Glimpses of Grace; Family Grace

I am writing this morning from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

One summer, when I was ten years old, I spent a week at my Grandmother Holzkamper’s house in Gentry Arkansas. My mother came to pick me up and while we were still visiting with grandma, I smarted off to my mother. My grandmother told me something that has always stayed with me. She said, “You don’t talk that way to your mother.” After that I thought she would tell me how my mom is the boss and all but she didn’t. Instead she said, “You don’t talk that way to someone who would die for you.” Wow. I had never thought of it like that.

There are power struggles even in families. I wish this were not so. I have seen family members accusing other family members of being on ego trips and being power hungry. Husbands are to be respected, not because they are “the man” or the boss. They are to be respected because they would be the last ones off the Titanic. They would die for their families.

At the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church where I serve, we don’t call pastors “reverand.” We only revere God. Yet Paul tells wives to reverence their husbands! Paul is telling wives to have more respect for their husband than a church pastor. That is because of the self sacrifing love the husband has for His family.

I am sure many times the wife has this love also for her family. Disagreements happen. That is okay. I just hope that when family members disagree, that they continue to resepct each other and remember they are arguing with someone who would die for them. Reverence that love even while disagreeing!

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. Ephesians 5:25

Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. Ephesians 5::33

Kristin’s Baptism

Sabbath, November 26, 2011 was a grand celebration at Kristin’s home as her family and friends celebrated her baptism. The baptism was very special as she was baptized in the lake in her backyard. Also her Uncle John performed the baptism. Please enjoy the pictures and stories.

Kristin loves the Bible and sharing Jesus with others. Not only has she been an enthusiastic member of my baptism class at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, and another one at Tampa Adventist Academy, but she is also currently in my Bible marking class. This is a class where I teach the 5th and 6th graders how to chain reference their Bibles, present studies and get decisions for Christ. Kristin is very involved, and her chain reference notes are written very well. Her notes are much easier to read than mine. Kristin is very active in the class. Last week I was teaching them how to do a chain reference Bible study on stewardship. I ended with a testimony on how I received a dollar an hour raise after paying my tithe back in the 1980’s. One student said a dollar is not that much. Kristin quickly defended me by pointing out, “You could buy a loaf of bread for 2 cents back then!”

Even though the baptism was not at the church, but was at the lake near her home, many of the church family came to witness and celebrate, including a reception before the baptism.

Following the reception, Pastor Brad and her uncle John shared with the group some thoughts about baptism and Kristin’s choice to follow Jesus. Kristin and her sisters also sang a song and played a few musicals of praise before the baptism.

Kristin shared with me, “I want to get baptized because I want to get to know Jesus better and dedicate my life to Him. He died for me and I love Him and will die for Him. I want to be re-born because of Jesus.

This is a very big day for me. This baptism means a lot to me! I love Jesus with all my heart and I’m glad that Jesus is going to take away my sin.”

This morning, December 3, 2011 we voted Kristin into membership at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church. I shared with the church family how, the whole time I have known Kristin and her family, she has been very quick to see ways to serve and help others. When someone comes to visit her home she makes sure they are well taken care of. She is also very giving and helpful at church and school. One day while taking Kristin and her family to the airport, Kristin did not have a cord for her camera. Since I have the same camera she does, I loaned her my cord for her vacation. She hesitated to accept it at first and then accepted it very graciously. I realized that Kristin is very quick to give but slow to receive. I wish we all could be more like that. Even though Kristin is in the early part of her walk with Jesus, she is already very active in finding ways to serve God’s family and tell others about Jesus.

Please don’t let the sun go down before you give your heart to the one who has given His life and heart for you. I would love to visit with you about giving your life to Jesus and being baptized. Please contact me at LayPastor@TampaAdventist.net

Worship: From Exile to Restoration

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

While studying this week’s SS lesson, two things became apparent to me.  God’s church has never been perfect. The sins of the church leaders described in Ezekiel 8 makes this clear. Many people today act shocked, to see things happening in the church, that ought not to be. They talk about how religious piety is wanting. They talk about the olden days when the church was pure. Friends, the church has never been pure and religious piety has always been wanting. People say, the standards are not upheld like they used to be. For example, I heard someone talking a while back about how when they were growing up, you never saw an Adventist drinking Coke or Pepsi at a church gathering, like you may today. True. We did not drink it at social gatherings but many of us drank it at home. So are the standards slipping, or are we just becoming more real? I am not condoning drinking Coke or Pepsi at Adventist gatherings or at home. What I am suggesting, is that we take a realistic look at things. Are our standards slipping, or are we just becoming less hypocritical, and not hiding what we really do, and who we really are?

I only use Coke and Pepsi as a handy illustration. We, as a church and as individuals, have issues much more pressing than soft drinks. This leads me to my second observation revealed in our SS lesson. Intercession. When we see things in the church that ought not to be, often our first instinct is to have the people responsible removed. Years ago, a children’s SS teacher told me how a pastor changed her life. She was a smoker and a SS teacher. Convicted she should not be smoking, and teaching the children, she confessed to her pastor that she should no longer be teaching the children. The pastor told her she had it all wrong. She should keep teaching the children’s SS class. It was the smoking she should quit! By God’s grace she quit smoking and continued teaching. When my shirt gets torn, it is easier to throw it away and buy a new one than it is to sew and fix it. When we see people with problems in the church, we think it is easier for them to just leave and get someone else, instead of helping mend the people with problems. Jesus is not into quick fixes. Jesus is not into throwing people away because they are broken. This is why He has stood by a church so imperfect for not just centuries, but millenniums. Jesus wants to mend and heal His broken church and broken people. What the church needs is prayer warriors like Daniel, who in Daniel 9 interceded for the church of his day, and even saw himself as part of the problem, and saw God, not himself, as part of the solution.  Instead of praying for people who we perceive to be tainting the church to leave, we should first intercede for them and pray for their salvation.  After all, if we truly believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives and purify the church, why don’t we give the Holy Spirit time to do His work?

