Its Not About Me

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV

Romans 9 is not about Jacob or Esau being predestined for salvation or not. It is about the role they were to play. Some of us are given “greater” roles than others, but we must remember, whatever role we are given, there is a greater picture beyond just us. When life becomes challenging, and things don’t go my way I like to claim Jeremiah 29:11 as a personal promise. I want to believe everything is going to work our for me personally. I read about how David faced challenges, but he always came out on top. But I have to admit, I also read some things in the story of David that disturb my “hope” that everything will work out for me personally. In 1 Samuel 22:18 85 innocent priests become co-lateral victims in the friction between Saul and David. in 2 Samuel 11, Uriah is killed for being loyal to his country! How does the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 apply for Uriah and the priests?

This may shatter the ego of a lot of western minds, but the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 was not given to an individual. It was given to a nation. The western mind loves to internalize the Bible, to the point that we actually believe it is all about us! We love to think that we are living in the last days, (which we are!) because that makes our role pivotal in the Great Controversy. After all, how could God win the Great Controversy without me? I have an important role to play in the church you see! With the game on the line and only seconds left in a basketball play off game, star player Scottie Pippin was outraged when his coach had him on the bench for the final play. There are “Scottie Pippins” in the church today, who cannot imagine God winning the Great Controversy while they just “sit on the bench” or rest in their graves.

Yes, Jesus is a personal Savior, and loves us individually, and would die just for you, but that does not make it all about you. Jesus died for the world. Believe it or not, as much as Jesus really and truly loves you, it still is not all about you, or me. In Exodus 32:32 Moses grasped who it was all about when he asked to have his name blotted from the book of life to save a nation. Had Moses been privy to Jeremiah 29:11 he would not have internalized it and made the promise all about himself. He would have realized the promise was given to a corporate nation. Esther may have very well been familiar with Jeremiah 29:11, when in Esther 4:16 she said, “If I perish I perish.” She was not applying Jeremiah 29:11 to herself. She was applying it to the entire Jewish nation it was given to. She was willing to perish to help fulfill the promise to save the nation.

Paul writes Romans in a corporate mindset, instead of the individualistic western mindset. In Romans 3:23-24 Paul writes how we all have sinned and all been justified. In Romans 5 he writes how we all sinned corporately in Adam, and were all saved corporately in Christ. In Romans 9:3 Paul is looking at the big corporate picture when he writes, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren.” While pointing out that Jacob and Esau had different roles to play, Paul was willing to be totally written out of the play for the greater good of the nation.

I believe the 85 priests and Uriah, will be in heaven. I believe Esther and Paul will be there too, and obviously Moses already is. After all didn’t Jesus say,

He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 10:39 NKJV

Yes God loves us individually. I am just asking those of us with a western mind to think outside ourselves if we are not already. After a mission trip, my flight home was cancelled. I ended up spending the night, sleeping on the floor in a foreign airport. I asked God why I had to sleep on the floor instead of my nice comfy bed. God asked me, “What makes you think you ever deserved a bed in the first place? People a lot more deserving than you have been sleeping on the floor for years, and you are complaining about one night? Who do you think you are?”

Dear Jesus, I know you love me just as much when I am sleeping on the floor as when I am sleeping in my bed. I know you loved the 85 priests and Uriah as much as you loved David. Forgive me for the times I thought it was all about me, and help me to see the big picture, like Moses, Esther and Paul all saw the big picture. Instead of working for personal prosperity, help me to work for the prosperity of your church.

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

My Fall Open Newsletter to my Contributors

Preston

Many exciting things have happened since my last newsletter! Here is a picture of Preston getting baptized at Tampa First SDA Church.  God has also blessed with two

baptisms from my studies at Tampa Adventist Academy, as well as Maretta joining the Plant City SDA Church on profession of faith.

Preston CS

After studying and being baptized, like many others, Preston wasted no time getting busy in service for Jesus and His Church. Preston has joined the Community Service Center at Tampa First, helping others in need.

Maretta

In Plant City Maretta has found one friend and one family member, who are now studying with us to be baptized.

