.S. president, and he showed what younger people can do. Now that I am older, I am inspired by Ronald Reagan, because he showed us what older people can do.

When I was 19 I was invited to join a home Bible study group. Everyone else was in their mid twenties to early forties. As well as studying the Bible together we did a lot of social activities, and as a 19 year old I thought it was cool that people in their twenties and even forties would hang out with me. Over thirty years later, I found myself at a restaurant, eating nachos with one of my college age Bible study groups, and I thought it was cool that people in their early twenties will hang out with someone in his fifties!

Its funny how our perspective changes as life changes. Many people fear getting older. I don’t. Long before I turned 50 a few years ago, a few people in their 70’s and 80’s told me the 50’s were the best years of their life. There are three reasons to love being in your 50’s. 1. People take you seriously. 2. Usually you are financially solid by 50. 3. Most people in their 50’s are still in reasonably good health. Some joke that while 50 is the new 30, 9 pm is the new midnight. It is true that in my early twenties whenever I would have a Bible study finish early in the evening, I would run over to the baseball stadium to catch the rest of the game. Today whenever a Bible study finishes early in the evening, I think, “Great! I can get to bed early tonight!” Sometimes I will force myself to do things I used to do, just to prove to myself that I am still young.

There are other advantages to growing older. Having worked with so many different churches and conferences over the years I know a lot of people. My friends list keeps growing. A couple of years ago when I had to evacuate Florida for a hurricane, there were several families between Texas and Tennessee that let me know their homes were open for me. As you get older you get wiser in choosing your friends, and over the years you have more friends to choose from. Also as more young faces appear in my life, I have more people to share my old stories with, who have not already heard them a hundred times. By the way, when an older person tells you the same story a hundred times, it is not because he forgot he already told you. It is because he gets to relive it every time he tells the story.

Speaking of younger faces, I have found working in the education field that everyone likes working with young people whether it is coaching and teaching, or just coming to school one day on career day to talk to kids about their career. I believe we all find hope for ourselves by believing we are making a positive difference in a young person’s life. Also kids keep us full of life. I remember a few months after my mother died, I was visiting family, which of course made me think of my mother. I left the visit to go join the 5th and 6th grade class from the school I worked with at an outdoor ed camp. While driving I became very sad thinking about my mother. I told myself once I got to the camp and was surrounded by youthful 5th and 6th-graders their presence would cheer me up and I would be happy again. Sure enough that is what happened. Those kids had no clue how they helped me overcome my grief!

Two thousand years ago, Mary, a young girl, probably around 14, was told by an angel she was having a baby. She went to see her cousin, Elizabeth, who was on the other side of the child-bearing age margin, but was also with child. Their visit must have been very meaningful as Mary’s youth must have inspired aging Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s experience must have inspired a very young Mary. They both needed each other. Today we all need each other. We should not be afraid of growing old. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago. Psalm 23 tells us God’s goodness and mercy follows us all the days of our life. As a youthful Kennedy and an aging Reagan have both inspired my life, we all need both young and old people in our lives. What is more, whether we are old or young, people need us in their lives. Enjoy your youth. Enjoy your old age. Enjoy all the days of your life!

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

What Role Does the Bible Play in a World Where Everyone Does Whatever Seems Right In Their Own Eyes?

 

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I am writing tonight from beautiful Florida

You may also listen to and share the podcast version of this article.

In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. Judges 17:6 NLT

We are created to follow our own conscience and moral convictions. Does that mean that we just do whatever is right in our own eyes? Lately I have heard people telling me that the Bible is a good book, but God gave us a brain to figure out for ourselves when to follow it and when not to follow it. Many believe human reasoning trumps God’s Word. Many pastors dance around the Bible and by the end of their sermons haven’t really said anything, because they were afraid to say anything, because they don’t want to offend anyone. They want everyone to decide for themselves what is right and wrong.  What could be wrong with that?

For one thing, the idea that you can decide for yourself what is right and wrong is exactly how sin began. Let’s take a careful look at the serpent’s lie after Eve told him they would die if they disobeyed and ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5 NLT 

The serpent assures Eve she won’t die for disobeying God. After all, how dare God tell us what is right and wrong, much less give us consequences for having our own opinions and way of doing things! The Serpent tells Eve she will be like God. God makes the rules. God is the judge between right and wrong. If Eve becomes like God she will make the rules and decide for herself what is right and wrong.  This was implied in the serpent’s comment to Eve, “you will know both good and evil.”  In other words,

She would be a god. She would be a law unto herself. -Ellen White, Christ Triumphant, January 16. 

