The Innkeeper Did Have Room For Jesus!

Christmas Tree Cerca Pier

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

When the story of the birth of Jesus is told, the innkeeper often gets a bum wrap. How could you not have room for a pregnant lady? How could you not have room for the Son of God! Wait a minute. The innkeeper did have room for a pregnant lady. He did have room for the Son of God. He had room for them in the barn. It was a long day, with many weary travelers coming up to the counter needing lodging, and he did his best to please everybody. Then at the end of the day comes Mary and Joseph, and the innkeeper replies, “Well, here is what’s left.”

Can you identify with the innkeeper? At the end of a long day do you fall on your pillow, and send up a brief weak prayer before falling asleep? It’s not that you forgot God. You didn’t. It’s not that you had no room for Him in your day. You did. Just like the innkeeper had a barn left over for Jesus, you had a brief, weak prayer left over for Jesus.

Not too terribly long before the birth of Jesus God spoke through Malachi.

Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible.

 And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts. Malachi 1:7-8

Many of us, at least in North America can be materialistic. We think of wealth in terms of money or possessions. Yet Solomon says,

“a living dog is better than a dead lion.” Ecclesiastes 9:4

A lion may be the king of the jungle but a living dog is better off than a dead king because he is still alive, and still has time. Therefore time is the most valuable and precious gift you can give. When you give someone your time you are literally giving them your life! Also, when we give time to God or the church we are often saving the church money. A modest family in a large church may not be able to give $1,000.00 a month to the church, but when they volunteer to clean the church, so the church does not have to hire someone, they are literally donating $1,000.00 a month by saving the church that money.

Even though time is the most precious gift we can give, we need to ask ourselves if we are really giving the best of our possessions. Am I really giving, when I give clothes to the community service center that I would otherwise throw away? Remember, what you do to the least of the brethren you are doing for Jesus. Is Jesus worth more than my throw away clothes? Then so is my brother. Am I giving the best I have, or like the innkeeper, just whatever is left?

Am I giving my best effort in both my time and money to save the lost? Jesus gave His life to save the vilest sinner. If the vilest sinner is worth the life of God’s own son, wouldn’t the vilest sinner also be worth my life as well? After Jesus gave everything He had to save sinners, would I not be considering my life of more value than His, if I do not give my life as well?

Am I giving my best for Jesus or like the innkeeper, am I just giving whatever is left? Am I giving the world my best, or just whatever is left over?

So as we evaluate the story of Jesus’ birth we see the innkeeper did indeed have room for Jesus. However since it wasn’t the room Jesus deserved, we pretty much consider it having no room at all! Maybe instead of picking on the innkeeper, we should evaluate our own lives and our own gifts.  Sure, like the innkeeper we all are giving something, but are we giving what is left over, or are we giving Him our best?

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Oh, and let me be the first to wish you a merry Christmas this year! 

The Vision of Hope for Laodicea

I am writing today from beautiful South Florida. Here is a picture I took years ago of the sunrise at Daytona Beach.

I am writing today from beautiful South Florida. Here is a picture I took years ago of the sunrise at Daytona Beach.

In the late fall of 2006 I bought a brand new car. A few days later, or nights actually, I lay in my bed wide awake. I glanced at the clock as it read 4 AM. Then the idea hit me. If I jump in my brand-new car right now, I can travel across Florida to the east coast in time to watch the sun rise. I had seen several sunsets on the west coast where I live, so wouldn’t it be novel to say I have seen the sun rise on one coast and then watch it set on the other?

Ah the joys of bachelor life! Moments later I was in my car headed down I-4 towards Daytona Beach. For my devotional and prayer time I popped a CD of the book of Revelation in my brand new car’s CD player. It was 2006 and finally I had a car that played CDs. So there I was in the middle of Florida in the middle of the night,  listening to the letters to the seven churches. Finally John got to the letter to Laodicea. Jesus had nothing good at all to say about this last day church. He started out with compliments to all the other churches, and then would gradually work around to a few things they could work on. However when He got to the last day church there were no compliments to be handed out. Jesus quickly got to the crux of His message when He said,

“And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” Revelation 3:17 NLT

Not exactly a “way to go!” good ole boy pat on the back. Maybe Jesus was not passing out any compliments to this church because it had already become delusional by complimenting itself over nothing?

