When Was The Last Time You Invited Someone Home From Church?

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 

When was the last time you had people from your church over to your house?

The New Testament speaks of churches in homes. See Romans 16:51 Corinthians 16:9Colossians 4:15,Philemon 1:2.

Years ago, when I became a Bible Worker at a church in Texas, an elderly saint informed me of a group of people who began having church in one of their houses. She wanted me to get them to come back to the “real” church because, according to her, having church in a house was not “real” church. Realizing that having church in a house was indeed “real church,” I reached out to them and began a wonderful friendship. We worked together and played together, even though they “assembled themselves together” for worship in a house, while the rest of us assembled at the church building.

God’s remnant church will look like the original church, and the original church first met in homes as well as meeting in the temple court. Meeting in buildings dedicated to Christian worship came later.

By the way, the order of service most Adventists follow for worship service does not come from the New Testament. It comes from the Methodists. Nothing wrong with that. Just saying. Occasionally I have gone to preach in a church building that only had about 15 members present. Instead of having church in the sanctuary “Methodist style” I persuaded them to come into the fellowship hall where we all sat in a big circle and had a “home church.” Instead of preaching a sermon I led out in a group Bible study. It was informal yet reverent and Bible-based. Many told me they found it refreshing. It was what I imagine church to have been like in the New Testament.

Notice even the churches that met in temple courts also met in homes.

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Acts 2:46-47 NIV

To me, the fact that they met in each others’ homes shows me how dedicated they were to the church. They took the church home with them! The New Testament church was not compartmentalized. There were no boundaries between what belonged to the church and what belonged to them. Their home dining room was just as much church property as the fellowship hall.

Do we compartmentalize today? For example, let’s look at church fellowship lunches. Are they social or anti-social? For instance, do we meet for lunch at church so we don’t have to actually invite each other over to our house? We say we all meet at church so we can all socialize together. Really? Then tell me why when I visit various churches I see so many people eating alone at fellowship lunch. I often see families sitting alone at tables that could have just as easily been sitting alone at home. But it makes us feel more sociable if we eat alone at church?

Of course many people do actually fellowship during fellowship lunches. Still, I have to wonder why we aren’t meeting in homes more often? Again do we compartmentalize? Do we fellowship on neutral ground while protecting the privacy of our home? Does our church have borders, or do we hold all things common?

It may be said that we can’t invite the entire church over to our house at once, so some may feel left out. To that I would say, over time invite several people, and those who feel left out can invite people to their house! It works both ways, you know. 🙂

The New Testament church did not compartmentalize. They held all things common, even meeting in their homes. I believe the remnant church should reflect the New Testament church. In the last days Satan is working hard to polarize us and make us unsociable. Meanwhile God is drawing us together to make up, not an isolated people but a great multitude which no man can number, who reflect His character of love and hospitality.

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

Nancy and Ashley’s Baptism Pictures and Stories

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Just a few months ago, Sheldon (Left) invited Ashely, (2nd Left) his friend from work, to visit the Plant City Seventh-day Adventist Church.  The next Sabbath Ashley’s mother Nancy came with her. They both were very interested in learning more about Jesus and the Bible, so we began a group Bible study. In the group Bible study Nancy and Ashley both shared a desire to be baptized, and our group study quickly transitioned into a baptism class.

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We enjoyed having Jose join our studies as well as Sheldon, Henry, (Sheldon’s father pictured above) and Marie on several occasions.  After fellowship lunch every Sabbath we wold get together with whoever wanted to join us. Nancy and Ashley soon became a part of our church family, becoming very active in Sabbath School and fellowship lunches and socials. They often join us for Wednesday night Bible study as well.

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Ashley wanted to give all of herself to Jesus, since Jesus gave all of Himself for her.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14 NKJV

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Nancy is a very compassionate nurse, and like Ashley loves animals and care for all of God’s creatures. They spread God’s love everywhere they go, sharing God’s grace and mercy.

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

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Don’t let the sun set on you before you give your life to Jesus, Who gave His life for you! I would love to help you make this step. You can contact me at PlantCitySDAChurch@Gmail.com

Why Support a Bible Worker Who Isn’t Even in Your Area?

There are plenty of Bible Workers to support, so why should someone support my Bible Worker ministry, especially if I’m not even in your area? First of all, God may not be asking you to support my ministry. He may be asking you to support workers in your own area. There are many Bible Workers worthy of your support. At the same time God may also be asking you to support ministries outside of you area, including mine. Here are some things to prayerfully consider, if you are asking yourself why you should support my ministry while I am far away.

