What does a Relationship With Jesus Look Like?

I am writing tonight from beautiful and historic St. Augustine Florida.

I am writing tonight from beautiful and historic St. Augustine Florida.

A member of my New Believer’s Sabbath School class, in the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, had been struggling with getting Sabbaths off at work so she could observe the Bible Sabbath. She told me she had to work on Sabbath, and I would gently tell her that she did not have to work. She had a choice and was choosing to work. Consequences be what they may, she had a choice.

Recently I was giving a Bible study to the 7th and 8th graders at our church school, on the second coming, when we came to this verse,

The sky was rolled up like a scroll, and all of the mountains and islands were moved from their places. Then everyone—the kings of the earth, the rulers, the generals, the wealthy, the powerful, and every slave and free person—all hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they cried to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to survive? Revelation 6:14-17 NLT

I told my students how sad it would be, for us to be hiding from the One who died for us when He came! How can we make sure we aren’t the ones running from Jesus? The students answered wisely, we must have a relationship with Jesus. I asked them to describe what a relationship with Jesus looks like. They gave some good answers, like prayer and Bible study. “Is that all”, I asked? I shared 1 John 2:4 NLT,

If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth.

While prayer and Bible study are crucial, that alone does not define a relationship with Jesus. John tells us, knowing God (having a relationship) involves obedience.

Jesus said,

If you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments. Matthew 19:17 NLT

The commandments are relational. The first four define our relationship with God and the last six define our relationship with family and friends. This is why John said if we say we have a relationship with God but do not obey the commandments we are lying.

My Sabbath School class member finally exercised faith, and told her boss she must have Sabbaths off. It was granted. A couple of weeks ago things were busy at the store where she works. Her boss offered her a store gift card and sales bonuses if she would come in to work on Sabbath. As much as she needed the money, she answered “No. I will be in church Sabbath.” She gave her testimony that Sabbath in class. It did my heart good to see faith growing her relationship beyond just reading the Bible to actually doing what it said.

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

When Should Someone Ask To Be Anointed?

 

I am writing tonight from beautiful Panama City Beach, Florida.

I am writing tonight from beautiful Panama City Beach, Florida.

Several years ago, a family form Central America, brought their toddler to Tampa, Florida for medical treatment, because she was not developing and was having seizures. The doctors did not have much to offer. After one of my Wednesday morning community Bible studies at the church, we had an anointing service for the baby. Months later when the family returned to the area, they told me their little girl never had another seizure after the anointing service. The Holy Spirit had delivered their daughter from the seizures. They are still living in Central America and have not returned to Florida for several years now, but the last I heard, the little girl was still having developmental problems but no seizures.

The family said they’re very fond of me after that Wednesday morning, but it obviously had nothing to do with me. Millions of people have been healed after an anointing service, not because of the person doing the anointing or the oil, but because of the Holy Spirit’s healing power. So the fact that God has healed millions without my help shows He really did not need my help this time either.

While their daughter’s sickness was not unto death, they still asked for an anointing. Some have the idea you have to be on your death bed in order to ask for an anointing. James did not ask, are any of you about to die, but is anyone sick?

Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. James 5:14-15 NLT

While we are counselled that,

It cannot be our duty to call for the elders of the church for every little ailment we have, for this would be putting a task upon the elders. –Ellen White, Pastoral Ministry, Page 223

Still there is nothing in the Bible or Spirit of Prophecy telling us to wait until we are on our deathbed before calling the elders, as if it is a last rite instead of an anointing for healing. I have even had family members call me to anoint their loved ones who were incoherent, while the KJV makes it even more clear that the person who is sick is actually supposed to request the anointing, for healing. It is not a “last rite.”

“Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church…”James 5:14 KJV

Again James asks, “Are any of you sick?” not “Are any of you about to die?” We don’t need an anointing for every scrape and bruise, yet it is our privilege to call upon and claim God’s promises at the first sign of something serious.

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

When Job Prayed for his Friends

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.James 5:10-11 NLT

You know how you can read the same Bible story a hundred times, and then one day something in that story jumps out at you that you had never seen before? James acknowledges that we all know the story of Job, and how he was faithful in suffering, and in the end God restored to him what he lost. Of course the children could not be replaced, but thank God they too will be restored one day. See 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. While I knew the story well, it wasn’t till just a few months ago that something jumped out at me.

When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before!” Job 42:10 NLT

What jumped out at me, was that, all this happened, “When Job prayed for his friends,” who were not exactly the best sources of comfort and encouragement. Still, praying for his friends is what improved Job’s own life.