I remember playing on a soccer team in an intramural league at Southern Adventist University. I loved soccer and this was the first time I got to play in an organized league. For years I had watched professionals put the ball in the back of the net and then heard the crowd go wild with excitement. My dream was to do the same. In my first game, we were down 5-0 and finally that moment came. I put the ball in the back of the net, and I was ready to celebrate! My celebration quickly ended when the team captain reminded me that we were still down 4 goals and I needed to get my head back in the game and stop celebrating!

Could Jesus’ message be just that? Could He be telling us, it’s not time celebrate just yet? We still have more victories to gain, and we need to keep our head in the game? (I understand this is real life and not a game at all!)

Just because we may consider ourselves the remnant church, it in no way means we have arrived or are perfect in any way. Remnant simply means “like the original.” The original church was never perfect. As Seventh-day Adventists we pride ourselves that we are the remnant church coming out of the dark ages of the Roman church. Wait a minute! While the Romans crucified Jesus, they only did it at the insistence and demands of God’s commandment-keeping people! Just because they were God’s people and had the truth did not mean they were perfect or had arrived, and much less should be patting each other on the back like good ole boys!

But I digress. So there I was gliding down the highway in my brand new car listening to Jesus telling His church how wretched they were, when suddenly He surprised me! In Revelation 3:21 NLT just after telling the church how wretched it was, He said,

Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.”

There in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere I began to grasp what was going on. Jesus was not kicking this self-righteous wretched group of people to the curb! He totally intends for this self-righteous, miserable, poor blind and spiritually naked people to be victorious just as He was victorious over sin! Jesus is not giving up! There is hope! More than giving us hope, while Jesus is telling us our current condition He is also telling us what He intends for the end result to be. Victory! And not just any victory but the same victory He experienced.

As a man He supplicated the throne of God till His humanity was charged with a heavenly current that should connect humanity with divinity. Through continual communion He received life from God, that He might impart life to the world. His experience is to be ours.  –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 363 (Emphasis mine.)

While Jesus asked every church to overcome and be victorious, He asks the last day church, the one experiencing the cleansing of the sanctuary and investigative judgment, to do something He asked of no other church, to be victorious just as He was victorious. Jesus knew the church could never accomplish this in its legalistic state, so He tells the church:

I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. Revelation 3:19 NLT

Why is Jesus telling us to buy white garments when salvation is free? Jesus must be talking about the bartering system. If we trade in our filthy self-righteous robes and delusional pride, He will give us in return His white garments. If we stop trying to win over sin in our own power and for our own pride and glory, He will let us overcome in His own power and for His own glory!

There in the car I realized that the same Jesus who told us how miserable we are is also telling us what we can become and will become according to His plan.

I have been studying with a large family here in Florida for several years. When we first began studying together, the youngest was about six, and she had a children’s picture Bible, as she could not read yet. When we would look up verses, of course, all she had was pictures, but we would help her find the right picture and humor her by telling her that was the correct “verse.” Well that was several years ago, and I had pretty much forgotten about those days. That is until a few weeks ago, while we were studying, she volunteered to read a verse, which was nothing new to her now, but as she was reading a particular passage as fluently as anyone, she seemed to bring alive the rich poetic beauty  of the classical King James Version. As she finished reading, my mind flashed back for a moment to the days when she brought her picture Bible to the studies because she could not read. Those days are long gone! So far gone I had almost completely forgotten about them.

Whatever your condition is now it does not always have to be that way. Just as Jesus changed my young friend’s reading experience, Jesus is ready to change your spiritual experience and give you the same victorious experience He has!

