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.

What Does “Perfect in Christ” Really Mean?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 

One hot July afternoon at an Oklahoma Camp meeting, I visited a friend in her tent. Just outside sat my friend’s 13-year-old daughter with a friend she had just met. This was her friend’s first camp meeting. He had come with his grandfather who just became a Christian. He did not know what to think about all the meetings and asked my friend’s daughter, “What do you think about Jesus? What is He really all about?” My ears perked up, as I was quite interested how she would answer.


“Before my mom and I met Jesus, we argued and yelled at each other all the time, and I could not stand my home, but now that we met Jesus we don’t yell anymore, and I love my home now.”
I will never forget what she said.

Interesting. She introduced her new friend to Jesus as a literal friend Who had literally changed her life, and not as some pretend theory.

I heard a radio preacher once say, “in order to be able to call Jesus your Savior He has to actually save you from something.” He was right. Many people speak of faith almost like it is pretending. Some use a very Biblical term, “perfect in Christ,” but then they add, “but it is only by faith.” By saying “only by faith,” they make it sound like faith is only pretending. When we read in Hebrews 11:30 about the walls of Jericho falling by faith, we take that to mean that the walls of Jericho literally fell and did not just pretend to fall. So when we read in Colossians 1:28, “that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus,” should we not take that “perfect in Christ” to be literal also and not just pretense?

Read how Ellen White describes the term “perfect in Christ” In the Great Controversy, page 623.

… we should seek to become perfect in Christ. Not even by a thought could our Saviour be brought to yield to the power of temptation. Satan finds in human hearts some point where he can gain a foothold; some sinful desire is cherished, by means of which his temptations assert their power. But Christ declared of Himself: “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.” John 14:30. Satan could find nothing in the Son of God that would enable him to gain the victory. He had kept His Father’s commandments, and there was no sin in Him that Satan could use to his advantage. This is the condition in which those must be found who shall stand in the time of trouble. It is in this life that we are to separate sin from us, through faith in the atoning blood of Christ.

If faith literally made the walls of Jericho fall, then we have to believe that faith will also make a literal and practical change in the way we live our lives.

On that hot summer afternoon, so many years ago, my friend’s daughter gave an example of how her faith literally changed her life, thus showing faith is not just make-believe, but instead makes things practical and literal. I am totally powerless to tear down the strongholds Satan has set up in my life, but the same faith that made the walls of Jericho come crumbling down will also make those strongholds in my life to come down as well.

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

He’s Not My Brother, You’re Not My Father

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

You are looking at my favorite Florida sunset picture out of all the ones I have taken. While I love the beauty of Florida I have discovered as I travel around, that Florida is not the only beautiful place in the world. The sunsets on the sea are not the only way God expresses His beauty. He also expresses His beauty on snow capped mountains, lush valleys and meadows as well as majestic forests. God has too much glory and beauty for little Florida to contain, so He must spread it all over the world. It is the same with people. God is just too big and glorious for Him to portray Himself in one type of people. So He expresses His beauty in different types of people all over the world.

The spring of 2003 found me driving from Texas to Tennessee. I stopped for the night in Louisiana. The next morning I stopped at a doughnut shop in Mississippi. As I walked in, all eyes were glued to me, and were staring me down. I checked my zipper. Everything seemed to be okay. I walked up to the counter and smiled at the lady at the cash register, but she only glared back at me. I wiped my face. I must not have rinsed well after shaving. I cheerfully ordered my two chocolate cream filled doughnuts. My cheerful order was not met with a cheerful smile. The lady very curtly gave me my doughnuts, made change and glared at me as I smiled back and said “Thank you!”

As I turned around, I saw all the customers were still glaring at me. I smiled back at them and they only glared back at me. That is when I finally noticed something I hadn’t before. I was the only white person in the store. Everyone else was black. My first reaction to that realization was, “You’ve got to be kidding me! Your attitude towards me is so 1964! It’s 2003 people!” I came within an eyelash of making a grand speech, about how we are all friends back in Texas, but thought better of it. My church in Texas was a multi-cultural church with several different nationalities. (Notice I did not say races and I will tell you later why.) Not only at church, but also where I worked, I had black friends, white friends, Hispanic friends, and everything in between.

