How Did Jesus Deal With Prejudice?

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known. Mark 3:11-12

Many people, even in our own ranks, accuse Seventh-day Adventists of being dishonest, when we cover up our church sign when holding evangelistic meetings. Often we drape a makeshift sign over the name “Seventh-day Adventist” with the speakers name, or the theme of the meetings. Maybe we start the meetings in a neutral meeting hall, and announce later, after a few meetings that we are Seventh-day Adventists. Why be so secretive? I have heard people say, “I am not ashamed to be an Adventist so why do I need to hide it?”

Well Jesus was not ashamed to be the Son of God, but He still told the demons to be quiet when they announced it to the world. You see, for four thousand years, Satan had been telling humanity all kinds of lies about God and His character. Satan had even worked through un-Godlike priests and teachers to make God look stern, unforgiving and tyrant like. Jesus came with humanity draped over His divinity, to give people a chance to get to know Him first, before He revealed Himself to humanity as the Son of God. Thanks to Satan, there was too much prejudice against Him to just come right and say He was God, from the very beginning. People would have never given Him a chance with all their preconceived ideas about God. With humanity draped over His divinity, like a makeshift sign draped over a church sign, Jesus let the people find out how warm, caring and compassionate He was, and then once He had their confidence, He could let them know He was God.

Satan also told many lies about God’s remnant church. Many think we are a cult, or legalistic, so while being careful not to lie, some evangelists like to reveal that they are Adventists, after being given time to show that the Adventist church is a Bible based, Christian, compassionate church. It has nothing to do with being ashamed or deceptive. It is the same principle Jesus used when telling the demons not to tell who He was.

Of course as we spend more effort reaching out to un-churched people, we find less prejudice. After all, it was mostly “religious” people who were prejudiced against Jesus. It is often other denominations that are prejudice against Adventists, but not so much the un-churched community. I understand the principles of evangelists, who do not like to announce upfront that they are Adventists. However, if asked directly what denomination I am, I do not stutter or stammer. I say proudly I am a Seventh-day Adventist. I then assure them that we are Christian Bible based believers. I tell them, we believe Jesus is our only hope of salvation and our only example, therefore we go to church on the Bible Sabbath just like Jesus. Just like the woman at the well was receptive, when Jesus revealed Himself to her, I find many un-churched people receptive when I reveal our Bible based and Jesus centered beliefs.

While Jesus told the demons not to announce to the whole world who He was, He used wisdom in deciding when and to whom to reveal Himself. I do not always know who is prejudiced and who is not, so I pray for God to give me wisdom and the right words to say to each individual.

To study this week’s SS lesson on evangelism, click here. To download the Sabbath School app click here.

Personal Evangelism and Witnessing

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Friday’s section of this week’s SS lesson states: “One truth received into the heart will make room for still another truth.”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 449. In what sequence should the truths we hold be presented in order to be most effective in our outreach? Why should Christ’s substitutionary death always be at the forefront of all that we teach?

I would like to answer the last question first. I would like to do so by sharing a passage from the book “Gospel Worker’s which has made the greatest impact on the way I do my ministry.

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.–Gospel Workers, p. 315.

We are not saved by doctrines. We are saved by God’s grace. God reveals His love in each and every doctrine, in hopes that we will love Him too. Satan tries to skew Bible doctrine in hopes of skewing our concept of God’s love and thus make us not want to accept Him. This idea is what motivated me a few years ago to design the “In Light of The Cross” Bible study guides, which illustrate the love of God, and the cross in each doctrine, which is particularly relevant to Seventh-day Adventists. They are available free online in both English and Spanish. My passion is to promote the cross of Christ in everything I do.

Now to answer the first question,  about in what sequences certain truths should be presented. Speaking from personal experience over the years, when giving a series of personal or group Bible studies, I always begin with the Gospel Presentation. I want people to  make a decision to accept Jesus into their lives and have the hope of eternal life. The second presentation I give is on the Bible. At the end of this study I ask people to go by the Bible and the Bible only. This way, if someone later says they don’t have to follow a Bible teaching, because their pastor or friend said it was not important anymore, I remind them they made a decision to go by the Bible and not by what their friends say. The third study I do is on Love and Obedience, or trusting and obeying. In this study I ask people to make a decision to follow the Bible because we love Jesus. This way, if people later say they don’t have to follow a certain Bible teaching because “it’s not a salvation issue,” I remind them that the reason we obey the Bible is because we love Jesus, and not just to get to heaven. After those three studies, my sequence of Bible truth is based on each particular person and what is relevant to them.

