Tag: Sabbath School Lessons

The Wind and Waves Get us to Where we Need to be

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I am writing today from the beautiful but sometimes stormy Tampa Bay area.

Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Mark 4:38-40 NLT

 

Besides Jesus and Jonah, I don’t know of too many people who take naps on boats during chaotic storms. I think I would be freaking out like the disciples. 18 year old Ellen Harmon found herself in the middle of storm on a steamboat in the north Atlantic. The boat rocked and tossed one lady out of her bed. Another lady screamed in terror, before asking Ellen if she was not terrified as well.

I told her I had made Christ my refuge, and if my work was done, I might as well lie in the bottom of the ocean as in any other place; but if my work was not done, all the waters of the ocean could not drown me. My trust was in God, that he would bring us safe to land if it was for his glory. –Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church,  Volume 1, Page 81.

Young Ellen could have been terrified like the disciples were during their storm, but instead she rested her faith in the love of Jesus. She was not afraid. She had faith that God would be what was best.

One day, while helping out at the church school where I give Bible studies, I was sharing the story of Jesus calming the storm. When I got to the end of the story where the water was all calm and peaceful, a third-grade boy raised his hand and asked, “How is the boat going to get anywhere now?” He was pointing out the obvious, that wind and waves are what carry a sail boat. Without any wind you can’t get anywhere! (We’re talking about boats in Jesus’ day.)

It was persecution that got the church to move and spread out, sharing the gospel around the world. Many people have been “forced” to pursue their dream careers after losing their mundane but “secure” jobs. Once, while riding my bicycle, I got caught in a torrential downpour. I put my cell phone in my pocket, but that was not enough. When I took it to the repair shop, because it quit working, water gushed out when they opened it up. However, they told me I was eligible for a free upgrade. I walked out of the store with a much nicer and newer phone, with nothing out of my pocket, thanks to the storm. A very simple illustration of how a storm got me to a better place, as I don’t have space to tell of bigger blessings from even greater storms.

At the end of the storm Jesus asked the disciples why they were afraid and had no faith. I always assumed He meant why they had no faith He could calm the storm, but fact is, that is exactly what they were asking Him to do. Maybe He was asking them why they needed Him to calm the storm? While some storms are scarier than others is it possible they all get us to where we need to be? Will we really get anywhere in life if Jesus calms every storm that comes our way? Are there times we should let the storm rage, and do like 18 year old Ellen, and rest our faith in Jesus, just like Jesus was resting in His Father’s love during His storm? (Don’t ask me why Jonah was resting during his storm-I have no idea!)  Sometimes it takes more faith to not ask for a miracle. With God’s love we can face the roughest storms and not be afraid. That’s what 18 year old Ellen Harmon did. I firmly believe, if Ellen Harmon had been in the boat during the storm with Jesus and the disciples, she would have been resting with Jesus, unafraid and full of faith in God’s love amidst the tremendous waves, instead of freaking out with the disciples.

Sometimes He calms the storm. Sometimes He calms His child.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Why Was Jesus Baptized?

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Did Jesus need to be baptized? Was He just setting a good example for us to follow, or was He actually repenting?

Suppose you are eating at your favorite restaurant, and the waiter spills the drinks all over you. I guarantee that the manager is going to come out and apologize all over the place. Why? The manager did not spill the drinks on you. No, but he belongs to a corporation that did. He is apologizing on behalf of the restaurant he represents. So with this mindset, we can say that Jesus was repenting when He was baptized. Not for His sins. He had no sin. But by making Himself one with humanity He was baptized and repented on behalf of humanity.

When Jesus came up out of the water the Father was heard saying,

This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Matthew 3:17 NKJV

Keep in mind, when the Father was saying He was well pleased with His Son, His Son was representing the entire human race. So by accepting His Son, He was accepting the entire human race!

He made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:6 NKJV

But the good news does not end there. What Jesus did for us He also wants to do through us.

