Which Laws Were Abolished at the Cross?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Were the ceremonial or moral laws done away with at the cross? What exactly did Christ abolish on the cross? Let’s take a look at God’s Word to see.

The ten commandments were written with God’s own hand.

So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone. Deuteronomy 4:13 NKJV

The ten commandments were placed inside the ark.

And you shall put into the ark the Testimony which I will give you. Exodus 25:16 NKJV

The commandments last forever.

The works of His hands are verity and justice;
All His precepts are sure.  They stand fast forever and ever,
And are done in truth and uprightness. Psalm 111:7-8 NKJV

The ceremonial law was written in Moses’ handwriting and was placed in the side of the ark while we have seen the Ten Commandments were written by God and placed inside the ark.

So it was, when Moses had completed writing the words of this law in a book, when they were finished,  that Moses commanded the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying: Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there as a witness against you;  Deuteronomy 31:24-26 NKJV

The ceremonial laws written by Moses lasted only until the reformation.

concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation. Hebrews 9:10 NKJV

It was ordinances that were handwritten by Moses that were done away with at the cross. The ceremonial laws like the feast Sabbath days like the Passover, which pointed towards the cross no longer served a purpose after the cross. The weekly Sabbath in the ten commandments was instituted before the law was ever given (Genesis 2:1-3) and continued throughout the New Testament by Jews and Greeks alike (Acts 18:4) and will continue in the new earth. (Isaiah 66:23)

having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Colossians 2:14-17 NKJV

Note: the requirements that were against them was the record of their rebellion we saw in Deuteronomy 31:24-26. The Ten commandments were not against them. They were there for their blessing and protection. See Psalm 19 and 119.

The sacrificial system ceased at the cross. The ten commandments never ceased.

Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,
Even until the consummation, which is determined,
Is poured out on the desolate.” Daniel 9:27 NKJV

In the new testament commandment keeping continues.

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. John 15:9-10 NKJV

He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  1 John 2:4 NKJV

The ten commandments convict us of sin after the cross just like before.

but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.  For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.  So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. James 2:9-12 NKJV

Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 1 John 3:4NKJV

Jesus did not die to do away with the law. He died so we could be obedient and live righteously.

who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 1 Peter 2:24

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,  teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, Titus 2:11-12 NKJV

Those who keep the commandments by God’s grace will inherit eternal life.

Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. Revelation 22:14 NKJV

Summary and conclusion: The handwritten ordinances and sacrificial systems that pointed towards the cross were no longer needed after the cross. The Ten commandments were not handwritten by Moses but by God and do not point towards the cross. The ten commandments endure for all eternity.

Why Kindergarten is a Part of Your College Degree

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The podcast version of this article is available here.

As this week’s lesson emphasizes the importance of the law in our education I am reminded of what Jesus said regarding the principle of the entire law.

Do to others as you would like them to do to you. Luke 6:31 NLT

Many are familiar with the phrase, ‘All I really needed to know I learned in Kindergarten.” This phrase came from Robert Fulghum’s book, with the same title as the phrase. The main idea is that in kindergarten one learns simple hygiene practices as well as the importance of a nap every afternoon.  Sounds great, right? Fulghum goes on to explain how kindergarten taught him not to take things that did not belong to him and how to share what he had. In short, kindergarten taught him to be fair and considerate of others needs and rights. Of course since the book came out, kindergarten has progressed to be more like first grade when I was starting school way back in the mid 1900’s. Still, kindergarten teaches  basic citizenship skills about how to get along with others. How to be responsible in cleaning up your own mess as well as being considerate and helpful to others. I believe Jesus would sum all these kindergarten lessons up with “Do to others as you would like them to do to you.”

After kindergarten many of us went on to “greater” things. We learned algebra and geometry.  Some of us went on to learn calculous (well I surely didn’t but some of us did.) We learned science and chemistry and biology. Yet in all of our learning we were never to forget what we learned in kindergarten. While doing algebra and geometry it is still important o know that 1+1=2. Yes we go on to much greater things than we could ever have imagined in kindergarten but we must never forget 1+1=2. When a math major receives her college degree certificate at Harvard, what she learned in kindergarten about 1+1=2 is a substance and the foundation of the degree that she now proudly hangs on her office wall.

