I am Living in my Last Days

DT Tampa july 4

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In 1979 when I was 14, I received a letter from the Tulsa Roughnecks major league soccer (football) team, asking me to renew my season tickets for the 1980 season. I could not believe my eyes. There it was “1980” in print! Growing up Seventh-day Adventist, I was told we were in the last days. The fuel crisis was going to bring an economic disaster, which would cause a national Sunday law. I never imagined the world lasting beyond the 70’s. Hence why it shocked me to see “1980” in print. I was sure the world would not last all the way until 1980.

Spoiler alert! 

It did.

Now we are well into the 21st century. By the way I love telling kids stories about growing up back in the nineteen hundreds. But I digress.

Meanwhile I have grieved the deaths of several loved ones, who I was sure would still be alive when Jesus returned. Back in the 1960’s and 70’s an Adventist child needn’t worry about parents growing old and dying, since we were always told Jesus would be coming back within the next five years.

Now I am closer to retirement than I am my high school graduation. Funny, in grade school we thought it would be forever until we graduated. Now its been forever since we graduated!

Still my faith in Jesus’ return has never wavered. I don’t feel Jesus has let me down, as He never promised to come back within the next five years. And Jesus never told my pastors and Bible teachers to tell me He was coming back within five years. That’s all on them, bless their hearts, they meant well!

Even though I always imagined myself hiding in the mountains during the time of trouble, when Jesus comes, I am now faced with the probability of my own death. I may be one of those resurrected when Jesus comes. People tell me I am still young, but I have done the math. If I live as long as my mother lived, I have 28 years left. I am not even promised that long, but based on life expectancy, my time on earth is probably less than 30 years. I am living in my last days!

whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. James 4:14 NKJV

Regardless if Jesus comes in the next 5 years or 200 years, I am looking at 30 years max that I have to endure this old earth. When I die my wait will be over. The next thing I know Jesus will becoming! 30 years is nothing! I am living in my last days! 

So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 NKJV

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

When Prayer Doesn’t Move Mountains

Tulsa By River

I am writing today from beautiful Tulsa Oklahoma.

“For most of us the prayer in Gethsemane is the only model. Removing mountains can wait.” -C.S. Lewis

I was told a couple Fridays ago that my mother, my biggest champion and one of the biggest prayer warriors in my ministry had less than 30 days to live. She had been in poor health for a long while. Actually, in 2004 she was given 2-3 years to live, and here it was 12 years later. My mother, who lived 1,200 miles away was fading in and out of consciousness, mostly out. I had to get out there to see her! Last Sabbath (I am writing this Sabbath June 18, 2016) I was crying and pleading with God to give me at least one more time to tell her that I loved her. Of course I know we will always want one more time. A million emotions and memories were flooding through my soul, as I cried out to God, “One more time God! One more time!” 

That afternoon, after fellowship lunch at church, I took off by myself to one of my mother’s favorite beaches, where she visited me in Florida. While there, my sister called, and told me mother was awake if I wanted to call her. I called her hospital room, and we talked for a few minutes as I stood on mother’s favorite beach, watching the waves she loved so much. I told her I loved her a hundred times. She told me she loved me. I promised I was coming out as soon as I could. She said “I hope so.” The conversation seemed timeless if you know what I mean. It didn’t seem like our last conversation. It seemed like one we would have had during any period of life.

I thank God for that answered prayer, because mom then faded back into unconsciousness, never to return. I flew out to see her, and said goodbye and that I loved her, but she could not respond. I arrived at the hospital Tuesday morning at 2Am. By 6:30AM she was gone. The 30 days were more like just 4.

The Sunday after the Sabbath I talked to mom, right before flying out, I had a real Gethsemane with God. I was crying. No I was wailing! I am sure my neighbors heard. I pleaded with God to save my mother! I did not want to lose her! I told God I believed He could heal her. He can move mountains! But in my Gethsemane, no mountains were moved.

I looked to Jesus in His Gethsemane. No mountains were moved there either. Jesus simply surrendered to His Father’s will. I thought about His mother, later standing at the cross, having to submit her will too. Now remember, Jesus and God the Father were in on the plan of Him being crucified from the very start, but I don’t know that poor Mary was ever given a choice. She was a willing, submissive participant the entire time. I tried to imagine what was going on in her heart and soul during her mother/son separation. Then I realized, as ugly and painful as it was, little did Mary realize at the cross, just how close the resurrection was. Just right around the corner actually!

Life goes by so fast. Things like graduations, weddings, retirement parties, and yes the death of a loved one all come way too soon it seems. We expect these things, we just don’t expect them to come so fast, even though we have been told a thousand times how short life is and how quickly it all goes by.