Summer Study

So many of the students and Tampa Adventist Academy enjoyed our Bible chain referencing classes and Bible studies, that they wanted to continue studying during together during the summer! On the left Isa, who was in my evangelism class at TAA, is giving the study on the hope of eternal life to our summer Bible study group, which included kids from the community as well as the church school. A few of the other kids from TAA also presented studies during the summer class.

Rose

Last Spring, Rose, who was in my Bible chain referencing class, shared the Gospel presentation with her cousins, and Harold made his decision to be baptized! I am currently following up with him and his family.

I also have several small study groups going on every week. One group is on Friday nights with several people who have no church affiliation. Recently four of them made their decision to be baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church! We are now doing baptismal studies.

At Plant City, the pastor and I are both teaching a New Believers class with 8-12 seekers every Sabbath. I am also helping some families from Plant City who are reaching their family and friends.

While God is opening all kinds of doors right here in Tampa and Plant City, I am also very thankful he is allowing my ministry to spread across Florida. I also have a Bible chain referencing class in St. Petersburg with about 10 students.

Last week I completed a week of prayer at the New Port Richey Seventh-day Adventist school,  I had the privilege of bringing the message of the cross to 75 students every day. On Friday 23 of those students asked for baptism and Bible studies! The principal, Mr. Keith Nelson, has invited me back to study and prepare these students for baptism!

As well as preaching and conducting personal and group Bible studies all over Florida, my online ministry continues with Inlightofthecross.com as well as the Sabbath School Net.

I want to thank my contributors for the awesome privilege of sharing the gospel with hundreds of people in Florida and thousands around the world. I am also thankful for the privilege of coaching others to share the gospel, as we fulfill Jesus’ commission to take the Gospel into all the world! Thank you for your continued support and new supporters are needed and welcomed!

Monthly and one time contributions are welcomed at

Plant City SDA Church

PO Box 5379

Please mark for Bible Worker Fund

Plant City, FL 33653

THANK YOU!

“In the Spirit”

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.  John 4:24

I am sure that you have friends that no matter how long you are apart from them, once you get together, your friendship resumes right where it left off, as though you had never been apart. This may sound weird, but maybe in one dimension you never were apart! We have physical dimensions such as time and space, but have you ever thought that there is another dimension we can be in that is not bound by time or space? To me, that dimension is the Holy Spirit. I believe why many of our Christian friendships take up right where they left off even after long periods of no physical contact is because we have actually been together the whole time “in the Spirit!”  Why do those friendships take up right where they left off as though no time has passed by? Because we are in the great “ I AM”. With God there is no time. He is in one eternal Now. He is not the “I WAS” or “ I WILL BE”, He is the I AM.  Same with space, The Holy Spirit is everywhere. The Holy Spirit is with our Christian friends, so if we are in the Spirit and our friends are in the Spirit then we are together.

As a matter of fact, all the love we receive from our friends actually comes from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when I left my friends in Texas and went to Florida and made new friends there, I still received the exact same love I had in Texas. Love does not come form human beings. We can not generate love; all we can do is let the Holy Spirit’s love flow through us. Therefore, the love I receive from people half way across the world is the same exact love I receive from the people I live with right here. It all comes form God. So as long as you have God’s love you can’t miss a friends love, because the only love they gave you came from God and He is still with you!

I am so thankful for all my friends whom I can share God’s love with! Thank you all, who are my friends on SSNET, as well as my offline friends, for being a part of my life. I hope God has been able to love you through me as we worship Him in Spirit.

She did so Much for me, and I Never got to Thank her

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In evangelism workshops its almost become a cliche now,

Jesus…reached the hearts of the people by going among them as one who desired their good. ….. He met them at their daily vocations, and manifested an interest in their secular affairs.-Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 151. 

But how interested are we really in other peoples own good, even when we do not profit from their prosperity? In my ministry I have been asked to speak at numerous funerals. Before the funeral I like to meet with the family in their home, to get stories and learn more about the deceased. I can know somone all my life and still be surprised what I learn after they are gone. I will be sitting in the family room, listening to selfless heroic stories about the dearly departed, and it touches my heart so deeply, I get emotional and I think to myself that I too, want to be a selfless loving person, but I joke with my friends, that by the time I walk out the door and get to my car, that emotion of being selfless and caring has already passed over.

