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.

Two Things I Love About Daniel

20171218_151647487631712.jpg

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

As we take a look at Daniel in this week’s lesson there are a couple of things I love about Daniel, that sometimes get overlooked. When his neck was on the line, I like how Daniel responded when God revealed to him the king’s dream.

Then Daniel went in to see Arioch, whom the king had ordered to execute the wise men of Babylon. Daniel said to him, “Don’t kill the wise men. Take me to the king, and I will tell him the meaning of his dream.” Daniel 2:24 NLT

Daniel’s relationship with God did not only save his life. It saved the lives of all the wise men, even the fake ones. Daniel’s first thoughts were of others, not just himself. So it is today. The entire world benefits from the Christian influences around them. Like when the disciples asked Jesus to calm the sea, it was not just calm for their little boat. All the boats on the sea benefited. Daniel wanted to save others. Later when the Persian leaders conspired against Daniel, it did not bother him that others did not have his back the way that he had theirs. Daniel knew God had his back and that’s all that mattered.

I also marvel at Daniel’s humility. Daniel 1:20 says Daniel and his friends were found to be ten times wiser. Yet when Daniel tells the king’s dream look what he says,

And it is not because I am wiser than anyone else that I know the secret of your dream, but because God wants you to understand what was in your heart. Daniel 2:30 NLT

Nothing is more annoying than a wise guy telling you how wise he is. Daniel realized smart people don’t tell you how smart they are. Daniel did not credit his wisdom. He credited God’s grace in wanting to reach the king’s heart. Daniel had more thank just Scriptural knowledge and prophetic understanding. He had people skills! So much so he flourished in the heart of Babylon without ever compromising his faith!

As we prepare for the end times, let’s not only pursue Daniel’s prophetic abilities. Let’s pursue his people skills.

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

How I Got Out of Credit Card Debt

20170710_100842

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I often felt I would never get out of debt. I considered bankruptcy. After paying for things four times over I considered writing my creditors and telling them I was not paying anymore and they could just send me to jail if they wanted. I considered changing my identity and moving to New Zealand to start a new debt free life, but my credit cards were all maxed out and I couldn’t get a ticket. I literally had no money, as all the money I possessed I owed to other people. Instead of saving or paying anything forward all I was doing was paying things back. I was living a lie as the money I had wasn’t really mine. I was desperate.

Then I read that God creates miracles to help people repay their debts.

But as one was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, master! For it was borrowed.” So the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” And he showed him the place. So he cut off a stick, and threw it in there; and he made the iron float. Therefore he said, “Pick it up for yourself.” So he reached out his hand and took it. 2 Kings 6:5-7 NKJV

I was praying for a miracle. My parents had instilled in me the importance of returning my tithe, and I continued tithing even though even the money I was tithing was not my own. Or at least it was not returning the first fruits as my entire paycheck had already been spent before I even earned it. I forgave all my debtors hoping some of my debts would be forgiven as well. I greatly curbed my spending and as much as I could stopped using my credit cards. Then after over 20 years of credit card debt the miracle came.

I started 2015 with $10,000.00 in credit card debt. I was working for the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church as I had been for the last eleven years. They had been paying me a very decent salary (More than any of my other Bible Worker friends) and it would have been even better had I not been in debt. After eleven years the church could no longer handle the burden of my salary and benefits. They informed me I would be let go the last of April. Little did I know this was the beginning of the miracle that would get me out of debt!

The church gave me plenty of warning, so before my last day at Tampa First I had plenty of time to set up my own ministry through the Plant City SDA Church, where I would continue doing Bible Work in the Tampa Bay area and beyond, based solely on contributions from people supporting my ministry. I also got a part time job at Florida Hospital. Here God was already performing miracles. I have heard of people losing their jobs and going months without a paycheck. Well I don’t know why God was so good to me, but I actually received paychecks from my new jobs before I received my last paycheck from Tampa First! Also Tampa First gave me a very generous severance check. After tithing I used a portion of the severance check to help a friend pay off their child’s church school bill. The rest I applied to my credit card debt.

