Proverbs in Light of The Cross; Search, Study, Seek

 I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 

Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding.  Search for them as you would for silver;  seek them like hidden treasures.  Proverbs 2:3-4 NLT

Sometimes I will be hanging out with a friend, who will ask me a quick Bible question, requesting a quick and simple answer. Still, as I go to my Yourversion Bible app to show my friend the Bible answer, I pause and pray with my friend, asking God to give us insight and understanding, even for one simple verse.  I have read in Steps to Christ, Page 91 by Ellen White, “Never should the Bible be studied without prayer. Before opening its pages we should ask for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, and it will be given.”

As I give Bible studies on how to study the Scriptures, I discover words like “Search” (John 5:39, Acts 17:11) and study, (2 Tim 2:15)  I share with my Bible study student that we are not encouraged to simply read the Bible like you read a newspaper, but to search and study it prayerfully, asking God for insight and understanding.

When I moved to Florida, my GPS told me to turn down Elm street till I came to Maple street where my new home was. So for several years I lived in that home telling people I lived on the corner of Elm and Maple. One day I was sitting at the light at Elm and Maple, just like I had everyday before, when I realized something I never had before. The cross sign did not say “Elm.” It said “Oak.” I then realized that Elm street later turns into Oak street. So for years I was telling people I lived at Elm and Maple when in reality I lived at Oak and Maple.  By just glancing around I assumed I was somewhere I really was not. One day I looked a little closer at the sign. I realized where I really was.  Searching and studying makes a much bigger difference than when we just read and glance at things!

Proverbs 2:3-4 reminds us to ask God for insight and understanding, and it will be given as we, not just casually glance at the Bible, but as we study, search and seek the Bible.

The story you just read is true. The street names were changed to protect the innocent.

Recipe for Revival Part 2: Prayer

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14

While prayer is not the only ingredient to revival, it is very important.

Prayer is the breath of the soul. It is the secret of spiritual power. No other means of grace can be substituted, and the health of the soul be preserved. Prayer brings the heart into immediate contact with the Well-spring of life, and strengthens the sinew and muscle of the religious experience.  –Ellen White, Heavenly Places, Page 83.

Just as we discussed in part one that binge dieting does not lead to good health, neither does a binge revival lead to good spiritual health. Actually a binge revival is no revival at all.

Binge praying will not lead to revival either. Prayer must be a daily part of our life, If prayer is the breath of the soul, then when we stop praying, the soul stops breathing, and when it stops breathing it dies.

Revival must be a way of life and not something we just experience from time to time. I have heard people refer to camp meetings and other spiritual retreats as an opportunity to get their spiritual batteries charged. Problem is we don’t have any spiritual batteries! Our souls are not batteries.

The other day while I was charging my cell phone, it froze on me. I tried to restart it, but I could not even turn it off. I then did what I have done a few times before and just took the battery out to make it go off. It still did not turn off! I quickly realized why. It was still plugged into the charger and so obviously was still receiving power even without the battery. I then unplugged the charger and restarted my phone.

Charging our spiritual batteries is not the solution. Staying connected to the Charger is. Many people have a golf cart religion. A golf cart charges its batteries in the morning, then runs all over the golf course all day under its own power. That does not work for us. We are not golf carts. We are more like trolley cars. A trolley car has no battery. Neither do we. The trolley must be connected to the cable or it cannot move a single inch. Once the connection is severed to the cable, the trolley stops dead in its tracks. So we must stay connected to Christ throughout the day.

Many people wonder why they try so hard to live like Jesus but keep falling short. One reason could be that they are trying to do it in their own power like a golf cart. Often we focus on the miracles Jesus did in the multitude without focusing on what Jesus first did alone, often for entire nights.

He prayed.

We can’t expect to live the way Jesus lived until we pray the way Jesus prayed.

Like us, Jesus realized He could do nothing in His own humanity without the Father.

