When I recorded this today I did not realize we were already at the end of the Sabbath School quarter. This year is flying by!
“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ Matthew 7:21-23 NLT
When I tell one of my students at school to clean the dry erase board he does not come up to me several minutes later saying, “I memorized what you told me to do.” Memorizing is not the goal. Obedience is the goal. This is why I find this week’s Sabbath School lesson so crucial as it stresses the importance of not only understanding or even memorizing the Bible but actually doing what it says. I know people who show great respect for the Bible by not placing anything on top of it or by not setting it on the ground, treating it much the way we do our nation’s flag. This is commendable, but I believe and I’m sure you do too, that the greatest way to show respect for God’s Word is to do what it says. Otherwise not stacking things on top of the Bible or not letting it touch the ground is meaningless if we are not doing what it says. After all what traitor could stand before a judge and say, “Sure I traded military secrets to the enemy but I never let the flag touch the ground.” Treating the flag with respect is meaningless if we are betraying the nation it represents.
Today when writing even a pronoun for God like “He” and “Him” we capitalize the pronouns referring to God out of respect. However you may have already noticed that in the Bible the pronouns for God are not capitalized. What gives? Did the Bible translators have no respect for God and His holiness? No, they had great respect for God, but they realized that the best way to show respect for God is to do what He says, and not just simply write His name with capital letters. After all, writing pronouns referring to God with capital letters is quite hallow if we are not exhibiting the greatest form of respect which is obedience.
After all, nowhere in Scripture does it tell us not stack anything on top of the Bible or make sure we write pronouns referring to God with capital letters. Nowhere in Scripture are we told the importance of merely memorizing Scripture if we are not prepared to actually do what it says. In Luke 10 a lawyer engages Jesus in a theological discussion regarding the law and salvation. Jesus commends the lawyer for his theory on theology. But even as Jesus commends his theory as being theologically correct He also lets him know more than head knowledge and theory is required.
Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” Luke 10:28 NLT
Jesus was not satisfied with theological head knowledge. Jesus wanted the lawyer to do what the law says. Jesus then illustrates His point with the story of the good Samaritan, who practiced loving his neighbor. The Samaritan was doing in the story what the lawyer was only talking about. At the end of the story Jesus reiterates the importance of doing what the law says instead of just studying and memorizing the law.
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” Luke 10:37 NLT
A few years ago I was a part of a discussion where someone was saying that we don’t need to obey the health and temperance principles in the Bible. We only need to call upon the name of the Lord and we will be saved. He referenced Romans 10:13. I agreed that Romans 10:13 does indeed say those who call upon the Name of the Lord will be saved, but we can’t call Jesus “Lord” if we are not obeying Him. Matthew 7:21-23 makes it clear that we are calling on the name of the Lord in vain if we are not obeying His laws. After all obedience is the result of salvation.
Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. Philippians 2:12 NLT
When Jesus was at the wedding party with His mother, and they ran out of wine, His mother told the servants something extremely simple but equally profound.
“Do whatever he tells you.” John 2:5 NLT
Many years ago I was the guest speaker at a church where a family had just lost a child. The pastor explained to me that they would take up an offering for the family to help with funeral expenses and assured me they would still take up the customary offering to cover my expenses traveling to their church. When the plea was made for the family’s offering someone testified how poor the family was. I perceived the Holy Spirit nudging me to tell the pastor sitting on the platform with me to collect all of the money for the family and not to take up an offering for me. I sat there a few moments considering what I felt the Holy Spirit telling me. Did I have the money to pay for this trip myself? Then I perceived the Holy Spirit speaking to my conscience again, “What is there to think about or consider? I just told you what to do!” I then leaned over and whispered in the pastor’s ear to forget about my offering and give it all to the family. I never missed the money I would have received that day. More importantly I did what I knew God was telling me to do.
