Lets Keep Studying Together

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

“I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:19-20 NLT

When Jesus said He would be where just two or three are gathered together, He was not limiting that to a physical location. The context Jesus is talking about is when two or three are in spiritual agreement He is with them.  While talking to the woman at the well, Jesus pointed out that the true place of worship is not so much about a particular physical location of worship but rather worshiping in the right Spirit. I like to think of the Spirit as a dimension all its own. I have friends all over the world but we are always together in the same place in the Spirit. I believe that’s why even if we go for a while without getting to visit that once we finally do its like we were never apart. Because we were together in the Spirit the entire time and spiritually we were never apart.

Remember, churches are not being closed. Buildings are being closed. We are the church. We are to remain open. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus did not send His church into a building. He sent them to all the ends of the earth to make disciples. Through technology and the Holy Spirit we can continue making disciples for Jesus around the world.

This is important  now because with the coronavirus Sabbath School classes are not able to meet physically. Millions are studying in their own homes. Some are still meeting in small groups but depending on where you are that could still be dangerous. Doctors are telling us the best way to stop the virus from spreading is to halt all physical social interaction. The good news is we have a safe place to study together without fearing the virus, which is in the Spirit. I have spoken with a lot of people over the phone this week, and some have told me that they are just fine on Sabbath because they have Hope Sabbath School or 3ABN. Those are great and so is SSNET. But we still need interaction. At least on SSNET we can interact by commenting on the bog, but as far as 3ABN and Hope Sabbath School go, we need more than online sermons and Sabbath School classes. We need interaction. This is why last Sabbath many church members called their brothers and sisters on the phone or even on video chats to study together and just as importantly pray together. Paul wrote in Hebrews 10:25 about always continuing to meet together. I believe today Paul would tell us  in this current situation to keep interacting together for fellowship and encouragement. I don’t want to put words in Paul’s mouth but I don’t think just watching online sermons or online Sabbath Schools accomplishes what Paul had in mind. I think to accomplish the spirit and purpose of Hebrews 10:25 we need to interact instead of just watching or listening to someone else do all the talking.

I hope during this time of physical social isolation people will take advantage of SSNET and comment. Many of you read the daily lesson study blogs but not as many comment and interact. We invite your interaction.  While 3ABN and Hope Sabbath School are great to watch online we all need to do more than watch. We need to interact. When it comes to the resources we have today of telephone and online video chats we can interact with people pretty much any time and anywhere. Let’s continue reaching out to the elderly, the lonely, as well as our current Sabbath School class members.

Don’t just watch. Fellowship. Interact. Let’s continue studying together. 

Eva and Ramiro’s Baptism Pics

This morning at the Tampa First-Seventh-day Adventist Church, we celebrated the baptisms of Eva who was renewing her faith with a new beginning by baptism, and Ramiro who was baptized for the first time.

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Several years ago, I studied with Tony (Right) and he got baptized. Tony also found Merlyn, an elderly spirit filled man in our church, to be his mentor. Merlyn and Tony both began giving Bible studies together, and even though Merlyn has had to slow down recently because of his health, (Merlyn has been giving Bible studies well up into his 90’s!)  Tony has kept right on going. Tony has been studying with several people lately who he meets in various places. One of those is Ramiro (Center) who was baptized today! Tony studied with him for quite a while, and then he felt he was ready we all studied together. As I went over our fundamental beliefs it did not take long for me to see that Ramiro had been a very diligent Bible student and Tony had done a good job of teaching him. There was not much work, if any, left for me to do and Ramiro was cleared for baptism.

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Merlyn was unable to be at the baptism due to his health, even though he is doing much better. Merlyn has been giving Bible studies for decades, and as I said earlier even recently while in his 90s. I hope I am still giving Bible studies and teaching as well as he does, when I am his age, if we are not already in heaven by then.