Then answered Jesus and said unto them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, ‘The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.’”  John 5:19

And Jesus promises us that if we stay connected to Him as He is connected to the Father, even we can do great works.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.  John 14:12

Although there may be a tainted, corrupted atmosphere around us, we need not breathe its miasma, but may live in the pure air of heaven. We may close every door to impure imaginings and unholy thoughts by lifting the soul into the presence of God through sincere prayer. Those whose hearts are open to receive the support and blessing of God will walk in a holier atmosphere than that of earth and will have constant communion with heaven.  –Ellen White, Steps to Christ, p. 99 

I want to learn to pray as Jesus prayed, so I may live like Jesus lived. How about you?

Glimpses of Our God; The Promise of Prayer

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.  Isaiah 65:24

In the summer of 1991 I was enjoying my first full year of Literature Evangelism, as I was selling books all over Oklahoma and even the surrounding states. So far I was leading my conference in sales and hours worked. However, around Oklahoma camp meeting time I hit a slump. I mean a real slump. Three weeks without a single sale! Suddenly my perspective changed. I started doubting my calling. Earlier, I had read in Colporter Ministry that this work was second to none.

Not wanting to doubt the spirit of prophecy I began to rationalize. Maybe it was a great work back before radio and 3ABN. It may have been out there already, but in 1991 I had yet to hear of the Internet. Still, I figured TV and radio were getting the word out now so maybe the literature work was obsolete.

I had a lead card for a Baptist grade school near Tahlequah Oklahoma, around 50 miles from where I lived in Tulsa at the time. I set up an appointment and set out to Eastern Oklahoma. On my way I began to pray. I remember the exact words I prayed. “Lord if this is still an important work for this time please let me know.” I drove across the hills and curves of Highway 51 while my wandered off from my prayer. I arrived at the little school and met the principal in his office. He liked the books and ordered them! My first sale in 3 weeks! As I was writing up the order form, he was writing out the check. As he wrote, he paused, looked at me and said, “This is an important work you are doing.” I looked up from y order form and smiled, but it did not dawn on me that my prayer was being answered, until he paused again, and said, “And you know, especially for this time.” That’s when it dawned on me. Wow! He repeated back to me the exact same words I had prayed in my mind alone in my car!

I drove back to Tulsa  very excited, not just about a sale or even that my prayer was answered, but just the fact that I knew in my heart God heard me! He heard me and repeated back to me the very words I had prayed to Him. This is not the only time this happened. Earlier, I was praying for the Lord to work on a friends heart who stopped attending church. Every night I would pray alone in my apartment, “Lord please send you Holy Spirit to work on Jill’s heart.” After a few weeks, Jill called me out of the blue and I met her at a restaurant. During dinner Jill says, I have something to say but you may think its funny. I assured her, that  she could tell me and I would not laugh. She then told me, “I feel like the Holy Spirit has been working on my heart.” Wow! Jill was repeating back to me the exact same words of my prayer!

That was over 20 years ago, and since then God has answered even more remarkable prayers. I hope to go into those one day when the time is right. Each time, what amazes me is just the fact that I know the Creator and King of the universe is listening to my prayer! He does not merely hear me, He listens to me. Friend He does the same for you. Here is one of my favorite quotes on prayer, found on page 100 of Steps to Christ:

Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him. He who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the wants of His children. “The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” James 5:11. His heart of love is touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything that perplexes the mind. Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds up worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our peace is too small for Him to notice. There is no chapter in our experience too dark for Him to read; there is no perplexity too difficult for Him to unravel. No calamity can befall the least of His children, no anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere prayer escape the lips, of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest. “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3. The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son.

Click here to study this week’s SS lesson. Click here to download the lessons to your phone.

Jesus Wept; The Bible and Human Emotions, Lesson 6

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Thoughts on Lesson 6. You may also download the SS lessons to your android phone.

