Jesus Wept; The Bible and Human Emotions, Lesson 12

The question is asked in this week’s SS lesson, “When was the last time you communed with the Lord in nature? If possible, make an effort to do just that. You might be surprised at what a positive spiritual effect it will have.” Why thank you for asking! Let me share with some pictures!

I take advantage of the beautiful Florida nature, when it comes to my devotional time with God. This is at Ballast Point Park by Bayshore Drive in Tampa. It’s a ten minute drive from my home by car and about 45 minutes by bike. This particular morning, I rode my bike to Bayshore to watch the sun rise and then have my personal devotional time.

I also take advantage of the beautiful Florida weather and secenery when giving personal and group Bible studies. This is Ballast Point Park again. Eli was baptized after our Bible studies last Summer.

I also love spending time with God at the Pier in St. Petersburg, just across the Howard Franklin Bridge from Tampa. They have kayaks and boat rentals, dolphin sightseeing cruises, rental bikes- you name it. Of course they also have some nice places to eat. I often come here alone on my days off and spend the day, and other times I bring a friend or two to hang out. When guests come to visit from out of town I enjoy taking them here and showing them my little sanctuary. Click here for a 12second video of the dolphins on our cruise.

I enjoy kayaking in the bay where I know the alligators won’t get me. A lot of my friends enjoy kayaking in the river and have never had any problems with alligators even thought they see them all the time. I am not taking any chances! Of course the bay is full of sharks but I have never seen one, though I have learned several kinds lurk in the waters. I have seen dolphins and manatees amongst other creatures.

Its always more fun with friends, though sometimes it can be enjoyable just me and my Bible.

The Tampa Bay area has plenty of bike trials where you can spend time with God in nature. I ride my bike all over the city too. It can be dangerous but if you obey the bike safety laws and ride defensively it is a lot more safe. The city is putting in more bike lanes and trying to make Tampa a more bike friendly city. St. Petersburg is already very bike friendly. I have actually ridden by bike from the west coast of Florida to the east coast! It only took me about 11 minutes too! It was in Key West Florida. Key West is a very bike friendly city. I could easily live there without a car. With gas prices the way they are, I think I will be riding my bike more. I could also use the excersise.

I saw this dolphin on a bike ride a while back.

Davis Island is a nice place to ride your bike and enjoy the natural beauty of Florida.

Florida’s many golf courses offer wonderful opportunities to spend time in God’s nature. You would not believe all the beautiful creatures I see while I am in the woods!

We all teed off and were on our way back to the cart when I spotted the alligator who had been watching us. We then went back and staged this photo.

Even though Tropicana Field is a domed stadium where the Tampa Bay Rays play, you can find nature. Behind the center field wall they have a tank with stingrays. Here, my friends Tim, Bryan and Lynn are checking them out. This was a little while before Tim and Bryan were both baptized after we studied the Bible together. Tim is currently helping me with my new growth group.

 

I love taking pictures of the gulf and ocean for my mother, who loves the ocean, and for anyone else who will look at them. This picture was taken in Naples.

Sunsets and sunrises are my favorites. Twice I have watched the sun rise on the east coast and then saw it set on the west coast in the same day. The first time was in Daytona beach and Clearwater beach. The last time was in the keys.

Just outside my  door I can enjoy the beautiful ducks and other birds on the pond asI take a walk around the neighborhood, meditating and talking with God.

There is so much in nature to bring us closer to God, and help us learn about His love. Here is a nature video made by a friend of mine, Mike Bradenbaugh, teaching the many lessons of nature. It is very good please give it a look. I hope this has inspired you to take the time to spend time with God in nature too.

Jesus Wept; The Bible And Human Emotions, Lesson 11

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I have never used my blog before to promote any books other than the Bible, but after reading through this week’s SS lesson, “Freedom From Addictions” there are a couple of books I would like to recommend. The first one was recommended to me several years ago by a stranger at the Adventist Book Center. I was in Collegedale, Tennessee browsing through the Adventist Book Center when, I picked up the book “You Can Be Free” at random, written by Vaughn Allen. A lady I had never seen before or since walked up to me and told me that was an excellent book and had set her free. Free from what I do not know, but I thought, if you can’t trust a stranger at the ABC then who can you trust? So I bought the book and found it to be very powerful in dealing with all kinds of addictions. It helps you see the source of the addiction, find the remedy in God’s Word, and practical ways to not put yourself in a vulnerable position to temptation. It offers other practical steps to find freedom in Christ. I found it very practical and powerful. You can order it at your local ABC.

