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. 

Overcoming Sexual Sin When You are Single

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I have talked to more than one single Christian, who told me, “When I promised God I would wait until I was married, I figured I would be married by now.” Other singles, even in the church, seem to think no sex before marriage just means no sex while you are a teenager. Age isn’t the issue.

Today there are more and more divorced Christians, and people who have other ambitions, who are putting off marriage until later in life. Being single, I find myself in single circles, where single Christians, both men and women voice their sexual frustration. They are not trying to be provocative or seductive. They are just being real. They want to be Christians, but they are still sexual. We are not made sexual at marriage. We are made sexual at birth.

Being made sexual at birth, how do Christians control sexual appetite until they are married? How do Christian divorced people control their sexual urges? How do Christian widows and widowers satisfy their sexual needs? I don’t imagine after 60 years of healthy sex, that the desire dies when your spouse dies. Does God meet the sexual needs of all these single people?

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 NLT

If it says God will supply all our needs, we have to understand that includes sexual needs of single people. If we can trust God to provide for our financial needs, we can trust Him to provide for our sexual needs as well. We can go to Him and tell Him about all our needs. Then we can trust Him to provide in a way that is best for us. We are familiar with a phrase in Desire of Ages,

Our heavenly Father has a thousand ways to provide for us, of which we know nothing. Those who accept the one principle of making the service and honor of God supreme will find perplexities vanish, and a plain path before their feet. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 330.

Was sex the context here? No. Am I taking things out of context if I say God has a thousand ways to provide for our sexual needs, when we serve and honor God? Maybe, but please hear me out. First, we need to understand that marriage does not guarantee sex. Sadly there are celibate marriages for various reasons we won’t get into here. Having said that, sex does not guarantee intimacy. I once read in a sexual purity book long ago, that some people will have sex to avoid intimacy! Instead of talking and being intimate with their hearts and emotions, they will just be physical to avoid being intimate. Now that’s not good either, because sex should involve intimacy. But here is my point: Many of us think we crave sex when we actually crave intimacy. All sex should be intimate, but not all intimacy has to be sex.

I think we crave healthy relationships more than we crave sex. I think Mary Magdalene found something in Jesus that satisfied her desire for sex, even though it wasn’t sex, and Jesus was the perfect Gentleman with her. I think she found something in Him greater than sex. She found true love and intimacy. She needed true love and intimacy more than she needed sex. So do we.

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. –Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Page 46.

I have to believe this passage includes sexual activity. If God has not given you a Christian sex life right now, it is only because He has something vastly better for you right now. He knows all your needs, not just the needs of your bank account. He knows your sexual needs too. He cares for you in all your ways.

The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. Psalms 84:11 NLT

If sex was good for single people God would give it to them, but sex is not good for single people, which is the only reason He does not give it to them. But love and intimacy is good for single people, and He gives that to them, through church, family, and a personal relationship with Him.

Though I don’t have all the answers, I believe God can supply the sexual needs of His single people, with pure love and intimacy, and a thousand other ways we know nothing about. The solution is to trust God with your sexual needs just like any other need.

Please let me paraphrase a popular passage.

Keep your [sexual] 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 [sexual] wants of His children. “The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” James 5:11. His heart of love is touched by our [sexual] sorrows and even by our utterances of them. Take to Him everything [including sex] 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 [sexual] 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 [Sexual] 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 [sexually] 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. -Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Page 100.

God loves single people just as much as He loves married people, and He makes single people just as happy as married people.  God can appropriately meet the sexual needs of single people as easily as He can meet the sexual needs of married people. Believe in His love, and He will meet all your daily needs.

You can study this week’s Sabbath School Lesson here.

We’re Still Family!

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I imagine when you have spirited disagreements in your Sabbath school that you don’t call each others fools, but that is what Paul does in his letter to the Galatians.

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? Galatians 3:1 KJV

As I hope we are, Paul was very passionate about the gospel and theology. He seemed to have pretty thick skin about it. His passion for truth and the right, remind me of this quote.

The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall. –Ellen White, Education, Page 57.

That passage sure sounds like Paul to me, but even though he had thick skin and a passion for standing for the right, and calling sin and incorrect theology by their right names, to the point of calling those who taught it “foolish,” he still had a soft heart.

Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Galatians 3:15 NKJV

Right after calling the Galatians, “foolish” he calls them his brothers! That’s why I think he had thick skin and a soft heart. As crazy as he thought the Galatians were, he still thought of them as family. Now I don’t suggest calling people in your Sabbath school class “fools” when you have a spirited disagreement, but I do suggest still considering them family. You have seen me share this quote a few times before, and here I go again,

In Wesley’s time, as in all ages of the church’s history, men of different gifts performed their appointed work. They did not harmonize upon every point of doctrine, but all were moved by the Spirit of God, and united in the absorbing aim to win souls to Christ. -Ellen White, Great Controversy, Page 257.

God wants us to stand for the right though the heavens fall. He wants us to preach the pure gospel. God also wants us to understand that when fellow believers disagree with us, they may be doing their honest best to follow the Holy Spirit, and they are still our brothers and sisters.

Never Too Old Or Isolated For God to USe

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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?

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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

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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
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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.