This is why it is so important that we follow our personal conscience and convictions based on God’s Word, instead of just following our own inclinations. Be careful when people tell you God gave you a brain to figure it out for yourself. The serpent was teaching Eve to rely on her own brain instead of God’s Word.

People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart. Proverbs 21:2 NLT 

There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. Proverbs 14:12 NLT 

The problem is, everyone is right in their own eyes. The kindergartner on the playground, who hit his classmate who called him a name, is doing what is right in his own eyes. The man having an affair with another man’s wife is doing right in his own eyes. The woman is lonely and not being shown enough affection from her husband. In his eyes what he is doing is not lust. It is love. The husband and father who is cheating God by not returning an honest tithe, is just trying to make enough to support his family, so it is right in his own eyes. The possibilities are endless when we do what is right in our own eyes.

While people tell us to use our own brains to figure out right and wrong, this is what God’s Word says,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 NLT 

Jesus gave us the perfect example of not depending on our own understanding. Jesus was not a philosopher of sorts. As a matter of fact in Luke 12:14 Jesus refused to play judge.  In His humanity Jesus did not use His own reasoning or set Himself up as a judge as to what was right or wrong. So what did Jesus do? He did exactly what the serpent told Eve not to do, He went by God’s Word alone!

In Matthew 4 Jesus answers each of satan’s temptations with “The Scriptures say….” See Matthew 4:4, 7, 10. Jesus came to save the world, and satan told Jesus he would give it back to him if he would just worship him. Jesus could have reasoned that it made more sense to do that than to die on the cross. He could have used situation ethics and philosophized that saving the whole world would be worth worshiping satan, especially since He was going to die like a sinner on the cross anyways. But Jesus never used human reasoning, or His own brain as some say. He did not philosophize. He simply went by what the Scriptures say.

In Matthew 22 some religious leaders presented a story to get Jesus to reason with them about the resurrection. Jesus would not “reason” with them. He did not share His own ideas about how He thought it might work. All he did was reference the Scriptures. See Matthew 22:29.

In Luke 10:25 an expert in the law asked Jesus how to have eternal life. Instead of saying, “Well this is how I see it,” Or “my opinion is,

Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”  Luke 10:26 NLT 

The serpent advised Eve to disregard what the Word of God said, and use her own brain to decide what was right and wrong. Jesus gave us an example of disregarding what we think is right and wrong, and to just go by Scripture, which is the Word of God.

If we follow the serpent’s plan we will just follow our personal whims and inclinations based on our preferences. When we follow Jesus’ plan we will follow our personal conscience and convictions based on Scripture.

An Open Door No One Can Close

What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open: “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. Revelation 3:7-8 NLT

The church of Philadelphia represents the church that found the open door into the Most Holy Place in 1844.  This church also found a book open that had previously been sealed.

But he said, “Go now, Daniel, for what I have said is kept secret and sealed until the time of the end. Daniel 12:9 NLT

Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, surrounded by a cloud, with a rainbow over his head. His face shone like the sun, and his feet were like pillars of fire. And in his hand was a small scroll[book] that had been opened. He stood with his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land. Revelation 10:1-2 NLT

If the details in Revelation 10 follow the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1840 in Revelation 9, then the time period is around 1844, when the book of Daniel became an open book and the time of the end began.  Revelation 10:4 says that John was getting ready to write something down that the Thunders spoke, but was told not to write it.

What did they say and why was he told not to write it down? Obviously I have no clue for sure! But I do have an idea. In Revelation 10:8-10 John is told to eat a book that tasted sweet in his mouth but turned bitter in his stomach. Many believe that refers to the great disappointment in 1844 when people misunderstood that Jesus was coming to earth instead of going into the Most Holy Place ministry which had just begun. I wonder if the Thunders told John about the great disappointment, but he was told not to write it down? If I happen to be right, why would they tell him not to warn everybody so they wouldn’t be so disappointed? Because some things have to be learned by experience. Sometimes we have to experience problems personally so we can work out the solution clearly in our minds and see why that is the solution.

