“In the Spirit”

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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.

I Am Not Afraid

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

13 years later, I still can not believe some people took some airplanes and did what they did. They day after 9-11 I wrote this poem and emailed it to some friends. Somehow a Christian radio station in Dallas Texas got a hold of it and read it on the air. In memory of 9-11 I am sharing it again here.

On 9-11-01 Satan manifested himself in the terrorists who were glad to die if they could destroy someone else. On that same day God was manifested in the rescue workers, who were glad to die if they could just save someone else.

               I Am Not Afraid

I am not afraid of bigotry and hate in the terrorists’ hearts.

I am afraid of the bigotry and hate in MY heart.

I am not afraid to die as a Christian in a terrorist attack.

I am afraid to live without Jesus even in times of peace.

I am not afraid to die at the hand of a terrorist tomorrow, having shared God’s love with someone today.

I am afraid to live to be a hundred and ten, never having shared God’s love.

I am not afraid to walk through the valley of death with my Jesus.

I am afraid to walk over the highest mountain without Jesus.

I am not afraid of my loved ones dying in an explosion tomorrow.

I am afraid of my loved ones living without Jesus.

I am not afraid of a terrorist taking my life away from me.

I am afraid of me taking my life away from Jesus.

I am not afraid of terrorists exhibiting hatred.

I am afraid of Christians not exhibiting love.

1 John 4:4   Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

1 John 4:18 -21 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

John 16:33   These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Psalms 91:5 tells us if we love God we do not need to fear terror. There were some that day who died, knowing they were saved and would see Jesus. For these precious souls the would be terrorists totally failed to terrorize.

Off With The Old, On With The New

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The summer of 2000 was brutally hot in Texas. It was not a good time to be trained in as a UPS delivery driver. I had worked a couple years inside the hub as a sorter, and jumped at the opportunity to become a delivery guy, but being a UPS delivery guy was unlike any other delivery job I had ever had and the heat and frustration drove me to quit and go back to working as a supervisor inside the hub.

I was very frustrated the morning I quit, and just went into my boss’ office wearing regular clothes instead of my delivery uniform, and told him I quit. Looking back I think my boss would have encouraged me to keep trying, but since I wore regular clothes instead of my uniform I had sent him a message that my mind was made up. I had repented of being a UPS delivery guy and my clothes bore testimony to that fact. My boss had no choice but to honor my decision since the uniform was mandatory for delivery drivers.

When an athlete changes teams, he changes uniforms. Along with the new clothes comes a new allegiance for his new team. By taking off his old uniform he is no longer bound to be loyal to the former team. A change has taken place.

In Zechariah 3, Joshua the priest is wanting to pledge his allegiance to God, but Satan was challenging Joshua’s claim. After all, Joshua was still wearing his old sin polluted uniform he got from Satan.

Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the Lord stood by.Zechariah 3:3-5 NKJV

Notice there was no instruction to put the new clothes over the old clothes. The old clothes had to be removed first.

No repentance is genuine that does not work reformation. The righteousness of Christ is not a cloak to cover unconfessed and unforsaken sin; it is a principle of life that transforms the character and controls the conduct. Holiness is wholeness for God; it is the entire surrender of heart and life to the indwelling of the principles of heaven. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, pages 555-556

In world War II you could not fight for Britain in a German uniform. A football player can’t play for England while wearing a German uniform either. You can’t try to wear one uniform over the other one either. Then neither side will trust you! Remember when David was hiding out with the Philistines so Saul could not find him? When it came time for battle, the Philistines sent David back. The Philistine princes said,

““Make this fellow return, that he may go back to the place which you have appointed for him, and do not let him go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he become our adversary.” 1 Samuel 29:4

No, you can’t hang on to your old uniform when you change sides. A boy does not want his girlfriend wearing her ex-boyfriend’s school jacket. He is not going to try to fit his jacket over the old jacket. The former boyfriend’s jacket has to go before the new boyfriend will let her wear his.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV

