We are all Fallible

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In my ministry I have met people who claim the Adventist church is Babylon. I have also met people who think the Adventist church is infallible. Both ideas are wrong. The Adventist church is not Babylon, but it is not infallible either. Just because the Adventist  church is not Babylon does not mean it does not make mistakes. Remember at the cross it was not Babylon crying out “Crucify Him!” It was God’s chosen remnant people. The commander of the Lord’s army realized the fallibility of God’s chosen people when He met Joshua one day.

When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.” Joshua 5:13-14 NLT

“Neither one?” Seems like the Commander was taking a neutral stance on the situation. We can’t assume just because we are God’s chosen people that He is always on our side. Sometimes we are right. Sometimes we are wrong. Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes our foes do the right thing. God loves everyone in the world, not just us. I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who is credited with saying, “The question is not if God is on my side but rather if I’m on His.”

Throughout history God had to punish His own people. Today when people tell me how “corrupt” the church has become, I ask them, when was the church ever perfect? When harlots got their business at the temple doors during Eli’s day? When God had to let Babylon destroy His holy nation because of their habitual apostasy and idolatry?  When people tell me the Adventist church has strayed too far from what it used to be, and we need to go back to how it was in the days of Ellen White, I ask them, “You mean when God had to destroy the Adventist publishing house with fire because they would not follow inspired counsel?”

In Ezra’s day it was no different.

When these things had been done, the Jewish leaders came to me and said, “Many of the people of Israel, and even some of the priests and Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the other peoples living in the land. They have taken up the detestable practices of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, and Amorites. For the men of Israel have married women from these people and have taken them as wives for their sons. So the holy race has become polluted by these mixed marriages. Worse yet, the leaders and officials have led the way in this outrage.” Ezra 9:1-2 NLT

When the leaders and the majority of those in the church fall away from the truth no one detects it as apostasy because the apostasy becomes mainstream. Therefore apostasy looks normal. The only way to detect apostasy is to stop looking at the leaders and the majority, and look at the Word of God.

Years ago I attended a health seminar, where a doctor told us that many  Americans are obese and are close to having a heart attack. They don’t understand how unhealthy they are because they are no more obese than everyone around them, not realizing everyone around them is also on the verge of a heart attack. Just because obesity is mainstream in American culture does not make it healthy or any less deadly. It is the same with sin in the church.

In Ezra’s day there was a reformation as they stopped looking at those around them as role models and began comparing themselves to the Word of God. So today, we can have a reformation like never before as we compare ourselves to God’s Word instead of each other. In Daniel 9 Daniel confesses that his people have corporately sinned, and included himself as part of the sin problem. Nehemiah as well as Ezra brought about a great reformation, but even Nehemiah saw himself as part of the sin problem  when he prayed,

Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! Nehemiah 1:6 NLT

While praying for reformation in the church we must confess our individual sins as well as the sins of the church. We can’t divide the church into camps and then say God is on my camp’s side, because God is not choosing sides today anymore than He was in Joshua’s day.  Sometimes we are right. Sometimes we are wrong. That goes for all of us. We are all fallible. We all make mistakes. That is why Jesus never told us to follow Christian leaders. He told us to follow Him. For true reformation we must recognize our own guilt and apostasy. We must not set ourselves or anyone else up as an example to follow. We must follow Jesus and His Word alone.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

Why You Can’t Go Home Again, And Don’t Really Need to

While some folks say, things aren’t what they used to be, I say, yes, but they never were what they are now.

I am a historian by nature. When I visited the Litchfield Congregational church, built in Connecticut in 1721, I tried to imagine all the sin-weary souls who had come to hear the Gospel preached for over three centuries inside those consecrated walls.