I understand church discipline is Biblical and has its place, but intercession has its place too, and it comes before church discipline. In the past we may have used church discipline as a quick fix. Throw away that old torn shirt and buy a new one. A Christ like Church will take the time to mend people, instead of throwing them away. This may make the church less than perfect for a while. That’s okay. It takes to time to fix things correctly. So I challenge you, instead of being critical of your church, intercede for your church. And I challenge you to go a step further. Ask Jesus to send the outcasts, that no other church wants  to your church!

Worship: Rejoicing Before The Lord: The Sanctuary and Worship

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

While studying this week’s SS lesson, I ran across some interesting articles from the Spirit of Prophecy.

Keep Silence Before Him

  The Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him. Habakkuk 2:20

From the sacredness which was attached to the earthly sanctuary, Christians may learn how they should regard the place where the Lord meets with His people. There has been a great change, not for the better, but for the worse, in the habits and customs of the people in reference to religious worship. The precious, the sacred, things which connect us with God are fast losing their hold upon our minds and hearts, and are being brought down to the level of common things. The reverence which the people had anciently for the sanctuary where they met with God in sacred service has largely passed away. Nevertheless, God Himself gave the order of His service, exalting it high above everything of a temporal nature.  {FLB 189.2} 

     The house is the sanctuary for the family, and the closet or the grove the most retired place for individual worship; but the church is the sanctuary for the congregation.  {FLB 189.3} 

     In the name of Jesus we may come before Him with confidence, but we must not approach Him with the boldness of presumption, as though He were on a level with ourselves. There are those who address the great and all-powerful and holy God, who dwelleth in light unapproachable, as they would address an equal, or even an inferior. There are those who conduct themselves in His house as they would not presume to do in the audience-chamber of an earthly ruler. These should remember that they are in His sight whom seraphim adore.  {FLB 189.4} 

     Those who assemble to worship Him should put away every evil thing. Unless they worship Him in spirit and truth and in the beauty of holiness, their coming together will be of no avail.  {FLB 189.5} 

     It is your privilege, dear young friends, to glorify God upon the earth. In order to do this, you must direct your minds away from things that are superficial, frivolous, and unimportant, to those that are of eternal worth. {FLB.189.6} 

  Reverence for the House of God

  Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:30 

God is high and holy; and to the humble, believing soul, His house on earth, the place where His people meet for worship, is as the gate of heaven. The song of praise, the words spoken by Christ’s ministers, are God’s appointed agencies to prepare a people for the church above, for that loftier worship.  {ML 286.2} 

     When the worshipers enter the place of meeting, they should do so with decorum, passing quietly to their seats. . . . Common talking, whispering, and laughing should not be permitted in the house of worship, either before or after the service. Ardent, active piety should characterize the worshipers.  {ML 286.3} 

     If some have to wait a few minutes before the meeting begins, let them maintain a true spirit of devotion by silent meditation, keeping the heart uplifted to God in prayer that the service may be of special benefit to their own hearts and lead to the conviction and conversion of other souls. They should remember that heavenly messengers are in the house. We all lose much sweet communion with God by our restlessness, by not encouraging moments of reflection and prayer. . . .  {ML 286.4} 

     Elevate the standard of Christianity in the minds of your children; help them to weave Jesus into their experience; teach them to have the highest reverence for the house of God and to understand that when they enter the Lord’s house it should be with hearts that are softened and subdued by such thoughts as these: “God is here; this is His house. I must have pure thoughts and holiest motives. . . . This is the place where God meets with and blesses His people.” . . .  {ML 286.5} 

     Parents should not only teach, but command, their children to enter the sanctuary with sobriety and reverence.  {ML 286.6} 

     Practice reverence until it becomes a part of yourself. {ML 286.7}

Dwayne and Xaviers Baptisms

Today at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church we witnessed two beautiful  baptisms, as Dwayne and his son Xavier gave all of their lives to Jesus since He gave all of His life for them. I was privileged to study with both of them every Monday evening in the winter and Spring.  Xavier had never been baptized, while his father had wandered away and was coming back to God. We studied the In Light of The Cross Bible study guides, (Click here for Spanish version) and had some very stimulating discussions. Xavier, though young, took his studies very seriously and often asked well thought out questions. I am going to miss our studies!

Pastor Brad, our new Lead Pastor at Tampa First, went over the baptismal vows.

Before each baptism I had a prayer, asking for God’s grace to be with Dwayne and Xavier every day. Before the baptism though we played a special song for them called “I am New” by Jason Gray.

After the baptism Dwayne asked Xavier how he felt and he said “brand new!” Made me remember the day of my baptism when I felt brand new. It is a wonderful feeling!

After the baptism Pastor Brad presented Dwayne and Xavier with their baptism certificates, and then Dwayne’s mother Enid gave a heartfelt testimony encouraging other parents to not give up praying for their children to come to Jesus. Sister Enid and Brother Fitzgerald (Dwayne’s father) said that they “live on their knees” praying for their children.

 If you have not given your heart to Jesus and been baptized, then I encourage you not to wait for the sun to set on you before you give your life to Him. I would love to talk to you about this decision if you would like to write to me at LayPastor@TampaAdventist.net or call (813) 933-7505. We are already planning another baptism soon. If you do not live in the Tampa Bay area, feel free to contact me so I can assist you in finding a pastor in your area who can help you with this important step.