Does the past ever haunt you? Do you ever wish you could go back and do something differently? Every baseball season I am haunted by something that I did, or actually didn’t do when I was 12. Many springs ago, I was a Little League baseball player. It was my first year of organized baseball, while my peers had been playing for years. I had never played fastball before, and those 11 and 12-year-old pitchers threw fastballs by me so fast, that, to me, I might as well have been facing Nolan Ryan! While I did manage to get on base a few times by walking, my career hit total equals 1.
Eventually I made it to third base, and what happens next, or didn’t happen, is what has haunted me ever since. While I was on third base, the batter squared to bunt. The infield came way in towards home, allowing me to take a gigantic lead off of third base. The pitch landed in the catcher’s mitt. The catcher slowly and carelessly tossed the ball back to the pitcher. That is when I thought, hey, I have such a huge lead off third base already, and the catcher is throwing the ball back to the pitcher so slowly, that if I break for home as soon as the catcher releases the ball, I can steal home before the pitcher throws it back! I waited for my chance. Sure enough the next pitch lands in the catcher’s mitt and the catcher repeats his same slow, careless toss back to the pitcher. However I did not break for home. Instead I thought, wait a minute. The coach is not telling me to run, and if I do get out I will look like an idiot in front of everyone. So I never tried to steal home plate. I was afraid to fail, so I never tried. Now, whenever I see Carl Crawford or B.J. Upton steal home plate, I think to myself, I could have done that too if I had just tried. Looking back now, I am sure I could have made it easily. Only my fear of failure kept me back.
I learned a lesson from standing on third base on that spring afternoon so long ago. Go ahead and try! Even if you don’t make it, at least you will know, instead of wondering about it for the rest of your life, like I have. Many people are afraid to knock on a door to tell somebody about Jesus.
When I was 15 years old, I learned my lesson from when I was 12, and I went door to door in my neighborhood, asking people if they wanted to study the Bible. Many said “no.” At least now I knew, instead of wondering if they did for the rest of my life. One family said “yes” and later accepted my invitation to come with my family to church! Many people tell me they are afraid to give a Bible study to a friend, because they may not be able to answer a question. I tell them, just do what I do. Say, “I don’t know.” The people won’t kill you for not knowing, and you can research it later, and come back with the answer.
A story infinitely sadder than my baseball story happened while I was a Bible worker in West Texas. An elderly married couple in my church told me that another husband and wife, their friends for many decades, had both died. They sadly told me they had never tried to share Jesus with them because they were afraid they would lose their friendship if they saw how “religious” they were! They were more afraid of losing a friend in this life, than they were of losing them eternally.
Friends, don’t be afraid of sharing Jesus. Like all things, you will meet with failure but also much success. Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:14, that the gospel will be preached in all the world before He returns. Every time we invite someone to Jesus, regardless if they accept or reject the invitation, it is still one invitation, one decision closer to Jesus returning. Let’s remember too, that if someone rejects us, it is okay. We are an opportunity, but not their only opportunity. Go ahead and try. That is better than spending the rest of your life wondering what might have been.
When Michael Jordan, a famous basketball player tried to play baseball with the Chicago White Sox, the world laughed at him. He did not make it, but his words have always stayed with me. “I am not afraid of failing. I am afraid of not trying.” If that is true in sports, it is infinitely more true in evangelism! Don’t let the past haunt you. Go ahead and try!
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
Several years ago, a teenage girl who had several tragedies in her immediate family, started visiting our church with her parents. She was still trying to figure out who God was and who she was. Other kids started making remarks about her blue hair and strange wardrobe, so she declared she was not coming back to church. She went to the atrium, where she sat on a bench to sulk. Soon an elderly traditional and conservative elder came and sat beside her. Now you wouldn’t think an old man in a traditionally stuffy suit would have a chance to reach the heart of a teenage girl with blue hair, now would you? But this old man was from Vietnam and came to the United States as a teenage boy. He too was made fun of because of his cultural differences and even because of his religion. He explained to this young girl that he did not let people making fun of him stop him from coming to church, and told her not to let people making fun of her stop her either. So on that bench you had an elderly Vietnamese man in a stuffy grey suit, sitting next to an American teenage girl with blue hair as they talked about all the things they had in common, and thus a friendship was forged.
