Jesus Won’t Forget to Pick You up

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A family I had studied with called me late one afternoon, asking me to meet them ASAP at the hospital. Their mother was dying, and they wanted prayer. Now I believe that God can hear your prayers for your sick loved one, just as easily as He can hear an elder’s prayer. Nevertheless, I met the family in ICU. They told me they were praying for a miracle. One son told me they knew God was going to work a miracle for his mother. He explained that God was going to raise her up right now, or He would heal her, like He did Lazarus, by letting her sleep and then waking her up at the resurrection. Either way it would be a miracle.

We admire people who have the faith to heal a loved one, but what about having enough faith to just let them go to sleep? The son had faith in the miracle of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves.  Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.

A few days later his mother fell asleep in Jesus, and his family is encouraging each other with the promises of the greatest miracle yet to come.

There are more Bible prophecies about the Second Coming than any other event. While many prophecies have already been fulfilled, we are certain the prophecies pertaining to the second coming are just as sure.

I understand that while we sleep, when we enter the REM (rapid eye movement) stage, we are actually very close to death. Yet each morning when we wake up, we don’t realize the miracle that has just taken place. I understand there are many mysteries about sleep that medical science is still researching. Could it be that sleep is just our “rehearsal” for the resurrection? That God is just getting us used to falling asleep and trusting Him to wake us up when it is time?

I walked into the church lobby after worship service to find a very distraught elderly lady. She has Alzheimer’s disease, and had forgotten who had driven her to church. She was afraid she was going to be left. I put my arm around her and assured her that even though she may have forgotten who had taken her to church, whoever they were, they had not forgotten her. I told her we all loved her and would not leave her alone. She began to cry like a little girl, as she told me “Thank you very much!” Sure enough her ride found her. She had forgotten them, but they remembered her.

This elderly lady felt like a little child left all alone. When we face the grave of a loved one, or even our own, do we feel like a little child left all alone? We needn’t be afraid. Our Ride to heaven will remember us even if in death we forget Him as we sleep. The same God who wakes you up every morning, the same God who remembered to create you and remembered to redeem you on the cross, is the same God responsible for waking you up when He comes again. Don’t worry, even when in death you forget Him, He won’t forget you!

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

Glimpeses of the Cross Day 14; A Tree Makes A Bitter Life Sweet Again

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they [were] bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD showed him a tree, [which] when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,  And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I [am] the LORD that healeth thee.  Exodus 15:23-26

Why did God have Moses put a tree in the bitter water? How did a tree make the water sweet? In 1 peter 2:24, Peter refers to the cross as a tree. In a world of hate and bitterness, Jesus died on that tree to save us from a bitter world. Sin has caused suffering and bitterness but Jesus was lifted up on the cross to make our lives sweet again. I and many others believe this is why Moses used a tree to make bitter water sweet again.

If life has made you bitter, I would like to invite you to experience the grace that can make your life sweet again, by visiting the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church. If you are not in the Tampa Bay area, you can find a grace filled church in your corner of the world here.

Glimpses of Our God; The Promise of Prayer

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.  Isaiah 65:24

In the summer of 1991 I was enjoying my first full year of Literature Evangelism, as I was selling books all over Oklahoma and even the surrounding states. So far I was leading my conference in sales and hours worked. However, around Oklahoma camp meeting time I hit a slump. I mean a real slump. Three weeks without a single sale! Suddenly my perspective changed. I started doubting my calling. Earlier, I had read in Colporter Ministry that this work was second to none.

Not wanting to doubt the spirit of prophecy I began to rationalize. Maybe it was a great work back before radio and 3ABN. It may have been out there already, but in 1991 I had yet to hear of the Internet. Still, I figured TV and radio were getting the word out now so maybe the literature work was obsolete.

I had a lead card for a Baptist grade school near Tahlequah Oklahoma, around 50 miles from where I lived in Tulsa at the time. I set up an appointment and set out to Eastern Oklahoma. On my way I began to pray. I remember the exact words I prayed. “Lord if this is still an important work for this time please let me know.” I drove across the hills and curves of Highway 51 while my wandered off from my prayer. I arrived at the little school and met the principal in his office. He liked the books and ordered them! My first sale in 3 weeks! As I was writing up the order form, he was writing out the check. As he wrote, he paused, looked at me and said, “This is an important work you are doing.” I looked up from y order form and smiled, but it did not dawn on me that my prayer was being answered, until he paused again, and said, “And you know, especially for this time.” That’s when it dawned on me. Wow! He repeated back to me the exact same words I had prayed in my mind alone in my car!