Case in point. When I lived in Texas I had started a cleaning business on the side. Nancy was a friend of mine from church. She was a nurse and told a few doctors and nurses about my business and I was soon cleaning for them. Nancy and I would go to dinner or lunch occasionally, and I offered to pay since she was my best advertiser. She assured me she did not want anything in return. She was just happy to help me out and see me do well.

We were both in our mid 30’s, when one morning I got the shocking news that Nancy had suddenly died during the night. It was quite a shock as we had plans to got to lunch that day. When you are in your mid ’30s and your friends seem healthy, it is very unsettling to hear the friend you have lunch plans with for that day just died! Leter as I went to clean for a client Nancy gave me, the thought struck me, She did so much for me, and I never got to thank her! I realized on this earth I never would get to thank her by paying her back for her interest in my good. That’s when I told myself, to live a giving life just like her, so that when I am gone, people will say the same about me, he did so much for me, and I never got to thank him.

Only a few days later, at UPS the line I was supervising was short handed. I walked over to another line where there was a supervisior that I had helped out several times. I asked him if he could send someone from his line over to help me. He said, “no” I can’t spare anyone right now. Granted he was right, but at the same time it bugged me because I had often been in situations where I could send him help, but he never seemed to be able to help me. Frustrated I told myself to stop helping him becuase he never paid me back! Then it dawned on me, wait a minute! I told myself I wanted to help others so that when I died they could say I always helped them and they never got a chance to pay me back. But when the chance actually came I did not feel that way at all! Once again I was touched by the selfless love of a caring friend, telling myself that I wanted to be just as loving and giving, but when the rubber met the road I was back to being my same old self again.

Of course all that happened way back in my ’30s. Jesus never made past his ’30s here on earth but was still the perfect example. My friend Nancy, never made it past her ’30s but left me with an example that even in my ’50s I still struggle to immulate. After being raised in the church all my life, I often sigh and think, 50 years later, shouldn’t I be more like Jesus by now? So many people with not even half the advantages I have had are so far ahead of me. Yet the secret is not rocket science. Jesus went about seeking the good of others even in their secular affairs. Nancy did the same. The next time someone needs my help, instead of asking myself how they will thank me, I can tell msyelf, this is my opportunity to be like Jesus. If Jesus helped Nancy, He can also help me to be one who seeks the good of others, even though they may never be able to thank me.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

How do You Accept Rebukes?

I am writing today from beautiful Florida.

I am writing today from beautiful Florida.

Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy. Proverbs 27:6 NLT

Long ago, I was writing a blog post about humor. I compared the humor of my friends in different areas. Just a few minutes after publishing my post, I got a call from a friend here where I live. He told me I better rethink what I wrote about my friends in another area. He told me even though he knew no offense was intended, it could offend them. I edited my post as suggested. I thought, how wonderful that I have a friend who was so concerned about me, that he called so quickly to warn me, even though he was busy with his own day, and had no vested interest other than looking out for me. Instead of taking offense and taking his call as being critical, I took it as a compliment. He thought enough of me and my ministry to make that call right away.

Unfortunately, many people in Jeremiah’s day did not appreciate his rebukes, even though they were given out of love. It takes a lot of love to tell someone what they need to hear, instead of patronizing them with what they want to hear. I realize the success of my ministry depends upon Jeremiahs of today, who will rebuke me when needed, in a Christlike way.

Christ Himself did not suppress one word of truth, but He spoke it always in love. He exercised the greatest tact, and thoughtful, kind attention in His [association] with the people. He was never rude, never needlessly spoke a severe word, never gave needless pain to a sensitive soul. He did not censure human weakness. He fearlessly denounced hypocrisy, unbelief, and iniquity, but tears were in His voice as He uttered His scathing rebukes.  –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 353 

Years ago, the church I was attending at the time was going through a little crisis. I was having dinner one evening with a couple of friends who supported me wholeheartedly on my view of the crisis. In the course of the evening I made a comment out of frustration that was out of place. They both quickly let me know what I had just said was not appropriate and was not a healthy attitude. They showed me how much they loved and supported me but did not hesitate at all to let me know when I stepped out of line. I thought, “Wow! Now I know they are really looking out for me and my ministry!” I felt loved and secure, knowing these friends were not going to let me step out of line and make a fool of myself and disgrace my ministry.