Image © Review & Herald Publishing from GoodSalt.com
Years later when the elderly man died, at the funeral the mother shared with me how much he meant to her daughter. Even though her daughter was all grown now and living in a different area she would still mention his name affectionately. He was her forever friend who helped her find God as her Forever Friend. The best way to make a forever friend for God is to be a forever friend. We show people how God loves them by the way that we love them.
Unfortunately there have been missed opportunities in the church to make or be a forever friend.
Years before ever becoming, or even thinking about becoming a Bible Worker myself, I found myself on a church softball team, captained by the new local Bible Worker. I failed to eat breakfast before running off to play. Not too bright. In the middle of the game, I began to get dizzy and lightheaded. My team was up to bat when I pretty much blacked out. I was sitting right next to the Bible Worker and told him, as the batter was striking out, “I am blacking out. I can’t even see anything right now.” His reply? He threw my mitt in my lap and said, “That’s the third out. Let’s go take the field!” Not exactly the reply I was expecting. Needless to say, I did not go out onto the field. I managed to get myself to a nearby building where I got a drink and lay down until my sight came back.
I had heard people who had been studying with this Bible Worker say how wonderful he was. I guess already having been baptized, I was not a potential “notch on his belt,” so he was not that wonderful to me. He never even missed me when I failed to come back to the game. I never heard from him again. At this point in my life, I was not really that familiar with the Bible Worker concept. My church never had one before. Therefore I had never really considered becoming one, but on my way home that day, I remember thinking to myself, that if I ever did become a Bible Worker, I would not be like that one! I also told myself that if I genuinely care about people who are about to be baptized, then I would genuinely care about people who have already been or will never be baptized too. So, years later when I became a Bible Worker, I told myself that, as well as being theologically sound, I also want to be relationally sound. I decided to be a genuine caring friend, as well as someone who taught theology.
I was studying with a man, in the first district I had been assigned as a Bible Worker, when he showed up to church with his 14-year-old step-daughter. She had never been to any church before. I went up to the parents of teenage girls in the church, and told them, a young girl is here who has never been to church before. Please have your daughters greet her and befriend her. One parent, who had two teen girls, shrugged her shoulders and said, “My daughters already have friends.” I could not believe what I heard. The other girls did not befriend her. Her step-father eventually went to another nearby Adventist church where he got baptized. I do not know the fate of his step-daughter.
Later in another district, I was studying with a war veteran who needed a ride to the veteran’s hospital one day. Wanting to connect him with members of my church, I called several retired members and asked them to give this worthy veteran a ride. One person told me they were unavailable because, “That’s the day I water my garden.” And that was the most legitimate excuse! Not only did this veteran never come to my church, but that was also the end of our Bible studies. Do you blame him?
After studying a few months with a young married couple, they became baptized and joined my church of mostly older people. One of the older elders never reached out to this young couple, until finally he heard them say something in Sabbath School that was not theologically correct, so he took it upon himself to call them later in the day, to “reach out” and tell them that they were wrong! That was the only contact he had with them, and it was not long before they were out of the church. How long would you stay in a church whose elder only called you to tell you that you were wrong?
In Texas I studied with a teenage boy, that for sake of anonymity, I will call Scott. He found a ride to church every Sabbath, as no one else in his family came to church. Shortly after his baptism he moved to Tampa Florida. We had a going-away party for him, and I wrote in a card, “Bible Workers come and go, but friends are forever.” I did not think that much about it. Eight years later I also happened to move to Tampa Florida. One day, shortly after moving to Tampa, I ran across his name in my address book, and the address “Tampa Florida” jumped out at me. I had forgotten this was exactly where he moved to years earlier. I called the number, to find out that he was in jail. I arranged a visit. Not exactly the reunion I had planned with a former Bible student, huh? We were glad to see each other and had a lot to talk about since our last visit. He explained to me what had been going on with him lately and how ended up in jail. Towards the end of our visit, he told me, “When I moved away, you wrote in my card, Bible Workers come and go but friends are forever. I never forgot what you wrote, and now that you have come to see me after all those years, even though I am in jail, shows me you meant what you said.” I realized even more, that being relational is just as important as being theologically sound. I realized too, that even though he had been baptized eight years ago, my work with him was not through. Scott needed a forever friend. I am glad God moved me across the country to where I could reach out to him.
