Tag: William Earnhardt

Is the Role of the Church in the Community Just to Baptize People?

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel…. 1 Corinthians 1:17 NKJV

Does the church have to baptize every member of the community in order to serve its purpose? Is it possible God has some people cross our paths just because they need to be loved, regardless if they join our church or not?

Years before ever becoming, or thinking about becoming a Bible Worker myself, I found myself on a church softball team, captained by the new local Bible Worker. I failed to eat breakfast before running off to play. In the middle of the game, I began to get dizzy and lightheaded. My team was up to bat when I pretty much blacked out. I was sitting right next to the Bible Worker and told him, as the batter was striking out, “I am blacking out. I can’t even see anything right now.”

His reply? He threw my mitt in my lap and said, “That’s the third out. Let’s go take the field!” Not exactly the reply I was expecting. Needless to say, I did not go out onto the field. I managed to get myself to a nearby building where I got a drink and laid down. I had heard people who had been studying with this Bible Worker say how wonderful he was. I guess already having been baptized, I was not a potential “notch on his belt,” So he was not that wonderful to me. He never even missed me when I failed to come back to the game.

At that point in my life, I was not really that familiar with the Bible Worker concept. Therefore I had never really considered becoming one, but on my way home that day, I remember thinking to myself, that if I ever did become a Bible Worker, I would not be like that one! I also told myself that if I genuinely care about people who are about to be baptized, then I would genuinely care about people who will never be baptized. Even though I was not a Bible Worker at that point, I told myself, that as a Christian as well as being theologically sound, I also want to be relationally sound. I decided to be a genuine caring friend not matter what position I ever have in church.

Ironically I did become a Bible Worker, and found myself studying with a man, in the first district I had been assigned, who finally showed up to church with his 14-year-old step-daughter. She had never been to any church. I went to the parents of teenage girls and told them this girl had never been to church before. Please have your daughters greet and befriend her. One of the mothers shrugged her shoulders and said, “But my daughters already have friends.” The father ended up getting baptized in another nearby Adventist church. We never saw his step daughter again.

Later in another district, I was studying with a war veteran who needed a ride to the veteran’s hospital one day. Wanting to connect him with members of my church, I called several retired members and asked them to give this worthy veteran a ride. One person told me they were unavailable because, “That’s the day I water my garden.” And that was the most legitimate excuse! Not only did this veteran never come to my church, but that was also the end of our Bible studies. Do you blame him?

After studying a few months with a young married couple, they became baptized and joined my church of mostly older people. One of the elders never reached out to this young couple, until finally he heard them say something in Sabbath School that was not theologically correct, so he took it upon himself to call them later in the day, to “reach out” and tell them that they were wrong! That was the only contact he had with them, and it was not long before they were out of the church. How long would you stay in a church where people only call to tell you that you are wrong?

In Texas I studied with a teenage boy, that for sake of anonymity, I will call Scott. He found a ride to church every Sabbath, as no one else in his family came to church. Shortly after his baptism he moved to Tampa Florida. We had a going-away party for him, and I wrote in his card, “Bible Workers come and go, but friends are forever.” I did not think that much about it. Eight years later I moved to Tampa Florida. I had talked with him a few times after his move. One day, shortly after moving to Tampa, I ran across his name in my address book, and the address “Tampa Florida” jumped out at me. I called the number, to find out that he was in jail. I arranged a visit. Not exactly the reunion I had planned with a former Bible student. We were glad to see each other and had a lot to talk about since our last visit. He explained to me what had been going on with him lately and how ended up in jail. Towards the end of our visit, he told me, “When I moved away, you wrote in my card, Bible Workers come and go but friends are forever. I never forgot what you wrote, and now that you have come to see me after all those years, even though I am in jail, shows me you meant what you said.” I realized even more, that being relational is just as important as being theologically sound. I realized too, that even though he had been baptized eight years ago, my work with him was not over. Scott needed a forever friend. I am glad God moved me across the country to where I could reach out to him.

