Abraham’s Promises are Your Promises

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A member of a church I had recently spoken in asked me to come to her home. She was very upset because a neighbor claimed to be  a witch and put a curse on her home and family.  The lady church member believed in God but  was afraid of what this curse might mean.  When I got to her home I shared this passage with her.  It is a promise God made to Abraham.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others.  I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 2:1-3 NLT

The Lord promised to bless those who blessed Abraham, and to treat those who curse him with contempt. I actually think the KJV is a little more powerful on this point when it says, “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.” Right after this promise was given, Abraham went into Egypt, and instead of trusting God to care for him, he trusted a lie he invented that Sara was only his sister, not his wife. Not only are lies deceitful, they show we are not trusting God. When we trust God we have no reason to make up lies. Pharaoh took Sara to himself, not knowing she was married. Even though Abraham was less than perfect in this situation the Lord still kept his promise like He always does.

But the Lord sent terrible plagues upon Pharaoh and his household because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. Genesis 12:17 NLT

Even when Abraham was less than perfect and even had trust issues, the Lord kept his promise to curse those who cursed him. I reminded the lady I was visiting, that Balaam tried to curse Israel but could only bless them! See Numbers 23:11-12. The Lord’s blessing continued for the great nation of Israel the Lord had promised to Abraham. The lady I was visiting thought that was all wonderful for Abraham but what did that have to do with her and the curse that was placed upon her? I asked her if she belonged to Christ and of course she said she did. I told her I had good news for her.

And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you. Galatians 3:29 NLT

I shared with her that the promise to bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you belonged to her just as much it did to Abraham. She claimed this promise and when I spoke to her again many months later, the neighbor was gone and there were no signs of any curses.

Once there was an elder in my area who was being slandered by some of the other church leaders. Thank God the church body could see through the other leaders’ lies and stood up for him. When the truth came out and the elder was exonerated ,one of his enemies, who was also a leader was too proud to recant his lies and accusations. Not long after, the leader who made the false accusations retired to a new area. Soon  he had to move far away from the area he retired in, because of accusations that were made against him which were much more serious than the one he made against the local elder. Some called it karma, some called it what goes around comes around. I can’t help but think of God’s promise, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.”  I hope too that this situation led the slandering leader to repentance and salvation.

Now before we start acting all high and mighty when God works in our favor, it’s important to remember that God blessed Abraham because of His own faithfulness, not the faithfulness of Abraham. Even though God cursed Pharaoh so to speak, Abraham still had his own lesson to learn about honesty and trusting God instead of lies. I would imagine even when God curses those who curse us that we too still need to humbly learn some lessons as well. The promise in Genesis 12:3 goes on to say that all families of the earth will be blessed as God wants to bless and save all of us friends and foes, just as he saved faulty Abraham.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

History Doesn’t Have to Repeat itself

 

Have you ever been haunted by your past?

Over a decade ago I was preaching during the first worship service and I guess I was all wound up in what I was preaching, because an elder motioned to me that it was time for Sabbath School. I had a real passion for what I was preaching at the moment and basically chastised the elder for telling me to stop. It came across kind of … no it definitely came across as high and mighty and condescending to the elder. The elder quickly ducked out of view of the congregation. I soon realized I did not react appropriately and even made a fool of myself. After church I told the elder I was sorry. He graciously accepted my apology and for the remainder of our time together in that congregation he acted like it never happened. But I had trouble shaking it. Four or five years later, he and I were talking in the hallway, and of course he was acting totally natural, while I was still cringing inside over what I did years ago. As we were talking, the obvious finally dawned on me. He does not even remember what I am cringing about! I am the only one who remembers it! He forgot about it years ago after he forgave me. Why am I holding on to this?  I had to forgive myself then and there, and now I no longer feel awkward when I see him, and, of course, I have never repeated the incident.

It appears in the days of Nehemiah Israel was still haunted by its past, going back to the days of Moses.