It was not enough for me to know what God was telling me to do. It was not enough for me to memorize what God was telling me to do. The minimum God was requiring of me was to actually do what He was telling me to do. So it is with studying God’s Word. It is not enough to study. It is not enough to understand. It is not enough to memorize. We must obey the Word of God.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
You may listen to the podcast version of this article here.
Study Bibles for the most part can be a huge blessing. However as a young Bible Worker back in the 1990’s I found them to be very challenging. Numerous times I would begin Bible studies with someone who knew very little about the Bible. They would run out to a bookstore in the community and buy a Study Bible, which they would be very proud to show me at our next Bible study. I would hide my disappointment and act happy for them. But almost always, later when the notes in their study Bible would contradict a Bible principle I was teaching I would need to remind them that the study notes are not inspired. Of course a more seasoned Bible student would realize that more readily than a new Bible student who was looking for something to cling to. Of course when I disagreed with the study notes, both the Bible student and I obviously realized I was not inspired either. So we would have to keep comparing Scripture with Scripture to get our final conclusions.
Even as Adventists we must understand we learn truth by comparing Scripture with Scripture, and not by comparing Scripture with our favorite authors or preachers. Our Adventist pioneers came out of various protestant churches and sat down together to study out different doctrines in the Bible. Even though their group Bible studies led to the founding of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, our Adventist pioneers studied these things out for themselves. They did not study the Bible for us. It is still up to us to compare Scripture with Scripture just as they did so we too can know what is truth. The counsel given to Timothy is for all of us.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV
Paul did not study for Timothy. Timothy had to study the Scriptures for himself. Likewise our Adventist pioneers did not study the Scriptures for you. You must study them for yourself.
Likewise commentaries like Study Bibles can be helpful, but keep in mind they are not inspired. In 1953 a group of dedicated people put together the 7 volume Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary. as scholarly and Spirit led as they were even they recognized their human limitations and fallibility. For example:
For such errors as may appear in these volumes we plead not only the indulgence of the reader but also his [or her] cooperation, so that future printings may come ever near to perfection. -Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 1 Page 17.
This commentary is published with no thought of presenting a creed or determining for all time the denominational interpretation of any passage of Scripture. Neither the contributors nor the editors possess either the power or the desire to do so. Let this fact be clearly understood at the outset. -Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 1 Page 18.
Let me make myself clear that I am not telling anyone to throw away their Study notes or commentaries. What I am saying is, remember study notes and commentaries are not on the same level as Scripture. Scripture is inspired and infallible. Notes in study Bibles and commentaries are not infallible.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
I am writing from the beautiful Tampa Bay area, where I love to relax and read my ereader.
I’ve had my ereader two weeks now and am already in love with it. Initially I got it because it doesn’t have the light, like a cell phone or tablet, that strains your eyes. Here are some more reasons it has become my favorite gadget.
- While several of my friends tell me they need a break from Facebook, Facebook is actually a part of my ministry. I don’t need a long break from Facebook. My ereader allows me to break away, long enough to connect with God through the Bibles on my Kindle. The Bibles I have purchased at a reasonable price are easy to navigate, similar to an app. I can read, pray and meditate without social media notifications interfering. What is cool is that I can still post passages to Facebook, through Kindle even though the ereader doesn’t have Facebook! When I use my ereader in church, I can’t be “accused” of going onto social media instead of my Bible as there is no social media on ereader.
- I already mentioned there is no light, which is not healthy to stare directly into for long periods of time, like a cell phone or tablet. By the way I brought my ereader to the school where I help, and a 6th grader asked me how I read it at night, since it has no light. I told her I turn on a lamp. She thought that was a splendid novel idea! Since there is no light it is so easy to read in daylight! I can take my ereader to the park on Bayshore, my favorite place to read, and there is no glare or shadow.
- The battery life is long. In two weeks my battery has never gotten low. I have charged it just a few times for 3 or 4 minutes to keep it at maximum. I can take my ereader anywhere without worrying about the battery going dead. This makes it more like a real book, but it is actually an entire library.