As a Christian my goal goes way beyond seeing people get baptized. My goal is to see them in heaven. That means being a forever friend to those who are preparing for baptism, and to those who have already been baptized, as well as to those who I may never see get baptized.

Some people think they can’t give Bible studies, but if I can, anybody can. Even so, what a teenage girl needed in a church long ago, was not just Bible studies, but a friend. A veteran just needed a ride to the hospital. A young couple needed someone from the church, to call them just to say hello, instead of just to tell them they were wrong. A young man sitting in jail needed to know someone still cared, even though he was less than perfect.

That morning on the ballfield, I needed a friend. I needed someone who cared for me regardless if I was someone about to be baptized or not. I needed what every other person needs, and that is a forever friend. Do the people in your community know that regardless if they ever get baptized or not, that they can find forever friends at your church?

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

January 2016 Open Letter to My Faithful Contributors

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I thank God I am still writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Dear Friends,

I want to thank everyone who has been contributing and/or praying for my ministry. It has been a wonderful year! I have kept all my old friends and Bible study students in the Tampa area, while making new friends and contacts in Plant City and beyond. I am enjoying the best of both worlds! Here is just a little of what’s been going on.

In Plant City: We recently did a mass mailing which brought in way more Bible study requests than I was imagining! This brought me to the door of an elderly lady who invited me in. I studied the plan of salvation with her. She asked what church I belonged to. I told her, “Seventh-day Adventist.” She told me her doctor years ago in Tampa was a Seventh-day Adventist. Dr. Guest. She told me how wonderful he was to her, even delivering medications personally to her home when she could not get out. Since he was such a wonderful SDA Christian she decided I should all right to study with too. I thought how cool that Dr. Guest helped me clinch a Bible study while resting in his grave. I hope to live such a life. I took Dr. Guest’s daughter with me on my next study and she was very glad to meet her! She told us she was looking for a church family. I invited her to our Christmas program at the Plant City SDA church, and she has been coming pretty regularly ever since. Last week she accepted the Sabbath!

Destiny is a young lady who attends the Emanuel SDA church across town in Plant City. She recently attended a Bible Worker school in Boston. She is on fire for the Lord, and has been enthusiastically helping me with all the leads we have. We have been working together on Wednesdays and Sabbaths both learning from each other and enjoying our teamwork. Destiny has lived in Plant City all her life, and is helping me find my way around, and she knows a lot of the people who sent in the Bible study request cards. She is a Godsend.

Our Acts 29, Wednesday night youth study continues to attract people from the community. Now, we have been invited to team up with the Spanish SDA Church, meeting in their church as well, to grow our group even more.

In Tampa: Last Sabbath I baptized two people at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Frank Certificate

During the holidays, Pastor Brad Cassell asked me to call Frank, who had completed the Amazing Facts Bible Study course. Frank joined my New Believer’s Sabbath School class and fit right in. This was the first time he was ever baptized and he is very excited about being a member at Tampa First.

Janea Baptism

Janea is the granddaughter of Larry and Janice Green, who were members of my class, and I have already studied with and baptized one of their granddaughters. Janea recently moved to Tampa in search of a new life with Jesus! Its been a pleasure and honor working with Larry and Janice’s family.  Earlier in October I had the pleasure of baptizing Dekontee after our Bible studies, just like her sisters years before.

Tampa Adventist Academy: Every year I teach the 5th and 6th grade how to chain reference their Bibles to give Bible studies and get decisions for Jesus. This year I gave them a new assignment. They provided videos of them giving an actual Bible study to a friend or family member. The videos were sensational.

Naomi

After one class, where we chain referenced the Plan of Salvation, Naomi was giving the presentation to her family for family worship before I even gave the assignment to share the studies with others!

Earlier in the year I held my annual baptism class at TAA, which led to four baptisms last fall.

