“You Don’t Love me. You Love my Accomplishments.”

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Studying this week’s Sabbath School lesson, on the humility of the wise, reminded me of a conversation I had, during fellowship dinner in a church I spoke in. A mother told me she was always pushing her daughter to do her best, and win awards and honor roll certificates. She would brag about how wonderful her daughter was doing in school and sports and so forth, until one day when the girl was 15 and told her mother,

You don’t love me. You love my accomplishments.

The mother told me it felt like a slap in the face! Of course it was not true (I suppose), but the mother suddenly saw how her daughter came to that conclusion. There is a difference between teaching a child to do her best, and teaching her to be better than everyone else. I like what a young person shared on Facebook a while back.

I don’t want to be better than anyone. I just want to be better than I was yesterday.

The end of this Sunday’s lesson has a very profound statement.

You have to feel sorry for people who boast (usually it’s a cover for insecurities anyway); it shows just how self-deceived and ignorant they really are.

Could it be the mother was living vicariously through her daughter, trying to make up for her own failures? Who knows? I am no psychologist, but I think we are all needing acceptance. Now I don’t want to over analyze things. Plenty of people go to universities and get their masters degrees simply to learn how to do their job and help others. Its as simple as that. yet others do it to prove how smart or superior they are. The latter are just clamoring for acceptance. Many people spend all their time and effort to battle their way to the top of the hill so they can be accepted when all along, Jesus has already,

Made us accepted in the beloved. Ephesians 1:6 NKJV

When we accept the love God has for us we no longer feel compelled to be better than anybody else. Our goal is not worldly rank or status. It is intimacy with Christ. We don’t feel compelled to do better than others in order to be accepted, but we want to be the best we can be by God’s grace and power because we love God for accepting us no matter what.

This Sunday’s lesson asked the question, “Who do you think you are?” I have learned not to get too excited when I do well, and not to be too dejected when I fail, because at the end of the day, either way, I’m still just me. I wrote this poem a while back, which answers the question in Sunday’s lesson for me.

It’s Just me

I’ve been chauffeured in the back seat of a Cadillac.

I’ve been behind the wheel of an old Volkswagen Beetle.

I’ve eaten in fancy restaurants with all my friends.

I’ve eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches all alone.

But all in all I’m just me, it’s just me.

I’ve laughed out loud with the rest of the crowd.

I’ve cried alone where no one else could hear.

I’ve been in first place at the end of a race.

I’ve been so far behind, when will this game just end?

But after all is said and done, I’m just me, it’s just me.

I preached sermons that have moved congregations to tears.

I have preached sermons that have lulled congregations to sleep!

My friends have given me too much praise for a human being.

My adversaries have given me too much criticism, give me a break!

But at the end of it all, I’m just me; it’s just me.

Into every life a little rain and sunshine must fall.

Sometimes I feel small, and other times I feel tall.

I’m no more a person when I do well.

I’m no less a person when I fail.

But either way, I’m just me; it’s just me.

So don’t think that I am perfect all of the time.

Surely you don’t expect all my poems to rhyme.

I often succeed, but I also fail time and again.

Please don’t praise or condemn, just be my friend.

Because win or lose, I’m just me, it’s just me.

Proverbs in Light of the Cross; Rebukes

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.. Proverbs 27:5-6 NLT

When I was about 9 or so I was playing soccer (futball) with my neighbor. An argument broke out about what the out of bounds markers were. It must have gotten a little out of hand, because my neighbor’s father came over and started lecturing us about sportsmanship. He was quite stern. So stern, I started thinking to myself, he’s not my dad! He can’t talk to me like that! Who does he think he is?

Later I read where Jesus said in Revelation 3:19 NLT

I correct and discipline everyone I love.

I realized how my neighbor’s father always made me feel like family. I was always over at their house watching soccer games together on TV. They took me to the lake and to the park. I was family! I realized my friend’s dad had a right to rebuke and lecture me because he cared about me!

They say rules without relationship leads to rebellion. Having rules and relationships make us feel loved and wanted. Years ago I went with the church youth group leader and the youth to a baseball game. The game went into extra innings. This was just before everyone and their dog had a cell phone, so I had the teens use the pay phones to call and let their parents know the game was going into extra innings and we would be back later. After several kids completed their calls, a girl called her mother. She hung up, and looked at the rest of the group with disappointment and hurt. It wasn’t that her mom was upset her daughter would be home late. The girl said, “My mom just chewed me out for waking her up.” The other kids looked at each other puzzled. Who chews their kid out for offering accountability? 

While none of the kids were rebuked or disciplined for the game going into extra innings, they were still offering accountability and recognizing boundaries in their relationship with their parents. I think the girl who got chewed out for waking her mother up, would rather have been rebuked for being out too late. At least then she would have known her mother cared!

With loving relationships comes rules, boundaries and accountability, which make us feel safe, secure and loved.

You may study this week’s lesson on Proverbs here.

