True Education

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Thursday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson asks the question, “In what ways, even today, might we need to unlearn a lot of what we have been taught from the world?”

When Jesus was telling Nicodemus in John 3:1-17 that he needed to be born again, I believe Jesus was including being re-educated. Nicodemus had a lot to unlearn. He had worked hard to get where he was by his own efforts to reach the standards of man which were built upon the traditions of man. This is why Jesus wanted Nicodemus to be born again  –that he could be taught the ways of God by God instead of the traditions of men by men . God was well aware of the power of tradition in that day, which is why God ordained that John the Baptist would not be taught in the schools of his day.

In the natural order of things, the son of Zacharias would have been educated for the priesthood. But the training of the rabbinical schools would have unfitted him for his work. God did not send him to the teachers of theology to learn how to interpret the Scriptures. He called him to the desert, that he might learn of nature and nature’s God. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 101

I am a big believer and supporter of our Seventh-day Adventist Christian schools, kindergarten through seminary. I attended Adventist schools from first grade into college. I have taught Bible classes, presented week of prayers and chapel services, and have  been a teacher’s aide and substitute teacher in our schools for  about 30 years. I have also given my own money to help pay the tuition for financially struggling families. I share this only so that you will understand I mean our schools no disservice by what I am going to write next.

I can go through all my Adventist grade school and high school yearbooks, and in all the yearbooks combined I will find a handful of students who are in the church today. Those of us who are in the church today have something in common other than going to an Adventist school. We had family worship at home. We were taught at home by the most powerful teachers and pastors in our lives  – our parents. As much as I love, support and enjoy being a part of the Adventist educational system, I cringe when on education Sabbaths, the preacher credits the school for people like myself remaining in the church. That credit belongs to my parents who showed me Jesus at home and taught me to have family worship as well as my own personal Bible study time even as a child. Now I would not have dedicated so much of my time and money if I did not believe in the importance of Adventist Christian education, but I also am afraid that we give our schools the credit that belongs to parents.

I believe one of the things we need to unlearn as a society is that all education takes place in a formal school. We need to learn the difference between having a diploma or degree and having an education. There are people without diplomas or degrees who are educated, and there are people with diplomas and degrees who are not educated. For example, I was talking to a friend who attended a university in Florida while a future famous pro athlete was attending who will not be named here. My friend told me while the athlete got his degree he was never seen on campus. He was never seen anywhere besides the football stadium.

While I did go to college and can say I am college educated, I did not finish my degree. I have worked with Adventist pastors who ,when we would have a slight difference of theological opinion, would mention their degree as though that gave more merit to their opinion. Some have mentioned their degree, implying it automatically trumped my understanding of the Bible. In other words, having a degree made them automatically right and me automatically wrong. Fortunately these situations have been very few and far between. Much more often, when I have  friendly “debates” or minor disagreements with people who have their master’s degree in theology, they never once mention their degree, but reason with me using the Bible and the Bible alone. They understand their degree does not make them automatically right. They reason with me from Scripture as something we both are familiar with, and we are on equal ground, both standing on the Word of God.

Satan is constantly endeavoring to attract attention to man in the place of God. He leads the people to look to bishops, to pastors, to professors of theology, as their guides, instead of searching the Scriptures to learn their duty for themselves. Then, by controlling the minds of these leaders, he can influence the multitudes according to his will. –Ellen White, The Great Controversy, Page 595

Recently, a pastor friend, who graduated with his Masters of Divinity from  Andrews University called me to see if his understanding on a passage in Revelation was correct. Even though he has his master’s in theology and I have no degree at all, I could tell in our conversation that he had great appreciation for my understanding of Scripture, so much so that he was asking me if he was right. While it does not happen every day, it was not the first time or the last. In 2 Corinthians 11:16 Paul admitted he was boasting a little for a purpose. If it sounds like I am boasting that some pastors from Andrews University call me for theological advice, it is only to make this point. You can be educated without having a formal degree. Like Nicodemus had to learn, we have to learn to stand on the Word of God and not our formal degrees.

