Discipling the Nations, or Being Discipled by the Nations?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In the Old Testament God wanted to be Israel’s king, but in 1 Samuel 8:5-7 Israel rejected God as their king and said they wanted to have a king like all the other nations have. Centuries later, Pilate asks the Israelites,

Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.  John 19:15

So for centuries God’s own people were basically saying, “Give us any king but God!”  Instead of discipling the nations, they were discipled by the nations.

God’s own people wanted to be like the other nations so much so that they were willing to deny their Savior so they could fit in with the world. Much of their compromise with the world was to avoid being persecuted or even just laughed at. In John 11:50, Caiaphas suggests getting rid of Jesus so that the whole nation does not perish. What He was suggesting was, getting rid of Jesus’ teachings which, if not done away with would bring down the wrath of Rome. What Caiaphas was forgetting was, if they did away with Jesus then the nation had no reason to exist! What is the point of preserving something if it no longer serves a purpose? Why exist just to exist?

Do we find the same mentality in our day? For example–

Let’s water down our teachings lest someone ridicule us. No reason to invite persecution, we can preserve ourselves by making our teachings look as much like all the other churches as possible.

If we do that, we have defeated our entire purpose of existing as a church! After the reformation, during a religious awakening, God did not bring the Seventh-day Adventist Church forth to blend in and look like all the other churches. Think about it. There were already churches, even Sabbath-keeping churches, that looked like all the other churches. Why would God bring forth a church if it would be like what was already there?

Other churches have a gospel that will prepare you to die, and that is all well and good, but God has brought forth the Seventh-day Adventist Church with a sanctuary message and a gospel that will prepare you to never die! See Malachi 3:1-3. Should we be ashamed of this gospel? Should we try to water it down to look like all the other gospels out there?

Even now Rome is extending her hand to the Protestant churches, saying we all understand salvation by grace instead of works. We all get what Luther was saying now, so let’s all come together. However, you cannot say you understand salvation by grace while observing a man-made day of worship, one that man worked out on his own! When you understand salvation by grace, you rest from your works and man-made religion by resting your faith in the Creator on the day that He made holy.

Years ago I met with another Adventist family in my neighborhood for a Neighborhood Youth Bible Study on Sabbath afternoons. One Sabbath our church was having a “revival” with some Christian rock music. Someone from the church invited me and my youth study group to come. I thought, why not? Instead of a Bible study for this week, let’s just show the kids that we also have fun. After the concert, I asked a teenager in my group how they liked the concert. I was hoping they thought it was really cool. Instead, they looked at me disappointed, and said, “I wish we would have just had the Bible study instead.” Their statement hit me like a two-by-four right between the eyes! I realized then, what was being offered they could find anywhere, but we have a special message that is not just found anywhere.

Instead of blending in we need to stand out. In Samuel’s day Israel had a special message that would have saved the world, but instead of discipling the nations they were discipled by the nations. Likewise, we are told by Jesus to go and make disciples of other nations, not become disciples of other nations.  Caiaphas thought the best way to preserve the church of his day was to get rid of Jesus and His gospel.

The Lord directed Ezekiel in giving His message. And I believe it is still valid today:

“You must give them my messages whether they listen or not. But they won’t listen, for they are completely rebellious!” Ezekiel 2:7 NLT

Today, companies will sometimes change their products to meet consumer demand, but we cannot do that, because the product (the message) is the Lord’s. However, we can learn something else from modern companies. More often they change the packaging of a product to make it more appealing to customers, and that’s what we can and should do in our culture. We need to communicate the same age-old truth in a way that our culture can understand.

I pray that the Lord will give us the wisdom to present His unchanging truth in a way that this generation can understand.

You can study this week’s SS lesson here.

Recipe for Revival Part 3: Seek God

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

While living in Texas, one day as I was grocery shopping, I decided I was tired of bringing the proverbial bachelor dish of canned corn to church potlucks. I wanted to actually make something. I stood there in the middle of the store, with my cart, wondering what a bachelor like me could possibly make.

