Today Tojie and Anthony’s friends, family and teachers from Tampa Adventist Academy came to the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church to support Tojie and Anthony as they both gave all themselves to Jesus in baptism, because Jesus gave all of Himself for them. You may watch the video of the baptism and service here. Baptism starts at 17:10.
Tojie is now in the 9th grade. When he was in the 5th and 6th grades he was in my Bible chain referencing class at Tampa Adventist Academy. Tojie told me a while back that he wanted to be baptized. Tojie and Anthony agreed to be baptized together so today was the day! Tojie writes,
“When I hear the word “baptism” the first thing that comes to mind is when Jesus got baptized by John the Baptist. Jesus didn’t need to be baptized. He was virtually perfect, but he did it anyway. Not because he had to, because he wanted to. Jesus wanted to set an example for us all. I think we should do the same.”
I met Anthony this year at Tampa Adventist Academy, where he is in the 8th grade. I enjoyed studying with Anthony as he is very transparent and sincere, and was not afraid to ask questions if there was something he was not sure about. His sincere quest for truth and Jesus has led Anthony to a very good understanding of the Bible and relationship with God. Anthony writes,
Baptism to me means that as I go under the water all my sins are being washed away, and as I come up out of the water I am free with a new start. I also believe I will have a stronger connection with God. I think he will have a stronger voice when He talks to me. When I read His Word I feel like things will be more visible. As I spread the gospel I will have a better understanding of God and He will reveal things to me.
After the baptism Tojie and Anthony were welcomed into the church family along with Anthony’s parents, Leighcraft and Sherri-Lee, who were already baptized. Pastor Brad Cassell went over the baptism vows and awarded them their certificates with the the Adventist fundamental beliefs.
Please don’t let another day go by before giving your heart to Jesus. After all, you are not going to be able to keep your life anyway, so why not give it to the One who can save it for all eternity? I would love to help you with this step. You may contact me at LayPastor@TampaAdventist.net
On Sabbath, October 22, 2016 Maretta rejoined the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Plant City. Earlier in the year Maretta was invited to some meetings being conducted by some young men from Southern Adventist Univeristy. Maretta attended more meetings than anyone else, and was soon coming to Sabbath School and church and helping out with our fellowship meals. She fit right in right away and has never looked back. Like most people who have fallen in love with Jesus, Maretta has been taking a friend with her regularly to Sabbath and School and church, who has also been having Bible studies with us. Maretta is glad to be back in God’s church and we are glad she is here!
Once, I was talking to a church treasure who told me every week she finds a few empty tithe envelopes turned into the offering plate. She figured it was kids turning them in. I was more skeptical and wondered if it was adults wanting to look like they were giving an offering. This was before online giving. Either way, the church has always had people pretending to be more giving than they are.
You may say, “Well that’s really none of your business William!” and you are right. It is none of my business. It is nobody’s business but God’s. In the dark ages the church would bribe, guilt and bully people into giving them their money, and there are churches and ministries that do this today. Some ministries and individuals expect certain people to help them financially and are disappointed when they don’t, forgetting that everyone has the right to do what they want with their own money. Jesus tells a parable about some people working in a vineyard that were expecting the owner to give them more than others, but the owner rightly answered,
God always provides, and even though I support God’s work faithfully, it was doing quite well before I came along and will continue to thrive after I am gone. God doesn’t need my money. I need to express my thankfulness to God for His love, and systematic giving is one way I do so. Notice what Paul says,
You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 2 Corinthians 9:6 NLT
I see three important things here.
1. You must decide how much you are going to give. This goes for tithe as well. Yes it is 10%, but some say you should tithe on your gross, others say net. Of course if you own a business you tithe on your profit, and only you would know what that is. For example, when I am studying with someone about tithes and offerings, I ask them, if your neighbor pays you $50.00 to mow their lawn, and you spent $5.00 on gas then how much did you make? You made $45.00, so you would tithe on the $45.00. (See Deuteronomy 14:22.) Bottom line is that Paul says you must decide in your heart. Be honest. I have my own convictions about tithing on the gross but I have no business telling you what to do and neither does anyone else. Paul says decide in your heart, that is, follow your conscience based on what you have read in God’s Word.
