Glimpes of Our God; The Promise of His Return

I am writing tonight from beautiful Lake Placid Florida, which is famous for its murals on many of the town buildings, each one telling a story about the city.

As Seventh-day Adventists recently celebrated the 150th anniversary of our name, one important question comes to mind concerning our name. The “Advent” part pertaining to the second coming. Is the second coming still on? Are we still planning on it? Is it still a part of who we are?

 

Growing up a Seventh-day Adventist I remember hearing people talking about how Jesus was surely coming in the next five years. We thought for sure the oil crisis in the 70’s was the end of the world. I still remember looking at the form the Tulsa Roughnecks Soccer team sent me when I was a teen, asking me to renew my season tickets for the 1980 season. You are going to laugh at me, but I stared at that form in disbelief that I actually saw the year 1980 in print. There is no way the world will last that long I thought. Well that was 30 years ago and we are in a totally new century. So what happened to the second coming? Is it still on?

 

In the mid ‘80s I joined a new Adventist church in the suburbs of Tulsa. I had just started dating a girl who went to that church so I  switched from the central Adventist church in Tulsa to her church. We just started dating when she dumped me. Oh well, I still stayed at this new church for the simple reason that I did not want people to think I changed churches just for her. Besides, this church seemed to really be on fire. The weekly prayer meetings were very spiritual, and everyone was praying for the power of the Holy Spirit to prepare them for the second coming. We had about as many people attending prayer meeting that attended our Sabbath Worship services. We were sure Jesus was coming soon and we were getting ready. Then something sad happened. People stopped coming to prayer meeting. Some decided “Growing Pains” was just too funny of a show to miss for prayer meeting. People stopped coming to church all together. This was not suppose to happen! Discouraged, I asked God why He did not come back when our church was at its spiritual peak, when we had it all together. He waited too long and now look what happened. I believe the Holy Spirit revealed to me why Jesus did not return when the church was on top of its game. Our church was on a spiritual roller coaster. Jesus is not coming back for a church on a spiritual roller coaster. He is not coming back for a people who walk with him off and on. A groom does not want to marry a bride who’s love and devotion goes in cycles. Neither does Jesus. Enoch walked with God many years before being translated. God will come back for a church who will consistently walk with Him year after year after year, and not on some roller coaster. The church is a woman. For centuries God’s church has loved to flirt with Him, but it also loves to flirt with the world. God’s church likes to date Jesus, but it also likes to date other things too. Jesus is not returning for a date, He is returning for a wedding. When God’s church decides to stop dating and flirting with Jesus and decides to get married He will return.

 

During this same time period our church in suburban Tulsa was also asking the Holy Spirit to get sin out of our lives so we could be ready for Jesus to come. We did not, or at least at the time I did not realize how legalistic that was. Jesus is not coming back for a legalistic group who get their act together so they can have some great reward like heaven. Jesus is coming back for a people who love Him because He first loved them. Today I ask the Holy Spirit to remove sin from my life, not because Jesus is coming back but because my sin breaks God’s heart. I do not want to break His heart anymore, regardless if He is coming back tomorrow or a hundred years from now.

 

Now that I am older I don’t hear people talking about Jesus coming back in the next five years. So is the whole thing off? One of Satan’s best weapons are over zealous religious fanatics. They tell people Jesus is coming back during a certain time table, and then when their “prophecy” fails, people then doubt that Jesus is coming back at all. However this is all Satan’s plan. To get us to give up right before it happens. Concentration camp survivors say they survived because they never set a date for their rescue. Some wanted to be rescued by Christmas, and then when that came and went, they wanted rescued by Easter, and then when Easter came when went they gave up hope. Others just knew that they would be rescued some day and they survived. As Seventh-day Adventists we must believe Jesus is returning, without setting dates. Some have gone to the other extreme now and don’t even preach the second coming at all. They preach social sermons which they find more practical in everyday living. While we must be practical we must also realize God formed our church 150 years ago for a specific reason. If we are just going to preach social sermons like the ones you can hear in any church or denomination, you must ask yourself why we even bother existing if we have no message to offer other than what the other denominations are preaching. Are we embarrassed by our message? I am sure the disciples were embambarrassed when Jesus was crucified, but there was no reason for them to be. Are we afraid people will not believe our message, so instead we just preach things we know the world will accept? If so, shame on us! We are doing our Savior and neighbor no justice by hiding our special message.

 

 There is no reason to water down our message. Several years ago I was leading out in a youth small group study with another family in my neighborhood. One Sabbath afternoon when it was time for our study, we received an invitation to a youth meeting at our church. There was to be a lot of contemporary music for the kids. I thought, why not? Lets skip our Bible study this week and go to this contemporary concert and show the kids that we have fun too. After the concert I asked one of the kids how they liked the concert, hoping they thought it was a lot of fun and that our church was really with it. This young person, about 13 years old at the time, looked at me with disappointment in their eyes and said, “I wish we would have had the Bible study instead.” People, there are kids out there starving for our gospel message! Why disappoint them by feeding them what the world is feeding them? Furthermore what is the point of a church that is just like the world? I am not saying all contemporary music is wrong and we should never offer that. I am saying let’s offer more than just that. And if the church only feeds people what is in the world then why does the church even bother existing? Have we given up on the second coming and decided to just join the world and be a social club with good morals? How legalistic is that!

