The Mystery of Iniquity and the Mystery of Godliness

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan has two mysteries –the mystery of iniquity and the mystery of Godliness.

The phrase, “mystery of iniquity” is mentioned only one time and only in the KJV.

For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 2 Thessalonians 2:7 KJV

Paul mentions the mystery of iniquity right after talking about a man

Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 2 Thessalonians 2:4 KJV.

Now while the KJV uses the word “iniquity” many other versions use the word “secret.” Also many other versions use the word “lawlessness” instead of “iniquity.” I am using multiple versions to get the big picture. In 2 Thessalonians Paul is talking about someone whose secret agenda is to overthrow God’s law and set himself on God’s throne.

Is this what also happened in heaven? Yes!

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God:… I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Isaiah 14:12-14 KJV

John shares more light on this mystery when he says,

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, Revelation 12:7 KJV

Here we see an outright war. Not with tanks and machine guns, but a war of the minds. Lucifer is secretly trying to overthrow God’s law and government in order to set up his own kingdom. I imagine he was using flattery, bribery and mind games to secretly undermine God’s law and government and turn people to himself, just as he does now.

This is where the word “iniquity” comes in. Iniquity can be described as being bent towards or inclined towards self. Ezekiel has another clue in this mystery.

Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. Ezekiel 28:15 KJV

In heaven, Lucifer’s love, which was supposed to be centered on God others took a u-turn and headed towards himself. Somehow Lucifer mysteriously started undermining the importance of God and others and began his secret agenda of exalting self.

When things appear unexpectedly where they are not supposed to be, we call that a mystery. Part of the famous D.B. Cooper case involves a family finding a large sum of money while hiking in the forest. It was a mystery because the money was unexpected and not supposed to be there. Was self-love supposed to be in an angel’s heart in heaven? No, it was unexpected and not supposed to be there. Was there a logical reason for Satan to be at war with Christ in heaven of all places? No. It was not logical at all. The rebellion was not supposed to be there. That makes it a mystery doesn’t it? We can’t explain it or defend it. It’s a mystery.

Sometimes we are tempted to think, once we get to heaven we just automatically won’t sin any more, because we will be in a perfect world. Yet sin began in a perfect world! What a mystery!

However we do know there will be no sin in heaven.

Affliction will not rise up a second time. Nahum 1:9. NKJV

This leads us to another mystery, the mystery of Godliness. While many find it a mystery how a perfect being became so sinful, they also find it a mystery how a sinful race can become Christlike.

Obviously this is not done on our own. This mystery can only be performed by Christ working in us.

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27 NKJV

Revelation 10 gives us another clue to the mystery. John is given a book, which I understand to be the book of Daniel. It was sweet in his mouth but bitter in his stomach. When the 2300 days in Daniel 8:14 came to an end, the expectation of Christ’s return in 1844 was sweet, but the disappointment was bitter. (I wonder if the thunders told John about the disappointment, but he was not allowed to write it down because some things must be learned through experience?) While they were disappointed in 1844 when Jesus did not return, Revelation tells us what would occur in 1844.

… but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets. Revelation 10:7 NKJV

According to Colossians 1:27, the mystery of God is Christ in us. This leads us to the cleansing of the sanctuary, not just a building on earth or in heaven, but even more so the cleansing of the soul temple, so God can dwell right within us! See Exodus 25:8 and John 14:1-3.

Again this mystery can only be accomplished by Christ working in us. It is all grace.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14 NKJV

In Titus 2:11-14 Paul describes a people on earth who have become Christlike. What a mystery! In heaven where you would least expect it, sin began. Now thanks to God’s grace, right here on earth, where you would least expect it, people become Christlike. John agrees with Paul. We don’t have to wait to get to heaven to be like Jesus.

Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 1 John 4:17 NKJV

I like the way Ellen White explains it:

That which alone can effectually restrain from sin in this world of darkness, will prevent sin in heaven. The significance of the death of Christ will be seen by saints and angels. Fallen men could not have a home in the paradise of God without the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Shall we not then exalt the cross of Christ? The angels ascribe honor and glory to Christ, for even they are not secure except by looking to the sufferings of the Son of God. It is through the efficacy of the cross that the angels of heaven are guarded from apostasy. Without the cross they would be no more secure against evil than were the angels before the fall of Satan. Angelic perfection failed in heaven. Human perfection failed in Eden, the paradise of bliss. All who wish for security in earth or heaven must look to the Lamb of God. The plan of salvation, making manifest the justice and love of God, provides an eternal safeguard against defection in unfallen worlds, as well as among those who shall be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. -Ellen White, Signs of the Times, December 30, 1889. 

In the Great Controversy between Christ and Satan we see a perfect angel in heaven who becomes sinful. We also see a sinful race on earth become Christ-like.

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

How I Got Out of Credit Card Debt

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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.