2. Paul says don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. If you don’t want to give, then don’t! God doesn’t need your money. The church and various ministries will survive and thrive without it. But your spirit will whither and die unless you give!
3. Paul says “God loves a cheerful giver” and so He wants us to give cheerfully. Giving is worship, and the Psalmist says enter His gates with praise and thanksgiving. Giving otherwise is not worship. God wants us to give where we can give cheerfully and what we can give cheerfully.
In one of my first districts as a Bible Worker I was looking for a place to live. At prayer meeting one night a family told me in front of everyone that they owned a place where I could stay for free. They said in front of everyone, that they were pleased to have me do Bible work for the church and stay at their place at no charge. When I got to where I was staying that night, they called me privately, to tell me they actually did want some rent. What they wanted the church to hear was different from what they were actually willing to do. That’s where the problem begins. In Acts 5 when Ananias and his wife sold their land, the problem was not that they did not give all the money to the church. The problems is they said they were giving all while they were not.
He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. Acts 5:2 NLT
The problem is that He was lying, saying he was giving it all while he was holding some back. Are we lying when we claim to be returning an honest tithe but are holding some back? Peter went on to say,
“Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself.The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” Acts 5:3-4 NLT1
While it was nobody’s business what Ananias did with his money he was still lying to the Holy Spirit, which was much worse than lying to people! So while we may say it is nobody’s business what we give, it is God’s business, and we need to be honest with Him. God needs us to give where and how we can cheerfully, and honestly.
By the way, notice Peter says Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, and then later said he lied to God, thus demonstrating that the Holy Spirit is God. Some say that the Spirit is just the “spirit” or attitude of Jesus, but one doesn’t lie to someone’s attitude. One lies to a person. The Holy Spirit is a Person.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
I am re-sharing this post I wrote a couple years ago, as we are currently studying about the Holy Spirit.
Several years ago one of my superiors made a false accusation against me at church. I asked a couple of friends how I should refute what was said. One friend answered wisely, “Don’t defend yourself against the accusation. Doing so will only give the accusation merit.” My friend was right. Sadly, the leader who made the accusation left the Adventist Church shortly after. As I continued my ministry I realized everyone either forgot what was said or were never paying attention in the first place. Others shrugged it off, knowing it wasn’t true. It may sound cliche, but some things become cliche because they are true. Sometimes silence is golden.
Jesus promised us,
So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you! Luke 21:14-15 NLT
In training people to give Bible studies, and how to use the Bible to answer certain questions, I occasionally find someone who is frustrated because someone debated them, and they did not know how to answer. They trusted the Holy Spirit to give them words to say, but they were speechless. Did Jesus let them down? No. Remember, not even Jesus answered every question. Sometimes, like us, He had nothing to say.
But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent.
“Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded.
But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise. Matthew 27:12-14 NLT
Could it be that Jesus knew their hearts were hardened, and that until the Holy Spirit had softened their hearts, it would do no good to say anything? When dealing with conflict, a pastor once told me, “You don’t have to swing at every pitch.” Baseball fans know what he meant. For everyone else, let’s use more cliches and just say, “Choose your battles well,” and “You don’t have to die on every hill.” Sometimes it’s okay to be silent, and give the Holy Spirit opportunity to work. Sure there are times to speak up, but if the Holy Spirit has not given us words to speak, it’s best to remain silent, lest we ruin everything with our own foolishness.
Let me leave you with a thought that a wise teacher shared with some parents, which applies to more than just parents and children.
Children may not always be listening to you, but they are always watching you!
More important than finding the right word is doing the right action. Maybe the real reason Jesus needed no words, to answer their question is because His life already answered them.