Proverbs in Light of The Cross; We are the Evil People

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Don’t envy evil people. Proverbs 24:1 NLT

While studying the book of James, I wrote an article entitled, “I am the Rich Person James is Talking to.” The article brings our attention to the fact that, we are not the poor but rather the rich who God is talking about. Likewise we should not assume that others are evil and we are righteous.

Something good happens to us, and we flatter ourselves that God must be with us because we are so righteous. Then something good happens to someone “bad” and we marvel, How did that happen? 

We are forgetting a couple of things. One, we are not so good and righteous ourselves. Secondly, rain and sunshine fall on good and bad alike.

No one is righteous- not even one. Romans 3:10 NLT

Most of us have heard of the book, “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People.” I am sure it is a wonderful book. There is only one problem. There are no good people for bad things to happen to!   

Sometimes the church school where I give Bible studies asks me to substitute teach for the day. One day when I did so I had some trouble with a hyper student. The next time that I subbed, he came up to me and declared that he was not going to cause me any trouble. I could see the sincerity in his eyes, but by lunch time he was being disciplined. Tears were in his eyes. I could sense his frustration of not living up to his promise, and letting me down. While he saw
So, when people ask why bad things happen to good people, I am wondering where all these good people are? Fact is, there are no good people for bad things to happen to. Fact is,good things happen to bad people, like us all the time.himself as a “troubled child” and me as “the righteous Bible teacher” I had to let him know I knew just how he felt! Many times I promised Jesus, I was not going to cause Him any trouble only to be in trouble by lunch time. I too have cried those tears. No, there is none righteous, no, not one.

He [God] gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. Matthew 5:45 NLT

A former pastor decided to go a year without God, and see what happens. A year later he concluded there was no God because He could not see any difference in his life. He forgot one simple thing. While He forgot about God, God did not forget about him! God was still blessing and sustaining him, regardless if he recognized it or not.

Both good and bad things fall on us all, regardless of how good or bad we think we are. I was doing a series of Bible studies with a lady who was extremely bitter towards her ex-husband. She wanted him to die! One day while studying the state of the dead, I told her she did not need to waste time wishing her husband would die. He would die whether she wanted him to or not. We all will. You don’t have to wish for evil to fall on your enemy, because it is going to regardless. And it will happen to you too. Its how we learn. Its how we grow. Its how we wake up and see a God who loves us even though we are not all that, even though we are nothing!

While I have been tempted to see my cause as righteous, and those opposing me as evil, this quote helped me see things as they really are.

 Humans are very seldom either totally sincere or totally hypocritical. Their moods change, their motives are mixed, and they often themselves are quite mistaken as to what their motives are. – C.S. Lewis

All of us who have worked with young people, find that some kids are going to misbehave no matter how much you discipline or bribe them. While we find other kids, who always behave without any bribes or threats. They may even see other kids getting away with bad behavior, but they do not copy them, for the simple reason that is not who they are. They have decided to do what is right simply because it is right. They do not deem themselves more righteous than anyone else, it is just their lives have been touched by God’s amazing grace. Even though they see good and bad falling on obedient and disobedient alike, they choose to obey for one simple reason, Jesus said,

 “If you love me, obey my commandments.” John 14:15 NLT

You can study the Proverbs Sabbath School lessons here.

Proverbs in Light of the Cross; Let God Pay You Back

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Don’t say, “I will get even for this wrong.” Wait for the Lord to handle the matter. Proverbs 20:22 NLT 

A while back, after a friend had wrongfully taken money from me, I was reading in Romans 12:19,

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

While I had read this many times before, this particular time I saw it in a new light. Yes,  it is true that people will hang on their own gallows, Yet rather than just seeing those who have wronged us getting paid back for their wrong, I saw God was telling me, He would repay me what my friend had wrongfully taken.

In Philemon 1:17-18 NLT Paul is pleading for everyone to give Onesimus a second chance in the ministry. Paul tells them,

So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me.  I, PAUL, WRITE THIS WITH MY OWN HAND: I WILL REPAY IT. AND I WON’T MENTION THAT YOU OWE ME YOUR VERY SOUL!

Likewise I heard God telling me in Romans 12, “if your friend has robbed you, don’t worry. I will pay you back what they owe you. Don’t take it out on him. Leave him alone, and let Me make it right.”

That is exactly what happened. Right after I read Romans 12, another friend called who had bought some new furniture and wanted to give me their old furniture even thought it was still in excellent condition. God has continued to bless me in many other ways. God has more than paid me back for what my friend had stolen from  me.

You can study more Proverbs here. 

Proverbs in Light of The Cross; The Clutch Savior

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

You need not be afraid of sudden disaster or the destruction that comes upon the wicked, for the Lord is your security. Proverbs 3:25-26 NLT 

This year with the game on the line the Seattle Seahawks needed a clutch play to win   the Super Bowl. The coach called for a questionable play which resulted in disaster. That’s okay. Its just a silly game.

With retirement on the line, a stockbroker makes a bad investment, costing his client millions. That’s okay. Its only paper.

