Allowing Scripture to use Humor and Figure of Speech

When I recorded this today I did not realize we were already at the end of the Sabbath School quarter. This year is flying by!

Did God Tell Adam and Eve to Keep the Sabbath?

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested[a] from all his work.  And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation. Genesis 2:1-3 NLT

In just the last couple of years I have heard an argument against Sabbath keeping that I have never heard before, but I have heard it three times now so I thought maybe we should take a look at it. The argument is that while God created the Sabbath at creation He never told anyone to keep it until He gave the Sabbath to the Jews only when He gave the ten commandments. The claim is that God never told Adam and Eve to keep the Sabbath and never intended for them or anyone else except the Jews to keep it until the Sabbath was done away with at the cross. Is that true? Like I said, I had never heard this argument until recently, but here are some things I think we should consider.

  • God declared it Holy, which means He set the day apart from secular use. When you declare something you do not declare it to yourself. Declarations are public. Adam and Eve surely were aware of this declaration.
  • Mark 2:27 says the Sabbath was made for man. Therefore in Genesis 2:1-3 God created the Sabbath for man. This only makes sense as God would not create the Sabbath just for Himself. God is love and He made the Sabbath as a gift for others.
  • Before the commandments were written on stone at Sinai there was documentation of a knowledge of God’s law. The purpose of the New Covenant is to restore things to their original setting before sin.  With the New Covenant the law is written in our hearts. I believe it was to be written on Adam and Eve’s hearts. The Sabbath was given more as a gift than a command. When a married couple have a weekly date night is that a gift or a command? If they are in love with each other I would say its a gift. 1 John 3:4 tells us sin is break the commandments.  While the commandment to not commit murder was yet to be written in stone it was to be written in the heart in the beginning. When Cain killed Abel God  called it sin, which is breaking the law. See Genesis 4:17. In Genesis 26:5 God says Abraham regarded His laws and commandments. In Genesis 39:9 while there was no commandment written on stone saying not to commit adultery and Joseph was not living in the land of the Jews he still recognized even in Egypt sleeping with another man’s wife was sin. In Exodus 16 God tests the Jews to see if they would keep his Sabbath and His commandments even though they were not written on stone yet.
  • The Sabbath commandment in Exodus 20:8-11 starts with the word “Remember.” Many Sabbath keepers remind their friends it is the one commandment that begins with “remember” and is the one commandment most of the Christian world forgot. While this is true, I believe God was reminding them of the Sabbath they were given back at creation. Exodus 20:11 clearly links the Sabbath in the commandment with the Sabbath given at creation. I have heard it said that God only gave the Jews the Sabbath to celebrate their deliverance from Egyptian bondage and was only a rest from their slavery days. If that is so then why does Exodus 20:11 link it to creation?
  • In Mark 2:27 Jesus says the Sabbath was made for man, meaning mankind. He did not single out the Jews. He never used the term “Jewish Sabbath.” At creation before there was ever a Jew God declared the Sabbath Holy. In Isaiah 66:23 in the new earth all flesh will continue keeping the Sabbath. This tells me the weekly Sabbath is an eternal gift of rest.
  • In the universe we have the sun to mark a year. We have the moon to mark a month and the earth’s rotation to mark a day. But what in the universe do we have to mark a literal 7 day week? Only one place. The creation story in Genesis ending with a literal 24 hour 7th -day Sabbath. Since it is not recorded saying “The evening and the morning were the 7th day” like it does the other days of creation that some have supposed that it was just a symbolic Sabbath rest that was to rest for all eternity. This idea contradicts the Sabbath command to work six days and rest the seventh. This idea would also do away with the weekly Sabbath. If the Sabbath never ended then we don’t have a cycle for a literal seven day week ending with a literal 7th-day Sabbath. If the creation Sabbath had never been forgotten  atheism and evolution’s idea of millions of years of creation would never have stood a chance of acceptance.
  • If the Sabbath was never given to Adam and Eve and was only intended for the Jews up until the cross, then why did Constantine think to change the Sabbath to Sunday in March of 321? How do  you change something that no longer exists? If the Sabbath was only for the Jews and done away with at the cross why was this not common knowledge to the Catholic universal church 300 years after the cross? If God never gave Adam and Eve the Sabbath as a gift, why am I just now hearing of this in the last couple of years 6,000 years after creation?

