Repentance: A Gift From God

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

One of my life long battles has been colas. Actually I can’t honestly say I have battled it my whole life, which may be part of the problem. I am not going to debate temperance vs. abstinence concerning colas, but let’s face it, they have 0% nutritional value, and if you drink too much you have the risk of cancer, diabetes and acid re-flux. So you can’t really say the nutritional value is worth all the health risks. Anyway, believe it or not, colas are not the point of what I am writing about today. The point is repentance is a gift of God.

For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good. Matthew 5:45 NLT

God’s grace is not in response to my faith. God does not look down on me and say, “Well okay William believes, so I will give him my grace.” No, God shines His grace upon the good and the evil.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:8 NLT

My faith responds to God’s grace. The same sun that melts butter hardens clay. When God’s grace shines down on us it hardens some and chases them away, like Pharaoh for example. Other hearts are melted by God’s grace, leading them to believe and have faith.

While my faith is in response to the gift of God’s grace, likewise my turning away from sin and repenting is a gift as well.

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? Romans 2:4 NLT

Our repentance or turning from sin does not lead to God’s kindness. His kindness leads us to repent and turn from sin.

A while back while I was trying to get off colas, I decided one was not going to hurt. Here is where Satan gets us, not just on colas but on several areas of our life. First, depending upon what it is, it might be debated as to whether or not one time is going to hurt. Problem is it’s usually never one time! I had been off colas at one point for ten weeks, when I was giving blood and they offered me a Pepsi. Sure one time won’t hurt It old myself. Well it wasn’t just one time. I was back to drinking them all the time. So be careful. Even if it’s true that one time won’t hurt does not guarantee you it will be just one time.

Here is what happened later though, and this is the whole point of what I wanted to share. I had cut way back again on colas. Thinking that one time would not hurt, I went to the store and bought myself a cherry coke. I took a couple sips and the sweetness was so sickening that I dumped it out and filled the cup with water instead! That, my friends, was a gift from God. God made the cola so sickening sweet to me that I would not want it. He gave me a craving for water instead.

Fact is you can develop a taste for water, and when you do it tastes very good! Problem is our tastes have become perverted. As a matter of fact we have actually had to pervert our taste buds in order to develop a craving for unhealthy drinks. Once our taste buds are no longer perverted and are re-created by God’s grace to their natural state, we crave pure water instead of sugar and syrup.

I am so thankful God’s goodness led to my repentance. When the sugary syrup made me sick after two sips, and I had to dump it out and refill my cup with pure water, it was all a gift from God.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Deena’s Baptism Today

When I first moved to Tampa, in the spring of 2004, Deena was one
of the first people I got to meet. She was the secretary of the church, and made
me feel right at home, and helped me learn my way around the church. Several
times I would start to make a copy or print something out, and she would tell,
me, “let me do that for you. That’s my job.” Being in a new and strange place,
she made me feel right at home.

Not long after, Deena quit being the secretary to move on
somewhere else. By default, I became the secretary for a while until we found a
new one. Deena trained me in, and after trying to fill her shoes for a while my
respect for her grew even more.

Just a few months ago Deena came to me and told me she wanted to
re-baptized and a member of the Tampa First church family, even though she has always been family. She wanted a new start, and today she showed the church and the universe that she is giving all of herself to the One who gave all of Himself for her!

Here Deena and I are finishing up our series of Bible studies at a Greek restaurant. Deena was very faithful in completing all of her study guides. I often tell my Bible students to do two or three lesson a week in hope that they will at least do one. Deena is the only student I have ever had who actually did two or three a week every week!

While we were in the back preparing for baptism, Dan and Pat’s daughter Patty and son-in-law Travis, gave a wonderful testimony about their daughter Jeslyn. Jesylyn was born 18 months ago with the cancer neuroblastoma. After much prayer and medical procedures, Jesyln has now been declared cancer free! Praise God!

Family and friends came from far and near to help Deena celebrate.

I always like to have a prayer right before I baptize someone. I pray that God will make their lives like Jesus’ life, a series of uninterrupted victories! See Desire of Ages p 679-80

“The week before my baptism, William asked me to write an article for his blog on why I was getting rebaptized. I didn’t expect this and really didn’t know where to begin. That was four weeks ago.
I thought about it a lot in the days leading up to my rebaptism and haven’t stopped thinking about what it is I want to say, what it is I could say since.
Then tonight, while studying the Sabbath School Lesson, I read Romans 6:4: “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
There it was!
Many things, good and bad, have happened in my life since I first choose to be baptized as a teenager. In many ways, I had no idea the things the devil would send my way just because I made that choice. My rebaptism was symbolic of my decision to live a new life in Christ—to die to sin past and present and claim victory over temptations yet to come. Rather than wallow in regret over things I cannot change, I want to rejoice for all the blessings God has given me, gifts I do not deserve, and vow to live each moment going forward in his grace.” -Deena

Many greeted and congratulated Deena, but I think one of her favorites was her mother.

Don’t let the sun set on you today before you give your heart to Jesus! I would love to talk to you! Laypastor@tampaadventist.net

InLightOfTheCross.Com Charity Golf Classic

When I heard that a family in our church was battling breast cancer and loss of job, it was suggested that we do a charity golf tournament, to raise money to help them fight this terrible disease. I had never organized a golf tournament before, but found myself volunteering, without even really thinking about it. I was so eager to help this well desserving family, that I did not consider how qualified I was to organize this event. There was a lot of work to it. Recruiting players, finding a course, getting sponsors. I donated $100.00 myself to name the event “In Light Of The Cross.” There were also hole sponsors, and closest to the pin, and longest drive contest sponsors. Of course people would want food. While working 50 plus hours a week as a Bible Worker-Lay Pastor on top of this, I was overwhelmed. Thankfully Dera Nolan, a good friend from church, messaged me on Facebook and asked if I needed help. Did I??!! I welcomed her on board and she was a huge help. She helped find sponsors and also recruited a few players. She helped me get Eddie Kearse and the his Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church Pathfinders club involved with serving food, making the sponsor signs, and serving as caddies, for a tip towards the charity. Several others helped out big time, including Karen Alayon, and it was a huge success, taking in over $1,000 to go towards the family and their medical expenses.

I did a lot to save money, so that the event would be fun but also low budgeted so most the money would go to the family. Instead of trophies I bought blue ribbons. We found a nice reasonable executive golf course in Temple Terrace, called Terrace Hills Golf Center. They provided us with good rates. It is a nine hole course, which I thought would be good so that people could come and support the event without it taking too much time away from weekend chores, like an 18 hole course would.

It was a best ball, team tournament. Instead of every man for himself, we had teams of three or four and each team got to play the best ball of their players. Being the competitor that I am, I wanted to play every man for himself, but Dera explained to me that people would be more willing to play on a team, than individually for confidence reasons. If they make a bad shot, a better player on their team can make up for it with a great shot. It worked!

Today was the tournament, and everything went great. I played too, which was kind of stressful as I was also making sure everything else was going well for everyone, but with my cell phone and everybody else’ help all went well. Many of the players had already played in best ball charity tournaments so there was not too much for me to have to explain to them. I can’t wait to do this again for another family next year! Enjoy the pics! http://inlightofthecross.mysite.com/Golf.html