Trusting God Instead of Knucklehead Ideas

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The question is asked on Tuesday’s section of this week’s lesson, “In what ways have you discovered for yourself the true spiritual blessings that come from paying tithe? How has paying tithe helped increase your faith?”

After returning home to Tulsa from Southern Adventist University, I got a job at Taco Bell, and at 19 years old moved into my own apartment. It was a nice junior one bedroom. My rent was only $200.00 a month. What I would give to take my current salary and go back to those days! My parents both served as treasurers for the Tulsa First SDA Church for decades. They had instilled in me the importance of tithe. My dad always says, “Church’s don’t have financial problems. They have spiritual problems.” If everyone sacrificed and gave systematically as the Bible says, the church will always have enough.  While paying an honest tithe, even while barely making above minimum wage I had no problems paying my bills. I remember getting bills in the mail and going inside and writing a check to pay them right away. I did not need to wait until the due date. God was blessing.

Funny thing is, as I started making more money I started running into financial issues. I had a budget, but did not carefully watch myself during the month, thinking I had plenty of money. Still in my early twenties, I got a job working in the warehouse of a business forms company, making almost twice as much as I was at Taco Bell. Not keeping close track of what I was spending, I ran into financial problems, and for the first time started falling behind on my bills. I had recently transferred to a smaller church outside Tulsa, where I was serving as an elder.

I was the youngest elder in the Oklahoma conference and the most immature too, as I came up with a knucklehead idea for my new financial problems. Had I still been in the church where my parents were treasures I probably never would have done this. I had recently been promised a reasonable raise at work, but every week it failed to show on my pay check. So I decided to use all my money to pay my bills, and stop returning tithe until I got my raise. Each week I recorded what my tithe was so I could pay it once my raise came, but week after week there was no raise on my check. I recorded what I owed in tithe to pay once my raise came. The tithe was adding up. Finally one night after a group Bible study I told an older lady in my church that I felt bad not being able to tithe, but that I would tithe once my raise showed up on my check. She said firmly, “William you are not going to get your raise until you return your tithe.” Now I knew good and well that people get raises all the time who never tithe. However I knew too, that God is a personal God, and He was speaking to me through my older friend.

We received our paychecks every Friday, but the following Friday I did not go into work as I had too much overtime. Yes, God was blessing me with overtime while I was waiting on my raise and even withholding my tithe. Even though I did not get my paycheck on Friday, I returned my full tithe that Sabbath. I did not know what I was going to do, but I knew I had to do what was right.

Monday morning I went into work and picked up the paycheck that had been lying in my box since Friday. I opened it up and there was my raise! Was the raise a blessing? Yes! But the greatest blessing was knowing a God of love was watching over me, and even speaking to me through my older friend in my Bible study group. He loves me and takes care of me. All I have to do is trust in Him instead of my knucklehead ideas!

How to Use the Tithe and Offering Envelope

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Understandably, there are many who are unaware of the difference between tithes and offerings. Many, even seasoned members are surprised to learn there is a difference. Tithe is not used for general use, like church maintenance, Sabbath School supplies and so on. The offerings cover those needs, while the tithe goes to pay the salaries of conference employed gospel workers. This is according to the direction of Scripture.

Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting. Numbers 18:21 NKJV

Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 NKJV

The tithe goes straight to the ministry, while offerings are in addition to the tithe. Occasionally local church treasures will receive a tithe envelope that looks something like this,

Tithe: $200.00

Combined Budget: $100.00

Conference Evangelism: $100.00

Total: $200.00

The problem is the total should be $400.00. The person filling out the tithe envelope was thinking that he was to divvy up the tithe between the other categories on the envelope, but tithe is its own category. IF one is only returning their tithe, it should look like this,

Tithe: $200.00

Combined Budget:

Conference Evangelism:

Total: $200.00

If you are returning tithe and offering, it would look like this,

Tithe: $200.00

Combined Budget: $100.00

Conference Evangelism: $100.00

Total: $400.00

Scripture makes a distinction between tithes and offerings.

“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. Malachi 3:8 NKJV[Emphasis supplied.]

So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 NKJV

Malachi shows us tithe is in addition to the offering. 2 Corinthians 9:7 tells us while the tithe that goes to the ministry is 10% of our profit, the additional offering is what we purpose in our hearts.