I want to close by thanking my Adventist grade school and high school teachers who encouraged me as a child to be a Gospel Worker for Jesus and who even now encourage me and even financially support my ministry. There are too many to mention, but they know who they are, as I still communicate with them regularly. While I did not finish college, I will always be indebted to my professors, especially to the late Jan Haluska, who was my composition teacher. I love writing, and the writing skills he taught me have no doubt been the most practical skills that I have used daily throughout my life and ministry.

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

Marreta’s Profession of Faith Picture

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On Sabbath, October 22, 2016 Maretta rejoined the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Plant City. Earlier in the year Maretta was invited to some meetings being conducted by some young men from Southern Adventist Univeristy. Maretta attended more meetings than anyone else, and was soon coming to Sabbath School and church and helping out with our fellowship meals. She fit right in right away and has never looked back. Like most people who have fallen in love with Jesus, Maretta has been taking a friend with her regularly to Sabbath and School and church, who has also been having Bible studies with us. Maretta is glad to be back in God’s church and we are glad she is here!

Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 22 (Beyond the Manger, Words of Encouragement)

 

I am writing tonight near the beautiful campus of Southern Adventist University

I am writing tonight near the beautiful campus of Southern Adventist University

Have you ever heard somebody that you thought really had a gift for words? You know I don’t remember every gift everyone has ever given me, but I always remember how people’s words made me feel.

I remember working at the Campus Kitchen, a fast food restaurant, on the campus of Southern Adventist University back in the 1980’s. I was delivering people’s food to their tables. One day we were swamped and I was running way behind. People were complaining and rightfully so. However, when I finally got a lady in her 30’s or 40s her lunch, I apologized for her wait. She told me she could tell we were busy and that I was working very hard, running all over the place, as best I could. She did something nobody had ever done at the CK before or since. Tipping was not customary at the CK, but instead of complaining, she gave me a $5.00 tip, which at that time would have been about a 100% tip! She told me she wished she had more to give me. She told me she knew it was hard working your way through college and that I was doing a great job. You know, thirty years later, the $5.00 is long gone and has been for quite a while. But what is lodged into my mind forever are her kind words. Her kind words encouraged me long after Abe was gone. Let’s take a look at how Jesus used words as a gift even in His growing up years.

He passed by no human being as worthless, but sought to apply the saving remedy to every soul. In whatever company He found Himself, He presented a lesson that was appropriate to the time and the circumstances. He sought to inspire with hope the most rough and unpromising, setting before them the assurance that they might become blameless and harmless, attaining such a character as would make them manifest as the children of God. Often He met those who had drifted under Satan’s control, and who had no power to break from his snare. To such a one, discouraged, sick, tempted, and fallen, Jesus would speak words of tenderest pity, words that were needed and could be understood. Others He met who were fighting a hand-to-hand battle with the adversary of souls. These He encouraged to persevere, assuring them that they would win; for angels of God were on their side, and would give them the victory. Those whom He thus helped were convinced that here was One in whom they could trust with perfect confidence. He would not betray the secrets they poured into His sympathizing ear. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Pages 91-92

Let’s remember during this season of family get togethers, and always, that words will be remembered long after the things we gave as gifts are gone.

Who Will Wipe The Tears From God’s Eyes?

Southern Christmas Tree

I am writing tonight near the beautiful Southern Adventist University campus near Chattanooga, Tennessee.

“ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away’ ” ( Revelation 21:4, NKJV).

As I read the key verse in this week’s SS lesson, I pause and ask myself, who will wipe the tears from God’s eyes? People say there will be no crying in heaven, but obviously there is, or God would not have to wipe tears from our eyes. God created us with emotions, and He will not turn us into hard-hearted robots, when we see that some have chosen to be lost after so great a price was paid for their salvation.