Ironically Moses, who wrote the book of Job, had his own run in with those who were less than comforting and encouraging. In Numbers 12, Moses’ own sister Miriam rebels against Moses’ leadership instead of encouraging him. She is struck with leprosy and immediately Moses cries,

“O God, I beg you, please heal her!” Numbers 12:13 NLT

God healed her when Moses prayed for her. I wonder if Moses remembered Job’s life turning around for the better when he prayed for his friends, when he prayed for his sister? Either way the outcome is the same. There are wonderful blessings in store for those who pray for others, and especially when we pray for those who have been less than comforting and encouraging to us.

Remember, not only did God turn Job’s life around for the better, but He did it when Job prayed for his friends.

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

I am the Rich Person James is Talking About

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. Your gold and silver are corroded. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This corroded treasure you have hoarded will testify against you on the day of judgment. For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. James 5:1-4 NLT

King David heard a story about oppression and became very angry about it, until Nathan told him, “You are that man!” Like King David, I have to admit, for years whenever I read James 5:1-4, I thought I was among the poor that God’s justice would vindicate. I have lost money to dishonest and greedy people. I compared myself to those who had more. Then I realized there are many who consider me rich! With almost 7 billion people on the planet, there are only 1 billion cars.* This does not mean that 1 out of 7 people owns a car, because there are many people and companies who own many cars, meaning there are over 6 billion people who do not own a car. So if you own a car, even if its a 1980 Ford Pinto, you have something over 6 billion earthlings do not have. The other night when you got sick in the middle of the night and had to run to the toilet down the hall, you may not have realized what a luxury that midnight run was. Over two billion people don’t have a toilet to run to in the middle of the night. ** So their experience with sickness may be a little different than yours. The other night I got a headache and my bones became a little achy, so I took a hot bath and presto! Headache disappeared and my bones felt brand new. Again, a hot bath would not be an option for billions of people. What a luxury!

Now when I read James 5, I realize I am one of the rich people James is talking to. But how could I be holding back the wages of the workers in the field? I don’t even own a field. How about the gospel workers in God’s field? Do I return an honest tithe and offering? If not then I am cheating the field workers of their wages just like James says. Do I give an honest tip to the waitress, hairdresser or the boy who carried my grocery bags to the car? If not, I am the cheater James is talking to. I could go on but I think you get the point.

Withholding money which rightfully belongs to others is not the only form of oppression. How about when we snub someone from our social circle because they don’t conform to our beliefs or opinions? That is emotional oppression! How about when we sneer at the kid who just let the ball go in the other goal, costing our kid’s team the game? That’s emotional oppression. So you don’t have to be a millionaire to be oppressive.

No matter what my losses in life have been, I am still the rich person James is warning in James 5.

If God is for us, who can ever be against us?  Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Romans 8:31-32 NLT

If I give my bread to someone who never pays me back that is okay. My Father will give me all the bread I need. If I love someone who never loves me back that is okay. My Father gives me all the love I need. Whenever the Bible gives warnings to the rich, I know those warnings are for me personally. Nathan woke David up by saying, “you are that man!” When I read James 5 the Holy Spirit woke me up by saying, “You are that man!”

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

*http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/08/23/car-population_n_934291.html

**http://www.actionagainsthunger.org/impact/water-sanitation-hygiene?gclid=Cj0KEQiAneujBRDcvL6f5uybhdABEiQA_ojMglo4kAT0afufxpjEU4q0va_pKJZXhX7eZB8yElpImHEaAjY78P8HAQ

Why Didn’t Jesus Say Something?

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Several years ago, one of my superiors made a false accusation against me at church. I asked a couple of friends how I should refute what was said. One friend answered wisely, “Don’t defend yourself against the accusation. Doing so will only give the accusation merit.” My friend was right. Sadly, the leader who made the accusation left the Adventist Church shortly after. As I continued my ministry I realized everyone forgot what he said. It may sound cliche, but some things become cliche because they are true. Sometimes silence is golden.

Jesus promised us,

So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you!  Luke 21:14-15 NLT

In training people to give Bible studies, and how to use the Bible to answer certain questions, I occasionally find someone who is frustrated because someone debated them, and they did not know how to answer. They trusted the Holy Spirit to give them words to say, but they were speechless. Did Jesus let them down? No. Remember, not even Jesus answered every question. Sometimes, like us, He had nothing to say.

But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent. “Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise.Matthew 27:12-14 NLT

Could it be that Jesus knew their hearts were hardened, and that until the Holy Spirit had softened their hearts, it would do no good to say anything? When dealing with conflict, a pastor once told me, “You don’t have to swing at every pitch.” Baseball fans know what he meant. For everyone else, lets use more cliches and just say choose your battles well, and you don’t have to die on every hill. Sometimes it’s okay to be silent, and give the Holy Spirit opportunity to work. Sure there are times to speak up, but if the Holy Spirit has not given us words to speak, its best to remain silent, lest we ruin everything with our own foolishness.

Let me leave you with a thought that a wise teacher shared with some parents, which applies to more than just parents and children.

