“If The President Does it, Then it is not Illegal.” Really?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Sunday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson states, “In some cultures, there is a tendency to distrust and challenge leadership; in others, to blindly submit to it. How has your own culture’s attitude toward authority impacted the church in your area?”

In an interview with David Frost, Richard Nixon, a former United States President, forced to resign due to a scandal, defended himself by saying, “If the President does it, then it is not illegal.” This bold statement shocked David Frost, and every other competent thinker! I believe, in the United States, people really started to question their leaders after Nixon’s downfall.

I believe we keep a healthy balance of respect for leadership, without blind submission, when we ask for accountability and checks and balances. In the United States we have a constitution the President must hold to. The Constitution also declares who ultimately has the authority. It reads, “We the people.” Not “me the president” or “me Thomas Jefferson, or James Madison, or Ronald Regan or Barak Obama.” The power and authority of the constitution comes from ‘The People!” Therefore our president is not above the law.

In the church we have the Scriptures as our sole authority, and our leaders must be held accountable. Also the church as a body has authority,

”God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority.” –Last Day Events, page 56.

Just like in the United States, the President is not above the people, likewise church leaders are not above the church.

“The church is built upon Christ as its foundation; it is to obey Christ as its head. It is not to depend upon man, or be controlled by man. Many claim that a position of trust in the church gives them authority to dictate what other men shall believe and what they shall do. This claim God does not sanction. …. Upon no finite being can we depend for guidance. The Rock of faith is the living presence of Christ in the church. Upon this the weakest may depend, and those who think themselves the strongest will prove to be the weakest, unless they make Christ their efficiency. “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.” The Lord “is the Rock, His work is perfect.” “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” Jeremiah 17:5; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 2:12.- Desire of Ages, Page 414.

Many years ago, I heard the testimony of a church leader, defending himself for some shady deals, saying his boss told him to do it, therefore he had no choice but to obey his boss who had “authority.” I am sure Joab was thinking the same thing when King David told him to put Uriah on the front lines of the war. Please read what God’s messenger has to say about Joab’s rationale.

“And Joab, whose allegiance had been given to the king rather than to God, transgressed God’s law because the king commanded it.  David’s power had been given him by God, but to be exercised only in harmony with the divine law. When he commanded that which was contrary to God’s law, it became sin to obey. “The powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1), but we are not to obey them contrary to God’s law. The apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, sets forth the principle by which we should be governed. He says, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1.  –Patriarchs and Prophets, Page 719.

We need to be respectful of authority, but remember where authority ultimately comes from. And while respecting those in leadership, and even being in leadership, we must remember we are accountable to the Scriptures and God’s church, of which Christ is the Head.

I would also like to share a parting thought. In my years of Gospel Work around the country, I have met people who are afraid to speak up in board meetings or Church business meetings, because they feel they are too young or poor, and their influence would not be felt. I have also observed people abusing their age or money to hurt others. So this is what I say to all. No matter how young, old, rich or poor you are, you need to speak your mind in these meetings. And, no matter how young, old rich or poor you are, you need to be nice when you do. Everyone has a right to speak, and everyone has a responsibility to be nice when they do so.

Living Holy Single Lives

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I don’t usually make a big deal either way about being single. I don’t think of myself as a single person, I just think of myself as a person. While I have heard other single people complain about married people treating them differently, I can only count on one hand the number of married people who have treated me differently because of my single status. 98% of the people I come in contact with treat me no differently than if I was married. I don’t believe in discriminating between marital or single statuses any more than race or anything else. I simply think of myself as a person regardless of single status or race or religion, and I simply think of other people as people regardless of their statuses.