Here is a letter Steven Vargas sent me from Chile. He shares how my ministry has helped him in soul winning while thousands of miles away.

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Steven Vargas, High school student in Chile.

My name is Steven Vargas, and I am a former student of Tampa Adventist Academy, where Pastor Earnhardt was my Bible teacher. In his classes, he would always give the class Bible [chain referenced] studies to complete. Each week a different topic for example, Baptism, The Second Coming, The Sabbath, etc. Later that year I moved to Chile, where I was not able to attend a Christian school. It was difficult to adapt to my new school, but with God’s help I was able to do it. One day, a friend came up to me and asked, “Why are you so different?” I answered and said, “I’m a Seventh Day Adventist…”.Later that week, my friend asked why I kept the Sabbath and as soon as I heard that question, I remembered the Bible studies I used to complete in class. I asked Pr. Earnhardt where I could find them, and he lead me to his website, where I was able to find the bible studies. I asked if he had them in Spanish, and turns out he did. I used this to my advantage, and I was able to spread the word of God thanks to Pr. Earnhardt’s website. Sadly, my friend changed schools, but I will never forget the look in his eyes when I was giving him the bible studies. I hope to see him in heaven when God comes to take us. I give thanks to God for letting me preach His word through the bible studies of Pr. Earnhardt, and I hope to gain more souls for God thanks to them in the near future. -Steven Vargas, High School Student, Chile

Possibly God is asking you to support this Bible Worker ministry because it is literally reaching around the world! As well as giving studies in the Tampa Bay area, I have also provided seminars in person as far away as Peru and Connecticut. I also mentor other Bible Workers in other areas, and I thank you for supporting them as well. The In Light of the Cross website gets hits from over 175 countries every year. I also write and moderate for the Sabbath School Net, which reaches many more thousands of souls around the globe.

Also please consider that the Plant City and Tampa Bay area is a mission field like any other, with souls needing to hear the gospel.

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If you have prayed and felt God is leading you to financially support my Bible Worker ministry monthly or with a one time contribution, your support will be gladly appreciated! You may send your tax deductible contribution to the Plant City Seventh-day Adventist Church, P.O. Box 5379 Plant City, FL 33563. Please mark your check, “Bible Worker.”

Thank you to all my contributors past, present and future!

PS We are still working on online giving thank you for your patience. Meanwhile a few are giving from their online banking.

I am Living in my Last Days

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In 1979 when I was 14, I received a letter from the Tulsa Roughnecks major league soccer (football) team, asking me to renew my season tickets for the 1980 season. I could not believe my eyes. There it was “1980” in print! Growing up Seventh-day Adventist, I was told we were in the last days. The fuel crisis was going to bring an economic disaster, which would cause a national Sunday law. I never imagined the world lasting beyond the 70’s. Hence why it shocked me to see “1980” in print. I was sure the world would not last all the way until 1980.

Spoiler alert! 

It did.

Now we are well into the 21st century. By the way I love telling kids stories about growing up back in the nineteen hundreds. But I digress.

Meanwhile I have grieved the deaths of several loved ones, who I was sure would still be alive when Jesus returned. Back in the 1960’s and 70’s an Adventist child needn’t worry about parents growing old and dying, since we were always told Jesus would be coming back within the next five years.

Now I am closer to retirement than I am my high school graduation. Funny, in grade school we thought it would be forever until we graduated. Now its been forever since we graduated!

Still my faith in Jesus’ return has never wavered. I don’t feel Jesus has let me down, as He never promised to come back within the next five years. And Jesus never told my pastors and Bible teachers to tell me He was coming back within five years. That’s all on them, bless their hearts, they meant well!

Even though I always imagined myself hiding in the mountains during the time of trouble, when Jesus comes, I am now faced with the probability of my own death. I may be one of those resurrected when Jesus comes. People tell me I am still young, but I have done the math. If I live as long as my mother lived, I have 28 years left. I am not even promised that long, but based on life expectancy, my time on earth is probably less than 30 years. I am living in my last days!

whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. James 4:14 NKJV

Regardless if Jesus comes in the next 5 years or 200 years, I am looking at 30 years max that I have to endure this old earth. When I die my wait will be over. The next thing I know Jesus will becoming! 30 years is nothing! I am living in my last days! 

So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 NKJV

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

Two Things I Love About Daniel

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

As we take a look at Daniel in this week’s lesson there are a couple of things I love about Daniel, that sometimes get overlooked. When his neck was on the line, I like how Daniel responded when God revealed to him the king’s dream.