Most math books have some or all of the answers in the back. But it is not enough to just write the answer down. The teacher wants to see your work. She doesn’t just want you to know the answer, she wants you to write out and work out the problem so you know why it is the answer. The Bible tells us Jesus is the answer, but we encounter problems in life so we can know why Jesus is the answer. God wanted his precious church represented by Philadelphia to work out the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation so they would know by experience what the answer is, instead of just reading what the answer is.

Now back to the open door. While many believe the door is the door into the Most Holy Place, other scholars point at doors of evangelism that were open in those days. The American Bible Society was opened in the early 1800’s in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, of all places! Publishing and spreading sacred literature became easier during this time. Add to this that when Jesus said, “what he opens no one can close, and what he closes no one can open,” I don’t think that applied to just one door. I think that is true about any door. If anyone has ever closed a door of opportunity on you, you can be sure of this, Jesus never opened it for you! If He had opened it for you no one would have been able to close it. No matter how things turn out for us we can be sure that man does not control our destiny. The same hands that were nailed to the cross and turned around and opened the seven seals holds our destiny.

It is also interesting that the church of Philadelphia is shown an open door in heaven, yet later when Jesus comes to the church of Laodicea He finds a closed door. If we are lost it won’t be because Jesus would not open heaven’s door. Heaven’s door is open. If we are lost it will only be because we would not open our heart’s door to Jesus. Next time we will take a look at the message to Laodicea.

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

Why It’s a Good Idea to Use Various Bible Translations

Kids Studying Bible

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

When I preach a sermon in English, which is the only language I can preach in by the way, if you had three people translating it into Spanish, each one would translate it differently. To get the big picture you would not choose one translation and throw the rest away. You would put all three together to get the big picture. Likewise I do not think it is wise to try to find one perfect Bible translation. I think it is wise to examine several to get the big picture. for example, in my personal Bible study time this morning I ran across this passage in the New Living Translation.

With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever. Hebrews 9:12 NLT

I thought that makes it sound like Jesus was already in the Most Holy Place before 1844. I remembered hearing someone before reference this verse  trying to destroy the Adventist understanding of the sanctuary. So I thought, in the spirit of the Bereans, I need to check this out. I quickly found that the KJV does not say “Most Holy Place” in this verse. It only says “Holy Place.”

Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. Hebrews 9:12 KJV

Now I must remember the KJV is also a “version.” The KJV is not the original manuscripts. The KJV is an extremely reliable version, but it does not automatically trump all other versions on every text. Having translated messages in ASL and having had studies translated for me from English to Spanish, I understand what all translators understand, that no translation is 100% accurate. This includes the KJV. So I did a little more research and found that even the NKJV, which is a highly esteemed version did indeed use the phrase” Most Holy Place,” not “Holy Place.” This caused me to research even further. I found that The Message translates it this way.

But when the Messiah arrived, high priest of the superior things of this new covenant, he bypassed the old tent and its trappings in this created world and went straight into heaven’s “tent”—the true Holy Place—once and for all. Hebrews 9:11-12 MSG

This was an aha! moment for me. The word being translated “most” in other translations except for the KJV actually meant “true” or real. This makes perfect sense and is understandable why so many would translate it ‘most.” The context of Hebrews 8- 9 is not about when Jesus went into the most holy place, but rather that Jesus went into a real and literal sanctuary

There he ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle, the true place of worship that was built by the Lord and not by human hands. Hebrews 8:2 NLT

See! There is the word “true” in the NLT. Hebrews 9:12 is saying that Jesus went into a real and true sanctuary. The word “most” in the other translations is not an unfortunate translation, when you understand by “most” it is comparing the heavenly sanctuary to the earthy sanctuary, instead of comparing the most holy and holy compartments.

There are conspiracy theorists who see modern translations as a plot to destroy Adventist theology. I say if the KJV is the only version that supports our theology then we better re-examine our theology! I believe sound theology will be supported by various versions, and I believe the sanctuary message can be supported by various translations.

 

“I saw that God had especially guarded the Bible, yet when copies of it were few, learned men had in some instances changed the words, thinking that they were making it more plain, when in reality they were mystifying that which was plain, by causing it to lean to their established views, which were governed by tradition. But I saw that the Word of God, as a whole, is a perfect chain, one portion linking into and explaining another. True seekers for truth need not err; for not only is the Word of God plain and simple in declaring the way of life, but the Holy Spirit is given as a guide in understanding the way to life therein revealed.” -Ellen White, Early Writings, Pages 220,-221

The first point I appreciate about this passage is that Ellen White understood errors were made with the best of intentions instead of a conspiracy plot. I am sure when the coma was misplaced in the KJV in Luke 23:43 it was with the best of intentions. The second point I appreciate is that the Holy Spirit has protected the Word of God so that the way to life will not be lost, and the Holy Spirit can help us find truth in the different translations we read.