I understand that celibacy is not the norm. I also totally agree that being single does not make you more holy. (Of course being married does not make you more holy either.) Yes, the Scriptures tell us that Peter was married. However the scriptures also tell us Paul was not married at the time of his ministry and even more so Jesus was never married. While Jesus and the scriptures never forbade marriage, Jesus and Paul both have given us enough counsel to see that celibacy has many spiritual advantages. (Matthew 19:12, 1 Corinthians 7)Satan always takes things God says to extremes. For example Satan suggested to Eve that God told her she could not eat of “any” of the trees when in reality He only told her not to eat from one. While the Bible clearly suggests that it is good for some people not to marry, the Bible never forbade marriage and even warns us in 1 Timothy 4 that the antichrist would be the one who forbids marriage. Clearly extremism is to be avoided. No one has to get married and no one has to remain single. I will gladly admit that being married can and should lead one to be a better Christian, and also admit that being single is a very convenient way to be selfish. There is no one as free as a single adult. You answer to neither spouse nor parent. You just do whatever you want whenever you want. While marriage calls for self sacrifice there are many wonderful single Christians who crucify self every day while there are many married people who never think of their spouse or children. While many people say that you have to be married to understand what it takes to make a marriage work, I somewhat disagree. I do know exactly what it takes to make a marriage work and maybe that is why I have chosen to remain single to this point in my life. On the other hand you find some married people who are married only because they did not know what it took. I know of many single people who have sacrificed to care for the needs of neglected children who are not their own, even though they never made a vow to. There are many single aunts and uncles, “big brothers” and “big sisters” out there who will never get a Father’s Day or Mother’s Day card though they are quite deserving of one. There are those who believe an elder must be married to give counsel to families. While I have never been a husband or father, I have been a son, brother, uncle, nephew and grandson. So I have been in a family and I do know how families work. Also please don’t slaughter Paul’s counsel to Timothy to mean that you have to be married to be an elder. As Bible scholars clearly understand, Paul simply meant no more than one wife. Not that you must have one wife. It’s like when your child goes to the store to buy a piece of candy, and you tell him, “get one piece of candy.” You are not demanding he get a piece of candy but only one. It’s as simple as that when Paul said “one wife.” He was not demanding elders have a wife, but no more than one wife, as polygamy was the issue.  Is one’s ability to be a spiritual leader dependant upon being married, or being anointed by the Lord? I had someone tell me once that I could not be an elder because Paul says that an elder must rule well his own home. Well I do rule my own home well, by not marrying anyone who would corrupt my home. I heard someone say once that I could not be an elder because I can’t counsel with married people because I don’t know what it is like to be married. So if married elders are the only ones who can help married people then wouldn’t single elders be the only ones who could help single people? But single people don’t need or deserve elders who understand them? Only married people deserve elders who can relate to them? See how illogical we become when we slaughter Paul’s teachings?

Okay now I am going to talk about an obvious issue here- sex. Single people long for intimacy just like everyone else. However not all sex is intimacy and not all intimacy has to be sex. As a matter of fact, I read a book once about sexual purity that stated that many people will have sex to avoid intimacy! Intimacy takes place in the mind and heart, not the sex organs. I know married people who are still very lonely, and some even celibate. In the 5th volume of the Testimonies Ellen White writes of a man who had sexual issues that not even marriage could cure. Marriage is not the sole solution for intimacy. Neither is marriage necessarily the solution for sexual desires. What I long for is a woman that I can sit and talk with for hours while it only seems like a few moments. A few years ago, I lost a friend to breast cancer, who had a double mastectomy. When I started visiting her in the hospital, we quickly became friends and could talk and laugh together easily. I really enjoyed her company and while I don’t know what was going on in her mind, the day she died, she told me that she really wished we could have known each other longer here on earth. I’m not sure, but it seemed she was implying that she may have liked me for more than just a friend. If she had lived, the fact that she didn’t have a perfect body would not have gotten in the way of our relationship. She and I could talk together forever, and I loved every moment with her. Please understand that marriage does not guarantee intimacy and being celibate does not prevent it. The Bible condones marriage or celibacy. Married people can be beautiful Christians, and their marriages can be a living example of what a true self sacrificing Christian ought to be. On the other hand single people can be very devoted to their families, church families and most of all to Jesus.

I really appreciated a recent men’s ministry convention I attended. For years our church’s preaching and teaching has centered around married people and the message to single people has been, “Listen to this message – it will help you when you get married.” But this time, while they talked about married men and their ministry to their family, instead of telling us single guys that we could apply these teachings later when we get married, they taught us how to apply them now to our church family and our friends who are all around us. They emphasized that even though we are single, we make a significant impact on the lives around us today, and not just later whenever we get married. By God’s grace, we can be living single, holy lives.

To study this week’s SS lesson on Holy Living click here.

Motives

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This week’s SS lesson is on motives, and there is nothing more frustrating and isolating than having your motives misunderstood. However, it is not an isolating occurrence. It happens to everyone. It happened to David. When he saw Goliath making fun of Israel’s God, he wanted to stand up for God, but his own brother misconstrued his motives and said, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.” 1 Samuel 17:28 NIV What hurts more than strangers misjudging us is family misjudging us. Hurt for David too, I am sure.

Question is, how can we know other people’s motives when we don’t even know our own hearts?

The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?

 “I the Lord search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
according to what their deeds deserve.”  Jeremiah 17:9-10 NIV

“Humans are very seldom either totally sincere or totally hypocritical. Their moods change, their motives are mixed, and they are often themselves quite mistaken as to what their motives are.” –C.S. Lewis

I am glad David did not let his family get in his way of doing what needed to be done. Even though his motives were misconstrued he continued to do what was right, which just validated the fact even more, that he was doing right for the right reasons and not to get the praise of his family, because there was no praise from his family! Likewise when people misconstrue our motives, let that be a comfort instead of a curse. We can know that we are doing right because it is right, and not for our egos, when everyone accuses us of having bad motives, but we do the right thing anyway.

