Why did John Write About Love so Much?

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I find it interesting that when John left the Island of Patmos, many historians agree that he pastored the church of Ephesus. Most scholars agree that John wrote the book of 1 John in Ephesus after he wrote the Revelation on Patmos Island. This intrigues me for a couple of reasons. After seeing the apocalypse, instead of writing about secret societies and conspiracies, John’s writings become saturated in love. It makes me wonder if the book of 1 John was an attempt to help the church of Ephesus find its first love again? As John looked at the church in the last days was that his concern as well? The very first sentence in the first volume of The Conflict of the Ages series by Ellen White, starts with “God is love.” The very last sentence of the last volume of the series, is “God is love.” When John beheld the conflict of the ages in his visions, was he more impressed by love than he was beasts and dragons? Do John and the Spirit of prophecy agree that the conflict of the ages is actually all about love?

The letter to Ephesus is for anyone who has ears to hear.

But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Revelation 2:4 NLT

After the descent of the Holy Spirit, when the disciples went forth to proclaim a living Saviour, their one desire was the salvation of souls. They rejoiced in the sweetness of communion with saints. They were tender, thoughtful, self-denying, willing to make any sacrifice for the truth’s sake. In their daily association with one another, they revealed the love that Christ had enjoined upon them. By unselfish words and deeds they strove to kindle this love in other hearts…..

But gradually a change came. The believers began to look for defects in others. Dwelling upon mistakes, giving place to unkind criticism, they lost sight of the Saviour and His love. They became more strict in regard to outward ceremonies, more particular about the theory than the practice of the faith. In their zeal to condemn others, they overlooked their own errors. They lost the brotherly love that Christ had enjoined, and, saddest of all, they were unconscious of their loss. They did not realize that happiness and joy were going out of their lives and that, having shut the love of God out of their hearts, they would soon walk in darkness. –Ellen White, Acts of The Apostles, Pages 547-548

In his gospel, John writes about a conversation Jesus had with a Samaritan woman. She tried to engage Jesus into a theological debate when He told her,

But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. John 4:23 NLT

Some churches have the truth but they don’t have the Spirit. When James and John offered to call fire down on the Samaritans, they may have had the truth, but they didn’t have Christ’s Spirit. Apparently there were those in Ephesus who knew better than to believe the false doctrines of the Nicolations. They had the truth, they just didn’t have the Spirit of Christ. They lost their first love. I encourage you to read the entire book of 1 John to see how John encourages Ephesus along with us to regain our first love. For now, lets take a look at a few passage in particular,

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:7-8 NLT

Theology is the study of God. God is love. I don’t care if your church keeps the Sabbath, knows what happens when you die, and everyone eats veggie links, while talking about who the anti christ is, if your church does not practice love it is theologically incorrect. Maybe this is why John wrote about love all the time?

If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers. 1 John 4:20-21 NLT

John is talking about Agape. Agape is the love God has for bad people. Since God is not bad He does not need agape, so John wants us to show our agape by loving our brother who is bad. When we realize God has given us agape we will share it with others. When we find it hard to forgive and love bad people, it is often because we don’t understand how much God loves and forgives us when we are bad. Once we believe God agapes us we will find it easy to agape our neighbor. I imagine the church of Ephesus lost its first love when it took its eyes off of the crucified Savior and started looking at the faults of others. I imagine we get our first love back when we return to the cross and consider the awesome sacrifice that was made there.

It is blasphemy for me to think Jesus gave His life for the sinner lying in the gutter, but I am too good to give my time or life to save such scum. What? Am I better than Jesus? Is my life more precious than His? If Jesus gave His life to save sinners shouldn’t I give mine as well?

I heard Wintley Phipps say, “We love God no more than the sinner we love the least.” I believe that resonates with the gospel according to John. I believe it resonates with the book of Revelation and the conflict of the ages. In Matthew 25:40 regarding last day events, Jesus says how we treat the least of these is how we treat Him. I think that is why the same John who wrote so much deep theology in Revelation also wrote about love so much.

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

Two Things I Love About Daniel

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

As we take a look at Daniel in this week’s lesson there are a couple of things I love about Daniel, that sometimes get overlooked. When his neck was on the line, I like how Daniel responded when God revealed to him the king’s dream.

