Witnessing and Evangelism as a Lifestyle

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet. 2 Kings 13:21

There was no magic in the prophet Elisha’s bones. The Israelites were in distressing times, and hope came to Israel that God was not dead and could revive them if they would heed the words of the prophet. Thus, even after his death, while resting in the tomb, Elisha was still influencing people’s lives for good. That is one of the things I love about writing. Granted I am no prophet, nor the son of a prophet, but even when I am gone what has been written can continue to speak and hopefully bring comfort.

This reminds me of my uncle Bud. He has been gone about 20 years or so now. He had a sense of humor much like mine. He could really make me laugh. I remember he and my aunt Ellen visiting from Seattle, when I was about 15. When he left he smiled and said “I am glad you got to see me.”  I was expecting him to say, “I am glad I got to see you” instead of “I’m glad you got to see me.” The surprise made me laugh. Like me, he had a dry sense of humor that pretended to be arrogant but not really. I have been telling the same joke ever since, and for the last 31 years it brings a laugh most every time.  A couple of weeks ago I was visiting with some friends and when I left I did it again. I repeated Uncle Bud’s line, “I’m glad you got to see me.” Everyone laughed and told me how glad they were I could see them too. When I got in my car and drove off, it dawned on me. The smile on my friends face was caused by my uncle who has been sleeping for over 20 years! Then I thought of all the other people who have laughed after I passed his joke on, and realized all those smiles and laughs were caused by something my uncle told me 31 years ago.

Life is not all jokes and my uncle knew that. Life wasn’t always a joke to him either, but he loved putting a smile on people’s faces. I wish he knew that he is still putting a smile on people’s faces today every time I tell his joke. Elisha had words that could still give life even after his death. Uncle Bud can still make people smile today when I remember his words. I want a witnessing lifestyle that will continue putting smiles on faces and hope in hearts, even while I am still sleeping and waiting for Jesus’ return.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. You may download the Sabbath School lessons to your cell phone here.

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 Grace; Joseph in Egypt

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither. And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.  Genesis 39:1-2

As I was reading this tonight, I thought of something I never had before. Up until Joseph’s promotion by the pharaoh, I pretty much considered Joseph a good natured victim. But now I wonder if he actually enjoyed living in Egypt even before the promotion. Let’s face it, I bet he enjoyed the distance from his brothers as much as they did. God is with Joseph and prospering him so why wouldn’t he be happy even as a slave? Even after Potiphar’s wife frames Joseph and sends him to prison God is still with him. “But the LORD was with Joseph, and showed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that [were] in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer [of it]. The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing [that was] under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and [that] which he did, the LORD made [it] to prosper.” Genesis 39:21-23

Seems to me, Joseph was a lot like his dad. In Genesis 31 his dad talked about how his boss had cheated him and changed his wages but was never able to hurt him. Doesn’t look like anything is really able to hurt Joseph either.  The move to Egypt, even though it may have been caused by his brother’s mean spirit, turned out to be a good move for Joseph.  Even when he was framed and put into prison things still continue to go well for him. I always pictured Joseph as being discouraged up until his promotion but maybe he was enjoying the whole ride! Looks like Joseph was able to bloom wherever he was planted or even re-planted. This is seen in the name Joseph gives his second son. “And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” Genesis 41:52 Joseph was not one of those who say, “If only things were different. If only this or that had not have happened I could have prospered and been happy.” Joseph found joy and prosperity right in the land of his affliction.

 

While Jacob’s struggles with his boss were a reality, and Joseph’s clashes with his brothers and even Potiphar’s wife were real, both of them could claim true what Isaiah said years later, “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.”  Isaiah 54:17

God’s grace was always with Jacob and Joseph and God wants His grace to follow you too. If you are in the Tampa Bay area, I would like to invite you to a grace filled church at Tampa First. If you are not in the area , you can find a grace filled church in your corner of the world here.

Glimpses of Grace; No Harm Done

I am writing tonight from the Tampa Bay area.

After serving Laben14 years, Jacob tells his daughter’s:

“And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me.” Genesis 31:7

I too can testify that over the years, everytime someone has tried to cheat me or hurt me, that God has more than blessed me, and has kept them from hurting me.

