Tag: tampa first seventh-day adventist church

God has Always Been Graceful

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

What is more dangerous than thinking there is no law in the New Testament, is thinking there is no grace in the Old Testament.

knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. Galatians 2:16 NKJV

Many find grace in the New Testament, but there is also plenty of grace in the Old Testament as well. While Paul says no flesh will be justified by works, that includes those in the Old Testament as well. Those living during Old Testament and New Testament times are all saved by,

the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Revelation 13:8 NKJV

This puts the cross before Adam and Eve! Before sin and the written law came on the scene we already had the cross!

Grace is not new to the New Testament. It is in the Old Testament as well. It was at Sinai.

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; Exodus 19:5 NKJV

In this passage God is pledging His grace to us.

The word, “obey” is the Hebrew word “shema,” which means to listen. Doesn’t “listen to my voice” make perfect sense?

The word, “keep” is the Hebrew word, “Shamar,” which means to “keep watch,” “cherish” and “regard.”

We are already familiar with the word covenant, which is always one-way promise when God is involved. In Genesis 12:1-3 God made a covenant promise to Abraham without asking Abe to promise anything, only believe.

So in Exodus 19:5, God is promising us that if we listen to His voice, and cherish His promises, He will make us a special treasure. Salvation has always been based on the grace of God’s promises. In Exodus 20, God begins the commandments with,

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. “You shall have no other gods before Me. Exodus 20:2-3 NKJV

God is saying, “you did not save yourselves from bondage by your works. I saved you by my grace. Because of this I promise you won’t need any other gods beside me.”

Even Jesus overcame temptation by trusting His Father’s promises.

The Saviour overcame to show man how he may overcome. All the temptations of Satan, Christ met with the word of God. By trusting in God’s promises, He received power to obey God’s commandments, and the tempter could gain no advantage. -Ellen White, Ministry of Healing, Page 181.

The works of the flesh were never a part of the everlasting gospel in the Old or New Testaments. When Paul said, “for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” he was not implying anything new. He was establishing a fact as ancient as God Himself. God has always been graceful.

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

Preston’s Baptism

A while back, Eddie, a good friend from the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist church called and asked me to study with his brother Preston. They had both just lost another brother, and Preston had questions about what happens when you die.  As I studied with Preston, I discovered he wanted to come back to Jesus and the Adventist church he grew up in. Preston also shared he was struggling with cancer, so we had an anointing service with Preston’s family as well as new church family. In the anointing service as well as his baptism, Preston found peace in giving all of himself to Jesus, including his all his sins and all his cancer, because Jesus had given all of Himself for him. Preston’s cancer and sins now all belong to Jesus, and all of Jesus’ promises belong to Preston!

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalms 103:1-5 NKJV

Studying With Preston

As we studied together Preston shared with me how we wants to minister to others by visiting people in nursing homes and other places where people need encouragement. Usually I ask people how they want to serve in the church, but before I had a chance to ask he was sharing with me!

Preston

Yesterday, Sabbath June 22, 2017 Preston was baptized, and very happy to belong to the family of God! Please pray for Preston that God will continue healing his cancer. Preston loves God with all his heart and wants to give Him the best he has to give!

Luther’s Understanding of Grace

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

One day, while I was studying the Gospel Presenation with a retired couple, we read this verse.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV

The husband had been raised Catholic, and while many of my Catholic friends understand grace, he told me, when we read that passage, that it was the first he had ever heard of us being saved by grace alone, without any works. That moment was an ephiphany for him, just like when Luther read, “The Just shall live by faith” in the Bible chained to the dungeon wall.

During our studies I learned the retired gentleman wanted victory over alcohol. He understood that works don’t save us, but he also understood that grace saves us from more than just death. Grace saves us from the power of sin.

Martin Luther understood this as well. After all, Luther read that “the just shall live by faith,” not the unjust. Luther understood that faith and grace makes us just as well as declaring us just. Luther understood that grace changes our lives. While visiting Rome, Luther was appalled at the sins he found even in the church. Luther understood being saved by grace instead of works, but he also understood that grace is not a license for sin.