Then Daniel went in to see Arioch, whom the king had ordered to execute the wise men of Babylon. Daniel said to him, “Don’t kill the wise men. Take me to the king, and I will tell him the meaning of his dream.” Daniel 2:24 NLT

Daniel’s relationship with God did not only save his life. It saved the lives of all the wise men, even the fake ones. Daniel’s first thoughts were of others, not just himself. So it is today. The entire world benefits from the Christian influences around them. Like when the disciples asked Jesus to calm the sea, it was not just calm for their little boat. All the boats on the sea benefited. Daniel wanted to save others. Later when the Persian leaders conspired against Daniel, it did not bother him that others did not have his back the way that he had theirs. Daniel knew God had his back and that’s all that mattered.

I also marvel at Daniel’s humility. Daniel 1:20 says Daniel and his friends were found to be ten times wiser. Yet when Daniel tells the king’s dream look what he says,

And it is not because I am wiser than anyone else that I know the secret of your dream, but because God wants you to understand what was in your heart. Daniel 2:30 NLT

Nothing is more annoying than a wise guy telling you how wise he is. Daniel realized smart people don’t tell you how smart they are. Daniel did not credit his wisdom. He credited God’s grace in wanting to reach the king’s heart. Daniel had more thank just Scriptural knowledge and prophetic understanding. He had people skills! So much so he flourished in the heart of Babylon without ever compromising his faith!

As we prepare for the end times, let’s not only pursue Daniel’s prophetic abilities. Let’s pursue his people skills.

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

In Jesus’ Hands

Jounralling through Revelation here in the Tampa Bay area.

Jounralling through Revelation here in the Tampa Bay area.

This is the meaning of the mystery of the seven stars you saw in my right hand and the seven gold lampstands: The seven stars are the angels [messengers] of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. Revelation 1:20 NLT

Before Jesus tells us about all of the calamity, trials, persecutions and crisis coming to the world, He first assures His messengers who share the gospel of grace and truth, that they will always be held safely in his hand.

You may study more on Revelation here.

Reaching Billions While Isolated

 Journalling through Revelation here in the Tampa Bay area.

Journalling through Revelation here in the Tampa Bay area.

I, John, am your brother and your partner in suffering and in God’s Kingdom and in the patient endurance to which Jesus calls us. I was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching the word of God and for my testimony about Jesus. Revelation 1:9 NLT

So evil people isolate John from the rest of the world so he can’t tell anyone about Jesus, and what happens? He writes the book of Revelation revealing Jesus to billions of people throughout the ages! Don’t worry. No matter who is trying to isolate you, your story about God’s love will be told!

Study more on the book of Revelation here.

Glimpes of Our God; The Promise of His Return

I am writing tonight from beautiful Lake Placid Florida, which is famous for its murals on many of the town buildings, each one telling a story about the city.

As Seventh-day Adventists recently celebrated the 150th anniversary of our name, one important question comes to mind concerning our name. The “Advent” part pertaining to the second coming. Is the second coming still on? Are we still planning on it? Is it still a part of who we are?

 

Growing up a Seventh-day Adventist I remember hearing people talking about how Jesus was surely coming in the next five years. We thought for sure the oil crisis in the 70’s was the end of the world. I still remember looking at the form the Tulsa Roughnecks Soccer team sent me when I was a teen, asking me to renew my season tickets for the 1980 season. You are going to laugh at me, but I stared at that form in disbelief that I actually saw the year 1980 in print. There is no way the world will last that long I thought. Well that was 30 years ago and we are in a totally new century. So what happened to the second coming? Is it still on?

 

In the mid ‘80s I joined a new Adventist church in the suburbs of Tulsa. I had just started dating a girl who went to that church so I  switched from the central Adventist church in Tulsa to her church. We just started dating when she dumped me. Oh well, I still stayed at this new church for the simple reason that I did not want people to think I changed churches just for her. Besides, this church seemed to really be on fire. The weekly prayer meetings were very spiritual, and everyone was praying for the power of the Holy Spirit to prepare them for the second coming. We had about as many people attending prayer meeting that attended our Sabbath Worship services. We were sure Jesus was coming soon and we were getting ready. Then something sad happened. People stopped coming to prayer meeting. Some decided “Growing Pains” was just too funny of a show to miss for prayer meeting. People stopped coming to church all together. This was not suppose to happen! Discouraged, I asked God why He did not come back when our church was at its spiritual peak, when we had it all together. He waited too long and now look what happened. I believe the Holy Spirit revealed to me why Jesus did not return when the church was on top of its game. Our church was on a spiritual roller coaster. Jesus is not coming back for a church on a spiritual roller coaster. He is not coming back for a people who walk with him off and on. A groom does not want to marry a bride who’s love and devotion goes in cycles. Neither does Jesus. Enoch walked with God many years before being translated. God will come back for a church who will consistently walk with Him year after year after year, and not on some roller coaster. The church is a woman. For centuries God’s church has loved to flirt with Him, but it also loves to flirt with the world. God’s church likes to date Jesus, but it also likes to date other things too. Jesus is not returning for a date, He is returning for a wedding. When God’s church decides to stop dating and flirting with Jesus and decides to get married He will return.

