How do You Accept Rebukes?

I am writing today from beautiful Florida.

I am writing today from beautiful Florida.

Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy. Proverbs 27:6 NLT

Long ago, I was writing a blog post about humor. I compared the humor of my friends in different areas. Just a few minutes after publishing my post, I got a call from a friend here where I live. He told me I better rethink what I wrote about my friends in another area. He told me even though he knew no offense was intended, it could offend them. I edited my post as suggested. I thought, how wonderful that I have a friend who was so concerned about me, that he called so quickly to warn me, even though he was busy with his own day, and had no vested interest other than looking out for me. Instead of taking offense and taking his call as being critical, I took it as a compliment. He thought enough of me and my ministry to make that call right away.

Unfortunately, many people in Jeremiah’s day did not appreciate his rebukes, even though they were given out of love. It takes a lot of love to tell someone what they need to hear, instead of patronizing them with what they want to hear. I realize the success of my ministry depends upon Jeremiahs of today, who will rebuke me when needed, in a Christlike way.

Christ Himself did not suppress one word of truth, but He spoke it always in love. He exercised the greatest tact, and thoughtful, kind attention in His [association] with the people. He was never rude, never needlessly spoke a severe word, never gave needless pain to a sensitive soul. He did not censure human weakness. He fearlessly denounced hypocrisy, unbelief, and iniquity, but tears were in His voice as He uttered His scathing rebukes.  –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 353 

Years ago, the church I was attending at the time was going through a little crisis. I was having dinner one evening with a couple of friends who supported me wholeheartedly on my view of the crisis. In the course of the evening I made a comment out of frustration that was out of place. They both quickly let me know what I had just said was not appropriate and was not a healthy attitude. They showed me how much they loved and supported me but did not hesitate at all to let me know when I stepped out of line. I thought, “Wow! Now I know they are really looking out for me and my ministry!” I felt loved and secure, knowing these friends were not going to let me step out of line and make a fool of myself and disgrace my ministry.

When people rebuke me I take it as a compliment. It means my ministry is worth something in their eyes, and they are looking out for me. How do you accept rebuke?

Acts of Humanity

Indian Rocks 5

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

As this week’s SS lesson talks about acts of inhumanity being sins against God, I would like to write about acts of humanity.

 

Taking a walk in Texas, I came across a beautiful patch of Texas Blue Bonnet flowers and Indian Paint Brushes. Among the flowers I saw some litter. I thought to myself, as ugly as sin has made this world, God still has His beautiful flowers for all to enjoy among the litter.

 

Not long after the New York World Trade Towers were hit by terrorists, New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, said, “Evil manifested itself that day, with those who were willing to die if they could just kill someone else. Good was manifested that day by those rescue workers who were willing to die if they could just save someone else.” Crashing the planes into the towers was an act of inhumanity, but the rescue workers running into the disaster area while everyone else was running away were performing acts of humanity. As terrible as that day was, it was a defeat for Satan, as we actually saw more good than evil. We saw a handful of terrorists taking lives, but we saw hundreds of rescue workers saving lives. We saw planes being forced out of the sky and landing in places like Nova Scotia, where the townsfolk took some of these traveling strangers in and boarded and fed them. Acts of humanity were everywhere.

 

Last year I made two trips to Connecticut and Massachusetts, while doing evangelistic meetings. Never having been to New England, I was taken in by the beauty of the area. It seemed so peaceful. I loved visiting the pleasant little villages and old churches. The people were so kind and pleasant to be around. One evening I took the night off from meetings, and visited Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox baseball team. They were playing my Tampa Bay Rays. Even though I was for the other team, everyone was very polite and helpful – from the people who helped me get on the right subway, to the Japanese  tourists, who sat next to me, asking me Red Sox trivia questions throughout the game, not realizing I was not a Red Sox fan. I surprised myself on how well I could answer their questions. On the train to my hotel, after the game I ran into nothing but the nicest people ever. Even traveling alone, I never felt alone.