The new does not cover up the old. The old passes away. Christ’s robe of righteousness does not cover us while we willfully continue in sin. Just like with Joshua, the old clothes had to go. The good news is Christ takes away those clothes for us. Joshua did not take away those filthy rags he was wearing, but he let God have them removed. Likewise we can’t change ourselves, but if we fully surrender to God, God will take away the old uniform Satan gave us, and we will be clothed with the righteous robe of Christ. We have become turncoats. We have betrayed the side of Satan and have become traitors to the prince of darkness and that is a good thing! We have changed sides and we don’t need to wear Satan’s high school jacket anymore. We have put on Christ.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. Romans 13:14 NKJV

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

Recipe for Revival Part 3: Seek God

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

While living in Texas, one day as I was grocery shopping, I decided I was tired of bringing the proverbial bachelor dish of canned corn to church potlucks. I wanted to actually make something. I stood there in the middle of the store, with my cart, wondering what a bachelor like me could possibly make.

Enchiladas! Those can’t be too hard.

So I set out on a hunt, looking for things that would go well in an enchilada dish. I came up with enchilada seasoning mix, refried beans, Morningstar Farm meat crumbles, onions and cheese. 1 I then found some enchilada sauce, vegetarian chili and green onions to top it off with. Oh yes, and. of course. corn tortillas.

I felt I had all the right ingredients, but I knew there had to be a process to make it all fall in place. For example, after I filled the tortillas with the mix, and then started to roll them up into an enchilada, they began to break. I found I had to dip the tortillas in hot olive oil before trying to fold them, so that they would fold right. (Now I just lay them out flat and make my enchiladas more like a lasagna.)

I used to mix the seasoning together in one pan, while mixing the beans, veggie meat crumbles, onions and cheese in another pan and then combining them. I would then add the filling in each individual tortilla. Now I just add the fillings into the pan with the seasoning mix, and I lay the tortillas out flat and pour the contents on top kind of like a lasagna, instead of filling each tortilla individually.

I have to say the enchiladas have been a hit. I have had several families with whom I do Bible studies over, and they love them. One family I have been studying with for a while especially loves them. The kids are always asking when I will make them again. I joked with the parents, that in addition to teaching them the Bible, I could also save them all from a burning building and yet at my funeral all they would be talking about would be how I made good enchiladas!

During this experiment I have learned the importance of creating a delicious meal in the proper sequence.

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14

God also gives us a recipe for revival in 2 Chronicles 7:14. He not only gives us the ingredients for the revival, He also shares with us the process. We must humble ourselves before we can pray a prayer which leads to revival. And we must seek God before we can turn from our wicked ways.

It does not do any good to pray if we have not humbled ourselves first. Remember the publican and the Pharisee? They both prayed (Luke 18:10), but the Pharisee did not humble himself. (Luke 18:11-12) The publican humbled himself and went home justified, while the Pharisee did not. (Luke 18:13-14)

It also does no good to try to turn from our wicked ways if we do not first seek God.

Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.  Jeremiah 13:23

No matter how hard we try, we just cannot change ourselves to be “good enough” to come to God.

Because they do not understand this, some confuse the teaching of “holy flesh” with righteousness by faith. They expect to come to a point where they are beyond temptation and cannot sin. Ellen White denounced this teaching in 2 Selected Messages, p. 31, just as Paul denounced it in Romans 7:18.

The doctrine of righteousness by faith does not teach that the flesh becomes holy but that the flesh must be crucified, and we must be emptied of self to allow God to fill us with His righteousness which delivers us from the power of sin. See Galatians 2:20 and Great Controversy, p. 623.  

What is justification by faith? It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself. When men see their own nothingness, they are prepared to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. (Ellen White, The Faith I Live By, p. 111.)

Only God can change our hearts. This is why the church is a hospital for sinners instead of a country club for perfect saints.

Jesus said

“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”  (John 12:32)

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28

We must come to Jesus before we can rest from the works of the flesh. (Also see  Galatians 5:16-24)

Just as recipes have sequences to their ingredients so does a revival and reformation. First we must humble ourselves. Secondly we must pray and seek God’s face. Then and only then can we turn from our wicked ways.

 

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.
  1. I have also experimented with vegan cheese, but let’s not fill the comment section with quotes about cheese. That’s just not what this post is about.