There are those who have known the pardoning love of Christ and who really desire to be children of God, yet they realize that their character is imperfect, their life faulty, and they are ready to doubt whether their hearts have been renewed by the Holy Spirit. To such I would say, Do not draw back in despair. We shall often have to bow down and weep at the feet of Jesus because of our shortcomings and mistakes, but we are not to be discouraged. Even if we are overcome by the enemy, we are not cast off, not forsaken and rejected of God. No; Christ is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Said the beloved John, “These things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2:1. And do not forget the words of Christ, “The Father Himself loveth you.” John 16:27. He desires to restore you to Himself, to see His own purity and holiness reflected in you. And if you will but yield yourself to Him, He that hath begun a good work in you will carry it forward to the day of Jesus Christ. Pray more fervently; believe more fully. As we come to distrust our own power, let us trust the power of our Redeemer, and we shall praise Him who is the health of our countenance.  –Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Page 64.  

Giants, Grasshoppers and Reality

Clear Water Moon

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Reality is 90% perception, or so they say. I don’t know who comes up with these statistics, but it makes a lot of sense to me. When I was in sales, I led my district one year, but also went through a three week drought with no sales at all. So what was my reality? Was I a good salesman who had a bad drought or was I a bad salesman who just happened to get lucky?

Since the dynamics of a family are so different between, first born, middle and youngest child, and then take into account the gender difference, two siblings can grow up in the same family, but since their perceptions are different, it is not even like growing up in the same family! Each child perceives and experiences the family differently to the extent that as far as perception goes, it’s not even the same family. You and I can watch the same football game, but if I am watching behind the goal, and you are sitting on the sideline near the center we are going to have a totally different experience and perception of the same game.

Satan well knows how perception affects our picture of reality. So he likes to play little mind games. A while back during a Bible study I mentioned, sometimes I am tempted to think that I care more about people than they care about me. My Bible student quickly responded, “Me too!” Then he paused, scratched his chin, and added, “I bet Satan tries to make everyone feel that way.” I agreed with my Bible student.

Let’s look at how Satan played mind games with the Israelites. Look at how they perceived themselves after spying out the Promised Land which had already been…. well, promised to them!

All the people we saw were huge.  We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!” Numbers 13:32-33 NLT.

Wait a minute? First of all, historians say the Canaanites may have been a few inches taller than the Israelites, but not so much taller as to be called giants. The grasshopper comparison was a drastic exaggeration. Furthermore, how did they know the Canaanites thought they were like grasshoppers? How would they know what they were thinking at all? They didn’t! They cast their perception on other people, and thought their perception was reality, when it was all in their minds! Satan was playing mind games with them!

Later, in Joshua 2:24 another group of Israeli spies visit rehab in Jericho and there they found out what the reality was.

 “The Lord has given us the whole land,” they said, “for all the people in the land are terrified of us.” Joshua 2:24 NLT

So the grasshopper comparison was just a little mind game of Satan’s that the first spies bought into. It was not reality. Sure, God wants us to be humble, but that does not mean he wants us to think we are grasshoppers while everyone else is a giant. Those who walk humbly with God are a terror to those who stand in their own pride and arrogance. If you walk humbly with God you do not need to be intimidated by anyone, regardless of their title or letters behind their name.

Humble men, armed with the word of truth alone, withstood the attacks of men of learning, who, with surprise and anger, found their eloquent sophistry powerless against the simple, straightforward reasoning of men who were versed in the Scriptures rather than in the subtleties of the schools.  –Ellen White, Great Controversy, Page 455.

So it is today as in every age. The same can be said for you today, which was said of John the Baptist.

He could stand erect and fearless in the presence of earthly monarchs, because he had bowed low before the King of kings.  –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 103.

Wisdom and humility go beautifully together, while the common combination of arrogance and ignorance seems to be lacking in comeliness. While we do not want to be arrogant and ignorant, it is possible to be humble and confident. Our confidence should be in God and not in ourselves. Are you facing a giant today? First humble yourself before God. Put your confidence in His love and power. Walk forward in humble faith and obedience, and your giants will turn into grasshoppers. The humble of the land can also be the confident of the land, and not cowards.

The “Perfect” Debate

sp6

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa bay area.

