Reflections on the Sea and Life in General

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Sometimes we think something is over when it hasn’t even begun yet.

Texas has some beautiful sunsets. I don’t know why I didn’t get any pictures of them while I was living there. I wasn’t really a photographer back then, and didn’t realize how few pictures I had of my life in Texas until I got ready to move. I wanted pictures to take with me, so my good friend and photographer Danielba, started taking all kinds of pictures of my friends and myself so I could take the memories of Texas with me to Florida.

As a child we often took vacations to the beaches along the Gulf of Mexico from Texas to Florida, and also the Pacific and Atlantic. However as an adult I did not have much opportunity for travel. I remember living in North Texas, and seeing a picture book someone had of ships, and thought to myself that I probably won’t ever see any ships again like I did when I was a kid. Finally in the fall of 2003 I had a weekend where I was not scheduled to preach anywhere. I decided that was my chance, to finally see the Gulf of Mexico again, so I drove down to Galveston and spent the weekend. I thought I better take advantage of this opportunity because it had been so long since I had seen the gulf I did not know when and if I would get another chance. In the fall of 2003 I had no clue that the spring of 2004 would find me living in Tampa, Florida just minutes from the Gulf of Mexico and just over a couple hours from the Atlantic Ocean.

The last few years of my life in Texas I worked in the middle of the night to early morning at UPS and then went to my day job, where I got off work just in time to go home to bed and start all over again. Often I would get home from my day job late, and would hurry from my car to my apartment just so I could go to bed and get up at 2 AM to go to work again. As I walked briskly to my apartment I would pass my neighbors sitting on their patios barbecuing, or just enjoying a lemonade (yeah I’m sure that’s what it was) and a sunset. I thought to myself, that I am so busy working all the time I will never get a chance to just relax and see another sunset. I was too caught up in my daily routine to realize it was only temporary.

 After moving to Florida, while I still work hard and long hours for God, He blesses me with moments, when He calls me to relax with Him for a while and enjoy some sunsets, that at one time my overworked and fatigued mind thought I would never see again. 

Here are some of my favorite sunset pictures I have taken over the years here in Florida.

St. Pete Beach 2007

St. Pete Beach 2007

This picture is one of the first I ever took, and hundreds of pictures later, is about my favorite. I like the way the sun and colors reflect off the clouds. I love being on the beach at sunset, as an eerie calm, seems to quiet and still everyone on the beach as they watch the sunset. A timeless feeling creeps over everyone as the same sun that set over the waters six thousand years ago completes another circuit.

Fort Desoto 2010

Fort Desoto 2010

Panama City 2013

Panama City 2013

Key West 2010

Key West 2010

Daytona Beach 2006

Daytona Beach 2006

Daytona Beach is a sunrise picture of course. A few days after buying  my brand new 2007 Hyundai Accent, I woke up one morning at 3AM. As I laid in bed wide awake, it dawned (pun intended) on me that if I left right now I could get to Daytona in time to see the sunrise. So I did. Then I had breakfast at McDonald’s and drove back home and went to work.

Clearwater 2011

Clearwater 2011

Bradenton 2010

Bradenton 2010

St. Pete 2009. My mother's love for the beach is why we went on so many Florida vacations when I was a kid.

St. Pete 2009. My mother’s love for the beach is why we went on so many Florida vacations when I was a kid.

St. Pete 2009

St. Pete 2009

Tarpon Springs 2010

Tarpon Springs 2010

Bradenton 2010

Bradenton 2010

Near Sky Way Bridge 2012

Near Sky Way Bridge 2012

Fort Desoto 2012

Fort Desoto 2012

Naples 2010

Naples 2010

St. Pete 2010

St. Pete 2010

St. Pete 2010

St. Pete 2010

Fort Desoto 2009

Fort Desoto 2009

I bet you’ve seen enough so I will stop there. Thanks for letting me share my pictures and memories with you. I know God has more wonderful memories and scenes of His majestic grandeur to come for both you and I!

