The Theme of my Ministry

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

One Sabbath afternoon at a luncheon, I met a former Bible Worker, who asked me what the theme of my ministry was. I told him the cross of Christ. He sneered and told me my theme was rather cliche. He very proudly went on to tell me that his theme was the health message.

I wonder how many people have thought Paul’s ministry was cliche?

For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:2 NLT

When I first became a literature evangelist many years ago, I was sitting in the conference president’s office along with a few other L.E.s talking about which book we should promote. A few of them said The Great Controversy. It tells us all about the Sabbath and the mark of the beast. I then suggested The Desire of Ages.  I explained why. Unless people are in love with Jesus, it won’t do any good to warn them about last day events. The Desire of Ages helps us fall in love with Jesus. Granted there is plenty of Jesus in the Great Controversy as well. It is also a Christ-centered book. However, warning about the end time events will not do any good unless people’s hearts are broken and they have fallen in love with Jesus.

If telling people that Jesus loved them enough to say goodbye to life forever in order to save them, does not make then want to see Jesus then warning them about last-day events will not do any good.

A while back a man joined our church who just wanted to talk about last-day conspiracy theories. One time when he was having such a discussion, I tried to get him to talk about his experience with Jesus and how his relationship with Jesus has changed his life. He could not do it. He could talk about Sunday laws and theories of how the mark of the beast would be distributed, but he could not talk about how Jesus had changed his life.

All are tested in different ways. On September 11, 2001, when several terrorists were willing to die if they could just kill others too, God magnified himself in the many rescue workers who were also willing to die if they could just save someone else!

Different people are tested in different ways. The rescue workers on 9-11 were not given the Sabbath test. But some followed Jesus by denying themselves and dying just like He did. Some of us will be tested with the Sabbath test one day. Whatever test we meet, we will be able to pass with flying colors if we fall in love with Jesus and make Him and Him crucified the theme of our lives.

You may study this week’s SS Lesson here.

I Am Not Afraid

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

13 years later, I still can not believe some people took some airplanes and did what they did. They day after 9-11 I wrote this poem and emailed it to some friends. Somehow a Christian radio station in Dallas Texas got a hold of it and read it on the air. In memory of 9-11 I am sharing it again here.

On 9-11-01 Satan manifested himself in the terrorists who were glad to die if they could destroy someone else. On that same day God was manifested in the rescue workers, who were glad to die if they could just save someone else.

               I Am Not Afraid

I am not afraid of bigotry and hate in the terrorists’ hearts.

I am afraid of the bigotry and hate in MY heart.

I am not afraid to die as a Christian in a terrorist attack.

I am afraid to live without Jesus even in times of peace.

I am not afraid to die at the hand of a terrorist tomorrow, having shared God’s love with someone today.

I am afraid to live to be a hundred and ten, never having shared God’s love.

I am not afraid to walk through the valley of death with my Jesus.

I am afraid to walk over the highest mountain without Jesus.

I am not afraid of my loved ones dying in an explosion tomorrow.

I am afraid of my loved ones living without Jesus.

I am not afraid of a terrorist taking my life away from me.

I am afraid of me taking my life away from Jesus.

I am not afraid of terrorists exhibiting hatred.

I am afraid of Christians not exhibiting love.

1 John 4:4   Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

1 John 4:18 -21 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

John 16:33   These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Psalms 91:5 tells us if we love God we do not need to fear terror. There were some that day who died, knowing they were saved and would see Jesus. For these precious souls the would be terrorists totally failed to terrorize.

The Resurrection and the Presence of God

Shields Home 019

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Several years ago I was flying from Fort Worth Texas to g home to Tulsa Oklahoma for the Thanksgiving holiday. It was a short flight and I was on what was called a commuter plane. Upon landing, instead of pulling up  to the terminal like the big jets, we were let out on the tarmac. I went up the stairs into the terminal and saw my family staring out the window looking for my plane, which they thought would pull all the way up to the terminal. This was well before 9-11 when family and friends could greet you right at the gate.

Since they were still looking out the window I and did not know I was already there I decided to play a joke on them. I found a newspaper and went to sit down beside them. I listened as mom said, “Is that William’s plane landing now?” Dad replied, “No. That is an American Airlines plane. He is coming in on Delta.” My two year old niece, Hannah was the first to notice me. She was very intelligent, even back then, because instead of saying anything, she just smiled at me with a huge smile, and twinkle in her little eyes as though she understood the joke and was playing along too. She knew I was near, though the grown-ups were clueless of my presence.

Finally I realized the rest of my family was not as adept as my two-year old niece, so I finally put my paper down and turned to my sister sitting next to me. “Ma’am, will you please tell me what time it is?” She glanced at her watch and then glanced back at me in shock. “He’s here!” she exclaimed. The whole family was shocked to find that I was sitting with them while they were still expecting me to come. The other day I mentioned this to my mother who remembered how startling it was to find I was with them while they thought I was far off.

For years now I have been using this experience as an illustration when preaching about the resurrection of Jesus. Mary stood at the tomb and in her grief was unaware of Jesus’ presence.

 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”

She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

 “Mary!” Jesus said.

She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”). John 20:15-16 NLT

In her grief, Mary did not recognize the presence of Jesus, but He was still there just the same. On that beautiful day Mary was not the only person mistaking His presence and identity. Later in the same day Jesus is walking down a road that led to Emmaus. Luke fills us in.

As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them.  But God kept them from recognizing him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They stopped short, sadness written across their faces.  Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”

“What things?” Jesus asked.

“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people.  But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him.  We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.

“Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report.  They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”

 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:13-27

For years I have been using this passage when studying about the Scriptures, on how Jesus could have just opened their eyes and showed them his nail sacred hands and said, “Look it’s me!” But He did not do this. Instead of going by sight, He wanted them going by the Scriptures. So instead of opening their physical eyes it was their spiritual eyes, their hearts that He opened. Seeing will never become believing, until you can finally see it with your heart and not just your eyes. So today, Jesus does not want us putting our faith in feelings or in signs and wonders. He wants us to put our faith in the Scriptures.

I realized last Sabbath though, that while having this understanding of the above passage, there was more. While listening to our associate pastor, Claudette Aleman, speak last Sabbath she read,

“As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them.  But God kept them from recognizing him.”

Then she asked the question, “Have you ever gone through a hard time in your life, only to find that Jesus was with you and you did not know it?”

Again I was reminded, just like Mary, these two men were grieving, and Jesus came near and joined them, but they did not perceive that it was Jesus who was with them.

Friend, you may be going through a hard time right now and wonder where God is. I promise you He is with you. I know this because the Scriptures, which Jesus saw as more valid than sight say so.

Even when I walk   through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Psalms 23:4 NLT

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. Isaiah 43:2

And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20 NLT

For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”Hebrews 13:5 NLT

Today we have Facebook, text messaging and even Skype to keep us close to each other, but even better than that Paul tells us in Acts 17:27,

“He [God] is not far from any one of us.”

Today when I go through a dark valley and don’t necessarily feel God’s presence, I just open the eyes of my heart, my childlike heart, and smile at God with a twinkle in the eyes of my childlike faith. He smiles back at me. The grown- up skeptics may be clueless of His presence. My little niece was not imagining things when she saw me, though no one else could. I know my childlike heart is not imagining things when it sees God. We smile at each other. I know He is near.