Anything Except What God Says!

Cruise Ship 011

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In 1 Samuel God wanted to be the king of Israel, but Israel wanted to be like the other nations and have their own king. Instead of being a peculiar people they wanted to blend in with the world as much as possible. Even today I have heard Christian leaders boast how the church resembles worldly establishments, as though they were the standard, but I digress. The fact is that Israel pleaded for and got their own king, someone besides God Himself.

 

Later, I was reading about Jesus being crucified,

“What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back. John 19:15 NLT

When I read this my mind flashed back to Israel saying they didn’t want God to be their king. Here they are telling Pilate give us any king but God!

This week’s lesson talks about Romans 14 and Paul telling us not to judge people by observing certain Sabbaths or days. We understand from Colossians 2:14-17 that Paul is speaking of ceremonial Sabbaths that pointed towards the cross. The weekly Sabbath is spoken of as singular in most Bible versions while ceremonial Sabbaths are spoken of as plural as in Colossians 2 and Romans 14. Also the weekly Sabbath is not a shadow of the cross as it existed before the need of a cross, (Genesis 2:1-3) and after the cross has accomplished its goal, (Isaiah 66:23Acts 18:4Hebrews 4). So we as Adventist Bible students understand that the weekly Sabbath is still in effect, and it was the ceremonial Sabbaths that were a shadow of things to come, and now Paul says don’t judge anyone either way regarding ceremonial Sabbaths.

My point now is this. People will tell me it does not matter which day I keep as the weekly Sabbath, but then they turn around and get frustrated with me for keeping the Bible Sabbath over Sunday. Is this the same mentality of the Jews in 1 Samuel and John 19? Is this not saying, we will have any King but God, and we will keep any Sabbath except for the one God says to keep? Is that within itself a rebellious attitude, saying anything except what God says? If it doesn’t matter what day I keep then why do other Christians get upset when I keep Saturday? Why do they want me to keep any day but the one God said?

The world will always be pressuring us to conform to its ways over God’s ways. Meanwhile Paul writes in Romans,

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 NLT

I choose to Follow God instead of the world, especially when the world says, “not God’s way but my way!” God’s way is good, it is pleasing to both God and me, and it is perfect. I don’t want to be like those of old who say “anything except what God says.”

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

Its Not About Me

wp-1481429297405.jpg

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV

Romans 9 is not about Jacob or Esau being predestined for salvation or not. It is about the role they were to play. Some of us are given “greater” roles than others, but we must remember, whatever role we are given, there is a greater picture beyond just us. When life becomes challenging, and things don’t go my way I like to claim Jeremiah 29:11 as a personal promise. I want to believe everything is going to work our for me personally. I read about how David faced challenges, but he always came out on top. But I have to admit, I also read some things in the story of David that disturb my “hope” that everything will work out for me personally. In 1 Samuel 22:18 85 innocent priests become co-lateral victims in the friction between Saul and David. in 2 Samuel 11, Uriah is killed for being loyal to his country! How does the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 apply for Uriah and the priests?

This may shatter the ego of a lot of western minds, but the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 was not given to an individual. It was given to a nation. The western mind loves to internalize the Bible, to the point that we actually believe it is all about us! We love to think that we are living in the last days, (which we are!) because that makes our role pivotal in the Great Controversy. After all, how could God win the Great Controversy without me? I have an important role to play in the church you see! With the game on the line and only seconds left in a basketball play off game, star player Scottie Pippin was outraged when his coach had him on the bench for the final play. There are “Scottie Pippins” in the church today, who cannot imagine God winning the Great Controversy while they just “sit on the bench” or rest in their graves.

Yes, Jesus is a personal Savior, and loves us individually, and would die just for you, but that does not make it all about you. Jesus died for the world. Believe it or not, as much as Jesus really and truly loves you, it still is not all about you, or me. In Exodus 32:32 Moses grasped who it was all about when he asked to have his name blotted from the book of life to save a nation. Had Moses been privy to Jeremiah 29:11 he would not have internalized it and made the promise all about himself. He would have realized the promise was given to a corporate nation. Esther may have very well been familiar with Jeremiah 29:11, when in Esther 4:16 she said, “If I perish I perish.” She was not applying Jeremiah 29:11 to herself. She was applying it to the entire Jewish nation it was given to. She was willing to perish to help fulfill the promise to save the nation.