Then Daniel went in to see Arioch, whom the king had ordered to execute the wise men of Babylon. Daniel said to him, “Don’t kill the wise men. Take me to the king, and I will tell him the meaning of his dream.” Daniel 2:24 NLT

Daniel’s relationship with God did not only save his life. It saved the lives of all the wise men, even the fake ones. Daniel’s first thoughts were of others, not just himself. So it is today. The entire world benefits from the Christian influences around them. Like when the disciples asked Jesus to calm the sea, it was not just calm for their little boat. All the boats on the sea benefited. Daniel wanted to save others. Later when the Persian leaders conspired against Daniel, it did not bother him that others did not have his back the way that he had theirs. Daniel knew God had his back and that’s all that mattered.

I also marvel at Daniel’s humility. Daniel 1:20 says Daniel and his friends were found to be ten times wiser. Yet when Daniel tells the king’s dream look what he says,

And it is not because I am wiser than anyone else that I know the secret of your dream, but because God wants you to understand what was in your heart. Daniel 2:30 NLT

Nothing is more annoying than a wise guy telling you how wise he is. Daniel realized smart people don’t tell you how smart they are. Daniel did not credit his wisdom. He credited God’s grace in wanting to reach the king’s heart. Daniel had more thank just Scriptural knowledge and prophetic understanding. He had people skills! So much so he flourished in the heart of Babylon without ever compromising his faith!

As we prepare for the end times, let’s not only pursue Daniel’s prophetic abilities. Let’s pursue his people skills.

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

The Mystery of Iniquity and the Mystery of Godliness

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan has two mysteries –the mystery of iniquity and the mystery of Godliness.

The phrase, “mystery of iniquity” is mentioned only one time and only in the KJV.

For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 2 Thessalonians 2:7 KJV

Paul mentions the mystery of iniquity right after talking about a man

Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 2 Thessalonians 2:4 KJV.

Now while the KJV uses the word “iniquity” many other versions use the word “secret.” Also many other versions use the word “lawlessness” instead of “iniquity.” I am using multiple versions to get the big picture. In 2 Thessalonians Paul is talking about someone whose secret agenda is to overthrow God’s law and set himself on God’s throne.

Is this what also happened in heaven? Yes!

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God:… I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Isaiah 14:12-14 KJV

John shares more light on this mystery when he says,

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, Revelation 12:7 KJV

Here we see an outright war. Not with tanks and machine guns, but a war of the minds. Lucifer is secretly trying to overthrow God’s law and government in order to set up his own kingdom. I imagine he was using flattery, bribery and mind games to secretly undermine God’s law and government and turn people to himself, just as he does now.

This is where the word “iniquity” comes in. Iniquity can be described as being bent towards or inclined towards self. Ezekiel has another clue in this mystery.

Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. Ezekiel 28:15 KJV

In heaven, Lucifer’s love, which was supposed to be centered on God others took a u-turn and headed towards himself. Somehow Lucifer mysteriously started undermining the importance of God and others and began his secret agenda of exalting self.

When things appear unexpectedly where they are not supposed to be, we call that a mystery. Part of the famous D.B. Cooper case involves a family finding a large sum of money while hiking in the forest. It was a mystery because the money was unexpected and not supposed to be there. Was self-love supposed to be in an angel’s heart in heaven? No, it was unexpected and not supposed to be there. Was there a logical reason for Satan to be at war with Christ in heaven of all places? No. It was not logical at all. The rebellion was not supposed to be there. That makes it a mystery doesn’t it? We can’t explain it or defend it. It’s a mystery.

Sometimes we are tempted to think, once we get to heaven we just automatically won’t sin any more, because we will be in a perfect world. Yet sin began in a perfect world! What a mystery!

However we do know there will be no sin in heaven.

Affliction will not rise up a second time. Nahum 1:9. NKJV

This leads us to another mystery, the mystery of Godliness. While many find it a mystery how a perfect being became so sinful, they also find it a mystery how a sinful race can become Christlike.

Obviously this is not done on our own. This mystery can only be performed by Christ working in us.

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27 NKJV

Revelation 10 gives us another clue to the mystery. John is given a book, which I understand to be the book of Daniel. It was sweet in his mouth but bitter in his stomach. When the 2300 days in Daniel 8:14 came to an end, the expectation of Christ’s return in 1844 was sweet, but the disappointment was bitter. (I wonder if the thunders told John about the disappointment, but he was not allowed to write it down because some things must be learned through experience?) While they were disappointed in 1844 when Jesus did not return, Revelation tells us what would occur in 1844.

