“Occupy Till I Come”

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I was running my shift at UPS early one morning, trying to beat the clock, as we loaded the package cars, and prepared them for their busy day. In the midst of our hustle and bustle an alarm sounded. A sorter spotted flames on a conveyor belt. We safely evacuated the building and made sure everyone was okay. The fire was actually extinguished before the distant sirens arrived. Later, I recollected how we were focused on getting our job done, in time for all the brown package cars to deliver their thousands of packages, all over a waking city, preparing itself for business. In a split second, our important task meant nothing and we were all prepared to quickly walk away and let the building, and all of our business burn to the ground if need be.

We were dedicated to our jobs at UPS but we still had enough sense to know when to walk away. I think this is the kind of balance we need when we hear the words,

Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.Matthew 24:42

and,

Occupy till I come. Luke 19:13

Some people complain that our church is not preaching enough about the second coming. They complain we just preach about day to day living. Yet these sermons are still very Biblical as Jesus taught us about day to day living. He did not teach us to sit around waiting for Him to come. He also taught us how to live in the here and now. The Bible says, “occupy” (do business in the NKJV) until He comes.

While our church is focused on the prophecies of the second coming, and rightfully so, we must also remember those words in Luke, “Occupy till I come.” Remember the purpose of the gospel is to make people whole. This means more than just telling people what the mark of the beast is, when we can’t buy and sell. It also means teaching people Biblical stewardship and money management, while we occupy and can buy and sell. Making people whole means more than just telling them dead people are dead. It means helping them to become whole again as they deal with grief day to day until the resurrection.

Making people whole involves more than just telling people adultery is wrong. It also means ministering to and healing those scarred by divorce. A friend who had just joined the Adventist church, had emotional scars from divorce. He told me he was glad he had found the Adventist doctrines, but complained that there was nothing in our church to help with the daily pain of divorce. He went to a divorce recovery workshop the local Methodist church shared with the community. He asked me why we had nothing like that in our church.

Is it the job of other churches to help with day to day life while the Adventist church just tells people about the mark of the beast and second coming? No! The first angel in Revelation 14 carries the everlasting gospel to the entire world. The everlasting gospel is a holistic gospel designed to make the entire person whole, body, mind and soul. I am very proud that today I work with the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist church, which like many other Adventist churches today, is ministering to the entire person. Like many other Adventist churches, my local church has “Life groups” on Wednesday nights. On Wednesday nights people come to our church and can join a prophecy seminar I am leading out in, or they can choose between a griefshare group, parenting group, divorce recovery group and spiritual gifts workshop. We have had many workshops ranging from finances to sexual purity.

The Adventist Church proclaims a holistic gospel which brings healing in our every day lives while preparing for the second coming.

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

Glimpse of the Cross Day 6; The God-Abandoned God

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring” Psalms 22:1 

Jesus had always called God His Father. “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” “I always do those things that please my Father.” “I and my Father are one.” Yet when Jesus was on the cross, being treated as we deserve, He could not call God His Father, and so He cried out “My God,  Why has Thou forsaken me?”

Could this be what made Jesus’ death the ultimate sacrifice? Many  think of the physical torture Jesus endured while on the cross, but many have suffered physically just as much. As a matter of fact, if you asked a cancer victim if they would like another year of chemo or six hours on a cross, they will choose the cross over chemo! What made Jesus’ death the ultimate sacrifice goes a lot deeper than the physical pain. He died a death no one has ever died yet.  John Huss sang hymns of praise while he was burning at the stake. If Huss could sing as he died for his faith, why wasn’t Jesus singing songs as He died? Why was He instead crying out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Because Jesus died a totally different death than Huss or anyone else has ever died. Huss died knowing he was accepted of the Father, but Jesus suffered God-abandonment for us so we could be saved.

The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal. Christ felt the anguish which the sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer plead for the guilty race. It was the sense of sin, bringing the Father’s wrath upon Him as man’s substitute, that made the cup He drank so bitter, and broke the heart of the Son of God. -Desire of Ages, Page 753

Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. ‘With His stripes we are healed.  -Desire of Ages, Page 25. 

Raising the Standard

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

My 9th grade algebra teacher graded our tests on the curve. This meant that the highest grade would be counted as 100%. So if the highest grade was 80, our 70 would be considered 70/80 instead of 70/100, thus raising our percentage and grade considerably. There was only one problem. The same girl got 100% right on every test, so we never got a break! The standard always stayed right where it belonged at 100, instead of 70 or 80. The mornings after our tests, we would be anxious to get out results, and to see what kind of a break we got with the curve, and every morning following our tests, we would be disappointed to find that there was no break. Someone kept the standard right where it belonged. That someone was not a popular person with the rest of the class. Why? Because they kept the standard where it belonged, and left the rest of us with no excuse for getting the poorer grades that we got. She was plenty popular the rest of the school year when she acted just like us, but when it came time for tests, her study habits made the rest of us look bad, and it was just easier to ridicule her for her study methods, than it was to actually study ourselves. Likewise, as long as our church blends in the world we will never be ridiculed or persecuted either. Satan has no reason to persecute a church that looks just like the world. As long as this girl was acting like us it was fine, but we found her study habits to be annoying.

