Tag: Tulsa oklahoma

When Prayer Doesn’t Move Mountains

Tulsa By River
I am writing today from beautiful Tulsa Oklahoma.

“For most of us the prayer in Gethsemane is the only model. Removing mountains can wait.” -C.S. Lewis

I was told a couple Fridays ago that my mother, my biggest champion and one of the biggest prayer warriors in my ministry had less than 30 days to live. She had been in poor health for a long while. Actually, in 2004 she was given 2-3 years to live, and here it was 12 years later. My mother, who lived 1,200 miles away was fading in and out of consciousness, mostly out. I had to get out there to see her! Last Sabbath (I am writing this Sabbath June 18, 2016) I was crying and pleading with God to give me at least one more time to tell her that I loved her. Of course I know we will always want one more time. A million emotions and memories were flooding through my soul, as I cried out to God, “One more time God! One more time!” 

That afternoon, after fellowship lunch at church, I took off by myself to one of my mother’s favorite beaches, where she visited me in Florida. While there, my sister called, and told me mother was awake if I wanted to call her. I called her hospital room, and we talked for a few minutes as I stood on mother’s favorite beach, watching the waves she loved so much. I told her I loved her a hundred times. She told me she loved me. I promised I was coming out as soon as I could. She said “I hope so.” The conversation seemed timeless if you know what I mean. It didn’t seem like our last conversation. It seemed like one we would have had during any period of life.

I thank God for that answered prayer, because mom then faded back into unconsciousness, never to return. I flew out to see her, and said goodbye and that I loved her, but she could not respond. I arrived at the hospital Tuesday morning at 2Am. By 6:30AM she was gone. The 30 days were more like just 4.

The Sunday after the Sabbath I talked to mom, right before flying out, I had a real Gethsemane with God. I was crying. No I was wailing! I am sure my neighbors heard. I pleaded with God to save my mother! I did not want to lose her! I told God I believed He could heal her. He can move mountains! But in my Gethsemane, no mountains were moved.

I looked to Jesus in His Gethsemane. No mountains were moved there either. Jesus simply surrendered to His Father’s will. I thought about His mother, later standing at the cross, having to submit her will too. Now remember, Jesus and God the Father were in on the plan of Him being crucified from the very start, but I don’t know that poor Mary was ever given a choice. She was a willing, submissive participant the entire time. I tried to imagine what was going on in her heart and soul during her mother/son separation. Then I realized, as ugly and painful as it was, little did Mary realize at the cross, just how close the resurrection was. Just right around the corner actually!

Life goes by so fast. Things like graduations, weddings, retirement parties, and yes the death of a loved one all come way too soon it seems. We expect these things, we just don’t expect them to come so fast, even though we have been told a thousand times how short life is and how quickly it all goes by.

Even though my mother lived over 80 years, I still can’t believe her life is already over. Yes, we have been promised the second coming of Jesus and the resurrection for years, maybe to the point where we get lulled to sleep by it. But I believe just like every other major event in life, that sneaks up on us, once the second coming and resurrection actually happen, we all, saved and unsaved, will be thinking, “Already?! Wow that was quick!” And of course, after all, didn’t Jesus say,

Surely I am coming quickly. Revelation 22:20

When Jesus comes, mountains will be moved out of their places. For now, I pray the prayer of Gethsemane, “Not my will, Your will be done.” I realize when Mary said goodbye to Jesus she did not realize how close she already was to seeing His resurrection. I am not a date and time setter. I realize I will have to miss my mother more than the three days Mary missed Jesus, but I do know this with all my heart; no matter the pain, no matter the sorrow, no matter the wait, when Jesus comes, we will all sigh with a great joyful, “Wow! Already?!” 

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

Discipling or Cloning?

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

While living in Texas I was taking a Texas history class at a community college. In writing a paper for class, I mentioned a political figure who was assassinated. I contrasted the pomp and circumstance of his funeral with the plain funeral of the man who killed him and was killed shortly after. I pointed out in my paper that, humanly speaking, the political figure was not any more of a saint than the man who killed him, yet he received greater honor. I then feared that my opinion might cost me a grade. Yet when I got my paper back, the professor had circled where I had written my opinion, and he wrote “Good point!” I got an “A”.

Later I told my friends that maybe the professor was not a big fan of the political figure I referred to. He agreed that that was probably why I got the good grade. Another friend responded, “Your professor may or may not have agreed with your statement. He did not give you an A because he agreed with your thinking. He was just glad to see you thinking!” In other words, my history professor was not trying to clone himself. He was trying to get people to read, study and think for themselves.

