Glimpses of Our God; Mulligans and Grace

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Friday’s section of this week’s SS lesson asks the question, “What’s the deadly spiritual trap of thinking that because we’re saved by grace, it doesn’t matter what we do? How can you protect yourself against falling into that deception?”

On the golf course we have another word for grace. It is called a “mulligan.” After you make a terrible shot, your partner may offer you a mulligan. You take another shot and the first shot does not count. It’s like it never happened. I love grace and I love mulligans. However, one day, when I first took up golf, I was golfing with Ron, my good friend and golf mentor. We were on the 6th fairway at the Rivard Golf Course in Brooksville. It is a par 5. I was about 50 yards away from the green and about to make my third stroke. If I hit the green I would be on in 3 strokes, and with two putts could easily make par. My third stroke went wide left and hit a tree. Ron, who is very gracious and forgiving told me to take a mulligan. I graciously accepted and dropped another ball at the original spot and tried again. I hit the tree again. Frustrated I grabbed another ball and dropped it and hit again with the same result. Now I was becoming very frustrated because I knew I could do it, it just wasn’t happening. It was just bad luck and I was determined I wasn’t going to let bad luck control my scorecard. I dropped another ball and got ready to experience more “grace” by taking another mulligan. Then it occurred to me that I may have been taking advantage of the mulligan system. Many take one mulligan but I was taking several. I asked my friend Ron, “does anybody else do this?” Referring to taking multiple mulligans. Ron, who is very forgiving and graceful, shook his head in disbelief and with a hint of frustration in his voice firmly said, “no!”.

Grace is a wonderful thing, but it is not intended to let us make the same mistakes over and over. Sure, there is always forgiveness.  When our heart is broken because of sin, the Psalmist declares in Psalms 51, “a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” I know with all my heart that God will never turn away a heart that is broken because of a sin no matter how many times sin has broken that heart before. At the same time grace is more than just forgiveness. Grace is a power that helps us overcome our failures.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.  Ephesians 2:8-10

Grace gives us good works.

By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith. Romans 1:5

Grace gives us obedience

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. Titus 2:11-12

Grace gives us power to live Godly lives in this present world.

We have a relatively new senior pastor at our church who likes golf. Pastor Brad  allows me to take mulligans, but  he never takes them himself. He holds himself to a higher standard than what he requires of me.  To me that is a model Christian. Freely forgiving others while holding himself to a higher standard. Funny thing is he wins all the time.

One day we were playing on the Babe Zaharias golf course near our church in Tampa. The second hole is a par 4. My first drive went short and wide left towards some trees. I wanted to take a mulligan, but since Pastor Brad wasn’t taking them, I thought I better just play it straight and accept another double or triple bogey. Strange thing happened on my second shot. Using my fairway wood, my second shot sailed close to 200 yards and the ball landed next to the green. I chipped onto the green and my first putt fell in the hole for par! I walked off the green and thought, “Wow! Even with a bad drive I made par without taking a mulligan.” That felt good.

To me, my friend Ron and my friend Pastor Brad, make a good combination of grace. Ron sitting in the golf cart patiently as I kept hitting the tree over and over with my chip shot, and Pastor Brad challenging me by holding himself to a higher standard. I have learned in golf, that what I need instead of a mulligan is a really good second stroke. I have also learned that when I make double par the world does not come to an end. I need both Ron and pastor Brad in my life as well as my golf game. They give me the proper balance I need to improve my game. While I may not always need mulligans, I will always need grace, because grace is  more than a second chance. Grace is the power to improve my game and my life.

Glimpses Of Grace; Controversy Between Good And Evil

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.  Exodus 25:8

But your iniquities have separated between you and your God…  Isaiah 59:2

I have often heard that the Great Controversy between God and Satan is about whether we can keep God’s law, and that God is wanting to produce a people who perfectly obey His law before He comes.  However, in my own personal study of God’s Word, and the Spirit of Prophecy, while I find promises galore about God’s promises help us obey His law, I do not find that is what the Great Controversy is all about. What I find, is that the Great Controversy, or the Conflict of the Ages, is about whether or not God is love. As a matter of fact, if you have ever read the 5 volume Conflict of the Ages, Series from the Spirit of Prophecy, have you noticed that the first line of the first book is “God is love”, and that the very last line of the last book is “God is Love” ? That is what the conflict is all about!

