All Disciples Are Full Time, Not Part Time Pastors

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I have many friends who are ordained ministers and many friends who are lay pastors, who have a “regular” job and ministry. Some lay pastors say they work all day to support themselves and their ministry, and then after they get off work they then work for God. I don’t see it that way. I believe they are full time pastors, working for God even while doing their “regular” job.

For years I too was a lay pastor while working for UPS. I supervised the early shift starting around 3 AM. I was not the only Christian or even the only pastor working at UPS. Students from a nearby Baptist seminary and other lay pastors of various denominations worked there as well. One morning I had to call and wake up one of my employees who overslept. He apalogized, realizing he was already supposed to be at work. He was a Christian, so I told him, “Get in here as fast as you can, after you have your prayer and Bible time.” First I was a pastor. Second I was a UPS supervisor with a deadline to meet.

As Gospel Workers we always pray before entering the pulpit where we preach for thirty minutes. How much more so should we pray before going to our regular jobs, where we will be preaching by word and example, not a mere thirty minutes but rather 8-10 hours.

This is how it was with Jesus.

Christ was just as truly doing His Father’s business when toiling at the carpenter’s bench as when working miracles for the multitude. –Ellen White, Heavenly Places, Page 214

You might think a “regular” job might get in the way of your ministry, but it does not have to be that way. I talked to a lady, who told me she had a gift and card shop that was just breaking even for many years. She said she kept it open because people were coming in all the time who needed encouragement, and it was a great way to meet people. One morning while working on the sort isle at UPS, the guy sorting next to me started asking me questions about Revelation. While we were working hard at 3 in the morning, I was able to share some Christ centered teachings from Revelation. In all my years as a paid Bible Worker I was never able to give a Bible study at 3 am, but that morning I had the opportunity to share Jesus with someone that I may not have had the opportunity to meet any other time or place.

There’s a story of a Romanian prisoner who was always talking about Jesus. Finally the guard had enough and told him, he could make one last sentence about Jesus, and then could say no more.

What would you say if you could only say one sentence about Jesus?

The Christian prisoner did something very wise. He said as his last sentence, “Jesus is like me.” You may think that statement was a bold and presumptuous. But it was actually very wise and humble. Knowing he could talk about Jesus no more, he simply used those words to let everyone know, watch me, and I will show you Jesus. 

As disciples for Jesus we do not just use our “regular” jobs to support our ministry. We make our “regular” jobs a part of our ministry. We don’t leave our “regular” jobs at the end of the day to go do our ministry. We do our ministry while at our “regular” jobs, preaching by example, and reaching people we never would have met during our “gospel worker” job.

Some police officers wear the uniform, but other police officers find they are actually more effective in accomplishing their mission if they dress just like everyone else. They are called “plain clothes officers” or “undercover detectives.” In plain clothes or in uniform, they are police officers just the same. If you are a disciple of Jesus, you may be wearing a suit like a regular minister, or you may be wearing a delivery uniform or restaurant uniform, or medical scrubs or what have you. Either way, what you really are is a pastor!

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Raising the Standard

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

My 9th grade algebra teacher graded our tests on the curve. This meant that the highest grade would be counted as 100%. So if the highest grade was 80, our 70 would be considered 70/80 instead of 70/100, thus raising our percentage and grade considerably. There was only one problem. The same girl got 100% right on every test, so we never got a break! The standard always stayed right where it belonged at 100, instead of 70 or 80. The mornings after our tests, we would be anxious to get out results, and to see what kind of a break we got with the curve, and every morning following our tests, we would be disappointed to find that there was no break. Someone kept the standard right where it belonged. That someone was not a popular person with the rest of the class. Why? Because they kept the standard where it belonged, and left the rest of us with no excuse for getting the poorer grades that we got. She was plenty popular the rest of the school year when she acted just like us, but when it came time for tests, her study habits made the rest of us look bad, and it was just easier to ridicule her for her study methods, than it was to actually study ourselves. Likewise, as long as our church blends in the world we will never be ridiculed or persecuted either. Satan has no reason to persecute a church that looks just like the world. As long as this girl was acting like us it was fine, but we found her study habits to be annoying.

I imagine Judas found the woman washing Jesus’ feet with the expensive perfume to be quite annoying. Not that the perfume did not smell good, but Judas clearly had no intentions of giving all he had for Jesus. On the contrary, instead of giving he tried to take whatever he could. But how do you justify your selfishness in the face of someone else’s giving spirit? Easy, you make them look like a fanatic. “What a waste” Judas said, “The money she wasted on perfume could have been better spent on the poor.” I guess Judas considered himself to be poor, since he wanted the money himself. So he makes the woman out to be fanatical. Do we do this today? Someone gives more of their time and effort for Jesus than we are willing to give, and so to make us look balanced, we portray them as extreme. The woman was no fanatic. She was in love with Jesus! But when people are doing more out of love than we care to do, we label them “legalistic,” “extreme,” or “fanatical” when in fact they are just simply in love with Jesus. Judas was not irked by her behavior when she was sinning all over the place. That did not make Judas look bad. But when she gave all she had to Jesus out of love, that exposed Judas’ selfishness and Judas became offended by her converted behavior.