Paul writes Romans in a corporate mindset, instead of the individualistic western mindset. In Romans 3:23-24 Paul writes how we all have sinned and all been justified. In Romans 5 he writes how we all sinned corporately in Adam, and were all saved corporately in Christ. In Romans 9:3 Paul is looking at the big corporate picture when he writes, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren.” While pointing out that Jacob and Esau had different roles to play, Paul was willing to be totally written out of the play for the greater good of the nation.

I believe the 85 priests and Uriah, will be in heaven. I believe Esther and Paul will be there too, and obviously Moses already is. After all didn’t Jesus say,

He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 10:39 NKJV

Yes God loves us individually. I am just asking those of us with a western mind to think outside ourselves if we are not already. After a mission trip, my flight home was cancelled. I ended up spending the night, sleeping on the floor in a foreign airport. I asked God why I had to sleep on the floor instead of my nice comfy bed. God asked me, “What makes you think you ever deserved a bed in the first place? People a lot more deserving than you have been sleeping on the floor for years, and you are complaining about one night? Who do you think you are?”

Dear Jesus, I know you love me just as much when I am sleeping on the floor as when I am sleeping in my bed. I know you loved the 85 priests and Uriah as much as you loved David. Forgive me for the times I thought it was all about me, and help me to see the big picture, like Moses, Esther and Paul all saw the big picture. Instead of working for personal prosperity, help me to work for the prosperity of your church.

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

My Fall Open Newsletter to my Contributors

Preston

Many exciting things have happened since my last newsletter! Here is a picture of Preston getting baptized at Tampa First SDA Church.  God has also blessed with two

baptisms from my studies at Tampa Adventist Academy, as well as Maretta joining the Plant City SDA Church on profession of faith.

Preston CS

After studying and being baptized, like many others, Preston wasted no time getting busy in service for Jesus and His Church. Preston has joined the Community Service Center at Tampa First, helping others in need.

Maretta

In Plant City Maretta has found one friend and one family member, who are now studying with us to be baptized.

Summer Study

So many of the students and Tampa Adventist Academy enjoyed our Bible chain referencing classes and Bible studies, that they wanted to continue studying during together during the summer! On the left Isa, who was in my evangelism class at TAA, is giving the study on the hope of eternal life to our summer Bible study group, which included kids from the community as well as the church school. A few of the other kids from TAA also presented studies during the summer class.

Rose

Last Spring, Rose, who was in my Bible chain referencing class, shared the Gospel presentation with her cousins, and Harold made his decision to be baptized! I am currently following up with him and his family.

I also have several small study groups going on every week. One group is on Friday nights with several people who have no church affiliation. Recently four of them made their decision to be baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church! We are now doing baptismal studies.

At Plant City, the pastor and I are both teaching a New Believers class with 8-12 seekers every Sabbath. I am also helping some families from Plant City who are reaching their family and friends.

While God is opening all kinds of doors right here in Tampa and Plant City, I am also very thankful he is allowing my ministry to spread across Florida. I also have a Bible chain referencing class in St. Petersburg with about 10 students.

Last week I completed a week of prayer at the New Port Richey Seventh-day Adventist school,  I had the privilege of bringing the message of the cross to 75 students every day. On Friday 23 of those students asked for baptism and Bible studies! The principal, Mr. Keith Nelson, has invited me back to study and prepare these students for baptism!

As well as preaching and conducting personal and group Bible studies all over Florida, my online ministry continues with Inlightofthecross.com as well as the Sabbath School Net.

I want to thank my contributors for the awesome privilege of sharing the gospel with hundreds of people in Florida and thousands around the world. I am also thankful for the privilege of coaching others to share the gospel, as we fulfill Jesus’ commission to take the Gospel into all the world! Thank you for your continued support and new supporters are needed and welcomed!