I love giving and receiving bear hugs at church. Of course I realize not everyone does, so if you’d rather have a hand shake that’s fine, and if you’d rather, a fist pump will do too, especially if you think you have a cold. If you would rather not touch at all, I am happy to just smile and wave at you. With my Christian sisters I accept sideways hugs, so as not to misconstrue the intent of the hug. Of course some of the old-fashioned elderly ladies have no concept of a sideways hug, and just give me a huge bear hug as though I was their son, and so I graciously just grin and “bear” their big bear hugs. I know their motives are pure.
Some people are afraid to hug or touch others, for fear of it being misinterpreted, and that is exactly what Satan wants! Satan knows how important appropriate hugs and touching are to one’s physical and emotional health. In Matthew 8:2-3 Jesus heals a man’s leprosy by saying “I will, be thou clean.” But He touched the man in order to heal his loneliness. Of course we should only touch people who want to be touched, and only the appropriate ways I already described.
Now in Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, and 1 Thessalonians 5:26 Paul says to greet each other with a “holy” or “sacred kiss,” depending upon the translation you use, but it all translates to a literal kiss. I am not suggesting we give literal kisses today, and would prefer a hug myself, but my point is that the Bible encourages appropriate touching beyond husband and wife. If you are not sure what appropriate touching means in your Christian culture, I strongly recommend, no, demand that you stick with just smiling and waving. Smiles cure loneliness too.
Do you know that the Holy Spirit likes to give big bear hugs too?
And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. Luke 15:20 NKJV
This is one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible. The father, who represents our heavenly Father, ran out and fell on his son’s neck. Does that mean he tripped and fell on his neck? No, of course not! It means he gave his son a big bear hug. The phrase, “fell on” is an old English term for “bear hug.”
When Peter was speaking to the Gentiles, and the Holy Spirit “fell upon” them, we can see that as the Holy Spirit giving them a big bear hug!
Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. Acts 10:44 NLT
Again we see the phrase “fell upon” which does not mean tripping and falling, but actually giving a big bear hug! The Holy Spirit loves to give bear hugs! Let that sink in. When God sends His Spirit, He’s not sending us power to do legalistic works in legalistic self righteousness. No! When God gives us the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit gives us a big bear hug, giving us all of heaven’s love so that our works and righteousness will be filled with God’s love!
I published an article a while back, about how I was praying one night that God would continue supporting my ministry so I could continue sharing His love with others. The following morning I went to my church community center, where an elderly lady from church gave me a big bear hug, and told me that God knew about all my needs and that He would continue supporting my ministry. It was as though she heard my conversation with God the night before. That is when I realized the bear hug she gave me was just as much from God, as the words of hope she shared.
Friend, as important as physical hugs are, you may have had some unfortunate experiences that prohibit you from giving hugs or receiving them. And when I say prohibit, I mean you may even be legally prohibited because of a mistake you made in the past. God wants to restore and heal you. He wants to forgive and change your life, and if you are never able to physically hug another person on earth, please know the Holy Spirit’s hugs are real. Ask for the Holy Spirit and let God give you a big bear hug!
You can study this week’s SS lesson on the Holy Spirit here.
I hadn’t been a Bible Worker very long, when I found myself talking to a man who felt he was led by the Spirit because he spoke in tongues. However, it was not the Bible version of speaking in tongues, where “every man heard in his own language.” He was speaking things no one understood. He told me about a Pentecostal prayer meeting he recently attended, where he was “filled with the spirit,” spoke in tongues and ended up at a hotel with a lady he met at the meeting! I assured Him the Holy Spirit would not have led him to do such a thing. He would not listen to me. He was on an emotional high, going strictly by feelings.