Do you know what else is a substance of our greater education? the things we learned in kindergarten about treating others fairly and honestly. Doing for others what we would want them to do for us. Jesus told us this is the foundation of the law. Therefore if the law is the foundation of our education then doing for others what we would want them to do for us must be the foundation of our education. No matter how far you go in math 1+1 will always equal 2. That fundamental law will always stay with you. No matter how far you go in life climbing the corporate ladder “do for others what you would like them to do for you” will always be a fundamental law in your education and career.

When you walk off the platform at Andrews University or Avondale or Newbold, or any other university with your college degree you do not get to throw away your kindergarten education. Your kindergarten education is a fundamental part of your college education. It doesn’t go away. If you ever forget that 1+1=2 your math degree will become useless. If you ever forget to treat others the way you would want to be treated then your entire education becomes meaningless.

The law is the foundation of our education. Do for others what you would like them to do for you is the foundation of the law. Therefore do for others what you would like them to do for you is the foundation of education.

I can’t really say all I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten, but I can honestly say I will always need all I learned in kindergarten.

A Christian Home is Christian Education

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

My child, listen when your father corrects you. Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction. What you learn from them will crown you with grace and be a chain of honor around your neck. Proverbs 1:8-9 NLT

Ephesians 5:33 in the KJV calls for wives to reverence their husbands. That is powerful, because the Bible never tells anyone to reverence a priest or a prophet. That word “reverence” for the father tells me, a parent is  the first teacher and also the first and most important pastor.

I love Christian schools, and have dedicated my time and money to them. I believe in their mission with all my heart. Yet, sometimes when we promote Christian schools, I think we sometimes give credit to the schools that actually belongs to the parents. Of course I understand it is the parents who utilize the school in their home ministry. Christian education does not begin in a school building. It begins in the home. I promote Christian schools over public schools but I also realize a child can get a Christian education at home even if he/she is in a public school. last week’s lesson showed us how the Garden of Eden was the first classroom. The home is a child’s first classroom and it is a continuous classroom.

I went to Adventist Schools from Grades 1 through college. My schools averaged around 100 students a year with different students coming and going throughout my 12 grades. A while back, I went through my year books, and I could count on both hands, and maybe a couple of toes the number of kids who remained in the church after we grew up. Upon further investigation I found, for the most part, my schoolmates  who remained in the church after growing up, had worship every night in the home. Their parents also encouraged their children to study the Bible for themselves. That is why their children are still in the church.

Church schools are great, they are wonderful, they are ordained by God, but they are not ordained to take the place of the mother and father and do the work the mother and father are ordained to do. (I understand there are situations, like my late friend Quong, who came to the United States from Vietnam, and was put in an Adventist School, only because it was private. While his parents were atheist, Quong, accepted Jesus, and was forced out of his home at 14 years of age! He slept at the school every night till he found a new family to live with. Thank God for that school!)

A while back I was giving a devotional for chapel at a Christian School. I asked the lower grade students how many of them have family worship at home. Out of about 45 students only 5 hands were raised. I begged the other students to ask their parents to have family worship with them every night, by studying the children’s Sabbath School lessons (Click on age groups tab on menu at the top of the screen.) and Bible together, and prayer.

Again I have dedicated much of my life and resources in support of our Adventist schools. At the same time when we have an ‘Education Sabbath” it grieves me that the church will give credit to the schools that actually belongs to the parents. As already stated family worship and a Christian home is the key contributor to keeping children in the church after they grow up. A Christian home is Christian education.

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

Faith or Presumption?

In 2017 hurricane Irma came through Florida and many of us evacuated. I went to Tennessee to be with my sister. The morning the hurricane hit Tampa where I live, I received a text from a friend there who was unable to evacuate. She said she was afraid but she knew God was with her and that she would not get hurt. I thought to myself though, God was with my mother when she drew her last breath and died. Of course I did not text my friend back and tell her that God has been with many people while they drew their last breath. Just because God is with us does not mean we won’t die. When a storm comes having faith that God is with me is one thing, but having faith that I will not die is presumption. After all millions of people have died in various storms throughout earth’s history. I would have to be a blatant fool to think I’m a better Christian than millions of other people or even that I have more faith than those who have died in storms. 

