Relational Life Groups Relating to Your Life

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist church.

While I was a Bible Worker in another state, I studied with a divorced man who joined my church. While there, he met with other people in our church who were divorced and hurting. He told me, “This church teaches doctrines but this church does not have any divorce recovery groups or do anything to help heal hurting people.” He was right! Our church was doctrinal but not relational. In the past, I have been a part of evangelism efforts, which were little more than just  hurling doctrines at people. It takes more than amazing facts to win people to Jesus. It also takes amazing relationships. In Jesus’ evangelism efforts He always had correct doctrines but He was also always relational. He ministered to people’s hurts and helped heal their relationships with others and with God Himself.

While I currently work with a church that has it’s theology correct, I am glad it also values the importance of relationships with God and one another. We share some amazing facts, but at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church you will also find ways to have an amazing relationship with God, your family and your community. Our associate pastor, Claudette Aleman, has some amazing life groups starting for us and our community this Wednesday August 28, and will be going on for several weeks. Please check them out and share with your friends. Hope to see you there!

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Galatians; The Two Covenants

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Please notice in the inspired quotes below that the new covenant came before the old covenant. In Genesis 3 God offered His grace, but man chose to establish his own righteousness. When Paul refers to the old covenant, he calls it old because it is useless, not because it came first. The new covenant was God’s original covenant of trusting in His grace and power instead of our own promises and strength. Please notice too, that niether covenant does away with the ten commandments. Reconciliation to the law is the goal in both covenants. In the new covenant we trust Jesus to reconcile us by His grace and power, while in the old and useless covenant we try to reconcile ourselves by our own strength and effort.

 

                    God’s Plan to Ransom Man

     And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. Genesis 17:7.   As the Bible presents two laws, one changeless and eternal, the other provisional and temporary, so there are two covenants. The covenant of grace was first made with man in Eden, when after the Fall, there was given a divine promise that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head. To all men this covenant offered pardon, and the assisting grace of God for future obedience through faith in Christ. It also promised them eternal life on condition of fidelity to God’s law. Thus the patriarchs received the hope of salvation.  This same covenant was renewed to Abraham in the promise, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” Genesis 22:18. This promise pointed to Christ. So Abraham understood it, and he trusted in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. It was this faith that was accounted unto him for righteousness. The covenant with Abraham also maintained the authority of God’s law. The Lord appeared unto Abraham, and said, “I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.” The testimony of God concerning His faithful servant was, “Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” Genesis 17:1; 26:5. . . .    The Abrahamic covenant was ratified by the blood of Christ, and it is called the “second,” or “new,” covenant, because the blood by which it was sealed was shed after the blood of the first covenant.    The covenant of grace is not a new truth, for it existed in the mind of God from all eternity. This is why it is called the everlasting covenant.   There is hope for us only as we come under the Abrahamic covenant, which is the covenant of grace by faith in Christ Jesus. The gospel preached to Abraham, through which he had hope, was the same gospel that is preached to us today. . . . Abraham looked unto Jesus, who is also the author and the finisher of our faith.                                                                           

                       Man’s Inability to Save Himself

 

     Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Galatians 2:16.        Another compact–called in Scripture the “old” covenant–was formed between God and Israel at Sinai, and was then ratified by the blood of a sacrifice. . . .         God . . . gave them [Israel] His law, with the promise of great blessings on condition of obedience: “If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then . . . ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” Exodus 19:5, 6. The people did not realize the sinfulness of their own hearts, and that without Christ it was impossible for them to keep God’s law; and they readily entered into covenant with God. Feeling that they were able to establish their own righteousness, they declared, “All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.” Exodus 24:7. They had witnessed the proclamation of the law in awful majesty, and had trembled with terror before the mount; and yet only a few weeks passed before they broke their covenant with God, and bowed down to worship a graven image. They could not hope for the favor of God through a covenant which they had broken; and now, seeing their sinfulness and their need of pardon, they were brought to feel their need of the Saviour revealed in the Abrahamic covenant, and shadowed forth in the sacrificial offerings. . . .        The terms of the “old covenant” were, Obey and live: “If a man do, he shall even live in them;” but “cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them.” Ezekiel 20:11; Leviticus 18:5; Deuteronomy 27:26. The “new covenant” was established upon “better promises”–the promise of forgiveness of sins, and of the grace of God to renew the heart, and bring it into harmony with the principles of God’s law. The only means of salvation is provided under the Abrahamic covenant. -The Faith I Live By, pages 77-78 by Ellen G. White.