 

During this same time period our church in suburban Tulsa was also asking the Holy Spirit to get sin out of our lives so we could be ready for Jesus to come. We did not, or at least at the time I did not realize how legalistic that was. Jesus is not coming back for a legalistic group who get their act together so they can have some great reward like heaven. Jesus is coming back for a people who love Him because He first loved them. Today I ask the Holy Spirit to remove sin from my life, not because Jesus is coming back but because my sin breaks God’s heart. I do not want to break His heart anymore, regardless if He is coming back tomorrow or a hundred years from now.

 

Now that I am older I don’t hear people talking about Jesus coming back in the next five years. So is the whole thing off? One of Satan’s best weapons are over zealous religious fanatics. They tell people Jesus is coming back during a certain time table, and then when their “prophecy” fails, people then doubt that Jesus is coming back at all. However this is all Satan’s plan. To get us to give up right before it happens. Concentration camp survivors say they survived because they never set a date for their rescue. Some wanted to be rescued by Christmas, and then when that came and went, they wanted rescued by Easter, and then when Easter came when went they gave up hope. Others just knew that they would be rescued some day and they survived. As Seventh-day Adventists we must believe Jesus is returning, without setting dates. Some have gone to the other extreme now and don’t even preach the second coming at all. They preach social sermons which they find more practical in everyday living. While we must be practical we must also realize God formed our church 150 years ago for a specific reason. If we are just going to preach social sermons like the ones you can hear in any church or denomination, you must ask yourself why we even bother existing if we have no message to offer other than what the other denominations are preaching. Are we embarrassed by our message? I am sure the disciples were embambarrassed when Jesus was crucified, but there was no reason for them to be. Are we afraid people will not believe our message, so instead we just preach things we know the world will accept? If so, shame on us! We are doing our Savior and neighbor no justice by hiding our special message.

 

 There is no reason to water down our message. Several years ago I was leading out in a youth small group study with another family in my neighborhood. One Sabbath afternoon when it was time for our study, we received an invitation to a youth meeting at our church. There was to be a lot of contemporary music for the kids. I thought, why not? Lets skip our Bible study this week and go to this contemporary concert and show the kids that we have fun too. After the concert I asked one of the kids how they liked the concert, hoping they thought it was a lot of fun and that our church was really with it. This young person, about 13 years old at the time, looked at me with disappointment in their eyes and said, “I wish we would have had the Bible study instead.” People, there are kids out there starving for our gospel message! Why disappoint them by feeding them what the world is feeding them? Furthermore what is the point of a church that is just like the world? I am not saying all contemporary music is wrong and we should never offer that. I am saying let’s offer more than just that. And if the church only feeds people what is in the world then why does the church even bother existing? Have we given up on the second coming and decided to just join the world and be a social club with good morals? How legalistic is that!

 

The Seventh-day Adventist church has a message that will more than prepare people to live nice little lives in this world. We have a gospel that will prepare people for the world to come! We must let everyone know the second coming is still on! There are twice as many prophecies about the second coming than there were about Jesus’ first advent. He came the first time, so we know beyond a shadow of a doubt He is coming the second time. Jesus warns against setting times for His return when He tells us, “ in the hour you think not, the Son of man cometh.” Satan has been using religious fanatics for years to get us all excited and then disappointed that He has not returned. Satan wants us to give up and think Jesus is not returning at all. There is great danger in what I was always hearing growing up, about Jesus coming in the next five years, because it does two things, it makes you give up hope when He does not return in those five years and it also makes you think you have five years to prepare. One day we won’t have five years to prepare. We won’t have one year to prepare. In the hour we think not, He will come! Don’t get ready, be ready! Be ready not because He is coming back but because we love Him because He first loved us! The Adventist church, the church that believes the Bible prophecies about the second coming has a reason to exist! If we just preach social day by day sermons that you can hear anywhere else then we are not fulfilling our purpose for coming into existence 150 years ago.  A true Adventist more than believes Jesus is coming. We love His appearing! We have a message to give to world and believe it or not the world is hungry for our message so why not give it? Jesus loves them and wants to be with them forever!