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. Romans 6:4-6 NKJV

By baptism we die to self just like Jesus died to self. As Jesus was raised from the grave we are raised to a new life, and now Paul says that God,

raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6 NKJV

There’s a story of a pastor who was waiting for a train at the station, and a man came up to him offering him some Christian literature. The pastor smelled alcohol on his breath, and asked him if he was drinking. The man lowered his head and said Yes. The pastor asked him how he could be witnessing while drinking. The man said, “Jesus lived a perfect life and died for me, so I don’t have to.” The pastor asked, “So Jesus overcame sin so you don’t have to? And died for you so you don’t have to die?” The man said, “Yes!” The pastor replied, “Then Jesus also went back up to heaven so you don’t have to!”

The gospel truth is Jesus died for us so we can die with Him. Jesus lived a victorious life so we can live a victorious life by abiding in Him. And Jesus ascended into heaven so we too can be with Him where He is.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

Who Was King David’s Worst Enemy?

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I trust in you, my God! Do not let me be disgraced, or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat. Psalms 25:2 NLT

David prayed for deliverance from his enemies. He also prayed they would not disgrace him. David faced Goliath, but Goliath did not turn out to be too much of an enemy as he fell by the first stone David threw. King Saul tried to destroy David too, but he was not much of an enemy to David after all, since he fell on his own sword. David’s own son Absalom tried to rise up against David, but he ended up hanging himself in a tree.

We have met the enemy and they are us. -Walt Kelly 1960’s

Then one day, while the war is going well and David’s throne secure, David saw a woman bathing outside on a flat roof. Well, David more than saw a woman bathing. We all see things we shouldn’t see sometimes, and hopefully we look away. David did not look away. He saw, and then he watched. Next thing we know, David hasdone something Goliath, Saul and Absalom could never do – disgrace David!

David was worried about his enemies, but in the end the only person who ever got to defeat David was David himself!

David defeated Goliath head to head, or at least slingshot to head, but the other cases were a little more interesting. Saul was afraid of David, but David did Saul no harm. Saul ended up falling on his own sword. Saul should have been more afraid of Saul, and David should have been more afraid of David, instead of each one being afraid of the other one. They both did themselves in, not each other. David did no harm to Absalom. Absalom hung himself in a tree. So Absalom was his own worst enemy. Saul was Saul’s worst enemy, and David was David’s worst enemy.

We are told that “We have far more to fear from within than from without.” –Ellen White, Last Day Events, p.156. 1

All the more reason to pray:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalms 139:23-24 NLT

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

Why God Needed to Make Peace With Heaven

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. Colossians 1:19-20 NLT

Why did God need to make peace with heaven? This verse right here may help us understand just how real the war in heaven was. Even after Lucifer was cast out, those who remained may have still had their doubts. Did God really love them, or did Lucifer have some good points about God just being a tyrant? On earth Eve was convinced God did not care for her and she needed to eat the fruit and disobey, if she really wanted to be happy. While all this was going on, is it possible some of the remaining angels in heaven still had some questions? Have you ever been loyal to a boss not because you thought he was fair, but because you did not see any way out? So out of fear you remained loyal to him, still wishing you weren’t in that situation? If so, what did it take for you to reconcile the situation so you could have peace at work and not just conformity?

When the Son of God died on the cross He was not just atoning for Eve taking a piece of fruit she was told not to. Eve’s disobedience was a symptom of her doubts. The Cross of Christ did not just take care of the symptoms of sin. The Cross took care of sin itself! The Cross removed all doubt about God’s love. All questions in heaven and earth are answered at the cross! There can be conformity while rebellion is still in the heart. The cross goes way beyond bringing us into conformity and outward obedience. The cross replaces our thoughts of rebellion with peaceful thoughts towards God.