But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love. You did not abandon them,  even when they made an idol shaped like a calf and said, ‘This is your god who brought you out of Egypt!’ They committed terrible blasphemies. Nehemiah 9:17-18 NLT

This came during their time of confession. They are claiming God’s forgiveness but still going over things that happened long ago. The good news is, history does not have to repeat itself. Paul was haunted by his previous actions towards Christians, but he still was able to move on.

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:13-14 NLT

Paul was able to get over his past by not continually thinking about it, but also by being sure not to let his history repeat itself. He pressed on to what was ahead instead of repeating what was behind him. When a runner trips over a hurdle she can’t waste time wallowing in self pity. There is no time to lose. She must get back up and run! But she also must make sure she does not trip over any more hurdles. There is no time for self-pity or for tripping over more hurdles.

David made some big mistakes, but we don’t see him making the same mistakes over and over. I think his prayer of repentance in Psalm 51 offers us some clues as to how he moved forward instead of letting history repeat itself.

For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭51:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

So David was haunted by his rebellion just like Israel, and just like I was. Often times we try to ignore negative feelings and emotions but they have their place. Those negative feelings are symptoms telling us a problem needs to be fixed. If we only treat the symptoms then the problem remains and still needs to be fixed.

Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. Psalms‬ ‭51:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

David recognized that He hurt God. He is not sorry that he hurt himself. He is sorry he hurt God and others.

Forgive me for shedding blood…Psalms 51:14 NLT

David’s confession is specific, just like Israel’s in Nehemiah 9.

At the Christian school where I occasionally substitute teach, one of the classrooms uses what is called a fix-it ticket. When students do something inappropriate,  students writes down on a piece of paper exactly what they did wrong, and how they are going to fix that form of behavior. They sign the paper themselves, and then the teacher signs it and the student takes it home for the parents to sign. In Psalms 51 David appears to be writing a fix-it ticket. He is writing specifically about what he did wrong and also how the problem is going to be fixed. A while back I had an attitude that I knew was not right. I wrote a letter to God telling him specifically why I was wrong and asked for Him to help me in specific ways not to have that attitude any more. I have never had that attitude since.. I believe that actually writing things out, not typing but actually hand writing things out can be very therapeutic. If nothing else it shows God and ourselves that our repentance is earnest, rather than just giving a flippant “Please forgive me. I’m sorry.”

Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭51:1, 7, 10, 12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We don’t see David repeating his history over and over because his repentance and confession were very specific and very deep. David realized and openly confessed his own weaknesses and how he was prone to sin.

For I was born a sinner— yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. Psalms 51:5 NLT

Therefore instead of being self-confident David put his confidence in God’s powerful love and promises. We too can keep our sinful history from continually repeating itself by making our repentance deep and heartfelt, and by having no confidence in our flesh or human effort (Philippians 3:3), but rather put our hope and faith in God’s powerful love and promises.

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

And the Devotional Book I Recommend for 2020 is…..

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

… the Bible!

Apple pies are great. I love them, especially with whipped cream or ice cream on top. They make a great dessert, and yes, even with everything else that goes into them, the apples provide real nutrition. Even so, for a daily breakfast routine I would recommend an actual apple over an apple pie. I just think an actual apple is more nutritious than an apple pie. That doesn’t mean I’m throwing grandma’s apple pie recipe away. It just means on a daily basis I eat actual apples. My stomach only holds so much food and if its filled with apple pies, then there won’t be any room for actual whole apples.

Its the same with devotional books and the Bible. Of course God created us to be social creatures. I actually learn from other people’s  comments in Sabbath School class and on Sabbath School Net. I learn from books other writers have written. So I am not suggesting you throw away your new 2020 devotional book any more than I am suggesting throwing away grandma’s apple pie recipe. Just make sure you are eating plenty of whole apples, and make sure you are actually reading the Bible. While serving as a literature evangelist I learned that during the years Arthur Maxwell wrote the Bible Stories , he read only the Bible as he did not want anyone else influencing his depictions of the Bible stories.