This man was not the only one who put emotions and feelings above Scripture. Not long after, I began studying with three members of a 7th day Pentecostal church in west Texas. They explained the wonderful emotions that overtake them when speaking in tongues. Interestingly enough, I preached in their church a handful of times, but they never spoke in tongues while I was there. Still, for the longest time, they put their emotions over Scripture, telling me they knew it was real because they felt it. I sure am glad Jesus did not put feelings above the Word of God, after fasting 40 days in the wilderness, when Satan questioned if He was really the Son of God. I am glad I don’t put my emotions before the Scriptures, when John tells me if I confess my sins, God is faithful to forgive me, even though I still feel terrible about what I have done. It took me several years of study and friendship before this trio were convicted and put God’s Word above their feelings, and were baptized into my local Seventh-day Adventist Church.
What I find ironic, is how many people sincerely believe that a church has to speak in tongues in order to be spirit filled, while at the same time scoffing at the Seventh-day Adventist Church for claiming to have the Spirit of Prophecy. Fact is though that the Spirit of Prophecy is an identifying mark of God’s last day church, and not speaking in tongues.
And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. Revelation 12:17 NKJV
God’s church has the Spirit of Prophecy, and the Spirit of prophecy is the gift the Bible tells us to pursue above all others, and not speaking in tongues. Why?
Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. 1 Corinthians 14:22 NKJV
According to Acts 2:6 Biblical speaking in tongues is when people hear the gospel in their own language. About ten years ago I heard a young lady preaching, who was a student at Southern Adventist university near Chattanooga Tennessee. She spoke of a mother she knew who was at a local park with her 6 year old English speaking daughter. The daughter met a little Spanish girl at the swings, and started talking to her about Jesus. The two little girls continued talking, when both of the girls’ mothers became amazed they speaking to each other, because the English girl only knew English and the Spanish girl only knew Spanish! God created a miracle so they little girl could hear about Jesus in her own language just like on the day of Pentecost. According to 1 Corinthians 14:22 speaking in tongues is for the unbeliever to hear the gospel in their own language. It is not for the believer in church, because she is there because she has already heard the gospel. That’s why she is there. So, the prophesying is to be used in the church for those who already believe. This is very important to understand. We are not supposed to use the Spirit of Prophecy to beat unbelievers over the head with- or believers for that matter. The Testimonies for the church are directed to the church, not unbelievers. It was the same in Isaiah’s day.
Tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. Isaiah 58:1 NKJV
Isaiah was given the Spirit of Prophecy to show the church its sins, not the world. The world is to be told their is a Savior, and then be instructed with the Spirit of Prophecy, not before. What that means to us today, is we need to be telling our neighbors that Jesus loves and died for them, and not that they need to stop eating cheese or drinking with their meals. But I digress.
So Biblical speaking in tongues is when someone hears the gospel in their own language. Speaking in tongues does not need to be used in the church. It needs to be used outside the church to share the gospel with unbelievers in their own language. When unbelievers accept the gospel and become believers, they are welcomed into the church, where the gift of prophecy is shared with them.
To study more in the Bible about speaking in tongues, please click here.
I have heard it said, there are many different Christian denominations because the Bible can be interpreted many different ways. This simply is not true, and an insult to God, making it look like He is not smart enough to provide a Book that can be understood, or has trouble explaining Himself. After the cross, there were many home churches and synagogues, but there were no denominations. It was all one church. This church was severely persecuted after the cross. But then something worse than persecution met the church, and that was compromise!
The great adversary now endeavored to gain by artifice what he had failed to secure by force. Persecution ceased, and in its stead were substituted the dangerous allurements of temporal prosperity and worldly honor. Idolaters were led to receive a part of the Christian faith, while they rejected other essential truths. They professed to accept Jesus as the Son of God and to believe in His death and resurrection, but they had no conviction of sin and felt no need of repentance or of a change of heart. With some concessions on their part they proposed that Christians should make concessions, that all might unite on the platform of belief in Christ. Now the church was in fearful peril. Prison, torture, fire, and sword were blessings in comparison with this. Some of the Christians stood firm, declaring that they could make no compromise. Others were in favor of yielding or modifying some features of their faith and uniting with those who had accepted a part of Christianity, urging that this might be the means of their full conversion. That was a time of deep anguish to the faithful followers of Christ. Under a cloak of pretended Christianity, Satan was insinuating himself into the church, to corrupt their faith and turn their minds from the word of truth.