Enchiladas! Those can’t be too hard.

So I set out on a hunt, looking for things that would go well in an enchilada dish. I came up with enchilada seasoning mix, refried beans, Morningstar Farm meat crumbles, onions and cheese. 1 I then found some enchilada sauce, vegetarian chili and green onions to top it off with. Oh yes, and. of course. corn tortillas.

I felt I had all the right ingredients, but I knew there had to be a process to make it all fall in place. For example, after I filled the tortillas with the mix, and then started to roll them up into an enchilada, they began to break. I found I had to dip the tortillas in hot olive oil before trying to fold them, so that they would fold right. (Now I just lay them out flat and make my enchiladas more like a lasagna.)

I used to mix the seasoning together in one pan, while mixing the beans, veggie meat crumbles, onions and cheese in another pan and then combining them. I would then add the filling in each individual tortilla. Now I just add the fillings into the pan with the seasoning mix, and I lay the tortillas out flat and pour the contents on top kind of like a lasagna, instead of filling each tortilla individually.

I have to say the enchiladas have been a hit. I have had several families with whom I do Bible studies over, and they love them. One family I have been studying with for a while especially loves them. The kids are always asking when I will make them again. I joked with the parents, that in addition to teaching them the Bible, I could also save them all from a burning building and yet at my funeral all they would be talking about would be how I made good enchiladas!

During this experiment I have learned the importance of creating a delicious meal in the proper sequence.

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14

God also gives us a recipe for revival in 2 Chronicles 7:14. He not only gives us the ingredients for the revival, He also shares with us the process. We must humble ourselves before we can pray a prayer which leads to revival. And we must seek God before we can turn from our wicked ways.

It does not do any good to pray if we have not humbled ourselves first. Remember the publican and the Pharisee? They both prayed (Luke 18:10), but the Pharisee did not humble himself. (Luke 18:11-12) The publican humbled himself and went home justified, while the Pharisee did not. (Luke 18:13-14)

It also does no good to try to turn from our wicked ways if we do not first seek God.

Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.  Jeremiah 13:23

No matter how hard we try, we just cannot change ourselves to be “good enough” to come to God.

Because they do not understand this, some confuse the teaching of “holy flesh” with righteousness by faith. They expect to come to a point where they are beyond temptation and cannot sin. Ellen White denounced this teaching in 2 Selected Messages, p. 31, just as Paul denounced it in Romans 7:18.

The doctrine of righteousness by faith does not teach that the flesh becomes holy but that the flesh must be crucified, and we must be emptied of self to allow God to fill us with His righteousness which delivers us from the power of sin. See Galatians 2:20 and Great Controversy, p. 623.  

What is justification by faith? It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself. When men see their own nothingness, they are prepared to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. (Ellen White, The Faith I Live By, p. 111.)

Only God can change our hearts. This is why the church is a hospital for sinners instead of a country club for perfect saints.

Jesus said

“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”  (John 12:32)

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28

We must come to Jesus before we can rest from the works of the flesh. (Also see  Galatians 5:16-24)

Just as recipes have sequences to their ingredients so does a revival and reformation. First we must humble ourselves. Secondly we must pray and seek God’s face. Then and only then can we turn from our wicked ways.

 

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.
  1. I have also experimented with vegan cheese, but let’s not fill the comment section with quotes about cheese. That’s just not what this post is about.

Do I Really Need to Know God’s Will For my Life?

Me preaching at age 5 from a pulpit my father built me when I told him I was going to be a preacher.

Me preaching at age 5 from a pulpit my father built me when I told him I was going to be a preacher.

While many people ask why God does not show them His will for their lives I have come to a simple conclusion. He does not need to.

He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?  Micah 6:8

When I was 4 years old, I remember sitting in church, knowing, not wishing or hoping,knowing I would be preaching the gospel one day. However, as I became older it was unclear to me if that preaching would be as a full time career or volunteer.