Evangelism and Witnessing; Every Member A Minister

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A while back a lady went into the hospital for a few days. While she was there, a local elder, deacon and an elderly lady came to visit her. However she was released from the hospital before the Senior or associate pastors of the church could come see her. After her release, she was commenting to me that none of the pastors came to see her in the hospital. I corrected her, and told her that three pastors came to see her. According to 1 peter 2:9 the local elder, deacon and elderly lady are all pastors.

The New Testament church was an active church with everyone pastoring and evangelizing. In Acts 8, Philip, a deacon is evangelizing and baptizing. In Acts 7 you have Stephen who was another deacon. While Stephen was “just” a deacon he was stoned to death, and it wasn’t for taking up the offering or adjusting the Sabbath School classroom thermostat. No, he was stoned to death for preaching the gospel! Wait a minute. I thought preaching was the pastor’s job? Not in the New Testament church! In the New Testament church all the members were ministering and evangelizing.

In the dark ages a wide separation was made between the clergy and the laity but that was not the Biblical design. As we progress out of the dark ages the gap between clergy and laity must be narrowed, in order to get back to being a remnant of the New Testament model church.

Around 20 years ago I moved to Texas to be a Bible Worker. The church had thousands of Bible study lead cards that needed to be mailed out. The pastor asked a lady in our church if she could take them to the post office to be mailed. She responded, “Well if I do that then what is William going to do?” She felt since I was the paid Bible Worker that I should be doing all the work, and should mail them myself. Wrong! Fact is, if I am doing all the work then I am not doing my job. My job, along with the pastor’s job is to equip and empower the laity to do evangelism.  If I go by myself to give a Bible study then shame on me! I should always bring another church member so they can be learning how to give Bible studies and also to bond with the student and be another link to the church family. Currently I have about 8 adults in my Bible marking class where I am teaching them how to chain reference their Bibles and give studies and get decisions for Christ. I have also been teaching a Bible marking class at Tampa Adventist Academy, where young people are learning how to share Jesus. At the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church our young people and lay members have been empowered to speak at our evangelism meetings, and to lead out in seminars. We also have several growth group Bible studies and the associate pastor and I are training and mentoring lay members to take over and lead out in these groups. We have also been taking members on door to door evangelism.

If a pastor or Bible Worker thinks of themselves as the ones who are to do all of the preaching and evangelizing then they are not  Biblical but are stuck in the dark ages. Very few pastors today still want to create a huge gap between pastors and laity, while more and more pastors are like Moses, when he said, “would God that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!”   Numbers 11:29 With this spirit upon our paid clergy the gospel can spread like wildfire and turn the world upside down, just like it did in the book of Acts when every member was an evangelist! Please keep in mind that if the pastor or Bible Worker  are doing all of the preaching and teaching then they are not doing their job. You know the pastor and Bible worker are doing their jobs when they call you and give you work to do!

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. You may download the SS lesson guide to your cell phone here.

Owasso Three Angels SDA Church-Old and New

I am writing today from the beautiful Tulsa area.

It was the summer of 1987. I was 21 years old and working in a warehouse and doing deliveries for P-F Business Systems in Tulsa. I was an assistant head deacon at the Tulsa First SDA Church. I had just become re-acquainted with a young lady I had known growing up. She attended the Owasso SDA Church. I fell in love with this young lady and her small church. There was a deep spiritual atmosphere that I craved. I soon moved my membership to the Owasso church. To make a long story short, the lady I had fallen in  love with moved away. I stayed at the Owasso church because I had made many friends there, and they gave me plenty of opportunities to minister there. At the age of 22 the church made me a local elder, and thus the youngest elder in Oklahoma at the time. The next year I became the head elder. My friends, Gary, Paula and Terri invited me to join them as Literature Evangelists. I left my job at P-F and joined them. In 1991 I became the  Bible Worker. I stayed on with the Owasso Church until October of 1993, when I moved to Fort Worth. While I was at Owasso we had plans to add on to the church and build a sanctuary but for several years, even decades, the church looked exactly how I left it. The above picture is what it looked like when I came and for years after I left.