In each study I want to encourage my Bible student in their personal relationship with Jesus. I am not looking for a quick baptism to make my numbers look good. Frankly it is not about me. I want to encourage my Bible student in a personal relationship with Jesus. The purpose of my personal and group Bible studies is to be relational. A foreign missionary now pastoring in Tennessee once told me, “small groups don’t work in America, because we are more concerned about being right then we are about being relational.” I knew exactly what he was talking about. With exceptions, a lot of American evangelism has been little more than telling people “I’m right you’re wrong!” That is not how Jesus won the hearts of people.

Jesus saw in every soul one to whom must be given the call to His kingdom. He reached the hearts of the people by going among them as one who desired their good. He sought them in the public streets, in private houses, on the boats, in the synagogue, by the shores of the lake, and at the marriage feast. He met them at their daily vocations, and manifested an interest in their secular affairs. He carried His instruction into the household, bringing families in their own homes under the influence of His divine presence. His strong personal sympathy helped to win hearts. He often repaired to the mountains for solitary prayer, but this was a preparation for His labor among men in active life. From these seasons He came forth to relieve the sick, to instruct the ignorant, and to break the chains from the captives of Satan.  It was by personal contact and association that Jesus trained His disciples.- Desire of Ages, p. 151

I am not downplaying being right. Jesus was always right, but He was also always relational. His agenda was to meet the needs of the people and not use them as pawns and numbers in meeting the goals and expectations of the church. Jesus did not call me to be a car salesman, pressuring people to “buy” Jesus before the end of the year so I will have a great report for the year. We must be patient with our personal and group Bible studies. We want to be right, but we also want to be like Jesus, and take time to be relational.

Glimpses of Our God; In The beginning

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.  John 1:1-3

I have always heard people say it takes more faith to believe in evolution than it does to believe the Bible creation story.  I have heard people say, it takes more faith to believe that there was a big bang and all of a sudden there was life. However, while fully believing the creation story, I did not necessarily agree with their logic. To me it takes as much faith to believe, “bang! there is God” as it does to believe “bang!! there is life.”  Finally I realized the difference. With God there was no bang. He did not just begin existing. He has always existed. He never began. He always was, is and will be. To me, as mind boggling as that is, makes a lot more sense than a big bang theory to begin life or a God. To me it answers the logic issue about it taking faith to believe in a big bang which began God or life without a God.

The evolution theory robs the concept of love and the cross from the brain. Not only do we have a loving Creator, but He was also our Redeemer from the foundation of the world. He created the tree He knew would be used to make the Old Rugged cross. What Love!

By the way, a few weeks ago I was watching a documentary on the History Channel. They were saying scientists have discovered a gene that clearly has never evolved. It had to have been created. They were suggesting an alien from outer space came and donated that gene. I could not agree more! By the way, I call that gene donating space alien GOD!

To study this week’s SS lesson click here.

To download the SS lesson guide app to your phone click here.

Glimpses of Grace; Oblivian

I am writing this morning from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, [so] shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been.  Obadiah 1:16 

On the cross, Jesus loved you so much, that He faced going into total oblivion to save you. To save the wicked He must die the death of the wicked. He did not die the death that the righteous die, which has a hope of a resurrection, as the righteous still  die that death themselves.  Jesus calls the death with a hope of a resurrection “sleep.” See John 11:11-14. The death with no hope of a resurrection is called “death” indeed. See Hebrews 2:9.  In order for Jesus to save the wicked He must face the death of the wicked. 

When Jesus cried out, “My God My God, Why hast Thou Forsaken me” He was not asking why God had forsaken Him till Sunday morning. If that were the case Jesus would not have felt forsaken. He would have felt secure knowing the Father would resurrect Him on the first day of the week. You don’t forsake someone when you leave them for the weekend. You forsake them when you leave them forever.  