Everyone loves an inside joke. When nobody else gets the joke, but you and your friend, it makes your friendship more intimate, having something between you two that nobody else understands. When you are doing right because it is right, and nobody else understands that, just consider it an inside joke between you and Jesus, and it will make your relationship with Him just that more intimate. The two of you are the only ones who need to know your motives. Its nobody else’s business!

Ruin Satan’s Day

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Has Satan ever tried to ruin your day? Well let me tell you about when I ruined his day. Years ago, I was driving in the middle of the night across country to see my sister, and see about a job. I had just quit a job that was not working out, and had no idea what the future held. I had no job, no money no future as far as I could see, and then to make matters worse I looked in my rear view mirror and see lights flashing! Just what I needed, a speeding ticket while I was broke without a job.  I honestly had no idea I was speeding (enough to warrant a ticket), but the officer was not the least bit sympathetic.

Needles to say I was very frustrated. I was already feeling down before I got the ticket. Now I was in despair and gloom, as I asked God how He was going to take care of this ticket for me, since He knew I had no money when He allowed this to happen. ( Never mind the fact that it was my foot and not His on the gas pedal!)

As I was complaining to God about the situation He had just placed me in ( Never my fault you know) and asking Him in despair and not faith  how in the world He was going to provide the money for  the ticket, I suddenly realized the obvious. God does not have to provide for this ticket.  God does not have to do anything for me! God does not owe me anything!  Then it hit me what I was doing. After creating me and dying for me, I was withholding my praise from Jesus until He took care of this ticket for me. All at once it dawned on me, if God never provided the money for this ticket, and stopped giving me any more blessings from this day forward, He still has already given me way more than I deserve! As a matter of fact, Calvary alone warrants all of my thankfulness, praise and devotion, without God ever giving me anything else.

There in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, I changed my attitude from gloom and despair to joy and praise. I decided not to ask God to help me pay for the ticket, but instead just thank Him and praise Him for everything else He has already done for me. I then remembered reading a passage from inspiration about how Satan cannot stand to be in our presence when we praise God,  “When the evil one begins to settle his gloom about you, sing praise to God. … strike up a song about the matchless charms of the Son of God, and I tell you, when you touch this strain, Satan will leave you. You can drive out the enemy with his gloom; . . . and you can see, oh, so much clearer, the love and compassion of your heavenly Father.  –Ellen White, Heavenly Places, Page 95.

Considering the above passage, I thought to myself, “ Hey if Satan is going to try to ruin my day by giving me this ticket (Remember it’s never my fault when I get a ticket) then I am going to ruin his day by singing praises to my God. I started singing praises at the top of my lungs. I was traveling in the middle of the night hundreds of miles away from my friends or family but I felt the presence of angels as they sang with me. I wasn’t worried about the ticket anymore. I was worried about making sure God knew I appreciated His sacrifice at Calvary. By the way, God did take care of the ticket for me. My sister also happens to be an angel. But even more impressive were the two lessons I learned that night. One: God owes me nothing and I owe Him everything. After Calvary if He never gave me another gift, I still have cause to praise him for the rest of my life! Lesson number two: If Satan tries to ruin your day, instead of murmuring and complaining, start singing songs of praise and ruin his day instead!

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

1 Thessalonians; Pleasing God

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

As I study 1 Thessalonians, I find it interesting in chapter 2:3-6, it says, “For our exhortation [was] not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:  as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God [is] witness: Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor [yet] of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.”

It is so tempting to want to please everybody. We are so afraid of offending others that we sometimes hide the truth to their own hurt. This is very selfish. We should never put our own popularity above the needs of others. Suppose a doctor told people they could eat and drink whatever they want, as much as they want, anytime they want? The doctor may be popular for a while but people would catch on that it was all lies, and that the doctor was being deceptive at the hurt of his patients. Likewise a gospel worker must preach the truth, if he or she really cares about the salvation of others, even if it means being unpopular. As a matter of fact, people actually appreciate being told the truth. In verse 15 of chapter 2, Paul, speaking of some countrymen says, “and they please not God, and are contrary to all men.” Funny how those who do not seek to please God end up not really pleasing people either. We should always speak the truth in love if we want to be pleasing to God or a help to mankind. Flattery and lies neither glorify God or help mankind.

Thos who despise the truth are not despising the gospel worker but God Himself. “He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 4:8

“Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings.  Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22