Tag: tampa bay

Never Too Old Or Isolated For God to USe

Heron Channelside (5)
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Jean just passed away at the age of 94. She lost her husband a couple years earlier, and then became ill with cancer. She was telling her daughter she did not even know why she was still living. She felt old and useless. But one day her young health care nurse came for a routine visit. She told Jean about her own mother who had Alzheimer’s and would cry and shake constantly. Jean suggested buying a doll for her to hold. The young nurse did so and came back to tell Jean that it worked! No more shaking and crying. Jean was still helping people even though she was widowed, old and sick.

John was quite old when he was banished to the Island of Patmos. He may have been tempted to feel old and useless. But his best days were still ahead!

Remember Psalms 23:6, God’s goodness and mercy shall be with me all the daysof my life! And that was definitely true in John’s case.

When John was exiled to the Isle of Patmos, there were many who thought him to be past service, an old and broken reed, ready to fall at any time. But the Lord saw fit to use him still. Though banished from the scenes of his former labor, he did not cease to bear witness to the truth. Even in Patmos he made friends and converts. His was a message of joy, proclaiming a risen Saviour who on high was interceding for His people until He should return to take them to Himself. And it was after John had grown old in the service of his Lord that he received more communications from heaven than he had received during all the former years of his life. (-Ellen White, Acts of the Apostles, Pages 572-573)

John wrote,

I, John, am your brother and your partner in suffering and in God’s Kingdom and in the patient endurance to which Jesus calls us. I was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching the word of God and for my testimony about Jesus. Revelation 1:9 NLT

Evil people thought to put the old man away in isolation, but instead he spoke with an angel, looked into heaven and wrote the book of Revelation, reaching billions of people around the world throughout the ages!

And it didn’t matter if everyone else thought John was old and useless. God had work for him when no one else did, and God has work for you too, no matter what age you are. Even if you are old, God may still have big plans for you. God was not just talking to young ones when He said,

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

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

Why Was Jesus Baptized?


I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Did Jesus need to be baptized? Was He just setting a good example for us to follow, or was He actually repenting?

Suppose you are eating at your favorite restaurant, and the waiter spills the drinks all over you. I guarantee that the manager is going to come out and apologize all over the place. Why? The manager did not spill the drinks on you. No, but he belongs to a corporation that did. He is apologizing on behalf of the restaurant he represents. So with this mindset, we can say that Jesus was repenting when He was baptized. Not for His sins. He had no sin. But by making Himself one with humanity He was baptized and repented on behalf of humanity.

When Jesus came up out of the water the Father was heard saying,

This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Matthew 3:17 NKJV

Keep in mind, when the Father was saying He was well pleased with His Son, His Son was representing the entire human race. So by accepting His Son, He was accepting the entire human race!

He made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:6 NKJV

But the good news does not end there. What Jesus did for us He also wants to do through us.

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. Romans 6:4-6 NKJV

By baptism we die to self just like Jesus died to self. As Jesus was raised from the grave we are raised to a new life, and now Paul says that God,

raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6 NKJV

There’s a story of a pastor who was waiting for a train at the station, and a man came up to him offering him some Christian literature. The pastor smelled alcohol on his breath, and asked him if he was drinking. The man lowered his head and said Yes. The pastor asked him how he could be witnessing while drinking. The man said, “Jesus lived a perfect life and died for me, so I don’t have to.” The pastor asked, “So Jesus overcame sin so you don’t have to? And died for you so you don’t have to die?” The man said, “Yes!” The pastor replied, “Then Jesus also went back up to heaven so you don’t have to!”

The gospel truth is Jesus died for us so we can die with Him. Jesus lived a victorious life so we can live a victorious life by abiding in Him. And Jesus ascended into heaven so we too can be with Him where He is.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

When Spiritual Egypt is Safer Than Spiritual Israel


I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.” Matthew 2:13-15 NLT
Joseph was warned in a dream to flee into Egypt, that in a heathen land he might find an asylum for the world’s Redeemer.-Ellen White, Confrontation, Page 2

Should “going back to Egypt” always be considered a bad thing? For a while Egypt was a safe haven for the Redeemer. Jesus could claimHeliopolis 1 as His home town as easily as He could Bethlehem or Nazareth. Besides Egypt being an asylum, do you think having a connection to Egypt, be it ever so brief, aided Jesus in being the Savior of the world?