Children may not always be listening to you, but they are always watching you!

More important than finding the right word is doing the right action. Maybe the real reason Jesus needed no words, to answer their question is because His life already answered them.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

What Does “Perfect in Christ” Really Mean?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 

One hot July afternoon at an Oklahoma Camp meeting, I visited a friend in her tent. Just outside sat my friend’s 13-year-old daughter with a friend she had just met. This was her friend’s first camp meeting. He had come with his grandfather who just became a Christian. He did not know what to think about all the meetings and asked my friend’s daughter, “What do you think about Jesus? What is He really all about?” My ears perked up, as I was quite interested how she would answer.


“Before my mom and I met Jesus, we argued and yelled at each other all the time, and I could not stand my home, but now that we met Jesus we don’t yell anymore, and I love my home now.”
I will never forget what she said.

Interesting. She introduced her new friend to Jesus as a literal friend Who had literally changed her life, and not as some pretend theory.

I heard a radio preacher once say, “in order to be able to call Jesus your Savior He has to actually save you from something.” He was right. Many people speak of faith almost like it is pretending. Some use a very Biblical term, “perfect in Christ,” but then they add, “but it is only by faith.” By saying “only by faith,” they make it sound like faith is only pretending. When we read in Hebrews 11:30 about the walls of Jericho falling by faith, we take that to mean that the walls of Jericho literally fell and did not just pretend to fall. So when we read in Colossians 1:28, “that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus,” should we not take that “perfect in Christ” to be literal also and not just pretense?

Read how Ellen White describes the term “perfect in Christ” In the Great Controversy, page 623.

… we should seek to become perfect in Christ. Not even by a thought could our Saviour be brought to yield to the power of temptation. Satan finds in human hearts some point where he can gain a foothold; some sinful desire is cherished, by means of which his temptations assert their power. But Christ declared of Himself: “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me.” John 14:30. Satan could find nothing in the Son of God that would enable him to gain the victory. He had kept His Father’s commandments, and there was no sin in Him that Satan could use to his advantage. This is the condition in which those must be found who shall stand in the time of trouble. It is in this life that we are to separate sin from us, through faith in the atoning blood of Christ.

If faith literally made the walls of Jericho fall, then we have to believe that faith will also make a literal and practical change in the way we live our lives.

On that hot summer afternoon, so many years ago, my friend’s daughter gave an example of how her faith literally changed her life, thus showing faith is not just make-believe, but instead makes things practical and literal. I am totally powerless to tear down the strongholds Satan has set up in my life, but the same faith that made the walls of Jericho come crumbling down will also make those strongholds in my life to come down as well.

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

Jesus Doesn’t Kick Us Off The Team When We Mess Up

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Thursday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson asks:

Have you ever messed up really badly and when you expected only condemnation and judgment, you were given mercy, grace, and forgiveness instead?

Peter  vowed to follow Jesus even if it cost him his life. When Jesus was arrested, Peter whipped out his sword and swung at a soldier’s heard catching only his ear. Then Peter finds himself in the judgment hall.

 

A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.” But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.  Matthew 26:69-70 NLT

Peter was ready to fight the soldier, but could not handle the snickering of a cute young lady. This happened not just once but three times! May I dare say, it was becoming a habit? When the rooster crowed,

 he went away, weeping bitterly. Matthew 26:75 NLT

Peter is dejected. He let Jesus down.

Roy Riegels* picked up a fumbled football in the 1929 Rose bowl. Being spun around by an opponent he lost his sense of direction and ran the wrong way, for 69 yards, until he was finally tackled by his own quarterback, thus saving him from making a score for the other team!

After the play, Riegels was so distraught that he had to be talked into returning to the game by coach Nibs Price for the second half. Riegels said “Coach, I can’t do it. I’ve ruined you, I’ve ruined myself, I’ve ruined the team. I couldn’t face that crowd to save my life.” Coach Price responded by saying “Roy, get up and go back out there — the game is only half over.”

Riegels gave one of his best performances ever in the second half of that game, including blocking a punt from the other team. Riegels won first team all-american honors that year.

Sure you say, the coach could leave him in the game, because it is just a silly little game anyway. But Peter was caught up in the middle of the greatest controversy and battle between good and evil of all time! Still, after not just one or two but three terrible blunders, Jesus does not kick Peter off the team.  After the Resurrection, an angel gives a message to the women at the tomb. It also contains a special note for Peter, to let him know He is still a part of the team.

Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there…. Mark 16:7 NLT

Peter did not take this grace for granted! He never denied Jesus again, even when threatened with prison or death.  Aren’t you glad Jesus does not kick us off the team when we mess up? Like Peter, lets not take this grace for granted, but show our appreciation by accepting Jesus’ grace and forgiveness, and doing our best out of love for Jesus.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Riegels