Persecution of the Peacemakers

That very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for previously they had been at enmity with each other. Luke 23:12 NKJV

Jesus was the common foe uniting political enemies. So it will be in the last days.

Political enemies will be united as commandment-keeping Christians become the common foe of all nations.

you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. Matthew 24:9 NKJV

Some people challenge the Adventist interpretation of Revelation 13, because they can’t imagine the Unites States persecuting Christians, yet even Jesus says God’s people will be hated by all nations, and that includes the United States.

Jesus knew that in a sinful world commandment keeping would not be accepted. This may be why He said,

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. Matthew 10:34 NKJV

Many think this statement is out of character for Jesus. After all He is the Prince of Peace, and didn’t the angels sing, “peace on earth” at His birth? May I suggest that it is the actual peacefulness of Christians that will stir up the ire of the world in the last days?

The beatitudes are building blocks to a complete conversion. As the conversion process comes to completion Jesus says,

Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9 NKJV

But look what happens next to the peacemakers!

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10-12 NKJV

Like Ahab persecuted Elijah for being faithful to God, accusing him of being the trouble maker (See 1 Kings 18:17), so the leaders accused Jesus of stirring up dissension. (See Luke 23:5) This will be repeated right before Jesus comes. Many Christians will deny Christ and the commandments, thinking it better to be at peace with the world. When Hitler rose up in Europe, many of his neighbors wanted peace at any cost, but it turned out that the only thing uglier than war was cowardice! This is why John said,

But the cowardly….shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8 NKJV

Peter said,

For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 1 Peter 3:17 NKJV

In the last days we are to be peacemakers, but that does not mean being cowards in keeping God’s law. Let it be said of us, what was said of Daniel,

“We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” Daniel 6:5 NKJV

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

Did the Repentant Thief get off Easy?

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Many Christians squirm and struggle with the story of the repentant thief being saved without “putting in his time” or “earning” it. This story alone makes salvation look too easy. My response is, where in Scripture does it say salvation is supposed to be hard? How hard did Adam and Eve work to be placed in paradise to begin with? How hard did the angels work to be created in heaven?

Sure Jesus said,

“Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life.” Matthew 7:14

But does narrow and strait have to be hard?

Against popular belief, the Bible actually says,

The way of the transgressors is hard. Proverbs 13:15

Why? Because God’s love has made it hard for sinners to destroy themselves.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. Lamentations 3:22

At the beginning of my ministry I was working with a pastor who was very popular for his sound Adventist theology. He taught the importance of the law and obedience. He preached that Jesus saves us from sin not in sin. One night providence had us both at the bedside of a dying saint. An elderly woman who spent her entire life giving Bible studies, and baking pies to feed the needy. She was true to Bible doctrine. That night I watched while the pastor held this dear lady’s hand, and asked, “Do you love Jesus?” She would open her eyes long enough to smile and then quickly appear to fall asleep again. the pastor told her over and over, “Just rest in Jesus. He died for you and loves you.” What amazed me that night is what the pastor of righteous living did not say. He did not mention her avid Sabbath keeping, or Bible studies given, or how she fed the needy. I watched this lady die as the pastor encouraged her to cling to one thing, and one thing only-the cross!

Friends that  is how we are all saved, from the repentant thief to Methuselah with his 969 years of service, we are all saved by grace alone!

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

Nicodemus was equivalent to a General Conference official today. In John 3 Jesus never flattered Nicodemus with his position, titles or accomplishments. In John 3:14-17 He pointed him straight to the cross, as his only hope. The same hope given to the thief on the cross. So General Conference presidents are saved the same way the repentant thief on the cross was saved. This explains why Ellen White, wife of early GC president James White, asked him over and over on his death bed, “Do you love Jesus? Is Jesus precious to you?” She never mentioned his positions, titles or accomplishments. She knew those were worth garbage. She presented to her dying husband what Jesus presented to Nicodemus- the cross and the cross alone!