Each spring, as high school graduates contemplate their future, I hear the question, “What does God want me to do with my life?”  Regardless if someone is planning on college or going straight into the workforce I sometimes hear them say, “I wish God would tell me what He wants me to do.”

After one year of college I was not sure if I was really “suppose” to be a full time  preacher or gospel worker. I mean I knew I loved Jesus and wanted to share his love with others, but doesn’t every Christian do that? How do I know if I had been called? My life was in a fog.

I started working for a business forms company, and I started dating a young lady who attended a small Adventist Church outside of Tulsa, where I lived. I left the larger church in Tulsa to be with her. Things did not work out between us like I dreamed, and she moved away. Something told me to stay at the small church instead of going back to the larger church. I have to admit I did not know why I was doing what I was doing. I was in a fog. Not long after that, two literature evangelists joined that small church, and invited me to join them. I left the business forms company and became a literature evangelist. Soon afterwards, a new pastor came to our church and asked me to be his Bible Worker. Soon after, he moved to Texas and hired me down there. Several times I thought about finishing college but the time just never seemed right.

After I had been a Bible Worker for a few years in Texas, a friend got me hired on at UPS for some extra income, and so that I would have health benefits for my fiancée and me. Well, once again things did not work out between me and my love, and she politely broke up with me. The next morning when my 2AM alarm went off to go to UPS, my first thought was, why go in? The person I got the job for has left me. For some reason, as much as getting up at 2AM was unappealing, I did it anyway. (Never mind the fact that I also had a broken heart that morning and severe depression.) I was in a fog and had no idea why I was still working at UPS. I had no idea, but God did. A few weeks later, the church I was a Bible Worker for had to let me go due to lack of  funds and other financial obligations. UPS became my only job!

After working my way to supervisor at UPS, my sister sent me a notice of a church in Tampa Florida needing a Bible Worker. I had no interest in moving to Florida. I had sunk my roots in Texas. However, one night I e-mailed my resume to Tampa, just to hush my family who kept asking me about it. I knew by now they had already filled the position. To make a long story short, I got a call from Tampa the next morning, and less than two months later I was a full time Bible Worker in Tampa.

While many people talk of glory days gone by, I must say my current years have been the best years of my life. As I look back I see God has brought me to where He wants me to be without me even knowing what His plan was. God did not tell me why I was staying at that small church after my girlfriend left me, but He knew. He never told me, “stay” but looking back I know now it was His plan. The morning after my fiancée broke up with me, I did not see any reason to go to my second job at UPS at 2AM anymore. I only got the job so she would have benefits. Looking back, I know now, God had me get that job because He knew my Bible Worker job was coming to an end. He never told me that. He didn’t need to. He had it all under control, without me knowing what the plan was, while my head and heart were still in a fog.

Now some people have taken a much easier and shorter route to get to where they are today. They just went to college and straight to their lifetime career. Do I regret taking the longer road? Not at all! Sometimes the shorter, easier route is not the best way to go. Does it sometimes seem like you took the long road to get to a goal in your life? Before you blame yourself for your mistakes, consider, it may have been the exact road God wanted you to take.

“When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Thus the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle.” Exodus 13:17-18 NLT

Do you feel like your head is in a fog now? Do you feel like you have no direction? I say, as long as you do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God, don’t worry about it. You may be exactly where God wants you to be. God  can make it all work out without telling us at all what is going on. I knew at an early age I would be a preacher one day, but did not know exactly how it would all work out, or that I would be preaching and sharing the gospel as a full time paid Bible Worker, with the title “lay pastor” tagged on. I also never knew, while sitting in the church pew, at 4 years old, in the 1960′s, that sharing the gospel would also include writing articles for a Sabbath School Blog on something called the Internet! Its not exactly how I pictured it while I sat in church as a little boy thinking about it. But God worked it all out on His own. And while it is not exactly how I imagined it would be, it is exceedingly more wonderful than I ever dreamed it could be!