The other day I was teaching a 4th-grade Bible class in a local Adventist School in which I occasionally substitute. I asked the children why do we pray before reading the Bible? I received several good answers, but my favorite came from a boy who answered “Because Proverbs 3 says we are not to trust our own understanding but to depend on God for understanding.” What a great application of Proverbs 3:5 I thought! 2 Peter 1:21 tells us that those who wrote Scripture were moved by the Holy Spirit. In John 16:13 Jesus assures us the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth. The same Holy Spirit that moved the writers to write those words thousands of years ago, is the same Holy Spirit that teaches us as we read those words. The Holy Spirit can teach you as easily as any theologian.

When I preach on Sabbath I like to make sure I use plenty of Scripture. That way if my own thoughts are worthless at least people got to hear actual Scripture, which is valuable. Most of my illustrations are my own, but of course I get ideas from others as well. When we read the Bible for ourselves we also have ideas the Holy Spirit gives us to share with others. If we do not read the Bible for ourselves then we are only getting ideas from others. This is not fair to them or to us. We are  not contributing our fair share and others are doing all the thinking for us. A mother breastfeeds her infant with the hopes that one day the infant will grow up to feed him or herself. Likewise we should not always rely on other authors to feed us. God wants to teach us all how to find our own spiritual bread in the Bible.

In Ezra’s day there was a reformation and revival as the people turned back to the reading of the Word. I think our church today is in desperate need of a revival and reformation  inspired by the reading of the Word.

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

We are all Fallible

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In my ministry I have met people who claim the Adventist church is Babylon. I have also met people who think the Adventist church is infallible. Both ideas are wrong. The Adventist church is not Babylon, but it is not infallible either. Just because the Adventist  church is not Babylon does not mean it does not make mistakes. Remember at the cross it was not Babylon crying out “Crucify Him!” It was God’s chosen remnant people. The commander of the Lord’s army realized the fallibility of God’s chosen people when He met Joshua one day.

When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.” Joshua 5:13-14 NLT

“Neither one?” Seems like the Commander was taking a neutral stance on the situation. We can’t assume just because we are God’s chosen people that He is always on our side. Sometimes we are right. Sometimes we are wrong. Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes our foes do the right thing. God loves everyone in the world, not just us. I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who is credited with saying, “The question is not if God is on my side but rather if I’m on His.”

Throughout history God had to punish His own people. Today when people tell me how “corrupt” the church has become, I ask them, when was the church ever perfect? When harlots got their business at the temple doors during Eli’s day? When God had to let Babylon destroy His holy nation because of their habitual apostasy and idolatry?  When people tell me the Adventist church has strayed too far from what it used to be, and we need to go back to how it was in the days of Ellen White, I ask them, “You mean when God had to destroy the Adventist publishing house with fire because they would not follow inspired counsel?”

In Ezra’s day it was no different.

When these things had been done, the Jewish leaders came to me and said, “Many of the people of Israel, and even some of the priests and Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the other peoples living in the land. They have taken up the detestable practices of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians, and Amorites. For the men of Israel have married women from these people and have taken them as wives for their sons. So the holy race has become polluted by these mixed marriages. Worse yet, the leaders and officials have led the way in this outrage.” Ezra 9:1-2 NLT

When the leaders and the majority of those in the church fall away from the truth no one detects it as apostasy because the apostasy becomes mainstream. Therefore apostasy looks normal. The only way to detect apostasy is to stop looking at the leaders and the majority, and look at the Word of God.

Years ago I attended a health seminar, where a doctor told us that many  Americans are obese and are close to having a heart attack. They don’t understand how unhealthy they are because they are no more obese than everyone around them, not realizing everyone around them is also on the verge of a heart attack. Just because obesity is mainstream in American culture does not make it healthy or any less deadly. It is the same with sin in the church.

