Tag: tampa first seventh-day adventist church

Don’t Pray Often, Pray Always

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray….Luke 18:1 NLT

As Sunday’s lesson talks about abiding in Christ, I have found for myself that praying often is not the answer. I must pray always.

I used to have a golf cart relationships with Jesus. Golf carts charge their batteries early in the morning and then disconnect from their source of power and run all over the golf course on their own power the rest of the day. So I would get up early, pray and read several chapters in the Bible and then (I don’t want to say that I actually disconnected from God), run off to meet the day in the power I had “charged up.”

In later years I realized I am not a golf cart. I am a trolley car. Trolley cars have to stay connected to the cable the entire day. The moment they separate from the cable they can no longer move an inch. That’s me today. I have gone from dedicating my life to Jesus, to dedicating hour by hour to Jesus. For years right before I would preach, I would meet with the elders in a special room to pray and surrender myself to the power of the Holy Spirit for the time I would be preaching. However, I realize I need to surrender myself to the Holy Spirit for the other 167 hours in the week, and do so just as intentionally as I do for the worship hour.

I used to pray before reading my Bible. Now I also pray before reading any book. After all there may be some object lessons in there. If I feel “funny” praying about reading a certain book, then I ask myself if I should be reading it at all. To not pray before reading or doing something because praying during that activity makes me feel uncomfortable, I must ask myself why? If I choose to go ahead and do the activity without praying, then I have just intentionally disconnected myself from Christ! I can’t afford to do that. I am a trolley car and not a golf cart. I have no power on my own. I have learned by experience the truth in the old Hymn, “I Need Thee Every Hour.” After all, I was created to be home for the Holy Spirit. I was created for communion with my Creator. We can talk to God throughout the day. As we lie in bed, dress for work, go about our daily tasks, we can continue our prayer throughout the day. We don’t need to say “amen” as the prayer never has to end.

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

They key to victory is not to pray often, but to pray always.

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

Is Being Fruitful That Simple?

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. John 15:5 NLT

Is it that simple? Can I be fruitful by just remaining and abiding in Christ?

I was reading John 15 the other morning, when this phrase jumped out at me. If I just live in Jesus I can be fruitful. Now living in Christ does not mean being idle. Yet the passage seemed so simple. I don’t need to hype up my evangelistic series. I don’t need a cutting edge technology-filled worship service to compete with all the other really cool livestream services.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s wonderful that my 91-year-old aunt can livestream her church worship service when she can’t make it to church. But let’s be careful. Vacations lose their meaning when they become all about the photo opps for Facebook, instead of the actual vacation. Do we get so wrapped up in making sure our livestream worship service is as smooth and hip as that “really cool mega church” that we forget our worship service is just that – a worship service?

Several years ago I had a Bible study group made up of non-churched youth. One week my church was having an evangelistic series with all the hip modern music, so I decided, why not take the kids and their parents to see this instead of our regular Bible study? Let’s show them we do more than just study. Let’s show them how “with it” we are. So all the kids and a few of their parents came. The music was wild, and while it was not my taste, I was happy, thinking the kids would be impressed. After the service I asked a 13-year-old in my study group, how it went over.  With shrugged shoulders he said, “I wish we would have had the Bible study instead.”

That was several years ago and I have since learned what Google has known all along. People like simple. Google doesn’t busy their home page with ads and articles like so many other search engines. They wisely keep it simple.

In Tampa I have a Thursday afternoon teen Bible study with mostly non-churched teens. Recently the kids and I were separated because of the public school holiday break. When we came back together, a high school Junior shared some questions she had come up with while studying the Bible on her own. She told me she thought Elijah’s story was similar to end-time events, and why. I agreed. Her family was not studying with her. She had no study guides. Just a young girl and her Bible alone with the Holy Spirit making amazing discoveries! So simple.

In Plant City, I have been assisting our pastor with a Wednesday night youth Bible study group. We started off playing games, serving refreshments and having a short Bible study at the end. Over time the game time has become shorter and shorter, and the Bible study time is becoming longer and longer. Not by the pastor or my design, but because over time the youth wanted to study more and play less! This tells me people today are not hungry for fancy programs. They are hungry for the simple Word of God. At Plant City we sometimes have hymns, we sometimes have the latest praise songs and teams, but every Sabbath young and old show up for the Word of God.