In evangelism it is very easy to try to clone people instead of making disciples for Jesus. Sometimes, while telling people to go by the Bible and the Bible only, we are blinded by our own traditions and can’t see to separate our traditions from plain Bible teaching. We end up teaching our view of what the Bible says instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to interpret the Bible to others.

2 Timothy 3:16 reads,

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

A while back I was working as a Bible worker in a church out in West Texas. A young man from a nearby college would visit our church and attend prayer meetings. We were glad to have him! He would come wearing a t-shirt and shorts. One night after prayer meeting an elder came up to me and said, “You need to talk to that boy and tell him we don’t dress like that for church.” There was only one problem. I couldn’t find anywhere in the Bible where it said you can’t come to church dressed like that. Sure there is counsel that we should wear our best and so forth, but who was I to decide what this young man’s “best” was?

Once a lawyer asked Jesus how to have eternal life. Jesus, while being God, set us an example on how to answer such theological questions. Jesus did not give His personal opinion or philosophy. He directed the man to the Scriptures.

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 

He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” Luke 10:25-26 NKJV

Notice Jesus pointed the man to the law in the Scriptures and then asked him how he understood it, instead of telling him how to understand it. Jesus was allowing both the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit to do their work. We mustn’t think that people have to think just like we do in order to be led by the Spirit.

In Wesley’s time, as in all ages of the church’s history, men of different gifts performed their appointed work. They did not harmonize upon every point of doctrine, but all were moved by the Spirit of God, and united in the absorbing aim to win souls to Christ.-Ellen White, Great Controversy, Page 257.

Did you catch that? They were all led by the Holy Spirit even though they were not thinking exactly like each other.

I have met too many Christians who believe that if you are led by the Spirit that you will think exactly like them, because, of course, they are led by the Spirit. I have heard people say, the Holy Spirit will lead everyone to become vegan because that is what the Holy Spirit led me to become, and so if they are led by the same Spirit they will do the same. But consider this, Jesus was led by the Spirit and never became vegan! He did, however, practice a Bible principle of eating and drinking only to glorify God. See 1 Corinthians 10:31. Jesus followed the Bible principle of eating the best foods available, which were also biblically clean, in His time and place. We are to do the same. In some places that may mean eating vegan. In other places it may not.

We need to be careful not to confuse our personal preferences with biblical truth. While the Bible teaches religious liberty, many think that means they can just follow their personal whims and tastes, instead of real personal convictions of Bible truth. This is why Ellen white wrote,

Ministers who labor in towns and cities to present the truth should not feel content, nor that their work is ended, until those who have accepted the theory of the truth realize indeed the effect of its sanctifying power and are truly converted to God. God would be better pleased to have six truly converted to the truth as the result of their labors than to have sixty make a nominal profession and yet not be thoroughly converted. These ministers should devote less time to preaching sermons and reserve a portion of their strength to visit and pray with those who are interested, giving them godly instruction, to the end that they may “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”  –Testimonies to the Church  Vol. 4, p. 317. 

Consider this,

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth. John 16:13 NKJV

 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:21 NKJV

Never should the Bible be studied without prayer. Before opening its pages we should ask for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, and it will be given.-Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Page 93.

Instead of cloning people to think and act exactly like us, shouldn’t we rather train them to study the Bible and rely upon the Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth? When they study the Bible, the same Holy Spirit that moved the writers to write those words thousands of years ago is right there with them to help them understand those words today.

We need to remember that we all are human, and we all have human philosophies and traditions, no matter how biblically sound we think we are. Our job is not to clone people to be exactly like us, but to point them to the Perfect Example which is Jesus. This example is found in the Scriptures.

Ellen White, one of the primary founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, spoke these as her last words to the church body, as she held the Bible extended on her hands:

“I commend unto you this Book.” – W. A. Spicer, Certainties of the Advent Movement, p. 202.

Our church founder’s job was not to do our thinking for us, just as my professor’s job was not to do my thinking for me.

Let’s exalt the Scriptures as our church founders did and, even more importantly, as Jesus did. As we study this quarter’s lesson together, let’s ask God to show us the difference between just cloning people to be like us, and making disciples for Jesus.

Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 24 (Beyond the Manger, the Passover Visit)

I am writing tonight from  beautiful, icy cold Tulsa, Oklahoma.
I am writing tonight from beautiful, icy cold Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Luke 2:41-50 Tells about  Mary and Joesph taking Jesus to the Passover, when He was 12 years old. On the way home Mary and Joseph assumed Jesus was in their company, however He was not with them. He was back at the temple,  or what we would call the church of the day.  Do we sometimes assume today, that so long as we are with “church” people that Jesus must be with us? The story of the Passover visit, the Jews demanding Pilate to crucify Jesus, and even the whole Israeli nation and its leaders worshiping Baal back in the days of Elijah, show us that we can’t afford to make the same mistake Jesus’ parents made, in thinking that so long as we are with a church that we must be with Jesus. Mary and Joseph were with “church” people traveling back home from the temple, but they weren’t with Jesus.

So how do we make sure we don’t make the same mistake?

If Joseph and Mary had stayed their minds upon God by meditation and prayer, they would have realized the sacredness of their trust, and would not have lost sight of Jesus. By one day’s neglect they lost the Saviour; but it cost them three days of anxious search to find Him. So with us; by idle talk, evilspeaking, or neglect of prayer, we may in one day lose the Saviour’s presence, and it may take many days of sorrowful search to find Him, and regain the peace that we have lost.
In our association with one another, we should take heed lest we forget Jesus, and pass along unmindful that He is not with us. When we become absorbed in worldly things so that we have no thought for Him in whom our hope of eternal life is centered, we separate ourselves from Jesus and from the heavenly angels. These holy beings cannot remain where the Saviour’s presence is not desired, and His absence is not marked. This is why discouragement so often exists among the professed followers of Christ.
Many attend religious services, and are refreshed and comforted by the word of God; but through neglect of meditation, watchfulness, and prayer, they lose the blessing, and find themselves more destitute than before they received it. Often they feel that God has dealt hardly with them. They do not see that the fault is their own. By separating themselves from Jesus, they have shut away the light of His presence.
It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit. If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross.
As we associate together, we may be a blessing to one another. If we are Christ’s, our sweetest thoughts will be of Him. We shall love to talk of Him; and as we speak to one another of His love, our hearts will be softened by divine influences. Beholding the beauty of His character, we shall be “changed into the same image from glory to glory.” 2 Corinthians 3:18. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 83

Why Go To Church?

I am writing today from beautiful Tulsa Oklahoma (Boston Avenue Methodist Church)

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”  Hebrews 10:25

Over the years, I have heard many people tell me they don’t need a church. They can just study the Bible for themselves. They don’t need to go to a church that is filled with hypocrites, even if there is always room for one more. However, you can’t have a “one-person” church and fulfill the counsel in Hebrews 10:25. By setting up His church, God does more than command us to study and worship. He commands us to do more than spread the gospel by ourselves. Hebrews 10:25 is a command to be social. Paul does not merely say, “Do not give up hope and do not stop studying the Scriptures. He says, “Do not stop meeting together in a social setting.”

Paul, of all people, knew the importance of a church. Once he was converted in Acts 9, God directed him to the city where he met Ananias and Barnabas and the rest of the church. Even though Paul had a one-on-one encounter with God, he still needed to understand the importance of living and growing in a church setting.

Paul counseled us to keep being social, because he knew it was not good for man to be alone. Now think about this for a moment. God creates Adam. Adam has God and God has Adam. Yet God does not say, “Adam has Me, and I am all that he needs.” No, God Himself says, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Genesis 2:18

Now let this soak in. God Himself is saying, “I am not all Adam needs! He needs a community.”

If you believe God is all you need and that you don’t need anyone else in your life, then you are contradicting the God you serve! He Himself says He is not all you need. You need a community of believers. God created a mate for Adam, and thus fulfilled some other obvious needs of Adam, but ultimately they fulfill God’s purpose of creating a community. God knew Adam needed more than just to be able to worship God alone. He needed to be able to worship and serve God with a community of believers.

If you ever date someone who tries to isolate you from your family and friends, be very concerned about that. If their love is a Godly love, they will love like God and encourage you to be social and active in your family and community. If God Himself realizes we need more in our lives than just Him, how dare a mere mortal human being tell us they are all we need!  If their love is from God they will not be egotistical and tell us we don’t need anyone but them. God’s love is a healthy love which does not isolate. A love that tries to isolate is very unhealthy.

Worshiping in a social setting such as a church, means we will meet hypocrites, and they will meet hypocrites when they meet us. Hypocrites are just people who do not live up to all of their ideals, and that is all of us. But by God’s grace, He is getting us there and will get us there. In the meantime we need each other to get there.