A few years ago the Men’s Ministry of the Florida SDA Conference had a workshop on sexual purity in Clearwater. A friend asked me to go so I did. We both thought it would be a simple little seminar on maintaining sexual purity. Wrong! It was an intense workshop for sex addicts. This workshop had group times, and while listening to the men share their testimonies, I learned that many of them began their addiction to sex around the age of 11 or 12. I then noticed on the workshop program that it said you had to be at least 17 to attend, so while this addiction begins at 11 or 12 you can’t get help until you’re 17! This is crazy! We need to help these young men while they are young before things get worse. I am so thankful for my parents for many reasons, and one of those is that in our home there were no taboo topics. There were no awkward conversations. I could talk to my parents about sex as easily and causally as we talked about the Bible or baseball or whatever. I was never censored. When I hear people refer to sex as an awkward or sensitive subject I have a hard time understanding that. The way I was brought up, talking about sex is no more awkward than talking about how to change the oil in your car. I would like to submit to you the idea that, it is Satan’s idea to make sex a taboo topic and not God’s idea. Nobody is going to ask for help if it’s wrong to talk about it.

Many years ago, I lost a friend who had a sexual addiction that nobody even knew about until it was too late and it killed her. It breaks my heart that she may have been scared to reach out for help, for fear that she would be judged.

A great book that has been highly recommended by hundreds of pastors of all faiths, is “Every Man’s Battle” by Stephen Arterburn. You can also find, “Every Young Man’s Battle” for the younger as I was talking about.

While on the subject of overcoming temptations and addictions I want to share a study from the classic book, “The Desire of Ages,” on how God and His Word help us to be victorious.

In closing I want to add something I feel is very important. Several years ago I was reading “The Purpose Drive Life” by Rick Warren. In his book he talks about the importance of having an accountability partner. I used to think that was humanism but now I find it to be very Biblical. After all Adam and Eve were to be accountability partners in the Garden as well as husband and wife. On page 212 of the Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren makes a bold statement that a trusted accountability partner is the only way we can find victory. Again a few years ago I thought that was humanism, but it is very Biblical. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” James 5:16

Jesus Wept; The Bible and Human Emotions, Lesson 10

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

While studying this week’s SS lesson on jealousy I came up with more questions than answers. So I hope my post tonight turns out to be more of a discussion than an essay. Hopefully you can provide me with some answers.

 “Not as Cain, [who] was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. “ 1 John 3:12

Why was Cain jealous of Abel? I know it says because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous, but if Cain was jealous why didn’t he just do what was right? Was Cain jealous of Abel and God’s relationship? If so, was it similar to the jealousy people experience  in human relationships? If Cain was jealous because of God and Abel’s relationship then why didn’t he just have a relationship with God for himself?

Another thing; have you ever noticed how some people accuse you of being jealous of them even though the reality is, you are not jealous at all? Why do some people need to lie to themselves that people are jealous of them?

Jesus Wept; The Bible and Human Emotions, Lesson 9; It’s Just me

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This Week’s SS lesson (Download phone app.) on Self-esteem, reminds me of a poem I wrote, several years ago while living in Fort Worth, Texas. As a kid, I was a big sports fan. I would read the sports standings in the paper everyday, and somehow thought that the cities with first place teams were somehow living a higher existence and breathing different air than the rest of us. Years later, when I became a Christian book salesman, reality started to set it. I was leading my conference in sales, but somehow I was still breathing the same air everybody else breathed. I was no better than anybody else. Then I moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area about the time the Dallas Cowboys won their last two Superbowls. I then realized my how wrong I was as a kid. The grass was no greener after Dallas won the superbowl than it was before. The air was the same too. Funny thing too, when the Cowboys failed to make the playoffs the grass did not fade. Win or lose, succeed or fail, people are people. We are all just people. Likewise, when I was leading my conference in sales I was no more or less a person than I was the next year when I did not lead the conference in sales.

Back in 2003, I wrote this poem, illustrating how we are all just people no worse or better than anybody else. It doesn’t rhyme at the beginning but does at the end. Weird, I don’t know why I did it that way.

                                                                   It’s Just me

 

I’ve been chauffeured in the back seat of a Cadillac.

I’ve been behind the wheel of an old Volkswagen Beetle.

I’ve eaten in fancy restaurants with all my friends.

I’ve eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches all alone.

But all in all I’m just me, it’s just me.