When I preach a sermon in English, which is the only language I can preach in by the way, if you had three people translating it into Spanish, each one would translate it differently. To get the big picture you would not choose one translation and throw the rest away. You would put all three together to get the big picture. Likewise I do not think it is wise to try to find one perfect Bible translation. I think it is wise to examine several to get the big picture.

Baptism Pictures and Stories from Homosassa

Homosassa Bible Study

In 2018 I was invited to speak at the Homosassa Seventh-day Adventist Church. I was told several young people wanted to be baptized and we began a baptism class. After just one week, I was informed several adults were interested in learning more about the Bible and the Adventist church as well. One Bible study group quickly grew into two Bible study groups. One for the young people and one for the not exactly so young people. For several months we enjoyed studying and hanging out together. Yesterday 6 precious souls gave their lives to Jesus through baptism, and we believe there are more on the way.

Bill

Bill is a real miracle! During our studies he went into the hospital twice, once with a heart attack! By God’s grace he quickly recovered and kept right up with the study group, hardly breaking any stride. Bill is an animal lover and has a horse. Some of the kids enjoyed stopping on their way to church each Sabbath to feed a horse some carrots along the way. Just the other day they found out it was Bill’s horse. Small world. Bill has quickly made friends with the church family. I am thankful for Bill’s friendship.

Connie

Connie has stepped out in faith and quit working on the Sabbath, so she can put all of her trust and faith in Jesus instead of her own works.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV

Connie’s daughter Mariah also made her decision for Jesus in our class as well.

Mariah

Mariah is already bringing friends to church and inviting them for Bible studies. She also is a faithful Bible student herself, and often asks very thoughtful questions. Mariah, like her mother and father, has a big heart and is often praying and asking others to pray for those in need.

Ricky

Ricky is a faithful Bible student, often having his lessons completed even before class. Ricky also has a talent for art, and is often drawing pictures to encourage those in his church family. Every church should have a Ricky!

Amberlynn

When Amberlynn heard there was a baptism class she let it be known she was joining! Even when her older sister Macayala was sick and unable to come Amberlynn still made sure she was there. Amberlynn loves Jesus and her church and is there whenever the doors are open.

Macayala

In one of my first sermons at Homosassa I asked the congregation a question and Macayala quickly rose her hand and answered. Macayala told her Sabbath School teacher that she loves it whenever I preach because, “I understand everything he says and then he sits down!” Everyone needs a Macayala on their side. Macayala encourages her friends at school as well as at church.

I want to thank the Homosassa Seventh-day Adventist Church for letting me be a part of their family. I am enjoying every moment. If you would like me to share Jesus with your church or family at home please contact me at Plantcitysdachurch@Gmail.Com . Let’s continue praying for our new members and each other!

Where in the World Are You Studying the Bible?

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

To me, the Bible is the  most personal and universal book ever written. When I read it I know God is personally talking to me, just as He was personally talking to Martin Luther as he read the Bible chained to the monastery wall in Europe in 1517, and Ellen White as she read the Sacred pages on the  Alameda as it sailed the South Pacific on its way to Australia is 1891, and the business secretary who read the Bible app on her tablet commuting on the New York subway last evening. The Bible brings me into a one on one personal relationship with Jesus. It also ties me to billions of people around the globe throughout earth’s history.

Last Christmas while I was on vacation, I went golfing with a buddy in Western Arkansas near Ozark Adventist Academy. On our way to the golf course we stopped in a diner for brunch, where we coincidentally ran into my cousin Paul, who was sitting at the community table, studying his Sabbath School lesson on his tablet. We joined him and had an enjoyable conversation, before we went chasing golf balls all through the woods. I had never seen a community table before, where everyone was welcome to sit together, where strangers become friends. Now that I think about it, I guess its like the bar stools at diners back in the 50’s so maybe the idea isn’t so novel. The small town diner enchanted me with its social atmosphere, with people visiting, coming and going at their leisure.