Yes, there will be tears in heaven, but God Himself will wipe those tears away. Again, my question, who will wipe the tears from God’s eyes? If you are lost, do you believe God will turn Himself into a hard-hearted robot and just forget about you? No way! God says, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” Jeremiah 31:3. To me, everlasting means everlasting.

While God’s love is indeed everlasting, some have thought that meant they could get away with anything, and God will still love them. While that is true, unconditional love does not mean unconditional salvation. You see, I can be lost and go to hell, and God will still love me! Which leads me back to my question once more. Who will wipe the tears from God’s eyes?  In Isaiah 49:15 NLT God asks, “Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!” God is not simply making the comparison to a newborn baby. The word “nursing” is present tense. God is saying it would be harder for Him to ever forget you, than it would be for a mother to forget her child while she is nursing it! This is impossible!

Friends, if I were lost, that would be sad for me. However as sad as that would be, my sadness would not last forever. I would be destroyed by hell fire and then would be no more. I would not be missing God for all eternity. But if I were lost, would He be missing me? Would there always be an empty place in God’s heart?

Imagine the prodigal son’s father looking out from the front porch for a trace of his wayward son somewhere off in the distance. Looking day after day, year after year for just a glimmer of hope. Then one day he hears that his son has died while roaming. He won’t be coming home. Do you think that Father who for years watched from his front porch, will no longer pause as he looks out his window into the hills off in the distance?

In Hosea 11:8, After years and years of Ephraim’s rebellion and idolatry, God wrestles with His own emotions, as He cries, “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim?”

Revelations 6 finishes with the 6th seal and asks the question who will be able to stand when Jesus comes, and not ask for the rocks and stones to fall on them? Revelation 7 answers that question, that it will be those who are sealed with the character of God. Revelation 7 goes on to describe the various tribes or characteristics that will be sealed. The tribe of Ephraim is not mentioned. Ephraim is not among the saved.

Revelations 8:1 says that after the sealing, there is silence in heaven for the space of half an hour. Many scholars agree this half hour is one week in Bible prophecy, when heaven is emptied of angels as they attend the Son of God as He returns. Without disputing that, I wonder, could the silence be God pausing, just asking Himself if there was anything else He could have done to save Ephraim? In Isaiah 5:3-4 Could God have been referencing a future judgment when He cried,  ”O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?”

Of course God has done all He can do! Still, doesn’t a parent in those situations pause to ask themselves if there was any other way a wayward child could be saved, even when reason tells them everything that could have been done has already been done? Our God is a God of principle, but He also created us in His image with emotions. Do you believe God in His infinite wisdom, knowing that all has been done, will just wipe His hands clean of the lost? My God may be a God of infinite wisdom and principle, but He also has an extremely huge heart! No parent has ever loved with as much passion and emotion as my heavenly Father has loved you! And if there has ever been a parent, who has lost a child, and asked themselves what more they could have done and even second-guessed themselves, it would be my heavenly Father!

Does my heavenly Father err? No! Has He already done all that could possibly be done? Yes! Do I still think He may pause for a moment, before declaring the doom of the lost, to search the depths of his infinitely wise brain just one more time, to see if He can come up with just one more idea? Yes I do! Will He find one? No. Everything has been done.

In Genesis 44 Judah tells the Egyptian ruler, not knowing it was Joseph, about how he broke his father’s heart when his father lost his son. He goes on to explain the heartbreak it would bring his father if Benjamin does not return home. Judah then goes on to convey that he will not break his father’s heart again. Judah would rather rot in prison than break his father’s heart.

Friend! Don’t break my Father’s heart! Yes, you may be able to forget Him but He will never be able to forget you! Please! Be there for my Father! He loves you so much! Be there on that day for my Father. If you choose not to be there, who will wipe the tears from His eyes? Who will be there to put their hands on His shoulder as He peers from His front porch off into the distant hills, and remind Him, no, you aren’t coming home – ever?

I have broken my Father’s heart so many times already, but I, like Judah, refuse to break His heart like that again. I want to be there, not just for myself but for my Father! Will you be there too? If not, who will wipe the tears from God’s eyes?