Come to find out, people are not hungry for particular worship styles and fancy programs. They are hungry for God. Jesus tells us if we simply abide in Him and His Word, we can bear fruit to feed a starving world.

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

Tojie and Anthony’s Baptism

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Today Tojie and Anthony’s friends, family and teachers from Tampa Adventist Academy came to the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church to support Tojie and Anthony as they both gave all themselves to Jesus in baptism, because Jesus gave all of Himself for them. You may watch the video of the baptism and service here. Baptism starts at 17:10.

 

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Tojie is now in the 9th grade. When he was in the 5th and 6th grades he was in my Bible chain referencing class at Tampa Adventist Academy. Tojie told me a while back that he wanted to be baptized. Tojie and Anthony agreed to be baptized together so today was the day! Tojie writes,

“When I hear the word “baptism” the first thing that comes to mind is when Jesus got baptized by John the Baptist. Jesus didn’t need to be baptized. He was virtually perfect, but he did it anyway. Not because he had to, because he wanted to. Jesus wanted to set an example for us all. I think we should do the same.”

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I met Anthony this year at Tampa Adventist Academy, where he is in the 8th grade. I enjoyed studying with Anthony as he is very transparent and sincere, and was not afraid to ask questions if there was something he was not sure about. His sincere quest for truth and Jesus has led Anthony to a very good understanding of the Bible and relationship with God. Anthony writes,

Baptism to me means that as I go under the water all my sins are being washed away, and as I come up out of the water I am free with a new start. I also believe I will have a stronger connection with God. I think he will have a stronger voice when He talks to me. When I read His Word I feel like things will be more visible. As I spread the gospel I will have a better understanding of God and He will reveal things to me.

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After the baptism Tojie and Anthony were welcomed into the church family along with Anthony’s parents, Leighcraft and Sherri-Lee, who were already baptized.  Pastor Brad Cassell went over the baptism vows and awarded them their certificates with the the Adventist fundamental beliefs.

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Please don’t let another day go by before giving your heart to Jesus. After all, you are not going to be able to keep your life anyway, so why not give it to the One who can save it for all eternity? I would love to help you with this step. You may contact me at LayPastor@TampaAdventist.net

Lying to the Holy Spirit

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 

Once, I was talking to a church treasure who told me every week she finds a few empty tithe envelopes turned into the offering plate. She figured it was kids turning them in. I was more skeptical and wondered if it was adults wanting to look like they were giving an offering. This was before online giving. Either way, the church has always had people pretending to be more giving than they are.

You may say, “Well that’s really none of your business William!” and you are right. It is none of my business. It is nobody’s business but God’s. In the dark ages the church would bribe, guilt and bully people into giving them their money, and there are churches and ministries that do this today. Some ministries and individuals expect certain people to help them financially and are disappointed when they don’t, forgetting that everyone has the right to do what they want with their own money. Jesus tells a parable about some people working in a vineyard that were expecting the owner to give them more than others, but the owner rightly answered,

Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Matthew 20:15 NLT

God always provides, and even though I support God’s work faithfully, it was doing quite well before I came along and will continue to thrive after I am gone. God doesn’t need my money. I need to express my thankfulness to God for His love, and systematic giving is one way I do so. Notice what Paul says,

 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 2 Corinthians 9:6 NLT

I see three important things here.

1. You must decide how much you are going to give. This goes for tithe as well. Yes it is 10%, but some say you should tithe on your gross, others say net. Of course if you own a business you tithe on your profit, and only you would know what that is. For example, when I am studying with someone about tithes and offerings, I ask them, if your neighbor pays you $50.00 to mow their lawn, and you spent $5.00 on gas then how much did you make? You made $45.00, so you would tithe on the $45.00. (See Deuteronomy 14:22.) Bottom line is that Paul says you must decide in your heart. Be honest. I have my own convictions about tithing on the gross but I have no business telling you what to do and neither does anyone else. Paul says decide in your heart, that is, follow your conscience based on what you have read in God’s Word.

