The Stranger on Siesta Keys

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. This was last night’s sunset on Siesta Keys.

A chance encounter or divine appointment? You be the Judge.

Yesterday morning I woke up on my day off. Not sure how I wanted to spend it, I went ahead and delivered some baptismal robes to a nearby church, who needed them for Sabbath. When I stopped   by my church to pick them up, my pastor reminded me it was my day off, and I should not be working. I promised him I would take the day off as soon as I delivered the robes.

My friend Adam, who I often hang out with on Thursday nights, told me he would be busy, so I thought this may be a good time to take a long day trip somewhere. I thought about St. Augustine, and a couple other places, but decided on Siesta Keys in Sarasota where I have not been in a while. My plan was to spend some time reading in God’s Word, prayer time, and sunset pictures. As I got ready to leave home, something told me to take my Bible. I thought I don’t need to take that along, I have it on my cell phone.  Still something said, no, take a regular Bible. So I did. I also grabbed the book “Bible Studies Made Easy” and thought maybe I will give it to the waitress wherever I eat.

I got to Siesta Keys early afternoon and went to an Italian place near the beach, that I have enjoyed many times before. After I left, I scolded myself for forgetting to give the waitress the book. I stopped at a park bench near the beach and spent some time reading, as I am now in Revelations, after reading through the entire Bible. I read Chapters 8-12, which gave me plenty to pray and mediate on, as I walked and prayed down the beach. I must have walked 4 miles. As I got back to my starting point, where I had parked, I felt very tired, and reminded myself that the Tampa Bay Rays had a divisional game tonight on TV. Maybe I should go home and watch it. Something said to stay and take sunset pictures as I had planned. I told myself, I already have hundreds of sunset pictures, and nobody really cares to see anymore. They all look the same. Still something inside me said, just stay with the original plan. Lay down on this park bench and rest a while, until the sun starts setting, then take pictures.

As I’m lying there, an older man comes up and starts talking to me. I turn to him, and he then realizes I am not who he thought I was. He became embarrassed and apologized. I told him it was no big deal. I sat up and he started talking to me. First he talked about his bicycle. I told him I hope the streets in Sarasota are more bike friendly than Tampa. He told me his bike was all he had to get around on. I told him I am often on my bike too. I wanted to identify with him the best I could. He glanced at my Bible and asked if I was a pastor. I could have said yes, since I am both a lay pastor and Bible Worker, but that really had nothing to do with why I had my Bible with me. I had my Bible with me because I am a Christian. I replied, “I am a Christian.” He then started opening up about his service in Vietnam, and his discharge. All the terrible things he saw over there, and he was specific. I know a lot of people claim to be vets, but a lot of people really are vets too. He told me how he has given up trying to overcome beer and cigars. I told him the same God who delivered him from Vietnam could also deliver him from those enemies too. He told me how when he returned nobody thanked him for fighting for his country. He told me how he likes to take trash bags and clean up the beach. I asked him if the beach could clean itself up. Of course he said no. I told him likewise, we can’t clean ourselves up either. Only God can. He was troubled, thinking God had given up on him, so I shared with him the gospel presentation. I shared with him the story of the serpent on the pole in Numbers 21 and how in John 3, Jesus says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” He said there was so much about life he did not understand. I told him he did not have to understand.  Just as the Israelites looked at the pole when bitten by a serpent, likewise when that old serpent the devil bites you, just look at the cross and you will be healed.

He told me his name was Frank, and  asked for prayer and I prayed with him. He took my hand and as I prayed his hand trembled as he cried. After our prayer I remembered the Bible study book I had failed to give the waitress. I gave it to him with my church contact info. I invited him to a church in his area. He told me he was homeless and had no address. He told me he likes it that way.  I made sure he knew how to get a hold of me.  I assured him God still loves him and has a plan for his life. God has not given up. He told me how glad he was that he met me. I felt he was sincere. He never asked me for money or anything. He even offered to pay for the book. I think the only things he wanted from me was hope.  As we talked, and he rambled after our prayer, I started thinking, if  Adam was not busy tonight I would have been hanging out with him instead. If I had not brought my Bible this man never would have asked or opened up about His need for Christ. If I had given the waitress my study book I would have had nothing to give this man. If I had gone back home to watch the baseball game, which I really felt like doing, I would not have been resting on this park bench when the man found me. And seriously, I had no clue why I was just resting on a park bench instead of driving on home to see the game, until now. I also smiled as I remembered my pastor telling me to take the day off. Seems like when I woke up this morning, wondering what to do, God already had a plan.