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area

Its the same when I get in a car. I pray for safety and I know God is with me. I also know I have heard testimonies from people who survived a car accident where a loved one died. They say they too prayed for protection before their trip. A pastor friend of mine was killed in a car accident just a few Christmases ago. He was in his forties. Am I still alive because I am a better Christian than he was or because I have more faith? Of course not! To think I have survived storms and car accidents because I am a faithful Christian is beyond presumption. It is absurd! Millions more worthy than me have perished in storms and car accidents. I know God is with me regardless of my fate. While Hebrews celebrates the victories of the faithful it also recognizes the deaths of the faithful.

Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—  of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. Hebrews 11:35-38 NKJV

Faith is knowing what God has promised. God has promised me eternal life. See Titus 1:2. Presumption is assuming what God has not promised. God never promised me I would never die in a storm or car accident. 

So now let’s get to the title of our topic here. How do I know I have the assurance of salvation in Jesus and am not just being presumptuous that I am saved? Let’s take a look at some Biblical examples of people in the Bible who were being faithful and those who were just being presumptuous. 

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? James 2:18-20 NKJV

In the book of James we are taught that true faith will bear the fruits of good works and obedience. “Faith” that does not bring forth good works and obedience is a presumption which will not make us any better off than the demons who believe and tremble. 

Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so.  And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?”  Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. Acts 19:11-16 NKJV

The sons of Sceva were presumptuous because they did not know Jesus for themselves. By the way 1 John 2:4 says if we say we know Jesus but do not obey the commandments that just makes us liars. We know they did not know Jesus for themselves because they said. “The Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Paul knew Jesus. They did not. They were being presumptuous thinking the name of Jesus was a magic word like abracadabra. Jesus and Paul are not magic. They both got their power from an obedient relationship with the Father. 

 In Numbers 10:33-35 Moses sent the ark out before their battles and victories. However when Israel was in apostasy their faith i the ark turned into presumption and the ark itself was captured by the enemy in 1 Samuel 4:1-22. The ark was not magic. The ark was not a symbol of presumption. It was a symbol of their faith and obedience toward God. Without obedience the ark had no power for them. Much like Samson’s hair. There was no magic in his hair. His long hair was a sign of his loyalty to God. When he was no longer loyal to God the long hair was meaningless. See Judges 13:5

Romans 1:5 talks about faith that leads to obedience and Revelation 14:12 tells us God’s last day saints will have faith and keep the commandments. True Biblical faith produces obedience. A supposed “faith’ without obedience is mere presumption. In Matthew 4:5-7 Satan tells Jesus to jump off a cliff and have faith that God would save Him. However there no command from God to jump off a cliff. Jesus knew that jumping off the cliff would not be in accordance with God’s commands and would not be an obedient faith but mere presumption. By they way, today we wear seat belts in our cars and masks at church because while we have faith in God we were given no command to be careless and presumptuous with our safety and health. Jesus gave us an example of using common sense and faith in God at the same time. One does not cancel out the other. 

By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. Hebrews 11:30 NKJV

But a few days later the children of Israel were defeated when disobedience led to presumption. See Joshua 7:1-26

While Romans 1:5 and Revelation 14:12 talk about faith and obedience David links presumption with sin. 

Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Psalm 19:13 NKJV

Faith is when we claim a promise in the Bible such as God is with us. Presumption is when we claim assurance the Bible never gave us such as I will never die in a storm or car accident. Or even that I will never get the COVID-19 therefore I do not need to wear a mask or social distance. In the wilderness Jesus used faith and common sense and so shall I. 

Faith leads me into good works. See Ephesians 2:8-10. Faith leads me into commandment keeping. See Revelation 14:12. Presumption encourages me to carelessness and sin. See Psalm 19:13

Matthew 7:21-27 teaches me claiming salvation without obeying Jesus is mere presumption. When I put God’s Word into practice I have the assurance of salvation. 

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

Resources for Healthy Small Bible Study Groups

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Shortly after returning home from college in the spring of 1985 I received a phone call from a friend from church on a Friday evening. He said a few friends were getting together for a Bible study and invited me. I accepted the invitation and what transpired was a long lasting fellowship and close friendships that continue to this day. There were six of us, and while we studied that week’s Sabbath School lesson together every Friday evening, we also had pizza parties on Saturday nights and went to ball games together and even worked together in different ways with our daily secular jobs. As a young person who lacked self confidence this group gave me a real sense of belonging and the encouragement that I needed. We studied together. We prayed together. We played together. We went to church meetings and camp meetings together.  Some by nature moved away and over time have lost regular contact. Still others I see every time I go home to visit, and we talk on the phone or Facebook almost every week. Funny thing is we did not really think of ourselves as a small study group. We were just friends who studied together. But years later after facilitating and coaching several small study groups I realize that is exactly what we were. That small study group that began in the spring of ’85 met every Friday night for several years. Even when “life” finally broke up the weekly continuity of study time the friendships continue to this day.  