He [Luther] entered the city, visited the churches, listened to the marvelous tales repeated by priests and monks, and performed all the ceremonies required. Everywhere he looked upon scenes that filled him with astonishment and horror. He saw that iniquity existed among all classes of the clergy. He heard indecent jokes from prelates, and was filled with horror at their awful profanity, even during mass. As he mingled with the monks and citizens, he met dissipation, debauchery. Turn where he would, in the place of sanctity he found profanation. “It is incredible,” he wrote, “what sins and atrocities are committed in Rome; they must be seen and heard to be believed. –Ellen White, Great Controversy, Page 125.

Luther knew full well good works don’t save us, but he also knew grace saves us from the power of sin as well as the penalty of sin. The Bible clearly teaches wherever we find grace, we also find, good works, obedience, and godly living.

After Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us we are saved by grace and not by works, Eph 2:10 tells us,

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works..

Grace produces the good works our strength and effort could never accomplish.

Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience….Romans 1:5 NKJV

Grace produces the obedience our human nature could never render on its own.

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

Titus 2:11-14 painted a totally different picture of grace than the one Luther saw in Rome. Actually Luther did not see grace in Rome. He saw every kind of sin, and Titus 2:11-14 tells us grace enables us to deny sin and live godly lives in this present age.

My retired friend took hold of God’s grace, and after praying with a mentor in the church one evening, he left the bottle behind and entered the baptistry. Grace has saved my friend from the power of sin as well as the penalty of sin.

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

The Jesus Peter Knew

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I have met a few people who have an image of Jesus in their minds, not based on Scripture, but on pure speculation. As a child I became interested in futball (soccer for U.S.A readers) and mentioned to my family that the game is so old Jesus may have played a form of futbal as a child. A matriarch in my family told me there was no way Jesus would ever play a game. I asked her why she said that. She said, “Jesus would never do anything to dishonor His Father!” I left it at that, but always wondered why she thought kicking a ball around with friends would be dishonoring to His Father? She had a picture of Jesus that was not based on Scripture, but on her imagination.

Some have an imaginary Jesus in their minds, nothing like the Jesus Peter knew. Some believe Jesus found doing the right thing quite easy since He was after all God. In their imagination perfection came easy for Him. It was no sweat. Really?

Luke told Theophilus that Peter was only about a stone’s throw away from Jesus, when, 

And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became

like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Luke 22:44 NKJV

I don’t know if Gethsemane was a state park or not, but it was no walk in the park for the Son of God. There was nothing easy about His victory. He didn’t go back to heaven and tell the angels it was no sweat. He sweat drops of blood! Peter would not be familiar with the Jesus that many imagine in their heads. So when we got the throne of grace in Hebrews 4:15-16, we see that our high priest is touched with our human weakness as His victory came by sweat and tears! Later in Hebrews Paul tells us,

You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. Hebrews 12:4 NKJV

Paul is referring to Jesus sweating drops of blood to get His victory over self and sin.

Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:40-41 NKJV

Jesus showed and told Peter that he too must pray in order to overcome temptation. He acknowledged that Peter had a willing attitude, but his flesh was weak and needed strengthened through prayer. After vehemently promising to never deny Jesus, weary Peter would fall asleep again, and end up denying Jesus three times that night. Did the Jesus Peter knew disown him?

How careful is the Lord Jesus to give no occasion for a soul to despair. How He fences about the soul from Satan’s fierce attacks. If through manifold temptations we are surprised or deceived into sin, He does not turn from us and leave us to perish. No, no, that is not our Saviour….-Ellen White, Our High Calling, Page 49

The Jesus Peter knew didn’t want Peter to despair, so at the resurrection the angel gave this message.

But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” Mark 16:7 NKJV

The Jesus Peter knew was the real Savior and did not want Peter to despair! He made sure Peter knew he was included even after failing three times in one night! The Jesus Peter found and fell in love with was perfect and yet so forgiving of others. Peter tells us how we can become like the Jesus he knew.

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 2 Peter 1:3-4 NKJV 

Peter learned real quick not to make his own promises anymore, but instead to trust in Jesus’ exceedingly great and precious promises. While Jesus took on our humanity, Peter invites us to partake of Jesus’ divine nature. I have heard many arguments over just how human Jesus was. We saw in Gethsemane just how human He was, but Peter makes the debate of Jesus’ humanity unnecessary, when he tells us we can participate in Jesus’ divine nature, escaping the corruption in the world.