I saw the sun starting to set and told the gentleman, I wanted to take some sunset pictures. Also I felt as our conversation was now rambling, that my mission was over. I wanted to leave him with the impression of my mission and not our rambling. He very politely told me to go take my pictures and told me how happy he was to meet me, and thanked me over and over for the Bible study book. I reminded him how to contact me. I left to take pictures. As I was taking pictures, thinking about my encounter, I realized I had made a big mistake! After the sun was down, I went back looking for the man. I could not find him, but I did find his bike tied to the same tree. I grabbed a pen and paper from my car and left a note tied to his handlebar. The note read, “Thank you Frank, for serving in Vietnam. –William”

Garments of Grace; A Garment of Innocence

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. Genesis 3:7

As soon as sin began legalism began. Adam tried to cover his shame by his own works. However that did not work. Just three verses after Adam makes his own garment, he tells God he ran from Him because he was naked. Why did Adam feel naked after making the fig leaves? Because in the presence of God we look naked, clothed in our own works. Later in verse 21 God clothes Adam in sheepskins, showing him that for his nakedness to be covered the Lamb of God would have to die. Only the death of the Lamb of God can cover our spiritual nakedness.

 

Many look at the modesty, or lack thereof, issue in the light of sex. As we become more and more comfortable seeing everybody’s flesh, sexual immorality is abounding. There is a greater danger to immodesty than just sexual immorality. To really see the danger of immodesty we must look at it in light of the cross. The greatest danger is not immoral sex, but not sensing our shame and need of a Savior. Thus modesty becomes a salvation issue.

Let’s begin in the Garden of Eden. Contrary to popular belief, while Adam and Eve “were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed,” it was not exactly like a nudist colony today. Page 311 of Christ’s Object Lessons says, “A beautiful soft light, the light of God, enshrouded the holy pair. This robe of light was a symbol of their spiritual garments of heavenly innocence. Had they remained true to God it would ever have continued to enshroud them. But when sin entered, they severed their connection with God, and the light that had encircled them departed. Naked and ashamed, they tried to supply the place of the heavenly garments by sewing together fig leaves for a covering.” 

So they weren’t really walking around naked as we think of the word “naked” to begin with. They had a covering. This is why Adam felt naked when he sinned; the covering had been lost. By his own works he tried to cover his nakedness with fig leaves (his own works) but that did not work.. Likewise today, our good works can never cover our spiritual nakedness. Even after making his own clothes from fig leaves, Adam still felt naked in God’s presence. Only Jesus could cover Adam’s shame. Genesis 3:21 says, “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” Here is the whole modesty issue in light of the cross. An animal had to die to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness and shame. Likewise Jesus would have to die naked on a cross in order to ultimately cover our shame. Those who have a sense of modesty and nakedness know they need a Savior to cover their shame. Those who have no sense of shame and modesty sense no need of a Savior.

So more than being a sex issue, proper dress becomes a salvation issue that can only be properly understood, as all other doctrines, in the light of the cross. The fact of the matter is, the further away from God we are the more clothes we take off, but the closer we come to Jesus and accept Him as our Savior, the more we dress properly. In Genesis 3 Adam was naked while running from God. When God found him and presented the plan of salvation and the cross, Adam was then clothed with the animal skins, pointing to Jesus who alone can cover our shame. In Luke 18:27 we find a man wearing no clothes and possessed of devils. However, in verse 35, when he becomes converted we see him clothed and “in his right mind.” Thus, while far from God he had no sense of modesty, but as he became converted and “in his right mind”he began dressing appropriately. This has nothing to do with sexual lust as I seriously doubt such a naked lunatic hanging out in graves would really be a sexual temptation for anyone. So it is today.  The issue today is the same as it was in Luke 18. The man had no sense of modesty when he had no sense of a need for a Savior. Once he sensed his need of a Savior and accepted Christ, he began dressing appropriately as he now saw the issue of dress in the light of the cross.

