Tampa Bay Storm

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. (Yeah right!)

After seeing pictures on the news last night of Bayshore Blvd all flooded, I went down early this morning with my camera to see what I could see. The street was not flooded anymore but you can still see a little flooding.  I take pictures of Tampa Bay all the time in the sunshine, when it looks so beautiful. Today’s picture does not look so beautiful does it? But you know what? All the trash you see, that has washed up on the bay, was around the whole time when I took the other beautiful pictures of the bay. The storm did not make the trash, it only revealed the trash that was already there. I thought about my life. Some times on sunny days, when all is going well, I may think I am a beautiful person. However when the storms of life come I may find some garbage in my heart. The storms of life don’t make the garbage in my heart. The storms only reveal what has been there all along. I think David knew that when he pleaded with God, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties;And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalms 139:23-24 NKJV The storms of life may show us all the garbage in our heart, but God’s love can clean it all up for us and make us beautiful inside and out!

See what great love   the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!   And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends,   now we are children of God,   and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,  we shall be like him,   for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 1 John 3:1-3 NIV

Watch the 23 second video I took here.

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Want to Get Away?

I am writing tonight from the slightly overcast but still beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In the United States, we have an airline, called Southwest, who ask on their commercials, “Want to get away?” In each commercial someone will find themselves in an embarrassing situation, where they would gladly fly to the other side of the world and hide under a rock. The airline then suggests, getting on their plane to get away from it all.

In Mark 5 we read about a man who was in a very embarrassing situation before his conversion. When I tell you everything that happened with this man, you will agree with me, that after his conversion, he would gladly hop on an airplane to get away. However, Jesus sends him on a mission trip-back home!

For sake of time, I am going to highlight the story but you can read it for yourself here.

Sadly, demon activity has not changed much over the years. This man is hanging out in tombs, obsessed with death, much like those controlled by demons today. Jesus is life, and when we don’t have Jesus, all that’s left is death. He refused to be “tamed”, “taught” or “controlled.” The exact words may vary based on your favorite translation, but the idea is the same. He was not going to be bound by Biblical standards, like so many today, who do not want to hear what is right and wrong.

He cut himself. Today many cut themselves trying to find healing, not realizing, Jesus was already cut and wounded to bring them healing. The demoniac was tormented by the presence of Jesus. Today, an unconverted person does not want to be where Jesus can be found. They want nothing to do with Bible study, prayer meeting or family worship.

None of these demonic demonstrations phase Jesus. He heals the man and he becomes converted.  In verse 15 it tells us after his conversion, the man is clothed and in his right mind. Luke 8 tells us this man was naked at the beginning of the story. Mark tells us at the end that after the conversion he is clothed. Another sign of demonic activity is wanting to dress improperly or not at all. When we become converted we dress appropriately.

Now that the man is converted we see that he wants to be with Jesus. He tells Him in verse 18 that he wants to be with Jesus. Now I am imagining that if I had been seen by my  community, running around naked in a cemetery, that I would now like to jump on a Southwest airlines jet, or any jet for that matter and get away!  I think a nice mission trip to the other side of the planet is now in order, so I can preach the gospel about as far away as I can get from the people who saw me running around a cemetery naked, cutting myself.  But in verse 19 Jesus sends him on a mission trip-back home! Jesus tells the man to go back home and tell what wonderful things Jesus has done for him. Friend, if Jesus has done wonderful things for you, if He really has changed your life, you don’t need to get away. While foreign mission trips are fun, fruitful and rewarding, chances are Jesus may have a mission field for you right in your very home. Jesus doesn’t send everyone to the other side of the planet, as much as we may sometimes like that idea, especially after an embarrassing moment when we want to get away. Jesus may have a mission trip planned for you right in your very home.  The people saw the change in this man. So much so that in verse 15 it says it scared them or made them afraid! It must have been a real shock when the reality of what Jesus had done in this man’s life was seen.

If you run to the other side of the world people won’t see the change. If Jesus has changed your life, you don’t need to be afraid. You can proudly go back home, clothed with the righteousness of Christ and in your right mind, and tell them what wonderful things Jesus has done for you.

To go to the Sabbath School Network click here. To download the SS lessons to your cell phone click here.

Worship: In Spirit and in Truth

I am writing today from my beautiful hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

This week’s SS lesson reminds me of an article I wrote several years ago before I moved from Fort Worth, Texas to Tampa Florida. How cool is that? Writing in Tulsa about an article I wrote in Fort Worth about moving to Tampa Florida. After living over seven years in Tampa now, it is interesting to look back at my perspective before I made that move. I also hope this gives us some perspective as we look at this week’s SS lesson. Here is the article:

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.  John 4:24

With the possibility now, of me moving to Florida where I will be hundreds of miles from any of my friends, it has me thinking a lot lately about my friends and what their friendships mean to me. In light of this, I found something in the above verse that is very comforting to me. I am sure that you have friends that no matter how long you are apart from them, once you get together, your friendship resumes right where it left off as though you had never been apart. This may sound weird, but maybe in one dimension you never were apart! We have physical dimensions such as time and space, but have you ever thought that there is another dimension we can be in that is not bound by time or space? To me, that dimension is the Holy Spirit. I believe why many of our Christian friendships take up right where they left off even after long periods of no physical contact is because we have actually been together the whole time “in the Spirit!”  Why do those friendships take up right where they left off as though no time has passed by? Because we are in the great “ I AM”. With God there is no time. He is in one eternal now. He is not the “I WAS” or “ I WILL BE”, He is the I AM.  Same with space, The Holy Spirit is everywhere. The Holy Spirit is with our Christian friends, so if we are in the Spirit and our friends are in the Spirit then we are together.

