What’s Worse Than Persecution?

 

Rays Port Charlotte-Skyway Bridge 082

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Last week I wrote about the church of Smyrna which endured great persecution for being faithful to God, even when facing death. Bible Scholars agree the church of Smyrna represents the Christian era from 100 to 313. This brings us to the church of Pergamum, which  represents the time period of 313 to 538. During this time period persecution of the church seemed to cease. Why did persecution cease? Here is what Jesus says about Pergamum,

But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin.  In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching. Revelation 2:14-15 NLT

While the world appeared to convert to Christianity, in reality the church was converting to the world! Christ had nothing to criticize at all about the persecuted church of Smyrna, but when the church started to compromise to gain the approval of the world, it began to lose the approval of Christ.

The nominal conversion of Constantine, in the early part of the fourth century, caused great rejoicing; and the world, cloaked with a form of righteousness, walked into the church. Now the work of corruption rapidly progressed. Paganism, while appearing to be vanquished, became the conqueror. Her spirit controlled the church. Her doctrines, ceremonies, and superstitions were incorporated into the faith and worship of the professed followers of Christ. –Ellen White, Great Controversy, Pages 49-50

Persecution is what kept the church pure, and I believe persecution will one day purify the church again. In order to avoid persecution the church began to compromise its standards and beliefs.   As the church compromised to gain the world’s approval paganism seeped into the church. Such compromise was worse than persecution.  Now there is a balance we need to be aware of. I mean you have Daniel living smack dab in the heart of Babylon, and yet the king was his friend. Daniel had a way of never compromising truth and yet still being promoted by a Babylonian king! In Daniel 4 the king is converted. I pray in the last days for men and women of integrity in high positions to influence pagan leaders to give their hearts to Jesus. The stories in Daniel 3 and 6 will be repeated in the last days, and I believe the story of a converted pagan politician in Daniel 4 will be repeated in the last days as well. This calls upon Christians to use tact. With much prayer and Spiritual wisdom I believe we can live with the non-compromising faith of Daniel and Jesus, while being  friends with sinners. See Luke 15:1-2.  Even so, I realize that Daniel was still thrown in the lions den, and Jesus was crucified. We can’t make every sinner our friend, but we can use Christian tact to win many. And Christian tact does not, and in fact cannot include compromise with evil. Compromise with evil does not convert the world to the church, it converts the church to the world.

The sad thing is, even when the church made peace by compromising with the world, persecution still continued towards God’s faithful followers. Because the church was trying to win the approval of the world, the church itself began persecuting its own members who put the Word of God above the traditions of the world. It was no longer politically correct to call sin by its right name. It was no loner politically correct to put the Bible above human philosophy. I will let Paul explain what went on.

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. 2 Timothy 4:2-4 NLT

To win the world to the church and escape persecution, the Pergamum church decided to start preaching what everyone wanted to hear, and not preach the things people did not want to hear. Did this please 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. –Ellen White, Evangelism, Page 320

When the Waldensians wanted to continue following the Bible they were seen as troublemakers invoking persecution on the church. To avoid being persecuted by the world the church joined the world in persecuting those who still followed the Bible! So by compromising with the world the church organization was no longer being persecuted, but the faithful members continued to be persecuted not only by the world but also by the church! When I was taking 9th grade algebra, our teacher graded on the curve. The highest score was considered 100%. So if they highest score was 80 and my score was 60 then I got 60 out of 80 instead of 100, which of course would raise my percentage score. There was only one problem. The same girl on every single test got 100%. So we never got a break! This girl was not popular when we all got our test scores back, because she made the rest of us look bad by keeping the standard where it was supposed to be. Likewise when the church is trying to lower the standard to make the world look good and feel comfortable in their sins, those in the church who keep the standard right where it belongs stick out like a sore thumb.