Beyond Tampa Bay: Last October I celebrated my 50th birthday by going to Hugo, Oklahoma where I preached at the Hugo Seventh-day Adventist Church, and used Sabbath School time for a how to give Bible studies workshop. I also spoke that evening at their fall festival. I am available this year for more engagements so I would love to hear from you.

Again I want to thank everyone for keeping my dream alive to be sharing Jesus each and every day. The Plant City SDA Church is currently putting together a new website and hope to make online giving easier. In the meantime I appreciate your systematic contributions to the Plant City SDA Church, PO Box 5379 Plant City, FL 33563. Thank you for marking it for the “Bible Worker Fund.” Thank you for your contributions and for also sharing this opportunity with your friends and asking them to give and/or pray for this ministry. God bless you and happy 2016!

Your Christian Servant,

William

PS Please follow me on Facebook or my blog inlightofthecross.com to see even more exciting things God is doing in Plant City, Tampa and beyond!

A New Commandment and Prayer for 2016

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35 NLT

Dear Jesus, I know all about the Sabbath and clean and unclean foods. I totally understand or at least think I understand all the prophecies in Daniel and Revelation, and have taught several prophecy seminars. I know all about the mark of the beast and the anti-Christ. When it comes to love, I know how to be nice to people who have been nice to me and to be good to people who have been good to me. But this morning in your Word I saw something new. Oh, it’s always been there, and the Bible scholar that I think I am should have already seen it by now. I know I have heard it before, but this morning it struck me like a 2×4 right between the eyes. You said,

“Love each other. Just as I have loved you.”

Jesus, you said there was plenty of room in your Father’s house. If the innkeeper who didn’t have room for you were to show up at your house, I imagine you would have room for Him too, right? I just can’t see you telling him, “Sorry you left me out in the barn so you can’t come in. Ha ha serves you right!” I can see me doing that! But you aren’t anything like me.

I greet people who greet me. I do huge favors for those who do huge favors for me. I give to those who give to me, and I call that being a Christian, but you call that being a pagan! (See Matthew 5:43-48) In 2016 can you teach me love the way that you love?

Now that I ask that, I am sure the first time someone mistreats me in 2016 I will want to write them off or retaliate one way or another. But when that happens will you please promise to whisper in my ear, “Now, William! Now is your chance to be like Me!” 

I have given bread to those who have never given it back. Yet I still always have plenty of bread because you give me so much. I imagine if I love people in 2016 who never love me back, that I will still have plenty of love because you give me so much love too.

I can recite the fundamental beliefs. But I suppose pagans can do that too. I can preach and teach, but You have met your fair share of pagan teachers and preachers too, haven’t you? How can I show you that I am a genuine disciple of Yours? Ah, yes, by my love for others. By loving others not the way that pagans love but by the way that You love. That is what being a disciple is all about.

Jesus I am really going to need Your help in 2016! Because in 2016 I don’t want to lose weight or save up money or give up Nachos. With Your help I am going to do something totally supernatural and miraculous! I am going to love others the way that you do! I can’t do this without your supernatural presence in my Life. I can’t do this on my own. Who am I kidding? I can’t do this at all! Why don’t I just lay down my life and let You do it through me?

I am 50 years old. I was raised in the church and have been an elder ever since I was 22. Yet I have met 12-year olds who can love more purely than I can. I have seen pagans give the shirt off their backs while I clung to my coat. So I guess it’s time now for me to ask You to teach me what I should have asked a long time ago. In 2016, will You teach me to love, the way that You love?

Thank You, Jesus, for hearing my prayer.

Once Saved Always Saved?

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

A married couple in West Texas had some sad news as they welcomed me in to our weekly Bible study. We sat down at the table and they told me their neighbor’s son had just been shot and killed in another city in a shoot-out with police, after being caught in an armed robbery. They explained he had been living a life of drugs and crime his entire adult life, and it finally caught up with him and cost him his life. The wife then paused in the middle of her tragic saga and, foldingher hands beneath her face, she looked towards heaven, and said, “But thank God when he was twelve, he was baptized. So we know we will see him in heaven!”