As a matter of fact, all the love we receive from our friends actually comes from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if I leave my friends in Texas and go to Florida and make new friends there, I am still receiving the exact same love I had in Texas. Love does not come from human beings. We can not generate love; all we can do is let the Holy Spirit’s love flow through us. Therefore, the love I receive from people half way across the world is the same exact love I receive from the people I live with right here. It all comes from God. So as long as you have God’s love you can’t miss a friends love, because the only love they gave you came from God and He is still with you!

I am so thankful for all my friends whom I can share God’s love with! Thank you for being a part of my life. I hope God has been able to love you through me as we worship Him in Spirit.

Garments of Grace; The Prodigal’s New Clothes

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Download SS Lesson Guides to your cell phone here.

Many look at the story of the prodigal son, in this week’s SS lesson as a story about one man in the church and one who was out. However, it is interesting in the end, the one who is out comes in and the one who is in goes out. The prodigal son asks for his inheritance before he leaves. What the son is saying to the father is, “I want all your blessings but I don’t want to live under you roof and abide by your rules.” I don’t think the prodigal son is alone in his way of thinking. Remember earlier in these lessons we spoke of Joseph’s brothers being jealous of the special coat that their father had made him. His brothers wanted all the blessings Joseph had, but did not want the intimate relationship with their father that Joseph had. Do we do the same today? Do we ask God to bless us while we are willfully ignoring His commandments? If so, we are just like the prodigal son who said, give me my inheritance and I am going to go live somewhere else where you can’t tell me what to do. Unfortunately the inheritance only lasted as long as the relationship. Lesson learned: The relationship is the inheritance!

 

When the son realizes this, he heads for home. Now feeling unworthy of the relationship or inheritance, he seeks to become a hired hand. His Father would have none of that. While the son is a great ways off, the father runs to him and hugs and kisses him. I am reminded of a story in the Great Controversy, of a religious leader during the dark ages, making a ruler stand out in the snow before he would forgive him. What a gross misrepresentation of my heavenly Father! My Father does not make people stand out in the snow before He forgives them. He runs to where they are and hugs and kisses them, and welcomes them home.

Meanwhile the other brother who stayed at home is not the least bit happy to see his brother return. It makes him so angry he leaves the house! When you read his argument you see he thought all these years he was working for all he had. Come to find out it was all a gift given to him and not of works.  The son who stayed home benefited from grace as much as the one who ran away.

On my trip home from Tulsa I ran into weather problems in Dallas-Fort Worth, where I was to make my connection flight. My flight was cancelled and I ended up spending the night on the chapel floor at the airport. I was frustrated because I lived in the Dallas area for ten years and still have many friends there, but I could not ask them to come get me in the storm which included tornados.  So I laid down on the airport floor with my laptop case for a pillow. I had just begun to feel sorry for myself, when I realized, that many people more noble than I sleep on hard floors every night. People more noble than I had just lost their homes and even lives in the Joplin tornado. People more noble than I sleep on the hard ground under bridges every night! I realized my nice comfortable apartment back home in Tampa is not something I have earned or deserve. It is a gift from God! I then realized that the nice little chapel floor in the airport was not a curse, but rather a gift of grace from God. A gift that I had not earned or deserved.

Since I could not sleep well, I prayed for the prayer requests coming in from my Facebook. Surprisingly they came in all night long. That morning I woke up feeling the presence of God in that chapel more vividly than when I am even at home. I realized my gift from God’s grace is a relationship with Him and not a comfortable place to sleep. I realized I was just as much my heavenly Father’s son while sleeping on the airport floor, as when I will be resting in my heavenly mansion.  Interesting…..Jesus was just as much His Father’s Son while laying in a manger as He is now sitting on the throne in heaven.

Revelation 3; What Does Jesus Say About You?

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. Revelation 3:5 

Your name rolling off the lips of Jesus before the throne of God! What an awesome thought! It is always pleasant to overhear someone giving us a compliment. The other day at work one of the executives told me that my boss had praised my work in a committee meeting. It made me feel really good about myself. It’s always nice to hear that we are well spoken of, yet I cannot think of anything more thrilling than to know that Jesus is ”bragging” about me to His Father! 

Fact is here on earth there will always be some people mentioning our names in a good light and then others mentioning our names in a bad light. Instead of worrying about what people are saying about us here on earth, our concern should be, what is Jesus saying about us before His Father, that is all that matters. 

