It’s the Little Things That Make a big Difference

Arkansas River

I am writing today from my beautiful hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Its funny the memories that stay lodged in my mind. The impromptu summer afternoon trip to the ice cream shop with grandma ranks right up there with Thanksgiving dinner. The meaningful 30 minute conversation with my friend on the west coast who accidentally pocket dialed me at 2 AM my time was more fun than the call I got on my birthday.  Sometimes its a simple compliment from the heart of a stranger who you never see again, but never forget just because of the way they made you feel that one time you met. I’ve heard it said, and I’m sure you have too, that what we remember most about people is how they made us feel. I believe this is especially true about our leaders.

As I studied this week’s Sabbath School lesson about leaders I found my self reminiscing not only about leaders in the church, but also leaders in the secular work place. And why not? After all, while we discuss the theory of the Gospel in Sabbath School class, the workplace is where we exercise the Gospel. While I have been a full time Bible Worker most of my career there have been times I also had to pick up a secular side job to support myself and my ministry. I believe my example in the workplace is so crucial that over the years, when I arrive at my secular job I pray the same prayer I pray before taking the pulpit to preach Sabbath morning. I would say its even more crucial because behind the pulpit I am just talking for maybe 30 minutes, but at work I am demonstrating the Gospel for several hours.

One the jobs I had several years ago when I was a Bible Worker and lay pastor in Texas was being a part time supervisor at UPS. And its there that I had three simple encounters with my own supervisors that years later I have never forgotten, and this week’s lesson brought them to mind once again.

I supervised the people loading the brown delivery trucks. When a worker could not show up and I could not find a replacement I sometimes had to load a few trucks myself. When this would happen I would always go to the break room to get my favorite cold drink and some chips, set them in the back of the truck so I could  enjoy them as I was going in and out of the trucks. Early one morning the packages were already stacking up in an area before I realized the worker was not there. I had no time to find someone or even alert my own supervisor as to what was going on, much less go to the break room for my ritual. I had to jump in there  right away and get to work. About thirty minutes later my own supervisor came by with my favorite drink and chips and placed them in the back of the truck for me. A very simple gesture but it meant a lot because it showed she knew me, and even though it was not necessary for my work she wanted me to be happy.

Drinks and chips are not the only things I had in the back of the trucks. I often placed my cell phone in the back of the trucks. One morning after the trucks had all left to run all over town, I realized my phone was still in the back of one of them. I told the day time supervisor who called the driver to see where I could meet him to retrieve my phone which I did. Later in the day my cell phone rang. It was the daytime supervisor making sure I got my phone okay. Wow! I thought. Those daytime supervisors are so busy how did he even remember me? And why would he remember? My phone wasn’t his problem or responsibility. It meant a lot to me that in such as busy time crunched place like UPS a full time supervisor for another shift, with plenty of responsibilities and problems of his own, took the time to make sure I found my phone.

Before I became a part time supervisor in the loading area I was a sorter. One morning while sorting away I turned to the belt behind me and my eye caught the zip code of a package right as it went by. I instantly realized that zip code did not go on that belt. Another sorter miss sorted it. I quickly grabbed it and placed it on the correct belt as I kept up sorting my own packages. My supervisor walked by and patted me on the back telling me he saw what I just did. He commended my eagle eye. A couple years later was when I became a part time supervisor in the loading area. At the end of one of my shifts I failed to realize that a next day air package was still left on the belt. The next day the manager over the entire building was very upset with me. I probably would have been in hot water had it not been for my former supervisor years ago when I was a sorter. He took it upon himself to go to the building manager and tell him how he thought I was one of the best workers he ever had. When the building manager later talked to me, he told me my old supervisor told him about the package I caught on the wrong belt and how I corrected it, even though in my position I was not expected to. The building manager told me I was not going to be in any trouble.

Again UPS is a hard nose job and it amazed me that a former supervisor took the time and effort to stand up for me even though he had nothing to gain one way or the other if anything happened to me or not.  In these stories I recall each leader showed true character even though they were outside of church and in a place where it is a struggle for even the best of church members to show good character. Each experience may have been small within itself, but I will never forget them. I also try to be what I admire in each of these leaders.

All Disciples Are Full Time, Not Part Time Pastors

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I have many friends who are ordained ministers and many friends who are lay pastors, who have a “regular” job and ministry. Some lay pastors say they work all day to support themselves and their ministry, and then after they get off work they then work for God. I don’t see it that way. I believe they are full time pastors, working for God even while doing their “regular” job.