In Matthew 5:1-12 Jesus gives us the beatitudes which are also stepping stones to a complete conversion. Once the conversion is complete Jesus says,

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Matthew 5:10 NLT

Once God’s people become filled with righteousness and pure in heart, by God’s grace they will keep the standard right where it belongs, not because they are legalistic or fanatical, but because they are in love with Jesus. Now here is the key. Jesus blesses those who are persecuted for doing right. Sometimes we bring persecution on ourselves by doing what is wrong. We deserve that, and there is no reward for that. I once heard a man who kept getting harassed by creditors, saying he was being persecuted for being a Christian. No he wasn’t! He was persecuted for not paying his bills!

When God’s grace converts  us our standards will rise above the world’s standards, and just like the kids in my algebra class, and Judas, they will not like that. They will persecute us, but Jesus says to rejoice! For ours is the kingdom of heaven.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

Pray a New Prayer

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

My parents tell me, when I was two years old, one Sabbath morning the elder kept praying and praying in church, and I got tired of kneeling on my two year old little knees, so I finally stood up on the pew and started shouting, “Amen! Amen! Amen!” Well let me tell you something, I have felt like doing it a few times since then. Even at two years old I must have realized that public prayers are suppose to be brief.

“Our prayers in public should be short…” –Ellen White, Prayer, Page 176

In recent years I have been kneeling in congregational prayer for what felt like an eternity, and have thought to myself during the long drawn out prayer, “Why doesn’t the elder praying just ask the pastor if he can preach sometime. I am sure he would let him, and then that way the elder wouldn’t have to use prayer time to preach a sermon.” 

Jesus mentored His disciples to pray longer prayers in private, Or at least He tried to in Gethsemane the night of His arrest, in Matthew 26:36-46. Jesus led by example, in long personal prayers, even lasting all night (Luke 6:12). He also taught that prayers should be genuine and not rehearsed.

“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.” Matthew 6:7 NLT

When we pray we are to talk to God as a friend. I even heard of an elderly Bible Worker, who when driving to Bible Studies, would make sure nothing was in the passenger car seat, because He pictured God sitting there, riding with Him to the Bible study as he prayed and drove. (I hope he kept his eyes opened as he prayed and drove!)

Many times in my Bible studies I ask people to have the opening prayer, and many are shy and say they don’t know how. I never pressure anyone to do anything they don’t feel comfortable doing, but several have been surprised how easy it is when I tell them. One man, who had already heard me pray many times, told me he wanted to pray but did not know what to say. I told him, “Just say “Dear heavenly Father, please send your Holy Spirit to be with us in this Bible study, in Jesus’ name amen.” His eyes opened wide and he smiled when he realized how easy it was.

God wants us to talk to Him as a friend. God also does not wanting us just babbling the same words over and over. He wants to have a real conversation with us. The psalmist talks about singing a new song (Psalms 40:3) and a song is like a prayer as songs and prayers are stories of our experiences. Just as God enjoys new songs He also enjoys new prayers.

While Jesus mentored His disciples to pray in private, He also mentored them to pray in public. He gave them a model prayer, not to be repeated over and over word for word necessarily, but a model for us to use to form our own prayer. God loves creativity. Not every song has to be sung the exact same way and by no means does every prayer have to be prayed the same way. While Jesus prayed long private prayers, notice how short His public prayer is.

Our Father in heaven,may your name be kept holy. Matthew 6:9 NLT

Jesus starts by addressing His Father and setting a tone for reverence and awe. Our prayers may also be prayed with confidence knowing our requests are reaching the throne of the universe.

May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10 NLT

I have a friend who was taught long ago by his parents to always ask people how their day was, and listen to them, before going on about yourself and your day. You may think you had a tough day, but before you dive into your prayer, telling God all about your heartaches, have you ever asked God how His day went? God saw way more heartaches in one day than we will see in a lifetime. We want God’s will to be done and His kingdom to come soon, not just to end our suffering, but to end God’s suffering, as He suffers not just with you and me, but with everyone in the world who suffers.