“Satan with his fierce temptations wrung the heart of Jesus. The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal. Christ felt the anguish which the sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer plead for the guilty race. It was the sense of sin, bringing the Father’s wrath upon Him as man’s substitute, that made the cup He drank so bitter, and broke the heart of the Son of God.” {Desire of Ages, p 753} 

There was no sense of self preservation when Jesus went to the cross for you. Tonight, January 6, at 7pm we will be having a special agape feast and communion service, led by Pastor Brad Cassell, to celebrate this agape love at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church. I would like to invite you if you are in the area. If not, here you can find a church in your area of the world to celebrate God’s great grace.

Worship: “Trust Not in Deceptive Words”: The Prophets and Worship

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Sunday’s section of this week’s SS lesson, asks the question, “What do you think is more important: correct theology or correct actions? Can you have your theology right and yet treat others in a poor manner? What hope can you cling to if, perhaps, you see yourself revealed in the above texts? 

In Luke 10 Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan. In this story a priest and a Levite, walk by and leave a wounded man to die. They knew the law. I am sure their peers would say they had sound theology. But did they? In Exodus 23:4-5 it says we are to help even an animal in distress. How much more a man! Surely the priest and Levite knew this. After the Priest and Levite leave the man to die, for whatever reason, a Samaritan comes along. Samaritans had their own place of worship, which according to the Jews, was the incorrect place to be. The Samaritan probably did not know the law or the Scriptures like the priest and Levite did. However, he was more like Jesus than either of the other men because, according to Luke 10:33 he had compassion. In this story, that one word, “compassion”, seems to separate right actions from wrong actions and bad theology from good theology. I have heard it said, that many will miss heaven by about 18 inches. The difference between the brain and the heart. I have also heard it said, and I believe, that heaven will be filled with people who had muddled theology, but none with bitter hearts.

As we continue reading the story, we find the Samaritan to be even more like Jesus. First he had compassion. Second he binds up the wounds of the hurt man even as Jesus binds our wounds. Finally he tells the innkeeper that he will pay for this man’s complete recovery. On the cross Jesus paid for our complete recovery from sin, and today gives us the free gift of sanctification as well as justification.

So, to answer the original question, I would say you can’t really have one without the other. If your theology is good, it will have good actions. Good actions are good theology. I think Ellen White says it best, in the book Desire of Ages, in the chapter “The Good Samaritan.”

  In the story of the good Samaritan, Christ illustrates the nature of true religion. He shows that it consists not in systems, creeds, or rites, but in the performance of loving deeds, in bringing the greatest good to others, in genuine goodness.  {DA 497.1}  

1 Peter; Practical Ways to Handle Persecution

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:12 (Bible quotes in this post are NIV)

1 Peter talks a lot about persecution. Peter, who saw Christ suffer persecution  firsthand, gives us practical advice on how to handle persecution. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:23.

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.  For,

   “Whoever would love life
   and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
   and their lips from deceitful speech.
 They must turn from evil and do good;
   they must seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
   and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. 1 Peter 3:8-12

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,  keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 1 Peter 3:14-16

I began my professional ministry over 20 years ago, when I first became a literature evangelist and then a Bible Worker. During that period I have been threatened more than once that my financial support would be discontinued if I did not go along with something even if I knew it was wrong. Three times in the last 20 years I have been threatened with my job if I did not give my loyalty to someone or something that I knew to be wrong. Those threats do not work. When I was 7 years old, laying on my bed at night, contemplating the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, I gave my life and my loyalty to Him because He died for me. Twenty years later, when people threaten me for their loyalty, my mind goes back to that night so long ago when I gave my heart to Jesus. I have decided to be loyal to the One who died for me, and not those who threaten me. I have never had to defend myself when being threatened. The Jesus I gave my heart to when I was 7 years old has taken good care of me! I always encourage those who are new in the gospel work to always remain loyal to the One who died for them. A ministry or a person that can be bought, sold or threatened has no meaning or purpose.