I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they [were] bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD showed him a tree, [which] when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I [am] the LORD that healeth thee. Exodus 15:23-26
Why did God have Moses put a tree in the bitter water? How did a tree make the water sweet? In 1 peter 2:24, Peter refers to the cross as a tree. In a world of hate and bitterness, Jesus died on that tree to save us from a bitter world. Sin has caused suffering and bitterness but Jesus was lifted up on the cross to make our lives sweet again. I and many others believe this is why Moses used a tree to make bitter water sweet again.
If life has made you bitter, I would like to invite you to experience the grace that can make your life sweet again, by visiting the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church. If you are not in the Tampa Bay area, you can find a grace filled church in your corner of the world here.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist church.
While I was a Bible Worker in another state, I studied with a divorced man who joined my church. While there, he met with other people in our church who were divorced and hurting. He told me, “This church teaches doctrines but this church does not have any divorce recovery groups or do anything to help heal hurting people.” He was right! Our church was doctrinal but not relational. In the past, I have been a part of evangelism efforts, which were little more than just hurling doctrines at people. It takes more than amazing facts to win people to Jesus. It also takes amazing relationships. In Jesus’ evangelism efforts He always had correct doctrines but He was also always relational. He ministered to people’s hurts and helped heal their relationships with others and with God Himself.
While I currently work with a church that has it’s theology correct, I am glad it also values the importance of relationships with God and one another. We share some amazing facts, but at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church you will also find ways to have an amazing relationship with God, your family and your community. Our associate pastor, Claudette Aleman, has some amazing life groups starting for us and our community this Wednesday August 28, and will be going on for several weeks. Please check them out and share with your friends. Hope to see you there!
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
Several years ago I was flying from Fort Worth Texas to g home to Tulsa Oklahoma for the Thanksgiving holiday. It was a short flight and I was on what was called a commuter plane. Upon landing, instead of pulling up to the terminal like the big jets, we were let out on the tarmac. I went up the stairs into the terminal and saw my family staring out the window looking for my plane, which they thought would pull all the way up to the terminal. This was well before 9-11 when family and friends could greet you right at the gate.
Since they were still looking out the window I and did not know I was already there I decided to play a joke on them. I found a newspaper and went to sit down beside them. I listened as mom said, “Is that William’s plane landing now?” Dad replied, “No. That is an American Airlines plane. He is coming in on Delta.” My two year old niece, Hannah was the first to notice me. She was very intelligent, even back then, because instead of saying anything, she just smiled at me with a huge smile, and twinkle in her little eyes as though she understood the joke and was playing along too. She knew I was near, though the grown-ups were clueless of my presence.
Finally I realized the rest of my family was not as adept as my two-year old niece, so I finally put my paper down and turned to my sister sitting next to me. “Ma’am, will you please tell me what time it is?” She glanced at her watch and then glanced back at me in shock. “He’s here!” she exclaimed. The whole family was shocked to find that I was sitting with them while they were still expecting me to come. The other day I mentioned this to my mother who remembered how startling it was to find I was with them while they thought I was far off.
For years now I have been using this experience as an illustration when preaching about the resurrection of Jesus. Mary stood at the tomb and in her grief was unaware of Jesus’ presence.
“Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”
She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”
“Mary!” Jesus said.
She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”). John 20:15-16 NLT
In her grief, Mary did not recognize the presence of Jesus, but He was still there just the same. On that beautiful day Mary was not the only person mistaking His presence and identity. Later in the same day Jesus is walking down a road that led to Emmaus. Luke fills us in.
As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. But God kept them from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”
They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”
“What things?” Jesus asked.
“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.
“Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”
Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:13-27
For years I have been using this passage when studying about the Scriptures, on how Jesus could have just opened their eyes and showed them his nail sacred hands and said, “Look it’s me!” But He did not do this. Instead of going by sight, He wanted them going by the Scriptures. So instead of opening their physical eyes it was their spiritual eyes, their hearts that He opened. Seeing will never become believing, until you can finally see it with your heart and not just your eyes. So today, Jesus does not want us putting our faith in feelings or in signs and wonders. He wants us to put our faith in the Scriptures.
I realized last Sabbath though, that while having this understanding of the above passage, there was more. While listening to our associate pastor, Claudette Aleman, speak last Sabbath she read,
“As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. But God kept them from recognizing him.”
Then she asked the question, “Have you ever gone through a hard time in your life, only to find that Jesus was with you and you did not know it?”
Again I was reminded, just like Mary, these two men were grieving, and Jesus came near and joined them, but they did not perceive that it was Jesus who was with them.
Friend, you may be going through a hard time right now and wonder where God is. I promise you He is with you. I know this because the Scriptures, which Jesus saw as more valid than sight say so.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Psalms 23:4 NLT
When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. Isaiah 43:2
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20 NLT
For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”Hebrews 13:5 NLT
Today we have Facebook, text messaging and even Skype to keep us close to each other, but even better than that Paul tells us in Acts 17:27,
“He [God] is not far from any one of us.”
Today when I go through a dark valley and don’t necessarily feel God’s presence, I just open the eyes of my heart, my childlike heart, and smile at God with a twinkle in the eyes of my childlike faith. He smiles back at me. The grown- up skeptics may be clueless of His presence. My little niece was not imagining things when she saw me, though no one else could. I know my childlike heart is not imagining things when it sees God. We smile at each other. I know He is near.
Several months ago Pastor Claudette told me her son, Adrian wanted to study the Bible with me. We studied the “In Light of The Cross” Bible study guides, and over the course of the studies, Adrian told me he wanted to be baptized. Adrian was very committed to his Bible study time. Adrian is a big basketball fan. One evening he invited me to stay and watch a basketball game after our Bible study. We had finished the lesson and the game had already begun, but Adrian still had a lot of questions, so we continued our study for quite a while before finally watching the game. The fact that Adrian was a big basketball fan, but wanted to keep talking about God and the Bible instead of just stopping the Bible study to watch the game said a lot to me about his priorities and interest in God. In the picture above, Adrian and I are studying by his pool, where one day we took advantage of the beautiful Florida weather.
“I’ve been wanting to get baptized for a long time now. I thought you had to be perfect but none of us are, and the Bible says to start a brand new life and that’s what I’m doing today.” -Adrian
I felt very honored when Pastor Claudette and her husband Rene, asked me to study with Adrian. Pastor Claudette served as a Bible Worker and now has an excellent youth ministry. However, Pastor Claudette and Rene wanted Adrian to have a variety of teachers, as they believe it takes a village to raise a child. I appreciated them asking me to study with Adrian, and we had a great time studying the Bible together.
“Today was one of the most exciting days of my life and ministry. To baptize my son was truly an amazing experience. I praise the Lord for Adrian’s decision to follow Him. I thank God for his Sabbath School and Pathfinder teachers, and specially for William, who gave him Bible studies. So, in conclusion today I rejoice with the angels as they celebrated Adrian’s baptism.” -Pastor Claudette
For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. Colossians 2:12
Adrian’s church family and friends congratulated and welcomed him to the church family.
Please don’t let the sun set on your life before you give your life to Jesus. He gave all of His life for you. Will you give your life to Him? I would love to hear from you if you would like to give your heart to God. You may contact me at LayPastor@TampaAdventist.net