My father was a church treasure for over 50 years, and would occasionally receive tithe envelopes filled out by those who thought the tithe was divided into the other categories on the offering envelope. Other treasures have mentioned it to me as well, though of course never mentioning names. Understanding how this can be understandably confusing to some, when I give personal Bible studies on stewardship, I always make sure I carefully explain how the tithe is sacred to Gospel Workers, and the offerings are in addition to the tithe. I hope this explanation will be helpful to some.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

The Most Precious Gift of all

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The night my mother was dying, I made an emergency flight to get out to see her. Problem was, my connection flight, in Love Field in Dallas, arrived several hours late, due to a tornado in Amarillo, where it was coming in from. I arrived home in Tulsa at 1:30 in the morning. I had an old friend from grade school scheduled to pick me up and take me to the hospital, when the plane was still scheduled to arrive on time. Even though it was a weeknight, with regular activities scheduled the next day, she insisted on still picking me up in the middle of the night, and driving me across town to the hospital, where I saw mom just hours before she passed away. Who would have ever dreamed, forty years earlier, when we were back in grade school, that one night, while living 1200 miles away, my friend would be there to help me in the middle of my worst night ever?

That night my friend gave me the most precious gift in the universe, which was time. She gave her time in the middle of the night, which gave me one more time with my mother.

One night, when I first got to Tampa, I was doing Bible work, when my car broke down. A friend who lived nearby, who had to work in the wee morning hours drove over and cheerfully helped me get my car fixed. Another case of a friend sacrificing his time for me.

When we think about stewardship, we mostly think of money. However, time is the most precious gift you can share. Time is the substance of life. When you give someone your time you are literally giving them your life.

As if that was not important enough, time is also money. A family may not be able to give $500.00 a month to the church, but they can give their time to clean the church, and save the church from spending $500.00 on a janitor, which in turn is the same as giving $500.00.

When I lived in the Dallas area, there was a sports coach who was a little rough around the edges, and wasn’t the most popular celebrity in the community. After he resigned, a lady wrote in to the newspaper to express her appreciation for the coach. She had attended a social gala with several area celebrities. She brought her 9 year old son, who had a rare disease, I’m sorry I don’t remember exactly what it was. She wrote that several of the celebrities patted him on the head, and then went on to their hobnobbing with the other celebrities, but the coach sat down with him and talked to him for over 30 minutes! The coach’s time with her son meant the world to the mother!

While we study stewardship this quarter, lets remember time is the most precious gift we have to share.

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

Elia, Amalia, Yessiana, Antonio and Lilly’s Baptism Pictures and stories.

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When I first came to the Plant City SDA Church, Pastor James and Elder Jerry Hill, had a game night/Bible study group for the youth in our community, none of which were members of the church. We would have games and snacks followed up with a Bible study. Occasionally we would go go cart racing or to a restaurant in the area. I noticed with no design of Pastor James or myself, that the game time became shorter and the Bible study time longer. The youth had a lot of questions and we enjoyed helping them find the answers in their Bibles.

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I soon began a baptism class with the youth on Sabbath mornings, which transitioned into a New Believer’s class with Pastor James and myself as the co-teachers.

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While we had the youth Bible study groups going on Wednesday nights, the parents would invite me to their home to study with them. After a couple years, the parents started meeting at the church to study with me, while the kids studied with Pastor James, and our youth night became a family night. It was during these studies that Elia, the grandmother, and Amalia, the mother decided they both wanted to be baptized with their children and grandchildren.

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Lilly was the first to be baptized, so she could lead the way for her family. In our new believer’s Sabbath School class, Lilly asked if we might one day be put in prison for being faithful to God. I told her that was possible, but one way to make sure it never happens is to not be faithful to God. Lilly did not even consider that as a possible scenario. She could see herself in prison but she could never imagine being unfaithful to Jesus!

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Long before being baptized, Antonio has been one of our most faithful ushers, taking up the offerings every Sabbath in church. Anytime he sees anyone setting up tables or chairs, or doing any kind of work around the church during the week, he pitches in to help before anyone has a chance to ask him. Long before baptism, Antonio had a strong sense of belong to the Plant City SDA Church, and the church belonging to him. Antonio loves Jesus and His church!

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Yessiana was the first to express and interest in baptism, and has been a positive role model for her younger brother and sister, and for anyone wanting to know Jesus.  She is active in our Pathfinder club, especially when it comes to missions. She is earning her Bible marking badge in the Patfinders Bible marking class, and eagerly participates in all our community mission projects.

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Every time I visit the home of Elia’s son and daughter-in-law Jose and Adella, and she is there, she loves to open the Word of God and have a Bible study. When we began the adult Bible study on Wednesdays at the church, she was the first to join. She also loves helping out with pathfinders, and is always helping out with fellowship lunches making sure everyone gets enough to eat and has a good time. She is the Abuela of everybody’s dreams.