 Often your mind may be clouded because of pain. Then do not try to think. You know that Jesus loves you. He understands your weakness. You may do His will by simply resting in His arms. It is a law of nature that our thoughts and feelings are encouraged and strengthened as we give them utterance. While words express thoughts, it is also true that thoughts follow words. If we would give more expression to our faith, rejoice more in the blessings that we know we have,–the great mercy and love of God,–we should have more faith and greater joy. No tongue can express, no finite mind can conceive, the blessing that results from appreciating the goodness and love of God. Even on earth we may have joy as a wellspring, never failing, because fed by the streams that flow from the throne of God.  {Ministry of Healing, p. 251-3}

After reading the following passage from Steps to Christ, I have adopted the attitude of, picking the flowers, and leaving the thorns alone.  As we collect memories from our lives, why not pick the flowers and leave the thorns alone?

 Many, walking along the path of life, dwell upon their mistakes and failures and disappointments, and their hearts are filled with grief and discouragement. While I was in Europe, a sister who had been doing this, and who was in deep distress, wrote to me, asking for some word of encouragement. The night after I had read her letter I dreamed that I was in a garden, and one who seemed to be the owner of the garden was conducting me through its paths. I was gathering the flowers and enjoying their fragrance, when this sister, who had been walking by my side, called my attention to some unsightly briers that were impeding her way. There she was mourning and grieving. She was not walking in the pathway, following the guide, but was walking among the briers and thorns. “Oh,” she mourned, “is it not a pity that this beautiful garden is spoiled with thorns?” Then the guide said, “Let the thorns alone, for they will only wound you. Gather the roses, the lilies, and the pinks.” 

     Have there not been some bright spots in your experience? Have you not had some precious seasons when your heart throbbed with joy in response to the Spirit of God? When you look back into the chapters of your life experience do you not find some pleasant pages? Are not God’s promises, like the fragrant flowers, growing beside your path on every hand? Will you not let their beauty and sweetness fill your heart with joy? 

     The briers and thorns will only wound and grieve you; and if you gather only these things, and present them to others, are you not, besides slighting the goodness of God yourself, preventing those around you from walking in the path of life? 

     It is not wise to gather together all the unpleasant recollections of a past life,–its iniquities and disappointments,–to talk over them and mourn over them until we are overwhelmed with discouragement. A discouraged soul is filled with darkness, shutting out the light of God from his own soul and casting a shadow upon the pathway of others.  Thank God for the bright pictures which He has presented to us. Let us group together the blessed assurances of His love, that we may look upon them continually: The Son of God leaving His Father’s throne, clothing His divinity with humanity, that He might rescue man from the power of Satan; His triumph in our behalf, opening heaven to men, revealing to human vision the presence chamber where the Deity unveils His glory; the fallen race uplifted from the pit of ruin into which sin had plunged it, and brought again into connection with the infinite God, and having endured the divine test through faith in our Redeemer, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and exalted to His throne–these are the pictures which God would have us contemplate.  {Steps to Christ, p. 117-18}

Acts 1; God’s Purpose For His Church

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Acts 1:8

The church is God’s appointed agency for the salvation of men. It was organized for service, and its mission is to carry the gospel to the world. From the beginning it has been God’s plan that through His church shall be reflected to the world His fullness and His sufficiency. The members of the church, those whom He has called out of darkness into His marvelous light, are to show forth His glory. The church is the repository of the riches of the grace of Christ; and through the church will eventually be made manifest, even to “the principalities and powers in heavenly places,” the final and full display of the love of God.  Ephesians 3:10.  {AA 9.1} 

The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan is over the character of God. Is God love like He says or is He a cruel tyrant as Satan claims? The former quote reminds me of another quote in Christ Object Lessons, “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.”  {COL 69.1}  What God is wanting to place in the hearts of His people, is not a cold, formal or legalistic perfection. God is a forgiving God no doubt! He is not perfecting the church so that we can earn our way to heaven. Heaven is a gift. God is not watching our every move, looking for something to check off against us on His list. The character is revealed, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts.  {SC 57.2

God is not perfecting His church so they can earn salvation. However He is empowering His church to perfectly represent His love and character to a world starving for love. There is a trial going on. We are not on trial, God is. Satan is accusing God of being a cruel, loveless tyrant. The world is sitting in the jury box, and what God needs from His church is proper representation of His character so that in this trial the jury can make an educated decision about the character of God. God accepts mankind, but mankind will not accept God until it knows for sure that God is indeed the God of love that He says He is. This is where God needs help from His church.