As a Bible Worker my goal goes way beyond seeing people get baptized. My goal is to see them in heaven. That means being a forever friend to those who are preparing for baptism, and to those who have already been baptized, as well as to those who I may never see get baptized. Some people think they can’t do Bible work and give Bible studies. Believe me, if I can, anybody can. Even so, what a young teenage girl needed in a small church long ago, was not a Bible Worker but a friend. A veteran just needed a ride to the hospital. A young couple needed someone from the church, to call them just to say hello, instead of just to tell them they were wrong. A young man sitting in jail needed to know someone still cared, even though he was less than perfect.
Bible workers or pastors may get people baptized, but in order to see them all the way into the Kingdom, it takes more than a Bible Worker. It takes a forever friend. Will you be that forever friend?
Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever. Daniel 12:3 NLT
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
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.
My 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
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.
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.
There are plenty of Bible Workers to support, so why should someone support my Bible Worker ministry, especially if I’m not even in your area? First of all, God may not be asking you to support my ministry. He may be asking you to support workers in your own area. There are many Bible Workers worthy of your support. At the same time God may also be asking you to support ministries outside of you area, including mine. Here are some things to prayerfully consider, if you are asking yourself why you should support my ministry while I am far away.
Here is a letter Steven Vargas sent me from Chile. He shares how my ministry has helped him in soul winning while thousands of miles away.
My name is Steven Vargas, and I am a former student of Tampa Adventist Academy, where Pastor Earnhardt was my Bible teacher. In his classes, he would always give the class Bible [chain referenced] studies to complete. Each week a different topic for example, Baptism, The Second Coming, The Sabbath, etc. Later that year I moved to Chile, where I was not able to attend a Christian school. It was difficult to adapt to my new school, but with God’s help I was able to do it. One day, a friend came up to me and asked, “Why are you so different?” I answered and said, “I’m a Seventh Day Adventist…”.Later that week, my friend asked why I kept the Sabbath and as soon as I heard that question, I remembered the Bible studies I used to complete in class. I asked Pr. Earnhardt where I could find them, and he lead me to his website, where I was able to find the bible studies. I asked if he had them in Spanish, and turns out he did. I used this to my advantage, and I was able to spread the word of God thanks to Pr. Earnhardt’s website. Sadly, my friend changed schools, but I will never forget the look in his eyes when I was giving him the bible studies. I hope to see him in heaven when God comes to take us. I give thanks to God for letting me preach His word through the bible studies of Pr. Earnhardt, and I hope to gain more souls for God thanks to them in the near future. -Steven Vargas, High School Student, Chile
Possibly God is asking you to support this Bible Worker ministry because it is literally reaching around the world! As well as giving studies in the Tampa Bay area, I have also provided seminars in person as far away as Peru and Connecticut. I also mentor other Bible Workers in other areas, and I thank you for supporting them as well. The In Light of the Cross website gets hits from over 175 countries every year. I also write and moderate for the Sabbath School Net, which reaches many more thousands of souls around the globe.
Also please consider that the Plant City and Tampa Bay area is a mission field like any other, with souls needing to hear the gospel.
If you have prayed and felt God is leading you to financially support my Bible Worker ministry monthly or with a one time contribution, your support will be gladly appreciated! You may send your tax deductible contribution to the Plant City Seventh-day Adventist Church, P.O. Box 5379 Plant City, FL 33563. Please mark your check, “Bible Worker.”
Thank you to all my contributors past, present and future!
PS We are still working on online giving thank you for your patience. Meanwhile a few are giving from their online banking.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
As a child on family vacations, I loved standing on the ocean’s shore, imagining what lay on the other side. I would watch the waves roll in from who knows how far away. I would see ships sailing for far-away lands that I could only dream about.
After I grew up and became very busy, I was looking at a picture of the ocean and sighed, realizing that I was much too poor and busy to ever see the ocean again. For a while, I was so busy working two jobs that I never even got to enjoy a sunset. I could not see out of the busy rut I was in. Finally one weekend, while living in North Texas, I sneaked down to Galveston for a weekend to see the ocean. It had literally been decades since I had seen the Gulf or ocean, and, for all I knew, it would be the last time. Little did I know, that the next year, God would be moving me to the Gulf coast of Florida!
I now have thousands of ocean sunset pictures that I thought I would never see again!
Have you ever lost something you thought was gone forever, only to find it again?
One of the most romantic things I ever saw my father do for my mother was when she accidentally dropped a beautiful precious collectible plate that shattered into hundreds of pieces. My mother was crying, she was so heartbroken. Dad swept up the hundreds of pieces and took the dustpan into the garage, but he did not throw them into the waste basket. He placed them on his work bench, and over the next few nights carefully glued all the pieces back together. He did a great job! When my dad presented the plate to her, all put back together again, my mother cried tears of joy!
