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.

“If The President Does it, Then it is not Illegal.” Really?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Sunday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson states, “In some cultures, there is a tendency to distrust and challenge leadership; in others, to blindly submit to it. How has your own culture’s attitude toward authority impacted the church in your area?”

In an interview with David Frost, Richard Nixon, a former United States President, forced to resign due to a scandal, defended himself by saying, “If the President does it, then it is not illegal.” This bold statement shocked David Frost, and every other competent thinker! I believe, in the United States, people really started to question their leaders after Nixon’s downfall.

I believe we keep a healthy balance of respect for leadership, without blind submission, when we ask for accountability and checks and balances. In the United States we have a constitution the President must hold to. The Constitution also declares who ultimately has the authority. It reads, “We the people.” Not “me the president” or “me Thomas Jefferson, or James Madison, or Ronald Regan or Barak Obama.” The power and authority of the constitution comes from ‘The People!” Therefore our president is not above the law.

In the church we have the Scriptures as our sole authority, and our leaders must be held accountable. Also the church as a body has authority,

”God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority.” –Last Day Events, page 56.

Just like in the United States, the President is not above the people, likewise church leaders are not above the church.

“The church is built upon Christ as its foundation; it is to obey Christ as its head. It is not to depend upon man, or be controlled by man. Many claim that a position of trust in the church gives them authority to dictate what other men shall believe and what they shall do. This claim God does not sanction. …. Upon no finite being can we depend for guidance. The Rock of faith is the living presence of Christ in the church. Upon this the weakest may depend, and those who think themselves the strongest will prove to be the weakest, unless they make Christ their efficiency. “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.” The Lord “is the Rock, His work is perfect.” “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” Jeremiah 17:5; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 2:12.- Desire of Ages, Page 414.

Many years ago, I heard the testimony of a church leader, defending himself for some shady deals, saying his boss told him to do it, therefore he had no choice but to obey his boss who had “authority.” I am sure Joab was thinking the same thing when King David told him to put Uriah on the front lines of the war. Please read what God’s messenger has to say about Joab’s rationale.

“And Joab, whose allegiance had been given to the king rather than to God, transgressed God’s law because the king commanded it.  David’s power had been given him by God, but to be exercised only in harmony with the divine law. When he commanded that which was contrary to God’s law, it became sin to obey. “The powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1), but we are not to obey them contrary to God’s law. The apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, sets forth the principle by which we should be governed. He says, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1.  –Patriarchs and Prophets, Page 719.

We need to be respectful of authority, but remember where authority ultimately comes from. And while respecting those in leadership, and even being in leadership, we must remember we are accountable to the Scriptures and God’s church, of which Christ is the Head.

I would also like to share a parting thought. In my years of Gospel Work around the country, I have met people who are afraid to speak up in board meetings or Church business meetings, because they feel they are too young or poor, and their influence would not be felt. I have also observed people abusing their age or money to hurt others. So this is what I say to all. No matter how young, old, rich or poor you are, you need to speak your mind in these meetings. And, no matter how young, old rich or poor you are, you need to be nice when you do. Everyone has a right to speak, and everyone has a responsibility to be nice when they do so.

1st and 2nd Thessalonians: The Messiah Part 2

I am writing tonight from the dark and stormy Tampa Bay area.

Several years ago, I was showing a set of Christian books to a lady. There were several hardbound books in the set, which also included beautiful art work. The lady loved the books, and asked how much they were. I told her, “Four-twenty-nine.” She was delighted, and exclaimed, “Is that all!” I said, “Yes.” I  went on to explain the payment plans, of cash, credit card, or down payment of 15% and then 12 monthly payments. She looked confused, and then disappointed when she realized, that by four-twenty-nine I meant $429.00 and not $4.29.

The lady was like most all of us. We hear what we want to hear. We read the Old Testament Prophecies that depict Jesus’ sacrifice, like Isaiah 53, and wonder why the Jews did not understand, that the Messiah was coming to die for our sin and not set up an earthly kingdom. The Jews were looking for a Savior from Roman tyranny because they read  prophecies,  such as Isaiah 52:13, “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.” And also Isaiah 9:7, “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.” They thought Jesus would come and set up an earthly kingdom. The prophecy in Daniel 2, and rock carved out without man’s hands, should have made clear to them, what Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36