For years I too was a lay pastor while working for UPS. I supervised the early shift starting around 3 AM. I was not the only Christian or even the only pastor working at UPS. Students from a nearby Baptist seminary and other lay pastors of various denominations worked there as well. One morning I had to call and wake up one of my employees who overslept. He apalogized, realizing he was already supposed to be at work. He was a Christian, so I told him, “Get in here as fast as you can, after you have your prayer and Bible time.” First I was a pastor. Second I was a UPS supervisor with a deadline to meet.

As Gospel Workers we always pray before entering the pulpit where we preach for thirty minutes. How much more so should we pray before going to our regular jobs, where we will be preaching by word and example, not a mere thirty minutes but rather 8-10 hours.

This is how it was with Jesus.

Christ was just as truly doing His Father’s business when toiling at the carpenter’s bench as when working miracles for the multitude. –Ellen White, Heavenly Places, Page 214

You might think a “regular” job might get in the way of your ministry, but it does not have to be that way. I talked to a lady, who told me she had a gift and card shop that was just breaking even for many years. She said she kept it open because people were coming in all the time who needed encouragement, and it was a great way to meet people. One morning while working on the sort isle at UPS, the guy sorting next to me started asking me questions about Revelation. While we were working hard at 3 in the morning, I was able to share some Christ centered teachings from Revelation. In all my years as a paid Bible Worker I was never able to give a Bible study at 3 am, but that morning I had the opportunity to share Jesus with someone that I may not have had the opportunity to meet any other time or place.

There’s a story of a Romanian prisoner who was always talking about Jesus. Finally the guard had enough and told him, he could make one last sentence about Jesus, and then could say no more.

What would you say if you could only say one sentence about Jesus?

The Christian prisoner did something very wise. He said as his last sentence, “Jesus is like me.” You may think that statement was a bold and presumptuous. But it was actually very wise and humble. Knowing he could talk about Jesus no more, he simply used those words to let everyone know, watch me, and I will show you Jesus. 

As disciples for Jesus we do not just use our “regular” jobs to support our ministry. We make our “regular” jobs a part of our ministry. We don’t leave our “regular” jobs at the end of the day to go do our ministry. We do our ministry while at our “regular” jobs, preaching by example, and reaching people we never would have met during our “gospel worker” job.

Some police officers wear the uniform, but other police officers find they are actually more effective in accomplishing their mission if they dress just like everyone else. They are called “plain clothes officers” or “undercover detectives.” In plain clothes or in uniform, they are police officers just the same. If you are a disciple of Jesus, you may be wearing a suit like a regular minister, or you may be wearing a delivery uniform or restaurant uniform, or medical scrubs or what have you. Either way, what you really are is a pastor!

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

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. 

The Ten Commandments In Light Of The Cross Part 2

 

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth [generation] of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandmentsExodus 20:4-6

When I lived in Texas I would plan my personal schedule around the Dallas Cowboy games. A friend finally asked me why I do that, and pointed out to me that the Dallas Cowboys don’t care about me. He was right. I was making someone a priority who did not really care about me. After all, when did they ever show up at UPS, where I worked to cheer me on? Today I only pay homage to God because He is the only One who loved me enough to die for me. He is the only One who cheers me on by His love and mercy each and every day. He is a jealous God. Not jealous for His ego. He is jealous for my welfare and does not want me to fall into the hands of someone who will not care for and love  me the way He does.  God does not so much “punish” the person who hates him as much as the person who hates and rejects Him, refuses His protection and brings disaster upon himself. Mercy comes to those who keep (shamar) or cherish His promises.

My Top Ten Secrets Revealed!

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

My Top Ten Secrets Revealed!

10. I am “Voice”. In 1985, while attending Southern College of SDA (Now Southern Adventist University) I was doing my laundry at my sister’s house one night. Talk Net was on the radio with Bruce Williams, a business counselor. I decided I wanted to call in just for fun. I called into the national program and told Bruce I wanted to be a sports play by play announcer which I did. He told me to start working doing sports programs with my college radio station. I told him all they do is play classical music. Bruce then told me the radio station was not doing its job then in helping college students. Someone from the college was listening because the next week, in the college paper was my complete conversation! Since they did not know who I was I was simply called “voice”. The college paper blasted “voice” for not standing up for the school and radio station. Hey, I was just calling in just for fun! For weeks later letters poured into the college paper about the school radio station and “voice”.