Even though my mother lived over 80 years, I still can’t believe her life is already over. Yes, we have been promised the second coming of Jesus and the resurrection for years, maybe to the point where we get lulled to sleep by it. But I believe just like every other major event in life, that sneaks up on us, once the second coming and resurrection actually happen, we all, saved and unsaved, will be thinking, “Already?! Wow that was quick!” And of course, after all, didn’t Jesus say,

Surely I am coming quickly. Revelation 22:20

When Jesus comes, mountains will be moved out of their places. For now, I pray the prayer of Gethsemane, “Not my will, Your will be done.” I realize when Mary said goodbye to Jesus she did not realize how close she already was to seeing His resurrection. I am not a date and time setter. I realize I will have to miss my mother more than the three days Mary missed Jesus, but I do know this with all my heart; no matter the pain, no matter the sorrow, no matter the wait, when Jesus comes, we will all sigh with a great joyful, “Wow! Already?!” 

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

We Are Not Their Only Opportunity for Salvation

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14 NKJV

While working as a Bible Worker and lay pastor in a small church in west Texas, several of the members told me they hoped I would stay there forever, because they could not survive without me. I was young and stupid enough to believe them. Fact is though, the church membership more than doubled, but not while I was there, but after I left! And, the people who came in after I left were not people I studied with. They were people who never heard of me and didn’t know I existed.

While taking the gospel and the salvation of souls seriously, I have learned not to take myself so seriously. I can rejoice even when someone rejects me because I know I presented them with an opportunity to make a choice. While I want everyone to choose Jesus I know not everyone will. Still, once the gospel has gone into all the world, and that last decision has been made for or against Jesus then He will come. Every decision for or against Jesus is one decision closer to the second coming. This is why its important to spread the gospel even if people do not accept it. Either way we hasten the second coming by just being the angel that takes the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people allowing people the opportunity to choose. So don’t be too disheartened when your missionary project does not yield the results you hoped for. It was successful in giving people an opportunity to choose either way.

But we are just that. An opportunity. Not The opportunity. Let’s not take ourselves so seriously. People can reject us and still accept Jesus. What people think about me is extremely trivial in the scheme of the great controversy. So don’t lose heart or take slights and rejections to heart. Just because someone says no to me, does not mean they will say no to the next person God sends. There is still hope.

After leaving Texas, and working in Florida as a Bible Worker for a few years, a pastor friend, from Texas called me. He asked how many baptisms my church had so far. I told him 90, with 48 of those being in the current year.

“Wonderful!” He exclaimed.

“And how many of those were from your work?” He asked.

“None of them!” I said.

Yup. After a church in Texas more than doubling its membership AFTER I left, I finally learned a thing or two.

“Occupy Till I Come”

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I was running my shift at UPS early one morning, trying to beat the clock, as we loaded the package cars, and prepared them for their busy day. In the midst of our hustle and bustle an alarm sounded. A sorter spotted flames on a conveyor belt. We safely evacuated the building and made sure everyone was okay. The fire was actually extinguished before the distant sirens arrived. Later, I recollected how we were focused on getting our job done, in time for all the brown package cars to deliver their thousands of packages, all over a waking city, preparing itself for business. In a split second, our important task meant nothing and we were all prepared to quickly walk away and let the building, and all of our business burn to the ground if need be.

We were dedicated to our jobs at UPS but we still had enough sense to know when to walk away. I think this is the kind of balance we need when we hear the words,

Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.Matthew 24:42

and,

Occupy till I come. Luke 19:13

Some people complain that our church is not preaching enough about the second coming. They complain we just preach about day to day living. Yet these sermons are still very Biblical as Jesus taught us about day to day living. He did not teach us to sit around waiting for Him to come. He also taught us how to live in the here and now. The Bible says, “occupy” (do business in the NKJV) until He comes.

While our church is focused on the prophecies of the second coming, and rightfully so, we must also remember those words in Luke, “Occupy till I come.” Remember the purpose of the gospel is to make people whole. This means more than just telling people what the mark of the beast is, when we can’t buy and sell. It also means teaching people Biblical stewardship and money management, while we occupy and can buy and sell. Making people whole means more than just telling them dead people are dead. It means helping them to become whole again as they deal with grief day to day until the resurrection.

Making people whole involves more than just telling people adultery is wrong. It also means ministering to and healing those scarred by divorce. A friend who had just joined the Adventist church, had emotional scars from divorce. He told me he was glad he had found the Adventist doctrines, but complained that there was nothing in our church to help with the daily pain of divorce. He went to a divorce recovery workshop the local Methodist church shared with the community. He asked me why we had nothing like that in our church.

