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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
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,
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 NLT1
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.
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.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
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.