Worship: “Trust Not in Deceptive Words”: The Prophets and Worship

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Sunday’s section of this week’s SS lesson, asks the question, “What do you think is more important: correct theology or correct actions? Can you have your theology right and yet treat others in a poor manner? What hope can you cling to if, perhaps, you see yourself revealed in the above texts? 

In Luke 10 Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan. In this story a priest and a Levite, walk by and leave a wounded man to die. They knew the law. I am sure their peers would say they had sound theology. But did they? In Exodus 23:4-5 it says we are to help even an animal in distress. How much more a man! Surely the priest and Levite knew this. After the Priest and Levite leave the man to die, for whatever reason, a Samaritan comes along. Samaritans had their own place of worship, which according to the Jews, was the incorrect place to be. The Samaritan probably did not know the law or the Scriptures like the priest and Levite did. However, he was more like Jesus than either of the other men because, according to Luke 10:33 he had compassion. In this story, that one word, “compassion”, seems to separate right actions from wrong actions and bad theology from good theology. I have heard it said, that many will miss heaven by about 18 inches. The difference between the brain and the heart. I have also heard it said, and I believe, that heaven will be filled with people who had muddled theology, but none with bitter hearts.

As we continue reading the story, we find the Samaritan to be even more like Jesus. First he had compassion. Second he binds up the wounds of the hurt man even as Jesus binds our wounds. Finally he tells the innkeeper that he will pay for this man’s complete recovery. On the cross Jesus paid for our complete recovery from sin, and today gives us the free gift of sanctification as well as justification.

So, to answer the original question, I would say you can’t really have one without the other. If your theology is good, it will have good actions. Good actions are good theology. I think Ellen White says it best, in the book Desire of Ages, in the chapter “The Good Samaritan.”

  In the story of the good Samaritan, Christ illustrates the nature of true religion. He shows that it consists not in systems, creeds, or rites, but in the performance of loving deeds, in bringing the greatest good to others, in genuine goodness.  {DA 497.1}  

My Top Ten Secrets Revealed!

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

My Top Ten Secrets Revealed!

10. I am “Voice”. In 1985, while attending Southern College of SDA (Now Southern Adventist University) I was doing my laundry at my sister’s house one night. Talk Net was on the radio with Bruce Williams, a business counselor. I decided I wanted to call in just for fun. I called into the national program and told Bruce I wanted to be a sports play by play announcer which I did. He told me to start working doing sports programs with my college radio station. I told him all they do is play classical music. Bruce then told me the radio station was not doing its job then in helping college students. Someone from the college was listening because the next week, in the college paper was my complete conversation! Since they did not know who I was I was simply called “voice”. The college paper blasted “voice” for not standing up for the school and radio station. Hey, I was just calling in just for fun! For weeks later letters poured into the college paper about the school radio station and “voice”.

9. It hurts very much to have my motives misread. About twenty years ago I was a literature evangelist traveling all over Oklahoma. Pagers we becoming popular at this time. This was before cell phones were popular. My grandfather died of a sudden heart attack and I always worried about my dad as well. I bought a pager so that if anything happened to my dad or mother while I was away I could find out and come back and be there for them. Since I was on a strapped budget someone accused me of wasting my money and just wanting to have the latest technology. That really hurt.

8. Back in the 80s when I had my own apartment in Tulsa, my mother was out of town. I called my dad to see what was up. He did not answer. I started getting worried. What if he had a heart attack and was laying alone on the floor with no one to help?  Being a guy I knew I could not act too concerned, so even though I had just done my laundry, I grabbed what little dirty clothes I had and headed over to my dad’s house “to do my laundry.” I was really just checking up on him. About the time I drove up to the house, my dad came in on his motorcycle, from an  evening ride. I just smiled, said hi and that I came to do my laundry. He just looked quizzically at my small bag of laundry.

7. I have openly claimed to be a Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and now Tampa bay Bucs fan, but for several years now, I have found myself loving it whenever the Detroit Lions win. I have never expressed it, but for several years now I think I have been a Lions fan. No joke. I am serious.