A golf buddy called and needed my help on the side with his property management company. I was inspecting property, and as well as making a few extra dollars, I was  given a car which he also let me use to get to my Bible studies. I wasn’t golfing anymore as I was enjoying my new regular Bible Worker ministry with two side jobs. Remember I entered 2015 with $10,000.00 in credit card debt? Well on the day before Thanksgiving that year, I paid off my last credit card, and woke up Thanksgiving morning with a zero balance on all my credit cards. What a Thanksgiving! It was truly a miracle that began with me losing my job, I lost my job and turned around and paid off all my credit cards!

Of course I could not keep up with two side jobs and my regular Bible Worker ministry, but God provided them long enough to get me out of debt.

I must share a miracle that happened the following year. My mother was dying and I needed to make an emergency flight home which was very expensive, plus I would be missing work. I prayed and told God I did not want to go into debt again but needed to be there for my family. I told God I was going to be faithful to my family whatever the consequences. I shared a simple message on Facebook that I was going home because my mother was dying. I wrote and implied nothing more. That evening a Facebook friend from Texas messaged me she was sending me a monetary gift. That gift paid for my emergency plane tickets both ways. It covered my time off work. It helped pay my share of funeral expenses with some left over which I put into savings!

I now only have one credit card which I transfer money from my bank to pay off as soon as the transactions are made. I don’t wait till the end of the month. I love seeing that zero balance on my card all month long! I am careful with my money. I don’t feel inferior to people who have more money than me. I don’t have any problems saying I don’t have the money to do something. It is not embarrassing to me. I am very thankful for the miracle God provided to get me out of credit card debt. Now when I return tithe and offerings it is actually my first fruits. It is actually my money that I earned from that very paycheck.

Remember in my last article how I shared how cool I thought it was that my dad could just spontaneously buy a new softball glove? Well a few months ago my car up and died. I was not expecting that. It turned out to be my battery. A friend jumped my car and I went to an auto parts store where I bought and had a new battery installed. I paid cash. Instead of being upset that I had an unexpected repair bill, I drove away from the parts store, feeling pretty good. A spontaneous bill already paid for! Thank you Jesus!

You may study this quarter’s SS lessons on Stewardship here.

One Single Book

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In studying this week’s lesson on being stewards of the gospel I remembered this story which I had previously shared several years ago. When Jesus fed the multitude He had the leftovers gathered so nothing would be wasted. I believe God wants us to be good stewards of the gospel, and I don’t believe God wants literature to be wasted either. Here again is a story of how God used a little forgotten book in the attic, that may have been considered a “left over crumb,” to save a family and countless souls.

Many years ago when I was a literature evangelist, I found myself working one day in the rolling green hills of Northeast Oklahoma. I remember meeting a lot of rejection early in the day. What bothered me the most as I was selling Christian books, was that many saw me only as a salesman, instead of appreciating my passion for sharing Jesus. Rejection plus being misunderstood equaled loneliness for me.

About midday, I walked into a Taco Mayo restaurant for lunch. Long before cell phones were common, or Bible apps created, I carried my Bible with me everywhere I went. I sat down at a table and opened my Bible “randomly” and found this verse,

Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, Bearing seed for sowing, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, Bringing his sheaves with him. Psalms 126:5-6 NKJV

That verse hit the spot! My career in soul winning was just beginning, and this was long before I would begin Bible studies with a family who would start attending church only after I studied with them for seven years in their home. This was long before I would meet Fred, a man I studied with in Oklahoma, who got baptized after I had already been serving in Texas years later. It was also years before I would meet the members of a small Pentecostal Sabbath-keeping church, who would all become members of the Mineral Wells, Texas, Seventh-day Adventist Church after I studied with them and befriended them for four years. (I say that the entire Pentecostal church became Adventist, which is true. The entire church consisted of five members.)

As a rookie evangelist I only had time to plant seeds, but not to watch them grow. I needed to learn patience. If I could have seen the future harvest, I doubt I would have felt so discouraged as I sat there eating my burrito, before I found that verse full of comfort and hope. Still, I should have remembered a passage that my leader had written inside the Colporteur Ministry book he gave me.