Monthly and one time contributions are welcomed at

Plant City SDA Church

PO Box 5379

Please mark for Bible Worker Fund

Plant City, FL 33653

THANK YOU!

How do You Accept Rebukes?

I am writing today from beautiful Florida.

I am writing today from beautiful Florida.

Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy. Proverbs 27:6 NLT

Long ago, I was writing a blog post about humor. I compared the humor of my friends in different areas. Just a few minutes after publishing my post, I got a call from a friend here where I live. He told me I better rethink what I wrote about my friends in another area. He told me even though he knew no offense was intended, it could offend them. I edited my post as suggested. I thought, how wonderful that I have a friend who was so concerned about me, that he called so quickly to warn me, even though he was busy with his own day, and had no vested interest other than looking out for me. Instead of taking offense and taking his call as being critical, I took it as a compliment. He thought enough of me and my ministry to make that call right away.

Unfortunately, many people in Jeremiah’s day did not appreciate his rebukes, even though they were given out of love. It takes a lot of love to tell someone what they need to hear, instead of patronizing them with what they want to hear. I realize the success of my ministry depends upon Jeremiahs of today, who will rebuke me when needed, in a Christlike way.

Christ Himself did not suppress one word of truth, but He spoke it always in love. He exercised the greatest tact, and thoughtful, kind attention in His [association] with the people. He was never rude, never needlessly spoke a severe word, never gave needless pain to a sensitive soul. He did not censure human weakness. He fearlessly denounced hypocrisy, unbelief, and iniquity, but tears were in His voice as He uttered His scathing rebukes.  –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 353 

Years ago, the church I was attending at the time was going through a little crisis. I was having dinner one evening with a couple of friends who supported me wholeheartedly on my view of the crisis. In the course of the evening I made a comment out of frustration that was out of place. They both quickly let me know what I had just said was not appropriate and was not a healthy attitude. They showed me how much they loved and supported me but did not hesitate at all to let me know when I stepped out of line. I thought, “Wow! Now I know they are really looking out for me and my ministry!” I felt loved and secure, knowing these friends were not going to let me step out of line and make a fool of myself and disgrace my ministry.

When people rebuke me I take it as a compliment. It means my ministry is worth something in their eyes, and they are looking out for me. How do you accept rebuke?

Proverbs in Light of the Cross: Do I Really Need to Know God’s Will For My Life?

I am writing from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?  Proverbs 20:24 NLT
While many people ask why God does not show them His will for their lives I have come to a simple conclusion. He does not need to.

He hath showed thee, O man, what [is] good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?  Micah 6:8

 

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6

 

Every fall as recent high school graduates start choosing their college classes, I hear the question, “What does God want me to do with my life?”  Regardless if someone is planning on college or going straight into the workforce I sometimes hear people saying, “I wish God would tell me what He wants me to do.”

 

Even as we get older we often wish we had a direct phone line to God to get specific directions on which road to take in life. So why doesn’t God give us specific directions? It is not very complicated but actually very simple. God can work out His plan for our lives without ever telling us what it is. Maybe it’s best that God not spell out for us the future as we often would like. When Jesus met Peter He simply bade him “come and follow me.” Suppose Jesus had spelled it all out for him from the start. Suppose at the very beginning He had told Peter, “Come follow me and you will suffer public humiliation by denying me, and then end up being crucified upside down on a cross.” Peter would have run away! After Jesus’ resurrection Jesus gave Peter a hint as to what would happen, yet only gave Peter the little information Peter needed for that time. Peter simply followed Jesus day by day and once Peter’s life was over it was a wonderful testimony extolling the great power and love of God.