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Amalia loves to study God’s Word, and it was her idea for us to study the book of Revelation in our Wednesday Bible study. She wanted to follow the Bible exactly instead of tradition. When friends asked why she was making certain lifestyle changes, they asked if it had to do with the new church she was attending. She said, “No. It has to do with the Bible.” Amalia loves Jesus and wants to follow His example!

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At the end of our service today, Pastor James welcomed our new members into the church, and gave them plants for each family. Pastor James explained that as plants need to be watered in order to grow and stay alive, so our relationship needs continual care, like personal Bible study, prayer and church fellowship, in order to thrive.

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Don’t let the sun set on your life before giving yourself to the One who gave His life for you! If you are interested in baptism and following Jesus I would love to help you. I can be reached at Bibleworker@TampaAdventist.net

As always thank your for your much needed contributions to keep me sharing Jesus with others.

No Condemnation

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1 NKJV

He told her he loved her. Said she was beautiful. Promised her she would be special. Next thing she knew she was being dragged out of bed by the friends of him who had dragged her into bed, and he who had praised and flattered her just stood and watched her being dragged away.

Now she was kneeling half naked, humiliated before Jesus. Eyes closed, not wanting to see the stones that would soon be crushing her head, she waited in terror. It seemed like eternity. When would it be over?

“Woman…”Barely peeking through one eye she sees Jesus doing something in the sand. Not sure what. She hears footsteps as men walk away. What is going on? Then she hears a word she had not heard in years directed at her.

Jesus didn’t call her a “slut,” or “whore.” He called her “woman.” He was addressing her with the same title of respect that He gave to his own mother, who spoke with angels and gave birth to the Son of God.

“….where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” John 8:10 NKJV

She opens her eyes and looks around. They are all gone! She makes no accusations against the men. We know little about the background of this woman. She may or may not have been a victim of sex trafficking. But we do know that, terrified as she was, she was ready to face the consequences without blaming anyone else for the choices she had made, and the role she had played, which now brought her half-naked and humiliated into the presence of Jesus. Yet incredibly, as guilty as she was, it was her accusers who slunk away. As she lay helpless at His feet, there was no one to condemn her! When we fall helplessly at the feet of Jesus, there is no condemnation for us either.

He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10 NKJV)

She said, “No one, Lord.” (John 8:11 NKJV)

What was next? A sermon? A lecture? Nowhere is it recorded, but I can imagine Jesus placing His coat over her near-naked body.

The Holy One Who would be hanging naked on a cross in front of the entire universe one day, takes off His robe and covers this woman, protecting her human dignity more than just covering her sexuality.

He doesn’t preach to her. He ministers to her.

Did you know you don’t have to be a preacher to be a minister? Ministering to sinners doesn’t always have to include a sermon. An-ill timed sermon can do more harm than good. Jesus could preach with the best of them, but He knew when to preach and when not to preach. He also knew when to minister.

He called her “woman.” He placed His coat over her near-naked body and gave her the sense of dignity she had been promised by the man who betrayed her trust. Then He did not preach to her with words, He ministered to her with words.

“Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:11 NKJV

His words were brief and clear, yet somehow we get them mixed up. Have we ever told someone “Go and sin no more, and then I will stop condemning you!” That’s notwhat Jesus said.

Jesus said clearly, “Neither do I condemn you.” Present tense.

“Go and sin no more.” Future tense.

The world told her they would stop condemning her once she stopped sinning. Jesus promised not to condemn her, so she could stop sinning.

They called her a whore and a slut.
Jesus called her a woman.

A man promised her she would be special, and then humiliated and betrayed her.
Jesus gave her dignity back and made her special.

There was no condemnation for this woman at the feet of Jesus, and there is no condemnation for you, when you kneel at the feet of Jesus.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1 NKJV

Jesus does not condemn us, so we too may walk in the Spirit instead of the flesh.

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

Overcoming Sexual Sin When You are Single

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I have talked to more than one single Christian, who told me, “When I promised God I would wait until I was married, I figured I would be married by now.” Other singles, even in the church, seem to think no sex before marriage just means no sex while you are a teenager. Age isn’t the issue.

Today there are more and more divorced Christians, and people who have other ambitions, who are putting off marriage until later in life. Being single, I find myself in single circles, where single Christians, both men and women voice their sexual frustration. They are not trying to be provocative or seductive. They are just being real. They want to be Christians, but they are still sexual. We are not made sexual at marriage. We are made sexual at birth.