In Paul’s day you could start a heated debate in the church by just saying the word “resurrection.” Today you can accomplish the same thing during fellowship lunch by just casually using the word “perfect.”  In my 47 years of being an Adventist I have observed something ironic. I have met people who have told me, that if I don’t believe that we can live without sinning, that I am not a real Adventist. Others tell me that if I do believe we can live without sinning then I am a heretic! So, I have two opposing groups telling me their version is what Adventism is all about. I have heard people argue till they are blue in the face, telling me their opinion is gospel truth and if I don’t agree with them then I must not be a real Adventist. I have listened to other people tell me, we can be almost perfect, but not totally perfect because …..well, well,…..we just can’t!

I have an idea. Let’s just fall totally in love with Jesus and not worry about it! I mean, whether we can be almost perfect, or totally perfect, let’s just let Jesus work it out. We agree God can “accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:30 NLT, so arguing just how perfect we can be won’t get us anywhere, because once we decide just how perfect we can be, Paul comes along and tells us the possibilities are infinitely more than we think.

Now, as you’re reading this, I know you have an opinion, and you just can’t wait to get to the part to where I say exactly what you want me to say, so you can send this link to your friend who doesn’t have their theology all together like you do. Maybe if I don’t say what you want me to say you will label me a heretic and not read my posts anymore. Chances are you either want to hear me say, “We can live without sinning” or if you are on the other extreme, you want to hear me say, “Jesus will forgive you no matter how many times you fall.” Well guess what? Everybody is right and everybody is wrong! Each extreme has partial truth, which means they are also partially wrong. So what is the truth? Put both partial truths together and you have a whole truth. We can live without sinning, but Jesus will forgive us no matter how many times we fall.

Now before you go straight to the comment section so you can warn me that probation will close and there is a limit to God’s forbearance, which I well know, and don’t disagree with, take a deep breath and take a look with me at the big picture and what I am saying. I have heard people say the great controversy is over whether or not God’s law can be perfectly obeyed or not. While I agree that with God’s sustaining and practical grace, we can perfectly obey God’s law, I still have never read anything in the Bible or Spirit of Prophecy telling me that perfection is what the great controversy is all about. (Please just stay with me for a moment, before you hop on your Ellen White program so you can find all those quotes you need to send me to prove that you are right and I am wrong.)

Fact, in the five volume set of the Conflict of the Ages series, the very first line in the very first volume is “God is love.” Fact, the very last sentence in the very last volume reads, ‘God is love.” That, my friend, is what the conflict of the ages or great controversy is all about! God is love! So the great controversy is not really about if I can go a whole week without eating cheese, or better yet a whole week without taking a second glance at the perfectly proportioned lady I see at the bus stop every day. Fact, if I just fall in love with Jesus, all those things will just work themselves out perfectly, but they are still not the goal. The goal is to love Jesus!

Fact, heaven will be filled with people who believed just about everything while they were on earth. Fact, heaven won’t have anybody who argued their case till they were blue in the face and to the point of bullying other people out of the church or social circles for not thinking the same way they do.

Fact, while some debate whether or not we can be “perfect” they often have a different definition of the word “perfect” (no pun intended for all you computer geeks) than the person they are debating, which makes for a pointless debate. Regardless as to how perfect we think we can become, I think we all agree the Holy Spirit is capable of overcoming our addictions and helping us love our enemies.

Since we all have our own idea of what “perfect” means, we also have our own ideas as to what “sin” means.  For years we as Adventists have used 1 John 3:4as our primary definition of sin which is transgression of the law. How would things change if John 16:9 was the primary definition of sin, which is unbelief?

With 1 John 3:4 as the primary definition we have God kicking Adam and Eve out of the garden and giving them death because they ate one piece of fruit they were told not to.  That is not unbiblical but it is only half the picture of the story and more importantly half the picture of God’s character. With John 16:9 as our primary definition of sin we have Adam and Eve placing their trust in Satan’s lies and not believing in God’s word. Thus they themselves turn their backs on God and forfeit their home through unbelief in breaking their relationship with God in lieu of the really cool serpent and fancy lies.

With 1 John 3:4 as the primary definition of sin we struggle with John 3:16 and wonder where works come in.  With John 16:9 as our primary definition we see that God gave His son to die for us and show us the truth about God’s love. Thus as we believe in Him, we now turn our backs on Satan’s lies, our relationship is restored and we have the eternal life that was originally granted in the Garden of Eden. We are now free to obey God, and the secondary definition of sin in 1 John 3:4 is fulfilled because we now trust God and therefore we trust His commandments.