Is it the job of other churches to help with day to day life while the Adventist church just tells people about the mark of the beast and second coming? No! The first angel in Revelation 14 carries the everlasting gospel to the entire world. The everlasting gospel is a holistic gospel designed to make the entire person whole, body, mind and soul. I am very proud that today I work with the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist church, which like many other Adventist churches today, is ministering to the entire person. Like many other Adventist churches, my local church has “Life groups” on Wednesday nights. On Wednesday nights people come to our church and can join a prophecy seminar I am leading out in, or they can choose between a griefshare group, parenting group, divorce recovery group and spiritual gifts workshop. We have had many workshops ranging from finances to sexual purity.

The Adventist Church proclaims a holistic gospel which brings healing in our every day lives while preparing for the second coming.

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

Jesus Won’t Forget to Pick You up

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A family I had studied with called me late one afternoon, asking me to meet them ASAP at the hospital. Their mother was dying, and they wanted prayer. Now I believe that God can hear your prayers for your sick loved one, just as easily as He can hear an elder’s prayer. Nevertheless, I met the family in ICU. They told me they were praying for a miracle. One son told me they knew God was going to work a miracle for his mother. He explained that God was going to raise her up right now, or He would heal her, like He did Lazarus, by letting her sleep and then waking her up at the resurrection. Either way it would be a miracle.

We admire people who have the faith to heal a loved one, but what about having enough faith to just let them go to sleep? The son had faith in the miracle of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves.  Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.

A few days later his mother fell asleep in Jesus, and his family is encouraging each other with the promises of the greatest miracle yet to come.

There are more Bible prophecies about the Second Coming than any other event. While many prophecies have already been fulfilled, we are certain the prophecies pertaining to the second coming are just as sure.

I understand that while we sleep, when we enter the REM (rapid eye movement) stage, we are actually very close to death. Yet each morning when we wake up, we don’t realize the miracle that has just taken place. I understand there are many mysteries about sleep that medical science is still researching. Could it be that sleep is just our “rehearsal” for the resurrection? That God is just getting us used to falling asleep and trusting Him to wake us up when it is time?

I walked into the church lobby after worship service to find a very distraught elderly lady. She has Alzheimer’s disease, and had forgotten who had driven her to church. She was afraid she was going to be left. I put my arm around her and assured her that even though she may have forgotten who had taken her to church, whoever they were, they had not forgotten her. I told her we all loved her and would not leave her alone. She began to cry like a little girl, as she told me “Thank you very much!” Sure enough her ride found her. She had forgotten them, but they remembered her.

This elderly lady felt like a little child left all alone. When we face the grave of a loved one, or even our own, do we feel like a little child left all alone? We needn’t be afraid. Our Ride to heaven will remember us even if in death we forget Him as we sleep. The same God who wakes you up every morning, the same God who remembered to create you and remembered to redeem you on the cross, is the same God responsible for waking you up when He comes again. Don’t worry, even when in death you forget Him, He won’t forget you!

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

From Disappointment to Discovery!

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue, and while he thought he was finding a short cut to India what he found was a whole “new world.” Now granted, the millions of people already living there already knew about it, and there is evidence of visitors well before Columbus. Still that does not change the point of this story. The fact is that while Columbus’ calculations were off, and his trip a “disappointment” as far as finding a new way to India, he still discovered for himself a whole new world!

In 1844 a group of Bible students also had some miscalculations, but even though they had a disappointment they still discovered something very new to them.

So I went to the angel and told him to give me the small scroll. “Yes, take it and eat it,” he said. “It will be sweet as honey in your mouth, but it will turn sour in your stomach!” So I took the small scroll from the hand of the angel, and I ate it! It was sweet in my mouth, but when I swallowed it, it turned sour in my stomach.Revelation 10:9-10

Seventh-day Adventists understand this passage to be referring to the great disappointment in 1844, when the Millerites expected Jesus to come. The scroll is the book of Daniel which contains the 2300 day prophecy, and the sweetness was the expectation of his coming in 1844 and the bitterness is the disappointment.

Some believe that the seven thunders (see Revelation 10:4) actually told John about the great disappointment, but when he went to write it he was told not to. If you go with this theory, then you understand that some things must be learned through experience. Sometimes that is the best way to learn, and it is not that God had not already told us that we do not know the day, or the hour of the second coming. There was enough Biblical evidence already in the Scriptures to prevent the great disappointment from happening. Sometimes we have to take our lumps for not appreciating what Biblical evidence is already there, and learn from experience.