2. Paul says don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. If you don’t want to give, then don’t! God doesn’t need your money. The church and various ministries will survive and thrive without it. But your spirit will whither and die unless you give!

3. Paul says “God loves a cheerful giver” and so He wants us to give cheerfully. Giving is worship, and the Psalmist says enter His gates with praise and thanksgiving. Giving otherwise is not worship. God wants us to give where we can give cheerfully and what we can give cheerfully.

In one of my first districts as a Bible Worker I was looking for a place to live. At prayer meeting one night a family told me in front of everyone that they owned a place where I could stay for free. They said in front of everyone, that they were pleased to have me do Bible work for the church and stay at their place at no charge. When I got to where I was staying that night, they called me privately, to tell me they actually did want some rent. What they wanted the church to hear was different from what they were actually willing to do. That’s where the problem begins. In Acts 5 when Ananias and his wife sold their land, the problem was not that they did not give all the money to the church. The problems is they said they were giving all while they were not.

He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. Acts 5:2 NLT

The problem is that He was lying, saying he was giving it all while he was holding some back. Are we lying when we claim to be returning an honest tithe but are holding some back? Peter went on to say,

“Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” Acts 5:3-4 NLT 1

While it was nobody’s business what Ananias did with his money he was still lying to the Holy Spirit, which was much worse than lying to people! So while we may say it is nobody’s business what we give, it is God’s business, and we need to be honest with Him. God needs us to give where and how we can cheerfully, and honestly.


  1.  By the way, notice Peter says Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, and then later said he lied to God, thus demonstrating that the Holy Spirit is God. Some say that the Spirit is just the “spirit” or attitude of Jesus, but one doesn’t lie to someone’s attitude. One lies to a person. The Holy Spirit is a Person.
  2. You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

Why Didn’t He Say Anything?

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am re-sharing this post I wrote a couple years ago, as we are currently studying about the Holy Spirit. 

Several years ago one of my superiors made a false accusation against me at church. I asked a couple of friends how I should refute what was said. One friend answered wisely, “Don’t defend yourself against the accusation. Doing so will only give the accusation merit.” My friend was right. Sadly, the leader who made the accusation left the Adventist Church shortly after. As I continued my ministry I realized everyone either forgot what was said or were never paying attention in the first place. Others shrugged it off, knowing it wasn’t true. It may sound cliche, but some things become cliche because they are true. Sometimes silence is golden.

Jesus promised us,

So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you!  Luke 21:14-15 NLT

In training people to give Bible studies, and how to use the Bible to answer certain questions, I occasionally find someone who is frustrated because someone debated them, and they did not know how to answer. They trusted the Holy Spirit to give them words to say, but they were speechless. Did Jesus let them down? No. Remember, not even Jesus answered every question. Sometimes, like us, He had nothing to say.

But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent.

“Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded.

But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise. Matthew 27:12-14 NLT

Could it be that Jesus knew their hearts were hardened, and that until the Holy Spirit had softened their hearts, it would do no good to say anything? When dealing with conflict, a pastor once told me, “You don’t have to swing at every pitch.” Baseball fans know what he meant. For everyone else, let’s use more cliches and just say, “Choose your battles well,” and “You don’t have to die on every hill.” Sometimes it’s okay to be silent, and give the Holy Spirit opportunity to work. Sure there are times to speak up, but if the Holy Spirit has not given us words to speak, it’s best to remain silent, lest we ruin everything with our own foolishness.

Let me leave you with a thought that a wise teacher shared with some parents, which applies to more than just parents and children.

Children may not always be listening to you, but they are always watching you!

More important than finding the right word is doing the right action. Maybe the real reason Jesus needed no words, to answer their question is because His life already answered them.

What Time is Sunset?

During the 1992 U.S. presidential debate, George Bush Sr. glanced at his watch, and lost the election. Many speculate, that by looking at his watch, Bush was disconnecting from his audience while a young Clinton was charming them. When we watch the clock on Sabbath are we disconnecting from God?