When people rebuke me I take it as a compliment. It means my ministry is worth something in their eyes, and they are looking out for me. How do you accept rebuke?

How Much Are You Worth?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

He gave justice and help to the poor and needy, and everything went well for him. Isn’t that what it means to know me?” says the Lord. Jeremiah 22:16 NLT

George W. Jenkins not only began his Publix grocery store incorporation during the depression, but he also set up several foundations and charities so that even after his death, in 1996, he could continue giving to the community and those less fortunate.

After setting up and giving to so many charities, someone asked Jenkins what he would be worth had he not given so much away. He quickly answered, “probably nothing.”

Jenkins saw his worth in what he could give instead of in what he could get. He did not figure he would be worth anything if he could not give. Unfortunately four of the “Last Five Kings of Judah” did not share that understanding. Only Josiah recognized that his worth lay in serving the Lord by serving his people.

One of my favorite quotes that helps us keep a perspective on money is,

“Some people are so poor, all they have is money.”

This quote reminds us that life is not about things. Jesus says,

Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own. Luke 12:15 NLT

Jesus goes on to say,

..a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” Luke 12:21 NLT

Life is about relationships not money and things.

Another one of my favorite quotes is,

The richest person is not the one who has the most but the one who needs the least.

Several years ago my friend’s daughter was having her 12th birthday during a holiday season, and I felt bad for her almost being “forgotten” with so many other celebrations. I gave her a card and twenty dollars, which I thought was a generous gift back then. Later I found out she had taken my gift along with the rest of the money she had been given and gave it to a fund at our church to help parents with children in the hospital. Turns out my young friend did not need to be remembered with money. She did not need money at all. She needed to be a blessing to others. I reckon she too figured she would be worth nothing if she was not giving to others.

So, what are you worth?

Proverbs in Light of The Cross; Search, Study, Seek

 I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 

Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding.  Search for them as you would for silver;  seek them like hidden treasures.  Proverbs 2:3-4 NLT

Sometimes I will be hanging out with a friend, who will ask me a quick Bible question, requesting a quick and simple answer. Still, as I go to my Yourversion Bible app to show my friend the Bible answer, I pause and pray with my friend, asking God to give us insight and understanding, even for one simple verse.  I have read in Steps to Christ, Page 91 by Ellen White, “Never should the Bible be studied without prayer. Before opening its pages we should ask for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, and it will be given.”

As I give Bible studies on how to study the Scriptures, I discover words like “Search” (John 5:39, Acts 17:11) and study, (2 Tim 2:15)  I share with my Bible study student that we are not encouraged to simply read the Bible like you read a newspaper, but to search and study it prayerfully, asking God for insight and understanding.

When I moved to Florida, my GPS told me to turn down Elm street till I came to Maple street where my new home was. So for several years I lived in that home telling people I lived on the corner of Elm and Maple. One day I was sitting at the light at Elm and Maple, just like I had everyday before, when I realized something I never had before. The cross sign did not say “Elm.” It said “Oak.” I then realized that Elm street later turns into Oak street. So for years I was telling people I lived at Elm and Maple when in reality I lived at Oak and Maple.  By just glancing around I assumed I was somewhere I really was not. One day I looked a little closer at the sign. I realized where I really was.  Searching and studying makes a much bigger difference than when we just read and glance at things!

Proverbs 2:3-4 reminds us to ask God for insight and understanding, and it will be given as we, not just casually glance at the Bible, but as we study, search and seek the Bible.

The story you just read is true. The street names were changed to protect the innocent.

Rumor in Town and Church

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. Al Lang Field is an old Spring training Park in St.Petersburg where Babe Dahlgren probably played.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. Al Lang Field is an old spring training Park in St.Petersburg where Babe Dahlgren probably played.

Babe Dahlgren was enjoying the off season after winning the 1939 World Series with the New York Yankees baseball club. Back home in San Francisco he decided to meet with a local batting instructor for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League to get some friendly tips. When he re-joined the Yankees in St. Petersburg, Florida, for spring training, his manager was suddenly very cold towards Babe. Unbeknownst to Babe, the batting instructor was a long-time enemy of his baseball manager. And now his baseball manager no longer wanted anything to do with Babe, despite his great fielding abilities and steady bat.