Remembering that there were no chapter divisions in the original Scriptures, the first two verses of Revelation 11 give us a strong clue as to what actually happened in 1844.

Then I was given a measuring stick, and I was told, “Go and measure the Temple of God and the altar, and count the number of worshipers.  But do not measure the outer courtyard, for it has been turned over to the nations. Revelation 11:1-2 NLT

What these Bible students discovered after their great disappointment was the wonderful truth about the investigative judgment and cleansing of the sanctuary!

Still, that did not take away the sting of the great disappointment.

Here is the account of one of the Millerites, Hiram Edson of that great disappointment when Jesus did not return in October 22, 1844:

“Our fondest hopes and expectations were blasted, and such a spirit of weeping came over us as I never experienced before. It seemed that the loss of all earthly friends could have been no comparison. We wept, and wept, till the day dawn.” -Christ and His sanctuary, Page 4.

Many people mocked Hiram and his friends while they were already grieving. Does that make any sense to you? Making fun of hurting people, just because they made an honest mistake in misunderstanding the Bible?

1844 was not the first time such a thing happened. After the crucifixion, God’s true followers, the disciples, were severely disappointed. Of course their disappointment came from their misunderstanding of Jesus’ clear words. Still pain is pain, and there was no reason to make fun of them while they were hurting. And their mistake in misunderstanding and not comprehending the Scriptures regarding the cross, did not stop them from still being true disciples of Jesus! They were still God’s people even though they still had a lot to learn, some of which they would have to learn by going through bitter disappointments, and even what they (both the disciples in A.D. 31 and A.D. 1844) perceived as public embarrassment, in addition to grief.

I want to make two points here.

  1.  We should never make fun or mock people who misunderstand the Scriptures. Since 1844 other people have set dates for the second coming and been sorely disappointed, and I hear Adventists joking, poking fun at them for not realizing that Jesus says nobody knows the day of the hour of His return. So they should have known better, so should William Miller and the Bible students of his day. Still, why are some Christians, more eager to mock people’s pain rather than sympathize with them! Telling someone “You should have known better” does not ease the pain. It only makes it worse. When the shepherd finds the lost sheep, and binds up his wounds, I don’t recall the shepherd ever telling the sheep “Hey you made a mistake! This is your own fault!” Such words would bring no healing for the wounds. We are told to cry with those who cry, instead of making fun of them.
  2. Hiram and his friends were heartbroken when Jesus did not return. He wrote, “our fondest hopes were blasted.”Is Jesus coming soon your fondest hope? Would you rather be with Jesus than with all your friends on earth? Dare, I ask, are some of us even relieved that Jesus has not come yet? Do some of us find a delay, whether real or apparent, as no disappointment whatsoever?  Is the second coming of Jesus your fondest hope, or are you relieved instead of disappointed that He has not come yet?

On the cross, there was a thief who was mocking Jesus and making fun of all of His claims. This thief was belligerent and would have just as easily mocked Jesus’ followers. But somewhere in the midst of that dark afternoon, this thief stopped mocking Jesus and started looking at his own heart. When he did, an amazing revival took place. Maybe it would be a good idea for us, instead of mocking the claims and theology of others, to take a good look at our own hearts, and our own attitudes about meeting Jesus one day soon.

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

Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 2

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking,  “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem.  He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,  are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’ Matthew 2:1-6 NLT

Strange that the priests and teachers knew the Scriptures concerning the advent of the Messiah, yet they were were not leading out in a revival preparing for His coming. They were totally silent about it until asked by the gentiles who seemed more aware and interested than they were.

Why do you think the wise men from the east were more vocal and active concerning Christ’s coming than the priests and teachers were? Maybe the the priests and teachers did not want to offend the Romans or their king, and stir up persecution? Maybe they did not want the people to be worshiping anyone besides themselves? Or maybe even though they were religious leaders, they were just too caught up with their standing and position in the world to care about a Savior coming to set men free from sin. Earlier the Jewish priests and teachers were wanting a king like all the other nations around them. Later, when Pilate sought to free Jesus, the priests and teachers were claiming that they had no kind but the worldly Roman king. Were the priests and teachers so caught up in trying to make their nation like the nations around them that they forgot the whole reason why they existed?

The New Testament teaches the priesthood of all believers. As a priest of Christ are you preparing others for His second coming? If not, could any of these reasons be keeping you back? Let’s not be so enthralled with everything around us that we forget why we exist.

When I was a child a lady from my church was in the hospital. She said later, that the pastor from the church where she worked in the nursery on Sundays came to visit her, but her own pastor never came to see her. So it was, at the birth of Christ, nobody from His own church came to welcome Him.