Later when I shared my experience with a friend, they reminded me that I was passing through an area where there was still anger over racist crimes. They reminded me about Emmett Till, the young black boy who was killed by some white men for no good reason and the jury let them go! That has created a lot of anger in the black people.

Well I want to share something with you. What happened to Emmett Till has created a lot of anger in me too! You see, I don’t think of Emmett as just black. I think of him as human. I like to think of myself as human as well. People call what happened to him a race crime, that pits blacks against whites. But here is the thing. I am the same race as Emmett Till! While he was black and I am white I am still the same race as him- the human race! What happened to Emmett was a crime against humanity-the same humanity I am a part of. I have just as much right to share the hurt and anger of this terrible crime, because as a human I can identify with him. You see, the Bible only acknowledges one race, the human race. We all have one Father. When Cain killed Abel, it was an attack on the human race and when those men killed poor Emmett, it was an attack on the human race as well- the entire human race, and it broke the heart of the same Father whose heart was broken when Cain killed Abel.

Even though I enjoy beautiful sunsets on the beach here in Florida, I am still concerned about how pollution affects beautiful places all over the world. You see I don’t just belong to Florida. I belong to the world. Emmett Till did not just belong to black people. He belonged to humanity.

When we become narrow-minded, thinking we only belong to people in our own area, color, or even church then we are denying how great and wonderful our God is. Even in the church we debate theology thinking our way of thinking has a corner on the market, forgetting that God is too great to pour all His theology into one simple narrow minded brain. I have said it before and will repeat it now, often our camp of thought is wrong, not by what it teaches, but by what it does not teach. Some people stress justification while others stress sanctification. Fact is you need both. So to get the big picture on theology we must put all our ideas together. I may love my beach sunset pictures, but we need beautiful mountains and valleys in there as well. While I see God’s glory in the sea, many see God’s glory in the desert. My sunset picture is not a complete comprehensive picture of God’s glory and beauty, and my theology is not complete either. When we put all our pictures together we get the big picture.

Luke 15:11-31 shares the story of the prodigal son, and in that story the older brother disowns his younger brother when he calls him “This son of yours”. He would not call him brother. Problem is we all have one Father. That makes us all family. God is the father of struggling sinners. If in my pride I claim the struggling sinner is not my brother, then I have also said God is not my Father! In the end of the story the older brother finds himself outside of his Father’s house, because he refused to accept his brother.

Quaid, an elderly man from Vietnam, whose family disowned him when He became a Seventh-day Adventist, was a member of a church I preach at here in Florida. Sadly, he has passed on. At his funeral, a mother of a struggling teen shared this story with me. Her daughter, we will call Shelby was dealing with some grief in her life and was acting out. She dressed differently and liked to dye her hair bright colors. One day at church people were talking about her and she was very hurt. She started telling everyone she was never coming back, because people were treating her like she was so different. Quaid, in his classic grey suit and tie sat down on a bench outside the church, with 15 year old Shelby, in her strange clothes and hair, and he told her how his family had thought he was strange for being Seventh-day Adventist, but it did not stop him from coming to church. He talked to her about how people thought he was strange because of some of his customs from his native country, but that did not stop him from loving them. This elderly man from Vietnam, sat on a bench with a rebellious 15 year old girl, and talked to her about all the things they had in common! He shared with her how, while being different, they both shared the same problems-rejection. He told her he was not giving up coming to church just because people thought he was different, and told her not to let them keep her from church either! Years later, Shelby attends church occasionally, but according to her mother, she would not be attending at all if it wasn’t for an elderly Vietnamese, traditional Adventist elder who saw himself in a 15 year old American rebellious teenage girl. Shelby attends that church occasionally and has friends from that church that she meets for socials outside of church, but Quaid will always have a special place in her heart.

Friends we share one Father. We are family. While I live in Florida I have an interest in the whole world because the lines between states and countries are only imaginary. I am not just a part of Florida. I am a part of this world. I am not just a Seventh-day Adventist. I am a Christian and therefore I have an interest in my Methodist and Baptist brothers as well. I don’t just belong to white people. I belong to people of every color and nationality because I am a part of the human race. I am a part of God’s great big family. I am not going to let narrow minded thinking force me outside my Father’s house.

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

Glimpses Of Our God; The Triune God

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area where the Bucs play.