 

Imagine my shock and horror when months later a crazed gunman walked into a Connecticut school and started committing one of the ugliest acts of inhumanity ever seen. When I thought of the wonderful people I met there, I could not imagine such a thing happening. Later I heard about something I could imagine. Victoria Soto, a young school teacher, died in the gunfire while unselfishly protecting the children. That was an act of humanity. After recently being in New England I found the gunman’s actions unbelievable for that area, but I found the action of Victoria Soto to be what I would expect from people in the area.

 

Last Monday Satan raised his ugly head again in Boston as people were innocently trying to finish a marathon. An act of inhumanity. But we see videos of people rushing to the aid of those who were hurting. That night I thought of Paul writing in 2 Timothy 4:7 NLT “I have finished the race” – the race of life and he would be receiving his prize at the Second Coming. I don’t think Satan is going to be as happy at the end of that race as he was at the end of the Boston Marathon.

 

A few weeks earlier, I had watched a documentary which left me upset. It was about a child who was abused and killed back in the 1960`s and the trial that brought justice. It was very disturbing, and I think I should have followed the counsel of Philippians 4:8 and skipped the documentary. Like the Boston Marathon bombing, the acts of inhumanity in this documentary were senseless. I was so angry with the evil people that I wanted them to suffer justice! It reminded me of a time many years ago when I was watching Roots, with my grandmother. As a child watching the movie, I was outraged by the cruelty many slave owners practiced towards their slaves. As I was watching, I thought in my ten- year old little mind, “I wish I could bring those slave owners back to life and beat them back to death again! They are so cruel!” I started to tell my grandmother how I felt, when she looked and saw how upset I was. She was upset too, but she said, “It makes you want to bring those poor slaves back to life and be good and nice to them, right?” I agreed with her and didn`t tell her what I was really thinking. My way of thinking, bring the slave owners back and beat them to death, would only continue the inhumanity.

 

My grandmother died decades later, never knowing what an important lesson she taught me that night. She does not even know she rebuked my attitude, when she said, “It makes you want to bring the slaves back to life and be good and nice to them, right?” I was plotting acts of inhumanity while she was plotting acts of humanity.

 

After watching the recent documentary about the child who was abused to death, I was thinking how senseless this crime was and I realized I could not bring that child back to life to demonstrate love. Jesus can and will bring people back to life and treat them with love, but in the meantime I`m thinking of what I can do. I can commit senseless acts of kindness in this child’s name.

 

The next day I found myself having lunch with a friend at one of our favorite restaurants. I saw a family eating together at a nearby table. I told the waitress, “Give me their check.” I did not know the family. They may have had more money than I did. There was no reason or motive for my actions. It may have been totally senseless for me to pay their bill, but that was the point. I decided if some people are going to be senselessly mean, then I am going to be senselessly nice!

 

I learned my lesson watching Roots with my grandmother that night long ago. I don’t want to continue with acts of inhumanity. Count me in with the millions who are committing acts of humanity!

 

God, I don’t want to be another piece of litter. Please make me a Blue Bonnet or an Indian Paint Brush. 

 

Will you join me in committing `senseless` acts of kindness to make this world a little better for some of the people in it?  Perhaps it will catch on.

 

“If The President Does it, Then it is not Illegal.” Really?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Sunday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson states, “In some cultures, there is a tendency to distrust and challenge leadership; in others, to blindly submit to it. How has your own culture’s attitude toward authority impacted the church in your area?”

In an interview with David Frost, Richard Nixon, a former United States President, forced to resign due to a scandal, defended himself by saying, “If the President does it, then it is not illegal.” This bold statement shocked David Frost, and every other competent thinker! I believe, in the United States, people really started to question their leaders after Nixon’s downfall.

I believe we keep a healthy balance of respect for leadership, without blind submission, when we ask for accountability and checks and balances. In the United States we have a constitution the President must hold to. The Constitution also declares who ultimately has the authority. It reads, “We the people.” Not “me the president” or “me Thomas Jefferson, or James Madison, or Ronald Regan or Barak Obama.” The power and authority of the constitution comes from ‘The People!” Therefore our president is not above the law.