So after working so many 16+ hour days, with no time to even pause to watch a sunset, God knew the desires of my heart, and has blessed me with many memorable sunsets. God knows the desires of your heart too and loves you just as much!

Revelation 4-6; Worthy is the Lamb!

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Revelation 4-6.

And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.  And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?  And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.  Revelation 5:1-4

In Bible times a seal was also a title or a deed. The title in question is the destiny of this earth. The people of earth had put their destiny in Satan’s hands and who could reverse it?

And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.  And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four [and] twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.  And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.  Revelation 5:6-10

Jesus is the Lamb who has taken our destiny out of the hands of Satan! Jesus, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, (Rev.13:8) controls your destiny now. Sure, we never become robots, and you can choose at any time to place your destiny back in the hands of Satan if you want, but Jesus, on the cross has totally undone all the damage caused in the Garden of Eden and has redeemed you!

Revelation chapters 6-8 cover the seven seals. The seventh seal is the second coming of Jesus. For more commentary on these chapters, may I suggest the book, Daniel and Revelation, by Uriah Smith?

And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;  And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:  Revelation 6:14-16

I cannot imagine anything more heartbreaking or tragic, than for me to want to ask for rocks and stones to fall on me and hide me from the One who saved me! I want to run to Jesus when He comes and thank Him for dying for me! I do not want to run and hide from the One who gave everything to save me. Friend, Jesus died for you. He loves you! Please do not run and hide from Him!

Revelation 6 ends with the question, “For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” Revelation 6:17 This question is answered in chapter 7 of Revelation. In Chapter 8 the seventh seal is completed, which is the second coming.

Revelation 3; Why Are We Lukewarm?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.     Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and [that] the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.  Revelation 3:14-21

This is the last of the seven churches, and represents the last church of the Christian era. In every letter to every church, Jesus asks them to overcome, but in His letter to His last day church, He asks them to overcome, “even as also I overcame.” He is asking His last day church to do something beyond what He has ever asked any church to do before. He is asking them to perfectly reflect His character to a world dying for the hope only He can bring. This can only be done by casting away our so called righteousness for His true righteousness. That is what makes us so lukewarm, we are trying to be like God while still trying to be filled with self. We buy God’s gold and white raiment, by trading in our pride and self-righteousness.

We see in this letter, that there is hope! While Jesus does not paint a pretty picture of our condition, He implies that through His grace He expects to see us overcome! I remember when working at UPS once as a part time supervisor, my full time supervisor was rebuking me for a mistake I made. He seemed to be a little rough on me, but he ended the conversation by saying, “When you become a full time supervisor you will understand what I am talking about.” So while my boss did not paint a pretty picture of my current situation, he also implied he expected me to perform better and get promoted! If we study this letter to Laodicea carefully, we can see all the things Jesus can do for  and through us once we put self away.

God’s ideal for His children is higher than the highest human thought can reach. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” This command is a promise. The plan of redemption contemplates our complete recovery from the power of Satan. Christ always separates the contrite soul from sin. He came to destroy the works of the devil, and He has made provision that the Holy Spirit shall be imparted to every repentant soul, to keep him from sinning.  {Desire of Ages, p. 311}  

Jesus Wept; The Bible and Human Emotions, Lesson 12

The question is asked in this week’s SS lesson, “When was the last time you communed with the Lord in nature? If possible, make an effort to do just that. You might be surprised at what a positive spiritual effect it will have.” Why thank you for asking! Let me share with some pictures!

I take advantage of the beautiful Florida nature, when it comes to my devotional time with God. This is at Ballast Point Park by Bayshore Drive in Tampa. It’s a ten minute drive from my home by car and about 45 minutes by bike. This particular morning, I rode my bike to Bayshore to watch the sun rise and then have my personal devotional time.

I also take advantage of the beautiful Florida weather and secenery when giving personal and group Bible studies. This is Ballast Point Park again. Eli was baptized after our Bible studies last Summer.