Now some may say that modesty is a cultural issue. The heathen tribes of Africa all parade around naked because that is their culture. Let’s remember they are called “heathen” tribes for a reason. Also, let’s remember too what Paul says in Galatians 6:14. “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” In this verse we see that Paul is crucified to the world. The world would be his culture, correct? So it is now the cross and not Paul’s culture that dictates how he dresses and behaves. We also see in Galatians 6:14 that Paul does not glory in his body but in the cross.

At the cross we see the modesty issue as a human dignity issue rather than a sexuality issue. At the cross, while Jesus was being crucified naked, the women “stood afar off”. This had nothing to do with sex. They were not tempted to lust after Jesus as they were there only to show their compassion. As they did so, they did not want to look upon His nakedness in order to protect His human dignity. At the cross we see the importance of human dignity. And when we appreciate the human dignity of all mankind we will not encourage scantily clad bodies on the beach, or on our magazine covers, or anywhere else. In light of the cross, we will teach modesty in dress to all regardless of their age, gender, or culture, as people of all ages, genders and cultures are human and thus all deserve to be treated with the same human dignity that these women showed Jesus.

The Pier in St.Peterburg

At the Pier in St.Petersburg you can enjoy all the beauty of the water without any of the immodest distractions you sometimes see at the beach. 

 

Even in the medical world, where doctors are not necessarily looking at the body in a sexual way, dignity is still a factor. In Counsels on Health, page 364, Ellen White writes: “There should be a much larger number of lady physicians, educated not only to act as trained nurses, but also as physicians. It is a most horrible practice, this revealing the secret parts of women to men, or men being treated by women. Women physicians should utterly refuse to look upon the secret parts of men. Women should be thoroughly educated to work for women, and men to work for men. Let men know that they must go to their own sex and not apply to lady physicians.” Please keep in mind this one paragraph is borrowed from its original context. A balanced view of Sister White’s writings allows us to see that this practice should be followed when and where possible, but in emergencies or extreme situations we may need to be treated by the opposite sex and just trust that they will treat us with the same dignity the opposite gender showed Jesus at the cross. Fact is reality and balanced thinking tells us there are times when clothing or lack thereof is not an option, but let’s let common sense and the Holy Spirit tell us when that is and not our own feelings or even culture.

 

 

Most male doctors will not lust after a female patient as most female doctors will not lust after a male patient. However, lust is not the issue in the light of the cross, but rather human dignity. If modesty and human dignity are an issue in the doctor’s office and at the cross, then would it not also be an issue on the beach, on billboards signs, the silver screen and everywhere else including in the church?

 

Jesus gave His life not only to save us from death but to also cover our nakedness. Wouldn’t dressing modestly be a great way to thank Jesus for dying for us? Likewise, knowing that our brothers and sisters make up the body of Christ, wouldn’t refusing to look upon their naked or half-naked bodies also be a way of treating Christ Himself with the same human dignity that the women showed Jesus at the cross? 

Garments of Grace; A Garment of Innocence

Here is an essay I wrote a while back, which I thought was relevant to this week’s SS lesson. (Download Sabbath School Guides to your cell phone here.)

Many look at the modesty, or lack thereof, issue in the light of sex. As we become more and more comfortable seeing everybody’s flesh, sexual immorality is abounding. There is a greater danger to immodesty than just sexual immorality. To really see the danger of immodesty we must look at it in light of the cross. The greatest danger is not immoral sex, but not sensing our shame and need of a Savior. Thus modesty becomes a salvation issue.

Let’s begin in the Garden of Eden. Contrary to popular belief, while Adam and Eve “were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed,” it was not exactly like a nudist colony today. Page 311 of Christ’s Object Lessons says, “A beautiful soft light, the light of God, enshrouded the holy pair. This robe of light was a symbol of their spiritual garments of heavenly innocence. Had they remained true to God it would ever have continued to enshroud them. But when sin entered, they severed their connection with God, and the light that had encircled them departed. Naked and ashamed, they tried to supply the place of the heavenly garments by sewing together fig leaves for a covering.” 