It made me think about SSNET, the Sabbath School lesson website I write for, as well as my personal blog, In Light of the Cross. Both are a social online community where people can come and visit, study and share ideas at their leisure. I got to thinking about my cousin Paul who was studying his Sabbath School lesson at the diner, in a social setting. It made me think about people studying their Bibles and Sabbath school quarterlies around the world. I got to wondering where all people are studying their own Bible around the world. Are people studying right now at a  Starbucks in Seattle? You know Starbucks sells bottled water and fruit juices too. Is someone reading their lesson on a park bench in Birkenhead park in Liverpool? Is someone having their devotional on their back patio in Cape Town? It is summer time there now you know? Is someone passing the time on their Sabbath School app while waiting on a plane at the Perth airport?

I just thought it might be nice to share where in the world we enjoy studying our Bibles and or Sabbath School lessons. Many I suppose have a special place inside your comfy home or flat God blesses them with, while others may have a special restaurant, park bench or special meeting place. Even Jesus had a special place of prayer and worship, which was the Garden of Gethsemane. Do you have a special place for your Bible study and prayer time? Years ago in Samaria, a woman met Jesus at a well. They had a one on one conversation, but Jesus also mentioned to her about worshiping in the Spirit. John worshiped in the Spirit while on Patmos. So you have two people, one in Samaria and one on Patmos both worshiping in the same place-the Spirit! So you see why I say our Bible study time is very personal and universal all at the same time. Pretty cool, huh?

I would be interested in meeting you, and finding out not only what country you are from, but where you enjoy studying the Bible. Are you like many of my nostalgic friends who still enjoy holding an actual book or quarterly in your hands, or do you use an electronic device? Please comment below and let me know where in the world you like to study God’s Word. Then the next time I am enjoying my alone time in the Spirit with God’s Word, I will know who I am studying alone with, and I can say a prayer for God to bless your study as well as mine.

My Fall 2018 Open Newsletter to my Contributors

Its hard to believe that 31/2 years later, my ministry is still going, based mostly upon contributions from people like yourself. Many of you have been contributing faithfully every month. Many of you have given faithfully when you can. All is greatly appreciated! Some have no longer been able to give which is understandable. I pray God will provide new contributors and keep this ministry going strong. Every time I leave a home where I know God has used me, I promise God as I get in my car to leave, that as long as He keeps making it possible for me to share the gospel I will continue to do so!

Many of you follow this ministry on Facebook, but I just wanted to share a few ways God has blessed since last Spring. First here is a testimony from Sue Halstead, pictured below, front right.

SueMy husband Bob and I teach a Youth Sabbath School Class at the Homosassa SDA Church in Florida.

We have engaged William Earnhardt to teach  a baptismal class. God has given him a special gift to gain an instant rapport with the young people and the adults alike.
One eleven year old , Macayla , put it this way
 “As a teacher, he makes every subject understandable and entertaining so it holds my attention”. she goes on to say, ” as a speaker at church, he gives 100% good messages; he uses real life situations to make his point.”
We especially appreciate how God is using him to “tell the old, old story ” in such a refreshing way. God is doing a mighty work through him!  If you would like to be part of winning souls through his ministry, you can contribute by sending one time or monthly contributions to the Plant City SDA Church P.O. Box 5379 Plant City, Florida  33563. Please mark your check, “Bible Worker Fund.”
Bob and Sue Halstead
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I am still working closely with the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, as well as the Plant City Seventh-day Adventist church, where God has continued to let me bring people to Him in baptism.

Pastor Davis, the pastor of the Emanuel SDA Church, our sister church in Plant City, had me giving a weekly Bible chain referencing to his church family, teaching them how give Bible studies and get decisions for Jesus. There were about 30 attending the class regularly. Pastor Brad, at the Tampa First SDA Church also had me giving the same class to his church family on Wednesday nights.

This ministry is still reaching people around the world in over 175 countries via this blog site and the Sabbath School Net. 

Last Spring about 16 students from the New Port Richey Seventh-day Adventist church school were baptized as a result of the week of prayer principal Keith Nelson invited me to do. I also continued studying with the young people.

I want to thank those of you who follow my ministry on Facebook and support me with your prayers and contributions!

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. Acts 20:24 NLT

Thank you for continuing your faithful contributions, or for considering becoming a new contributor. As always thanks for all your prayers for my ministry and those around the world doing the same!

Tax deductible contributions can be sent to the Plant City SDA Church, P.O. Box 5379 Plant City FL 33653.