I love reading so much, that when I was in high school, I thought it would be so cool to be locked in the central library overnight, so I could browse through all the books all alone with no one to disturb me. Fast forward to today when I have my own Kindle and and can do just that! I have a library at my fingertips that I can browse all night – and I have! One thing, though, that bothers me about my Kindle is that at the bottom of the screen is a scale that tells me how close I am to the end of the book, while I am reading. I hate that! I want to be lost in time when I read. I don’t want to be thinking about how much time is left. I just want to be in the moment. It’s like life. I don’t want to know how much time I have to live. I just want to live and be in the moment!God gave us the Sabbath to enjoy. When we glance at our clocks, asking again and again, “What time is sunset?” are we sending the signal that there is somewhere else we would rather be than with God – just like Bush unintentionally sent the message to his audience that there was somewhere else he would rather be? Is the Sabbath something we want to just get over with, or do we likebeing in the moment on Sabbath, without looking forward to when it will end?

In the Garden of Eden, do you think Adam and Eve were looking at the sun, waiting for it to set, while they worshiped and fellowshipped with the Lord every Sabbath? Do you think they found Sabbath-keeping a chore, or do you think they delighted themselves in being in the moment and enjoyed their special time with God?

Some say that now that we have rest in Jesus, we no longer need a weekly Sabbath rest. Did Adam and Eve have rest in Jesus or not? Yet they enjoyed a weekly Sabbath rest – a special time with their Creator God. If they needed a weekly Sabbath to fellowship with God before sin, then we also need the same blessings after the atonement. Actually we enjoy the blessings of the weekly Sabbath the most when we are at perfect at-one-ment with God. Since the purpose of the Sabbath is to enjoy our relationship with God for eternity, the Sabbath will be kept for eternity. (See Isaiah 66:23)

By giving us the Sabbath, God gave us rest and not burdens. Mark 2:27 says the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. In Isaiah 58:13 God wants us to call the Sabbath a delight.

Since the Sabbath was meant to be a delight and a blessing, God gave us guidelines about Sabbath keeping. However, we defeat the purpose of the Sabbath, when we become so focused on the guidelines  and so “stressed” about keeping the Sabbath appropriately that, instead of enjoying the holy hours and being in the moment, we just watch the clock until sunset, when we will be relieved of the stress and pressure of Sabbath keeping. Yet the purpose of the Sabbath is to eliminatestress and pressure, not create it!

Imagine the Hebrews when God delivered them from Egyptian slavery and reintroduced them to the Sabbath. They had been working non-stop so Pharaohcould rest. But God worked non-stop to deliver the Hebrews so they could rest. The Sabbath rest reminded them that God’s work had saved them, and not their own efforts. Pharaoh gave them work and burdens, but God took those burdens so they could rest.

We read in Exodus 16 that God gave the Hebrews twice as much manna on Friday so they would not need to gather on the Sabbath. He did not want them burdened with meal preparations. He did not want them to be stressed or burdened at all. In Exodus 35:3 He told them not to kindle a fire. Today, starting a fire may not be any work at all, but it was back then.

When a man is in love with his wife, on special nights, he will come home from work, where has provided for her needs, and tell her to relax on the sofa while he prepares dinner for her. He does not want her to lift a finger. After dinner he leads her back into the living room, where he will massage her feet until she falls asleep. Then he goes back in the kitchen and cleans up while she rests. On such a special night, when he is expressing his love for her, he does not want her to worry about anything or do any work. If the kids have left their toys in the bathtub, he will remove them for her before she takes her bath. This is a special day for him to express his love for her, and he does not want her to do the least amount of work! He wants to be her everything!

As long as the husband loves his wife he will always need special nights like this to express his love for her. Oh, but you say, “If he loves her he will love her every day and every day will be special.” True, but all you hopeless romantics know that even in marriage you need date nights which are special nights like no other night. Likewise, as long as God loves His people He will always need His special Sabbaths to express His love for them.

Now suppose after preparing dinner and lighting the candles, the husband leads his wife into the dinning room and sits her at the table. He then serves the casserole on her plate. He stares lovingly into her eyes, but she is not gazing back. She is watching Britain Has Talent on her tablet. Doesn’t look like she is too into him, does it? She is not sharing the moment, is she? To call the date night a delight, she needs to delight in her date.  In order for us to call the Sabbath a delight we must delight ourselves in the Lord of the Sabbath.