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Eva shared in her testimony:

“I praise our God and  Father and  His Son  Jesus Christ and their Holy Spirit for their grace and mercy towards me and you.I want to testify of God’s wonderful love and patience. I desire to renew my baptismal vows, I was first baptized when I was 19 years old. I have failed my God in many ways and have broken His tender heart many times. Today I want to testify before heaven and earth that I love my God and your God,  in 1 John 4:4 it is written” Greater is He that is in me, then he that is in the world.”

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Ramiro shared in his testimony that at age 55 he is being born again, and that by being baptized he wants to have all the power of the Holy Spirit to live a new life, walking with Jesus and obeying all of His laws of love.

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As Eva entered the water we played upon her request the song “Take me to the Waters.” It is a beautiful song setting the tone for a meaningful baptism.

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Another meaningful song that was shared was “In the Sanctuary.”  A very powerful song for a meaningful occasion.

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Please don’t let the sun go down on your life before giving your heart to the One who gave His heart on the cross for you! Why not make that decision today to give your heart to Jesus? I would love to talk to you about this. You can contact me at LayPastor@TampaAdventist.net . To find a Bible teaching church in your corner of the world you can find one here. 

Glimpses of Our God; The Promise of Prayer

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.  Isaiah 65:24

In the summer of 1991 I was enjoying my first full year of Literature Evangelism, as I was selling books all over Oklahoma and even the surrounding states. So far I was leading my conference in sales and hours worked. However, around Oklahoma camp meeting time I hit a slump. I mean a real slump. Three weeks without a single sale! Suddenly my perspective changed. I started doubting my calling. Earlier, I had read in Colporter Ministry that this work was second to none.

Not wanting to doubt the spirit of prophecy I began to rationalize. Maybe it was a great work back before radio and 3ABN. It may have been out there already, but in 1991 I had yet to hear of the Internet. Still, I figured TV and radio were getting the word out now so maybe the literature work was obsolete.

I had a lead card for a Baptist grade school near Tahlequah Oklahoma, around 50 miles from where I lived in Tulsa at the time. I set up an appointment and set out to Eastern Oklahoma. On my way I began to pray. I remember the exact words I prayed. “Lord if this is still an important work for this time please let me know.” I drove across the hills and curves of Highway 51 while my wandered off from my prayer. I arrived at the little school and met the principal in his office. He liked the books and ordered them! My first sale in 3 weeks! As I was writing up the order form, he was writing out the check. As he wrote, he paused, looked at me and said, “This is an important work you are doing.” I looked up from y order form and smiled, but it did not dawn on me that my prayer was being answered, until he paused again, and said, “And you know, especially for this time.” That’s when it dawned on me. Wow! He repeated back to me the exact same words I had prayed in my mind alone in my car!

I drove back to Tulsa  very excited, not just about a sale or even that my prayer was answered, but just the fact that I knew in my heart God heard me! He heard me and repeated back to me the very words I had prayed to Him. This is not the only time this happened. Earlier, I was praying for the Lord to work on a friends heart who stopped attending church. Every night I would pray alone in my apartment, “Lord please send you Holy Spirit to work on Jill’s heart.” After a few weeks, Jill called me out of the blue and I met her at a restaurant. During dinner Jill says, I have something to say but you may think its funny. I assured her, that  she could tell me and I would not laugh. She then told me, “I feel like the Holy Spirit has been working on my heart.” Wow! Jill was repeating back to me the exact same words of my prayer!

That was over 20 years ago, and since then God has answered even more remarkable prayers. I hope to go into those one day when the time is right. Each time, what amazes me is just the fact that I know the Creator and King of the universe is listening to my prayer! He does not merely hear me, He listens to me. Friend He does the same for you. Here is one of my favorite quotes on prayer, found on page 100 of Steps to Christ:

Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him. He who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the wants of His children. “The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” James 5:11. His heart of love is touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything that perplexes the mind. Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds up worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our peace is too small for Him to notice. There is no chapter in our experience too dark for Him to read; there is no perplexity too difficult for Him to unravel. No calamity can befall the least of His children, no anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere prayer escape the lips, of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest. “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3. The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son.

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