… but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets. Revelation 10:7 NKJV

According to Colossians 1:27, the mystery of God is Christ in us. This leads us to the cleansing of the sanctuary, not just a building on earth or in heaven, but even more so the cleansing of the soul temple, so God can dwell right within us! See Exodus 25:8 and John 14:1-3.

Again this mystery can only be accomplished by Christ working in us. It is all grace.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14 NKJV

In Titus 2:11-14 Paul describes a people on earth who have become Christlike. What a mystery! In heaven where you would least expect it, sin began. Now thanks to God’s grace, right here on earth, where you would least expect it, people become Christlike. John agrees with Paul. We don’t have to wait to get to heaven to be like Jesus.

Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 1 John 4:17 NKJV

I like the way Ellen White explains it:

That which alone can effectually restrain from sin in this world of darkness, will prevent sin in heaven. The significance of the death of Christ will be seen by saints and angels. Fallen men could not have a home in the paradise of God without the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Shall we not then exalt the cross of Christ? The angels ascribe honor and glory to Christ, for even they are not secure except by looking to the sufferings of the Son of God. It is through the efficacy of the cross that the angels of heaven are guarded from apostasy. Without the cross they would be no more secure against evil than were the angels before the fall of Satan. Angelic perfection failed in heaven. Human perfection failed in Eden, the paradise of bliss. All who wish for security in earth or heaven must look to the Lamb of God. The plan of salvation, making manifest the justice and love of God, provides an eternal safeguard against defection in unfallen worlds, as well as among those who shall be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. -Ellen White, Signs of the Times, December 30, 1889. 

In the Great Controversy between Christ and Satan we see a perfect angel in heaven who becomes sinful. We also see a sinful race on earth become Christ-like.

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

Adventism and Narcissism

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A while back I wrote an article called Bible Cures for NarcissismThis morning a friend on Facebook was sharing the signs of narcissism, which I was already familiar with. However, as our Sabbath school lesson today is on the three angels message, something occurred to me just now.

One of the signs of being narcissistic is the need to feel special and superior. We feel as Adventists we have a special message and we do. But if we are not careful could that lead to narcissism? Do we think our beliefs put us in a “special” category of believers?  I heard an Adventist pastor years ago lamenting to his congregation that he was pretty much the last pastor preaching the three angels message and Bible truth. His church was scared to lose him and he had them convinced he was the last true preacher, and whoever came in after him would be a heretic! In talking to members of his congregation they felt very special to have him as their pastor, and felt superior to other Adventist congregations who were not privy to this special pastor. Were such attitudes leading to the gospel or to narcissism?

Its been a while, but I remember a few families in a church I was familiar with who formed their own study group. They were studying the Adventist message more deeply than those in the church, or so they thought. They started referring to themselves as the “remnant of the remnant.” They started isolating themselves, as they felt pretty special. Were they really becoming better Christians or just better narcissists?

Marco Torres wrote an excellent article on conspiracy theories. He writes, “Conspiracy theories have a way of making us feel like we are more spiritual than others because of the information we have.” I think he nailed it! I have talked to so many in the church who feel superior and more spiritual because they are “in the know.” I have met people who feel like they have a special understanding of our beliefs which puts them in a special class. When others don’t understand them that just makes them all the more special. Are such feelings the fruit of the gospel or narcissism?

Jesus is the Gospel. He is the opposite of narcissism. Instead of putting Himself in a special class He joined all of humanity. While James and John wanted to be in a special class in His kingdom (remnant of the remnant?) Jesus said He was the servant of all! In the story of the good Samaritan, Jesus mentions a Levi, who was a special class of Jews, (remnant of the remnant?). He mentioned a priest who was “in the know” and probably had special information. Jesus did not identify the gospel with the priest or Levi. He chose a Samaritan to represent the Gospel. A Samaritan who had no concept of caste or special creed. A Samaritan who saw everyone as his neighbor and equal.

Let’s remember the three angels message is for every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people. Its not for a select privileged group. Its for everyone! Its easy to fall for Satan’s counterfeit “spirituality” which leads to feelings of being special and superior, and to narcissism. John the beloved fell for it when he asked to have a special place in the kingdom. There is a cure for narcissism and it is the gospel! John fell in love with Jesus and later wrote,

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us. 1 John 1:3

While John once felt he needed to be in a special class, once he fell more deeply in love with Jesus and the gospel he no longer felt the need to be “special” or “exclusive.” He saw all humanity as his neighbor and equal, and invited everyone into the same fellowship he had with Jesus. Narcissism sets us apart. The Gospel sends us into the world!