While my head was in a fog, God led the way. I did not need to know if God wanted me to be a full time paid gospel worker or just a faithful Christian in the secular workforce. All I needed, was to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God. And that my friend, you can do in any line of work, wherever you are.

You can study this week’s SS lesson here.

Want to Get Away?

I am writing tonight from the slightly overcast but still beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In the United States, we have an airline, called Southwest, who ask on their commercials, “Want to get away?” In each commercial someone will find themselves in an embarrassing situation, where they would gladly fly to the other side of the world and hide under a rock. The airline then suggests, getting on their plane to get away from it all.

In Mark 5 we read about a man who was in a very embarrassing situation before his conversion. When I tell you everything that happened with this man, you will agree with me, that after his conversion, he would gladly hop on an airplane to get away. However, Jesus sends him on a mission trip-back home!

For sake of time, I am going to highlight the story but you can read it for yourself here.

Sadly, demon activity has not changed much over the years. This man is hanging out in tombs, obsessed with death, much like those controlled by demons today. Jesus is life, and when we don’t have Jesus, all that’s left is death. He refused to be “tamed”, “taught” or “controlled.” The exact words may vary based on your favorite translation, but the idea is the same. He was not going to be bound by Biblical standards, like so many today, who do not want to hear what is right and wrong.

He cut himself. Today many cut themselves trying to find healing, not realizing, Jesus was already cut and wounded to bring them healing. The demoniac was tormented by the presence of Jesus. Today, an unconverted person does not want to be where Jesus can be found. They want nothing to do with Bible study, prayer meeting or family worship.

None of these demonic demonstrations phase Jesus. He heals the man and he becomes converted.  In verse 15 it tells us after his conversion, the man is clothed and in his right mind. Luke 8 tells us this man was naked at the beginning of the story. Mark tells us at the end that after the conversion he is clothed. Another sign of demonic activity is wanting to dress improperly or not at all. When we become converted we dress appropriately.

Now that the man is converted we see that he wants to be with Jesus. He tells Him in verse 18 that he wants to be with Jesus. Now I am imagining that if I had been seen by my  community, running around naked in a cemetery, that I would now like to jump on a Southwest airlines jet, or any jet for that matter and get away!  I think a nice mission trip to the other side of the planet is now in order, so I can preach the gospel about as far away as I can get from the people who saw me running around a cemetery naked, cutting myself.  But in verse 19 Jesus sends him on a mission trip-back home! Jesus tells the man to go back home and tell what wonderful things Jesus has done for him. Friend, if Jesus has done wonderful things for you, if He really has changed your life, you don’t need to get away. While foreign mission trips are fun, fruitful and rewarding, chances are Jesus may have a mission field for you right in your very home. Jesus doesn’t send everyone to the other side of the planet, as much as we may sometimes like that idea, especially after an embarrassing moment when we want to get away. Jesus may have a mission trip planned for you right in your very home.  The people saw the change in this man. So much so that in verse 15 it says it scared them or made them afraid! It must have been a real shock when the reality of what Jesus had done in this man’s life was seen.

If you run to the other side of the world people won’t see the change. If Jesus has changed your life, you don’t need to be afraid. You can proudly go back home, clothed with the righteousness of Christ and in your right mind, and tell them what wonderful things Jesus has done for you.

To go to the Sabbath School Network click here. To download the SS lessons to your cell phone click here.

Glimpses of Our God; God as Artist

This week’s SS lesson portrays God as an Artist in various ways.  Once while taking a walk near my apartment in Benbrook, Texas I saw a patch of Bluebonnets along with some Indian Paintbrushes. Unfortunately someone had mixed a little garbage in with the beautiful flowers. Still, I thought to myself, even in a world marred by sin, God still preserves His beauty amongst all the litter and garbage. “The whole earth is full of his glory.” Isaiah 6:3

As beautiful as a sunset on the sea may be, God is just too glorious and beautiful for that one scene to express His majestic splendor. Same with an enormous snow capped mountain, or valley filled with Bluebonnets and Indian Paint Brushes.