- In just two weeks I am finding that my reading time has become much more focused, meaningful, and intentional. I select specific books to read and am not distracted by other articles on the Internet, that are nothing more than petty distractions. I’m sorry! Were you reading something important before you clicked on this article? I won’t distract you any longer then, so you can get back to your important reading. Just remember, ereaders are cool! “You can search for Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes and Noble Nook ereaders on Google.” -Captain Obvious
I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. John 15:5 NLT
Is it that simple? Can I be fruitful by just remaining and abiding in Christ?
I was reading John 15 the other morning, when this phrase jumped out at me. If I just live in Jesus I can be fruitful. Now living in Christ does not mean being idle. Yet the passage seemed so simple. I don’t need to hype up my evangelistic series. I don’t need a cutting edge technology-filled worship service to compete with all the other really cool livestream services.
Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s wonderful that my 91-year-old aunt can livestream her church worship service when she can’t make it to church. But let’s be careful. Vacations lose their meaning when they become all about the photo opps for Facebook, instead of the actual vacation. Do we get so wrapped up in making sure our livestream worship service is as smooth and hip as that “really cool mega church” that we forget our worship service is just that – a worship service?
Several years ago I had a Bible study group made up of non-churched youth. One week my church was having an evangelistic series with all the hip modern music, so I decided, why not take the kids and their parents to see this instead of our regular Bible study? Let’s show them we do more than just study. Let’s show them how “with it” we are. So all the kids and a few of their parents came. The music was wild, and while it was not my taste, I was happy, thinking the kids would be impressed. After the service I asked a 13-year-old in my study group, how it went over. With shrugged shoulders he said, “I wish we would have had the Bible study instead.”
That was several years ago and I have since learned what Google has known all along. People like simple. Google doesn’t busy their home page with ads and articles like so many other search engines. They wisely keep it simple.
In Tampa I have a Thursday afternoon teen Bible study with mostly non-churched teens. Recently the kids and I were separated because of the public school holiday break. When we came back together, a high school Junior shared some questions she had come up with while studying the Bible on her own. She told me she thought Elijah’s story was similar to end-time events, and why. I agreed. Her family was not studying with her. She had no study guides. Just a young girl and her Bible alone with the Holy Spirit making amazing discoveries! So simple.
In Plant City, I have been assisting our pastor with a Wednesday night youth Bible study group. We started off playing games, serving refreshments and having a short Bible study at the end. Over time the game time has become shorter and shorter, and the Bible study time is becoming longer and longer. Not by the pastor or my design, but because over time the youth wanted to study more and play less! This tells me people today are not hungry for fancy programs. They are hungry for the simple Word of God. At Plant City we sometimes have hymns, we sometimes have the latest praise songs and teams, but every Sabbath young and old show up for the Word of God.
Come to find out, people are not hungry for particular worship styles and fancy programs. They are hungry for God. Jesus tells us if we simply abide in Him and His Word, we can bear fruit to feed a starving world.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School Lesson here.
Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise! Proverbs 6:6 NLT
God placed our first parents in Paradise, surrounding them with all that was useful and lovely. In their Eden home nothing was wanting that could minister to their comfort and happiness. And to Adam was given the work of caring for the Garden. The Creator knew that Adam could not be happy without employment. The beauty of the Garden delighted him, but this was not enough. He must have labor to call into exercise the wonderful organs of the body. Had happiness consisted in doing nothing, man, in his state of holy innocence, would have been left unemployed. But He who created man knew what would be for his happiness; and no sooner had He created him, than He gave him his appointed work. The promise of future glory, and the decree that man must toil for his daily bread, came from the same throne. . . .
When the body is inactive, the blood flows sluggishly, and the muscles decrease in size and strength. . . . Physical exercise, and a free use of air and sunlight–blessings which heaven has abundantly bestowed on all–would give life and strength to many an emaciated invalid. . . . Work is a blessing, not a curse. Diligent labor keeps many, young and old, from the snares of him who “finds some mischief still for idle hands to do.” Let no one be ashamed of work, for honest toil is ennobling. While the hands are engaged in the most common tasks, the mind may be filled with high and holy thoughts.