Those are a few of my thoughts on the argument claiming God never told Adam and Eve to keep the Sabbath and that it was only given to Jews at Mt. Sinai. What are your thoughts?

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

Amen!(0)

God Still Needs Older People

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 

And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5 NLT

Several years ago now, my friend Jean passed away at the age of 94. She lost her husband a couple years earlier and then became ill with cancer. She was telling her daughter she did not even know why she was still living. She felt old and useless. But one day her

young health care nurse came for a routine visit. She told Jean about her own mother who had Alzheimer’s and would cry and shake constantly. Jean suggested buying a doll for her to hold. The young nurse did so and came back to tell Jean that it worked! No more shaking and crying. Jean was still helping people even though she was widowed, old and sick.

When Daniel was young he purposed in his heart to be true to God. Daniel 1:8 specifically mentions being true to God regarding his diet and health. We are not only stewards of God’s money but also time. The longer we can hold onto our health and strength, the longer we can serve God with all of our heart and strength. Daniel served God faithfully in his younger years, but as Daniel became old God was not finished using him. In Daniel 5 Daniel appears to have been overlooked by the current king, but just as God reminded the butler about Joseph at just the right moment, the queen remembered Daniel at just the right time. Daniel may have been brought out of retirement, so to speak, for that one night. Even so, God was not finished with Daniel even then. Daniel had a future with the next empire. A future in which the king who overlooked him had no share. Just like He used my friend Jean and just like He used Daniel, God will continue using us as long as we keep serving him with whatever heart and strength we have.

Remember Psalms 23:6, God’s goodness and mercy shall be with me all the days of my life! And that was definitely true in Daniel’s case..

David also has a promise for the elderly who remain godly.

But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.  For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God.  Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. Psalm 92:12-14 NLT

A few years ago I was visiting an elderly shut-in from my church one morning. As I got ready to go I asked him to pray with me. He prayed that God would use both of us to share the Gospel that day. I thought to myself, he must be talking about me, because he will be here in his home alone all day. There is nothing he can do. I was so wrong! That evening when I got home from my last Bible study he called. He was so happy and excited. The cable repairman had come by the house, and while working on his TV he saw some Christian literature my elderly friend had on an end table. The repairman started asking questions about God, and my friend invited him to church. As I hung up I was reminded about his prayer and how I thought there was nothing he could do. God sure showed me! God showed me He will always use whatever health and strength we have to bear fruit even in our older years. When we love God with all of our health and strength He increases our health and strength even in old age.

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

My Open Newsletter to my Ministry Supporters

You may now send your tax deductible contributions online here.   Please see third line item under “Local Church” marked “Bible Worker.” Thank you!

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Its hard to believe that it was five years ago that my friends and God encouraged me to begin a ministry that works closely in cooperation with the Seventh-day Adventist Florida Conference, but is supported solely by contributions from people like yourself, with no financial backing from the conference. When I began five years ago I had total trust in God, but was not sure what He had in store or how long I would be able to survive relying on God to provide supporters.

I am not a good fundraiser so I am very happy that God has provided for me so I can focus most all of my time and effort into soul winning, and very little time and effort into fundraising. I want to thank those who contribute monthly to my ministry and to those who contribute whenever the Spirit impresses them. In the past I have been told by people that it would be easier for them to contribute online. Well now thanks to God you can! The Plant City SDA Church who hosts my fund is now accepting tax deductible contributions including for my Bible worker fund. You can contribute here.  The Bible Worker fund is the third line item under local church. You can still send contributions by mail to the Plant City SDA Church PO Box 5379 Plant City, Florida 33563. If giving to the Bible Worker fund please mark “Bible Worker Fund” on your check.

Studying With Preston

While God has wonderfully provided over the last five years we are looking forward to many years to come. Like any ministry some people for whatever reason are no longer able to support this ministry, so please pray and ask God if He is asking you to begin systematically supporting this ministry to continue where others who have faithfully supported this ministry over time are no longer with us or just not able to continue.

Bible Work is a constant everyday battle with wicked spirits in high places, so I also truly appreciate all of the prayers and kind words sent my way. Thank you for your prayers, kind words and contributions for the last five years, and please pray for the continued success of this ministry. Thanks and God bless you!

William

Staying Humble After God Exalts You

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. James 4:10 NLT

Ever notice that Jesus did not rush over to the Pharisees right after His resurrection and tell them, “I told you so!” Jesus did not have a vindictive spirit.