In the church we have the Scriptures as our sole authority, and our leaders must be held accountable. Also the church as a body has authority,

”God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority.” –Last Day Events, page 56.

Just like in the United States, the President is not above the people, likewise church leaders are not above the church.

“The church is built upon Christ as its foundation; it is to obey Christ as its head. It is not to depend upon man, or be controlled by man. Many claim that a position of trust in the church gives them authority to dictate what other men shall believe and what they shall do. This claim God does not sanction. …. Upon no finite being can we depend for guidance. The Rock of faith is the living presence of Christ in the church. Upon this the weakest may depend, and those who think themselves the strongest will prove to be the weakest, unless they make Christ their efficiency. “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.” The Lord “is the Rock, His work is perfect.” “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” Jeremiah 17:5; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 2:12.- Desire of Ages, Page 414.

Many years ago, I heard the testimony of a church leader, defending himself for some shady deals, saying his boss told him to do it, therefore he had no choice but to obey his boss who had “authority.” I am sure Joab was thinking the same thing when King David told him to put Uriah on the front lines of the war. Please read what God’s messenger has to say about Joab’s rationale.

“And Joab, whose allegiance had been given to the king rather than to God, transgressed God’s law because the king commanded it.  David’s power had been given him by God, but to be exercised only in harmony with the divine law. When he commanded that which was contrary to God’s law, it became sin to obey. “The powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1), but we are not to obey them contrary to God’s law. The apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, sets forth the principle by which we should be governed. He says, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1.  –Patriarchs and Prophets, Page 719.

We need to be respectful of authority, but remember where authority ultimately comes from. And while respecting those in leadership, and even being in leadership, we must remember we are accountable to the Scriptures and God’s church, of which Christ is the Head.

I would also like to share a parting thought. In my years of Gospel Work around the country, I have met people who are afraid to speak up in board meetings or Church business meetings, because they feel they are too young or poor, and their influence would not be felt. I have also observed people abusing their age or money to hurt others. So this is what I say to all. No matter how young, old, rich or poor you are, you need to speak your mind in these meetings. And, no matter how young, old rich or poor you are, you need to be nice when you do. Everyone has a right to speak, and everyone has a responsibility to be nice when they do so.

Glimpses of Grace; Joseph in Egypt

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither. And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.  Genesis 39:1-2

As I was reading this tonight, I thought of something I never had before. Up until Joseph’s promotion by the pharaoh, I pretty much considered Joseph a good natured victim. But now I wonder if he actually enjoyed living in Egypt even before the promotion. Let’s face it, I bet he enjoyed the distance from his brothers as much as they did. God is with Joseph and prospering him so why wouldn’t he be happy even as a slave? Even after Potiphar’s wife frames Joseph and sends him to prison God is still with him. “But the LORD was with Joseph, and showed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that [were] in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer [of it]. The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing [that was] under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and [that] which he did, the LORD made [it] to prosper.” Genesis 39:21-23

Seems to me, Joseph was a lot like his dad. In Genesis 31 his dad talked about how his boss had cheated him and changed his wages but was never able to hurt him. Doesn’t look like anything is really able to hurt Joseph either.  The move to Egypt, even though it may have been caused by his brother’s mean spirit, turned out to be a good move for Joseph.  Even when he was framed and put into prison things still continue to go well for him. I always pictured Joseph as being discouraged up until his promotion but maybe he was enjoying the whole ride! Looks like Joseph was able to bloom wherever he was planted or even re-planted. This is seen in the name Joseph gives his second son. “And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” Genesis 41:52 Joseph was not one of those who say, “If only things were different. If only this or that had not have happened I could have prospered and been happy.” Joseph found joy and prosperity right in the land of his affliction.