I’ve laughed out loud with the rest of the crowd.

I’ve cried alone where no one else could hear.

I’ve been in first place at the end of a race.

I’ve been so far behind, when will this game just end?

But after all is said and done, I’m just me, it’s just me.

I preached sermons that have moved congregations to tears.

I have preached sermons that have lulled congregations to sleep!

My friends have given me too much praise for a human being.

My adversaries have given me too much criticism, give me a break!

But at the end of it all, I’m just me; it’s just me.

Into every life a little rain and sunshine must fall.

Sometimes I feel small, and other times I feel tall.

I’m no more a person when I do well.

I’m no less a person when I fail.

But either way, I’m just me; it’s just me.

So don’t think that I am perfect all of the time.

Surely you don’t expect all my poems to rhyme.

I often succeed, but I also fail time and again.

Please don’t praise or condemn, just be my friend.

Because win or lose, I’m just me, it’s just me. 

Jesus Wept; The Bible and Human Emotions, Lesson 8, Resilience

I am writing from my home tonight, in the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This week’s SS lesson, (Download SS app to your phone) on resilience got me to thinking about my plant in the above picture. It didn’t always look like that. For 16 years it was a nice big green plant. A friend gave it to me, when I moved into my first apartment in Fort Worth, Texas. I do not know much about plants, but I watered it every week. I never changed the soil. The plant (I don’t even know what it is called) made the move with me to Florida, back in 2004. Just in the last couple years it would start getting yellow leaves which I would trim off. I did not have the plant arranged where it got a lot of light, but it seemed to do well without any natural light for years. My mother told me the leaves were turning yellow because it had too much water. So I started watering it less. Still the leaves turned yellow. I plucked off the yellow leaves, and soon there was not much more to pluck off.

Recently I bought a coffee maker. I don’t really drink coffee, but sometimes after I serve my guests, they like to relax with a cup of decaf. I empty the coffee grounds into the plant pot. I heard that helps plants. My plant still continued to die. I decided to give it more light and sat it next the window for the first time in 16 years. The leaves all turned yellow, and what’s more, the top of the soil started growing some kind of white fuzz. Again I know nothing about plants, but did not think that was good. After 16 years I did not want to lose my plant. Finally reality set in, and I realized the plant was gone, or so I thought. When I went to throw the plant away, I noticed a small green leaf sprouting through the coffee grounds.  Even as dumb witted as I am about plants, something told me to go to Wal-Mart. Get some repotting soil and replant the little green sprout. I did and the plant appears to have grown a little bit even after this picture which I took yesterday. I have the plant sitting in the window now, and we will see what becomes of it.

This got me to thinking about how resilient God’s grace is. I thought the plant was dead and good for nothing but the garbage, but as it turned out something was actually growing there. How many times do we think all hope is gone when there is still hope with God? We just need to trust God’s grace which is very resilient. I hear from people all over the place who sometimes think their church is dead. Be careful. There might be something growing there. Maybe you are tempted to stop praying for a loved one to come to Jesus. Don’t give up. Something may be growing there. The green sprout in my plant came where there was nothing but death as far as I could see. The green sprout is growing. My plant, after 16 years is showing some resilience. God’s grace is resilient. God is resilient. Now that I know there is hope, I am going to take better care of my plant! Don’t stop caring for your situation. There is hope there too!

So, any advice on how to better care for my plant?

Jesus Wept; The Bible and Human Emotions, Lesson 7

image

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This week’s SS lesson, which can also be downloaded to your cell phone, gives us hope for depression.

If anyone had reason to be depressed it was poor Joseph. Sold by his own family, he became a slave in a foreign country. He tries to keep a good attitude and what does he get for it? Prison time! When propositioned by his boss’ wife, he faithfully resists the temptation. Many in Joseph’s situation would have taken her up on the proposal. After all, Joseph’s life had been full of bad breaks. He could have told himself, this was a break finally come his way. He deserved to have an affair with someone who would love him, after all he had been through. However, Joseph, even when down and out does not think of himself. He says, “how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Genesis 39:9 Joseph does not think of himself. He thinks about God. The God who let him be sold as a slave into a foreign land. What does Joseph get for his  good attitude? Prison. Have you ever endured hardship, and told yourself to have a good attitude, only to have someone come and slap you in the face for having a good attitude? I have. So has Joseph.