Years ago, my friends were telling me about how their daughter was being ridiculed and persecuted in her new Adventist School for being vegan. They were surprised because no one teased her about it when she was in public school. The public school kids thought veganism was novel and admired her for being a free spirit and standing apart from the crowd. So her parents were disappointed when the Adventist kids gave her such a hard time about being vegan. The public school kids were not offended by her veganism but the Adventist kids were, because they took it as a rebuke to their lifestyle. She was raising the standard and they all thought it made them look bad for not maintaining the same standard. Of course my friend’s daughter never thought was better than anyone else just for being vegan, but we often condemn ourselves when we see others following their convictions while we ignore our own convictions. And if we can persecute and find fault with them, then it makes us feel all better about ourselves.

May God give us the wisdom to be people of integrity while being friends to sinners. Jesus and Daniel did not compromise God’s Word in order to be friends with sinners and neither should we. That is nothing new. The Jews crucified Jesus in order to secure favor with Rome. So today so called Christians are persecuting those who “follow the Lamb Wherever He goes” in order to secure favor with a sinful world.

Jesus Himself never purchased peace by compromise. His heart overflowed with love for the whole human race, but He was never indulgent to their sins. He was too much their friend to remain silent while they were pursuing a course that would ruin their souls,–the souls He had purchased with His own blood.-Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 356

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

It’s Jesus’ Church, not Mine

rb3.jpg

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV

I often read this passage thinking of Jesus talking to the worldwide church, but reality is, verse 16 tells us Jesus said this to 11 humble fishermen. That was the worldwide church! He told 11 humble fishermen to  make disciples in every nation! What an incredible command for 11 meager men! I don’t think they would have come up with such an ambitious goal on their own. Left to themselves I think they would have come up with a more realistic goal. But they weren’t left to themselves. Jesus was still with them and the Holy Spirit would help them accomplish more than that tiny group imagined possible.

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. John 14:12 NKJV

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, Ephesians 3:20 NKJV

Each one reached one like Andrew always did,  as well as preaching to Crowds like Peter did in Acts 2 and they soon began multiplying as  “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:47. It is amazing to think that just as people today trace their family tree back for hundreds of years, that every believer today is a believer because someone was reached by someone who was reached by someone who was reached by someone etc. etc. who was reached by one of the 11 fishermen Jesus was speaking to! As a matter of fact, some have been reached today by one of those fishermen! A pastor told me when he was a teen, he found Jesus one night, when he picked up the Bible and read the book of John. Two thousand years later, John’s personal writings are still reaching millions firsthand!

Never has a group been so successful amidst such opposition!

Christ did not fail, neither was He discouraged, and His followers are to manifest a faith of the same enduring nature. They are to live as He lived, and work as He worked, because they depend on Him as the great Master Worker. Courage, energy, and perseverance they must possess. Though apparent impossibilities obstruct their way, by His grace they are to go forward. Instead of deploring difficulties, they are called upon to surmount them. They are to despair of nothing, and to hope for everything. With the golden chain of His matchless love Christ has bound them to the throne of God. It is His purpose that the highest influence in the universe, emanating from the source of all power, shall be theirs. They are to have power to resist evil, power that neither earth, nor death, nor hell can master, power that will enable them to overcome as Christ overcame.-Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Pages 679-680.

How it must have comforted John, when He saw Jesus in the midst of the lamp stands which represents the churches. See Revelation 1:12-19. Jesus was still with His church,and has promised to never leave His church. So don’t you leave it either! As a matter of fact, by sending the Holy Spirit we all have local access to God. A former student of mine who moved to the mountains of Chile, wrote to tell me he had begun personal Bible studies with a friend on their way home from school. When my young friend shares the gospel on the rocky roads in the mountains of Chile the same Holy Spirit is with him that is with the General conference president in Maryland. The General Conference office has no location advantage. The Holy Spirit is all over the world!

With the Holy Spirit all over the world and Jesus in the midst of His church, we can do amazing things! Greater than we even imagine possible. The good news is it is Jesus’ church and not mine. Last Summer the senior pastor at my church took another assignment. It was just me until another senior pastor came in the fall. My church had a lot going on and I almost became overwhelmed until I remembered it wasn’t my church! It’s Jesus’ church. When I was a lay pastor and Bible Worker in a small church in west Texas, the members occasionally told me they could not survive without me, and I was young and dumb enough to believe them. Fact is the membership more than doubled after I finally left! It wasn’t my church it was Jesus’ church! Also during that same time, another church I was helping  had a leader who thought he owned the church, since he thought he gave most the money. He tried to manipulate me to follow him instead of the senior pastor. I told him I work for Jesus and not the richest person in the church. He laughed at me! He finally took his money and left, thinking the church would collapse without his money. He forgot it was not his church! It was Jesus’ church, and right after he left, we had some evangelism meetings and so many people started coming into the church that we had to build a bigger building!