6. I miss working for UPS. It was a hard challenging job with good pay and benefits. I loved rising to the challenge. I also loved becoming a UPS supervisor and helping other people rise to the challenge as well. I felt good about myself while working there. It was very hard to quit. I am very happy to be in Florida now, but I wish there was a way I could have continued part time with UPS. There wasn’t.

5.  When I was in the 5th grade a friend of mine and I prank called a girl in our class. She asked who we were and we hung up. I am not going to disclose what we said, but I felt so bad after my friend left, that I called her back and apologized. She asked again who I was. I just said, “hey I’m sorry” and hung up! What a geek! I’m the only prank caller in history to call back and apologize!

4. I know without a doubt that I am no way close to being the best preacher, Bible worker, golfer, or photographer in the world. I do however, believe I make the best enchiladas in the world.

3. Sometimes I counsel myself in second person. I get outside my head and tell myself objectively how things are, and how other people feel and how I should respond. I talk to myself as if I was counseling somebody else.

2. I golf alone as well as with friends. My greatest fear is that my hole-in-one will come when I am golfing alone.

1. In my career as a Bible worker and lay pastor, my heroes are not preachers or teachers. I idolize the old man standing at the bedside of his ill wife 24/7. I am amazed at the grade school girl who campaigned at her school to get Christmas gifts for poor children, while her birthday was in December and with a father out of work, she got no birthday gift, and never made an effort to benefit from her campaign.  I respect the pathfinder leader who, instead of taking home her personal awards, puts them in the trophy case at church for the team. I admire the family man who stops by the church while no one is around and paints and fixes things without anyone ever knowing he came by. There are so many people in my life, who see themselves as ordinary everyday people, but I love, admire and respect them more than they will ever know! And they have taught me more about Jesus than I have ever taught them.

Garments of Grace; Clothed In Christ

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area, and home of the 2008 AL Champion Tampa Bay Rays.

This week’s SS lesson (Phone App) quotes the verse, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”  Colossians 3:1-2

 

I have been to several Tampa Bay Rays games over the years, but one time in particular, I went with my friend David in 2008, to The Tampa Bay Ray’s stadium, Tropicana Field, where we watched the first place Rays defeat the second place Red Sox 2-1. It was a great game and the Rays did not win it until the bottom of the ninth, when our catcher, Dioner Navarro hit in the winning run.

 

While at the game I noticed several Red Sox fans. You could easily spot them with their Red Sox shirts, caps, and jackets. I even sat by one. He assured me that the long fly that Ortiz hit to deep right center for an out would have been a homerun at Fenway Park, where the Red Sox play their home games.

 

I noticed something about the Red Sox fans. They came into our home ball park but still dressed and acted like they would at Fenway. They did not buy the Tampa Bay Rays t-shirts and caps and try to blend in at all. While most of them were very polite and pleasant to be around they still made it clear that Tropicana Field was not their home and the Rays were not their team. They did not mind looking like visitors. They did not mind that they dressed and looked different. They were proud of their team and where they were from. They did not cheer when we cheered. They did not mind standing out in the crowd and looking and acting different. They dressed and acted in Tropicana Field, they same way they would dress and act at Fenway. Do we dress and act here on this earth, the same way we would dress and act in our home which is heaven?

 

As Christians, let’s let the world know earth is not our home. While being as polite and pleasant to be around as possible, let’s still let it be known our home is in heaven, not here. We do not blend in with the world because we are not a part of this world. Let’s not be afraid to look different and act different. Let’s be as proud of where we belong as the Red Sox fans were proud of where they belong.

 

Jesus Wept; The Bible and Human Emotions, Lesson 9; It’s Just me

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This Week’s SS lesson (Download phone app.) on Self-esteem, reminds me of a poem I wrote, several years ago while living in Fort Worth, Texas. As a kid, I was a big sports fan. I would read the sports standings in the paper everyday, and somehow thought that the cities with first place teams were somehow living a higher existence and breathing different air than the rest of us. Years later, when I became a Christian book salesman, reality started to set it. I was leading my conference in sales, but somehow I was still breathing the same air everybody else breathed. I was no better than anybody else. Then I moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area about the time the Dallas Cowboys won their last two Superbowls. I then realized my how wrong I was as a kid. The grass was no greener after Dallas won the superbowl than it was before. The air was the same too. Funny thing too, when the Cowboys failed to make the playoffs the grass did not fade. Win or lose, succeed or fail, people are people. We are all just people. Likewise, when I was leading my conference in sales I was no more or less a person than I was the next year when I did not lead the conference in sales.