The church is God’s fortress, His city of refuge, which He holds in a revolted world. Any betrayal of the church is treachery to Him who has bought mankind with the blood of His only-begotten Son. From the beginning, faithful souls have constituted the church on earth. In every age the Lord has had His watchmen, who have borne a faithful testimony to the generation in which they lived. These sentinels gave the message of warning; and when they were called to lay off their armor, others took up the work. God brought these witnesses into covenant relation with Himself, uniting the church on earth with the church in heaven. He has sent forth His angels to minister to His church, and the gates of hell have not been able to prevail against His people.  {AA 11.2}

     Through centuries of persecution, conflict, and darkness, God has sustained His church. Not one cloud has fallen upon it that He has not prepared for; not one opposing

force has risen to counterwork His work, that He has not foreseen. All has taken place as He predicted. He has not left His church forsaken, but has traced in prophetic declarations what would occur, and that which His Spirit inspired the prophets to foretell has been brought about. All His purposes will be fulfilled. His law is linked with His throne, and no power of evil can destroy it. Truth is inspired and guarded by God; and it will triumph over all opposition.  {AA 11.3} 

     During ages of spiritual darkness the church of God has been as a city set on a hill. From age to age, through successive generations, the pure doctrines of heaven have been unfolding within its borders. Enfeebled and defective as it may appear, the church is the one object upon which God bestows in a special sense His supreme regard. It is the theater of His grace, in which He delights to reveal His power to transform hearts.  {AA 12.1} 

 

Everyone in whose heart Christ abides, everyone who will show forth His love to the world, is a worker together with God for the blessing of humanity. As he receives from the Saviour grace to impart to others, from his whole being flows forth the tide of spiritual life.

 

The Jewish leaders thought themselves too wise to need instruction, too righteous to need salvation, too highly honored to need the honor that comes from Christ. The Saviour turned from them to entrust to others the privileges they had abused and the work they had slighted. God’s glory must be revealed, His word established. Christ’s kingdom must be set up in the world. The salvation of God must be made known in the cities of the wilderness; and the disciples were called to do the work that the Jewish leaders had failed to do.  {AA 16.1}

AA=Acts of the Apostles, COL=Christ Object Lessons, SC=Steps to Christ.

You may find more studies and devotionals on my personal website In Light of the Cross.

Matthew 6; The Lord’s Prayer

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.  Matthew 6:5-6

 

Jesus endorses both public and private prayer, but there is a difference. Public prayers should be simple and brief. In our private prayers we share more specifically what is on our hearts. For example, if Aunt Jane has started drinking and running around with men again we do not need to bring that up in public prayer. When we do this it is nothing more than gossip. We save this news for Jesus’ ears only. Also our private prayers have no time restraint. Jesus spent all night in personal prayer but did not spend all night in public prayer. When we have the morning prayer for church and pray a long prayer what we are telling everyone is that we have no personal prayer life, so we have to make up for it by making long public prayers. Jesus’ public prayers were very brief because He had a personal prayer life outside of public speaking.

 

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.  Matthew 6:7

 

A vain repetition is when we recite words that do not come from the heart. Songs as well as prayers can be vain repetitions if we are not singing from the heart. God wants us to share our hearts with Him not just our lips. I love the way one author puts it:

 

“Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him. He who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the wants of His children. “The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” James 5:11. His heart of love is touched by our sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything that perplexes the mind. Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds up worlds, He rules over all the affairs of the universe. Nothing that in any way concerns our peace is too small for Him to notice. There is no chapter in our experience too dark for Him to read; there is no perplexity too difficult for Him to unravel. No calamity can befall the least of His children, no anxiety harass the soul, no joy cheer, no sincere prayer escape the lips, of which our heavenly Father is unobservant, or in which He takes no immediate interest. “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3. The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son.” – Steps to Christ, p. 100

 

Remember God wants a relationship with us. He is not a vending machine, where we just tell Him what we want, get it and go. Also while many wonder why they do not get there requests in the time they would like there may be many reasons (See Psalm 66:18) but the biggest reason may be as simple as we are not God’s boss!