A doctor misdiagnoses an illness costing his patient his life. Now if you are going to get upset about a bad call, here is something to finally get upset about. But even here all is not lost.

Gethsemane was a trillion times a trillion times bigger than any super bowl. Angels were watching intently as Jesus made His way from the garden to the cross. Satan was breathing down Christ’s neck. If He could get Jesus to back out, hesitate, or just make a mistake it was all over, not just for a football team but for the entire world. At any point, one wrong decision would cost not millions of dollars, but millions and millions of lives. Not just in this life, but eternally. The pressure was on. This was infinitely greater than any two minute drill ever seen in football. There was no margin for error and everything went perfect! Yes everything had to be perfect and everything was!

With the team, no the universe on His back Jesus saved the world! Super bowls, bear markets and bull markets are so anti-climactic after the cross. Even a wrong move by a doctor can still be saved in the hereafter. When Gethsemane and Calvary had their clutch moment like no clutch moment the New  England Patriots, New York Yankees or Manchester United has ever seen, Jesus delivered! He delivered us all from disaster. He delivered us from all our failures when the game was on the line for us. No matter what mistakes we have made in the past, we all, through Christ are more than conquerors! We are eternal champions because of Jesus our clutch Savior!

The angel came not to take the cup from Christ’s hand, but to strengthen Him to drink it, with the assurance of the Father’s love. He came to give power to the divine-human suppliant. He pointed Him to the open heavens, telling Him of the souls that would be saved as the result of His sufferings. He assured Him that His Father is greater and more powerful than Satan, that His death would result in the utter discomfiture of Satan, and that the kingdom of this world would be given to the saints of the Most High. He told Him that He would see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied, for He would see a multitude of the human race saved, eternally saved. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Pages 693-94. 

Proverbs in Light of the Cross; I’m Offended!

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, And contentions are like the bars of a castle. Proverbs 18:19 NKJ

In my personal time with God, I am reading through the New Testament and this morning came to this verse,

And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Matthew 24:10 NKJV

other versions say, “Will turn away from the truth” while the NKJV says, “will be offended.”

This has me wondering,

Are more people leaving the truth because sound theology offends them?

Is our society becoming more easily offended?

Are offended people telling us they are offended as a way to manipulate us, and make us cater to their every whim?

I heard somebody say the other day, “John Doe has not been called me back. I need to find out if he is mad at me so I can apologize.” Seriously? He was ready to apologize regardless if he actually had anything to apologize for. Is that healthy? If someone is mad at us, the politically correct thing to do now is just automatically say you are sorry? Even if you did not do anything wrong or offensive? This has me concerned because I fear we are becoming a society where we assume the offended person is always right.

So if someone is offended because of the music in our church do we automatically apologize and change it? Same for every other issue? By some of the blog posts I have been reading about “Why people no longer go to church” that is kind of the idea I have been getting. I am not saying the church is always right, or there are not some valid points in these type blog posts that we need to carefully consider. That is why I read them.

A while back my parents came to Florida to visit. I took them to the Columbia restaurant, which is a very nice historic Tampa landmark. My mother complained she was cold and asked if they could turn the a/c down. Instead they brought her out a nice blanket and put it around her. She was satisfied and comfortable. The waiter took care of the issue without apologizing for the cold air and then making everyone else endure hotter temperatures, just because one person was “offended” by the cold.

Having worked in the restaurant business I know the “customer is always right.” However, you can’t run a business successfully just catering to the most offended customer. The waiter did his best to accommodate my mother, and my mother was a good sport and easy to get along with instead of acting offended when they did not jump up and change the air just for her.

Are we letting “offended” people manipulate theological as well are political correctness? How far should we go as a church to reaching out to “offended” people? How far should the church go in letting “offended” people manipulate how the church defines and accomplishes its mission?

You can study more proverbs here.

Proverbs in Light of the Cross; Holding a Grudge is no fun!

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends. Proverbs 17:9 NLT

Have you wondered what it would be like if Jesus reacted the way we do to people who mistreat us?

What if Jesus had called Judas a backstabber instead of friend? See Matthew 26:50.

What if Jesus had refused to forgive the repentant thief on the cross? What if, instead of promising to remember Him when He came into His kingdom, Jesus had reacted with, “No way! You were mean to me!” But instead of holding a grudge Love prospered. See Luke 23.

What if after the Resurrection, Jesus had sent a message to His disciples that He would be meeting them in Galilee, except for Peter, because of course He denied Him? Instead He told them tell everyone including Peter I will meet them in Galilee. See Mark 16. 

In all three scenarios Jesus let Love prosper. 1 Corinthians 13:5 NLT tells us love

 is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.

When 1 Corinthians 13 describes love it is describing God for

God is love. 1 John 4:8 NLT 

In the three scenarios we just examined, Jesus gave us an example of love, and how it prospers.

While love prospers us, its no fun to hold a grudge. It is much more fun to forgive and love. Dwelling on love brings healing. Dwelling on other’s faults only brings pain. Jesus knew this. Don’t you find that forgiving and loving people feels a lot better than holding a grudge?

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