Even the disciples misunderstood and heard only what they wanted to hear as well. Jesus told them in Matthew 16 amongst other places, that He would be crucified, but Peter and the others simply refused to hear of it. The weekend of the crucifixion they were devastated. It was a great disappointment. There was nothing wrong with the prophecies. The prophets were right on. The Jews, the disciples, the lady I was trying to sell  books to were all just like us. We hear what we want to hear. Crucifixion weekend was not the last time God’s church would endure a great disappointment. In 1844 another group of people, misunderstood Daniel. Daniel was right on. Again God’s Church just heard what it wanted to hear, this time regarding the cleansing of the sanctuary in Daniel 8:14. They thought the sanctuary was the world and Jesus was coming back to cleanse the earth with fire and create the New Earth. Nowhere in the Bible does it call the sanctuary the earth. Also we know Jesus said nobody would know the day nor the hour when He returns. Some scoff at them for not knowing better, but are we any better than they are? Do we not make the same mistakes? For example, When asked for a sign from the Jews, Jesus gave them the sign of Jonah. Jesus said, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matthew 12:40 For years now, people have been trying to fit Jesus in the tomb for three nights. To do this some have even backed up the crucifixion to Wednesday while others explain that part of a day counts as the whole day, but that still does not put Jesus in the tomb for three nights. The confusion is quite simple. Nowhere in the Bible does it say the tomb is the heart of the earth. When Jesus said, “For God so loved the world,” He wasn’t talking about the dirt. He was talking about the people. When Jesus said the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, He was not talking about the dirt, He was talking about the people. Take a day for a year in Bible Prophecy and for three days you have Jesus ministering in the heart of the earth, where the population was, not in the dirt. The sign of Jonah, was simply that while Gentiles, publicans, and sinners were believing in Jesus, the Jews who should have believed were not. Just like the story of Jonah where a wicked city like Nineveh believes, but the prophet Jonah who should have believed and obeyed did not want to.

The sign of Jonah is just one example of how today, we may get the time right but the place wrong. In 1844 they had the time right but the place wrong, and in Jesus’ time, many had the time of the Messiah right  from the book of Daniel, but they had the place wrong. Jesus’ kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. We look forward to a New Heaven and a New Earth.

Jeremiah 23:6 promises to save the kingdom of Judah. “In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”  . This led the people to dream of a kingdom prosperous and above all others. However the text also promised righteousness for the people.  It seems the people were not so interested in the righteousness as they were in the prosperity. That is just like us today. In Matthew 6:33 Jesus says,” But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Many today are seeking the kingdom and all those other things that will be added to us, but how many of us are seeking His righteousness? How many of us today are taking up our cross daily and following Him? How many of us just want the prosperity? Even if we are seeking a heavenly kingdom above an earthly kingdom, we are still just being materialistic, unless we are really seeking His righteousness.   Could we today be like the children of Abraham, dreaming only of prosperity, and forgetting that God once asked father Abraham to sacrifice his son and future prosperity?

When Paul was reasoning with the Jews, showing them that Jesus was the Messiah, he had his work cut out for him.

Just a side note before I go. Last year many people were making fun of and ridiculing a famous pastor in the United States for saying that Jesus was coming in April of 2011. I heard many Adventists making fun of him. Seeing how we make mistakes too, in our understanding, and how we have had great disappointments ourselves, should we be making fun of people when they make mistakes? I don’t think so. At the crucifixion the disciples were devastated and hurting. In 1844 God’s people were devastated and hurting. God looked past the mistakes of His people and saw the pain. We should be just as sympathetic. Whether it is towards the Jews 2,000 years ago, or a mistaken preacher today, let’s all take heed lest we fall.

Check out the current Sabbath School study guide here.

Glimpses Of Our God; The Triune God

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area where the Bucs play.

Out of all the things I forgot while in school, sometimes I wonder what it was that made me remember the things that I do. I remember sitting in my 7th (or 8th?) grade English class at Tulsa Adventist Academy. The teacher, Miss Childers, asked if the word “crowd” was plural or singular. Since a crowd is a lot of people, I answered “plural”.  Miss Childers told me she understood why I said that, but she went on to explain that while there may be many people in the crowd, it is still just one crowd, and therefore is singular.

That was over thirty years ago, and if I posted all my memories from all my English classes onto Google, it may use up 1KB. So why do I still remember such a mundane conversation that took place over thirty years ago? Maybe because that simple explanation by Miss Childers helps me understand the Trinity. While I go to a football game with over 70,000 people (Okay a Tampa Bay Bucs game with only 56,000 people) we are still just one crowd. That helped me understand how God can be singular while still being three Beings. Just like over 500 members make up one congress, likewise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit make up One Godhead.

Gospel Workers, page 315, tells us that every truth from Genesis to Revelation needs to be presented in the light of the cross and God’s love. So how does the Trinity help us understand the cross and God’s love? 1 John 4:8 tells us that God is love. At the cross we see that love is putting other people first, when we think of their needs and wants instead of our own. Now I don’t know when it was or how long ago it was, but logic tells me there had to be a time when nothing else existed except God. Now if God had only been one Being, at that point in time, He could not have been love, because love is thinking of others instead of yourself, and if God had only been One Being, He would have had nobody else to think about besides Himself. God has always been love, because even before anything else existed at all, God was three beings, each One always thinking about the needs and wants of the Other.

By the way, the Godhead is the First Family of the universe. They are an example of what our families are to be. One family, with several members, each one always thinking about the needs and how to please the others in the family. Likewise, our families can be love just like the First Family is love.

To study this week’s SS lesson click here. To download the SS lesson app to your phone click here.