 

As I look back on my life, I can see how God has worked out His plan for my life without telling me what was going on. In my early twenties I was delivering business forms. I started dating a young lady who went to a small church near where I lived. To get closer to her I left the larger SDA church I had grown up in and joined her little SDA church. Things did not work out for us romantically and she moved away. For some reason I was too proud to admit that I had changed churches just for her so I stayed in that little church. Not long after that, a couple of new Literature Evangelists became a part of our church. They persuaded me to become an L.E. Then came a pastor to that small church who wanted a Bible Worker. The church hired me as the Bible Worker. When the pastor moved to Texas he invited me to go to Texas with him where I did Bible work there. After having been a Bible Worker for several years in Texas, a friend from church who worked at UPS invited me to go to work there to help supplement my income. Good thing I did because right after I went to UPS the churches I was doing Bible work for could no longer afford to pay my salary. So UPS became my regular job for a few years.

 

In 2004 my sister in Tennessee had heard about an available Bible Worker position in Tampa. I thought I had been rooted in Texas. I sent my resume to the church in Tampa and even though I thought I would never leave Texas. One thing after another worked out for me to come to Tampa. I love my job. I love my church family here, and of course I love the area! More importantly others feel God is using me here as His humble Christian servant.

 

While many people my age glory in their past, I tell people the current few years of my life have been the best years of my life. Looking back now, I can trace how God lead me here, beginning with a small church in Oklahoma that I was attending even though the reason for me going there was no longer there. God used that small church to help me start my ministry and get to the beautiful place I am today.

 

I find it interesting that I have never really had to find a job. They all have found me. Even the delivery job I had was presented to me, I did not find it. The L.E. position, Bible worker jobs, and even UPS were all offered to me. God has worked out every aspect of my life and for the most part without telling me at all what was going on or what His plan was.

 

So if you don’t know God’s plan for your life, I say “Don’t worry about it.” God knows and He can make it all work out without telling us at all what is going on. Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount not to worry about tomorrow. He can turn our lives into something beautiful if we will only, do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God.”  Micah 6:8 

Proverbs in Light of The Cross; God Has My Back

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

for the Lord is your security. He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap. Proverbs 3:26 NLT

Years ago, I was buying a used car, and was about to drive it off the lot, when I realized I had not even looked in the trunk yet, to make sure it had a spare tire and jack. I mentioned it to the salesman, who promised me it was there, so took his word for it and did not check the trunk.

Not even a week later, I was driving down the highway when a tire blew out. I pulled over to the shoulder of the road, patting myself on the back for asking the salesman, and making sure I had a spare and jack, to change the tire.

I opened the trunk and found the salesman to be half right. There was a tire, but no jack. I was a little less than happy and was wondering what I would do, stranded with no way to change my flat tire. I did not have to wonder for long. In just a matter of moments, a friend passed by, and spotted me on the side of the road. He pulled over, and of course had a jack for me to change my tire. in just minutes I was on my way again, and stopped by the car dealership where I picked up a free tire jack.

The foolish information the salesman gave me, almost had me trapped by the side of the road, but God was my security, when He had my friend come along and save me. Even when people try to trap you, God has your back every time.

You can Continue studying Proverbs with millions by studying this quarter’s Sabbath School Lesson Guides. 

The Last Prayer of Woodrow Hill

I am writing from the Beautiful Tampa bay area which was home to Jean and Woodrow Hill.

I am writing from the Beautiful Tampa bay area which was home to Jean and Woodrow Hill.

This last Thanksgiving my Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church family lost a dear patriarch and friend, when Woodrow Hill passed away at 95. I had been friends with Woodrow and his wife Jean, ever since I moved to Tampa ten years ago, but I still learned some intriguing things about him, after his death, that I never knew before. Do you find like me, that you always seem to learn something you never knew about someone after they died?  Oh, I knew Woodrow was a man of God. Always a cheerful smile on his face, even when I would go see him at the hospital, or when he would be delivering bread to the church’s community service center. Woodrow and his wife Jean would always tell me they were praying for me and my ministry. That means so much to me. It also means a lot to me when people comment on my blog posts and tell me they are praying for me or even leave a prayer as a comment. It helps to know I am not alone in this spiritual warfare. However, it wasn’t until he died, and I came over to his home, to visit with the family, that I learned some amazing things.