Are there times that houses of worship that we might compare to “Egypt” could be an asylum to those who have been abused spiritually, physically or sexually in God’s church? Especially if the abusers were not dealt with properly? Is it ever possible that while we get frustrated because someone will not come out of “Egypt” that God could actually be keeping her in “Egypt” to keep her safe from someone in your church?

Several years ago I worked with a pastor who had previously ministered in the Southern United States. I was appalled, when he told me that a black family came to visit his church one Sabbath, and instead of welcoming them in, the greeter gave them directions to the black church across town! The pastor realized the greeters were not safe people in his church.

I have seen older people sit through a church service where the music was blaring so loud that it was causing physical pain to their ear drums. This goes beyond taste in worship music to physical abuse. Still the pastor told them if they did not like it they could just go somewhere else. Never mind the fact that the older people poured their heart and soul into building that church. Was the pastor being a bully? He claimed he wanted to make church a safe place for young people.

Shouldn’t our churches be safe places for blacks as well as whites? Shouldn’t churches be safe places for older people as well as younger people? Do you have to bully one group to make it safe for the other? I don’t think so. I am pretty sure Nicodemus as well as Zacchaeus found Jesus to be a safe person.

Is your church a safe place? Or would some people be more safe worshiping in “Egypt?”

The cold hard fact is, if for whatever reason, Israel was not always a safe place for our Redeemer, spiritual Israel may not always be a safe place either. Having worked 25 years in three different conferences, I have met people in every conference who were abused, sexually, physically and spiritually by a church leader, and the church refused to deal with it. Just moving the abuser to another church is not dealing with it! Should an abuse victim be guilted into staying in an abusive church just because it teaches truth?

Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, was not the first Joseph to find asylum in Egypt. A Joseph before him was mistreated and sold into Egypt. I have often wondered, though, if Joseph enjoyed the separation as much as his brothers did! At the end of the story Joseph’s brothers, who were the ancestors of God’s remnant people, by the way, finally repented and became safe people for Joseph to be around. Until then, God kept Joseph safe in Egypt until His remnant became a safe place for Joseph to be, just like God kept Joseph, Mary and Jesus safe in Egypt until Israel became a safe place.

Most all of our Adventist churches are safe. We protect families from domestic abuse and create safe places to grow spiritually without judgment and condemnation. Many a young person has left the church, and been wounded by the world, and then loved back into the church, where they found healing and unconditional love. But let’s be honest. This is not the case all the time. So let’s not be judgmental of someone who may find healing in Egypt, just like Joseph did when his family, the ancestors of the last remnant, was not a safe place for him to be, or like the latter Joseph did, when Israel, for whatever reason, was not a safe place for his family.

  1. S.D.A. Bible commentary, Vol. 5 Page 291 suggests this is where Jesus’ family stayed in Egypt.        You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

How Much Are You Worth?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

He gave justice and help to the poor and needy, and everything went well for him. Isn’t that what it means to know me?” says the Lord. Jeremiah 22:16 NLT

George W. Jenkins not only began his Publix grocery store incorporation during the depression, but he also set up several foundations and charities so that even after his death, in 1996, he could continue giving to the community and those less fortunate.

After setting up and giving to so many charities, someone asked Jenkins what he would be worth had he not given so much away. He quickly answered, “probably nothing.”

Jenkins saw his worth in what he could give instead of in what he could get. He did not figure he would be worth anything if he could not give. Unfortunately four of the “Last Five Kings of Judah” did not share that understanding. Only Josiah recognized that his worth lay in serving the Lord by serving his people.

One of my favorite quotes that helps us keep a perspective on money is,

“Some people are so poor, all they have is money.”

This quote reminds us that life is not about things. Jesus says,

Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own. Luke 12:15 NLT

Jesus goes on to say,

..a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” Luke 12:21 NLT

Life is about relationships not money and things.

Another one of my favorite quotes is,

The richest person is not the one who has the most but the one who needs the least.

Several years ago my friend’s daughter was having her 12th birthday during a holiday season, and I felt bad for her almost being “forgotten” with so many other celebrations. I gave her a card and twenty dollars, which I thought was a generous gift back then. Later I found out she had taken my gift along with the rest of the money she had been given and gave it to a fund at our church to help parents with children in the hospital. Turns out my young friend did not need to be remembered with money. She did not need money at all. She needed to be a blessing to others. I reckon she too figured she would be worth nothing if she was not giving to others.