Christ did not fail, neither was He discouraged, and His followers are to manifest a faith of the same enduring nature. They are to live as He lived, and work as He worked, because they depend on Him as the great Master Worker. Courage, energy, and perseverance they must possess. Though apparent impossibilities obstruct their way, by His grace they are to go forward….They are to have power to resist evil, power that neither earth, nor death, nor hell can master, power that will enable them to overcome as Christ overcame. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Pages 679-680

While I sat in that Taco Mayo in Grove, Oklahoma, back in 1990, my evangelistic career was too young to see the results that years and years of patient work brings. However I had stories and testimonies from veteran laborers, like Denton James, my union publishing director. He and his family found the way, when they moved into a home, and found an old Bible Readings for the Home lying in the attic. Denton found the Adventist church through that book and became a literature evangelist who trained many more people like myself to be literature evangelists. Back in 2008 I worked with his granddaughter in Tampa, Florida. She was serving as an ASI Bible Worker. Not long ago, Denton fell asleep in death after many years of soul winning. All those souls and trained Bible Workers and Literature evangelists can trace their success back to Denton James, who traced his success back to an old book found in an attic.

I often wonder who the literature evangelist was who sold that book to the family that left it in the attic to be discovered by Denton’s family moving in years later. Whoever it was, did they ever get discouraged like I did, that day I was working in Northeast Oklahoma. Whoever it was they may have seen many people get baptized as a result of their labors, or it is possible they saw no one get baptized. One thing is sure, that that literature evangelist went to his or her grave with no clue that years later a man would pick up one single book that had been lying around in an attic for years, dust the cover off and read it, not only becoming a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, but leading hundreds to find Jesus, who would lead hundreds more to Jesus.

Since I don’t know who sold the book Denton found, I can only speculate. Is it possible that was the only book he or she ever sold? Is it possible they quit soon after that because “it just wasn’t working out”? There will be thousands in heaven because of that one single book that lay lost in an attic for who knows how long. I can see the evangelist coming home at the end of that day after selling that one single book, and writing in a journal,

“It was a terrible day today. I worked hard all day long and met nothing but rejection and doors slammed in my face over and over. Finally a man bought just one copy of Bible Readings for the Home, from me, but I heard his wife scoffing at him, saying something like ‘It’s just going to end up thrown away up in the attic with all the other junk you buy from peddlers.’ This is so discouraging I might as well quit. At this rate I will never help anyone find Jesus.”

Or I could have it all wrong, but I do know this. The literature evangelist who left that book walked away from that home having no idea that hundreds would be in the kingdom because of an exchange that probably only took a few moments and netted only a few dollars or cents.

Just like that book, buried in a dark attic for years, so it is with the literature and words I shared on that frustrating day in Oklahoma so many years ago,

The good seed may for a time lie unnoticed in a cold, selfish, worldly heart, giving no evidence that it has taken root; but afterward, as the Spirit of God breathes on the soul, the hidden seed springs up, and at last bears fruit to the glory of God. In our lifework we know not which shall prosper, this or that. This is not a question for us to settle. We are to do our work, and leave the results with God….. “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” Psalm 126:6. -Ellen White, Christ Object Lessons Page, 65.

It is true as well of the seeds you sow.

Anything Except What God Says!

Cruise Ship 011

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In 1 Samuel God wanted to be the king of Israel, but Israel wanted to be like the other nations and have their own king. Instead of being a peculiar people they wanted to blend in with the world as much as possible. Even today I have heard Christian leaders boast how the church resembles worldly establishments, as though they were the standard, but I digress. The fact is that Israel pleaded for and got their own king, someone besides God Himself.

 

Later, I was reading about Jesus being crucified,

“What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back. John 19:15 NLT

When I read this my mind flashed back to Israel saying they didn’t want God to be their king. Here they are telling Pilate give us any king but God!

This week’s lesson talks about Romans 14 and Paul telling us not to judge people by observing certain Sabbaths or days. We understand from Colossians 2:14-17 that Paul is speaking of ceremonial Sabbaths that pointed towards the cross. The weekly Sabbath is spoken of as singular in most Bible versions while ceremonial Sabbaths are spoken of as plural as in Colossians 2 and Romans 14. Also the weekly Sabbath is not a shadow of the cross as it existed before the need of a cross, (Genesis 2:1-3) and after the cross has accomplished its goal, (Isaiah 66:23Acts 18:4Hebrews 4). So we as Adventist Bible students understand that the weekly Sabbath is still in effect, and it was the ceremonial Sabbaths that were a shadow of things to come, and now Paul says don’t judge anyone either way regarding ceremonial Sabbaths.