By the time Joseph’s brothers bowed down to him he no longer had a vindictive spirit either. Who knows? Maybe God had the butler forget about Joseph for a couple of years because it took that long for him to realize that the meaning of his dream was not really about everyone bowing down to him. The dream was really about him saving lives. See Genesis 45:7.

When I lived in Texas I had a friend who was a nurse but was studying to become a nurse practitioner. She told me when she was in third grade an old nun was her teacher. The nun told her she would never be smart enough to become a nurse. Now here she was not only a nurse but studying to be a nurse practitioner. Sometimes when I would call her to go out to eat, she would tell me she had to study. One Sunday I called her to go eat with me, but she told me she was busy studying. I told her the nun was long gone by now and would never know she was a nurse practitioner now, so we should just go eat. She laughed and assured  me we would eat another time. Of course the real reason my friend was studying hard to become a nurse practitioner was not to vindicate herself to her old teacher. She was studying so she could help people. The hundreds and maybe thousands of people who have been blessed by my friend’s medical ministry know nothing about what the teacher told her.  Nor do they care. All they care about is that she can help them. And that’s all that really matters – helping people. By the time Joseph’s brothers bowed down to him he had nothing to prove. He was not sitting on a throne to be vindicated. He was sitting on a throne to save lives. When Jesus was resurrected He had no desire to vindicate Himself to any of the leaders. It was enough that Mary was there at the tomb and He had risen as her Savior. He is not in heaven vindicating Himself now. He is in heaven saving lives. That’s why He lives. See Hebrews 7:25.

I read through the Bible every year, and when I come to the story of David I had often wondered why it took David so long to actually become king after being anointed. Why didn’t he take the throne the day Samuel chose him? Why did God allow Saul to persecute him so much? Then one day I realized that Saul actually started out humble but became arrogant once he was on the throne, thus leading to his destruction. Is it possible God allowed David to wait and endure trials and tribulations on his way to the throne in order to keep him humble even after he was exalted as king?

James says God will exalt or “lift up” those who are humble. But even after being lifted up and exalted we are to remain humble. Arrogance has no place in the Christian life at any time. Jesus told Philip when you have seen Me you have Seen the Father. See John 14:9. When Jesus said He was meek and lowly (Matthew 11:29) He was showing them the Father who was on the throne in heaven. When Jesus was working in the carpenter shop He was showing them the Father who reigns over the entire universe. When Jesus was washing the disciples’ feet He was showing them what God the Father is like.

Jesus was never arrogant and never will be. He was never proud and vindictive and never will be. Even after being exalted Jesus remains meek and lowly. While sitting on the throne watching his brothers bow down to him, Joseph knew he was sitting on the throne to save lives. When every knee bows to Jesus it wont be for self vindication. There is no selfishness in Jesus and thus no need for self vindication. Jesus will be sitting on the throne to save lives.

When God lifts you up, it won’t be for your self-vindication. Keep in mind that you are only where you are to serve others and save lives.

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 NLT

Living Like Jesus in the Middle of Babylon

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I am writing today from my beautiful hometown, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

We as Adventists believe that in the last days there will be a showdown between spiritual Babylon and those who have the seal of God, who reflect the character of Jesus. While Daniel had his haters, it amazes me how he seemed to thrive and even found favor among the leaders of Babylon and Persia. Daniel was not one to compromise his standards. The life of Daniel shows us that it is possible to live a life of uncompromising integrity and still get along with those of different beliefs and lifestyles. Years later Paul wrote,

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, Titus 2:11-12 NLT

We can’t wait for heaven to live a righteous life. God’s grace empowers us to reflect Christ’s character in this evil world. Daniel is an example of how we can be like Jesus in the midst of corruption. Let’s take a look.

Then Daniel went in to see Arioch, whom the king had ordered to execute the wise men of Babylon. Daniel said to him, “Don’t kill the wise men. Take me to the king, and I will tell him the meaning of his dream.” Daniel 2:24 NLT

When Daniel received the vision the king had dreamed his first thought was to save the lives of the wicked wise men. Jesus always put the salvation of others first. The wise men in Daniel’s day were preserved by the integrity of Daniel. In Genesis 12;3 God said all the families of the earth (not just believers) would be blessed by the Messiah. Likewise even the unbelievers of Daniel’s day were blessed by Daniel’s integrity. In the last days I believe men and women of God will be a blessing to the evil world around them.