Drowsiness and indolence destroy godliness, and grieve the Spirit of God. A stagnant pool is offensive; but a pure, flowing stream spreads health and gladness over the land. No man or woman who is converted can be anything but a worker. There certainly is and ever will be employment in heaven. The redeemed will not live in a state of dreamy idleness. There remaineth a rest for the people of God–a rest which they will find in serving Him to whom they owe all they have and are.-Ellen White, Our High Calling, Page 223
I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
“Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding.” Proverbs 3:13 NLT
I remember several years ago I got to thinking about the fact that I had not really learned anything exciting or new in the Scriptures lately. Since I love studying and finding new things, I asked God why that was. The thought came to me. Have I been doing all that God already showed me? If not, why would He bother showing me more, when I am not even doing what I already know to do?
The story goes of a pastor who preached the same sermon three weeks in a row. After the third time, an elder told him, “you do realize this is the third time you’ve preached the exact same sermon?” “Yes,” the pastor replied. “And you still have not done what I told you.”
Understanding means obeying. There is no reason for God to give us more wisdom, if we’re not using the wisdom we already have.
“Disobedience has closed the door to a vast amount of knowledge that might have been gained from the Scriptures. Understanding means obedience to God’s commandments. The Scriptures are not to be adapted to meet the prejudice and jealousy of men. They can be understood only by those who are humbly seeking for a knowledge of the truth that they may obey it.” Ellen White, Christ Object Lessons, page 111
I am writing tonight from the slightly overcast but still beautiful Tampa Bay area.
In the United States, we have an airline, called Southwest, who ask on their commercials, “Want to get away?” In each commercial someone will find themselves in an embarrassing situation, where they would gladly fly to the other side of the world and hide under a rock. The airline then suggests, getting on their plane to get away from it all.
In Mark 5 we read about a man who was in a very embarrassing situation before his conversion. When I tell you everything that happened with this man, you will agree with me, that after his conversion, he would gladly hop on an airplane to get away. However, Jesus sends him on a mission trip-back home!
For sake of time, I am going to highlight the story but you can read it for yourself here.
Sadly, demon activity has not changed much over the years. This man is hanging out in tombs, obsessed with death, much like those controlled by demons today. Jesus is life, and when we don’t have Jesus, all that’s left is death. He refused to be “tamed”, “taught” or “controlled.” The exact words may vary based on your favorite translation, but the idea is the same. He was not going to be bound by Biblical standards, like so many today, who do not want to hear what is right and wrong.
He cut himself. Today many cut themselves trying to find healing, not realizing, Jesus was already cut and wounded to bring them healing. The demoniac was tormented by the presence of Jesus. Today, an unconverted person does not want to be where Jesus can be found. They want nothing to do with Bible study, prayer meeting or family worship.
None of these demonic demonstrations phase Jesus. He heals the man and he becomes converted. In verse 15 it tells us after his conversion, the man is clothed and in his right mind. Luke 8 tells us this man was naked at the beginning of the story. Mark tells us at the end that after the conversion he is clothed. Another sign of demonic activity is wanting to dress improperly or not at all. When we become converted we dress appropriately.
Now that the man is converted we see that he wants to be with Jesus. He tells Him in verse 18 that he wants to be with Jesus. Now I am imagining that if I had been seen by my community, running around naked in a cemetery, that I would now like to jump on a Southwest airlines jet, or any jet for that matter and get away! I think a nice mission trip to the other side of the planet is now in order, so I can preach the gospel about as far away as I can get from the people who saw me running around a cemetery naked, cutting myself. But in verse 19 Jesus sends him on a mission trip-back home! Jesus tells the man to go back home and tell what wonderful things Jesus has done for him. Friend, if Jesus has done wonderful things for you, if He really has changed your life, you don’t need to get away. While foreign mission trips are fun, fruitful and rewarding, chances are Jesus may have a mission field for you right in your very home. Jesus doesn’t send everyone to the other side of the planet, as much as we may sometimes like that idea, especially after an embarrassing moment when we want to get away. Jesus may have a mission trip planned for you right in your very home. The people saw the change in this man. So much so that in verse 15 it says it scared them or made them afraid! It must have been a real shock when the reality of what Jesus had done in this man’s life was seen.