No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD. Isaiah 54:17

If you are in the Tampa Bay area I would like to invite you to visit our grace filled church at Tampa First.  You can find a grace filled church anywhere in the world by clicking here.

Glimpses of Grace; The Tower of Babel and the Ark

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area

While studying Genesis 6-11, a thought occurred to me. The tower of Babel was a futile attempt of man to save himself from calamity by his own works. However, while the ark, a symbol of grace and God’s salvation was a success, man still participated in working and building it. So while man can’t save himself, he can still cooperate with God and work where God is working and not on his own.

Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. Psalms 127:1

The laborers work and build either way. Question is, are you working on your own or are you working with God?

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

Glimpses of Grace; Help to Overcome

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

While God monitors the planets to make sure they don’t colide, he also monitors your temptations, to make sure nothing comes your way that you can’t handle with His strength. Often times I have been given a task that seems overwhelming.  I don’t have the time, energy or skills to complete it. Then someone reminds me I don’t need to do it alone. I need to delegate and find other people to help me accomplish the task. People are standing by ready to help. In the classic Great Controversy, p 560, I am reminded that all heaven is standing by ready to help me when I am tempted. “He [God] would sooner send every angel out of heaven to protect His people than leave one soul that trusts in Him to be overcome by Satan.”

Glimpses of Our God; Mulligans and Grace

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

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

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

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

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

Grace gives us good works.

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

Grace gives us obedience

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

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

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

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

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

Glimpses of Grace; Victory in Jesus

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. This is my view of Tampa, from a bench in Ballast Point Park, where I often go to pray at night after a full day of Bible ministry. I love to look out over the city that I am praying for as I pray. I do not only pray for the city. I pray also for myself, that God will give me the skills and opportunity to share His grace amongst great obstacles. When I pray for God’s help in my ministry I am often encouraged by the passages below. Thanks to my friend Adam, who took this picture with his camera, as my camera doesn’t do too well at night.

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us Ephesians 3:20

I wanted to share a passage from The Desire of Ages, page 679 that has always brought me hope and encouragement in my ministry.

Christ rejoiced that He could do more for His followers than they could ask or think. He spoke with assurance, knowing that an almighty decree had been given before the world was made. He knew that truth, armed with the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit, would conquer in the contest with evil; and that the bloodstained banner would wave triumphantly over His followers. He knew that the life of His trusting disciples would be like His, a series of uninterrupted victories, not seen to be such here, but recognized as such in the great hereafter. 

  “These things I have spoken unto you,” He said, “that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Christ did not fail, neither was He discouraged, and His followers are to manifest a faith of the same enduring nature. They are to live as He lived, and work as He worked, because they depend on Him as the great Master Worker. Courage, energy, and perseverance they must possess. Though apparent impossibilities obstruct their way, by His grace they are to go forward. Instead of deploring difficulties, they are called upon to surmount them. They are to despair of nothing, and to hope for everything. With the golden chain of His matchless love Christ has bound them to the throne of God. It is His purpose that the highest influence in the universe, emanating from the source of all power, shall be theirs. They are to have power to resist evil, power that neither earth, nor death, nor hell can master, power that will enable them to overcome as Christ overcame. 

Glimpses Of Grace; When God Ran

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

And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.  Luke 15:20

I love this parable about the prodigal son. I love how when the son turns back to his father, who represents our Heavenly Father, that while he is still a great ways off the Father has compassion. God does not wait for us to get our act together before He accepts us as His children. I love this verse too, because this verse is the only time we see God run. God does not run to hear angels sing His praises. God does not run to congratulate a Superbowl or world cup champion. But when a rebellious sinner turns his eyes towards home, when a sinner wants to escape satan’s grasp and needs help getting free, God does not walk He runs! As a matter of fact, it’s the only time in the Bible you see Him run!

I would like to invite you to celebrate this agape love with us at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church. If you are not in the Tampa Bay area you can find a grace filled church here.

Click here and let the song “When God Ran” by Phillips Craig and Dean bless your heart today.