That which alone can effectually restrain from sin in this world of darkness, will prevent sin in heaven. The significance of the death of Christ will be seen by saints and angels. Fallen men could not have a home in the paradise of God without the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Shall we not then exalt the cross of Christ? The angels ascribe honor and glory to Christ, for even they are not secure except by looking to the sufferings of the Son of God. It is through the efficacy of the cross that the angels of heaven are guarded from apostasy. Without the cross they would be no more secure against evil than were the angels before the fall of Satan. Angelic perfection failed in heaven. Human perfection failed in Eden, the paradise of bliss. All who wish for security in earth or heaven must look to the Lamb of God.-Ellen White, Signs of the Times, December 30, 1889

Some have the idea that once we get to heaven, God will flip a little switch in the back of our heads that makes us stop sinning. After all, we will be in heaven and so we automatically won’t sin right? Wait. Where did sin begin? Heaven! The reason why humans and angels will not sin, is the same reason why God reconciled both heaven and earth to Himself. The cross of Jesus. The cross cures the root cause of sin which is doubting God’s love. The reason there will be no sin in heaven is not due to a mechanical correction that the flip of a switch will fix. The reason there will be no sin in heaven will be because the cross will cure humans and angels alike from ever doubting God’s love, and thinking we need anything God has not given us. There will be no reason to rebel. Rules without relationship causes rebellion. The love of Christ on the cross removes our fear of God, so we are not afraid to have an intimate relationship with Him. With our relationship cured we will have no reason to rebel. We won’t be conformists. We will be free thinking moral agents who are at peace with God because God is love.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

God’s Idea of Repentance

Heron Channelside (5)
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. Genesis 6:5-6

Here we see God’s idea of repentance. When God repented that He had made man on earth, He wiped man out with a flood and started all over with Noah’s family. God’s example of repentance includes change. God repented by changing what He had done. The American Sign Language sign for change is making the “c” sign and twisting your hands signaling a change. The sign for repentance is the same motion, but with the “R” sign. So when a deaf person (or hearing for that matter) sees the word “repentance,” they see “change.”

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day that I think says it best.

“Repentance is not when you cry. It is when you change.”

Unfortunately we can’t change ourselves.

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

Fortunately God can change us!

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

A while back I was convicted that I was drinking too many sodas. I prayed about it. I started drinking a lot more water, and then one day decided to “splurge” and have a Pepsi. That was a waste of $1.06, because after two sips it tasted so sickening sweet, I dumped the rest out and refilled the cup with water. God changed and converted my taste buds when I was totally powerless.

The repentant thief on the cross never actually said he was sorry (at least there is no record of it). He repented by changing his attitude and behavior towards Jesus. He called Him Lord and professed his faith in Jesus and the resurrection, while everyone else was still mocking Him.

God made no mistakes to be repented of, but in the story of the flood we see that when God changed something it was called repenting.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

Michael, My Savior and Rescuer

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Recently I was studying with a man who believed Jesus was a really good person, even a savior who died for us, but he did not believe Jesus was God. I shared with him the importance of knowing Jesus was actually God. I asked him, “if your wife was trapped inside a burning building, which would convince her more that you loved her? Sending a fireman in to rescue her or going in yourself to rescue her?” He replied, “Going in myself.”

God the Son shows His love for us by dying Himself to rescue us.

In Daniel 10, Gabriel is in a fierce spiritual battle when finally,

Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me. Daniel 10:13 NKJV

In Gabriel’s time of need did God send someone else to rescue Gabriel, or did He demonstrate His love by rescuing Daniel Himself?

Its easy for some to conclude, on surface reading, that Michael is just another angel. But as we look deeper, we see that Michael is actually the Son of God, humanly named Jesus coming to our rescue.

Archangel is a compound of two Greek words: “arche” which means beginning or commencement, and “aggelos” which means angel or messenger. The word arche is also closely related to the word “archo,” which means “to be first” or to “reign (rule) over.” Thus the “Archangel” is the One who began (created) the angels and reigns over them. That would be none other than Christ. -Joe Gresham, Bible Studies Made Easy 

So the archangel is over the created angels (In Revelation 3:14 Jesus says He is the beginning of creation. “Arche” in Greek means “beginning. Jesus is the archangel the Creator of the angels.)  and not one of the created angels. By the way, the name Michael means “One like God” or There is no one else like God. Michael could not possible be any other than Jesus, as Lucifer, a created angel’s claim to be like God was blasphemy and the cause of his fall. See Isaiah 14:14. In Revelation 19:10 John starts to worship an angel and the angel tells him not to. Obviously this was a created angel who realized there was no way he, a created being could be equal with God. Earlier in Joshua 5 Joshua meets an angel who accepts his worship. Obviously this would be Michael the archangel, the Son of God, Who can accept being worshiped.