Being made sexual at birth, how do Christians control sexual appetite until they are married? How do Christian divorced people control their sexual urges? How do Christian widows and widowers satisfy their sexual needs? I don’t imagine after 60 years of healthy sex, that the desire dies when your spouse dies. Does God meet the sexual needs of all these single people?

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 NLT

If it says God will supply all our needs, we have to understand that includes sexual needs of single people. If we can trust God to provide for our financial needs, we can trust Him to provide for our sexual needs as well. We can go to Him and tell Him about all our needs. Then we can trust Him to provide in a way that is best for us. We are familiar with a phrase in Desire of Ages,

Our heavenly Father has a thousand ways to provide for us, of which we know nothing. Those who accept the one principle of making the service and honor of God supreme will find perplexities vanish, and a plain path before their feet. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 330.

Was sex the context here? No. Am I taking things out of context if I say God has a thousand ways to provide for our sexual needs, when we serve and honor God? Maybe, but please hear me out. First, we need to understand that marriage does not guarantee sex. Sadly there are celibate marriages for various reasons we won’t get into here. Having said that, sex does not guarantee intimacy. I once read in a sexual purity book long ago, that some people will have sex to avoid intimacy! Instead of talking and being intimate with their hearts and emotions, they will just be physical to avoid being intimate. Now that’s not good either, because sex should involve intimacy. But here is my point: Many of us think we crave sex when we actually crave intimacy. All sex should be intimate, but not all intimacy has to be sex.

I think we crave healthy relationships more than we crave sex. I think Mary Magdalene found something in Jesus that satisfied her desire for sex, even though it wasn’t sex, and Jesus was the perfect Gentleman with her. I think she found something in Him greater than sex. She found true love and intimacy. She needed true love and intimacy more than she needed sex. So do we.

God does not require us to give up anything that it is for our best interest to retain. In all that He does, He has the well-being of His children in view. Would that all who have not chosen Christ might realize that He has something vastly better to offer them than they are seeking for themselves. –Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Page 46.

I have to believe this passage includes sexual activity. If God has not given you a Christian sex life right now, it is only because He has something vastly better for you right now. He knows all your needs, not just the needs of your bank account. He knows your sexual needs too. He cares for you in all your ways.

The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. Psalms 84:11 NLT

If sex was good for single people God would give it to them, but sex is not good for single people, which is the only reason He does not give it to them. But love and intimacy is good for single people, and He gives that to them, through church, family, and a personal relationship with Him.

Though I don’t have all the answers, I believe God can supply the sexual needs of His single people, with pure love and intimacy, and a thousand other ways we know nothing about. The solution is to trust God with your sexual needs just like any other need.

Please let me paraphrase a popular passage.

Keep your [sexual] wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him. He who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the [sexual] wants of His children. “The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” James 5:11. His heart of love is touched by our [sexual] sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything [including sex] that perplexes the mind. Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds up worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our [sexual] peace is too small for Him to notice. There is no chapter in our experience too dark for Him to read; there is no perplexity too difficult for Him to unravel. No [Sexual] calamity can befall the least of His children, no anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere prayer escape the lips, of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest. “He healeth the [sexually] broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3. The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son. -Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Page 100.

God loves single people just as much as He loves married people, and He makes single people just as happy as married people.  God can appropriately meet the sexual needs of single people as easily as He can meet the sexual needs of married people. Believe in His love, and He will meet all your daily needs.

You can study this week’s Sabbath School Lesson here.

Michelle’s Profession of Faith

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About a year and a half ago, I met Maretta at the evangelistic meetings we were having at the Plant City Seventh-day Adventist Church. We studied together for a while before she rejoined the Adventist church on profession of faith. Maretta has since been sharing Jesus with her friends and family. Maretta and I began a Bible study group with Maretta’s daughter Kay, and longtime friend Michelle. We enjoyed studying together on Wednesday evenings before prayer meeting. Kay, recently moved up north and is finding an Adventist Church family in her new home. Michelle joined the Adventist church for the first time here in Plant City!

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Michelle was very happy to join the Adventist church this morning! She has been sharing Jesus with her family, even introducing them to the Discover Bible Study Guides she has been doing as well from the Plant City SDA Church. Maretta introduced Michelle to Jesus, who is now introducing her friends to Jesus, just like Andrew.

Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ” John 1:41 NLT

Please pray for Maretta and Michelle, that they both will continue being blessed with more and more opportunities to share Jesus with others!