In Ezra’s day there was a reformation as they stopped looking at those around them as role models and began comparing themselves to the Word of God. So today, we can have a reformation like never before as we compare ourselves to God’s Word instead of each other. In Daniel 9 Daniel confesses that his people have corporately sinned, and included himself as part of the sin problem. Nehemiah as well as Ezra brought about a great reformation, but even Nehemiah saw himself as part of the sin problem  when he prayed,

Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! Nehemiah 1:6 NLT

While praying for reformation in the church we must confess our individual sins as well as the sins of the church. We can’t divide the church into camps and then say God is on my camp’s side, because God is not choosing sides today anymore than He was in Joshua’s day.  Sometimes we are right. Sometimes we are wrong. That goes for all of us. We are all fallible. We all make mistakes. That is why Jesus never told us to follow Christian leaders. He told us to follow Him. For true reformation we must recognize our own guilt and apostasy. We must not set ourselves or anyone else up as an example to follow. We must follow Jesus and His Word alone.

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

True Education

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Thursday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson asks the question, “In what ways, even today, might we need to unlearn a lot of what we have been taught from the world?”

When Jesus was telling Nicodemus in John 3:1-17 that he needed to be born again, I believe Jesus was including being re-educated. Nicodemus had a lot to unlearn. He had worked hard to get where he was by his own efforts to reach the standards of man which were built upon the traditions of man. This is why Jesus wanted Nicodemus to be born again  –that he could be taught the ways of God by God instead of the traditions of men by men . God was well aware of the power of tradition in that day, which is why God ordained that John the Baptist would not be taught in the schools of his day.

In the natural order of things, the son of Zacharias would have been educated for the priesthood. But the training of the rabbinical schools would have unfitted him for his work. God did not send him to the teachers of theology to learn how to interpret the Scriptures. He called him to the desert, that he might learn of nature and nature’s God. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 101

I am a big believer and supporter of our Seventh-day Adventist Christian schools, kindergarten through seminary. I attended Adventist schools from first grade into college. I have taught Bible classes, presented week of prayers and chapel services, and have  been a teacher’s aide and substitute teacher in our schools for  about 30 years. I have also given my own money to help pay the tuition for financially struggling families. I share this only so that you will understand I mean our schools no disservice by what I am going to write next.

I can go through all my Adventist grade school and high school yearbooks, and in all the yearbooks combined I will find a handful of students who are in the church today. Those of us who are in the church today have something in common other than going to an Adventist school. We had family worship at home. We were taught at home by the most powerful teachers and pastors in our lives  – our parents. As much as I love, support and enjoy being a part of the Adventist educational system, I cringe when on education Sabbaths, the preacher credits the school for people like myself remaining in the church. That credit belongs to my parents who showed me Jesus at home and taught me to have family worship as well as my own personal Bible study time even as a child. Now I would not have dedicated so much of my time and money if I did not believe in the importance of Adventist Christian education, but I also am afraid that we give our schools the credit that belongs to parents.

I believe one of the things we need to unlearn as a society is that all education takes place in a formal school. We need to learn the difference between having a diploma or degree and having an education. There are people without diplomas or degrees who are educated, and there are people with diplomas and degrees who are not educated. For example, I was talking to a friend who attended a university in Florida while a future famous pro athlete was attending who will not be named here. My friend told me while the athlete got his degree he was never seen on campus. He was never seen anywhere besides the football stadium.

While I did go to college and can say I am college educated, I did not finish my degree. I have worked with Adventist pastors who ,when we would have a slight difference of theological opinion, would mention their degree as though that gave more merit to their opinion. Some have mentioned their degree, implying it automatically trumped my understanding of the Bible. In other words, having a degree made them automatically right and me automatically wrong. Fortunately these situations have been very few and far between. Much more often, when I have  friendly “debates” or minor disagreements with people who have their master’s degree in theology, they never once mention their degree, but reason with me using the Bible and the Bible alone. They understand their degree does not make them automatically right. They reason with me from Scripture as something we both are familiar with, and we are on equal ground, both standing on the Word of God.