Woody’s stepdaughter said he became her daddy when she was 12. He was the best dad a girl could ever have, and she does not have one unpleasant memory after her mom married. The daughter (she never felt like a stepdaughter) went on to talk about Woodrow’s prayer life. As she sat in her daddy’s chair, she told me “he would be up all night praying and, by listening to the way he prayed you would think Jesus must be sitting in that chair right there that you are in.” The mother and daughter then both told me that the night before he died he was up all night praying for all of his church family, blood family, and neighbors until 6 in the morning! They told me he mentioned my name in his prayer, and it sent chills down my spine to know that this godly Patriarch had prayed for me in his last prayer.  At first I thought to myself, “Wow! He really appreciated my ministry!” Later as I recalled the incident, I thought, “All they said was that he prayed for me. They didn’t say how. He may have been praying for me to repent and be saved!”

I look back, and I wonder, why did he pray all night the night before he died? Why was he mentioning every soul he ever met?  Did he have a premonition that he was about to die, and wanted to say one last, long prayer, not for himself, but for everyone else before he died? This reminds me of only one other person-Jesus! As He hung on the cross, He told John to care for His mother. He prayed for His Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him. Woodrow and Jesus were alike, as while they both faced death, their thoughts and prayers were only for those around them. Woody, like Jesus, did not waste his last breath on himself, but used those last few precious breaths to bless others one last time.

I believe Woodrow was a true disciple of Jesus, and was able to live the selfless life that Jesus lived because He prayed the selfless prayers that Jesus prayed. I don’t think we can expect to live the way Jesus lived in the multitude, until we pray the way Jesus prayed when He was all alone. In Matthew 14:1-32 we read about Jesus walking on the water, while Peter at first walked on the water and then stumbled and fell. Earlier, in that chapter we saw Jesus spending all night in prayer. I wonder, if Peter had prayed the way Jesus had prayed the night before, could he have walked the way Jesus walked on the water? Would His prayer life kept his eyes focused on Jesus instead of the waves, and those watching him? While walking on the water, Jesus was using no special powers that were not also available to Peter.  Later, in Acts 9:36-41 Peter does something remarkable that people thought only Jesus could do. Peter raises a community services leader back to life! Dorcas, the Christian Church’s first community services leader had died. Peter went over and raised her back to life! Remember me mentioning, how Woodrow delivered bread to the community services center? One day he will be raised back to life as well. This story tells me how precious community services leaders and workers are to God! I don’t read anywhere in my New Testament about a conference president, pastor or Bible Worker being raised back to life, but God raised a community services leader back to life! They must be very special to Him. Now look with me at what Peter did before he raised her to life. (Of course it was the Father, not Peter doing the work, just as Jesus said He did nothing of Himself, but it was the Father doing the works. See John 5:19-21)

But Peter asked them all to leave the room; then he knelt and prayed. Turning to the body he said, “Get up, Tabitha.” And she opened her eyes! When she saw Peter, she sat up! Acts 9:40 NLT

When Peter fell in the waves, no record of Peter praying first is mentioned. Of course when he cried out for Jesus to save him, that was a prayer which Jesus immediately answered! But here we see Peter praying the way Jesus prayed before He worked the miracles that Jesus worked. Peter could do the works that Jesus did, once He prayed the prayers that Jesus prayed.

The night before Jesus died He was up all night praying, and asked His disciples to pray with him, but when His disciples fell asleep He quickly excused their humanity, saying the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. While men in their prime of life fell asleep trying to pray, 2,000 years later, Woodrow, a  95 year -old man prayed through the night. Woodrow was a true disciple of Jesus, doing something Jesus asked His disciple to do 2,000 years ago, which they did not. Oh how precious Woodrow’s prayer must have been to Jesus!

It’s no mystery how Woodrow was able to leave such a legacy behind for his family. Woodrow was able to live the way Jesus lived, because he prayed the way Jesus prayed.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson on prayer and Discipleship here.