Paul’s book of Hebrews is on the sanctuary and even the cleansing of the sanctuary.  In Hebrews 10:26 Paul writes, “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” Now if we use 1 John 3:4 as the primary definition of sin we have people going to hell because they made one mistake after knowing the truth. It is important to note that the entire book of Hebrews is explaining why Jesus has not returned yet and what He is doing in the sanctuary before His return. Paul admonishes the early believers not to give up their faith and stop assembling together, Christ will return. So I am sure the primary definition of sin in Hebrews 10:26 is the sin of unbelief. Paul is not saying that if you break the law after knowing the truth there is no more forgiveness. He is saying that if we sin in not believing in Jesus as the Son of God there will be no other sacrifice or Savior.

Now as we look at the cleansing of the Sanctuary in Daniel 8:14, we see that while God can and does give complete victory over the sin defined in 1 John 3:4, that still is not the main focus or goal of the cleansing of the sanctuary. “Our characters are not to be weighed by smooth words and fair speeches manufactured for set times and occasions; but by the spirit and trend of the whole life.” Review and Herald August 16, 1892. “The character is revealed, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts.”  {Steps to Christ 57.2}  If we take John 16:9 as the primary definition of sin in the cleansing of the sanctuary it changes things.  In the cleansing of the Sanctuary our minds and hearts (where the real sanctuary is) are cleansed from the lies mankind started believing in the Garden of Eden. We see the true character of God revealed on the Cross and we believe in Him. When our minds are cleansed of Satan’s lies we can make intelligent choices and choose the One who has already accepted and chosen us all along.

This changes how we look at a popular passage in the Spirit of Prophecy. “Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.”  {Christ Object Lessons 69.1}  Traditionally  we have taken this passage to mean that once we get our act together and show the world God’s Word can perfectly be obeyed without making one single mistake, then God will come back to take us home. It is true by God’s grace we can have complete victory over every single sin. However that is not what the great controversy is all about. The great question in the great controversy is whether God is love or not. When God’s church perfectly reflects the character of God’s love, then the world can make an intelligent decision as to if they will believe in God’s love or not.  God does not want us to be perfect so we can go to heaven. He wants to perfect our love so that we give Him proper representation in the judgment, where His character is on trial. When the church perfectly appreciates God’s love, the chasm that we ourselves created, by believing Satan’s lies will be healed.

I believe that if we keep 1 John 3:4 as our primary definition of sin then we will always be legalists and never be able to deal with the sin problem defined inJohn  16:9 or 1 John 3:4. I believe if we use John 16:9 as the primary definition of sin, we lose the legalism, grasp the big picture of what sin really is and what the great controversy is all about, and we allow grace to do its work in healing the sin problem defined in both John 16:9 and 1 John 3:4.

You know, I just thought of something. I would like to add my own chapter to the story of “The Good Samaritan.” After the priest and the Levite passed by the poor man dying in the ditch, they met up with each other and started arguing and debating over the law and perfection. Meanwhile the Samaritan, who was totally clueless as to what they were even talking about “came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him.  Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.”Luke 10:33-34 NLT. We already know which one was being a neighbor, but now, you tell me, which one of the three really had their theology together? That’s right, the clueless Samaritan turned out to be the only one who had a clue. Now, go and do thou likewise.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

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.

Rumor in Town and Church

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. Al Lang Field is an old Spring training Park in St.Petersburg where Babe Dahlgren probably played.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. Al Lang Field is an old spring training Park in St.Petersburg where Babe Dahlgren probably played.

Babe Dahlgren was enjoying the off season after winning the 1939 World Series with the New York Yankees baseball club. Back home in San Francisco he decided to meet with a local batting instructor for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League to get some friendly tips. When he re-joined the Yankees in St. Petersburg, Florida, for spring training, his manager was suddenly very cold towards Babe. Unbeknownst to Babe, the batting instructor was a long-time enemy of his baseball manager. And now his baseball manager no longer wanted anything to do with Babe, despite his great fielding abilities and steady bat.