Group Bible Study

While no small study group is perfect nor should it be expected to be, here are some things that I look back and see that made my first ever small study group healthy. 

  1. Diversity. We had mixed races. We had mixed ages. I was 19 and the oldest one in our group was in his 40’s. A couple in our group were married. The rest were single but another couple in our group got married as we were all studying together. You could not put a label on our group as far as race, gender or age or marital status. 
  2. Though close, we were not a clique. We often invited people to join us and some did for a while. Our friendship circles went well beyond our small group, and we always accepted each other’s friends at church and social activities. 
  3. We reached out and ministered to others. We checked in on the elderly. We befriended visitors and new members on both spiritual and social levels. I will always remember the trip a few of us made to the Eureka Springs passion play where we also took a new church member who was longing for friendship and we all had a great time. 

As I said earlier our small group studied the Sabbath School lessons together. That worked out well since our small group lasted for several years, and there are not too many Bible study curricula that will last for years, unless of course you want to just study the Bible itself which is a good idea. About ten years ago the church I was with started several small study groups. We found a wonderful group of lesson plans by Denis Sands. After asking permission I shared them on my website. You may find them here. I have used them for years now in several various small groups and they have been well received. The focus on building your personal relation with Christ and with others. Each lesson takes about an hour and fifteen minutes. Each lesson has a time for dialogue, fellowship, worship, Bible study and discipleship, and ministry and outreach in evangelism. Focusing on all these areas every week keeps our groups close and personal while also ministering and sharing with others. 

I would like to encourage you to be a part of a small group. It is a great way to grow spiritually and help others along the way. It  also gives you a sense of belonging and purpose in a worldwide church. Don’t let the current virus pandemic stop you. I actually have a new small study group that meets every Friday night on FaceTime. We have members in Florida and Tennessee who love meeting together every week. The possibilities are endless! It doesn’t have to be complicated to be healthy and effective. Like I said earlier, we did not even really think of ourselves as a small study group. We were just a group of friends studying together and helping others. I would like to encourage you to start your group today! 

let me know if you have any questions or need any help. 

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

Helli’s Profession of Faith Picture and Story

Today Helli was presented with her Profession of Faith certificate as she rejoined the Homosassa Seventh-day Adventist Church. When someone who has already been baptized by immersion becomes a Seventh-day Adventist member they have the choice of being re-baptized or joining on profession of faith.

Helli was born in Finland in the 1930’s. She had 7 brothers, one of whom was a Seventh-day Adventist. When Helli was 16 she studied to become a Seventh-day Adventist and was baptized and attended an Adventist academy in Finland.

In 1957 Helli came to the United States to study nursing at Washington Missionary College. In nursing school Helli made a life long Adventist friend named Sue. Over the years Helli drifted away from the church and what she had learned in the Bible. Now in her golden years she has moved near her lifelong Adventist friend Sue in Homosassa Florida. Helli lives in an assisted living center and visited the Homosassa Adventist Church before the quarantine. Helli became convicted of her need to practice the Bible teachings she discovered in the Bible so long ago. I studied with Helli through a screen window at her living center as we reviewed the Bible teachings she studied decades ago on another continent. Helli is once again an avid Bible student and also loves reading books from the Spirit of Prophecy like “Great Controversy” and “The Desire of Ages.” Helli once sold these books in Finland as a student Literature Evangelist. Today she is falling in love all over again with the books and the truth she knew so long ago.

Today As we presented Helli with her certificate she told us how happy and excited she is to be back home with Jesus in the Seventh-day Adventist family.

Helli did not let the sun set on her life before coming back to the One who gave His life for her. Please do not let the sun set on your life before you make the most important decision of your life. To give yourself to Jesus who gave all of Himself for you. I would love to help you with this decision and I would be happy to study with you no matter where in the world you are. You can contact me at racerthree@gmail.com.

Thank you for considering contributing to my ministry so I can continue leading people to Jesus!