Please allow me to share just a morsel of the beauty I have captured with my camera over the last few years.

^This picture was taken last week near the Skyway Bridge near St.Petersburg, Florida. I had hoped to catch a cruise ship sailing under the bridge, but God blessed me with this scene instead.

This was taken at St, Pete Beach around 2007. I love the sunsets on the beach. As the sun sets on the beach, an erie calm and mysterious quietness seems to settle on everyone as they watch the spectacular sunset. Most people want a clear sky to watch the sunset, but often the couds reflect some interesting colors, adding to the beauty. Sunsets are my favorite photo subjects, but I have learned to take pictrures of other things too, after friends back home have asked me, “Are sunset pictures the only thing you can take pictures of?”

I took this pictue at Pine Lake Retreat, In north central Florida, back in 2007. I took several pictures for a friend back in Texas who loves horses. I call this picture, “More Than Friends.” God can express the beauty of love through animals as well as people.

In 2006 I went on a mission trip to Peru where I was a part of a large team holding meetings all over Chiclayo. All together we had over a thousand baptisms. Later we toured Machu Picchu. This is a picture I took from the bus as we were still climbing the mountain.  Every part of the world has its own beauty. Again, God is too great of an artist to be able to portray His greatness in one scene or one work of art.

God’s best artwork is with His people. While we are still in Peru, I want you to meet Juan Carlos and his family. Juan, seated on your right, was 18 years old in this picture. He had cancer, to which he had already lost one leg. Still, once hearing about our meetings, He walked, on crutches and one leg, over a mile each way to get to the meetings we were having. I might add these roads were full of pot holes and probably not the easiest to maneuver with crutches. He gave his heart to Jesus and was baptized before dying shortly after we left. I can’t wait to see Juan again in heaven! Juan and all the people we met in Peru were beautiful people. The people in the church were amazing! When we arrived from the bus to our Hotel, we were greeted my several Pathfinders welcoming us on a school night. I knew they did not have much, and I offered one who could speak English, money so they could go out and get some ice cream, but she said they did not want money for ice cream, they were just very excited we were in their city to tell people about Jesus. What really impressed me was that after flying from the United States to Peru, the same church, or Body of Christ, that bid us farewell from Florida, was there to welcome us when we got to Peru. God is everywhere! No matter where you go God is already there waiting on you! I thought the people in America were wonderful, but just like God has His beauty in nature all around the world, He also has his beautiful people all over the world. When I came to Peru I did not meet any strangers, only hundreds of friends I just hadn’t met yet!

Back in Florida now, God has created some beautiful Jacaranda trees. Mostly seen in Central and South America, but a few are found in South Tampa.

I took this picture recently at a friend’s house where I have had a few Bible studies. God’s artwork is seen in both the catepilar and butterfly, illustrating God’s artistic nature in re-creating us and making us all new creatures.

At my friend’s home, I also found this female cardinal guarding her nest.

I found the father not far away. I think cardinals are one of the most beauitful birds God has made, even though I don’t appreciate what they did to my Texas Team in the world series last year!

Even though I have shown my friends back home, that I can take pictures of more than just sunsets, still they are my favorite artwork of God. This was taken last Christmas season at Marco Island.

Key West Christmas season before last.

Naples

St. Pete

St. Pete

Clearwater, Florida

Glimpses of Our God; The Promise of Prayer

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.  Isaiah 65:24

In the summer of 1991 I was enjoying my first full year of Literature Evangelism, as I was selling books all over Oklahoma and even the surrounding states. So far I was leading my conference in sales and hours worked. However, around Oklahoma camp meeting time I hit a slump. I mean a real slump. Three weeks without a single sale! Suddenly my perspective changed. I started doubting my calling. Earlier, I had read in Colporter Ministry that this work was second to none.