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.  Download the SS app to your phone here.

 

For more studies on the second coming and our special message click here.

For my friend’s site on our special message click here.

Revelation 16-17; God Protects His People

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

While the scenes that unfold in Revelation 16-17 are devastating, God’s people need not fear. See Psalm 91.

“Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands.” Isaiah 49:14-16. The Lord of hosts has said: “He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye.” Zechariah 2:8.  

     Though enemies may thrust them into prison, yet dungeon walls cannot cut off the communication between their souls and Christ. One who sees their every weakness, who is acquainted with every trial, is above all earthly powers; and angels will come to them in lonely cells, bringing light and peace from heaven. The prison will be as a palace; for the rich in faith dwell there, and the gloomy walls will be lighted up with heavenly light as when Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises at midnight in the Philippian dungeon. 

     God’s judgments will be visited upon those who are seeking to oppress and destroy His people. His long forbearance with the wicked emboldens men in transgression, but their punishment is nonetheless certain and terrible because it is long delayed. “The Lord shall rise up as in Mount Perazim, He shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that He may do His work, His strange work; and bring to pass His act, His strange act.” Isaiah 28:21. To our merciful God the act of punishment is a strange act. “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” Ezekiel 33:11. The Lord is “merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, . . . forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” Yet He will “by no means clear the guilty.” “The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked.” Exodus 34:6, 7; Nahum 1:3. By terrible things in righteousness He will vindicate the authority of His downtrodden law. The severity of the retribution awaiting the transgressor may be judged by the Lord’s reluctance to execute justice. The nation with which He bears long, and which He will not smite until it has filled up the measure of its iniquity in God’s account, will finally drink the cup of wrath unmixed with mercy.  {Great Controversy  626- 627}

So, Um, Is The Second Coming Still On?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

As Seventh-day Adventists celebrate the 150th anniversary of our name, one important question comes to mind concerning our name. The Advent part pertaining to the second coming. Is the second coming still on? Are we still planning on it? Is it still a part of who we are?

 

Growing up a Seventh-day Adventist I remember hearing people talking about how Jesus was surely coming in the next five years. We thought for sure the oil crisis in the 70’s was the end of the world. I still remember looking at the form the Tulsa Roughnecks Soccer team sent me when I was a teen, asking me to renew my season tickets for the 1980 season. You are going to laugh at me, but I stared at that form in disbelief that I actually saw the year 1980 in print. There is no way the world will last that long I thought. Well that was 30 years ago and we are in a totally new century. So what happened to the second coming? Is it still on?

 

In the mid ‘80s I joined a new Adventist church in the suburbs of Tulsa. I had just started dating a girl who went to that church so I  switched from the central Adventist church in Tulsa to her church. We just started dating when she dumped me. Oh well, I still stayed at this new church for the simple reason that I did not want people to think I changed churches just for her. Besides, this church seemed to really be on fire. The weekly prayer meetings were very spiritual, and everyone was praying for the power of the Holy Spirit to prepare them for the second coming. We had about as many people attending prayer meeting that attended our Sabbath Worship services. We were sure Jesus was coming soon and we were getting ready. Then something sad happened. People stopped coming to prayer meeting. Some decided “Growing Pains” was just too funny of a show to miss for prayer meeting. People stopped coming to church all together. This was not suppose to happen! Discouraged, I asked God why He did not come back when our church was at its spiritual peak, when we had it all together. He waited too long and now look what happened. I believe the Holy Spirit revealed to me why Jesus did not return when the church was on top of its game. Our church was on a spiritual roller coaster. Jesus is not coming back for a church on a spiritual roller coaster. He is not coming back for a people who walk with him off and on. A groom does not want to marry a bride who’s love and devotion goes in cycles. Neither does Jesus. Enoch walked with God many years before being translated. God will come back for a church who will consistently walk with Him year after year after year, and not on some roller coaster. The church is a woman. For centuries God’s church has loved to flirt with Him, but it also loves to flirt with the world. God’s church likes to date Jesus, but it also likes to date other things too. Jesus is not returning for a date, He is returning for a wedding. When God’s church decides to stop dating and flirting with Jesus and decides to get married He will return.