Sure it is important to point out that the repentant thief showed his repentance, not by saying he was sorry. He actually never said he was sorry. He did something drastically more important. He changed his attitude! He addressed Jesus not only as Savior but as Lord of his life. He made a confession that was backed up by the way he behaved in front of an unbelieving multitude.  That is exactly how we all are saved.

If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

This is exactly what the repentant thief did on the cross. And we all have the promise,

For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:13

It is worth pointing out that the thief was not playing games. He was not thinking to live as he pleased and then just repent at the last second. That of course is not genuine repentance. Because his repentance was sincere, he was saved the exact same way every repentant sinner is saved.

The dying thief rejoiced to see That fountain in his day; And there may I, though vile as he, Wash all my sins away: Wash all my sins away, Wash all my sins away; And there may I, though vile as he, Wash all my sins away. -There is a Fountain, William Cowper 1772.

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

The Gift of Prophecy in the Last Days

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Referring to the latter days, Jesus in Matthew 24:24 warns of false prophets. Of course you can’t impersonate someone who is not real, so obviously Jesus recognized that the gift of prophecy would still be given out in the latter days. Joel 2:28-31 also tells us there will be those with the gift of prophecy in the last days. Ephesians 4:11-13 tells us the gift of prophecy is given to the church as long as we are growing up in Christ. So if we believe the Bible, we need to believe that there will be prophets after the Bible was written, because that’s what the Bible says.

A prophet doesn’t have to write in the Bible to be a prophet. John the Baptist, Miriam, Anna and several other prophets never wrote anything in the Bible.

Also, being a “lesser light” doesn’t mean one is not a prophet. In Daniel’s day, he was the lesser light, being compared to Moses who was the greater light of his day. Daniel had to pass the same test in his day, that every prophet has to pass in their day.

To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. Isaiah 8:20 NKJV

Following this same principle, In Acts 17:11 folks were searching their Bibles to see if what Paul said was so. Even though Paul wrote several books in the Bible, he was still the lesser light in his day pointing to the greater light, which in his day was the Old Testament. (Daniel was a lesser light in his day, but was found to be in perfect harmony with Moses and became a part of the greater light in Paul’s day.) In Acts 17:11. Paul was testifying about Jesus (Revelation 12:17 and Revelation 19:10 tell us prophecy is testifying about Jesus) and pointing people to the greater light, which was the Old Testament. So today someone with the gift of prophecy will testify of Jesus while pointing people to the greater light which is God’s Word.

While many today scoff at the idea of modern-day prophets, Paul warns,

Do not despise prophecies. 1 Thessalonians 5:20 NKJV

Instead he tells us to

Test all things; hold fast what is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 NKJV

When a parent tells their youngest child, “Go tell your older brothers and sisters to come inside for dinner,” the older siblings can’t say, “We don’t have to obey you! Your’e our youngest sibling. You are nobody!” Even though they are the youngest, they have been sent by the parent. If the kids refuse to obey, they are not disobeying the youngest child. They are disobeying the parents. It is the same with prophets. If we reject a modern-day prophet just because they are just “one of us,” we are actually rejecting God and continuing the spirit of the Jews of whom Stephen asked, “Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute! See Acts 7:52.

As Paul said, we need to test the prophets to see if they are in harmony with the greater light which is the law and established testimonies of Jesus, i.e. the Scriptures. See Isaiah 8:20. Prophets also need to be tested to see if their lifestyle is in harmony with Jesus. See Matthew 7:15-23. Predictions must pass with 100% accuracy. See Jeremiah 28:9. If we find a prophet who passes the test we can claim the promise,

Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper. 2 Chronicles 20:20 NKJV

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

Inconsistencies With Lawlessness

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Friday’s section of this week’s lesson asks,

“What is the problem with those who talk about the reality of sin and yet argue that God’s law has been done away with? What great inconsistency can you point out in that line of reasoning?”

There are many inconsistencies when people try to do away with the law. For one, without a law there is no sin. Romans 5:13 tells us sin is not charged against us without a law. 1 John 3:4tells us sin is breaking God’s law. If there is no law then I cannot sin. If I cannot sin then I do not need grace. If I do not need grace then I don’t need the cross. It was because the law could not be done away with that Jesus had to die.