Remember, while folks on earth discuss your reputation, The Son and father in heaven discuss your character, and it is not our reputation, but our character that we take to heaven. 

What will Jesus have to say about you today?

Romans 6; More Power!

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I love how Romans 6 brings out the beauty of baptism, and the power to live a Jesus filled life.

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also [in the likeness] of [his] resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with [him], that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.  Romans 6:1-6

So when we go under the water we are symbolizing our own death, as you stop breathing. When you come up out of the water it symbolizes the new life you have in Jesus. The old life, that you lived for yourself is done away with. The new life you now live for Jesus.

Years ago, I am told, a young couple attended some tent meetings in North Carolina where they both accepted Jesus as their Savior. After baptism, both both were eager to share the gospe.  They both became missionaries and were sent to Africa. While serving there, the wife got malaria and died. The husband finished out his time there. When he returned to the states, his friends encouraged him, by telling him he should be proud of his wife he died in Africa. He told them his wife did not die in Africa. She already died in the baptistery years before, in North Carolina. We should all “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:11

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members [as] instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members [as] instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.  Romans 6:12-18

When Paul says we are not under the law but under grace, some try to take that to mean that the law was done away with. This is impossible. If there is no law, we don’t need grace. Reading in the context, we clearly see that we are not under the condemnation of the law, as grace keeps us in harmony with the law. Grace gives us the power to obey the law of love.

Romans 3-8; Power!

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I love Romans! In this book, Paul portrays the power of the gospel so vividly! Let’s take a look.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24

So many times we hear verse 23 read when pointing out that we all have sinned, and they stop there. The verse may end but the sentence and thought continues on into verse 24. It says that while all have sinned, all have also been justified. There are no conditions met by man for this justification.

In Romans 5:12 Paul says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” There were no conditions met by me to make me a sinner. When Adam sinned, I sinned in Adam seeing how my flesh was in Adam’s flesh, I sinned in Adam, with no choice of my own. The eastern mind, which thinks more corporately than the western mind which thinks more individually, grasps this concept more easily. In Genesis 25, God tells Rebekah, that two nations are in her womb, seeing how the flesh of millions would come from the flesh of her twin sons. In Hebrews 7 Paul says that what Abraham did, his grandson Levi also did, seeing how Levi came from the flesh of Abraham. Even today, in many eastern countries, when an individual wins an Olympic gold medal, the medal goes to the country and not the individual. The eastern mind thinks more corporately. So, when Adam sinned, we all sinned in Adam and were made sinners, with no choice of our own. Now look what else happened!

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.  Romans 5:10

Where we all sinned in Adam, we have all lived a perfect life in Jesus! Jesus took my flesh (Romans 8:3-4) and lived a perfect life with my flesh! We are saved by His life! Friends this all took place and was resolved before we were ever born or made a choice! Jesus has totally undone all the damage Adam caused. We have all sinned and we have all been justified! We do not need to win God to us, He has won Himself to us.

Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.  Romans 5:18-19

We all understand that in this verse when it says many were made sinners that is means everyone, but when we read that the free gift came upon all to justification of life, we don’t think that means everyone. It does! Jesus totally undid all the damage Adam caused! I hear people say you have to accept a gift before you can have it. Not so! John 3:16 says God gave His son, not offered, but gave. When I worked at UPS I delivered many packages that I had to go back to later and pick up because the customer did not want them. Even though the customer did not accept them, they still had them until they rejected them. Same with justification!

As many as have sinned have been justified. There is great power in the book of Romans. Romans chapter 4 uses Abraham as an illustration. Abraham was promised a son in his old age. First Abraham tries to help God keep His promise by working it out for Him. He takes Hagar to wife, as she is much younger than his first wife. God then has Abraham circumcised so that he can cast away the confidence he had in his own flesh to work out what God had already promised He would do. Abraham realizes, that the child will come from God’s promise and not by the works of his flesh.  Romans 4:21 says of Abraham, “And being fully persuaded that, what he [God] had promised, he was able also to perform.”  

All God asks is that we trust His promise, and what He can do for us and through us!

Romans 3-8 tells me:

  1. Adam sinned and made us all sinners. Thus we all deserved to die. Romans 3:23, 6:23
  2. My flesh that deserved to die died with Christ. Romans 8:3-4
  3. While formerly I had sinned in Adam, I now have lived a perfect life in Christ. Romans 5:10
  4. If I continue to do like Abraham and try to save myself by the works of my own flesh, I need to do like Abraham and throw away my trust in my flesh and works, and trust that Jesus has already promised and performed my justification. While God did not make me a robot, I am free at any time to throw away the gift that has already been given, but God has given, not just offered, the free gift of justification. 
  5. While Romans 5:10 says I lived a perfect life in Christ, which is my justification; my salvation from the penalty of sin, Romans 8:4 tells me Jesus wants to fulfill in me His law, which is my sanctification; my salvation from the power of sin.