If you run to the other side of the world people won’t see the change. If Jesus has changed your life, you don’t need to be afraid. You can proudly go back home, clothed with the righteousness of Christ and in your right mind, and tell them what wonderful things Jesus has done for you.
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Exodus 20:8-11
For years, Sabbath keepers have been called legalists. But think about it. The Sabbath is not about works and legalism, it is about rest and faith. It is not a day of works, it is a day of no work. Several times over the years I have heard a non-Sabbath keeper talking about the ten commandments as though they are still valid, which of course they are. However when the Sabbath is mentioned that same person will turn around and with the same mouth say that the commandments are done away with. That’s funny. They weren’t done away with before the Sabbath was mentioned. The Sabbath is a pivotal part of the law because it introduces grace to the law instead of legalism. “Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it [is] a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that [ye] may know that I [am] the LORD that doth sanctify you.” Exodus 31:13 It is not our works but God’s work that sanctifies us.
Satan does not want us to forget the Sabbath because he wants us to forget the law. Satan knows we are not saved by the works of the law but by grace. The Sabbath is a sign of God’s grace. We do no work on that day, demonstrating that it is not our works that sustain or save us but rather God’s work both at creation and the cross that sustain and save us. We rest on the Sabbath showing that we are resting our faith in the only One who can save us, Jesus Christ. I can imagine God walking with Adam and Eve through the garden, as He showed them all He had made for them, and the wonders of not their works but His works. Adam and Eve realized that day with God, “it is] he [that] hath made us, and not we ourselves.” (Psalms 100:3) Before and after the Cross the Sabbath is a sign that it is God’s work that creates and sustains us.
The Sabbath Commandment reminds us that God is our creator and we refrain from work and worldly activities on the Sabbath day as we rest our faith in God’s power to save and provide for us, instead of our own works and ability to do business and make money.
The same principle is seen in the story of Cain and Abel. In Genesis 4 we read about Abel worshiping the way God had commanded in bringing a lamb as a sacrifice. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice as the lamb God instructed him to bring pointed to Jesus: the Lamb of God who would be sacrificed for our sins. Abel, more than just worshiping as God had instructed was saying he trusted in Jesus to save him and not his own works, he was looking to the Cross. Cain’s sacrifice was refused because he did not worship the way God had instructed, and he brought his own fruit, the work of his own hands. God cannot accept our works and could not accept Cain’s works either. Only the Cross can save us.
Today, many people like Cain, try to be saved by worshiping their own way. Jesus says about them, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). Our own works and man made ways of worship will never save us.
The story goes of a little boy years ago who had built his own wooden sailboat. Tied to a string he set the boat out to sail in a nearby creek and then would use the string to reel it back in. One day the string broke and the little boat fell victim to the rapids and sailed away. Several days later the boy is window shopping downtown when he sees his boat in a toy store window. He goes inside and tells the owner, “That’s my boat in the window.” The owner of the store not sure if he should believe the young lad tells the boy he will have to purchase the boat if he wants it back.
The boy does several chores around the home and neighborhood to get the few dollars the boat costs. He returns to the store and purchases his own boat. Walking home, holding his boat close to his chest he was over heard saying, “little boat you are twice mine. First I made you, and then I bought you.” That is what Jesus is telling us through the Sabbath today. As we rest from our works on the Sabbath and put our faith in Him, He tells us, “You are twice mine. First, at creation I made you, and then at the cross I bought you.”
For further study on the Sabbath click here.