You may be reading this, thinking, our date nights are nothing like that! My wife does not even like for her feet to be massaged! Her feet are too ticklish! Your date nights may have different activities, but the principle of love and devotion are the same. So with Sabbath keeping. Date nights should be creative, and so should Sabbath keeping. Do you get tired of the same ole Sabbath rituals of just going through the motions of playing traditional church, with no creative or spontaneous passion and emotion? You are not alone. God gets tired of it too!

Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting—they are all sinful and false. I want no more of your pious meetings. Isaiah 1:13 NLT 

When Israel was just going through the motions of traditional Sabbath worship, without putting any creative passion and emotion into it, God called it meaningless, sinful, and He wanted no more of it.

Now there is nothing wrong with traditions unless we use tradition as an excuse to not be creative and thoughtful. Married couples have traditions, but they should be thoughtful traditions. In other words, tradition should never be an excuse to be mundane and boring! In Isaiah 1:13 God is telling His people, He does not want any more date nights if they are just going to be meaningless traditions void of love, creativity and passion.

After all, if the Sabbath is a memorial to our Creator who created us in His own image, shouldn’t we be creative too?

Please comment below with some creative ideas you have for Sabbath. God put a lot of thought into His date with us each week. Let’s be creative and make the Sabbath a day where we are not looking at our watches waiting for it to be over. Instead of asking “What time is sunset?” let’s live each Sabbath moment to the fullest.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Liberal Towards Others, Conservative Towards Ourselves

“I could say the same things if you were in my place. I could spout off
criticism and shake my head at you. But if it were me, I would encourage you. I would try to take away your grief.” Job 16:4-5 NL
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Seems Job’s friends were being easy on themselves, but hard on Job. How often do we see this today? In the church and in politics we hear of two camps – liberals and conservatives. However we are seldom in one camp or the other. Many of us are liberal in some ways and conservative in other ways. Or we are liberal towards ourselves, but conservative towards others. In other words, we cut ourselves some slack, but we expect everyone else to step it up a notch and hold to the standard. Is that how we should be?

Let’s look at Jesus as our example. Was He in the liberal camp or the conservative camp? Like us, He was in both camps, but instead of being liberal towards Himself, and conservative towards others, He was the exact opposite. When He fasted in the wilderness 40 days, He was conservative towards Himself, but when He worked a miracle to feed the multitude He was liberal towards others.

It is rare to find someone who is truly 100% liberal or 100% conservative. I have heard some preachers preach some pretty liberal sermons, but saw them actually live pretty conservative lives, while I have also heard preachers who preach quite conservative sermons on such topics as diet and Sabbath keeping, but in their personal lives, they are quite liberal in what they allow themselves to eat or do on the Sabbath.

I have met several families who follow Jesus’ example of being liberal towards others but conservative towards themselves. One Sabbath I brought my cheese enchiladas to church, only to find out there was no fellowship dinner that day. A family that was strictly vegan, invited me to their home. They told me, “bring your enchiladas over to our house, and fellowship with us. You can warm them up in our oven, and eat them while we eat what we have prepared.” First they realized how important fellowship is, and did not tell me how terrible I was for eating cheese or tell me I could not bring it into their home. They were liberal towards me, but conservative towards themselves.

Years later I was eating with another family, who had generously given large sums of money to the church for evangelism and had recently given an extremely generous contribution for a youth mission trip. However, in the course of conversation they mentioned, what appeared to me, to be a relatively modest vacation one of their children wanted to take, but the parents said, “We don’t have that kind of money.” Wow! I thought to myself, they can give thousands to evangelism and mission trips, but when it comes to their own vacations they say, ‘We don’t have that kind of money to take a modest vacation for ourselves.” They were liberal towards the needs of the church but were conservative when it came to their own wish list.

As I read the book of Job, it appears to me that he was conservative towards himself but liberal towards others. It appears to me also that his friends were liberal towards themselves but conservative towards Job. So when Job’s entire community, including himself, were conservative towards Job, but everyone including Job were liberal towards his friends, this created a very unbalanced and unhealthy community. A church and community become balanced when like Jesus, each member is liberal towards others but conservative towards themselves.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.