I imagine Judas found the woman washing Jesus’ feet with the expensive perfume to be quite annoying. Not that the perfume did not smell good, but Judas clearly had no intentions of giving all he had for Jesus. On the contrary, instead of giving he tried to take whatever he could. But how do you justify your selfishness in the face of someone else’s giving spirit? Easy, you make them look like a fanatic. “What a waste” Judas said, “The money she wasted on perfume could have been better spent on the poor.” I guess Judas considered himself to be poor, since he wanted the money himself. So he makes the woman out to be fanatical. Do we do this today? Someone gives more of their time and effort for Jesus than we are willing to give, and so to make us look balanced, we portray them as extreme. The woman was no fanatic. She was in love with Jesus! But when people are doing more out of love than we care to do, we label them “legalistic,” “extreme,” or “fanatical” when in fact they are just simply in love with Jesus. Judas was not irked by her behavior when she was sinning all over the place. That did not make Judas look bad. But when she gave all she had to Jesus out of love, that exposed Judas’ selfishness and Judas became offended by her converted behavior.

In Matthew 5:1-12 Jesus gives us the beatitudes which are also stepping stones to a complete conversion. Once the conversion is complete Jesus says,

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Matthew 5:10 NLT

Once God’s people become filled with righteousness and pure in heart, by God’s grace they will keep the standard right where it belongs, not because they are legalistic or fanatical, but because they are in love with Jesus. Now here is the key. Jesus blesses those who are persecuted for doing right. Sometimes we bring persecution on ourselves by doing what is wrong. We deserve that, and there is no reward for that. I once heard a man who kept getting harassed by creditors, saying he was being persecuted for being a Christian. No he wasn’t! He was persecuted for not paying his bills!

When God’s grace converts  us our standards will rise above the world’s standards, and just like the kids in my algebra class, and Judas, they will not like that. They will persecute us, but Jesus says to rejoice! For ours is the kingdom of heaven.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

The Gospel and Creation

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Friday’s section of this week’s SS lesson asks the question, “Critics of Christianity will often argue that Jesus knew beforehand that, though He would die, He would be resurrected to life. Thus, they ask, what was the big deal about His death when He knew it would be only temporary?”

My mother knows that flying in an airplane is safer than traveling by car. She knows the sad statistics that people are killed every day on the highways, while a rare jet crash makes headlines around the world. Knowing all this, when my mother gets on an airplane she sure does not feel that it is safer! There is a difference between knowing and feeling. Jesus died as a man, not just a God.

As a man, this is what Jesus experienced;

“In that thick darkness God’s presence was hidden. He makes darkness His pavilion, and conceals His glory from human eyes. God and His holy angels were beside the cross. The Father was with His Son. Yet His presence was not revealed. Had His glory flashed forth from the cloud, every human beholder would have been destroyed. And in that dreadful hour Christ was not to be comforted with the Father’s presence. He trod the wine press alone, and of the people there was none with Him.”-Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 753, 754.

“The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal. Christ felt the anguish which the sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer plead for the guilty race. It was the sense of sin, bringing the Father’s wrath upon Him as man’s substitute, that made the cup He drank so bitter, and broke the heart of the Son of God.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 753.

Foxe’s book of Martyrs tells us John Huss was singing songs of praise as he burned at the stake for his faith. I ask you, if John Huss, a mere mortal man could be singing songs of praise as He died at the stake, why couldn’t Jesus sing songs of praise instead of crying out “My God My God why have You forsaken me?” The answer is John Huss died a totally different death than Jesus died. John knew he would be resurrected. He knew he was at peace with the Father. But on the cross Jesus was being treated the way we deserve to be treated so we can be treated the way he deserves to be treated. Think about this, Jesus always called God His Father.

“In my Father’s house are many mansions.”

“I always do those things that please my Father.”

“I and my Father are one.”

But when Jesus was on the cross being treated the way we deserve to be treated He could not call God His Father! Instead He cried out, “My God! Why have you forsaken me?” This fulfilled the prophecy of Psalms 22 of Jesus dying the second death.

Jesus was not crying out, “why have you forsaken me till Sunday morning.” You don’t forsake someone when you leave them for the weekend. When I tell my Sabbath School class I will be preaching at another church next Sabbath, none of them ask me why I have forsaken them. They know I will be back the following week. You don’t forsake someone when you leave them for the weekend. When Jesus cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?” He felt abandoned forever. He felt what the wicked will feel.