The Jesus Peter knew had to sweat to overcome. He sympathized with Peter’s struggles and weaknesses. He forgave Peter. When Peter’s promises failed, Jesus promised to share His divine nature with Peter so he too could overcome the corruption in the world. Peter has invited us to have faith in the same Jesus he had faith in.

To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 2:1 NKJV

Study more about Peter’s letters here. 

“In the Spirit”

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.  John 4:24

I am sure that you have friends that no matter how long you are apart from them, once you get together, your friendship resumes right where it left off, as though you had never been apart. This may sound weird, but maybe in one dimension you never were apart! We have physical dimensions such as time and space, but have you ever thought that there is another dimension we can be in that is not bound by time or space? To me, that dimension is the Holy Spirit. I believe why many of our Christian friendships take up right where they left off even after long periods of no physical contact is because we have actually been together the whole time “in the Spirit!”  Why do those friendships take up right where they left off as though no time has passed by? Because we are in the great “ I AM”. With God there is no time. He is in one eternal Now. He is not the “I WAS” or “ I WILL BE”, He is the I AM.  Same with space, The Holy Spirit is everywhere. The Holy Spirit is with our Christian friends, so if we are in the Spirit and our friends are in the Spirit then we are together.

As a matter of fact, all the love we receive from our friends actually comes from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when I left my friends in Texas and went to Florida and made new friends there, I still received the exact same love I had in Texas. Love does not come form human beings. We can not generate love; all we can do is let the Holy Spirit’s love flow through us. Therefore, the love I receive from people half way across the world is the same exact love I receive from the people I live with right here. It all comes form God. So as long as you have God’s love you can’t miss a friends love, because the only love they gave you came from God and He is still with you!

I am so thankful for all my friends whom I can share God’s love with! Thank you all, who are my friends on SSNET, as well as my offline friends, for being a part of my life. I hope God has been able to love you through me as we worship Him in Spirit.

Satan’s Counterfeit Gift

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Last week we studied about the gifts of the Spirit. This week we are studying about the Holy Spirit and the church. Satan has a counterfeit for most everything. There are some people in the church, who claim to have the gift of “discerning spirits,” when in reality they have Satan’s “gift” of judging and condemning.

1 Corinthians 13:5 tells us that love thinks no evil. Titus 1:15 NKJV tells us,

To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure.

When we are filled with the Holy Spirit we look for good. Those who truly have the gift of discerning spirits will find good as well as evil, but I have witnessed too many people in the church, claiming to have the gift of discernment, who could only discern evil. But those with the mind of the Holy Spirit gravitate towards,

whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy— Philippians 4:8 NKJV

In a former district there was a woman, who would not allow her husband to even talk to women at church, because she “knew” they all wanted him. She would not allow her teenage daughters to date even in groups, because she could “discern” what “all” the boys were up to. I thought the woman was really strict and conservative, until her trustworthy family members confided in me, that she had numerous affairs of her own. I should not have been surprised. Paul says,

Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. Romans 2:1 NKJV

Satan accused God of being a tyrant when in reality Satan was the tyrant. I have often found that when people talk about others, they are really talking about themselves.

Those who truly have the gift of discerning spirits don’t make a habit of accusing others. Jude talks about those in the church who make bold accusations, while Michael, who definitely could discern spirits, made no accusations.

 Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Jude 1:8-9 NKJV

So what do those with the real gift of discerning spirits know and do?

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:13-14 NKJV

The Holy Spirit teaches and inspires the Word of God. See 2 Peter 1:21. Those with spiritual discernment can tell when ideas come from man, or from the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 16:17 Jesus tells Peter that his revelation came not from flesh and blood but by the Father. Later in Matthew 16:23, during the same conversation, Jesus says, “Get thee behind me Satan!” When Peter comes up with an idea that was not from the Father or Holy Spirit. Jesus was not calling Peter “Satan”, right after telling him his previous revelation came from the Father. Jesus was not accusing Peter of being Satan. Jesus just discerned which of Peter’s ideas were from the Holy Spirit and which were not. The gift of discerning spirits is just that, discerning spirits, not people. Those with the gift of spiritual discernment can reject an unbalanced idea without condemning the person, just as Jesus did with Peter.

Let no accuser of others credit himself with discernment; for in so doing he clothes the attributes of Satan with the garments of righteousness. -Ellen White, Review and Herald, March 12, 1895

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.