So they weren’t really walking around naked as we think of the word “naked” to begin with. They had a covering. This is why Adam felt naked when he sinned; the covering had been lost. By his own works he tried to cover his nakedness with fig leaves (his own works) but that did not work.. Likewise today, our good works can never cover our spiritual nakedness. Even after making his own clothes from fig leaves, Adam still felt naked in God’s presence. Only Jesus could cover Adam’s shame. Genesis 3:21 says, “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” Here is the whole modesty issue in light of the cross. An animal had to die to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness and shame. Likewise Jesus would have to die naked on a cross in order to ultimately cover our shame. Those who have a sense of modesty and nakedness know they need a Savior to cover their shame. Those who have no sense of shame and modesty sense no need of a Savior.

So more than being a sex issue, proper dress becomes a salvation issue that can only be properly understood, as all other doctrines, in the light of the cross. The fact of the matter is, the further away from God we are the more clothes we take off, but the closer we come to Jesus and accept Him as our Savior, the more we dress properly. In Genesis 3 Adam was naked while running from God. When God found him and presented the plan of salvation and the cross, Adam was then clothed with the animal skins, pointing to Jesus who alone can cover our shame. In Luke 18:27 we find a man wearing no clothes and possessed of devils. However, in verse 35, when he becomes converted we see him clothed and “in his right mind.” Thus, while far from God he had no sense of modesty, but as he became converted and “in his right mind”he began dressing appropriately. This has nothing to do with sexual lust as I seriously doubt such a naked lunatic hanging out in graves would really be a sexual temptation for anyone. So it is today.  The issue today is the same as it was in Luke 18. The man had no sense of modesty when he had no sense of a need for a Savior. Once he sensed his need of a Savior and accepted Christ, he began dressing appropriately as he now saw the issue of dress in the light of the cross.

Now some may say that modesty is a cultural issue. The heathen tribes of Africa all parade around naked because that is their culture. Let’s remember they are called “heathen” tribes for a reason. Also, let’s remember too what Paul says in Galatians 6:14. “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” In this verse we see that Paul is crucified to the world. The world would be his culture, correct? So it is now the cross and not Paul’s culture that dictates how he dresses and behaves. We also see in Galatians 6:14 that Paul does not glory in his body but in the cross.

At the cross we see the modesty issue as a human dignity issue rather than a sexuality issue. At the cross, while Jesus was being crucified naked, the women “stood afar off”. This had nothing to do with sex. They were not tempted to lust after Jesus as they were there only to show their compassion. As they did so, they did not want to look upon His nakedness in order to protect His human dignity. At the cross we see the importance of human dignity. And when we appreciate the human dignity of all mankind we will not encourage scantily clad bodies on the beach, or on our magazine covers, or anywhere else. In light of the cross, we will teach modesty in dress to all regardless of their age, gender, or culture, as people of all ages, genders and cultures are human and thus all deserve to be treated with the same human dignity that these women showed Jesus.

The Pier in St.Peterburg

At the Pier in St.Petersburg you can enjoy all the beauty of the water without any of the immodest distractions you sometimes see at the beach. 

 

Even in the medical world, where doctors are not necessarily looking at the body in a sexual way, dignity is still a factor. In Counsels on Health, page 364, Ellen White writes: “There should be a much larger number of lady physicians, educated not only to act as trained nurses, but also as physicians. It is a most horrible practice, this revealing the secret parts of women to men, or men being treated by women. Women physicians should utterly refuse to look upon the secret parts of men. Women should be thoroughly educated to work for women, and men to work for men. Let men know that they must go to their own sex and not apply to lady physicians.” Please keep in mind this one paragraph is borrowed from its original context. A balanced view of Sister White’s writings allows us to see that this practice should be followed when and where possible, but in emergencies or extreme situations we may need to be treated by the opposite sex and just trust that they will treat us with the same dignity the opposite gender showed Jesus at the cross. Fact is reality and balanced thinking tells us there are times when clothing or lack thereof is not an option, but let’s let common sense and the Holy Spirit tell us when that is and not our own feelings or even culture.