 

During this same time period our church in suburban Tulsa was also asking the Holy Spirit to get sin out of our lives so we could be ready for Jesus to come. We did not, or at least at the time I did not realize how legalistic that was. Jesus is not coming back for a legalistic group who get their act together so they can have some great reward like heaven. Jesus is coming back for a people who love Him because He first loved them. Today I ask the Holy Spirit to remove sin from my life, not because Jesus is coming back but because my sin breaks God’s heart. I do not want to break His heart anymore, regardless if He is coming back tomorrow or a hundred years from now.

 

Now that I am older I don’t hear people talking about Jesus coming back in the next five years. So is the whole thing off? One of Satan’s best weapons are over zealous religious fanatics. They tell people Jesus is coming back during a certain time table, and then when their “prophecy” fails, people then doubt that Jesus is coming back at all. However this is all Satan’s plan. To get us to give up right before it happens. Concentration camp survivors say they survived because they never set a date for their rescue. Some wanted to be rescued by Christmas, and then when that came and went, they wanted rescued by Easter, and then when Easter came when went they gave up hope. Others just knew that they would be rescued some day and they survived. As Seventh-day Adventists we must believe Jesus is returning, without setting dates. Some have gone to the other extreme now and don’t even preach the second coming at all. They preach social sermons which they find more practical in everyday living. While we must be practical we must also realize God formed our church 150 years ago for a specific reason. If we are just going to preach social sermons like the ones you can hear in any church or denomination, you must ask yourself why we even bother existing if we have no message to offer other than what the other denominations are preaching. Are we embarrassed by our message? I am sure the disciples were embambarrassed when Jesus was crucified, but there was no reason for them to be. Are we afraid people will not believe our message, so instead we just preach things we know the world will accept? If so, shame on us! We are doing our Savior and neighbor no justice by hiding our special message.

 

 There is no reason to water down our message. Several years ago I was leading out in a youth small group study with another family in my neighborhood. One Sabbath afternoon when it was time for our study, we received an invitation to a youth meeting at our church. There was to be a lot of contemporary music for the kids. I thought, why not? Lets skip our Bible study this week and go to this contemporary concert and show the kids that we have fun too. After the concert I asked one of the kids how they liked the concert, hoping they thought it was a lot of fun and that our church was really with it. This young person, about 13 years old at the time, looked at me with disappointment in their eyes and said, “I wish we would have had the Bible study instead.” People, there are kids out there starving for our gospel message! Why disappoint them by feeding them what the world is feeding them? Furthermore what is the point of a church that is just like the world? I am not saying all contemporary music is wrong and we should never offer that. I am saying let’s offer more than just that. And if the church only feeds people what is in the world then why does the church even bother existing? Have we given up on the second coming and decided to just join the world and be a social club with good morals? How legalistic is that!

 

The Seventh-day Adventist church has a message that will more than prepare people to live nice little lives in this world. We have a gospel that will prepare people for the world to come! We must let everyone know the second coming is still on! There are twice as many prophecies about the second coming than there were about Jesus’ first advent. He came the first time, so we know beyond a shadow of a doubt He is coming the second time. Jesus warns against setting times for His return when He tells us, “ in the hour you think not, the Son of man cometh.” Satan has been using religious fanatics for years to get us all excited and then disappointed that He has not returned. Satan wants us to give up and think Jesus is not returning at all. There is great danger in what I was always hearing growing up, about Jesus coming in the next five years, because it does two things, it makes you give up hope when He does not return in those five years and it also makes you think you have five years to prepare. One day we won’t have five years to prepare. We won’t have one year to prepare. In the hour we think not, He will come! Don’t get ready, be ready! Be ready not because He is coming back but because we love Him because He first loved us! The Adventist church, the church that believes the Bible prophecies about the second coming has a reason to exist! If we just preach social day by day sermons that you can hear anywhere else then we are not fulfilling our purpose for coming into existence 150 years ago.  A true Adventist more than believes Jesus is coming. We love His appearing! We have a message to give to world and believe it or not the world is hungry for our message so why not give it? Jesus loves them and wants to be with them forever!

 

For more studies on the second coming and our special message click here.

For my friend’s site on our special message click here.