Back in 2003, I wrote this poem, illustrating how we are all just people no worse or better than anybody else. It doesn’t rhyme at the beginning but does at the end. Weird, I don’t know why I did it that way.

                                                                   It’s Just me

 

I’ve been chauffeured in the back seat of a Cadillac.

I’ve been behind the wheel of an old Volkswagen Beetle.

I’ve eaten in fancy restaurants with all my friends.

I’ve eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches all alone.

But all in all I’m just me, it’s just me.

I’ve laughed out loud with the rest of the crowd.

I’ve cried alone where no one else could hear.

I’ve been in first place at the end of a race.

I’ve been so far behind, when will this game just end?

But after all is said and done, I’m just me, it’s just me.

I preached sermons that have moved congregations to tears.

I have preached sermons that have lulled congregations to sleep!

My friends have given me too much praise for a human being.

My adversaries have given me too much criticism, give me a break!

But at the end of it all, I’m just me; it’s just me.

Into every life a little rain and sunshine must fall.

Sometimes I feel small, and other times I feel tall.

I’m no more a person when I do well.

I’m no less a person when I fail.

But either way, I’m just me; it’s just me.

So don’t think that I am perfect all of the time.

Surely you don’t expect all my poems to rhyme.

I often succeed, but I also fail time and again.

Please don’t praise or condemn, just be my friend.

Because win or lose, I’m just me, it’s just me. 

Jesus Wept; The Bible and Human Emotions, Lesson 3; Top Ten Ways to Avoid Stress And Live a Productive Life

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

To download the Sabbath School lessons to your android phone click here.

In conjunction with this week’s SS lesson on Stress, here is my top ten list of

The Top Ten Ways I Avoid Stress and Live a Productive Life

10. Make Life as simple as you can. Avoid clutter. Every few months I go through my apartment just looking for things to throw away or give away. I do the same with my life. My life is simple. I am not embarrassed by being a simple person living a simple life. Life was never meant to be complicated. It is complicated because of sin, not by God’s design. The closer we get to God’s design the more simple and happy life becomes. When I was a kid I walked into Taco Bell and there were 9 items on the menu. That was great! I bought the bean burrito. Now I walk into Taco Bell and there are over 50 menu items and I buy the bean burrito. Today Their menu board looks cluttered and confusing. Why does Taco Bell make life complicated for no reason? Why do people make their lives complicated for no reason? I have seen so many people stress themselves out doing needles projects, and then look at me like I am lazy for not helping them out. I am not lazy, I just don’t think your daughter really needs a $7,000 sweet sixteen birthday party, so forgive me for not helping you put it together. Take her to Taco Bell and buy her a bean burrito, and say, “Happy Birthday!”

9. Have a planned daily routine. I cannot tell you how important this is. When I first started working at UPS I had to get up at 2am to get to work by 3am. It changed my whole life. In orientation class at UPS they told us, in order to cope with these strange work hours we had to have a planned daily routine, not just at work but all day long. Once I got into a planned daily routine, life got so much easier and working at one of the most stressful jobs during the most stressful hours became fun and enjoyable.  I actually miss it!

8. Exercise! If you have a desk job, you will think so much more clearly if you exercise your whole body. Exercise clears the brain so you can think and study better. It makes life more balanced and healthy. I used to obsess about things a lot. Now that I have taken up golf in the last few years, instead of stressing and obsessing, I go play a round of golf and come back to work with a clear mind, and emotionally balanced attitude.

7. Music. I am not a musician. I do love to listen to music though. In the car I have to have more lively music, but while working on my computer I have to have classical music. I was never into classical music until about 11 years ago when I got a computer. The music with lyrics distracted me from what I was reading or writing, but classical music, for the most part, does not have lyrics so it worked out great. Now I have several classical CDs and attend symphony and orchestra concerts. Music keeps me from being stressed. I remember years ago, while working as a Bible Worker in the Weatherford Seventh-day Adventist church, I would be having a stressful day. I would stop by the church office for something, and if nobody was around, I would go into the sanctuary, go to hymn number 86, “How Great Thou Art,” and sing my heart out so loud it raised the roof. Then I felt much better and went about the rest of my day with a renewed attitude.