 

The Seventh-day Adventist church has a message that will more than prepare people to live nice little lives in this world. We have a gospel that will prepare people for the world to come! We must let everyone know the second coming is still on! There are twice as many prophecies about the second coming than there were about Jesus’ first advent. He came the first time, so we know beyond a shadow of a doubt He is coming the second time. Jesus warns against setting times for His return when He tells us, “ in the hour you think not, the Son of man cometh.” Satan has been using religious fanatics for years to get us all excited and then disappointed that He has not returned. Satan wants us to give up and think Jesus is not returning at all. There is great danger in what I was always hearing growing up, about Jesus coming in the next five years, because it does two things, it makes you give up hope when He does not return in those five years and it also makes you think you have five years to prepare. One day we won’t have five years to prepare. We won’t have one year to prepare. In the hour we think not, He will come! Don’t get ready, be ready! Be ready not because He is coming back but because we love Him because He first loved us! The Adventist church, the church that believes the Bible prophecies about the second coming has a reason to exist! If we just preach social day by day sermons that you can hear anywhere else then we are not fulfilling our purpose for coming into existence 150 years ago.  A true Adventist more than believes Jesus is coming. We love His appearing! We have a message to give to world and believe it or not the world is hungry for our message so why not give it? Jesus loves them and wants to be with them forever!

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.  Download the SS app to your phone here.

 

For more studies on the second coming and our special message click here.

For my friend’s site on our special message click here.

Glimpses of Our God; Love Stories

I am writing today from the beautiful Lake Placid Florida Seventh-day Adventist Church.

This week I have been holding revival meetings at the Lake Placid Seventh-day Adventist Church. I love this place! The people are spectacular. Very warm and friendly, and very much interested in learning more about the cross and the love of Jesus. The meetings were designed to be a revival for the church, but anytime a church has a revival it also becomes more fruitful and evangelic. As well as the church members coming for a week of spiritual emphasis, they have also been bringing their friends, and we will be having two baptisms this Sabbath!

I have not written any new material for this week’s Sabbath school lesson, so since this week’s topic is on “love stories” I would like to share a previous post that I wrote a while back on what romance means to me.  Thank you for keeping our meetings in your prayers!

Glimpses of Our God; God as Artist

This week’s SS lesson portrays God as an Artist in various ways.  Once while taking a walk near my apartment in Benbrook, Texas I saw a patch of Bluebonnets along with some Indian Paintbrushes. Unfortunately someone had mixed a little garbage in with the beautiful flowers. Still, I thought to myself, even in a world marred by sin, God still preserves His beauty amongst all the litter and garbage. “The whole earth is full of his glory.” Isaiah 6:3

As beautiful as a sunset on the sea may be, God is just too glorious and beautiful for that one scene to express His majestic splendor. Same with an enormous snow capped mountain, or valley filled with Bluebonnets and Indian Paint Brushes.

Please allow me to share just a morsel of the beauty I have captured with my camera over the last few years.

^This picture was taken last week near the Skyway Bridge near St.Petersburg, Florida. I had hoped to catch a cruise ship sailing under the bridge, but God blessed me with this scene instead.

This was taken at St, Pete Beach around 2007. I love the sunsets on the beach. As the sun sets on the beach, an erie calm and mysterious quietness seems to settle on everyone as they watch the spectacular sunset. Most people want a clear sky to watch the sunset, but often the couds reflect some interesting colors, adding to the beauty. Sunsets are my favorite photo subjects, but I have learned to take pictrures of other things too, after friends back home have asked me, “Are sunset pictures the only thing you can take pictures of?”

I took this pictue at Pine Lake Retreat, In north central Florida, back in 2007. I took several pictures for a friend back in Texas who loves horses. I call this picture, “More Than Friends.” God can express the beauty of love through animals as well as people.

In 2006 I went on a mission trip to Peru where I was a part of a large team holding meetings all over Chiclayo. All together we had over a thousand baptisms. Later we toured Machu Picchu. This is a picture I took from the bus as we were still climbing the mountain.  Every part of the world has its own beauty. Again, God is too great of an artist to be able to portray His greatness in one scene or one work of art.

God’s best artwork is with His people. While we are still in Peru, I want you to meet Juan Carlos and his family. Juan, seated on your right, was 18 years old in this picture. He had cancer, to which he had already lost one leg. Still, once hearing about our meetings, He walked, on crutches and one leg, over a mile each way to get to the meetings we were having. I might add these roads were full of pot holes and probably not the easiest to maneuver with crutches. He gave his heart to Jesus and was baptized before dying shortly after we left. I can’t wait to see Juan again in heaven! Juan and all the people we met in Peru were beautiful people. The people in the church were amazing! When we arrived from the bus to our Hotel, we were greeted my several Pathfinders welcoming us on a school night. I knew they did not have much, and I offered one who could speak English, money so they could go out and get some ice cream, but she said they did not want money for ice cream, they were just very excited we were in their city to tell people about Jesus. What really impressed me was that after flying from the United States to Peru, the same church, or Body of Christ, that bid us farewell from Florida, was there to welcome us when we got to Peru. God is everywhere! No matter where you go God is already there waiting on you! I thought the people in America were wonderful, but just like God has His beauty in nature all around the world, He also has his beautiful people all over the world. When I came to Peru I did not meet any strangers, only hundreds of friends I just hadn’t met yet!