Today, I came back to preach and visit my Owasso Church family and this is what I found.

They finally added the sanctuary! They also added a very nice lobby, Sabbath School classrooms and library. It was beautiful!

I took this picture of my friend Terri, playing the piano, in the sanctuary on a visit back in 2007.

Today the same room is used for a beautiful fellowship hall.

Today, the Owasso SDA Church has a beautiful sanctuary that years ago we only dreamed about. I took this picture during Sabbath School before the entire church had joined for worship service. I am not 21 years old anymore. I have since moved on to Texas and now Florida. The lady I fell in love with so many years ago, has since married someone else and has five kids now. There are a lot of new faces in the church now who never knew anything about my ministry there so long ago. Still, there are a lot of familiar faces and current friends that I am still in touch with on Facebook and that are still a part of my ministry network. In some ways, the Owasso church is a memory in my distant past, but in so many other ways, like today it is a part of my current life. God has taken me a lot further than I had ever dreamed since that Summer of 1987. Still, I owe what I am today, to that small church family in Owasso who loved me and believed in me. Some have passed on. Some, sad to say left the faith. Some I still talk to every week on Facebook. Even though I may be 1,400 miles and 18 years away now, my Owasso Church family is still a big part of who I am today. In my heart they are never far away. I am very proud to see how the church in Owasso has grown, and I hope they too can be proud of how I have grown. Even though my lady friend and I were never meant to be, she is still a good friend today, but even more so, she introduced me to a wonderful church family. A church family that believed in me and my ministry before it even began. A church family that I have to thank, not only for my ministry that began 24 years ago, but also for my ministry today, 1,400 miles and 18 years later. 1987-1993 were good times and I will keep my friends forever.

A Sense Of Humor Is No Laughing Matter

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

2:Am on a January morning in 2001 I rush out of my apartment and down the steps into the parking lot to drive to UPS where I worked. My car is not in its regular space. I walk up and down the parking lot and can’t find it anywhere! I finally realize my 2001 green Hyundai Accent has been stolen. I go back inside and call UPS. I then called the police department and they came out and took a report. As soon as the insurance company opened I called and they told me to go get a rental car. I called my friend David Mellandorf who came by on his lunch break to pick me up and take me to get the rental car. On our way to the rental car agency we pass Taco Bueno, like Taco Bell only better. I asked David if he wanted to stop for a bite at Taco Bueno and that’s when it hit me! Last night I was doing my laundry at the apartment laundry mat. After throwing my clothes in the dryer I went to Taco Bueno for a burrito. On my way back I drove straight to the laundry mat to get my clothes. Not used to driving to the laundry mat I then walked back to my apartment, put my clothes away and went to bed. I got up and rushed to my car forgetting that I had left it at the laundry mat the night before!  Once I reaized what I had done I called the apartments on my cell phone and sure enough they said my car was right there at the laundry mat! I had reported my car stolen and missed a day of work just because I forgot where I parked my car.

The next Sabbath, when I went to preach in Breckenridge there was a note in the bulletin saying, “William your car is in the church parking lot. Don’t forget it when you leave.” All of my friends gave me a hard time for that and even today my friends from Texas will ask me if I have lost my car lately. It was a dumb mistake but it has been good for a few laughs over the years.

This week’s SS lesson talks about the importance of a cheerful heart and good humor. People with a sense of humor live happier and longer. Yet having a good sense of humor does not mean that you think everything is humorous. It just means you can sense what is humor and what is not. Since the general consensus concludes that I have a sense of humor, I have taken it upon myself to make some rules on joking around. Here they are:

Rule # 1: Don’t Tease People About Things They Can’t Control.

I love to laugh with my friends and make fun of myself about the “stolen car” incident. However years earlier I had another car in Texas with no air conditioning. One of my friends would tease me about it in the hundred degree dry Texas heat. Let me tell you something. While you are sitting still at an eternal red light, sweat dripping, in the 100 plus degree heat, no air conditioning is not funny! There was nothing I could do about it. Once I had the money for air conditioning they no longer made my model of car and no A/C was available.  I had no control over the situation. You could have teased me about being a Texas Rangers fan even when they were the worst team in the league, but I chose them and could chose another team anytime I wanted. I was stuck with that car in the 100 degree Texas heat.