Be there. Please.

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

 

My Top Ten Secrets Revealed!

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

My Top Ten Secrets Revealed!

10. I am “Voice”. In 1985, while attending Southern College of SDA (Now Southern Adventist University) I was doing my laundry at my sister’s house one night. Talk Net was on the radio with Bruce Williams, a business counselor. I decided I wanted to call in just for fun. I called into the national program and told Bruce I wanted to be a sports play by play announcer which I did. He told me to start working doing sports programs with my college radio station. I told him all they do is play classical music. Bruce then told me the radio station was not doing its job then in helping college students. Someone from the college was listening because the next week, in the college paper was my complete conversation! Since they did not know who I was I was simply called “voice”. The college paper blasted “voice” for not standing up for the school and radio station. Hey, I was just calling in just for fun! For weeks later letters poured into the college paper about the school radio station and “voice”.

9. It hurts very much to have my motives misread. About twenty years ago I was a literature evangelist traveling all over Oklahoma. Pagers we becoming popular at this time. This was before cell phones were popular. My grandfather died of a sudden heart attack and I always worried about my dad as well. I bought a pager so that if anything happened to my dad or mother while I was away I could find out and come back and be there for them. Since I was on a strapped budget someone accused me of wasting my money and just wanting to have the latest technology. That really hurt.

8. Back in the 80s when I had my own apartment in Tulsa, my mother was out of town. I called my dad to see what was up. He did not answer. I started getting worried. What if he had a heart attack and was laying alone on the floor with no one to help?  Being a guy I knew I could not act too concerned, so even though I had just done my laundry, I grabbed what little dirty clothes I had and headed over to my dad’s house “to do my laundry.” I was really just checking up on him. About the time I drove up to the house, my dad came in on his motorcycle, from an  evening ride. I just smiled, said hi and that I came to do my laundry. He just looked quizzically at my small bag of laundry.

7. I have openly claimed to be a Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and now Tampa bay Bucs fan, but for several years now, I have found myself loving it whenever the Detroit Lions win. I have never expressed it, but for several years now I think I have been a Lions fan. No joke. I am serious.

6. I miss working for UPS. It was a hard challenging job with good pay and benefits. I loved rising to the challenge. I also loved becoming a UPS supervisor and helping other people rise to the challenge as well. I felt good about myself while working there. It was very hard to quit. I am very happy to be in Florida now, but I wish there was a way I could have continued part time with UPS. There wasn’t.

5.  When I was in the 5th grade a friend of mine and I prank called a girl in our class. She asked who we were and we hung up. I am not going to disclose what we said, but I felt so bad after my friend left, that I called her back and apologized. She asked again who I was. I just said, “hey I’m sorry” and hung up! What a geek! I’m the only prank caller in history to call back and apologize!

4. I know without a doubt that I am no way close to being the best preacher, Bible worker, golfer, or photographer in the world. I do however, believe I make the best enchiladas in the world.

3. Sometimes I counsel myself in second person. I get outside my head and tell myself objectively how things are, and how other people feel and how I should respond. I talk to myself as if I was counseling somebody else.

2. I golf alone as well as with friends. My greatest fear is that my hole-in-one will come when I am golfing alone.

1. In my career as a Bible worker and lay pastor, my heroes are not preachers or teachers. I idolize the old man standing at the bedside of his ill wife 24/7. I am amazed at the grade school girl who campaigned at her school to get Christmas gifts for poor children, while her birthday was in December and with a father out of work, she got no birthday gift, and never made an effort to benefit from her campaign.  I respect the pathfinder leader who, instead of taking home her personal awards, puts them in the trophy case at church for the team. I admire the family man who stops by the church while no one is around and paints and fixes things without anyone ever knowing he came by. There are so many people in my life, who see themselves as ordinary everyday people, but I love, admire and respect them more than they will ever know! And they have taught me more about Jesus than I have ever taught them.