After a game where Babe made a rare error, his manager was talking to reporters, when off the top of his head, without an ounce of proof, he said, “If Babe had not been smoking marijuana, he would have made that play.” Thus began the rumor that Babe’s grandson, Matt Dahlgren, writes about in his book,“Rumor in Town.”

In those days smoking marijuana could get you kicked out of baseball for life. Of course the manager had no proof, but his position gave him enough influence and power to get Babe traded to another team, even though he was a great fielder and batter. The rumor seemed to follow Babe as he got sent from team to team. Babe wondered why he kept getting traded while he was leading the league in several categories.

It would be years before Babe would learn that a rumor was going around about him. In a meeting with his team executive, while playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers, he was asked about doing drugs. The team executive used the rumor to try to intimidate Babe to go down to the minor leagues.

Babe did his best to try to clear his name of this rumor, but trying to find out who has heard a rumor is like emptying a box of feathers into the wind and then trying to gather them all up. They are impossible to trace and recover.

Matt Dahlgren goes on to write that this Brooklyn Dodger executive was the same man who brought Jackie Robinson into major league baseball and broke the foolish color barrier that had for so long oppressed the United States.

I was perplexed at the inconsistency in this executive, but then I realized he represents the entire human race, even many Christians. On one hand he is a hero who relieved oppression by breaking the color barrier in baseball. On the other hand, he caused oppression for Babe by continuing the rumor. I laid the book down for a moment and prayed that God would keep me from doing like what was done to Babe.

Babe loved the game of baseball and devoted himself to his team, yet his manager turned against him just because Babe talked to someone he did not like. Then others carried the rumor further, and still others used it as a weapon to blackmail and oppress Babe.

We need to be careful that we do not participate in any way by listening to and intentionally or unintentionally spreading rumor that will hurt others, as mentioned in this week’s SS lesson. While we think of political and social oppression and corruption being carried on in the world, let’s be careful we are not carrying it on in the church.

We may think of ourselves as good people, just as the executive probably did, but we may still be doing much harm and hurt by listening to, and even spreading rumors which may deeply hurt a brother or sister in the church! The executive may have thought the rumor to be true, and so may we. But that does not lessen our responsibility before God. Even spreading negative things thatare totally true about someone may make us guilty before God because it is not a loving thing to do and thus not reflective of God’s character. The Apostle Peter reminds us to “love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude ofsins. (1 Peter 4:8)

When rumors hurt people’s ministry, the cause of God suffers. Satan uses rumors to not only hurt the people the rumor is about, but to also taint or destroy their ministry to the point where their ministry is no longer useful to save lost souls. What a tragedy!

In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.  And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. James 3:5-6 NLT

Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart. Proverbs 18:8 NLT

It has been said that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words may never hurt me.” Nothing could be farther from the truth! Many people who have been abused physically as well as verbally say they would rather be physically abused than verbally abused. Physical abuse hurts the body but verbal abuse wounds the depths of the soul.

I know that God can foil all of Satan’s rumors and accusations so that all things work together for good to those who Love God and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) Like many others I have had rumors told about me. One time someone told a lie about me right in public. When I was talking it over with a friend to see how I should respond to clear myself of this lie, my friend wisely suggested, “Don’t respond to the rumor. By responding you only give the rumor merit.” I said nothing and later found out that everyone else either forgot what was said that day or was distracted when the person said it, and never heard the rumor at all!

That is how it worked out for me, but I know this is not always the case. This is why when I finished the book and put it down, I asked God to keep me from participating in a rumor that could destroy someone’s life!

The Yankee manager was foolish to let the fact that Babe saw an enemy of his bother him – especially since Babe had nothing but the best intentions in getting batting tips. Jealousy is a silly excuse to start a rumor, but does this happen in the church as well? When we entertain thoughts of jealousy, we may not even realize  when we are gossiping and spreading rumors because what we think in our hearts will come out of our lips. (Matt 12:34)

We need to ask God to give us hearts like His – filled with a love that will never participate in any way in gossip that may hurt another of God’s children, either in the world or in the church.