So, what are you worth?

What’s the Difference Between Appearing as Evil and Just Being Misjudged?


I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Abstain from all appearance of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 KJV

A misunderstanding of this verse has crippled the success of many missionaries. A young student loses his parents, and his teacher is afraid to put her arm around his shoulder and comfort him for fear she might be accused of evil. A pastor is having studies with a bar tender in his home and needs to swing by the bar to pick up his umbrella he left, at the bar tender’s home. What will people think if they see him walk into a bar? Is that giving the appearance of evil? No! It is just giving the appearance of walking into a bar!

My purpose here is not to lessen the accountability of Gospel workers. My point is to help us, as missionaries, be healthy and balanced. Yes we must be careful not to put ourselves in compromising positions, but at the same time we must realize, there are some unbalanced people out there who will misconstrue and misrepresent just about everything, and we can’t allow them to cripple our ministry. It reminds me of when, after 9-11, President George Bush told his fellow citizens to go on with their daily lives, regardless of terrorist threats, otherwise the terrorists win. Likewise, if Satan can cripple our ministry by making us over-analyze and stretch our imagination to see how each action and motive can be misconstrued into something evil, then Satan wins.

The truly converted soul is illuminated from on high, and Christ is in that soul “a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” His words, his motives, his actions, may be misinterpreted and falsified; but he does not mind it because he has greater interests at stake. –Ellen White, Testimonies, Vol. 5, Page 569

There is a line between giving “the appearance of evil” and someone else judging us.
I have seen other gospel workers’ ministries become totally paralyzed by their understanding of what Paul said about not appearing evil. The NLT version of Paul’s earlier quote simply says,

Stay away from every kind of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 NLT

Just because someone else judges us does not automatically mean we have given the appearance of evil. And by the way, just because someone claims to have the gift of discerning spirits does not mean they really have that gift. They may just have the gift of judging and causing dissension. Jesus’ own disciples were surprised when they saw Him talking to a woman at the well. The Pharisees judged Jesus for hanging out with prostitutes and publicans, but He never gave “the appearance of evil”! They were judging.

A teacher can put her arms around a hurting child and still stay far from evil.  A pastor can walk into a bar without it appearing to be evil, so long as he does not walk like he is drunk or make jokes about drinking. Joking about drinking oractually insinuating you are doing something evil is when you give the appearance of evil. Just because something can be misconstrued by someone with a dirty mind does not mean it is giving the appearance of evil. It simply means someone has a dirty mind.

Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted. Titus 1:15 NLT

Satan will use unhealthy, unstable people to misconstrue and misjudge our every move. We cannot let God’s work be paralyzed by people with wild and dirty imaginations. The key, I believe, is to have a healthy understanding of where the line is between giving the appearance of actual evil, and someone else just judging according to their unhealthy imagination. We can’t let unhealthy imaginations dictate our mission. It’s a matter of healthy boundaries – knowing where our responsibility ends and others’ responsibility begins.

Joseph had his motives and actions misjudged and misconstrued but in the end Pharaoh himself said,

“Can we find anyone else like this man [Joseph] so obviously filled with the spirit of God?” Genesis 41:38 NLT

Obviously the prior accusations against Joseph did not mean anything to Pharaoh. He could see right through the false accusations and see Joseph’s mission was filled with the spirit of God. So long as our mission is filled with the Spirit of God, balanced healthy people will see through any false insinuations and God will make our mission successful just like He did for Joseph.

You may study this week’s SS lesson on Biblical Missionaries here.

Nicholas and Emily’s Baptism Pictures and Stories

March 28th 2015 was another special day at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, as two young people gave all of themselves to Jesus, because He gave all of Himself for them.


Nicholas was in my Baptism class at Tampa Adventist Academy. During the course of the class, I had a devotional skit for the Adventurers Club. I needed Nicholas to play the part of Peter when he denied Jesus. Nicholas told me he would do it, when he understood the reason for the skit, but he let it be known, he totally detested having anything to do with denying Jesus! He told me, “I don’t want to deny Jesus!”


Nicholas definitely did NOT deny Jesus, but professed his love and loyalty to Jesus by his public baptism.