When Adam sinned he lost his precious home. With bitter regret Adam had traded paradise for tears of sorrow. Instead of leisurely enjoying the fruit of the garden, with sweat he worked the cursed ground for his food. As sad as this story is, it has a happy ending!
In another garden, Jesus, the Second Adam, sweat drops of blood as He clung to the cursed ground. Jesus died on a tree if you will, so Adam could have the tree of life back again! Now that I have access to the ocean again, I treasure every moment I am on the beach. I am glad I have the memory of my dad making my mother so happy when he presented her with the once-shattered plate he made whole. But what really gives me Godbumps is realizing one day we will see this:
Transported with joy, he [Adam] beholds the trees that were once his delight–the very trees whose fruit he himself had gathered in the days of his innocence and joy. He sees the vines that his own hands have trained, the very flowers that he once loved to care for. His mind grasps the reality of the scene; he comprehends that this is indeed Eden restored, more lovely now than when he was banished from it. The Saviour leads him to the tree of life and plucks the glorious fruit and bids him eat. He looks about him and beholds a multitude of his family redeemed, standing in the Paradise of God. Then he casts his glittering crown at the feet of Jesus and, falling upon His breast, embraces the Redeemer. He touches the golden harp, and the vaults of heaven echo the triumphant song, “Worthy, worthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and lives again!” The family of Adam take up the strain and cast their crowns at the Saviour’s feet as they bow before Him in adoration. -Ellen White, Adventist Home, Page 541
Thanks to Jesus, our Second Adam, all the damage the first Adam caused has been totally undone! Adam’s dream, once shattered, will be handed back to him whole. Eden will be restored more lovely than it even was before!
You may study this week’s Sabbath School Lesson here.
I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
A while back a lady went into the hospital for a few days. While she was there, a local elder, deacon and an elderly lady came to visit her. However she was released from the hospital before the Senior or associate pastors of the church could come see her. After her release, she was commenting to me that none of the pastors came to see her in the hospital. I corrected her, and told her that three pastors came to see her. According to 1 peter 2:9 the local elder, deacon and elderly lady are all pastors.
The New Testament church was an active church with everyone pastoring and evangelizing. In Acts 8, Philip, a deacon is evangelizing and baptizing. In Acts 7 you have Stephen who was another deacon. While Stephen was “just” a deacon he was stoned to death, and it wasn’t for taking up the offering or adjusting the Sabbath School classroom thermostat. No, he was stoned to death for preaching the gospel! Wait a minute. I thought preaching was the pastor’s job? Not in the New Testament church! In the New Testament church all the members were ministering and evangelizing.
In the dark ages a wide separation was made between the clergy and the laity but that was not the Biblical design. As we progress out of the dark ages the gap between clergy and laity must be narrowed, in order to get back to being a remnant of the New Testament model church.
Around 20 years ago I moved to Texas to be a Bible Worker. The church had thousands of Bible study lead cards that needed to be mailed out. The pastor asked a lady in our church if she could take them to the post office to be mailed. She responded, “Well if I do that then what is William going to do?” She felt since I was the paid Bible Worker that I should be doing all the work, and should mail them myself. Wrong! Fact is, if I am doing all the work then I am not doing my job. My job, along with the pastor’s job is to equip and empower the laity to do evangelism. If I go by myself to give a Bible study then shame on me! I should always bring another church member so they can be learning how to give Bible studies and also to bond with the student and be another link to the church family. Currently I have about 8 adults in my Bible marking class where I am teaching them how to chain reference their Bibles and give studies and get decisions for Christ. I have also been teaching a Bible marking class at Tampa Adventist Academy, where young people are learning how to share Jesus. At the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church our young people and lay members have been empowered to speak at our evangelism meetings, and to lead out in seminars. We also have several growth group Bible studies and the associate pastor and I are training and mentoring lay members to take over and lead out in these groups. We have also been taking members on door to door evangelism.
If a pastor or Bible Worker thinks of themselves as the ones who are to do all of the preaching and evangelizing then they are not Biblical but are stuck in the dark ages. Very few pastors today still want to create a huge gap between pastors and laity, while more and more pastors are like Moses, when he said, “would God that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!” Numbers 11:29 With this spirit upon our paid clergy the gospel can spread like wildfire and turn the world upside down, just like it did in the book of Acts when every member was an evangelist! Please keep in mind that if the pastor or Bible Worker are doing all of the preaching and teaching then they are not doing their job. You know the pastor and Bible worker are doing their jobs when they call you and give you work to do!