In prison Joseph had every right humanly speaking to be depressed and self centered. However, in Genesis 40, we read where Joseph sees two men, a butler and a baker, downcast. Now Joseph’s attitude by now, could have been; “Why do I care why you are sad? You should hear my problems. You would not believe all the bad things that have happened to me. Why should I care about you when I have my own problems?” However, this was not Joseph’s attitude. He asks the two men why they were sad. They tell him their perplexing dreams and he tells them the meaning to their dreams. To make a long story short, one of the men is put back in Pharaohs presence. Two years later, when Pharaoh has a dream, the man remembers Joseph, who can explain dreams. Joseph is taken from prison and now is leader of Egypt! What was his ticket out of the depression he was in? It was his genuine concern for others. If he had never asked the two men why they were sad, he would have died in prison. But he thought of someone other than himself, and that ended up being his ticket out of prison.

There are many different forms of depression. Many say that depression is a chemical imbalance. I have talked with doctors, who have agreed with me, that it may actually be depression that causes the chemical imbalance rather than the chemical imbalance causing the depression. I am no judge though. At any rate, while there are many forms of depression, I believe the best way out of most depressions is for us to get outside of ourselves. This may be hard. It may have been hard for Joseph, but it was his ticket out of the depressing situation he was in.   

Also, while many blame their environment for their depression, I like how, when all was said and done, Joseph says, “God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” Genesis 41:52  Joseph did not need to run away from anyone or anything but his own self pity, in order to thrive and succeed.

Jesus Wept; The Bible and Human Emotions, Lesson 6

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Thoughts on Lesson 6. You may also download the SS lessons to your android phone.

 Often your mind may be clouded because of pain. Then do not try to think. You know that Jesus loves you. He understands your weakness. You may do His will by simply resting in His arms. It is a law of nature that our thoughts and feelings are encouraged and strengthened as we give them utterance. While words express thoughts, it is also true that thoughts follow words. If we would give more expression to our faith, rejoice more in the blessings that we know we have,–the great mercy and love of God,–we should have more faith and greater joy. No tongue can express, no finite mind can conceive, the blessing that results from appreciating the goodness and love of God. Even on earth we may have joy as a wellspring, never failing, because fed by the streams that flow from the throne of God.  {Ministry of Healing, p. 251-3}

After reading the following passage from Steps to Christ, I have adopted the attitude of, picking the flowers, and leaving the thorns alone.  As we collect memories from our lives, why not pick the flowers and leave the thorns alone?

 Many, walking along the path of life, dwell upon their mistakes and failures and disappointments, and their hearts are filled with grief and discouragement. While I was in Europe, a sister who had been doing this, and who was in deep distress, wrote to me, asking for some word of encouragement. The night after I had read her letter I dreamed that I was in a garden, and one who seemed to be the owner of the garden was conducting me through its paths. I was gathering the flowers and enjoying their fragrance, when this sister, who had been walking by my side, called my attention to some unsightly briers that were impeding her way. There she was mourning and grieving. She was not walking in the pathway, following the guide, but was walking among the briers and thorns. “Oh,” she mourned, “is it not a pity that this beautiful garden is spoiled with thorns?” Then the guide said, “Let the thorns alone, for they will only wound you. Gather the roses, the lilies, and the pinks.” 

     Have there not been some bright spots in your experience? Have you not had some precious seasons when your heart throbbed with joy in response to the Spirit of God? When you look back into the chapters of your life experience do you not find some pleasant pages? Are not God’s promises, like the fragrant flowers, growing beside your path on every hand? Will you not let their beauty and sweetness fill your heart with joy? 

     The briers and thorns will only wound and grieve you; and if you gather only these things, and present them to others, are you not, besides slighting the goodness of God yourself, preventing those around you from walking in the path of life? 

     It is not wise to gather together all the unpleasant recollections of a past life,–its iniquities and disappointments,–to talk over them and mourn over them until we are overwhelmed with discouragement. A discouraged soul is filled with darkness, shutting out the light of God from his own soul and casting a shadow upon the pathway of others.  Thank God for the bright pictures which He has presented to us. Let us group together the blessed assurances of His love, that we may look upon them continually: The Son of God leaving His Father’s throne, clothing His divinity with humanity, that He might rescue man from the power of Satan; His triumph in our behalf, opening heaven to men, revealing to human vision the presence chamber where the Deity unveils His glory; the fallen race uplifted from the pit of ruin into which sin had plunged it, and brought again into connection with the infinite God, and having endured the divine test through faith in our Redeemer, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and exalted to His throne–these are the pictures which God would have us contemplate.  {Steps to Christ, p. 117-18}