I have a community Bible study where people of all faiths are invited to our church on Wednesday mornings. One morning an elderly lady said something that has always stayed with me. She said, “If someone in the church keeps rubbing you the wrong way, maybe God is just using them to polish your character.” I think she is right. God says it is not good for us to be alone. We need a community of believers. Some will encourage us, and even those we don’t get along the best with, will help polish our characters.

We need each other!

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Trust No One

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

How many legs does a spider have? Eight? Do you really know? I mean have you counted them? In 300 B.C. Aristotle said that spiders had six legs and was classified as an insect. All the world believed him, until finally in the 1400s somebody actually counted and saw they had not six, but eight legs. Aristotle must have been widely respected for no one to question him for 1,700 years. I am sure he was right about a lot of things, but not this time. Finally, somebody counted the legs for themselves instead of just taking Aristotle’s word for it.

The key thought of this week’s Sabbath School lesson is, “Every believer must be personally and individually armed as we each, personally and individually, find ourselves immersed in the great controversy.”

I am reminded of a time many years ago when I was still living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I had a friend Anne, who was a flight instructor at the Spartan Flight School in Tulsa. One Saturday night, she and I decided to rent a small Cessna 152 and take an aerial  tour of the city. As we began, while they were fueling the plane, Anne was checking all the gauges to make sure all systems were go. When she got to the fuel gauge she said, “fuel gauge reads full.” I made a joke that we just watched them fueling the plane so there was no need to check the fuel gauge. Her reply has always stuck with me. “Trust no one,” she said. She was right. As the pilot of our little aircraft, it was her personal responsibility to check all the gauges, including fuel. It was not disrespectful for her to check to make sure the “pit crew” had done their job. It was her responsibility to check things out for herself.

We all have that responsibility as Christians. Paul was not offended at all that the Bereans checked out his preaching to see if it went along with the Scriptures. “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Acts 17:11 NIV Everyone knew Paul was sincere, but we are all human, right? We can make sincere mistakes. I am sure Aristotle honestly thought spiders had six legs, and it was just an honest mistake on his part, involving no sinister cover up or conspiracy.

As Seventh-day Adventists, we tell our protestant and Catholic friends that they need to read the Bible for themselves, and not take their preacher’s word for it. But how many of us turn around and think, my pastor is an Adventist so I know he is preaching truth? Friends, if the people searched the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was so, how much more should we be searching the Scriptures to see if what our pastor says is so. We are all human. We make mistakes. Making a sincere mistake does not make you  a heretic. It does not mean you are a part of a global sinister conspiracy plot. It just means we are all human. We can’t really on man alone. Like my friend Anne, who checked out things for herself, likewise we must, along with the Bereans, search the Scriptures for ourselves, so that we can each be individually armed in the great controversy.

Glimpses Of Grace; Blood On Our Hands

Below is a poem I wrote when I was circa 15 years old, living in the house in this picture in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Back in my early teens, I was just getting into music, and loved contemporary Christian music. I wrote the poem below, hoping someone would set it to some contemporary Christian music. I actually have a friend who is currently working on it now, 30 years later. I thought I would go ahead and share the lyrics to my poem.

Blood On Our Hands

There was a man, he really walked the earth

He was just like us, He had a natural birth

He had feelings He was a natural man

And we’ve all got His blood on our hands

He was a righteous man, never did wrong

The weak found refuge in Him, He was strong

There wasn’t a problem He didn’t understand

And we’ve all got His blood on our hands

The preacher stands proud as though he should

Trying to stand for all that’s good

He claims he stands for God’s commands

But he can’t deny the blood on his hands

The patriarchs and prophets of old

Were Godly men so we are told

It’s really hard for us to understand

These men walked with blood on their hands

Church is a place where good people go

They all feel righteous when there they show

They wonder when their friends will see the light

And follow them right out of the night

They tell everyone they’ve been set free

They say “you won’t find no sin in me”

When they all know if God’s grace didn’t show

The church would all stand on murderer’s row

With blood on their hands, with blood on their hands

The paupers and the kings in every land

Thos who are wise, those who can’t understand

Are no different, all have blood on their hands

So who dares to stand bold before the throne

Who dares to pick up and throw the first stone

So everyone is equal and even this time

No one’s greater here, we’re all partners in crime.

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 Pastor Joe Gresham came to our church. He asked me to be his 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.