 

 

Most male doctors will not lust after a female patient as most female doctors will not lust after a male patient. However, lust is not the issue in the light of the cross, but rather human dignity. If modesty and human dignity are an issue in the doctor’s office and at the cross, then would it not also be an issue on the beach, on billboards signs, the silver screen and everywhere else including in the church?

 

Jesus gave His life not only to save us from death but to also cover our nakedness. Wouldn’t dressing modestly be a great way to thank Jesus for dying for us? Likewise, knowing that our brothers and sisters make up the body of Christ, wouldn’t refusing to look upon their naked or half-naked bodies also be a way of treating Christ Himself with the same human dignity that the women showed Jesus at the cross?  

Romans 3-8; Power!

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I love Romans! In this book, Paul portrays the power of the gospel so vividly! Let’s take a look.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24

So many times we hear verse 23 read when pointing out that we all have sinned, and they stop there. The verse may end but the sentence and thought continues on into verse 24. It says that while all have sinned, all have also been justified. There are no conditions met by man for this justification.

In Romans 5:12 Paul says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” There were no conditions met by me to make me a sinner. When Adam sinned, I sinned in Adam seeing how my flesh was in Adam’s flesh, I sinned in Adam, with no choice of my own. The eastern mind, which thinks more corporately than the western mind which thinks more individually, grasps this concept more easily. In Genesis 25, God tells Rebekah, that two nations are in her womb, seeing how the flesh of millions would come from the flesh of her twin sons. In Hebrews 7 Paul says that what Abraham did, his grandson Levi also did, seeing how Levi came from the flesh of Abraham. Even today, in many eastern countries, when an individual wins an Olympic gold medal, the medal goes to the country and not the individual. The eastern mind thinks more corporately. So, when Adam sinned, we all sinned in Adam and were made sinners, with no choice of our own. Now look what else happened!

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.  Romans 5:10

Where we all sinned in Adam, we have all lived a perfect life in Jesus! Jesus took my flesh (Romans 8:3-4) and lived a perfect life with my flesh! We are saved by His life! Friends this all took place and was resolved before we were ever born or made a choice! Jesus has totally undone all the damage Adam caused. We have all sinned and we have all been justified! We do not need to win God to us, He has won Himself to us.

Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.  Romans 5:18-19

We all understand that in this verse when it says many were made sinners that is means everyone, but when we read that the free gift came upon all to justification of life, we don’t think that means everyone. It does! Jesus totally undid all the damage Adam caused! I hear people say you have to accept a gift before you can have it. Not so! John 3:16 says God gave His son, not offered, but gave. When I worked at UPS I delivered many packages that I had to go back to later and pick up because the customer did not want them. Even though the customer did not accept them, they still had them until they rejected them. Same with justification!

As many as have sinned have been justified. There is great power in the book of Romans. Romans chapter 4 uses Abraham as an illustration. Abraham was promised a son in his old age. First Abraham tries to help God keep His promise by working it out for Him. He takes Hagar to wife, as she is much younger than his first wife. God then has Abraham circumcised so that he can cast away the confidence he had in his own flesh to work out what God had already promised He would do. Abraham realizes, that the child will come from God’s promise and not by the works of his flesh.  Romans 4:21 says of Abraham, “And being fully persuaded that, what he [God] had promised, he was able also to perform.”  

All God asks is that we trust His promise, and what He can do for us and through us!

Romans 3-8 tells me:

  1. Adam sinned and made us all sinners. Thus we all deserved to die. Romans 3:23, 6:23
  2. My flesh that deserved to die died with Christ. Romans 8:3-4
  3. While formerly I had sinned in Adam, I now have lived a perfect life in Christ. Romans 5:10
  4. If I continue to do like Abraham and try to save myself by the works of my own flesh, I need to do like Abraham and throw away my trust in my flesh and works, and trust that Jesus has already promised and performed my justification. While God did not make me a robot, I am free at any time to throw away the gift that has already been given, but God has given, not just offered, the free gift of justification. 
  5. While Romans 5:10 says I lived a perfect life in Christ, which is my justification; my salvation from the penalty of sin, Romans 8:4 tells me Jesus wants to fulfill in me His law, which is my sanctification; my salvation from the power of sin.