I drove back to Tulsa  very excited, not just about a sale or even that my prayer was answered, but just the fact that I knew in my heart God heard me! He heard me and repeated back to me the very words I had prayed to Him. This is not the only time this happened. Earlier, I was praying for the Lord to work on a friends heart who stopped attending church. Every night I would pray alone in my apartment, “Lord please send you Holy Spirit to work on Jill’s heart.” After a few weeks, Jill called me out of the blue and I met her at a restaurant. During dinner Jill says, I have something to say but you may think its funny. I assured her, that  she could tell me and I would not laugh. She then told me, “I feel like the Holy Spirit has been working on my heart.” Wow! Jill was repeating back to me the exact same words of my prayer!

That was over 20 years ago, and since then God has answered even more remarkable prayers. I hope to go into those one day when the time is right. Each time, what amazes me is just the fact that I know the Creator and King of the universe is listening to my prayer! He does not merely hear me, He listens to me. Friend He does the same for you. Here is one of my favorite quotes on prayer, found on page 100 of Steps to Christ:

Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him. He who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the wants of His children. “The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” James 5:11. His heart of love is touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything that perplexes the mind. Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds up worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our peace is too small for Him to notice. There is no chapter in our experience too dark for Him to read; there is no perplexity too difficult for Him to unravel. No calamity can befall the least of His children, no anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere prayer escape the lips, of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest. “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3. The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son.

Click here to study this week’s SS lesson. Click here to download the lessons to your phone.

Glimpses of Grace; Grace and Providence

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In my work as a Bible Instructor, I find many people who have a chip on their shoulder, and harbor a grudge. They blame others for their own unhappiness. I do not see that with Joseph. Joseph takes control of his own happiness.  Once reunited with his brothers who sold him into Egypt he tells them, “Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life. For these two years [hath] the famine [been] in the land: and yet [there are] five years, in the which [there shall] neither [be] earing nor harvest.  And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. “Genesis 45:5-7

Did you catch that? God sent me here not you! Seriously, we give people too much credit sometimes. People cannot control our lives and emotions. God can!

While writing to the Ephesians from a Roman prison, Paul calls himself “the prisoner of the Lord.” Ephesians 4:1 Paul would not call himself a prisoner of Rome.  Paul was not about to give mere mortal man the credit for a master plan that only a God of infinite wisdom could come up with. Neither Joseph or Paul, would credit mere mortals with the power to control their lives. Both Joseph and Paul were exactly where they needed to be when God needed them to be there. What more could you ask for?

Even in prison Joseph and Paul both knew God had a wonderful plan for them that man could not detour.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

God had a purpose for Joseph. Everything worked out for him to deliver many from the famine. For Paul, he was able to write much of the New Testament while in prison. If he had been free to speak face to face back then, he would not have needed to write the letters that have been preserved to inspire us today.

You too are destined for God’s grace! “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. “ Ephesians 1:5-6

If you are in the Tampa Bay area, I would like to invite you to experience this grace at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church. If you are not in the area, you can find a grace filled church in your corner of the world by clicking here.

Glimpses of Our God; God The Law AND Understanding Giver

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.  Psalms 119:34

God not only wants to give us His law, He also wants to give us understanding. I remember one time a friend made some muffins. She gave me some, and before I could take the first bite, her kids were already snickering. Turned out she forgot to add sugar. I could not spit the muffin out of my mouth fast enough! It tasted terrible. Psalms 19 tells us that when the law is combined with wisdom and “light to the eyes” (understanding?) that it is sweeter than honey. Without understanding the law is as bland as those muffins which had no sugar.

To me, nothing is more frustrating and hurtful than to be misunderstood. However, I am far from the only person who has had to live with their motives  misunderstood. In John 12, a woman comes to anoint the feet of Jesus. She wants to show her appreciation for His great love and sacrifice which changed her life. As she pours the perfume on his body, the snickering begins. Her motives are twisted and accusations are made. Her offering is being critiqued by a thief who had no business critiquing her. She continues her worship, doing her best to pretend he is not around. Rightfully so, because what she is doing has nothing to do with him. Its frankly none of his business. Jesus understood and that’s all that matters.

The other day some friends from out of town came to visit. They followed me in their white rental car to the beach. We came to a toll booth and I saw what I thought was their white rental car behind me. I wanted to pay the toll for them so I quickly pulled in front of the car so they could follow me through the booth. The car flashed its lights and honked its horn. That is when I realized it was not my friend’s car but a total stranger. The stranger glared at me and made a gesture insinuating that I was a total idiot to pull in front of someone like that. Never having seen my friend’s rental car before, how was I to know the difference? It was to me an easy mistake. I did not mean to intentionally pull in front of this stranger but they had no way of knowing that, and I had no way of explaining myself to them. They proceeded through the tool both and sped on their way never to be seen again. I am sure they told their friends later, about the idiot who looked right at them and pulled in front of them. That’s not the real story though. And they will never have a way of knowing that is not the real story. Once again I have to live my life being misunderstood.