After a game where Babe made a rare error, his manager was talking to reporters, when off the top of his head, without an ounce of proof, he said, “If Babe had not been smoking marijuana, he would have made that play.” Thus began the rumor that Babe’s grandson, Matt Dahlgren, writes about in his book,“Rumor in Town.”

In those days smoking marijuana could get you kicked out of baseball for life. Of course the manager had no proof, but his position gave him enough influence and power to get Babe traded to another team, even though he was a great fielder and batter. The rumor seemed to follow Babe as he got sent from team to team. Babe wondered why he kept getting traded while he was leading the league in several categories.

It would be years before Babe would learn that a rumor was going around about him. In a meeting with his team executive, while playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers, he was asked about doing drugs. The team executive used the rumor to try to intimidate Babe to go down to the minor leagues.

Babe did his best to try to clear his name of this rumor, but trying to find out who has heard a rumor is like emptying a box of feathers into the wind and then trying to gather them all up. They are impossible to trace and recover.

Matt Dahlgren goes on to write that this Brooklyn Dodger executive was the same man who brought Jackie Robinson into major league baseball and broke the foolish color barrier that had for so long oppressed the United States.

I was perplexed at the inconsistency in this executive, but then I realized he represents the entire human race, even many Christians. On one hand he is a hero who relieved oppression by breaking the color barrier in baseball. On the other hand, he caused oppression for Babe by continuing the rumor. I laid the book down for a moment and prayed that God would keep me from doing like what was done to Babe.

Babe loved the game of baseball and devoted himself to his team, yet his manager turned against him just because Babe talked to someone he did not like. Then others carried the rumor further, and still others used it as a weapon to blackmail and oppress Babe.

We need to be careful that we do not participate in any way by listening to and intentionally or unintentionally spreading rumor that will hurt others, as mentioned in this week’s SS lesson. While we think of political and social oppression and corruption being carried on in the world, let’s be careful we are not carrying it on in the church.

We may think of ourselves as good people, just as the executive probably did, but we may still be doing much harm and hurt by listening to, and even spreading rumors which may deeply hurt a brother or sister in the church! The executive may have thought the rumor to be true, and so may we. But that does not lessen our responsibility before God. Even spreading negative things thatare totally true about someone may make us guilty before God because it is not a loving thing to do and thus not reflective of God’s character. The Apostle Peter reminds us to “love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude ofsins. (1 Peter 4:8)

When rumors hurt people’s ministry, the cause of God suffers. Satan uses rumors to not only hurt the people the rumor is about, but to also taint or destroy their ministry to the point where their ministry is no longer useful to save lost souls. What a tragedy!

In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.  And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. James 3:5-6 NLT

Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart. Proverbs 18:8 NLT

It has been said that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words may never hurt me.” Nothing could be farther from the truth! Many people who have been abused physically as well as verbally say they would rather be physically abused than verbally abused. Physical abuse hurts the body but verbal abuse wounds the depths of the soul.

I know that God can foil all of Satan’s rumors and accusations so that all things work together for good to those who Love God and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) Like many others I have had rumors told about me. One time someone told a lie about me right in public. When I was talking it over with a friend to see how I should respond to clear myself of this lie, my friend wisely suggested, “Don’t respond to the rumor. By responding you only give the rumor merit.” I said nothing and later found out that everyone else either forgot what was said that day or was distracted when the person said it, and never heard the rumor at all!

That is how it worked out for me, but I know this is not always the case. This is why when I finished the book and put it down, I asked God to keep me from participating in a rumor that could destroy someone’s life!

The Yankee manager was foolish to let the fact that Babe saw an enemy of his bother him – especially since Babe had nothing but the best intentions in getting batting tips. Jealousy is a silly excuse to start a rumor, but does this happen in the church as well? When we entertain thoughts of jealousy, we may not even realize  when we are gossiping and spreading rumors because what we think in our hearts will come out of our lips. (Matt 12:34)

We need to ask God to give us hearts like His – filled with a love that will never participate in any way in gossip that may hurt another of God’s children, either in the world or in the church.