Obadiah 1:16 says the wicked will be as though they had never been. Jesus was not facing a mere six hour pain endurance marathon. A lot of cancer patients would gladly trade their years of battling cancer for six hours on a cross. The physical pain is not what made it the supreme sacrifice. What Jesus was facing was going into total oblivion and it being as though He had never existed! While Satan was willing to sacrifice anyone who got in his way of being number 1, Jesus was willing to go into total oblivion if He could just save someone else.

Hebrews 2:9 tells us Jesus tasted death for everyone. Jesus and Paul both refer to the first death as sleep. Jesus did not save us from that death, as we plainly experience that death ourselves. Paul did not say Jesus tasted sleep for everyman. No, He tasted death, the death of the wicked. Yes, He prophesied of His own resurrection, but that was while He still felt the presence of His Father. When Jesus felt the Father turn His back on Him, He felt, as a man that the promise of the resurrection had left with the Father. Jesus became the God-forsaken God.

Some say, how could Jesus have died the second death while He never lost faith in His Father? Remember Jesus had no sense of self-preservation. The sense of self- perseveration belongs to Satan. Jesus had faith, but His faith was not that He would be saved but that you would be saved!

Some have a hard time wrapping their minds around this awesome love. Some refuse to believe that Jesus would be willing to die forever to save us. In that case they have made Moses more loving than Jesus. In Exodus 32:32 Moses is willing to be wiped out of eternity in order to save the children of Israel. Do you think Moses loved them more than Jesus loves sinners? Of course not! Only when Moses experienced the self sacrificing love of God could he express such love. If you don’t believe that Jesus was willing to say goodbye to life forever in order to save us, then you have Moses showing more love than Jesus. This is impossible.

Since the Jews were accusing Jesus of blasphemy they could have just stoned Him to death. According to Leviticus 24:16, blasphemers were to be stoned and not crucified. Yet Jesus was crucified. Why? Because Deuteronomy 21:22-23 tells us those who are hung are cursed by God. Someone could plead for mercy and have the hope of salvation, just like John Huss had even though they were stoned to death. However, being hung was a sign you were cursed by God. Joshua 10 tells the story of five kings who refused to accept Israel’s God, and were hung from five trees, telling the world they had rejected God and so there was no salvation for them. It was goodbye to life forever.

Friend, does this help you understand how much Jesus loves you? He could have come down from the cross and returned to heaven where He could wear His kingly Crown instead of the crown of thorns. He could have left the road to Calvary and walked on streets of gold. He could have left the mocking mob and returned to hear angels sing His praise. He could have returned to His mansion. Why didn’t He do just that? because the thought of going back to heaven without you did not appeal to Jesus. Heaven would not be paradise without you as far as Jesus is concerned.

There is nothing I would rather be preaching than this message here. It is the everlasting gospel in the three angel’s messages. This kind of love changes everything. It changes how we look at the cross and how we look at sin. Most of all it changes our hearts. The disciples were just a bunch of self- ambitious men until they saw this love displayed on the cross. After they saw this love they were willing to give everything-even their own lives. Revelation 15 tells us there will be a multitude singing the song of Moses and the Lamb. They will be filled with this self -sacrificing love just like Moses and Jesus. They will hate sin more than they hate death and they will love God more than they will love their own lives or self preservation.

Jesus’ love for you goes deeper than the nail scars. He loves you more than He loves life itself. He was willing to go into total oblivion and it be as though He had never existed if that is what it took to save you!

Glimpses Of Grace; Forgive Our Enemies

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV

Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. “With His stripes we are healed.”  {Desire of Ages 25

What I need to remember, is not only did Christ become sin for me, He also became sin for those who have hurt me. Not only was Christ treated the way I deserved to be treated, so that I can be treated the way He deserves to be treated, but He was also treated the way my enemy deserved to be treated, so I can now treat my enemy the way Christ deserves to be treated.

If the cross is good enough to cover my enemy’s sin, it will also be good enough to cover my sin. If all the terrible things that happened to Jesus on the Christ are not enough to cover my enemy’s sin, then it won’t be enough to cover my sin either.  Forgiving my enemy is not saying what they did was okay. When I forgive my enemy, I am saying that I recognize Jesus’ sacrifice as a suitable payment for sin. When I refuse to forgive my enemy, I am insulting Jesus and telling Him His sacrifice meant nothing to me and is not a valid payment for sin.

If you are in the Tampa Bay area this Friday, January 6, at 7pm, I would like to personally invite you to an agape feast and communion service, at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, where we will be celebrating God’s agape love.

If you are not in the Tampa Bay area, then please click here to discover God’s agape live near you, anywhere in the world.