I was at a loss for words. I said nothing that night, because it just didn’t seem like the appropriate time for a sermon. Those who teach “once saved,” do not realize how legalistic that is. They were baptized – the legal paper work was completed – and so they are in. However doesn’t Wednesdays section of this week’s lesson tell us something? If once saved always saved were true, then how did Lucifer lose heaven?

I have also heard people say “Once a child of God, always a child of God.” But my Bible tells me,

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.Romans 8:14 NKJV

That would lead me to believe those who aren’t led by the Spirit are not the sons of God. Didn’t Jesus tell some Pharisees in John 8 that their father was the devil? Granted, I did not know the young man’s heart. I am not the judge. God alone will separate the wheat from the tares and His children from those who are not. However, I need to examine my life to be sure I am indeed still a child of God today.

There is another comforting passage that has misconstrued by those teaching once saved always saved:

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. John 10:27-28 NKJV

They say Jesus gives us eternal life, and we can never be snatched out of His hand. That is truly a wonderful promise! However, notice that He gives eternal life to those who are following Him. Furthermore, even though no one can snatch us out of His hand, we are still always free to go our own way. We were not created as robots, and we never will be robots. We will always have free choice. When we are sealed, we do not lose the power of choice, but rather, our choice seals our destiny. Those who suffer from the plagues in Revelation 16 are lost because they do not repent, and not because God is no longer forgiving. Free choice works both ways when the angel says,

He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still. Revelation 22:11 NKJV

I was baptized when I was seven years old, but every morning I have a choice to make. I can follow Jesus or I can walk away. If I walk away it no longer matters that I was baptized when I was seven. As a matter of fact even though my baptism was way back in another century, if a ten-year-old was baptized yesterday and chooses to follow Jesus today, while I choose to do my own thing, then the ten-year-old becomes the more mature Christian between the two of us.

The story the couple shared with me that night was very sad. I do not want that story to be my story. I chose to follow Jesus was I was seven. I also choose to follow Him right now. I hope you choose Jesus too, each and every day!

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Recent Baptism Pictures From the TAA Baptism Class

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Joraimy (left) and Jasmy have been two of the most loyal and faithful members of the after school Bible study and Tampa Adventist Academy baptism class. They love Jesus and studying His Word every chance they get. For the last three years they always ask when after school Bible study is, and when the baptism class is. They were baptized a few weeks ago at the Tampa Spanish SDA Church by Pastor Moreno.

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Allison (Left) and Kaina have been in my after school Bible study as well as baptism class. When we take prayer requests in our after school Bible study, Kaina always asks us to pray for her family members who do not know Jesus yet. She loves her family and Her God, and want them all to spend eternity together!

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William was baptized by his father in St.Petersburg. William is always quick to answer questions and help explain the Bible to others. He is also in my Bible chain referencing class, where I am teaching the kids how to give Bible studies and get decisions for Christ. When William got his baptism certificate He told me how proud he was to now be an official member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church!

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Daisy Heredia and her husband Carlos are huge blessings to Tampa Adventist Academy and the Tampa Bay Adventist Community. Daisy has also been helping me with our after school Bible studies and Baptism classes. Daisy Writes,

“Over the last 3 years, I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside Pastor William Earnhardt, by offering Bible classes to the elementary school aged children at Tampa Adventist Academy. The time spent with these children has been a blessing and spiritual growth not only for them but for me as well. To see their genuine desire to get to know Jesus is priceless. It fills us with a new rejoicing in the Lord. The most fulfilling part of this experience has been to see them come up from the waters in baptism and see their joy, as well as the joy on the parents faces. As a parent of two beautiful girls that will be baptized as a part of this ministry, I am very thankful for those who continue to support Pastor Earnhardt’s ministry so he is able to continue his faithful ministry for Christ.”