6. Write. Keep a journal to record your thoughts. Start a blog. There is therapy in writing. I have no way to prove this, but I also believe there is emotional therapy in writing your feelings out by hand instead of typing. The important thing is to write. I kept a journal in my teens. I look back and read it now and discover things about myself that I did not see at the time. I even look back and see clues as to why I annoyed certain people even though I could not figure it out at the time. When I first moved to Texas, before laptops and cell phone texting, I would go into restaurants with pad and paper and write letters back home while I ate. Then I made friends where I was at, and went to eat with them, and stopped writing letters back home. I miss that. Even today I will occasionally leave my laptop at home and go to a nice restaurant and write a hand written letter back home.

5. Don’t take yourself seriously. Laugh at yourself. A while back someone insulted me in public and I was very offended the person insulting me said what they did in front of everybody. Later, while talking to some of the people within earshot of the insult, I realized they did not even hear what the person said. They were not paying attention, and had other things on their mind. The only person who remembered it was me. I wonder how many times I have been stressed out from embarrassing situations that are recorded in my brain and nowhere else.  I have learned not to be so intense. Some insults that I have taken to heart in the past, I found out later where not given as intensely as I took them. Being melancholy, I think everything has to be perfect. I have realized, that being a perfectionist is a flaw. I don’t need to stress because of the small dent on my  new car. I don’t need to stress because of a little dust on my bookshelf. I don’t need to stress because a friend is a little upset with me. Relationships, like everything else, don’t have to be perfect in order to be absolutely wonderful.

4. Set goals, but don’t cut your wrists if your goals are not met. Have a minimum and maximum goal within reason. For example, as a Bible Worker, I have a goal of how many people I want to contact every day. Some days I can contact 40 or more people. Some days I can only find 10. So 10 is my minimum goal which I can live with while I try for 40 or more. Some days, I get a phone call from a Bible student who is struggling with something, and I take the day and just hang out with them, encouraging them. That is okay too. My goal was not met, but I am not cutting my wrists over it. That would freak my Bible student out!

3. Pace yourself. Take time to relax. Sometimes I will be working on a Seminar presentation or sermon and I get a mental block. I put down my laptop and take a walk. I relax my brain, and then the ideas for my presentation or sermon just start popping into my head. Sometimes my best ideas come on my day off while I am relaxing and reading  or praying.

2. Remember all stress is relative. During the 1998 home run record chase between Sammy Sosa and Mark Mcgwire, I believe it was Sammy Sosa who was asked how he was handling the stress of chasing the home run record. He responded, “This is not stress. Having no food on the table is stress.” Last year, after the Tampa Bay Rays lost a close game, radio announcer Andy Freed refused to call the game a “heartbreaking loss.” He said “having a child in ICU at All Children’s Hospital is heartbreaking! This is just a game.” While a little stress is good as it keeps us shooting for our goals, remember it’s all relative. Some things need to stress us out but not everything. What will it matter ten years from now or even next week?  Several years ago I was working in the church office as an office administrator as well as Bible Worker. There was an older man who could come into my office and talk my ear off while I was thinking about all the things I needed be getting done. He was a dear man, very close to Christ. He would tell me stories, while I would fret about getting all of my work done. A few years later, while sitting at his funeral, I asked myself, Was I really all that busy?

1. Prayer and Bible study. Jesus accomplished so much that John says the world could not hold the books that would be written if everything He had done was written down. Still, He spent long hours in communion with His heavenly Father. Before we can live like Jesus, we must pray like Jesus. His life was spent between the mountain and the multitude. We can’t expect to accomplish all He accomplished without praying like He prayed. I talk with people who tell me they are too busy to study and pray. Life is just too busy, they say. I say, if life gets too stressful and busy for prayer and Bible study then forget life! I won’t live without my time with Jesus! If life gets so hectic that I don’t have time to spend with Jesus, then life has just defeated its own purpose! My life has no purpose without God, so why would I let life make me so busy I have no time for Him?  You can accomplish so much more in life, after you spend time with God and leave your stress with Him, than you can by ignoring Him and carrying all that stress yourself.