Tithing on Your Increase

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Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. Deuteronomy 14:22 KJV

Tithing on your “increase” is different than tithing on your “gross” or “net” as an employee. This affects people who are self-employed and/or invest in their business. An illustration I use when giving a Bible study on tithing is, that if you get paid $50.00 for mowing your neighbors lawn, and you paid $5.00 for the gas, then you actually made $45.00. $45.00 is your increase or profit. You would tithe on the $45.00 since that is what you actually made. By the way the $45.00 is what you would also pay taxes on, so both God and “Caesar” realize you made $45.00, and not $50.00.

Of course there could be other expenses too, like the cost of the lawn mower, but I think you get the gist of the illustration. Of course the cost of the lemonade you bought from the stand across the street would not count as a business expense because even though it quenched your thirst, it was not a direct business expense. Tithing on your “increase” is different than tithing on your “gross” or “net” as an employee.

I’ll give several other examples, as I see them, and I encourage our readers to contribute their examples.

Now “Caesar” realizes if you work in an office or campus, that driving to work and back is not a direct investment to your business. You do not write off travel expenses to work and back. However you do write off travel expenses while working. For example if I’m a courier doing deliveries, I would deduct travel expenses from what I am paid to find my actual profit, and then tithe and pay taxes on the actual profit. By the way your gross income would be considered your actual profit. Let’s say I pick up a kayak in Sydney and drive 170 kilometers to deliver the kayak in Newcastle, for $525. To find my profit I would subtract 66 cents a km, which would be $112, leaving me with a profit of $413. I would tithe on the $413, which would be $42 (rounded up). Of course I can round that up to $45.00 or even $50.00!

Now if I drove 10 kilometers to make the pickup in Sydney I would not count that against my profit because that was just getting to work. It was not an expense of the actual work itself. The way I see it, only things that you invested directly to making your profit would be deducted from your profit. Now if I traveled from my home to a courier training workshop in Melbourne, that would be a travel expense relating directly to my business and profit. Everyone needs to decide between themselves and God if something is a direct business expense.

Again, your profit is counted as your gross income which you would be taxed on and would tithe on. Sometimes when I am giving this study, people will ask me if they can deduct their home electric bill from their gross income and then tithe after that. The answer is “no.” Your home electric bill is not a part of your business or an investment in your profit. “Caesar” does not let you write off your home electric bill as it has nothing to do with your profit if you are not working at home.

You need to follow your own conscience and Bible principles on determining what your increase is, but as a general rule, if “Caesar’ sees an item as a business expense then it is reasonable to count it as a business expense regarding your increase (profit) and tithe.

I hope this conversation has been helpful, and we can discuss it further in the comment section.

Anything Except What God Says!

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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. 

6 Everyday Childhood Habits of Jesus

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. 

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Luke 2:52 NKJV

Would you have loved having the boy Jesus in your Sabbath School class, or would you become annoyed by His constant questioning? (See Luke 2:46) Would you have enjoyed having Jesus as your childhood playmate, or would you become annoyed when He would not join you in mischief? (See Luke 2:40) The amazing thing is, Jesus was such as much God as child as an adult. Even with all the wickedness our children face in our world today, Jesus is still an example and Savior to them.

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15 NKJV

No child of humanity will ever be called to live a holy life amid so fierce a conflict with temptation as was our Saviour. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 71

So how did Jesus escape all this temptation as a child? Of course it helps that He was born of the Spirit! Thankfully in John 3, Jesus offers us all that same opportunity! Thankfully God sent a messenger, who gave us a beautiful insight into the childhood of Jesus, and shares with us 6 everyday childhood habits of the Son of God.

1. He always studied God’s Word.
“Every child may gain knowledge as Jesus did. As we try to become acquainted with our heavenly Father through His word, angels will draw near, our minds will be strengthened, our characters will be elevated and refined. We shall become more like our Saviour.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 70

2. He always prayed.
Communion with God through prayer develops the mental and moral faculties. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Pages 70-71

3. He cultivated thoughts on spiritual themes.
“and the spiritual powers strengthen as we cultivate thoughts upon spiritual things.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 71

4. Jesus kept busy as a child.
” In His industrious life there were no idle moments to invite temptation.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 72

5. He was intentional and purposeful with His time.
“No aimless hours opened the way for corrupting associations.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 72

6. Even though He was tempted in all points, Jesus did not invite temptation.
“So far as possible, He closed the door to the tempter.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 72

The life of Jesus was a life in harmony with God. While He was a child, He thought and spoke as a child; but no trace of sin marred the image of God within Him. Yet He was not exempt from temptation. The inhabitants of Nazareth were proverbial for their wickedness. The low estimate in which they were generally held is shown by Nathanael’s question, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” John 1:46. Jesus was placed where His character would be tested. It was necessary for Him to be constantly on guard in order to preserve His purity. He was subject to all the conflicts which we have to meet, that He might be an example to us in childhood, youth, and manhood.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 71

Sandra and Ben’s Baptism and Profession of Faith

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As summer ended, Sandra showed up with her son Ben, for my kids summer Bible study group. Sandra wanted Bible studies as well, so we continued studying during the fall. Today Sandra rejoined the Seventh-day Adventist Church at Tampa First, and Ben was baptized for the first time.