So how do we know in the Bible that Michael is the Son of God-now known as Jesus?

Daniel called Michael a chief prince. Who is our chief prince?

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given….. And His name will be called…. Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 NKJV

 

Who did Jude 1:9 say raises the dead?

Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. Jude 1:9

When Jesus comes, who raises the dead?

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 1 Thessalonians 4:16

It is the Lord Himself who has the voice of the archangel. The same voice that Jesus said would raise the dead.

Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. John 5:25

While Michael rescued Daniel during his time of need, who will rescue us during our time of trouble?

And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation [even] to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake…..Daniel 12:1-2

Michael, the Son of God Himself will come to our rescue! How assuring to know that God loves us too much to let someone else save and rescue us! He rescues us Himself! Yes God also send angels both terrestrial and celestial to help us in our time of needs, but He also loves us so much He will come rescue us Himself!

Daniel 10 gives me comfort that in my time of need, when I feel I am being overcome by Satan, I can cry out God, “Send Michael!” And Michael, the Only one like Unto God, Yes God Himself will rescue me! Are you in the middle of a spiritual warfare now, and feel like you are losing the battle? Don’t wait. Call for Michael now!

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

Once Saved Always Saved?

Heron Channelside (1)
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A married couple in West Texas had some sad news as they welcomed me in to our weekly Bible study. We sat down at the table and they told me their neighbor’s son had just been shot and killed in another city in a shoot-out with police, after being caught in an armed robbery. They explained he had been living a life of drugs and crime his entire adult life, and it finally caught up with him and cost him his life. The wife then paused in the middle of her tragic saga and, foldingher hands beneath her face, she looked towards heaven, and said, “But thank God when he was twelve, he was baptized. So we know we will see him in heaven!”

I was at a loss for words. I said nothing that night, because it just didn’t seem like the appropriate time for a sermon. Those who teach “once saved,” do not realize how legalistic that is. They were baptized – the legal paper work was completed – and so they are in. However doesn’t Wednesdays section of this week’s lesson tell us something? If once saved always saved were true, then how did Lucifer lose heaven?

I have also heard people say “Once a child of God, always a child of God.” But my Bible tells me,

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.Romans 8:14 NKJV

That would lead me to believe those who aren’t led by the Spirit are not the sons of God. Didn’t Jesus tell some Pharisees in John 8 that their father was the devil? Granted, I did not know the young man’s heart. I am not the judge. God alone will separate the wheat from the tares and His children from those who are not. However, I need to examine my life to be sure I am indeed still a child of God today.

There is another comforting passage that has misconstrued by those teaching once saved always saved:

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. John 10:27-28 NKJV

They say Jesus gives us eternal life, and we can never be snatched out of His hand. That is truly a wonderful promise! However, notice that He gives eternal life to those who are following Him. Furthermore, even though no one can snatch us out of His hand, we are still always free to go our own way. We were not created as robots, and we never will be robots. We will always have free choice. When we are sealed, we do not lose the power of choice, but rather, our choice seals our destiny. Those who suffer from the plagues in Revelation 16 are lost because they do not repent, and not because God is no longer forgiving. Free choice works both ways when the angel says,

He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still. Revelation 22:11 NKJV

I was baptized when I was seven years old, but every morning I have a choice to make. I can follow Jesus or I can walk away. If I walk away it no longer matters that I was baptized when I was seven. As a matter of fact even though my baptism was way back in another century, if a ten-year-old was baptized yesterday and chooses to follow Jesus today, while I choose to do my own thing, then the ten-year-old becomes the more mature Christian between the two of us.

The story the couple shared with me that night was very sad. I do not want that story to be my story. I chose to follow Jesus was I was seven. I also choose to follow Him right now. I hope you choose Jesus too, each and every day!

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.