Give us today the food we need, Matthew 6:11 NLT

When Daniel asked for God to reveal the kings dream to him, Daniel did not save himself only, he saved the lives of all the kings men (Daniel 2:24). InMark 4:39 Jesus calms the storm at the disciples request, but the sea was not only calmed for their tiny boat. Like wise, all the other boats on the water benefited from the calmness. Jesus does not pray for Himself alone to have food. He prays for everyone to have the food they need. There is no selfishness in Jesus’ prayer. There is no selfishness in any genuine prayer.

“and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” Matthew 6:12 NLT

Jesus could have prayed, “Father forgive everyone else for their sins, but as you know I have never sinned,” but again there is nor self or pride in Jesus’ prayer.

And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. Matthew 6:13 NLT

Jesus overcame by asking for the Father’s help along with everyone else. We can ask for His help and overcome as well. Jesus ends His prayer the way He began, by exalting the Father, Who gives us the confidence we need in our personal lives and ministry when we worship and follow Him.

You can study this week’s SS lesson here. 

They Called Her A Slut And A Whore. Jesus Called Her A Woman.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

They told her they loved her. They said she was beautiful. They promised her she would be special. Next thing she knew she was being dragged out of bed by the people who dragged her into bed, by the people who praised and flattered her, and now she was kneeling half naked, humiliated before a popular religious icon. Eyes closed not wanting to be confronted by this religious leader, and not wanting to see the stones that would soon be crushing her head. She waited in terror. It seemed like eternity. When would it be over?

Barely peeking through one eye she sees the popular religious icon doing something in the sand. Not sure what. She hears foot steps as men walk away. What is going on? Then she hears a word she had not heard in years directed at her.

“Woman…”

The new popular religious icon didn’t address her as “slut,” or “whore.” He called her “woman.” He was addressing her with the same title of respect that He gave to his own mother, who had spoken with angels and given birth to the Son of God.

“….where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” John 8:10 NKJV

She opens her eyes and looks around. They are all gone! She makes no accusations against the men. Was she a victim of human sex trafficking? Or was she just out to turn a quick trick and make a little extra money? Given what we know about her, the answer could be yes to both questions. What we do know is, terrified as she was, she was ready to face the consequences without blaming anyone else for the choices she had made, and the role she had played, which now brought her half naked and humiliated into the presence of a Man of righteousness. Yet incredibly, as guilty as she was, it was her accusers who ran away. As she laid helpless at His feet no one could condemn her! Whoever this man was, she was knew He was like a savior to her. But He was more than a savior. He was the Savior!

She said, “No one, Lord.” John 8:11 NKJ

What was next? A sermon? A lecture? Nowhere is it recorded, but I can see Jesus placing His coat over her naked body. The Holy One Who would be hanging naked on a cross in front of the entire universe one day, takes off His coat or robe or whatever He has and covers this woman, protecting her human dignity more than just covering her sexuality. He doesn’t preach to her. He ministers to her. Did you know you don’t have to be a preacher to be a minister? Ministering to sinners doesn’t always have to include a sermon. An ill timed sermon can do more harm than good. This popular religious icon, named Jesus, could preach with the best of them, but He knew when to preach and when not to preach. He also knew when to minister.

He called her woman. He placed His coat over her naked body and gave her the sense of dignity she had been promised by the men who ran away. Then He did not preach to her with words, He ministered to her with words.

“Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”  John 8:11 NKJV

His words were brief and clear, yet somehow we get them mixed up. Have we ever told someone “Go and sin no more, and then I will stop condemning you!” That’s not what Jesus said. He said clearly, “Neither do I condemn you.” Present tense. “Go and sin no more.” Future tense.

The world told her they would stop condemning her once she stopped sinning. Jesus promised not to condemn her, so she could stop sinning.

They called her a whore and a slut.                                                                      Jesus called her a woman.

They promised her she would be special and then humiliated her.            Jesus gave her dignity back and made her special.

You can study more about discipling the outcasts at the Sabbath School network site.

Note: Sex trafficking is still alive today as much as it was in Jesus’ day. See how you can help abolish human sex slavery in your area. If you suspect someone may be a victim of human trafficking in the United Sates Call 888-3737-888.

Living My Life So People Will Remember me When I die is too Small a Cause to Live for!

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I sat at a funeral dinner, with the grown children of the dear lady whose service I had just conducted.  One of her sons was talking about adding a patio to the back of his house. Her daughter was talking about doing some work on her home too. I sat there listening, and thought to myself,“This lady has just died and her children are talking about everything but her! I don’t even have kids, just think how quickly I will be forgotten when I die!” I started getting depressed thinking about how quickly I will be forgotten. As the family talked on, not necessarily to me, I discreetly checked my Facebook on my phone beneath the table. I was stunned when I read one of the first status updates from a friend. It read, “Living my life so that people will remember me after I die is too small a cause to live for.” I felt like I had just been hit between the eyes with a 2 X 4! That day I realized, even though I had already been baptized long ago, I still needed to make a full surrender. Just because I told people I had surrendered all, and even sang the song with tears in my eyes, did not necessarily mean anything had actually been surrendered. Full surrender is an action not a profession.