I marvel at Daniel’s humility.  In Daniel 1:20 Daniel and his friends were found to be ten times wiser than the other wise men, but look at what Daniel says when he tells the king his dream.

And it is not because I am wiser than anyone else that I know the secret of your dream, but because God wants you to understand what was in your heart. Daniel 2:30 NLT

Daniel did not claim to have any special wisdom and neither did Jesus. Jesus always pointed the people to the Scriptures instead of spouting off like a know-it-all. Daniel did not claim to have any special abilities and neither did Jesus. Look at what Jesus says about Himself,

“I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. John 5:19 NLT

Look at what Jesus says about others who believe.

I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. John 14:12 NLT

Daniel lived a life of uncompromising integrity in the midst of Babylon and Persia. Amidst his haters he more than survived, he thrived and found favor even among wicked rulers. Some blame corruption in the workplace for being passed over for promotions, but God promoted Daniel right in the heart of all the corruption. God can promote you too anytime anywhere. Jesus lived a life of uncompromising integrity in the heart of the Roman Empire and may I also say a corrupt religious system.  He too had His haters but He too found favor “with both God and man” and was able to tell His Father,

I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. John 17:4

Daniel lived a life of uncompromising integrity and thrived among all the corruption of Babylon. Jesus lived a life of uncompromising integrity and thrived amid pagan Rome and a religious system that left a lot to be desired. So today, in the midst of spiritual Babylon by God’s grace we can live a life of uncompromising integrity and make friends along the way.

You may study the Sabbath School Lessons on Daniel here. 

Avoiding Making Bad Marriage Choices

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I am writing today from my beautiful hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

But that doesn’t mean that the law has lost its force. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the smallest point of God’s law to be overturned. “For example, a man who divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery. And anyone who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.” Luke 16:17-18 NLT

As Adventists we love pointing out that Jesus said the law will never be changed in order to protect the Sabbath. But in this passage Jesus is not protecting the Sabbath. Jesus is upholding the law to protect marriage. As Adventists have we become lax in protecting the laws of marriage and remarriage? Have we placed such undue pressure on ourselves and others to be married, that we have compromised Biblical guidelines to make marriage and remarriage easier? I am just asking. If the answer is no, then hallelujah. However I have counseled with Adventist friends who were so desperate to get married that even though their Adventist parents warned them against marrying a non believer, they went ahead anyway with the attitude of “I must be married at any cost.” Not long after the wedding they were staying home from church with their non-believing spouse. I have seen it go the other way too. An elderly lady told me about her late husband, who was an Adventist, but just days before the wedding found evidence that he was Adventist in “name only” as she put it. She decided to break the engagement, but her own father told her he had already spent too much money on the wedding and forced her to go with it, which resulted in over 40 years of heartbreak and misery. In the former case the problem was someone pressuring themselves to get married. In the latter it was someone pressuring someone else to get married.

When I was a teenager I attended an Adventist church which had a scandal involving the academy chaplain.. Three husbands were caught cheating and swapped wives, and then they immediately moved to an Adventist college community that was much larger, where they could disappear.

Once the dust settled, a single friend in her 30’s asked, “How do these people have multiple affairs when I can’t even find one?” Over the years I have wondered the same thing. While I am still waiting on a special woman with whom I am spiritually and socially compatible, I see other people divorcing and remarrying like free agents switching sports teams. All I can figure is they are more obsessed with marriage than I am.

But I digress. It is not about me. It is about the Bible. In the book of Ezra the leaders and people repented of their marriages to unbelievers by sending them back. In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul tells those married to unbelievers to stay married. Here is what I see is the difference. In Ezra they were believers before they got married. Paul is addressing people who were married before they heard about Christ and became Christians. So today there is a difference between someone already being a Christian and marrying a non-believer, and someone who is already married and then becomes a Christian. The former is choosing to be unequally yoked. The latter is not.

I have had people defend Christians marrying unbelievers by saying the unbelievers may become believers later. It has even happened they say. Here is a classic example of how people let human reasoning win over the Bible. “Sure enough the Bible says not to be unequally yoked, but I have some stories to prove the Bible wrong” so they say. Years ago I preached from 1 Corinthians 7 on how Paul said a man can serve God better by being single. After church a woman came up to me to tell me that was wrong. Now it doesn’t surprise me a bit when people tell me I am wrong, but when they tell me a Bible passage is wrong, that really gets my attention. She explained that Jesus sent the disciples out two by two and so every pastor should have a wife with whom to give Bible studies. I had to point out that Jesus did not send the disciples out with their wives but with each other. And I had to ask, when was the last time you actually saw a married pastor out giving Bible studies with his wife? Her argument was totally unbiblical and based on human reasoning founded on the principle that has pressured many people into bad choices, which is “get married at any cost.”