Out of all the things I forgot while in school, sometimes I wonder what it was that made me remember the things that I do. I remember sitting in my 7th (or 8th?) grade English class at Tulsa Adventist Academy. The teacher, Miss Childers, asked if the word “crowd” was plural or singular. Since a crowd is a lot of people, I answered “plural”.  Miss Childers told me she understood why I said that, but she went on to explain that while there may be many people in the crowd, it is still just one crowd, and therefore is singular.

That was over thirty years ago, and if I posted all my memories from all my English classes onto Google, it may use up 1KB. So why do I still remember such a mundane conversation that took place over thirty years ago? Maybe because that simple explanation by Miss Childers helps me understand the Trinity. While I go to a football game with over 70,000 people (Okay a Tampa Bay Bucs game with only 56,000 people) we are still just one crowd. That helped me understand how God can be singular while still being three Beings. Just like over 500 members make up one congress, likewise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit make up One Godhead.

Gospel Workers, page 315, tells us that every truth from Genesis to Revelation needs to be presented in the light of the cross and God’s love. So how does the Trinity help us understand the cross and God’s love? 1 John 4:8 tells us that God is love. At the cross we see that love is putting other people first, when we think of their needs and wants instead of our own. Now I don’t know when it was or how long ago it was, but logic tells me there had to be a time when nothing else existed except God. Now if God had only been one Being, at that point in time, He could not have been love, because love is thinking of others instead of yourself, and if God had only been One Being, He would have had nobody else to think about besides Himself. God has always been love, because even before anything else existed at all, God was three beings, each One always thinking about the needs and wants of the Other.

By the way, the Godhead is the First Family of the universe. They are an example of what our families are to be. One family, with several members, each one always thinking about the needs and how to please the others in the family. Likewise, our families can be love just like the First Family is love.

To study this week’s SS lesson click here. To download the SS lesson app to your phone click here.

Garments of Grace; In the Shadow of His Wings

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

While this week’s SS lesson takes a look at King David, here is something I think is worth taking note of.

While it is said, we are our own worst enemy, I don’t think that is seen any more clearly than in the life of David. Goliath never hurt David. Saul tried but never did David any harm and neither did Absalom or anyone else. In the end, the only person who actually hurt David was David. I thank God for our critics who keep us humble and relying on God. Actually, if David did have another enemy, it would be his so called friend Joab. When David sent the letter to have Uriah murdered, Joab did not hesitate to carry out the kings command. He could have stood up to David and told him he was wrong to do such a thing, but Joab played the role of yes-man instead. If Joab had been a real friend he would have said no to David even if he was King. “And Joab, whose allegiance had been given to the king rather than to God, transgressed God’s law because the king commanded it.    

     David’s power had been given him by God, but to be exercised only in harmony with the divine law. When he commanded that which was contrary to God’s law, it became sin to obey. “The powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1), but we are not to obey them contrary to God’s law. The apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, sets forth the principle by which we should be governed. He says, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1.  {Patriarch and Prophets,  719} 

Joab should have had the same constitution as Peter, when Peter said ‘We ought to obey God rather than man.” Acts 5:29. Peter also said “But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 1 Peter 3:14 NIV.

I began my professional ministry over 20 years ago, when I first became a literature evangelist and then a Bible Worker. During that period I have been threatened more than once that my financial support would be discontinued if I did not go along with something even if I knew it was wrong. Three times in the last 20 years I have been threatened with my job if I did not give my loyalty to someone or something that I knew to be wrong. Those threats do not work. When I was 7 years old, laying on my bed at night, contemplating the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, I gave my life and my loyalty to Him because He died for me. Twenty years later, when people threaten me for their loyalty, my mind goes back to that night so long ago when I gave my heart to Jesus. I have decided to be loyal to the One who died for me, and not those who threaten me. I have never had to defend myself when being threatened. The Jesus I gave my heart to when I was 7 years old has taken good care of me! I always encourage those who are new in the gospel work to always remain loyal to the One who died for them. A ministry or a person that can be bought, sold or threatened has no meaning or purpose.

The greatest want of the world is the want of men,–men who will not be bought or sold; men who in their inmost souls are true and honest; men who do not fear to call sin by its right name; men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole; men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.–Education, p. 57.