Scripture, Not Circumstances Defines Reality

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

When studying the prophecies of the Scriptures, many try to let worldly circumstances, and their perception of reality interpret God’s Word.

Problem is, when we go by worldly circumstance, reality becomes nothing more than perception. For example, Topps was the only baseball card company, when I began collecting cards when I was 11. Soon after that, Donrus and Fleer joined the baseball card making industry. In order to compete with the unwelcomed newbies in the market, Topps started printing on their baseball card packages, “The Real Ones!” Even at age 11, I knew Topp’s claim to be the only real baseball card company was nothing more than a mind game.  Regardless of the company, they were all pictures on cardboard. How could one be more real than the other? Regardless if you were Topps, Donrus, Fleer or a collector, what was “real” in this situation was only a matter of one’s own perception.  So today, many people play mind games, using worldly positions and titles to define who they are.  Jesus never did this. He let the  Scriptures, the Word of God define Who He was.

For example, right after Jesus’ baptism, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where He fasted for 40 days. 40 days of no food took its toll of the humanity of Jesus. He does not exactly look like, nor probably feel like the Son of God. According to Desire of Ages, page 119, Satan takes advantage of this opportunity. Satan appears to Jesus, not with a red cape and a pitchfork, but as an angel of light. He reminds Jesus that one of the greatest angels in heaven has been banished from heaven. Satan takes advantage of circumstances, and his appearance as an angel of light, compared to Jesus’ appearance after 40 days with no food, and makes an insinuation, that Jesus sure looks more like a God-forsaken angel rather than the Son of God.  Satan tempts Jesus to prove that He is indeed the Son of God by turning stones into bread.

Jesus did not look to His circumstances or appearance. He had nothing to prove to Satan. Jesus answered the challenge by saying, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. “ Matthew 4:4 Jesus had heard the Word of God, right after His baptism, say, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17 Jesus would not go by circumstances to prove who He was. He did not need bread or any sign to prove who He was. He went by God’s Word and God’s Word alone, which said He was the Son of God.  After a plain “Thus Saith the Lord,” Jesus did not need a sign.

Three and a half years later, after the resurrection, Jesus is walking along the road to Emmaus. He meets two men who are downcast. Not recognizing Him, the men explain that they are sad, because Jesus had been crucified, and they had hoped He would be the Messiah. Again, Jesus does not go by appearances or circumstances. Jesus does not show them His nail scared hands and say, “Look, it’s me! I was crucified and now I am risen. I am the Messiah.”  Instead, Jesus,  “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:27 Jesus did not want them to accept Him based on His appearance. He intentionally kept them from recognizing Him physically, because He did not want them to base their belief on what they saw or felt, or upon any physical circumstances. He wanted them to base their faith on the Word of God alone.

Feelings, appearance and earthly circumstances do not define who we are either. Just as God’s Word defined who Jesus was, God’s Word also defines who we are.  “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.” 1 John 3:1 Just because two men walking down the road did not recognize Jesus as the Son of God did not mean that He was not. Just because Satan pretended not to recognize Him did not change the reality of the situation. God’s Word says we are the children of God. Don’t let Satan or the world, circumstance or appearances tell you any different. Let God’s Word define your reality.

You can study this week’s SS lesson here.

The Stranger on Siesta Keys

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. This was last night’s sunset on Siesta Keys.

A chance encounter or divine appointment? You be the Judge.

Yesterday morning I woke up on my day off. Not sure how I wanted to spend it, I went ahead and delivered some baptismal robes to a nearby church, who needed them for Sabbath. When I stopped   by my church to pick them up, my pastor reminded me it was my day off, and I should not be working. I promised him I would take the day off as soon as I delivered the robes.

My friend Adam, who I often hang out with on Thursday nights, told me he would be busy, so I thought this may be a good time to take a long day trip somewhere. I thought about St. Augustine, and a couple other places, but decided on Siesta Keys in Sarasota where I have not been in a while. My plan was to spend some time reading in God’s Word, prayer time, and sunset pictures. As I got ready to leave home, something told me to take my Bible. I thought I don’t need to take that along, I have it on my cell phone.  Still something said, no, take a regular Bible. So I did. I also grabbed the book “Bible Studies Made Easy” and thought maybe I will give it to the waitress wherever I eat.