Not wanting to doubt the spirit of prophecy I began to rationalize. Maybe it was a great work back before radio and 3ABN. It may have been out there already, but in 1991 I had yet to hear of the Internet. Still, I figured TV and radio were getting the word out now so maybe the literature work was obsolete.

I had a lead card for a Baptist grade school near Tahlequah Oklahoma, around 50 miles from where I lived in Tulsa at the time. I set up an appointment and set out to Eastern Oklahoma. On my way I began to pray. I remember the exact words I prayed. “Lord if this is still an important work for this time please let me know.” I drove across the hills and curves of Highway 51 while my wandered off from my prayer. I arrived at the little school and met the principal in his office. He liked the books and ordered them! My first sale in 3 weeks! As I was writing up the order form, he was writing out the check. As he wrote, he paused, looked at me and said, “This is an important work you are doing.” I looked up from y order form and smiled, but it did not dawn on me that my prayer was being answered, until he paused again, and said, “And you know, especially for this time.” That’s when it dawned on me. Wow! He repeated back to me the exact same words I had prayed in my mind alone in my car!

I drove back to Tulsa  very excited, not just about a sale or even that my prayer was answered, but just the fact that I knew in my heart God heard me! He heard me and repeated back to me the very words I had prayed to Him. This is not the only time this happened. Earlier, I was praying for the Lord to work on a friends heart who stopped attending church. Every night I would pray alone in my apartment, “Lord please send you Holy Spirit to work on Jill’s heart.” After a few weeks, Jill called me out of the blue and I met her at a restaurant. During dinner Jill says, I have something to say but you may think its funny. I assured her, that  she could tell me and I would not laugh. She then told me, “I feel like the Holy Spirit has been working on my heart.” Wow! Jill was repeating back to me the exact same words of my prayer!

That was over 20 years ago, and since then God has answered even more remarkable prayers. I hope to go into those one day when the time is right. Each time, what amazes me is just the fact that I know the Creator and King of the universe is listening to my prayer! He does not merely hear me, He listens to me. Friend He does the same for you. Here is one of my favorite quotes on prayer, found on page 100 of Steps to Christ:

Keep your 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 wants of His children. “The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” James 5:11. His heart of love is touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything 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 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 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 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.

Click here to study this week’s SS lesson. Click here to download the lessons to your phone.

Galatians; The Unity in the Gospel

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

As this week’s SS lesson speaks about unity in the gospel, two quotes from the Spirit of Prophecy come to mind. (Download SS Lesson App to your cell phone.)

Jesus prayed that His followers might be one; but we are not to sacrifice the truth in order to secure this union, for we are to be sanctified through the truth. Here is the foundation of all true peace. Human wisdom would change all this, pronouncing this basis too narrow. Men would try to effect unity through concession to popular opinion, through compromise with the world, a sacrifice of vital godliness. But truth is God’s basis for the unity of His people.  {Our High Calling 329.3} 

When seeking unity we must use Jesus as the compass and not popular opinion. As we all draw closer to Jesus we will be drawn closer to each other as well. And besides, what is the point of unity if it does not involve Jesus Who is the truth? The Jews were united in crucifying Jesus, but that unity did not profit them. Lets pray we never make the same mistake of denying or Crucifying Truth and Jesus in order to preserve unity. Such unity is self defeating.

In Wesley’s time, as in all ages of the church’s history, men of different gifts performed their appointed work. They did not harmonize upon every point of doctrine, but all were moved by the Spirit of God, and united in the absorbing aim to win souls to Christ. {The Great Controversy p. 257}

What this passage tells me is that unity comes, not from trying to win people to my point of view, but by pointing people to Christ. In the first district I ever worked in as a gospel evangelist, in northern Oklahoma, we had a lady who was very conservative and had strong views. One day she was telling me about a man in her church, and his liberal views, which she did not agree with. She was speaking very seriously about how wrong she thought he was. She told me she was very worried about the man. Then she paused and smiled, and told me, with a laugh in her voice, “And I know he is very worried about me!” This told me, that while she “knew” this man was wrong, she did understand that this man was just as sure of his opinions as she was of hers, and that her way was not the only way of looking at things.