“I Will Allure her…and Speak Comfort to her.”

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay Area.

Monday’s section of this week’s lesson asks,

 Why is how we say something as important as, or even more important than, what we say? How do you react to this statement: “Truth is truth, and people need to take it or leave it”? What’s wrong with this true statement?

A couple of years ago I had two youths come up to the platform where I was preaching. I asked one if he liked mints. He said, “yes.” So I reached in my pocket and handed him a couple of mints. He thanked me. I then asked the next youth if he liked mints. “Of course,” he said. I then reached in my pocket and threw a couple of mints towards him which he dodged and they fell on the floor. I told him, “Well there you go. You can have them!” He looked at me disgusted and walked away. 

Of course both young men were in on the illustration and knew what I was going to do. And, yes, I politely handed the second youth some nice mints after our little skit was over. The point was that often people do not accept truth because of the way it is presented. One of my favorite authors encourages us to present the cross of Christ along with every truth that we  present. 

The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary. I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption,—the Son of God uplifted on the cross. This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers. –Ellen White, Gospel Workers, Page 315. 

When we see the Sabbath in light of the cross, we see Jesus resting in the tomb after doing all the work to redeem us, just as He rested after creating us. We see our Savior telling us to rest from our works as we trust in His grace to save us. 

When we see the punishment of the wicked in light of the cross, we see Jesus dying on the cross so that those who believe in Him may not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16. Notice the opposite of eternal life is perishing and not everlasting torment in hell. We see the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life. Romans 6:23. Again the wages of sin is not everlasting torment in hell. It is death. In the light of the cross we see Jesus crying out “my God, my God why have You forsaken me?” We see Jesus tasting the punishment of the wicked for us, so we can taste His free gift of eternal life. 

When we see the cleansing of the sanctuary in light of the cross, we see how the love flowing from the cross saves us from the penalty and power of sin in our daily lives. Instead of working for our own salvation, we see how Jesus intercedes and works to free us from condemnation and from the addictions that rob us of our joy. See Psalm 51:8-12

When we present truth in light of the cross, we present the truth as it is in Jesus. Instead of seeing a God who wants to be worshiped because of His ego, we see a God who wants us to worship Him because He is the only God who loves us enough to die for us. In pagan religion, the humans sacrifice themselves to get the gods to accept them, but in Christianity God sacrifices Himself to get the people to accept Him. This is why we are to have no other gods before us. Because no other gods will love us the way God does. When we present the truth as it is in Jesus, we see the same love that is at the center of the cross is the same love at the center of the law. See Romans 13:8-10

This is the same love that God used in the Old Testament to win the hearts of rebellious Israel. 

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, Will bring her into the wilderness, And speak comfort to her. Hosea 2;14 NKJV 

God does not seek to win our hearts with a take-it or leave-it attitude. He allures us and speaks words of comfort to our broken sin-weary hearts. Too often God’s people have been like Peter, who, for zeal of protecting Truth, took his sword and cut off someone’s ear. He was actually aiming for his head and missed! This is not how Jesus protected Truth. Jesus healed (comforted) the man’s ear. In Hosea 2:14 God shares Truth by making it alluring and comforting to us. He does not make it alluring and comforting by watering it down. Rather He comforts us by sharing a Gospel and love that is powerful enough to save us from the sins that discomforts our peace and safety. See Romans 1:16

Jesus sends us on the same mission of peace He shared with us. It is the same mission of peace He shared in Hosea 2:14

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” John 20:21 NKJV

How to Always be Ready to Share God’s Word

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:2 NKJV

Before baseball season begins there is spring training, where all the players get back into shape so they can perform at their highest level during the season. During the off-season they may have gotten a little out of practice and a little out of shape

.

I imagine the break in sports during the recent COVID-19 quarantine may have been a little frustrating for the players not knowing when and if they were going to play again this year. I suppose they had to stay in shape and be prepared when and if the season would resume, which it finally did.

 However Paul tells us there is no off season when it comes to preaching the Word of God. We must always be prepared during season and even during off-season. How do you stay prepared to preach the Word of God, especially if you are not a preacher?