I got to Siesta Keys early afternoon and went to an Italian place near the beach, that I have enjoyed many times before. After I left, I scolded myself for forgetting to give the waitress the book. I stopped at a park bench near the beach and spent some time reading, as I am now in Revelations, after reading through the entire Bible. I read Chapters 8-12, which gave me plenty to pray and mediate on, as I walked and prayed down the beach. I must have walked 4 miles. As I got back to my starting point, where I had parked, I felt very tired, and reminded myself that the Tampa Bay Rays had a divisional game tonight on TV. Maybe I should go home and watch it. Something said to stay and take sunset pictures as I had planned. I told myself, I already have hundreds of sunset pictures, and nobody really cares to see anymore. They all look the same. Still something inside me said, just stay with the original plan. Lay down on this park bench and rest a while, until the sun starts setting, then take pictures.

As I’m lying there, an older man comes up and starts talking to me. I turn to him, and he then realizes I am not who he thought I was. He became embarrassed and apologized. I told him it was no big deal. I sat up and he started talking to me. First he talked about his bicycle. I told him I hope the streets in Sarasota are more bike friendly than Tampa. He told me his bike was all he had to get around on. I told him I am often on my bike too. I wanted to identify with him the best I could. He glanced at my Bible and asked if I was a pastor. I could have said yes, since I am both a lay pastor and Bible Worker, but that really had nothing to do with why I had my Bible with me. I had my Bible with me because I am a Christian. I replied, “I am a Christian.” He then started opening up about his service in Vietnam, and his discharge. All the terrible things he saw over there, and he was specific. I know a lot of people claim to be vets, but a lot of people really are vets too. He told me how he has given up trying to overcome beer and cigars. I told him the same God who delivered him from Vietnam could also deliver him from those enemies too. He told me how when he returned nobody thanked him for fighting for his country. He told me how he likes to take trash bags and clean up the beach. I asked him if the beach could clean itself up. Of course he said no. I told him likewise, we can’t clean ourselves up either. Only God can. He was troubled, thinking God had given up on him, so I shared with him the gospel presentation. I shared with him the story of the serpent on the pole in Numbers 21 and how in John 3, Jesus says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” He said there was so much about life he did not understand. I told him he did not have to understand.  Just as the Israelites looked at the pole when bitten by a serpent, likewise when that old serpent the devil bites you, just look at the cross and you will be healed.

He told me his name was Frank, and  asked for prayer and I prayed with him. He took my hand and as I prayed his hand trembled as he cried. After our prayer I remembered the Bible study book I had failed to give the waitress. I gave it to him with my church contact info. I invited him to a church in his area. He told me he was homeless and had no address. He told me he likes it that way.  I made sure he knew how to get a hold of me.  I assured him God still loves him and has a plan for his life. God has not given up. He told me how glad he was that he met me. I felt he was sincere. He never asked me for money or anything. He even offered to pay for the book. I think the only things he wanted from me was hope.  As we talked, and he rambled after our prayer, I started thinking, if  Adam was not busy tonight I would have been hanging out with him instead. If I had not brought my Bible this man never would have asked or opened up about His need for Christ. If I had given the waitress my study book I would have had nothing to give this man. If I had gone back home to watch the baseball game, which I really felt like doing, I would not have been resting on this park bench when the man found me. And seriously, I had no clue why I was just resting on a park bench instead of driving on home to see the game, until now. I also smiled as I remembered my pastor telling me to take the day off. Seems like when I woke up this morning, wondering what to do, God already had a plan.

I saw the sun starting to set and told the gentleman, I wanted to take some sunset pictures. Also I felt as our conversation was now rambling, that my mission was over. I wanted to leave him with the impression of my mission and not our rambling. He very politely told me to go take my pictures and told me how happy he was to meet me, and thanked me over and over for the Bible study book. I reminded him how to contact me. I left to take pictures. As I was taking pictures, thinking about my encounter, I realized I had made a big mistake! After the sun was down, I went back looking for the man. I could not find him, but I did find his bike tied to the same tree. I grabbed a pen and paper from my car and left a note tied to his handlebar. The note read, “Thank you Frank, for serving in Vietnam. –William”