Most of the Christians at last consented to lower their standard, and a union was formed between Christianity and paganism. Although the worshipers of idols professed to be converted, and united with the church, they still clung to their idolatry, only changing the objects of their worship to images of Jesus, and even of Mary and the saints. The foul leaven of idolatry, thus brought into the church, continued its baleful work. Unsound doctrines, superstitious rites, and idolatrous ceremonies were incorporated into her faith and worship. As the followers of Christ united with idolaters, the Christian religion became corrupted, and the church lost her purity and power. There were some, however, who were not misled by these delusions. They still maintained their fidelity to the Author of truth and worshiped God alone. -Ellen White, Great Controversy, Pages 42-43
The problem was not that the Bible was not plain enough to understand. The problem was that superstition and sin were welcomed into the church to make the church vogue and world friendly.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 NKJV
The problem Paul is describing to Timothy does not have anything to do with the Bible being contradictory or too hard to understand. It has to do with people not wanting to know the plain truths of the Bible and wanting to believe lies and fables instead.
This happened in the very beginning. God clearly told Adam and Eve that if they ate the forbidden fruit they would die. Satan told a simple lie, “Ye shall not surely die” and without any evidence or further ado Eve bought it because it sounded good! See Genesis 3:4. Today Satan’s lie is being taught from pulpits even though the Bible is very clear that the dead are resting in their graves right now, waiting on the resurrection, while 1 Timothy 6:16 tells us plainly that only God is immortal.
Now not everyone has chosen to believe a lie. Some have actually been deceived because of things they were sincerely taught wrong. This is the fault of those who were spreading lies intentionally, and not the fault of the Bible authors not being able to write clear enough to be understood. Of course preconceived ideas, that originated from these lies hinder our understanding of the Bible. Revelation describes a 1260 year period of spiritual darkness, when Bibles were replaced with superstition. However a reformation came, bringing the light of God’s Word. In Revelation 18:4 God calls His people out of the darkness of Babylon’s false teachings and into the light found in the Bible. So, with so many lies and preconceived ideas, how can we find Bible truth?
Lets be open minded or “fair minded” when studying Scripture, putting all preconceived ideas away, and search (searching and casually reading are two different things!) the Scriptures to see if what we are being told is true.
These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Acts 17:11 NKJV
Let’s compare Scripture with Scripture letting the Bible interpret itself so that we get the big picture. We can’t draw conclusions from one simple verse. We must compare verses to let the Bible interpret itself. For example, in Ecclesiastes 12:7 it says when man dies his spirit returns to God who gave it. That alone sounds like we go to heaven when we die, only because of our preconceived ideas we have heard from the father of lies. When we compare Scripture we read in Job 27:3 that the spirit is simply our breath. So all Ecclesiastes 12:7 is saying, is that when we die God takes away His breath. That is all. Isaiah tells us to study by comparing multiple texts.
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line,
Fortunately we don’t have to try to do all this on our own. We can pray when we study our Bibles, and if we are studying with an open mind, comparing Scripture with Scripture, the Holy Spirit will lead us into ALL truth! Thank God for the various Christian denominations, who have exposed various Satanic lies, and have helped us recover various Bible truths. As we continue studying the Bible we will be led into all of God’s truth, instead of just various truths.
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth…John 16:13 NKJV
Yes Satan’s lies, and the church replacing God’s Word with fables and superstition took the church into the dark ages. But God’s Word is victorious (Of course God always had His people in every age who went by the Bible instead of superstition) in bringing us out of the darkness and into the light of God’s love!
You may study more Bible teachings in the light of God’s love here.