Likewise the arguments in favor of marrying non-believers contradict the Bible. Furthermore it was the unbelievers joining the believers that diluted the nation of Israel in Ezra’s day. Likewise when unbelievers or non-Adventists  get baptized for the sole purpose of marrying an Adventist, it dilutes the integrity of the Church. Then it becomes so mainstream no one even notices or cares that the Advent message has become diluted. Now  non Adventists who gets baptized for the sole purpose of loving Jesus with all their heart before marrying an Adventist is a totally different story. I have seen that happen many times with positive results, and it is totally biblical.

I am not the least bit desperate to get married, but of course, my heart and eyes are open to the possibility, but only if I meet a seasoned Adventist lady who is deeply in love with Jesus. Over the years I have had people in the church tell me I am so picky I will never get married. So be it! I am perfectly happy the way I am. Just a few months ago I was having dinner with a friend at a restaurant. I told my friend that even though I am still open to getting married that I probably never will, because the older I get the more I think, “It’s been a wonderful life. Why risk making a bad decision and ruining it at the end?”  As soon as I said that ,the waitress who was about three tables away heard me, looked at me  and smiled, nodding her head in agreement. So I know I am not the only person who thinks that way.  By the way while the waitress and my friend both laughed, I was not joking. It is something I have seriously thought about.

The purpose of this article is not to discourage myself or anyone else from getting married. A lot of people –  single and married –  like to make jokes belittling the institution of marriage. Not me. I understand the biblical sanctity of marriage, and realize a biblical marriage is a beautiful blessing. The purpose of this article is to help people avoid the misery and heartache that is caused by the pressure inflicted by self or others to enter into unbiblical marriages or remarriages.

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

True Education

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Thursday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson asks the question, “In what ways, even today, might we need to unlearn a lot of what we have been taught from the world?”

When Jesus was telling Nicodemus in John 3:1-17 that he needed to be born again, I believe Jesus was including being re-educated. Nicodemus had a lot to unlearn. He had worked hard to get where he was by his own efforts to reach the standards of man which were built upon the traditions of man. This is why Jesus wanted Nicodemus to be born again  –that he could be taught the ways of God by God instead of the traditions of men by men . God was well aware of the power of tradition in that day, which is why God ordained that John the Baptist would not be taught in the schools of his day.

In the natural order of things, the son of Zacharias would have been educated for the priesthood. But the training of the rabbinical schools would have unfitted him for his work. God did not send him to the teachers of theology to learn how to interpret the Scriptures. He called him to the desert, that he might learn of nature and nature’s God. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 101

I am a big believer and supporter of our Seventh-day Adventist Christian schools, kindergarten through seminary. I attended Adventist schools from first grade into college. I have taught Bible classes, presented week of prayers and chapel services, and have  been a teacher’s aide and substitute teacher in our schools for  about 30 years. I have also given my own money to help pay the tuition for financially struggling families. I share this only so that you will understand I mean our schools no disservice by what I am going to write next.

I can go through all my Adventist grade school and high school yearbooks, and in all the yearbooks combined I will find a handful of students who are in the church today. Those of us who are in the church today have something in common other than going to an Adventist school. We had family worship at home. We were taught at home by the most powerful teachers and pastors in our lives  – our parents. As much as I love, support and enjoy being a part of the Adventist educational system, I cringe when on education Sabbaths, the preacher credits the school for people like myself remaining in the church. That credit belongs to my parents who showed me Jesus at home and taught me to have family worship as well as my own personal Bible study time even as a child. Now I would not have dedicated so much of my time and money if I did not believe in the importance of Adventist Christian education, but I also am afraid that we give our schools the credit that belongs to parents.

I believe one of the things we need to unlearn as a society is that all education takes place in a formal school. We need to learn the difference between having a diploma or degree and having an education. There are people without diplomas or degrees who are educated, and there are people with diplomas and degrees who are not educated. For example, I was talking to a friend who attended a university in Florida while a future famous pro athlete was attending who will not be named here. My friend told me while the athlete got his degree he was never seen on campus. He was never seen anywhere besides the football stadium.

