God Hugged Me!

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

The Majesty of heaven, while engaged in His earthly ministry, prayed much to His Father. He was frequently bowed all night in prayer. . . . The Mount of Olives was the favorite resort of the Son of God for His devotions.-Ellen White, Amazing Grace, page 167.

Jesus had His favorite place to meet with His Father. Do you have a special place to be with Him? For the last 8 years, while serving as a Bible Worker in the Tampa Bay area, I have a favorite park bench at Ballast Point Park. After a full day and evening of evangelism, many a night has found me on my park bench, looking over the bay, at the car lights racing down Bay Shore Drive. The reflections from the condos and city lights dance on the dark bay waters. I talk with God about all the people I met that day. I share my trials and triumphs. Then, as I imagine all the individuals in the cars speeding down Bay Shore Drive, and all the thousands of souls in the thousands of windows I see in the dark skyline, I ask God to write His love story on all their hearts.  I am weak and helpless, but I know the Holy Spirit can do great things in my city and beyond. If I have learned anything at all in my 20 years of Bible work, it is this. I need to talk to Jesus about people, twice as much as I talk to people about Jesus. I am worthless in the multitude if I have not first been alone with Jesus.

Every night that I meet with Jesus in the park, I know He is with me through His Spirit. One night, not so long ago particularly stands out in my heart. That night I was talking to Jesus about my triumphs, but also my trials. In evangelism you see God at work but you also see satan at work as well. Satan would love to see the Bible work put out of business. I told God that  as long as He enables me to rise above satan’s attacks, that I would always share the gospel with others.  I felt so small and weak, as I looked out over the city, knowing the evil that lurked throughout the streets and neighborhoods. On my own I could so easily be blown away. I begged  God to be with me and never leave me.

The following morning I went to the community service center at our church, where I meet with those who are down and out and try to help and encourage them. As I walked in the door, my prayer from the previous evening was not  on my mind, but apparently it was still on God’s mind. An elderly lady volunteer came right up to me, and before I could even greet her, she gave me a bear hug, and told me that God was blessing my ministry and that God knew what I was up against, and that satan would not be able to stop what I was doing for Jesus. She told me she was always praying for me and for me to never stop working for Jesus. It took a few moments for me to realize what she was telling me, was exactly what I was praying about the night before, in Ballast Point Park. I realized God was answering my prayer through her! Then I realized, if her message was from God, then so was the hug that came with it. That morning God gave me a message but even more so, He gave me a big bear hug!

Thank you Jesus for being with me when I enter people’s homes to share the gospel. Thank you also for being with me, alone on a park bench in Ballast Point Park. Thank you for your confirmation, and even more so for the big bear hug you gave me along with it!

How Did Jesus Deal With Prejudice?

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God. And he straitly charged them that they should not make him known. Mark 3:11-12

Many people, even in our own ranks, accuse Seventh-day Adventists of being dishonest, when we cover up our church sign when holding evangelistic meetings. Often we drape a makeshift sign over the name “Seventh-day Adventist” with the speakers name, or the theme of the meetings. Maybe we start the meetings in a neutral meeting hall, and announce later, after a few meetings that we are Seventh-day Adventists. Why be so secretive? I have heard people say, “I am not ashamed to be an Adventist so why do I need to hide it?”

Well Jesus was not ashamed to be the Son of God, but He still told the demons to be quiet when they announced it to the world. You see, for four thousand years, Satan had been telling humanity all kinds of lies about God and His character. Satan had even worked through un-Godlike priests and teachers to make God look stern, unforgiving and tyrant like. Jesus came with humanity draped over His divinity, to give people a chance to get to know Him first, before He revealed Himself to humanity as the Son of God. Thanks to Satan, there was too much prejudice against Him to just come right and say He was God, from the very beginning. People would have never given Him a chance with all their preconceived ideas about God. With humanity draped over His divinity, like a makeshift sign draped over a church sign, Jesus let the people find out how warm, caring and compassionate He was, and then once He had their confidence, He could let them know He was God.

Satan also told many lies about God’s remnant church. Many think we are a cult, or legalistic, so while being careful not to lie, some evangelists like to reveal that they are Adventists, after being given time to show that the Adventist church is a Bible based, Christian, compassionate church. It has nothing to do with being ashamed or deceptive. It is the same principle Jesus used when telling the demons not to tell who He was.

Of course as we spend more effort reaching out to un-churched people, we find less prejudice. After all, it was mostly “religious” people who were prejudiced against Jesus. It is often other denominations that are prejudice against Adventists, but not so much the un-churched community. I understand the principles of evangelists, who do not like to announce upfront that they are Adventists. However, if asked directly what denomination I am, I do not stutter or stammer. I say proudly I am a Seventh-day Adventist. I then assure them that we are Christian Bible based believers. I tell them, we believe Jesus is our only hope of salvation and our only example, therefore we go to church on the Bible Sabbath just like Jesus. Just like the woman at the well was receptive, when Jesus revealed Himself to her, I find many un-churched people receptive when I reveal our Bible based and Jesus centered beliefs.

While Jesus told the demons not to announce to the whole world who He was, He used wisdom in deciding when and to whom to reveal Himself. I do not always know who is prejudiced and who is not, so I pray for God to give me wisdom and the right words to say to each individual.

To study this week’s SS lesson on evangelism, click here. To download the Sabbath School app click here.

Witnessing and Evangelism as a Lifestyle

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet. 2 Kings 13:21

There was no magic in the prophet Elisha’s bones. The Israelites were in distressing times, and hope came to Israel that God was not dead and could revive them if they would heed the words of the prophet. Thus, even after his death, while resting in the tomb, Elisha was still influencing people’s lives for good. That is one of the things I love about writing. Granted I am no prophet, nor the son of a prophet, but even when I am gone what has been written can continue to speak and hopefully bring comfort.

This reminds me of my uncle Bud. He has been gone about 20 years or so now. He had a sense of humor much like mine. He could really make me laugh. I remember he and my aunt Ellen visiting from Seattle, when I was about 15. When he left he smiled and said “I am glad you got to see me.”  I was expecting him to say, “I am glad I got to see you” instead of “I’m glad you got to see me.” The surprise made me laugh. Like me, he had a dry sense of humor that pretended to be arrogant but not really. I have been telling the same joke ever since, and for the last 31 years it brings a laugh most every time.  A couple of weeks ago I was visiting with some friends and when I left I did it again. I repeated Uncle Bud’s line, “I’m glad you got to see me.” Everyone laughed and told me how glad they were I could see them too. When I got in my car and drove off, it dawned on me. The smile on my friends face was caused by my uncle who has been sleeping for over 20 years! Then I thought of all the other people who have laughed after I passed his joke on, and realized all those smiles and laughs were caused by something my uncle told me 31 years ago.

Life is not all jokes and my uncle knew that. Life wasn’t always a joke to him either, but he loved putting a smile on people’s faces. I wish he knew that he is still putting a smile on people’s faces today every time I tell his joke. Elisha had words that could still give life even after his death. Uncle Bud can still make people smile today when I remember his words. I want a witnessing lifestyle that will continue putting smiles on faces and hope in hearts, even while I am still sleeping and waiting for Jesus’ return.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. You may download the Sabbath School lessons to your cell phone here.