Many times we think diet and dress reform and other topics are important issues, but what they all boil down to is one primary issue, the issue of a full surrender. I have met people who are proud of their extravagant wardrobe and I have met people who are proud of their simplicity. On both sides of the issue there is a pride problem! There is need for full surrender.

Jesus met and conquered the self and pride for us when He made a full surrender in Gethsemane. He cried out,

“If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me.”Matthew 26:39 NLT

Here Jesus was praying in His humanity what all humanity has prayed. Is there a way for me to get around this issue other than a full surrender?  Hebrews 5:8says Jesus learned obedience by suffering. His flesh, like ours, suffered when it did not get its own way. In describing the destruction of the wicked, Obadiah 1:16 NLT says they will “disappear from history.” That was my fear at the funeral dinner, and Jesus faced this fear for me and overcame, when He made a full surrender and prayed,

“Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Matthew 26:39 NLT

Whatever issue we face, we can try to skirt around it with all kinds of human reasoning and logic as to why we don’t need to make a full surrender, but surrender is the only solution, no matter the issue.

Surrender is the key to being anointed when we are sick.

Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. James 5:14-15 NLT

The anointing is saying the sick person is the property of God. Their sickness is now God’s problem and not theirs. They have made a full surrender and have given everything to God including their sins and diseases. God may heal them by removing the sickness right then, or He may heal them through a recovery process that will reveal God’s love and power day by day. Still, God may heal them by letting them go to sleep. The KJV of James 5:15 reads,

“ And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up”

Jesus may raise the person up that very moment, or He may heal them by letting them sleep, and “raise him up” at the resurrection. The key to this passage of Scripture is that sins are forgiven and there is salvation when one has been anointed and become fully surrendered.

You can study this week’s Sabbath School lesson on discipling the sick here.

Alyssa’s Baptism

This month is a special month at Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist church as we already have three different baptisms scheduled for February. This morning, was special as Alyssa was our first candidate to be baptized this month. Please enjoy the pictures and stories.

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Alyssa, on my left, was one of the first to sign up for my baptism class at Tampa Adventist Academy. She faithfully completed her baptism workbook, and actively participated by asking thoughtful questions about how to please God with our lives, and she was very satisfied when we found the answers in the Bible.

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Alyssa read a short testimony on why she was being baptized and what it meant to her. She wrote:

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Alyssa baptism

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“Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” Romans 6:3-4 NLT

One of the many things we learned in our baptism class, is what baptism means. When you go under the water you stop breathing for a second, since you don’t breathe water. This is symbolic of your  death. You are dying to self, and saying goodbye living life your own way. When you come up out of the water, you take a new breath, symbolizing the new life you are now living for Jesus.

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After church the church family congratulated and welcomed Alyssa to the church family.

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Here is Alyssa with her family. Alyssa was very happy about her Uncle Charlie (Top Center) coming all the way from California for her baptism. Charlie was a member at Tampa First before moving to California, and is very much in love with Jesus, and has encouraged others to make their decisions for Christ as well. In our baptism class, Alyssa was always talking about her Uncle Charlie and how she wanted to be baptized when he could be here. I can tell by the way Alyssa talks about him all the time, he is her hero and a very positive influence in her life. I am so happy when a young person has a real hero and role model to admire and emulate.

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All who follow Jesus will be fishers of men. Alyssa has the same passion for reaching others for Christ that her Uncle Charlie and the rest of her family have. Here she is being presented with her baptism certificate, which includes the fundamental beliefs of the seventh-day Adventist Church.

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Don’t let the sun set on your life, before you give all of your life to Jesus. Alyssa did not want to wait till she got older and give to Jesus just whatever was left over of her life. She gave all of her life to Jesus because He gave all of His life to her. Jesus has given His life for you too! He loves you! If you are thinking about giving your life to Jesus I would love to talk with you and help you prepare for baptism. If you are on the other side of the world I would still love to hear from you, and help you find a Bible based church on your side of the world. You can reach me at LayPastor@TampaAdventist.net

John 21; One Condition for Discipleship and Service

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

John 21:15   … Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 

The question that Christ put to Peter was significant. He mentioned only one condition of discipleship and service. “Lovest thou Me?” He said. This is the essential qualification. Though Peter might possess every other, without the love of Christ he could not be a faithful shepherd over the Lord’s flock. Knowledge, benevolence, eloquence, gratitude, and zeal are all aids in the good work; but without the love of Jesus in the heart, the work of the Christian minister will prove a failure.  {Gospel Workers, p. 183}