Back in Florida now, God has created some beautiful Jacaranda trees. Mostly seen in Central and South America, but a few are found in South Tampa.

I took this picture recently at a friend’s house where I have had a few Bible studies. God’s artwork is seen in both the catepilar and butterfly, illustrating God’s artistic nature in re-creating us and making us all new creatures.

At my friend’s home, I also found this female cardinal guarding her nest.

I found the father not far away. I think cardinals are one of the most beauitful birds God has made, even though I don’t appreciate what they did to my Texas Team in the world series last year!

Even though I have shown my friends back home, that I can take pictures of more than just sunsets, still they are my favorite artwork of God. This was taken last Christmas season at Marco Island.

Key West Christmas season before last.

Naples

St. Pete

St. Pete

Clearwater, Florida

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 Our God; Creation Care

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

As you can see by this picture, I enjoy the great outdoors. I appreciate the environment. I don’t know that I can really call myself an environmentalist though. It’s not really a soap box issue for me. I do like to recycle. I hate picking up a napkin while at Taco Bell and using it one time and then throwing it away. It is such a waste. And while I don’t make it my soap box, personally I do like to recycle and not waste things. I am aware I am a steward of this earth, and if I am faithful in small things God will give me an even greater world to inhabit.

However, while studying this week’s SS lesson, I have to be honest. I did not have any real inspirations to write about this week’s topic. However, I have read a couple of amazing posts on the Sabbath School Network website. Apparently somebody was inspired and I would like to share their posts here.

Lillianne lopez writes, A Thin Green Line – Christian Environmentalism

Cindy Tutsch writes, Was Ellen White Green?

Click here for the SS Lesson phone app.

Enjoy!

Glimpses of Our God; God the Lawgiver & Promise Giver

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.  For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.  Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5:17-19

Over the last 20 plus years of my Bible Worker ministry, I have occasionally heard people try to rationalize away Matthew 5:17-19 and the whole law, by saying that Jesus did away with the law once it was fulfilled. This is where we need to exercise Isaiah 28:10 and compare other verses. In Matthew 3 Jesus goes to be baptized. In verse 15 Jesus says it is necessary to be baptized to fulfill all righteousness. After Jesus fulfilled the right of baptism did He then do away with baptism. No. In Matthew 28:19-20 He is telling the disciples to baptize. So Jesus did not do away with baptism when He fulfilled it and neither did Jesus do away with any of the law after  fulfilling the law.

For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if [there be] any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love [is] the fulfilling of the law.  Romans 13:9-10

I have also had people try to explain to me that we no longer need the commandments because now we have love. Fact is we have always had love. It is because we have love that we do not steal, kill or lie about our neighbor. When we have love we automatically fulfill the law by putting God and our family and neighbors before ourselves. Love is putting others first. The first four commandments show us how to put God first. The last six tell us how to put our family and neighbors first.

The beautiful thing is how it is all brought about. When the Lawgiver gave the commandments, He began by reminding them, “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” Exodus 20:2 Here the Lawgiver is reminding them that they did not free themselves from the Egyptians, but rather He freed them, while they were totally helpless. He then goes on to explain in Exodus 20 that He will free them from other gods. He will free them from adultery and murder and other sins.  So how is this brought about? The Lawgiver tells us in Exodus 19:3-5, “And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel;    Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.      Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people.”

Again He reminds them that they did not save themselves from the Egyptians but He did.  Likewise we will not save ourselves from the power of sin but He will. He goes on and tells us to obey His voice. My Strong’s Concordance tells me that word “obey” (shama) means to listen and be attentive. He is not demanding a legalistic obedience based on works. Many have the idea that the Old Testament is legalistic while the New Testament is about grace.  Grace is just as real in the Old Testament as it is in the New Testament. God is wanting us to listen to His voice of promises! The Lawgiver goes on and says “keep my covenant.” Again, according to my Strong’s concordance, that word “keep” (shamar) means to guard or protect. Shamar is the same word used in Genesis 2:15 when Adam was told to keep the garden. Did God mean for him to obey the garden? No, He meant for him to cherish the garden. Care for it. Protect it. Also the word “covenant” is a promise. So in Exodus 19:3-5 the Lawgiver is telling us that just as He delivered the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage, He will also deliver us from spiritual bondage if we will only cherish  His promises!

Thus we find in the Old Testament the same grace we see in the New Testament. “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” 2 peter 1:4

“ 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.”Desire of Ages, page 311.

To study this week’s SS lesson click here. To download the SS lesson app to your phone click 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.