While I did go to college and can say I am college educated, I did not finish my degree. I have worked with Adventist pastors who ,when we would have a slight difference of theological opinion, would mention their degree as though that gave more merit to their opinion. Some have mentioned their degree, implying it automatically trumped my understanding of the Bible. In other words, having a degree made them automatically right and me automatically wrong. Fortunately these situations have been very few and far between. Much more often, when I have  friendly “debates” or minor disagreements with people who have their master’s degree in theology, they never once mention their degree, but reason with me using the Bible and the Bible alone. They understand their degree does not make them automatically right. They reason with me from Scripture as something we both are familiar with, and we are on equal ground, both standing on the Word of God.

Satan is constantly endeavoring to attract attention to man in the place of God. He leads the people to look to bishops, to pastors, to professors of theology, as their guides, instead of searching the Scriptures to learn their duty for themselves. Then, by controlling the minds of these leaders, he can influence the multitudes according to his will. –Ellen White, The Great Controversy, Page 595

Recently, a pastor friend, who graduated with his Masters of Divinity from  Andrews University called me to see if his understanding on a passage in Revelation was correct. Even though he has his master’s in theology and I have no degree at all, I could tell in our conversation that he had great appreciation for my understanding of Scripture, so much so that he was asking me if he was right. While it does not happen every day, it was not the first time or the last. In 2 Corinthians 11:16 Paul admitted he was boasting a little for a purpose. If it sounds like I am boasting that some pastors from Andrews University call me for theological advice, it is only to make this point. You can be educated without having a formal degree. Like Nicodemus had to learn, we have to learn to stand on the Word of God and not our formal degrees.

I want to close by thanking my Adventist grade school and high school teachers who encouraged me as a child to be a Gospel Worker for Jesus and who even now encourage me and even financially support my ministry. There are too many to mention, but they know who they are, as I still communicate with them regularly. While I did not finish college, I will always be indebted to my professors, especially to the late Jan Haluska, who was my composition teacher. I love writing, and the writing skills he taught me have no doubt been the most practical skills that I have used daily throughout my life and ministry.

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

The Letter of the law and the Spirit of the law

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The question has been asked, “What is the difference between the spirit of the law and the letter of the law?” To me, it all comes down to motivation.

When I stop at a red light to avoid getting a ticket, I am only obeying the letter of the law. Would I go ahead and run the red light and risk hurting someone if there was no risk of paying a fine? If so, then that doesn’t really make me an obedient person. It only makes me  afraid of getting fined.

If I keep from running a red light because I don’t want to hit and hurt someone, then I am now obeying the spirit of the law, which is “others first” or “consideration for others.”

Here is one example of how the pharisees were looking at the letter of the law, while Jesus was looking at the spirit of the law.

At about that time Jesus was walking through some grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them.  But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, “Look, your disciples are breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.”  Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry?  He went into the house of God, and he and his companions broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat.  And haven’t you read in the law of Moses that the priests on duty in the Temple may work on the Sabbath?  I tell you, there is one here who is even greater than the Temple!  But you would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’[ For the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!” Matthew 12:1-8 NLT

First of all, I think the Pharisees were greatly exaggerating by calling taking a few heads of grain “harvesting”! Today some Sabbath keepers will not flip a light switch to avoid “starting a fire” on the Sabbath. But I do not think God was referring to light switches when He said, “don’t start a fire on the Sabbath.”  See Exodus 35:3. back then a lot more work was involved in starting a fire than today. There is also a lot more involved in harvesting, than taking a few heads of grain. Now if you disagree with me, obviously that is fine. We all have our own convictions when it comes to these matters. For example, I do not eat out on the Sabbath because I do not want anyone to work for me on Sabbath (Exodus 20:10), and I do not want to buy and sell on Sabbath (Nehemiah 13:15-18).  Some of my Sabbath-keeping friends do not see it that way, and do not consider the cooks or waitresses as their servants, and they consider Nehemiah was referring to a lot more work in loading and unloading food, than just serving it. Fine. Each to his or her own. We must all be convicted ourselves, but the motivation should always remain the same, which is love and consideration for God and others.