I know this was a simple little incident. There are people who have had more hurtful misunderstandings than what happened to me at the toll booth. Still, it reminds me that if I have been misunderstood, that there is a very high chance that I have misunderstood others too. Sometimes we think we have all the facts we need to make a judgment when in reality we have no clue. Joseph thought he had all the facts when his fiancé Mary was with child. Thank God he was a just man, and kept his mouth shut about his speculations, because as it turned out he was wrong. Mary was not having an affair. You would have thought he had all the evidence you needed, but thank God Joseph, who was a man of justice according to Matthew 1, was also a man of understanding and compassion. Joseph was a man who honored the law and the seventh commandment, but thank God He also sought understanding, and an angel of God gave it to him, and explained the whole situation about what the Holy Spirit had done in her life. Could it be that we sometimes can misunderstand what the Holy Spirit is doing in the lives of others, and jump to unhealthy conclusions? I believe so. That is why we, like Joseph need to seek for understanding as well as the law. Having the law without understanding is like having muffins without sugar, and I guarantee  you don’t want to know what that’s like!

To study this week’s SS lesson click here.

To download the SS lesson guides to your phone click here.

Glimpses of Grace; Family Grace

I am writing this morning from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

One summer, when I was ten years old, I spent a week at my Grandmother Holzkamper’s house in Gentry Arkansas. My mother came to pick me up and while we were still visiting with grandma, I smarted off to my mother. My grandmother told me something that has always stayed with me. She said, “You don’t talk that way to your mother.” After that I thought she would tell me how my mom is the boss and all but she didn’t. Instead she said, “You don’t talk that way to someone who would die for you.” Wow. I had never thought of it like that.

There are power struggles even in families. I wish this were not so. I have seen family members accusing other family members of being on ego trips and being power hungry. Husbands are to be respected, not because they are “the man” or the boss. They are to be respected because they would be the last ones off the Titanic. They would die for their families.

At the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church where I serve, we don’t call pastors “reverand.” We only revere God. Yet Paul tells wives to reverence their husbands! Paul is telling wives to have more respect for their husband than a church pastor. That is because of the self sacrifing love the husband has for His family.

I am sure many times the wife has this love also for her family. Disagreements happen. That is okay. I just hope that when family members disagree, that they continue to resepct each other and remember they are arguing with someone who would die for them. Reverence that love even while disagreeing!

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. Ephesians 5:25

Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. Ephesians 5::33

Galatians; Living By The Spirit

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

For the Phone app for the SS Lesson guides click here.

For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. Galatians 5:17

Monday’s section of this week’s SS lesson, mentions the all too familiar personal conflict between good and evil. The lesson quotes the verse above, that highlights this struggle. However there is good news! If you read that verse alone, it appears it is the good things that we are not able to do. However, when read along with verse 16 we see the good news! “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” So in the great conflict and struggle, the Spirit gives us victory over the flesh so that we do not do the bad things that we would otherwise do. Romans 7 presents to us too, the personal conflict between good and evil, but Romans 8 shows us that the Spirit once again gives us victory over the flesh. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”  Romans 8:1. Please notice it is those who are no longer in flesh, but in the Spirit who experience no condemnation.

God’s ideal for His children is higher than the highest human thought can reach. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” This command is a promise. The plan of redemption contemplates our complete recovery from the power of Satan. Christ always separates the contrite soul from sin. He came to destroy the works of the devil, and He has made provision that the Holy Spirit shall be imparted to every repentant soul, to keep him from sinning. 

     The tempter’s agency is not to be accounted an excuse for one wrong act. Satan is jubilant when he hears the professed followers of Christ making excuses for their deformity of character. It is these excuses that lead to sin. There is no excuse for sinning. A holy temper, a Christlike life, is accessible to every repenting, believing child of God. 

     The ideal of Christian character is Christlikeness. As the Son of man was perfect in His life, so His followers are to be perfect in their life. Jesus was in all things made like unto His brethren. He became flesh, even as we are. He was hungry and thirsty and weary. He was sustained by food and refreshed by sleep. He shared the lot of man; yet He was the blameless Son of God. He was God in the flesh. His character is to be ours. The Lord says of those who believe in Him, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” 2 Corinthians 6:16.  } 

     Christ is the ladder that Jacob saw, the base resting on the earth, and the topmost round reaching to the gate of heaven, to the very threshold of glory. If that ladder had failed by a single step of reaching the earth, we should have been lost. But Christ reaches us where we are. He took our nature and overcame, that we through taking His nature might overcome. Made “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3), He lived a sinless life. Now by His divinity He lays hold upon the throne of heaven, while by His humanity He reaches us. He bids us by faith in Him attain to the glory of the character of God. Therefore are we to be perfect, even as our “Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  {Desire of Ages, p. 311-12