I also love spending time with God at the Pier in St. Petersburg, just across the Howard Franklin Bridge from Tampa. They have kayaks and boat rentals, dolphin sightseeing cruises, rental bikes- you name it. Of course they also have some nice places to eat. I often come here alone on my days off and spend the day, and other times I bring a friend or two to hang out. When guests come to visit from out of town I enjoy taking them here and showing them my little sanctuary. Click here for a 12second video of the dolphins on our cruise.

I enjoy kayaking in the bay where I know the alligators won’t get me. A lot of my friends enjoy kayaking in the river and have never had any problems with alligators even thought they see them all the time. I am not taking any chances! Of course the bay is full of sharks but I have never seen one, though I have learned several kinds lurk in the waters. I have seen dolphins and manatees amongst other creatures.

Its always more fun with friends, though sometimes it can be enjoyable just me and my Bible.

The Tampa Bay area has plenty of bike trials where you can spend time with God in nature. I ride my bike all over the city too. It can be dangerous but if you obey the bike safety laws and ride defensively it is a lot more safe. The city is putting in more bike lanes and trying to make Tampa a more bike friendly city. St. Petersburg is already very bike friendly. I have actually ridden by bike from the west coast of Florida to the east coast! It only took me about 11 minutes too! It was in Key West Florida. Key West is a very bike friendly city. I could easily live there without a car. With gas prices the way they are, I think I will be riding my bike more. I could also use the excersise.

I saw this dolphin on a bike ride a while back.

Davis Island is a nice place to ride your bike and enjoy the natural beauty of Florida.

Florida’s many golf courses offer wonderful opportunities to spend time in God’s nature. You would not believe all the beautiful creatures I see while I am in the woods!

We all teed off and were on our way back to the cart when I spotted the alligator who had been watching us. We then went back and staged this photo.

Even though Tropicana Field is a domed stadium where the Tampa Bay Rays play, you can find nature. Behind the center field wall they have a tank with stingrays. Here, my friends Tim, Bryan and Lynn are checking them out. This was a little while before Tim and Bryan were both baptized after we studied the Bible together. Tim is currently helping me with my new growth group.

 

I love taking pictures of the gulf and ocean for my mother, who loves the ocean, and for anyone else who will look at them. This picture was taken in Naples.

Sunsets and sunrises are my favorites. Twice I have watched the sun rise on the east coast and then saw it set on the west coast in the same day. The first time was in Daytona beach and Clearwater beach. The last time was in the keys.

Just outside my  door I can enjoy the beautiful ducks and other birds on the pond asI take a walk around the neighborhood, meditating and talking with God.

There is so much in nature to bring us closer to God, and help us learn about His love. Here is a nature video made by a friend of mine, Mike Bradenbaugh, teaching the many lessons of nature. It is very good please give it a look. I hope this has inspired you to take the time to spend time with God in nature too.

1st & 2nd Timothy; Sound Doctrine or Pleasing Fables?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In First and Second Timothy, Paul gives us the importance of sound doctrine.“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, [which is] our hope; Unto Timothy, [my] own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, [and] peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: [so do]. Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and [of] a good conscience, and [of] faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.  1 Timothy 1:1-6

Now more than ever those who have a hunger for God desire to hear the Word of God and not fancy little stories that often make no sense. Some preachers today like to carefully word their sermons so as they can be taken one way by people who believe one way, and another way by people who believe another way. That is not teaching God’s Word. It is just humoring people. Why not just preach the straight Word of God and not worry about how it will be taken? Jesus never wanted to offend anyone but He often did because they did not want to accept His straight testimony.

If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.  But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself [rather] unto godliness.  1 Timothy 4:6-7

Again Paul stresses the straight Word of God over fancy little stories that sometimes illustrate false doctrines.

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture [is]given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.  2 Timothy 3:15-17

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.  2 Timothy 4:2-4

If we really love God, we will not want pleasing things preached to us, but the straight Word of God. We will want to know the truth about how to please the One Who gave His life for us all!

Click here for a study on how those who really love Jesus want to follow and practice sound Bible doctrine.