I studied with several young people in the first church I was talking about, who were baptized. They came in the church with some new ideas. They wanted to change the times for Sabbath School and Church. The older members were upset and one of them told me, “Don’t let those kids take over our church!” She was insinuating it was her church and not theirs. Sadly every single one of those young people left! They did not want to take over the church. They just wanted to be part of the church. Sadly some try to manipulate others by telling them it is not their church, it belongs to God, when in reality they just want to do their own thing, not God’s. So don’t let anyone tell you to keep your opinion to yourself because it is not your church, unless they are also willing to keep their own opinion to themselves, because it is not their church either. Fact is we are all a part of the church and have a responsibility and voice.

Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established. Proverbs 15:22 NKJV

But over every one of us Jesus is the Head of the church. It is His church, and its success relies upon Him. John was glad to see Jesus in the midst of the candle sticks in his day, and I am glad to see Jesus in the midst of His church today. Because it is Jesus’ church and its success depends on Him, we can see amazing results today.

You can study Revelation with millions of others here. 

Antonio’s Baptism Pictures and Stories

20171216_121712.jpg

This time last year, Pastor James and I baptized a family, including the grandmother, mother and all the children. However the father was missing in the baptism. He did not think his family needed to be baptized, much less to be baptized himself, but he reluctantly allowed them to be baptized. However, his family did not give up on him. They loved him way too much!

Adult Bible Study

Antonio was very open minded, and continued to study with us at church, as well as with is brother-in-law Jose in his home. Jose is pictured third from the right. Antonio second on the left. Jose is very faithful as the head deacon at the Plant City SDA Church, and also helps with Spanish/English translations in the Wednesday night Bible studies at church. Jose also has Bible studies in his home with friends and neighbors, and Antonio came to the studies. After a year of continuing Bible studies, Antonio told Jose and me that he wanted to be baptized!

48419533_10156324538324775_4504097585878794240_n

One year later Antonio joined his family, and even greater, his Lord and Savior in baptism! Antonio wanted me to share his story, so others would decide to follow Jesus too. This Christmas Antonio wanted to give all of himself to Jesus, because Jesus gave all of Himself for Antonio. Antonio opened his heart to the teachings of the Bible at church and around the family table. Antonio has chosen to follow all of Jesus’ teachings and commandments.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV 

20181222_121154

After the baptism Antonio was given the right hand of fellowship, and his baptism certificate containing the Bible teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. When Antonio announced in prayer meeting that he wanted to be baptized, his daughter raised her hands and cheered! The family is complete. With Jesus in the father’s heart happy happy home! 

st-pete-with-mom-0091

Would you like a new start to your life? We can all have a new life through Jesus!

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4 NKJV

I would love to help you as you make your decision to give your life to Jesus! You can contact me at PlantCitySDAChurch@Gmail.com.

 

My Fall 2018 Open Newsletter to my Contributors

Its hard to believe that 31/2 years later, my ministry is still going, based mostly upon contributions from people like yourself. Many of you have been contributing faithfully every month. Many of you have given faithfully when you can. All is greatly appreciated! Some have no longer been able to give which is understandable. I pray God will provide new contributors and keep this ministry going strong. Every time I leave a home where I know God has used me, I promise God as I get in my car to leave, that as long as He keeps making it possible for me to share the gospel I will continue to do so!

Many of you follow this ministry on Facebook, but I just wanted to share a few ways God has blessed since last Spring. First here is a testimony from Sue Halstead, pictured below, front right.

SueMy husband Bob and I teach a Youth Sabbath School Class at the Homosassa SDA Church in Florida.