About 30 years ago I was talking with a fellow preacher about doing sermon preparations. We were talking about how every elder should have a sermon in his hip pocket in case the scheduled speaker gets sick suddenly and can’t preach. However elders are not the only people called upon to preach. Stephen, a deacon in the book of Acts, was stoned to death and it wasn’t for adjusting the church thermostat. It was for preaching an impromptu sermon that cut the hearts of the listeners. Stephen was prepared because he was obviously well-read. My fellow preacher friend made the comment that, as long as you are well-read you will always be ready to preach. As you are constantly searching the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11), you are constantly finding new treasures (Matthew 13:44) that you can share on the spur of the moment. 

I have found this to be true. Several times in my ministry I have been asked to speak somewhere on the spur of the moment for various reasons. The pastor’s car broke down on the way to church. The pastor became suddenly ill. One time I was on vacation and showed up unannounced at a church where the pastor recognized me, and he decided my presence created an impromptu opportunity for him to finally sit with his wife during worship service. So he asked me to preach. Each time it would have been very easy to just reach way back to an old sermon I used before. While that has happened, of course, more times than not, when I am asked to preach on the spur of the moment, I share with the congregation the treasures I have been finding as I am studying God’s Word during that current week. 

It is totally true what my preacher friend said. When you stay well-read you will always have something to share – you will always have a sermon ready to go. 

Being humble enough not to preach even when prepared

Several years ago I was on the platform ready to preach when I saw the conference publishing director walk into the sanctuary, looking at the bulletin with a distressed look on his face. He was not scheduled to be there, but the look on his face told me that he thought he was supposed to be scheduled. So I left the platform and greeted him and asked him if he thought he was preaching today. He said he thought he was, but apparently was confused. I gladly told him to go ahead and preach, even though I was just moments from delivering the sermon I had prepared all week.

Just a couple years ago a gentleman showed up who was the boyfriend of one of our church members. He thought his girlfriend had made arrangements with the pastor for him to preach that Sabbath. She had not. The pastor was there and ready to preach his prepared sermon but gladly told the young man to go ahead and preach his sermon instead. A good Christian will always have the courage to preach the Word of God, while a good humble Christian will also not let his ego get in the way of letting another good humble Christian preach the Word of God. 

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

Equal Gifts While not the Same Gifts

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
Watch the video presentation of this article here.

We were in our last couple nights of evangelism meetings when a water pipe burst, flooding a room behind the sanctuary, near the baptistry entrance. One of the deacons told a local elder to help the other deacons pump the water out. The elder politely replied that he could not do that, because he had to visit with the baptismal candidates to clear them for the baptisms coming up. The deacon then accused the elder of being on an ego trip, thinking he was too good to do manual labor. But that was not the case at all. As an elder he had a job to do in getting people ready for the baptism, and could not do both at the same time.

The early church ran into a similar problem where certain necessary duties were keeping them from preaching and teaching.

Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren,

seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:1-4 NKJV

Hence the office of deacons came into the church. Like the elders, the deacons were to be men full of the Holy Spirit. They are not less than elders, but their duties are not the same. Yes, Steven preached in Acts 7 and Philip baptized in Acts 8. Every office in the church carries the equal responsibility of sharing the gospel. But deacons and deaconesses are also given responsibilities of caring for the physical upkeep and maintenance of the church, and even caring for the physical needs of the members. This frees the elders from “waiting on tables” so they can be spreading the gospel.

That evening that the water pipe burst, the deacon told the elder that a real leader should never ask anyone to do a job he would not be willing to do himself. He then handed him a bucket insinuating that he should get to work and show a little humility and lead by example. There was only one problem. The elder had appointments with several candidates for the baptisms the next couple nights. They were waiting for him right then, and they worked the next day before the baptisms the following nights.

It wasn’t that the elder thought he was important. It wasn’t even necessarily that he thought clearing people for baptism was more important than fixing a water break. Obviously the water break had to be fixed to have the baptisms! Both the deacon’s job and elder’s job were equally important but not the same. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul talks about different gifts and ministries in the church. He talks about how the foot and hand are both needed. However while the foot is equal to the hand, the foot is still not the hand. While being equal they are not the same. Each has their own distinct purpose.

Deacons are to be filled with the Holy Spirit and able to preach. And elders have gladly taken up the offering and locked up the church after a meeting, taken out the trash, so long as they can still accomplish their gospel responsibilities. 1 Corinthians 12 tells us one ministry is not superior to another, while Acts 6 tells us our offices are not the same.

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