9. It hurts very much to have my motives misread. About twenty years ago I was a literature evangelist traveling all over Oklahoma. Pagers we becoming popular at this time. This was before cell phones were popular. My grandfather died of a sudden heart attack and I always worried about my dad as well. I bought a pager so that if anything happened to my dad or mother while I was away I could find out and come back and be there for them. Since I was on a strapped budget someone accused me of wasting my money and just wanting to have the latest technology. That really hurt.

8. Back in the 80s when I had my own apartment in Tulsa, my mother was out of town. I called my dad to see what was up. He did not answer. I started getting worried. What if he had a heart attack and was laying alone on the floor with no one to help?  Being a guy I knew I could not act too concerned, so even though I had just done my laundry, I grabbed what little dirty clothes I had and headed over to my dad’s house “to do my laundry.” I was really just checking up on him. About the time I drove up to the house, my dad came in on his motorcycle, from an  evening ride. I just smiled, said hi and that I came to do my laundry. He just looked quizzically at my small bag of laundry.

7. I have openly claimed to be a Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and now Tampa bay Bucs fan, but for several years now, I have found myself loving it whenever the Detroit Lions win. I have never expressed it, but for several years now I think I have been a Lions fan. No joke. I am serious.

6. I miss working for UPS. It was a hard challenging job with good pay and benefits. I loved rising to the challenge. I also loved becoming a UPS supervisor and helping other people rise to the challenge as well. I felt good about myself while working there. It was very hard to quit. I am very happy to be in Florida now, but I wish there was a way I could have continued part time with UPS. There wasn’t.

5.  When I was in the 5th grade a friend of mine and I prank called a girl in our class. She asked who we were and we hung up. I am not going to disclose what we said, but I felt so bad after my friend left, that I called her back and apologized. She asked again who I was. I just said, “hey I’m sorry” and hung up! What a geek! I’m the only prank caller in history to call back and apologize!

4. I know without a doubt that I am no way close to being the best preacher, Bible worker, golfer, or photographer in the world. I do however, believe I make the best enchiladas in the world.

3. Sometimes I counsel myself in second person. I get outside my head and tell myself objectively how things are, and how other people feel and how I should respond. I talk to myself as if I was counseling somebody else.

2. I golf alone as well as with friends. My greatest fear is that my hole-in-one will come when I am golfing alone.

1. In my career as a Bible worker and lay pastor, my heroes are not preachers or teachers. I idolize the old man standing at the bedside of his ill wife 24/7. I am amazed at the grade school girl who campaigned at her school to get Christmas gifts for poor children, while her birthday was in December and with a father out of work, she got no birthday gift, and never made an effort to benefit from her campaign.  I respect the pathfinder leader who, instead of taking home her personal awards, puts them in the trophy case at church for the team. I admire the family man who stops by the church while no one is around and paints and fixes things without anyone ever knowing he came by. There are so many people in my life, who see themselves as ordinary everyday people, but I love, admire and respect them more than they will ever know! And they have taught me more about Jesus than I have ever taught them.

Revelation 3; Why Are We Lukewarm?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.     Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and [that] the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.  Revelation 3:14-21

This is the last of the seven churches, and represents the last church of the Christian era. In every letter to every church, Jesus asks them to overcome, but in His letter to His last day church, He asks them to overcome, “even as also I overcame.” He is asking His last day church to do something beyond what He has ever asked any church to do before. He is asking them to perfectly reflect His character to a world dying for the hope only He can bring. This can only be done by casting away our so called righteousness for His true righteousness. That is what makes us so lukewarm, we are trying to be like God while still trying to be filled with self. We buy God’s gold and white raiment, by trading in our pride and self-righteousness.

We see in this letter, that there is hope! While Jesus does not paint a pretty picture of our condition, He implies that through His grace He expects to see us overcome! I remember when working at UPS once as a part time supervisor, my full time supervisor was rebuking me for a mistake I made. He seemed to be a little rough on me, but he ended the conversation by saying, “When you become a full time supervisor you will understand what I am talking about.” So while my boss did not paint a pretty picture of my current situation, he also implied he expected me to perform better and get promoted! If we study this letter to Laodicea carefully, we can see all the things Jesus can do for  and through us once we put self away.

God’s ideal for His children is higher than the highest human thought can reach. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” This command is a promise. The plan of redemption contemplates our complete recovery from the power of Satan. Christ always separates the contrite soul from sin. He came to destroy the works of the devil, and He has made provision that the Holy Spirit shall be imparted to every repentant soul, to keep him from sinning.  {Desire of Ages, p. 311}  

Jesus Wept; The Bible and Human Emotions, Lesson 13

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Sunday’s section of this week’s SS lesson asks the questions, “What kind of prayer life do you have? How much time do you spend in the Word of God? What are ways you can make your devotional time more meaningful and life-changing? However important that we spend time in prayer and reading the Word, time alone isn’t the only element. What other factors are needed?”