Second, Jesus refers to David eating the bread that was only for priests when he and his men were hungry. When you consider the fact that the law of God is love, then you can see how mercy here would be a higher priority than the letter of the law. Another example is in the story of the Good Samaritan. Many wonder if the priest and Levi thought the hurt man might be dead. If so they were not to touch him by law (See Leviticus 21:1-3 and Numbers 19:11-122). But even so, mercy always takes priority over the letter of the law. The law is love. If we put the letter of the law above love then we have just defeated the whole purpose of the law which is love.

Paul explains what it means to keep the Spirit of the law, which is love.

If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law. Romans 13:8-10 NLT

Love does not do away with the commandments. It is because we love God and others that we keep the commandments. I can’t say I love my neighbor if I lie about her and steal from her. Love fulfills the Spirit of the law, which is love and consideration for God and others, while a sense of self preservation and selfishness fulfills only the letter of the law.

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

Sleeping in While Jesus Knocks at the Door

Tampa Bay 1

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

While this week’s lesson mentions Song of Solomon, a passage comes to my mind from chapter 5, that maybe should be compared with Jesus knocking on the heart’s door of the church of Laodicea. Most of us are familiar with this passage in Revelation:

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Revelation 3:20 NLT

We are familiar with Revelation, borrowing imagery from the Old Testament. Christ’s message in Revelation 3 is to His beloved church.  Song of Solomon could be a metaphor of Christ’s love for His church. In Song of Solomon 5 we find a man possibly representing Christ knocking at a woman’s door, and we all know a woman represents the church throughout the Bible. Could this passage be a sad ending to the scene in Revelation?

I slept, but my heart was awake, when I heard my lover knocking and calling: “Open to me, my treasure, my darling, my dove, my perfect one. My head is drenched with dew, my hair with the dampness of the night.” But I responded, “I have taken off my robe. Should I get dressed again? I have washed my feet. Should I get them soiled?” My lover tried to unlatch the door, and my heart thrilled within me. I jumped up to open the door for my love, and my hands dripped with perfume. My fingers dripped with lovely myrrh as I pulled back the bolt. I opened to my lover, but he was gone! My heart sank. I searched for him but could not find him anywhere. Song of Solomon 5:2-6 NLT

By, “I Slept, but my heart was awake,” many take this to be a dream. The woman hesitates to open the door, and apparently hesitates too long, as by the time she opens the door, the dream turns into a nightmare as her lover is gone. The seventy weeks of Daniel 9, tell us God knocked on the door of Israel’s heart for 490 years. The stoning of Stephen in A.D. 34 as a nation Israel closed the door on Jesus. In Matthew 23:37 Jesus seems to cry over Jerusalem as they closed the door on His love. If Laodicea represents the last day church, then we have examples of the 5 foolish virgins in Matthew 25 being locked outside the wedding. While a whore represents the apostate church in Revelation, a virgin represents Christ’s remnant people. (See Revelation 14:4). So the parable in Matthew 25 is about the remnant church, and five of them are foolish and locked outside of the wedding feast.

Let’s not be lulled into a fatal false sense of security. The dream which turned into a nightmare in Song of Solomon may be a wake up call. In Song of Solomon the woman finds her lover gone when she left the door closed while she was sleeping. In Matthew 25,five virgins find the door closed because they slept. Belonging to the right church is not enough. If we are asleep in the remnant church then we might as well just be asleep anywhere. Sleeping in the remnant church won’t save you. While God loved and cherished His Old Testament Church they still had some pretty severe wake calls, like their captivity in Babylon for just one example. While Jesus loves and cherishes His Remnant last day church, we too have had some severe wake up calls. The burning of the Review and Herald in 1902 for just one example.

The five wise virgins were not welcomed into the wedding feast just because they were virgins, or the remnant church. They were welcomed because they woke up. They had their lanterns or Bibles, and they had their oil which was the Holy Spirit. I am a 5th generation Adventist. My family Adventist heritage goes back to the beginning of Adventism. My great grandparents, who were 2nd generation Adventists were married in Uriah Smith’s home in Battle Creek. They would have met Ellen White had she not been in Australia at the time, but my great aunt did meet Ellen White. But my Adventist heritage means nothing. Being 5th generation Adventist does not get me or my family anywhere. If I am going to boast about anything, rather than boasting that I am 5th generation Adventist, I should boast that my family has always known and loved Jesus, probably well beyond 5 generations!

But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken! Jeremiah 9:24 NLT

Song of Solomon 5 is about a nightmare that could happen to us, but definitely does not have to happen to us. Let’s wake up now and answer the door to God’s love!