 

While Jacob’s struggles with his boss were a reality, and Joseph’s clashes with his brothers and even Potiphar’s wife were real, both of them could claim true what Isaiah said years later, “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.”  Isaiah 54:17

God’s grace was always with Jacob and Joseph and God wants His grace to follow you too. If you are in the Tampa Bay area, I would like to invite you to a grace filled church at Tampa First. If you are not in the area , you can find a grace filled church in your corner of the world here.

Glimpses of Grace; The Tower of Babel and the Ark

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area

While studying Genesis 6-11, a thought occurred to me. The tower of Babel was a futile attempt of man to save himself from calamity by his own works. However, while the ark, a symbol of grace and God’s salvation was a success, man still participated in working and building it. So while man can’t save himself, he can still cooperate with God and work where God is working and not on his own.

Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. Psalms 127:1

The laborers work and build either way. Question is, are you working on your own or are you working with God?

Glimpses of Grace; Help to Overcome

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

While God monitors the planets to make sure they don’t colide, he also monitors your temptations, to make sure nothing comes your way that you can’t handle with His strength. Often times I have been given a task that seems overwhelming.  I don’t have the time, energy or skills to complete it. Then someone reminds me I don’t need to do it alone. I need to delegate and find other people to help me accomplish the task. People are standing by ready to help. In the classic Great Controversy, p 560, I am reminded that all heaven is standing by ready to help me when I am tempted. “He [God] would sooner send every angel out of heaven to protect His people than leave one soul that trusts in Him to be overcome by Satan.”

Galatians; Promises

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Here are my thoughts on this week’s SS lesson. You may also download the lessons to your cell phone.

For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he [who was] of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman [was] by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. Galatians 4:22-24

At Sinai, instead of relying upon God’s promises, they made their own promise. “Go thou near, and hear all that the LORD our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that the LORD our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear [it], and do [it]. “ Deuteronomy 5:27

Paul makes the contrast between the two covenants. Both involve obedience and the law. One is man promising God, and the other, the one that actually works, is God promising man.  Ishmael was born when Abraham tried to carry out God’s promise instead of letting God make things happen.  This incidentally was why Abraham had to be circumcised. He had to cast away the confidence he had in his body and trust in God. Isaac represents what happens when we trust God and believe in His promises.

Here is another helpful allegory from the Desire of Ages about trusting God’s promises instead of our own works.

The birth of a son to Zacharias, like the birth of the child
of Abraham, and that of Mary, was to teach a great spiritual truth, a truth
that we are slow to learn and ready to forget. In ourselves we are incapable of
doing any good thing; but that which we cannot do will be wrought by the power
of God in every submissive and believing soul. It was through faith that the
child of promise was given. It is through faith that spiritual life is
begotten, and we are enabled to do the works of righteousness.  {Desire of Ages, p 98.3} 

Here are some more precious Bible promises about what can be
accomplished through trusting God’s grace instead of our own strength.

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which
[was bestowed] upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than
they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me 1 Corinthians 15:10 Notice when we trust in God’s grace we actually labor more abundantly than when we trust in our own strength!

Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father
in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father
that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.Believe me that I [am] in the Father,
and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. 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 14:10-12Notice by believing Jesus’ promises we do greater works than we do when trusting our own strength and works.

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious
promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having
escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.  2 Peter 1:4

We overcome, not by making promises to God but by trusting
His promises! Also while many argue over exactly what type of human nature
Jesus had, we receive an invitation to experience and participate in His divine
nature!

One last awesome promise from the Spirit of Prophecy. “Just
before us is the “hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world,
to try them that dwell upon the earth.” [Revelation 3:10.] All whose faith
is not firmly established upon the word of God will be deceived and overcome.
But to those who earnestly seek a knowledge of the truth, thus doing what they
can to prepare for the conflict, the God of truth will be a sure defense.
“Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep
thee,” is the Saviour’s promise. He would sooner send every angel out of
Heaven to protect his people, than leave one soul that trusts in him to be
overcome by Satan.”  {Great Controversy, p.560}