Vows Morgans

A couple years ago I had Bible studies with Mark, Marian, and their daughter Cecilia before they got baptized. Last fall Cecilia’s family and I started a group Bible study. We invited Emily and her mother Doris who enjoyed coming. Emily greatly enjoyed the studies and told us she wanted to be baptized. Her aunt told me, every morning after the Bible studies, while she drove Emily to school, Emily would share with her all the wonderful things she was learning as we studied God’s Word.


 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3 NLT. 

The night before her baptism, I told Emily about a young married couple who gave their hearts to Jesus one night at a tent meeting long ago in North Carolina. They were so in love with Jesus that they decided to become missionaries in Africa. While in Africa the wife caught malaria and died. The husband faithfully finished his term before returning to the states. When he got home his family and friends comforted him, by telling him how proud he should be of his wife who gave her life to God and died in Africa. The husband corrected them. “She did not die in Africa” he said. “She died in the baptism tank in North Carolina.” It was there that she gave up her own life and said goodbye to her self, and Jesus started living His life in her. I asked Emily if she was ready to say goodbye to herself and live for Jesus. She said that she definitely was!

Please don’t let the sun go down on your life before you give your life to the One who gave His life for you. I would love to talk to you about giving your life to Jesus. You can contact me at 813-933-7505 or laypastor@tampaadventist.net

“You Don’t Love me. You Love my Accomplishments.”

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Studying this week’s Sabbath School lesson, on the humility of the wise, reminded me of a conversation I had, during fellowship dinner in a church I spoke in. A mother told me she was always pushing her daughter to do her best, and win awards and honor roll certificates. She would brag about how wonderful her daughter was doing in school and sports and so forth, until one day when the girl was 15 and told her mother,

You don’t love me. You love my accomplishments.

The mother told me it felt like a slap in the face! Of course it was not true (I suppose), but the mother suddenly saw how her daughter came to that conclusion. There is a difference between teaching a child to do her best, and teaching her to be better than everyone else. I like what a young person shared on Facebook a while back.

I don’t want to be better than anyone. I just want to be better than I was yesterday.

The end of this Sunday’s lesson has a very profound statement.

You have to feel sorry for people who boast (usually it’s a cover for insecurities anyway); it shows just how self-deceived and ignorant they really are.

Could it be the mother was living vicariously through her daughter, trying to make up for her own failures? Who knows? I am no psychologist, but I think we are all needing acceptance. Now I don’t want to over analyze things. Plenty of people go to universities and get their masters degrees simply to learn how to do their job and help others. Its as simple as that. yet others do it to prove how smart or superior they are. The latter are just clamoring for acceptance. Many people spend all their time and effort to battle their way to the top of the hill so they can be accepted when all along, Jesus has already,

Made us accepted in the beloved. Ephesians 1:6 NKJV

When we accept the love God has for us we no longer feel compelled to be better than anybody else. Our goal is not worldly rank or status. It is intimacy with Christ. We don’t feel compelled to do better than others in order to be accepted, but we want to be the best we can be by God’s grace and power because we love God for accepting us no matter what.

This Sunday’s lesson asked the question, “Who do you think you are?” I have learned not to get too excited when I do well, and not to be too dejected when I fail, because at the end of the day, either way, I’m still just me. I wrote this poem a while back, which answers the question in Sunday’s lesson for me.

It’s Just me

I’ve been chauffeured in the back seat of a Cadillac.

I’ve been behind the wheel of an old Volkswagen Beetle.

I’ve eaten in fancy restaurants with all my friends.

I’ve eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches all alone.

But all in all I’m just me, it’s just me.

I’ve laughed out loud with the rest of the crowd.

I’ve cried alone where no one else could hear.

I’ve been in first place at the end of a race.

I’ve been so far behind, when will this game just end?

But after all is said and done, I’m just me, it’s just me.

I preached sermons that have moved congregations to tears.

I have preached sermons that have lulled congregations to sleep!

My friends have given me too much praise for a human being.

My adversaries have given me too much criticism, give me a break!

But at the end of it all, I’m just me; it’s just me.

Into every life a little rain and sunshine must fall.

Sometimes I feel small, and other times I feel tall.

I’m no more a person when I do well.

I’m no less a person when I fail.

But either way, I’m just me; it’s just me.

So don’t think that I am perfect all of the time.

Surely you don’t expect all my poems to rhyme.

I often succeed, but I also fail time and again.

Please don’t praise or condemn, just be my friend.

Because win or lose, I’m just me, it’s just me.