My point now is this. People will tell me it does not matter which day I keep as the weekly Sabbath, but then they turn around and get frustrated with me for keeping the Bible Sabbath over Sunday. Is this the same mentality of the Jews in 1 Samuel and John 19? Is this not saying, we will have any King but God, and we will keep any Sabbath except for the one God says to keep? Is that within itself a rebellious attitude, saying anything except what God says? If it doesn’t matter what day I keep then why do other Christians get upset when I keep Saturday? Why do they want me to keep any day but the one God said?

The world will always be pressuring us to conform to its ways over God’s ways. Meanwhile Paul writes in Romans,

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 NLT

I choose to Follow God instead of the world, especially when the world says, “not God’s way but my way!” God’s way is good, it is pleasing to both God and me, and it is perfect. I don’t want to be like those of old who say “anything except what God says.”

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

Michelle’s Profession of Faith

Maretta

About a year and a half ago, I met Maretta at the evangelistic meetings we were having at the Plant City Seventh-day Adventist Church. We studied together for a while before she rejoined the Adventist church on profession of faith. Maretta has since been sharing Jesus with her friends and family. Maretta and I began a Bible study group with Maretta’s daughter Kay, and longtime friend Michelle. We enjoyed studying together on Wednesday evenings before prayer meeting. Kay, recently moved up north and is finding an Adventist Church family in her new home. Michelle joined the Adventist church for the first time here in Plant City!

20171111_10500883317007.jpg

Michelle was very happy to join the Adventist church this morning! She has been sharing Jesus with her family, even introducing them to the Discover Bible Study Guides she has been doing as well from the Plant City SDA Church. Maretta introduced Michelle to Jesus, who is now introducing her friends to Jesus, just like Andrew.

Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ” John 1:41 NLT

Please pray for Maretta and Michelle, that they both will continue being blessed with more and more opportunities to share Jesus with others!

“Send us Infinity People!”

St.Pete With Curtis

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God Romans 3:23 NKJV

One night I was lamenting to God, about all the apostasy, and outright rebellion going on even in Christian cultures. As I was “interceding” for the “fallen” I felt the Holy Spirit tap me on the heart, and ask,

What if I told you some of the people you are praying for are actually better Christians than you?

Often, we are concerned about others when we should be more concerned about ourselves. Fact is, we have all sinned. Fact is, there is hope for all of us!

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19 NKJV

How many are made righteous? The many who were made sinners was a staggering amount, so since the same word is used for those who are made righteous, I figure that must be a staggering amount too. I just checked my concordance, and found that both times the word “many” is used in Romans 5:19, it is the word “polus.” Definitions for “polus” include, large, abundance, plenty, and even “most.”

When we see evil all around it is easy to get discouraged. We read,

you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked…Revelation 3:17 NKJV

We lament the sins going on in our Christian circles, and think there is no hope. We doubt God will even be able to save 144,000 since in Noah’s day God only saved 8. Be careful! We often project our faults onto others. See Romans 2:1. If I think the church is dead, there is a good chance I am dead.

After reading the sobering message in Revelation 3, I need to heed the warning myself. I need to open my heart to Jesus. I need to realize that amid all the dire things Jesus has to say about me, He still plans on me overcoming!

To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. Revelation 3:21 NKJV

Notice the contrast brought about by God’s grace. The one church that Jesus had absolutely nothing good to say about, is the one church that Jesus expects to not just overcome, but to overcome as I overcame!

While we wonder how many will be saved, while we wonder if the number will be closer to 8 than it is to 144,000 John sweeps our skepticism and criticism away with a staggering number who overcome!

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, Revelation 7:9 NKJV

 

“Which no one could number?” “Of all nations?” Is John telling me there will be more people saved from the most hopeless situations than I can even count? Why yes, yes he is! When things look hopeless and we think a sinner is out of reach of God’s grace, remember,

Often we regard as hopeless subjects the very ones whom Christ is drawing to Himself. –Ellen White, Christ Object Lessons, Page 71 

My Wednesday prayer meeting group was praying for some upcoming evangelism meetings. People were praying for God to send us several people or even a lot of people, but then a 9 year old girl prayed, “Send us infinity people!” We all chuckled inside. Doesn’t she know that’s impossible? Doesn’t she know that will never happen, especially when you look at the shape our world is in? Well, turns out she knew what she was praying about after all. One day this little girl and Jesus will be walking together hand in hand, and He will thank her for praying a prayer that made His dream come true: “A great multitude which no one could number.”

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.