In 1991 I drove  to a remote little town in extreme western Oklahoma, to preach. When I arrived at the church, I went downstairs to get water. While downstairs I saw several Sabbath School classrooms, all totally vacant and abandoned.  The elderly couple who invited me home for lunch explained that all those rooms were packed with children back in the day. But they all grew up and moved away to find jobs. The husband was the school master back in the day, but had since  retired for decades, and, with no children around any more, the only traces of the school were distant memories. I remember a feeling of sadness coming over me as I thought of the hollow classrooms once full of life. I can’t say if it was the evangelist or the historian in me that made me wish there was a way to fill those classrooms with lively children again.

Over the years those hollow classrooms occasionally haunt my mind. Of course in my lifetime, I have seen changes in my own childhood church. It still has a thriving church school and Sabbath School department, but when my friends and I go home to visit, we remember days gone by when the church was much fuller. But I have to keep in mind that when we were kids our church was The Adventist Church in the area.  Today there are several Adventist churches in the area, and there really is no “The”  Church now. This is where the evangelist in me wars with the historian in me. The historian in me wants to re-create the church I grew up in. I want to go home again. The evangelist in me rejoices that there are new churches, and the gospel is being preached all over the area now, instead of in just one place. I understand my childhood church is slightly smaller now because people are spreading out to other churches to share the gospel beyond my little neighborhood.

Now my mind looks  back to those empty Sabbath School classrooms in the middle of nowhere in  Western Oklahoma. Is it really sad that the kids grew up and moved on to bigger places where they could find jobs? Not if moving gave them more opportunities to share Jesus with those in need! Now I look back at those empty classrooms in a different way. Maybe the primary Sabbath School teacher did not realize it at the time, but she was doing a lot more than teaching the children in her small town about Jesus. She was training them to be missionaries and take the Gospel from those little rooms and spread it all over the world! The historian in me looks into those vacant rooms and sees a church that died. The evangelist in me looks into those hollow rooms and sees scores of children leaving those sacred halls to share the Gospel in new places, meeting people around the world who need Jesus.

The church is a movement, not a history museum. The church is a people and not an old building standing out in a field where there used to be a town. While reality tells me that many of the kids probably left the church, I am sure many stayed in the church. Many of the children who  filled those old Sabbath School classrooms in western Oklahoma took the church with them when they moved away! The Sabbath School class did not die in those classrooms in western Oklahoma; the class just outgrew its walls! They grew all over the world! I look back now and realize children with whom I sat in Primary Sabbath School class in my home church are now scattered from the South Pacific Islands to New England and beyond. And you know what’s cool? We left four walls we used to meet in, but we never left the church. We took it with us! Just as importantly, we never left each other. We are in touch on Facebook and Sabbath School Net, where we still share ideas from theology to evangelism strategies. And of course we still get together personally when we can. A couple years ago, a former classmate, now a teacher, helped me put my Bible curriculum together while living 1200 miles away. You see, our little Sabbath School classroom did not die. Just the opposite. We grew so big we exceeded the boundaries of our four little walls.

I believe it to be the same with the little classrooms in a small town in Western Oklahoma. If I ever get a chance to return, and I hope I do, I will go downstairs and look into those empty classrooms again. This time instead of trying to imagine a class that once was, I will see a class that still is and even more. I will see a classroom that has grown into something much bigger and greater than it ever was. I won’t see a class that died in a little room. I will see a class that grew all over the world to help people all over the world who need Jesus.

When I think of my experience in the church, I realize in one sense, I can never go home again. The building I worshiped in as a child will never be what it was. That’s just fine. It was never meant to stay what it was. It was meant to grow. It was meant to grow beyond those walls into the rest of the world where people need Jesus. My church is now all over the word. So in one sense, I can never go back to my home church  again. In an even more real sense, my home church is all over the world now and is everywhere I go. And the even greater reality is, that I’ve never been home and never will be until Jesus comes. While the historian in me wants to reminisce about the way the church used to be, the evangelist in me says to keep growing the church. It’s not finished yet!

You can study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

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!

Creation Health marriage Rock

Financial peace every young ladies

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.