As I am making my current journey through the New Testament, when I came to John 4, I remembered something I had written about seven years ago, right before I moved to Florida. One of the things I love about writing, is taking a look back every now and then at how I thought years ago. In the article below I am writing about my attitude about moving to Florida. After being here now for seven years, I find it interesting that I seemed to have a self-fulfilling prophecy about making friends here. Glad everything happened even better than I ever dreamed. Below is my article, exactly how I wrote it seven years ago.
God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth. John 4:24
With the possibility now, of me moving to Florida where I will be hundreds of miles from any of my friends, it has me thinking a lot lately about my friends and what their friendships mean to me. In light of this, I found something in the above verse that is very comforting to me. I am sure that you have friends that no matter how long you are apart form them, once you get together, your friendship resumes right where it left off as though you had never been apart. This may sound weird, but maybe in one dimension you never were apart! We have physical dimensions such as time and space, but have you ever thought that there is another dimension we can be in that is not bound by time or space? To me, that dimension is the Holy Spirit. I believe why many of our Christian friendships take up right where they left off even after long periods of no physical contact is because we have actually been together the whole time “in the Spirit!” Why do those friendships take up right where they left off as though no time has passed by? Because we are in the great “ I AM”. With God thee is no time. He is in one eternal now. He is not the “I WAS” or “ I WILL BE”, He is the I AM. Same with space, The Holy Spirit is everywhere. The Holy Spirit is with our Christian friends, so if we are in the Spirit and our friends are in the Spirit then we are together.
As a matter of fact, all the love we receive from our friends actually comes from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if I leave my friends in Texas and go to Florida and make new friends there, I am still receiving the exact same love I had in Texas. Love does not come form human beings. We can not generate love; all we can do is let the Holy Spirit’s love flow through us. Therefore, the love I receive from people half way across the world is the same exact love I receive from the people I live with right here. It all comes form God. So as long as you have God’s love you can’t miss a friends love, because the only love they gave you came from God and He is still with you!
I am so thankful for all my friends whom I can share God’s love with! Thank you for being a part of my life. I hope God has been able to love you through me as we worship Him in Spirit.
Dear Church Family,
I wanted to take a moment and share with you some of the exciting things the Tampa First Evangelism team (Members listed at bottom of this page) has planned for 2010!
- By God’s grace we want to have a training school right here at the church to teach people how to win souls to Christ through various soul saving methods such as Bible Studies, seminars, small groups, door to door evangelism etc. Our goal is for every member to give at least one Bible study in 2010.
- We want to hold several off site seminars and evangelism meetings, possibly in schools, libraries, etc. They will be taught by pastors, Bible Workers as well as our church lay family.
- We will be working with the church board in finding a couple Sabbaths that we can devote to various outreach activities in the community which will involve the entire church in participation according to each person’s gifts and preferences. These activities may include literature distribution, door to door surveys and Bible studies, giving bottled water to people in the parks and giving them invitations to church, Prayer warriors while everyone is out doing their activities, etc.
- We will be helping families organize and participate in small study groups. Each group may have a different theme (For example I have a small golf group) but each will be very intentional in leading people to Jesus.
- We want to team with other churches to share Jesus with the community on a much larger scale than we ever have before.
- Several on our evangelism team will be going door to door and inviting others as well. We want to once again team with other churches to see what areas are being covered and which are being neglected.
These are just a few of our goals. Please pray for our evangelism team but also know that you are not only welcomed but encouraged to be a part of our soul winning efforts. Please also know that whenever you see it posted that the Evangelism Team is having a planning meeting that our meetings are opened and all are welcomed to attend!
Some churches do evangelism. God wants Tampa First to be an evangelistic movement that also does church!
May God richly bless your Christmas and New Years, and I pray He gives you a burden to join us on all our evangelistic efforts in 2010.
Your Christian Servant,
2010-2012 Tampa First SDA Church Evangelism Team:
Leader: William Earnhardt
Dana Schnoor Sondra Shields
Paulette Cooper Harrison Inniss
Geraldye St. Jean Guether St. Jean
Fitzgerald Peterkin Enid Peterkin