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This Sabbath Pastor Brad presented Sandra to the church family, as she came in on profession of faith.

Sandra writes,

“I can not thank God enough for everything He has done for me,  especially for accepting me as His child through Jesus. I got baptized at the age of 18, received the gift of singing on that day and I never regretted it for one second of my life. Today I am renewing my faith as it it was the very first time. I am seeking for that 1st love on the day that we met. Unfortunately due to life circumstances, I wasn’t able to attend church regularly, but I always felt guilty about it and prayed God for deliverance. All those years that I prayed asking, “Oh Lord, when am I going to observe Your Sabbath and take my sons to church as I should? Then this past July God answered my prayer and brought me to Tampa and directed me to Tampa First SDA Church, where I found many blessings. He blessed me with another career adjustment that allowed me to observe the Sabbath.”

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Ben writes,

I want to start a new life with God.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT

Ben, like his mother, studied the Storacles Bible study guides with me.  Ben is very interested in the sciences, as well as criminal justice. He is at the top of his class this year. When Ben we study together, Ben likes to tell me all he is learning in school, and asks me about ways he can serve God though various careers. Ben wants to put God first in all that he does.

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Don’t let the sun go down on your life, without finding Jesus as your personal Savior. If you are interested in learning more about Jesus I would love to study with you in a personal or group Bible study. You can contact me at BibleWorker@TampaAdventist.net

Thank you for your monthly contributions to my ministry so I can continue sharing Jesus with others!

Its Not About Me

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV

Romans 9 is not about Jacob or Esau being predestined for salvation or not. It is about the role they were to play. Some of us are given “greater” roles than others, but we must remember, whatever role we are given, there is a greater picture beyond just us. When life becomes challenging, and things don’t go my way I like to claim Jeremiah 29:11 as a personal promise. I want to believe everything is going to work our for me personally. I read about how David faced challenges, but he always came out on top. But I have to admit, I also read some things in the story of David that disturb my “hope” that everything will work out for me personally. In 1 Samuel 22:18 85 innocent priests become co-lateral victims in the friction between Saul and David. in 2 Samuel 11, Uriah is killed for being loyal to his country! How does the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 apply for Uriah and the priests?

This may shatter the ego of a lot of western minds, but the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 was not given to an individual. It was given to a nation. The western mind loves to internalize the Bible, to the point that we actually believe it is all about us! We love to think that we are living in the last days, (which we are!) because that makes our role pivotal in the Great Controversy. After all, how could God win the Great Controversy without me? I have an important role to play in the church you see! With the game on the line and only seconds left in a basketball play off game, star player Scottie Pippin was outraged when his coach had him on the bench for the final play. There are “Scottie Pippins” in the church today, who cannot imagine God winning the Great Controversy while they just “sit on the bench” or rest in their graves.

Yes, Jesus is a personal Savior, and loves us individually, and would die just for you, but that does not make it all about you. Jesus died for the world. Believe it or not, as much as Jesus really and truly loves you, it still is not all about you, or me. In Exodus 32:32 Moses grasped who it was all about when he asked to have his name blotted from the book of life to save a nation. Had Moses been privy to Jeremiah 29:11 he would not have internalized it and made the promise all about himself. He would have realized the promise was given to a corporate nation. Esther may have very well been familiar with Jeremiah 29:11, when in Esther 4:16 she said, “If I perish I perish.” She was not applying Jeremiah 29:11 to herself. She was applying it to the entire Jewish nation it was given to. She was willing to perish to help fulfill the promise to save the nation.

Paul writes Romans in a corporate mindset, instead of the individualistic western mindset. In Romans 3:23-24 Paul writes how we all have sinned and all been justified. In Romans 5 he writes how we all sinned corporately in Adam, and were all saved corporately in Christ. In Romans 9:3 Paul is looking at the big corporate picture when he writes, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren.” While pointing out that Jacob and Esau had different roles to play, Paul was willing to be totally written out of the play for the greater good of the nation.

I believe the 85 priests and Uriah, will be in heaven. I believe Esther and Paul will be there too, and obviously Moses already is. After all didn’t Jesus say,

He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 10:39 NKJV

Yes God loves us individually. I am just asking those of us with a western mind to think outside ourselves if we are not already. After a mission trip, my flight home was cancelled. I ended up spending the night, sleeping on the floor in a foreign airport. I asked God why I had to sleep on the floor instead of my nice comfy bed. God asked me, “What makes you think you ever deserved a bed in the first place? People a lot more deserving than you have been sleeping on the floor for years, and you are complaining about one night? Who do you think you are?”

Dear Jesus, I know you love me just as much when I am sleeping on the floor as when I am sleeping in my bed. I know you loved the 85 priests and Uriah as much as you loved David. Forgive me for the times I thought it was all about me, and help me to see the big picture, like Moses, Esther and Paul all saw the big picture. Instead of working for personal prosperity, help me to work for the prosperity of your church.

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