We have engaged William Earnhardt to teach  a baptismal class. God has given him a special gift to gain an instant rapport with the young people and the adults alike.
One eleven year old , Macayla , put it this way
 “As a teacher, he makes every subject understandable and entertaining so it holds my attention”. she goes on to say, ” as a speaker at church, he gives 100% good messages; he uses real life situations to make his point.”
We especially appreciate how God is using him to “tell the old, old story ” in such a refreshing way. God is doing a mighty work through him!  If you would like to be part of winning souls through his ministry, you can contribute by sending one time or monthly contributions to the Plant City SDA Church P.O. Box 5379 Plant City, Florida  33563. Please mark your check, “Bible Worker Fund.”
Bob and Sue Halstead
20180609_095854

I am still working closely with the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, as well as the Plant City Seventh-day Adventist church, where God has continued to let me bring people to Him in baptism.

Pastor Davis, the pastor of the Emanuel SDA Church, our sister church in Plant City, had me giving a weekly Bible chain referencing to his church family, teaching them how give Bible studies and get decisions for Jesus. There were about 30 attending the class regularly. Pastor Brad, at the Tampa First SDA Church also had me giving the same class to his church family on Wednesday nights.

This ministry is still reaching people around the world in over 175 countries via this blog site and the Sabbath School Net. 

Last Spring about 16 students from the New Port Richey Seventh-day Adventist church school were baptized as a result of the week of prayer principal Keith Nelson invited me to do. I also continued studying with the young people.

I want to thank those of you who follow my ministry on Facebook and support me with your prayers and contributions!

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. Acts 20:24 NLT

Thank you for continuing your faithful contributions, or for considering becoming a new contributor. As always thanks for all your prayers for my ministry and those around the world doing the same!

Tax deductible contributions can be sent to the Plant City SDA Church, P.O. Box 5379 Plant City FL 33653. 

Sergio and Isael’s Baptism Pictures and Stories

Janjay Tinsey

Back in November of 2007, Janjay (left) and her sister Tinsey gave their lives to Jesus. Ever since then, like all of Jesus’ true disciples, they have both been sharing Jesus with their friends.

20181103_132249

This year Janjay invited her friend Sergio to church. There he met Pastor Roly who not only studied with Sergio but became his good friend. Because Janajay and Pastor Roly both shared God’s love with Sergio, he fell in love with Jesus and gave his life to Jesus in baptism today.

20181103_125813_1541264618723

Sergio had declared years ago that he would only be baptized by a fellow Cuban, and only when he feared death. Sadly, this last year Sergio lost his father, and the sting of death led him to look into Jesus more intently. Also when he met Pastor Roly he discovered he was a fellow Cuban! Jesus made it so Sergio would be baptized exactly the way he said he would do it. It was not an easy road, but it is rewarding for Sergio to now be in the family of God and have the hope of the resurrection in Christ!

Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death?For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him.When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Romans 6:3-11 NLT

Tito

In this picture Isael (right) is praying with his friend William during a communion/footwashing ceremony we had at Tampa Adventist Academy. Years ago I began an after school Bible study at TAA, for whoever wanted to come, and Isael faithfully came for several years. Later he was in my 5th and 6th grade Bible class, where he also learned the Seventh-day Adventist fundamental beliefs, and how to give a chain referenced Bible study so he could share the hope we have in Jesus with his friends.

A couple of weeks ago, when I was at Tampa First for Alex’s baptism, Isael approached me and asked if he could be baptized in a couple of weeks.

20181103_160531

Today I was proud to present Isael his own baptism certificate, which also included all of the Bible teachings we had been studying together for several years. Isael writes,

The reason I want to be baptized is because I know and understand the life that God wants for me. When you get baptized its like starting a new life Christ, and that’s what I want to do today.

20181103_135858

For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. Colossians 2:12 NLT

Thank you for supporting my ministry with your tax deductible contributions, which allow me to continue bringing people to Jesus so they can be trained and equipped to bring people to Jesus as well!

Plant City SDA Church

Bible Worker Fund

PO Box 5379

Plant City, FL

33563

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

Rays Port Charlotte-Skyway Bridge 082

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.