Secondly I have met and I imagine you have too, people who quote all the commandments, until you mention the Sabbath. They then turn around and say the commandments were done away with. Funny, they didn’t say that when the other commandments were mentioned. There are many inconsistencies with that line of thinking but here is just one. The Sabbath predates the law at Sinai. So lets suppose the commandments were done away with. That would not get rid of the Sabbath, because the Sabbath was already instituted before the commandments were given. In Isaiah 66:23 we see the Sabbath will be observed throughout eternity.

I find it interesting that in Daniel 6:8 man claims man made laws can’t be changed, but in Daniel 7:25 man thinks to change God’s laws! The spirit behind thinking to change God’s laws, while claiming man’s laws are unchangeable can only come from the spirit who exalts himself above God. See Isaiah 14:12-14.

Those are some inconsistencies that I see. What inconsistencies do you see?

Why In Light of the Cross Bible Study Guides?

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Tuesday’s lesson this week is about Christ centered doctrinral beliefs. This reminds me of a passage that has become the theme of my ministry.

The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary. I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption,—the Son of God uplifted on the cross. This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers. -Ellen White, Gospel Workers, Page 315. 

We are not saved by doctrine. We are saved by God’s love and grace. So why does Satan work to skew our understanding of doctrine when he knows we are not saved by doctrine? Because doctrines help us understand God’s love. Our understanding of His love determines whether we accept Him or reject Him. Satan wants to skew our understanding of doctrine in order to warp our understanding of God’s love and make us reject Him.

For example I have read a few testimonies from former atheists saying the reason they originally rejected God was because they could not imagine a God who would torture people throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. Once they realized God isn’t going to torture people for all eternity they believed in God and accepted Him into their lives.

I read a book last fall, To Sleep with the Angels, by David Cowan and John Kuenster. It was about a Chicago Catholic school fire in 1958. The book explains several reasons that were avoidable that led to the deaths of 92 students and 3 teachers. The authors also address how the church tried to comfort the parents, but yet their “comfort” did not make any sense. Parents were told that God needed their children. But we needed them the parents countered. Also does that imply God doesn’t need the children who survived? Parents were told that God took their children to heaven because they were so good. Does that mean the rest of us are bad and God rejected us? Parents asked.

The punishment of the wicked and state of the dead are just a couple of examples of how false doctrines warp our understanding of God’s love. This is why a few years ago I put together a set of Bible study guides called, In Light of the Cross Study Guides. They are available on my personal website. The lessons can be read online or downloaded and printed out in PDF format. Over the years people have written and told me they have been used in church Bible study groups as well as New Believers Sabbath School classes. Recently a family from Tennessee wrote that they were enjoying the lessons during family worship. They have also been used as guides and supplements in baptism classes. I have provided both a King James Version edition, as well as a New Living Translation edition. You can also get the app for your androidphone, and always have a Bible study ready to share anytime, anywhere.

I pray these lessons may be a blessing to your and your friends as we study all Bible doctrine in the light of the cross. 

The Most Precious Gift of all

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The night my mother was dying, I made an emergency flight to get out to see her. Problem was, my connection flight, in Love Field in Dallas, arrived several hours late, due to a tornado in Amarillo, where it was coming in from. I arrived home in Tulsa at 1:30 in the morning. I had an old friend from grade school scheduled to pick me up and take me to the hospital, when the plane was still scheduled to arrive on time. Even though it was a weeknight, with regular activities scheduled the next day, she insisted on still picking me up in the middle of the night, and driving me across town to the hospital, where I saw mom just hours before she passed away. Who would have ever dreamed, forty years earlier, when we were back in grade school, that one night, while living 1200 miles away, my friend would be there to help me in the middle of my worst night ever?

That night my friend gave me the most precious gift in the universe, which was time. She gave her time in the middle of the night, which gave me one more time with my mother.

One night, when I first got to Tampa, I was doing Bible work, when my car broke down. A friend who lived nearby, who had to work in the wee morning hours drove over and cheerfully helped me get my car fixed. Another case of a friend sacrificing his time for me.