Many are familiar with this passage from Christ Object Lessons page 69. , “When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.”  While nothing changes about the truth of that statement, I believe we need to change how we apply that truth. Have you ever heard the phrase, “trophy bride?” That is when a man who wants to impress his peers, shows up at a party with his beautiful, perfectly proportioned, flawless complexioned wife, to show off for all to see. There may be no depth to their relationship but he likes to show her off to everyone.

Friends, I don’t believe God is looking for a trophy bride. I don’t believe He wants a perfect church to show off to the universe. I believe He wants a deep and meaningful relationship with His bride, the church. By God’s grace we can live victorious overcoming lives, but that is not what it is all about. God wants to remove sin, not so that He can show us off as some sort of trophy bride, but so that He can restore His relationship and dwell right inside us. While God dwelling right inside us will solve the sin problem, more importantly to Christ it restores the relationship. Meanwhile, with the relationship restored, the perfection of love is seen between God and His church, thus letting the world see that God is love, so they too can make an intelligent decision to have or not to have a relationship with God.

Jesus didn’t die for a trophy bride. He died to show us He really loves us and  is dying to restore our relationship with Him.

If you are in the Tampa Bay area, please come to the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, where you can meet and fall in love with God!

Find a caring church anywhere in the world by clicking here!

To subscribe to the daily “Glimpses of the Cross” devotionals just click on the top right of this page,  where it says “Subscibe to In Light of The Cross by e-mail.”

Glimpses of Grace; Hope For The Hopeless

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. Matthew 9:12

Its the sick who need a doctor. It is the sinner who needs a Savior, and it is the hopeless who need hope. Often we are inclined to help those in whom we see potential, or who at least show us some promise. If we think they can make it then we will help them. But isn’t it the hopeless who need hope? Isn’t it those who are lost who need a guide? This year, ask God to send all the hopeless people your way. Ask God to send your church all the rebel youth that nobody else wants at their church. Tell God to send them all over to your church! You’ll love and care for them and give them hope. Ask God to send you the winos, the drug addicts that nobdoy else wants to deal with. You will love them.

Jesus did not die to give hope to those with potential. No, He died to give hope to the hopeless!

 “Often He met those who had drifted under Satan’s control, and who had no power to break from his snare. To such a one, discouraged, sick, tempted, and fallen, Jesus would speak words of tenderest pity, words that were needed and could be understood. Others He met who were fighting a hand-to-hand battle with the adversary of souls. These He encouraged to persevere, assuring them that they would win; for angels of God were on their side, and would give them the victory. –The Desire of Ages, p. 91.”

If you are in need of hope, please contact us at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church. God loves you and so do we!

Find a caring church anywhere in the world by clicking here!

To subscribe to the daily “Glimpses of the Cross” devotionals just click on the top right of this page,  where it says “Subscibe to In Light of The Cross by e-mail.”

Vickie, Colleen and Neil’s Baptism Pictures

Please let me share some pictures of our very special day (8-27-11) at Tampa First.

Vickie, fourth from the left, moved into the apartments next door to our church. She immediately started visiting our church, and joined my Sabbath morning SS Growth group as well as my Wednesday morning Community Bible Study. This is a  picture of her at my Wednesday Community Bible study. She told me after just a couple of weeks, that she grew up mostly without a family and for me to share with everyone that when she came to this church, it was the first time in her life she felt like she was part of a family! And she is an active part of our church family too. She is already helping out with church office work and other things.

Neil, on my right, was re-baptized today, after coming back to the Lord earlier this year. While homeless, he turned his life over to Jesus, came back to church and finished his associate medical degree! Neil has been an inspiration to me, and I am so glad we have become friends.

Colleen, being baptized by Pastor Brad, completed her baptism workbook with her mother’s help. I also studied with her in my baptism class earlier this year. Colleen is very active in our Adventures club. Colleen writes: “I want to be baptized because I love Jesus and I want to give my life to Him.”

Neil writes: ”

    • Being rebaptized,means a lot,God is willing to forgive me of my sins,to be able to start all over again,is a blessing,my Heart is burning for the love he has granted us,to know what it means to humble yourself and the most strongest Word to me,Faith,not just hearing it,but seeing His amazing love at work,He has blessed me with the chance to see my sisters and brothers in Christ,and to be able to let others not just know,but see,that we are his children,and the purpose he has for us.AMEN!!

      Vickie writes: “Baptism is the beginning of my new life. I go under with the old but come up strong and new!”

      Jim, my assistant leader of the Wednesday Community Bible Study group welcomes Vickie to the family!

      Scott, one of our local elders is congratulating Neil after his baptism.