 

Let’s take a look now at the model prayer Jesus gave us. This prayer does not need to be repeated word for word. Many recite this prayer with no thought and thus it too becomes a vain repetition.

 

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  Matthew 6:9

 

We begin by acknowledging Who we are talking to. Yes He is our friend but He is also ruler of the universe and more than capable of handling any problem we may have.

 

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as [it is] in heaven.  Matthew 6:10

 

God drove Lucifer out of heaven and He can do the same here on earth. God’s will can be done in our hearts, homes, and communities, as we pray for God’s will to be done in those places as well as in heaven.

 

Give us this day our daily bread.  Matthew 6:11

 

Jesus never asked for anything just for Himself. He also asked for the blessings of others as well as Himself. When Daniel’s prayer was answered in Daneil 2 it was not only his own life that was saved but that of all the wise men as well. When the disciples prayed Jesus to save them from the storm at sea, it was not just their boat that was saved from the storm but all those around them on the sea as well.

 

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  Matthew 6:12

 

Again no self or pride in Jesus’ prayer. He does not pray “forgive everyone else but as you know I have never sinned.” No, there is no pride in His prayer. Pride may allow us to pray on our knees while we are still standing in our heart.

 

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.  Matthew 6:13

 

Christ’s prayer concludes with again reaffirming Who it is we are praying to and acknowledging that He is more than able to care for all our needs.

Matthew 3; The Baptism of Jesus

I am writing this morning from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. The love of Christ in the hearts of His followers is what makes this area so beautiful.

Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: Matthew 3:8

 

Many people were coming to John to be baptized, some of them, not because they loved God but because of political advantage. While John had a burden for souls and a great desire for them to be saved, he was not just baptizing to bring in large numbers or make himself look like a good preacher. He wanted to be sure the Holy Spirit had convicted the baptismal candidates and truly changed their lives. God works the same way today:

 

“Ministers who labor in towns and cities to present the truth should not feel content, nor that their work is ended, until those who have accepted the theory of the truth realize indeed the effect of its sanctifying power, and are truly converted to God. God would be better pleased to have six truly converted to the truth as the result of their labors, than to have sixty make a nominal profession, and yet not be thoroughly converted. These ministers should devote less time to preaching sermons, and reserve a portion of their strength to visit and pray with those who are interested, giving them godly instruction, to the end that they may “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”  {Evangelism  320}

 

Jesus understood that baptism meant giving up His life for the Father. Jesus taught every converted Christian to pray “Thy will be done in earth, as[it is in heaven.” Later, before literally giving up His life, He prays, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” This is why Jesus told John to baptize Him, “thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” Matthew 3:15  In baptism we give all of ourselves to God, because God gave all of Himself for us! Anything less is not being baptized. It’s just getting wet.

 

Here is a study on Baptism.

 

If it sounds like baptism is too big of a step,  please consider this:

 

” But what do we give up, when we give all? A sin-polluted heart, for Jesus to purify, to cleanse by His own blood, and to save by His matchless love. And yet men think it hard to give up all! I am ashamed to hear it spoken of, ashamed to write it.    God does not require us to give up anything that it is for our best interest to retain. In all that He does, He has the well-being of His children in view. Would that all who have not chosen Christ might realize that He has something vastly better to offer them than they are seeking for themselves. Man is doing the greatest injury and injustice to his own soul when he thinks and acts contrary to the will of God. No real joy can be found in the path forbidden by Him who knows what is best and who plans for the good of His creatures. The path of transgression is the path of misery and destruction. 

 

     It is a mistake to entertain the thought that God is pleased to see His children suffer. All heaven is interested in the happiness of man. Our heavenly Father does not close the avenues of joy to any of His creatures. The divine requirements call upon us to shun those indulgences that would bring suffering and disappointment, that would close to us the door of happiness and heaven.” Steps to Christ, p. 46

If you are interested in baptism I would love to talk to you! Please call me at (813) 933-7505