When we think about stewardship, we mostly think of money. However, time is the most precious gift you can share. Time is the substance of life. When you give someone your time you are literally giving them your life.

As if that was not important enough, time is also money. A family may not be able to give $500.00 a month to the church, but they can give their time to clean the church, and save the church from spending $500.00 on a janitor, which in turn is the same as giving $500.00.

When I lived in the Dallas area, there was a sports coach who was a little rough around the edges, and wasn’t the most popular celebrity in the community. After he resigned, a lady wrote in to the newspaper to express her appreciation for the coach. She had attended a social gala with several area celebrities. She brought her 9 year old son, who had a rare disease, I’m sorry I don’t remember exactly what it was. She wrote that several of the celebrities patted him on the head, and then went on to their hobnobbing with the other celebrities, but the coach sat down with him and talked to him for over 30 minutes! The coach’s time with her son meant the world to the mother!

While we study stewardship this quarter, lets remember time is the most precious gift we have to share.

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

No Condemnation

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1 NKJV

He told her he loved her. Said she was beautiful. Promised her she would be special. Next thing she knew she was being dragged out of bed by the friends of him who had dragged her into bed, and he who had praised and flattered her just stood and watched her being dragged away.

Now she was kneeling half naked, humiliated before Jesus. Eyes closed, not wanting to see the stones that would soon be crushing her head, she waited in terror. It seemed like eternity. When would it be over?

“Woman…”Barely peeking through one eye she sees Jesus doing something in the sand. Not sure what. She hears footsteps as men walk away. What is going on? Then she hears a word she had not heard in years directed at her.

Jesus didn’t call her a “slut,” or “whore.” He called her “woman.” He was addressing her with the same title of respect that He gave to his own mother, who spoke with angels and gave birth to the Son of God.

“….where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” John 8:10 NKJV

She opens her eyes and looks around. They are all gone! She makes no accusations against the men. We know little about the background of this woman. She may or may not have been a victim of sex trafficking. But we do know that, terrified as she was, she was ready to face the consequences without blaming anyone else for the choices she had made, and the role she had played, which now brought her half-naked and humiliated into the presence of Jesus. Yet incredibly, as guilty as she was, it was her accusers who slunk away. As she lay helpless at His feet, there was no one to condemn her! When we fall helplessly at the feet of Jesus, there is no condemnation for us either.

He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10 NKJV)

She said, “No one, Lord.” (John 8:11 NKJV)

What was next? A sermon? A lecture? Nowhere is it recorded, but I can imagine Jesus placing His coat over her near-naked body.

The Holy One Who would be hanging naked on a cross in front of the entire universe one day, takes off His robe and covers this woman, protecting her human dignity more than just covering her sexuality.

He doesn’t preach to her. He ministers to her.

Did you know you don’t have to be a preacher to be a minister? Ministering to sinners doesn’t always have to include a sermon. An-ill timed sermon can do more harm than good. Jesus could preach with the best of them, but He knew when to preach and when not to preach. He also knew when to minister.

He called her “woman.” He placed His coat over her near-naked body and gave her the sense of dignity she had been promised by the man who betrayed her trust. Then He did not preach to her with words, He ministered to her with words.

“Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:11 NKJV

His words were brief and clear, yet somehow we get them mixed up. Have we ever told someone “Go and sin no more, and then I will stop condemning you!” That’s notwhat Jesus said.

Jesus said clearly, “Neither do I condemn you.” Present tense.

“Go and sin no more.” Future tense.

The world told her they would stop condemning her once she stopped sinning. Jesus promised not to condemn her, so she could stop sinning.

They called her a whore and a slut.
Jesus called her a woman.

A man promised her she would be special, and then humiliated and betrayed her.
Jesus gave her dignity back and made her special.

There was no condemnation for this woman at the feet of Jesus, and there is no condemnation for you, when you kneel at the feet of Jesus.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1 NKJV

Jesus does not condemn us, so we too may walk in the Spirit instead of the flesh.

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