I do not pretend to be an authority on these topics, but I will attempt to answer these questions personally.

First question: What kind of prayer life do you have? I have learned that every breath can be a prayer. I have learned that just because I say “amen” the prayer does not need to end. I talk to God about everything. I ask Him to help me find eternal life while contemplating the themes of life, but when at the grocery store I ask Him to help me find the enchilada seasoning mix. I have learned to not only pray before reading the Bible, I also pray before reading any book. I pray for God to help me find anything that will make me a useful better person. I have also learned that when someone calls and asks you to pray for them, that they want you to pray with them right there on the phone-now. I have learned to pray in restaurant parking lots, Wal-Mart isles, and anywhere I am with people who are asking for prayer. Sure I will pray later, but these people want prayer now.

How much time do you spend in the Word of God? My job as a Bible Instructor requires I spend a lot of time in God’s Word, but that is not why I do it. I want to stay in a relationship with Christ. I haven’t always been a Bible Instructor. For a couple of years, in Fort Worth, Texas I worked at UPS from 3 to 8 AM every morning and then went straight to my day job from 8:30am to 5 or 6pm or later. My schedule tore me away from a lot of things, but I was determined it was not going to tear me away from God. I often hear people say they are too busy to study the Bible and pray, but my attitude was that if life was too hectic to spend time in God’s Word then life had just defeated its purpose! Everything else is meaningless without God so why let it take you away from God? I had my Bible with me all the time. I read it first thing in the morning at 2AM. I had it with me on breaks and lunch hours. I had the Bible on CD in my car. What I would have given to have had it on my cell phone back then like I do now! (Today you can get the Bible and Sabbath School lessons on your cell phone.) I want to share something very important right here. My parents raised us with having family worship every day. If we had guests, they were invited to join us, but we never skipped it. If we were visiting family or friends we had it in their home. I believe my sister and I are still in a relationship with Christ today because of this foundation. I think this is something we need to hear a lot more about. We go on and on about Christian education and good church schools which are great. However, I am convinced that Christian Education often takes credit for what was going on in the home. Fact is, many and I mean many kids who attend Christian schools leave God once they are out of school if they were ever with God at all. The kids who attend church school and stay with Christ were also having family worship like my family was. I do not mean to take away from Christian schools, but we need to give credit where credit is due, and I believe family worship needs to be preached in our church as a necessity even above placing your kids in Christian schools.

What are ways you can make your devotional time more meaningful and life-changing? I have always enjoyed having special places where I meet with God. In Fort Worth I loved going to the Japanese Gardens in the Botanical Gardens. Here I love going to the parks on the river or by the bay. It also becomes more meaningful and life changing when I share the relationship I have with God with others too. I love to write or blog or even just post statuses on Facebook  about what God is teaching me. If you are not as transparent as I am and a little more private, then try just writing in a journal for personal reference. Many Bible apps for your cell phone provide opportunities to make notes.  Even if you don’t want to share what you are learning with the whole world, share with somebody.

However important that we spend time in prayer and reading the Word, time alone isn’t the only element. What other factors are needed?” I remember a while back going door to door, asking people if they wanted Bible studies, and I met a lady who told me she reads four chapters a day. To me, that sounded a little legalistic. I don’t use a stopwatch when spending time with friends and I don’t use one while spending time with God either. Yes, there is a lot to spending time with God, but sometimes it is better to read a small passage and mediate to get the whole meaning, than it is to read several chapters and not comprehend any of it. Sometimes you can just let one phrase soak in. For example, in Genesis 12:3, God tells Abraham “in thee (his seed) shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Take some time and let that soak in. How has every single family in the world from Adam to today been blessed by the seed of Abraham? How have atheist families been blessed? How have families suffering from physical and sexual abuse been blessed? How were families who were born and died in slavery blessed by Abraham’s seed? You will be begin to sense the power of the cross as you let that short phrase really sink in instead of just quickly skimming over it on your quest to read several chapters.

Again another important element is sharing with others. This is where Sabbath School comes in. Small groups are fun and educational too. One on one Bible studies are helpful as well. If you would like to find out how you can become involved in a Sabbath school class, small study group, or one on one Bible studies, please contact me at LayPastor@TampaAdventist.net I would love to hear from you!