 I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Please don’t let the sun set on you before you make your decision to give your life to the One who gave His life for you. I would love to help you in your decision for Christ. You can contact me at LayPastor@TampaAdventist.net. You may also write or show your support for my ministry at the Plant City SDA Church, PO Box 5379 Plant City, FL 33563.

We Are Not Their Only Opportunity for Salvation

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14 NKJV

While working as a Bible Worker and lay pastor in a small church in west Texas, several of the members told me they hoped I would stay there forever, because they could not survive without me. I was young and stupid enough to believe them. Fact is though, the church membership more than doubled, but not while I was there, but after I left! And, the people who came in after I left were not people I studied with. They were people who never heard of me and didn’t know I existed.

While taking the gospel and the salvation of souls seriously, I have learned not to take myself so seriously. I can rejoice even when someone rejects me because I know I presented them with an opportunity to make a choice. While I want everyone to choose Jesus I know not everyone will. Still, once the gospel has gone into all the world, and that last decision has been made for or against Jesus then He will come. Every decision for or against Jesus is one decision closer to the second coming. This is why its important to spread the gospel even if people do not accept it. Either way we hasten the second coming by just being the angel that takes the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people allowing people the opportunity to choose. So don’t be too disheartened when your missionary project does not yield the results you hoped for. It was successful in giving people an opportunity to choose either way.

But we are just that. An opportunity. Not The opportunity. Let’s not take ourselves so seriously. People can reject us and still accept Jesus. What people think about me is extremely trivial in the scheme of the great controversy. So don’t lose heart or take slights and rejections to heart. Just because someone says no to me, does not mean they will say no to the next person God sends. There is still hope.

After leaving Texas, and working in Florida as a Bible Worker for a few years, a pastor friend, from Texas called me. He asked how many baptisms my church had so far. I told him 90, with 48 of those being in the current year.

“Wonderful!” He exclaimed.

“And how many of those were from your work?” He asked.

“None of them!” I said.

Yup. After a church in Texas more than doubling its membership AFTER I left, I finally learned a thing or two.

RC and Ashley’s Baptism Pictures and Stories

This summer saw some more baptisms from my baptism classes at Tampa Adventist Academy. 

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RC (Third back on left) attended my TAA baptism class last year. This year RC is in my 5th and 6th grade Bible chain referencing class, where he has been enthusiastically chain referencing his Bible so he can share his faith with others.

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On July 21st 2015 RC gave all of himself to Jesus through baptism because Jesus had given all of Himself to RC. RC was baptized by Pastor Rex Frost in the Brandon Seventh-day Adventist Church. 

RC Writes,

I wanted to be baptized and give my life to Jesus, because He gave His life for me, and offers me a better life thank I could live for myself.

Ashley William

A couple of years ago, while Ashley was in the 6th grade she wanted to have personal Bible studies with me. She had also been studying with her grandmother and family, and enjoys studying the Bible with anybody she can.

Ashley writes,

I want to be baptized because I want to give my heart to Jesus. Baptism to me means to die to your old self and to become a new person, a person of God. I love to learn more about God. I always learn new things when I read the Bible and I always have questions I ask also. I am very curious when it comes to the Bible and I love doing Bible studies. When I get baptized I will feel more accepted in the church like I belong. I want to give my whole life to Jesus Christ. I want Him to lead me on the right path. I want to be an example of God and want to Change. I want God to be proud of me. I am so DSCF0222very excited to get baptized and I can’t wait to see what God has planned for me.

 

Today, August 22 Ashley was baptized by her great grandfather Pastor Obed Graham. Pastor Graham served as pastor of the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church when the church our present church was built. After serving as president of the Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Pastor Graham as retired, and is still in the Florida area. Ashley was very happy that her grandfather was available to baptize her today!

Please don’t let the sun go down on your life before you give yourself to the One who gave Himself for you. If you are in the Tampa Bay area I would love to talk to you and study with you as you make this decision. If you are in another corner of the world I would like to help you find a Bible based church in your neck of the woods. Either way feel free to contact me at LayPastor@TampaAdventist.net