Satan is constantly endeavoring to attract attention to man in the place of God. He leads the people to look to bishops, to pastors, to professors of theology, as their guides, instead of searching the Scriptures to learn their duty for themselves. Then, by controlling the minds of these leaders, he can influence the multitudes according to his will. –Ellen White, The Great Controversy, Page 595

Recently, a pastor friend, who graduated with his Masters of Divinity from  Andrews University called me to see if his understanding on a passage in Revelation was correct. Even though he has his master’s in theology and I have no degree at all, I could tell in our conversation that he had great appreciation for my understanding of Scripture, so much so that he was asking me if he was right. While it does not happen every day, it was not the first time or the last. In 2 Corinthians 11:16 Paul admitted he was boasting a little for a purpose. If it sounds like I am boasting that some pastors from Andrews University call me for theological advice, it is only to make this point. You can be educated without having a formal degree. Like Nicodemus had to learn, we have to learn to stand on the Word of God and not our formal degrees.

I want to close by thanking my Adventist grade school and high school teachers who encouraged me as a child to be a Gospel Worker for Jesus and who even now encourage me and even financially support my ministry. There are too many to mention, but they know who they are, as I still communicate with them regularly. While I did not finish college, I will always be indebted to my professors, especially to the late Jan Haluska, who was my composition teacher. I love writing, and the writing skills he taught me have no doubt been the most practical skills that I have used daily throughout my life and ministry.

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

Christ is my Anchor

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. Psalm 91:2 NLT

In Lysa Terkeurst’s book, Uninvited,  She tells the story about finding refuge in a ravine near her childhood home. Her father, who was mean, made her feel unsafe at home, so she brought her favorite toys to the ravine and made herself a home there. The ravine was low-lying, where she could spy on the rest of the neighborhood while feeling safe and protected in her hiding place. She spent as much time as she could there to hide from her father at home. She said the ravine became her anchor of safety in an unsafe world. Yes, as an adult you saw this coming. Sure enough a rain storm came and her “anchor” and everything in it was washed away. She was heart broken. Her anchor turned out to be no anchor at all.

We have all had “anchors” that have been washed away. I bought a used car several years ago, and as I was getting ready to drive it off the lot I told the salesman, “Wait, I did not even check the trunk to see if there is a spare tire.” The salesman laughed and told me, “Of course it has a spare tire.” I took his word for it and drove off. It was not two weeks later that I was driving down the expressway and had a flat. As I pulled over to the shoulder, I patted myself on the back for making sure there was a spare tire. I opened the trunk, and, to my dismay, there was no tire! The salesman let me down. I put my hope in him, and he was wrong. I am not going to say he lied, because maybe he really thought it was in there. But even though the salesman let me down, God did not! At the exact time I discovered I had no spare, a co-worker recognized me and pulled over right behind my car. He loaned me his spare until I could get to the car dealership to get one and give the salesman a polite earful. I learned an important lesson. Even when people let me down, God still has my back, People are not my anchor. God is my anchor.

Many think the church is their anchor, only to be disappointed when the church lets them down and their hopes are swept away. Here is where we are  wrong with thinking the church is our anchor: Nowhere in the Bible does it say the church is an anchor. Christ is our anchor. When I was seven years old, I was lying in bed one night thinking about the cross and the love Jesus has for me. I decided to give my heart to Jesus and get baptized. When I gave my life to Jesus, I made Him alone responsible for all my needs. I obey my superiors in the church as long as it doesn’t conflict with the Bible or my conscience. God is my ultimate boss. Since God is my ultimate boss I also hold Him personally responsible for my pay. If the church doesn’t pay me, or no one contributes to my Bible Worker Fund, I have no one to blame but God. Paul says,

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people Colossians 3:23 NLT

Since I work as though I were working for the Lord and not for people, it is the Lord and not the people or the church that I hold accountable for my salary or benefits. That is not to say that God does not use the church to meet my needs. He does. But I do not trust or hold the church accountable. I trust Christ alone and I hold Christ accountable for all my needs. The church is not my anchor. The church needs an anchor. Christ is the anchor.

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

Grace and Addiction

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

You may listen to the podcast version here.

People often insinuate that we had the law in the Old Testament but found grace in the New Testament. Fact is, the law and grace co-exist in both the Old and New Testaments.