      My SS Growth Group had a luncheon for Neil and Vickie after their baptisms. Colleen celebrated with her family. Here, Neil is with David and Aimee, and his family, who came all the way from Chicago for this special event.

      Donna and I had our picture taken with Vickie.

      Don’t let the sun go down on you before you make your decision for Jesus Christ! He loves you so much He gave all of His life for you. Will you give all of your life for Him? I would love to visit with you about being baptized. You can call me at 813-933-7505 or write to me at LayPastor@TampaAdventist.net

Aaliyah and Trei’s Baptism Pictures

Sabbath, July 16 was another special Sabbath for the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist church as two young people gave their lives to Jesus in baptism. They wanted to give all of themselves to Jesus because He had given all of Himself for them.

In 2008 ASI came to Tampa and held some evangelistic meetings. Wes, an ASI Bible worker met and studied with Larry and Janice, who became baptized. It did not stop there though.  For the next three years Larry and Janice have been sharing Jesus with all of their friends and family. Several of their family members have been visiting my New Believers Sabbath School Growth Group. Larry in now a deacon, and Janice distributes literature in her neighborhood and everywhere she goes.

Larry and Janice’s granddaughter, Aaliyah also goes with Janice, distributing literature and inviting people to church. She had been wanting to be baptized for a while. She did a very good job on her baptism workbook, and when I came over to study with her and her grandmother, she always had all of her lessons filled out, along with some insightful notes she had made at the end.

Trei and his parents faitfully attended my baptism class at church on Sabbath mornings. Trei completed his work and was always happy to pray and answer questions in my class. Trei’s mother Leila is also helping me with a Growth Group on Wednesday nights. Trei and his family like to encourage others to know Jesus and to share Bible truths with them.

Pastor Brad went over the baptismal vows with Aaliyah and Trei before the baptism.

“I want to be baptized because I love God and want Him in my life. I want to be closer to Him. I know He is more important than anything else. I’m ready to give up my life for Him and my heart inside is saying I need to be baptized.” -Trei

“Getting baptized for Jesus means becoming a better person and follwing Jesus and the commandments. I want to be baptized so I can have my sins washed away not go behind God’s back and sin all the time. I want to live a new and better life for Jesus.” – Aaliyah

Russel Norton was one of the first to welcome Trei and Aaliyah to the Tampa First family right after church service today.

 

Revelation 10; Spreading the Good News

I am writing this morning from the beautiful Tampa First SDA Church.

And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings. Revelation 10:11

 We are to give the last warning of God to men, and what should be our earnestness in studying the Bible and our zeal in spreading the light! Let every soul who has received the divine illumination seek to impart it. Let the workers go from house to house, opening the Bible to the people, circulating the publications, telling others of the light that has blessed their own souls. Let literature be distributed judiciously, on the trains, in the street, on the great ships that ply the sea, and through the mails.  {9T 122.3} 
     A great work is to be done, and those who know the truth should make mighty intercession for help. The love of Christ must fill their own hearts. The Spirit of Christ must be poured out upon them, and they must be making ready to stand in the judgment. As they consecrate themselves to God, a convincing power will attend their efforts to present the truth to others. We must no longer sleep on Satan’s enchanted ground, but call into requisition all our resources, availing ourselves of every facility with which Providence has furnished us. The last warning is to be proclaimed before “many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings,” and the promise is given, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Revelation 10:11; Matthew 28:20.  {9T 12} 

 The Lord will fit men and women–yes, and children, as He did Samuel–for His work, making them His messengers. He who never slumbers or sleeps watches over each worker, choosing his sphere of labor. All heaven is watching the warfare which, under apparently discouraging circumstances, God’s servants are carrying on. New conquests are being achieved, new honors won, as the Lord’s servants, rallying round the banner of their Redeemer, go forth to fight the good fight of faith. All the heavenly angels are at the service of the humble, believing people of God; and as the Lord’s army of workers here below sing their songs of praise, the choir above join with them in thanksgiving, ascribing praise to God and to His Son. {7T 71}

As well as carrying out my regular responsibilities as a Bible Worker at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, I have also been teaching the young people at Tampa Adventist Academy to mark their Bibles and give Bible studies. This week I have begun a baptism class with about 28 kids. Seven of them have already been baptized but wanted to take the class as a “refresher course.” I decided to let them attend but to also have them help Pastor Brad and me in actually doing some of the presentations! I have made Power Point Presentations out of the In Light of The Cross Bible study guides, so each baptized student will have an opportunity to give a lesson in the baptism class. I was amazed how excited the kids were to do this!