Rule #2 Let People Know When You are Just Joking.

Just because I tell one joke does not mean I joke around all the time. Some people don’t know that. You tell them just one joke and somehow they decide that’s all you do. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I may laugh harder than anyone else when I laugh, but you know what? I also cry harder than anyone else when I cry, and I do cry. I love my life and I vividly sense all of it, the good and the bad. For those who cannot tell when I am joking or being serious here is a clue. I don’t lie. If you ask me “are you joking” I will tell you right away yes or no. I may pull your leg until you ask me, but once you ask me point blank I will not pull your leg anymore. So if I say I am not joking, I am not joking. I am being serious.  People with a sense of humor are serious people too. Again a sense of humor senses what is humor and knows what is not humor. There is a difference between joking around and having a sense of humor.

Rule #3 Jokes Can Be Affirming!

I have to admit it. With my good friends that I am comfortable with I can joke kind of rough and they can be rough right back. Most of the jokes you hear are on sitcoms are insults. I am learning this does not have to be. My last few years in Texas I worked with an amazing man. He was a Jehovah Witness, and was always joking around with me. It took me a year or so to realize that even though he was always joking around he never insulted anyone-ever! All of his jokes were positive jokes. I do not know if that was because of his religion or not, but I have always admired him for that. It is possible to use a sense of humor to compliment people instead of insulting them with it. For example instead of negative comments about being bald, how about saying God doesn’t cover perfect heads? If you joke rough with someone make sure you have their permission first. If someone jokes rough without your permission forgive them and pay them a compliment instead. Don’t censure. Lead by example. They will catch on soon enough. If you think teasing someone back they way they teased you will teach them a lesson you are wrong. All it does is tell them you approve of such humor. If you do not approve of their humor, rather than retaliate just don’t participate.

Rule # 4 Leave peoples’ Bodies Alone

Just because I make a comment about my thin hair or pot belly does not mean I want you to chime in. Often when people make negative comments about themselves even jokingly, they are looking for you to counteract it with affirmation not insult. There is something I want to make clear. If you tease someone about ANY part of their body you have just given them permission to tease you about ANY part of your body and I do mean ANY and you know what I mean.  Respect the entire body.

Rule #5 Humor is Not Mean Spirited.

There were a lot of jokes this last election that went beyond trying to be funny to being outright mean.  For a moment forget that I am a nice little Bible Worker as I say something just as blunt and clear as I can. When you call a political leader “stupid”, “idiot”, and “incompetent” then that just makes you look like a stupid incompetent idiot. Show some class and couth.  I am applying this to all political parties here. Nothing charms me like a politician sincerely complimenting his rival.

Rule # 6 Don’t take Yourself Serious.

I have to admit I am not too bright sometimes. There have been times people have been mean spirited towards me and I laughed with them thinking they were just joking and having fun.  Either way you have to see the lighter side of life. Years ago when I was a UPS supervisor, we were having a terrible day. All the packages were stacked all around the end of the belt when they should have all been loaded in the package cars by now. I was overwhelmed, and when my boss came by I told him, while looking at the mess of boxes, “I don’t know if I should laugh or cry.” He told me, “You might as well laugh, crying isn’t going to do any good.” Humor has always helped me get through tough times. When I got real sick last fall ladies were bringing me food left and right. It was great! Later I told them looking back, all that I went through was worth it all just for their delicious dish that they made for me. When I first picked up the game of golf, I was playing with a buddy and I was doing lousy! I was actually doubling par on every hole! Finally around hole number 14 I hit another lousy shot and then I could not control myself! I fell to the ground doubling over in laughter! My friend, not sure what I was doing, asked what was wrong. I told him I was just laughing at how terrible I was playing! Once while getting ready to putt another player nearby asked if he was in my way. I told him I had no idea until after I hit the ball. I am no pro today, but I don’t play as bad as that anymore. Crying never did get me anywhere, but hard work and a good sense of humor will get you anywhere!

More studies and devotionals are available at In Light OF The Cross.