“And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.” Genesis‬ ‭15:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

If we are saved by faith in the New Testament, why keep the law? For the same reason they kept the law in the Old Testament while they were saved by faith alone. We have the law in both the Old and New Testaments, while salvation is by faith alone in both the Old And New Testaments. Grace and faith were not new to the New Testament. And the law was not done away with in the New Testament.

“Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.” Romans‬ ‭3:31‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We cannot assume we can continue in sin just because we are saved by grace, any more than I can assume I can continue living under water without air after being saved from drowning. If I am saved from drowning, that means I am saved from being under water without air.

Grace saves us from sinful living.

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.  And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds. Titus 2:11-14 NLT

I have heard statements condemning “cheap grace” and the idea that grace makes us free to continue willfully sinning. However I don’t think any of us wants “cheap grace.” I don’t believe we want to break God’s heart by continuing sinful addictions. I believe most of us want freedom from sinful addictions, because we love Jesus. Here is the good news. Grace breaks sinful addictions. Before I go into that, let me say this. A few years ago I went to my regular Bible study with a young man who had overcome a sinful addiction. He was very upset because after several good months he had a relapse. He was beyond discouraged, thinking he had out sinned God’s grace. I shared with him how Psalm 51:17 tells us God will never despise a broken and contrite heart. The number of times that heart has been broken or contrite before does not matter. God will never despise a broken and contrite heart, no matter how many times sin has broken that heart before. That is good news.

May I share some more Good news?  A few years ago I was walking in a nearby park. The park had a path for those fighting cancer. Every few feet there was a marker with an inspirational quote on how to cope with cancer. I remember one marker had a quote that simply read, “There are people who have survived every form of cancer.” Those simple words gives hope to everyone who has been diagnosed with any type of cancer. There are people who have survived the most deadly of cancers. Titus 2:14 reads, “He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin.” You may be struggling with an addiction that is overwhelmingly embarrassing to you. Don’t despair. Jesus has freed people from every kind of sin.

Grace produces obedience. 

Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience….Romans 1:5 NKJV

A preacher from the General Conference office (sorry I forget his name) was preaching years ago at an Oklahoma camp meeting. He told the story about how he was going to a breakfast diner before work one morning and saw an empty parking space close to the restaurant. He also saw a car coming from the other direction towards the same space. His first reaction was to step on the gas and get int here before the other car could. However, he explained that He had submitted himself to Jesus that morning. Instead he eased off the gas, let the other car take the space as he parked much farther away. When he entered the restaurant the man who got the closer space was waiting to be seated. He thanked the preacher for letting him have the closer parking space. The preacher told him, “That wasn’t me.”  The man inquired, “Then who was it?” The preacher replied, “It was Jesus. I would have taken the closer parking space!”  Galatians 2:20 tells us it is Jesus who lives in us and does all the good things. It is not us.  Salvation by grace is a practical salvation, where grace gives us real and practical obedience.

Grace gives us good works. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT

In the  90’s I watched a documentary by Oprah Winfrey on child abuse. Abuse victims gave their testimonies. In many cases their abuser had been abused as a child. In several cases the abuser was a “pillar” in the church. I observed that this epidemic was handed down from generation to generation even in the church. Around this time I had seen bumper stickers reading, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” I wondered if that alone was really good news. If Christians are only forgiven, that means the child abuse epidemic is doomed to continue from generation to generation in the church. But God’s grace can free us from the cycle of abuse. It does not have to continue from generation to generation in the church. The same documentary had a story about a girl who was abused by her father. The father had served his sentence and had been rehabilitated to the point that he and his daughter were enjoying a healthy relationship. Now I have to be honest. Even though I share this, I believe the vast majority of abuse victims will never be safe around their former abusers until we are inside the pearly gates. I discourage abuse victims from going back to their abusers, and I cringe when they do so. However, this one story in the documentary showed a young woman, who was abused as a little girl by her father, holding her father’s hands, smiling naturally and comfortably as they talked about his recovery and the total reconciliation of their relationship. By grace Christians are more than just forgiven. By grace we are saved from a sinful lifestyle. By grace Jesus lives His obedient life of Good works through us.

You can study today’s Sabbath School lesson here.