When we hear different opinions, let’s not be afraid of being wrong or corrected. Let’s study it out in the Word of God. I once heard of a Sabbath School class, where a visitor expressed a different opinion about the Sabbath and he was quickly told by the teacher to be quiet. I have often wondered why the teacher did that. Was the teacher  afraid of being wrong? Was he afraid of being corrected if he was wrong? There is nothing wrong with expressing opposing views as long as we let God’s Word have the final say.

Galatians; An Overview

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

To read the book of Galatians click here.  To read this week’s SS lesson click here.

For the Sabbath School lesson phone app. click here.

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. Galatians 1:6-7

In Paul’s day people were already perverting the gospel. How do you pervert the gospel? Put self in it.

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.  Galatians 2:20

Notice the pure gospel that Paul preaches has no self in it. He preaches a “Not I but Christ” gospel. So many people pervert the gospel by adding self. I have heard parents tell their kids, “Do the best you can do, and then when you have done your best Jesus will help you with the rest.” That is a me plus Christ gospel. The gospel is not me plus Christ, it is not I but Christ. Zero me. 100% Christ.

While at an Oklahoma Adventist Camp meeting, ,many moons ago, I heard a minister tell a story. Sorry I don’t remember his name, but I will never forget the story. It went like this. A man was on his way to a breakfast diner. There was one parking space left open by the front door. The man started for the space when he saw a man coming the other way who wanted the same space. The first man’s first reaction was to give it the gas and take the closest spot before the other man got there. But he had yielded himself to Christ that morning, so he let off the gas, let the other guy take the spot while he drove farther down and parked. When he got inside, the second man thanked him for letting him have the closer spot. The first man said, “That was not me.” The second man said well then who was it? The first man said, “It was Jesus. I would have taken the closer parking space!” So you see, whenever we do something right, we can be sure of one thing, it was not me. It was Jesus. Not I but Christ.

We also pervert the gospel when we add self effort, which is legalism by the way, and we also add legalism when we replace God’s law with manmade laws. We also pervert the gospel when we add lies. For example, John 3:16 says the unbeliever will perish, but many tell the lie that they will be tormented for all eternity instead. Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death, not eternal torment in hell.

We also pervert the gospel when we alter our preaching or worship services to please the ego of man. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Gal 2:16

Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Galatians 3:3

These verses make it clear we are not saved by the works of the flesh but by the faith of Jesus. Notice it is not even our own faith that saves us. It is the faith of Jesus!

For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. Galatians 5:6

Faith does not do away with good works, faith works. It works by love. The legalistic motivation of hoping for a reward or avoiding punishment are gone. We work, but not to get to heaven or stay out of hell. We work because we love Jesus because He first loved us!

 [This] I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.  Galatians 5:16-17

The spirit gives us victory over the flesh. The flesh is legalism. Some have the idea that legalism is where you keep God’s law. The law is a part of the gospel too. The difference is how it is achieved. With legalism we keep the law by our own power for our own glory. With the gospel we keep the law by God’s power for His glory.

Galatians 4 made this clear. For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he [who was] of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman [was] by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.  Galatians 4:22-24

God promised Abraham a son. All Abraham had to do was believe and the son would be born. Some people have told me Abraham still had to do something  as this was not a virgin birth. Think about it. Sara’s womb was dead, so it might as well have been a virgin birth. All God needed was Abraham to trust His promise. This is God’s covenant, where we trust His promises. Abraham though set out to make his own covenant based on his own effort and too Hagar to wife. Abraham had to be circumcised so he could cast away the confidence he had in his own flesh. He trusted his own flesh to do that which God promised to do for and through him. ‘

Notice, the end result is still a child being born. The difference is Abraham’s way had self in it. When Abraham learned to trust God’s promise there was fruit and the fruit was real. So today, when we cast away the confidence in our own flesh, we will have fruit. Some think that when we get rid of legalism that we get rid of standards. The gospel does not get rid of standards. It helps us reach those standards, by trusting God instead of the works of the flesh.

And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.  Galatians 5:24-26

Again, with the gospel we put away the effort and pride of the flesh and we reap the fruit of the work of the Spirit for the glory of God.

But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. Galatians 6:14

Worship in the Psalms

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Friday’s section of this week’s SS lesson asks, “What are some of your own favorite Psalms? What do you like about them, and what do they reveal to you about the Lord?” So here are three of my favorites and what they mean to me.

To me, studying the life of David is like studying human nature. Here is a man whose aims were high, but still succumbed to his humanity. Isn’t that all of us? We learn some very valuable lessons in the life of David. Many people want to point out that David made some terrible mistakes, and God forgave him which is true. However let’s not use that as a license to sin, or as an object lesson that God condones sin.  Fact is, while David did receive forgiveness for his grievous sins, the lessons for us are, it still would have been much better for David and his family (nation too) if David had never committed those sins in the first place. Another very important lesson is, we do not see David going back and making the same mistakes over and over again! Here is the balance of grace in David’s life. He received forgiveness for sins and the power to overcome those sins in the future.

I believe one of the reasons we do not see David going back again and again making the same mistakes, is because he trusted God’s grace to change him instead of promising to change himself. As I read David’s Psalm of repentance in chapter 51, I see David declaring his dependence on God’s grace to overcome instead of promising to overcome on his own. I see him asking God to give him a clean heart and to purify him instead of trying to make himself better. I also love how David declares that God will never despise a heart that is broken because of how its sin has hurt God. I would like to add, that while David makes it so clear that God can give victory over sin, that if we fall again we do not need to lose hope. I believe God will never despise a broken heart, no matter how many times that heart has been broken by sin before!

Read Psalms 51 in your favorite language and version here.

Psalm 51

1Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

2Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

3For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

4Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

5Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

6Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

8Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.

9Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

11Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

12Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

13Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

14Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.

15O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.

16For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

18Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.

19Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.

I love the first few verses of Psalms 103 as they give hope and encouragement in every situation. I often share this verse with people in the hospital and find it is one of their favorites too!

Read Psalms 103 in your favorite language and version here.

Psalms 103:1-5

1Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

2Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:

3Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;

4Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;

5Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalms 23 is packed with comforting theology. For those who are looking for good sound pastoral leadership in the world today, you will be pleased to know that the Lord Himself wants to be your pastor! A shepherd is a pastor, and the Spanish version literal reads that God is our pastor. Throughout the years of my ministry I have experienced God preparing a banquet feast for me time and again in the presence of my enemies, who actually are not my personal enemies at all, but rather God’s enemies! I love the fact that God’s goodness and mercy are with me all the days of my life! Not just on the days I feel good or think everything is going my way, but all the days of my life!

Read Psalms 23 in your favorite language and version here.

Psalm 23

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Worship: The Sabbath

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

As we study this week’s SS lesson, we realize we all have our own ideas about Sabbath and worship. That is good! God has too many wonderful ideas to pack into any one human brain. Sometimes our ideas come from tradition instead of the Bible. We need to be careful to follow the Bible. Sometimes people will throw away human tradition which is good, but then they also throw away Bible teachings with it. We must be careful to save the Bible standard of worship while not making human tradition law. In pursuit of this goal, here are some blog posts that I hope you find helpful in following the Bible and your own convictions, placed in your heart not by man, but by the Holy Spirit.

Sabbath Observance myth Busters #1 Sabbath Afternoon Naps.

Sabbath Observance Myth Busters #2 Saved By Grace

Preparation Day: The Other Forgotten Day.

First Day of the Week Bible Texts.

The Sabbath in Light of the Cross.

El Sabado