Do you Know the Shepherd?

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.” Matthew 14:15-16 NLT

The disciples realized the crowd needed food, but they were not equipped to feed a large crowd, or so they thought. So the decided the crowd should be sent to the villages where there were markets and restaurants. Those people were trained and equipped to feed a large crowd. Imagine the disciples surprise, and maybe even frustration when Jesus said, they did not need to got o the villages and “professionals” to get fed. He told them to feed them.

Have you ever met someone you wanted to share Jesus with, so you called a pastor or elder to study with them? Maybe that wasn’t necessary. Maybe Jesus wanted you to feed them-spiritually. Sometimes we may feel we are not “professional” enough to feed someone spiritually. I am sure the disciples did not feel “professional” enough to feed the crowd. Still, Jesus equipped them to feed a crowd. If you are willing, Jesus can use you to spiritually feed a large crowd, just as well as He can use a professional.

Remember the story of Balaam in Numbers 22? Yes the story was about Balaam’s reward for greed, but there is something else in this story too. God used a donkey to turn Balaam’s life around. If God can use a donkey to change someone’s life, don’t you think He could also use you?

God’s messengers must tarry long with Him, if they would have success in their work. The story is told of an old Lancashire woman who was listening to the reasons that her neighbors gave for their minister’s success. They spoke of his gifts, of his style of address, of his manners. “Nay,” said the old woman, “I will tell you what it is. Your man is very thick with the Almighty.” When men are as devoted as Elijah was and possess the faith that he had, God will reveal Himself as He did then. When men plead with the Lord as did Jacob, the results that were seen then will again be seen. Power will come from God in answer to the prayer of faith. -Ellen White, Gospel Workers, Page 255

The story goes of a pastor celebrating his 50th year in the ministry. At the celebration
Friend, do you tarry long with God? Do you know the Shepherd? If so, then you have a story to tell that will turn someone’s life around, without having to call the “professionals.” 
he invited a good friend and famous orator to read Psalm 23. He agreed so long as the pastor would read it afterwards as well.  The famous orator read the psalm with such oratorical mastery that the congregation applauded. The pastor then humbly approached the podium, feeling that he had been outdone. However when he read the beloved Psalm, the congregation was moved to tears. When the pastor asked the famous orator why people wept after his humble reading of the Word, the orator replied, “I knew the Psalm. You knew the Shepherd.”

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

Revelation 10; Spreading the Good News

I am writing this morning from the beautiful Tampa First SDA Church.

And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings. Revelation 10:11

 We are to give the last warning of God to men, and what should be our earnestness in studying the Bible and our zeal in spreading the light! Let every soul who has received the divine illumination seek to impart it. Let the workers go from house to house, opening the Bible to the people, circulating the publications, telling others of the light that has blessed their own souls. Let literature be distributed judiciously, on the trains, in the street, on the great ships that ply the sea, and through the mails.  {9T 122.3} 
     A great work is to be done, and those who know the truth should make mighty intercession for help. The love of Christ must fill their own hearts. The Spirit of Christ must be poured out upon them, and they must be making ready to stand in the judgment. As they consecrate themselves to God, a convincing power will attend their efforts to present the truth to others. We must no longer sleep on Satan’s enchanted ground, but call into requisition all our resources, availing ourselves of every facility with which Providence has furnished us. The last warning is to be proclaimed before “many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings,” and the promise is given, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Revelation 10:11; Matthew 28:20.  {9T 12} 

 The Lord will fit men and women–yes, and children, as He did Samuel–for His work, making them His messengers. He who never slumbers or sleeps watches over each worker, choosing his sphere of labor. All heaven is watching the warfare which, under apparently discouraging circumstances, God’s servants are carrying on. New conquests are being achieved, new honors won, as the Lord’s servants, rallying round the banner of their Redeemer, go forth to fight the good fight of faith. All the heavenly angels are at the service of the humble, believing people of God; and as the Lord’s army of workers here below sing their songs of praise, the choir above join with them in thanksgiving, ascribing praise to God and to His Son. {7T 71}

As well as carrying out my regular responsibilities as a Bible Worker at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, I have also been teaching the young people at Tampa Adventist Academy to mark their Bibles and give Bible studies. This week I have begun a baptism class with about 28 kids. Seven of them have already been baptized but wanted to take the class as a “refresher course.” I decided to let them attend but to also have them help Pastor Brad and me in actually doing some of the presentations! I have made Power Point Presentations out of the In Light of The Cross Bible study guides, so each baptized student will have an opportunity to give a lesson in the baptism class. I was amazed how excited the kids were to do this!

Matthew 9; Two Groups of Church People

I am writing today from the beautiful Florida Keys.

And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.  Matthew 9:2

 

Luke gives a little more detail; “And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was [present] to heal them.  And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought [means] to bring him in, and to lay [him] before him.  And when they could not find by what [way] they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with [his] couch into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.  Luke 5:18-20

 

Here we see the doctors of the law and Pharisees, the religious big shots sitting around with Jesus in a house. How important they must have felt to be able to debate theology with Jesus, or on the other hand, thought how important He must feel to be able to debate theology with them.  Meanwhile some people show up who have been bringing people to Jesus. Notice they could not get in because of the people blocking the way. Who was blocking the way? The big shots, who wanted to sit around and debate theology. Here we have to groups of people. One group is in the church, but blocking the way for others to come. Do we do the same today? Do we block people out who are not as old as us, rich as us, who just don’t think exactly like us? The second group were out bringing someone to Jesus. The man may not have even had faith, but when Jesus saw their faith He healed him. So this man, may not have been like the others who brought him to Jesus. The people bringing him to Jesus were not  bent on getting the man to think exactly like them, they were just bent on bringing him to Jesus! Also the people bringing him to Jesus were not about to let the so called religious big shots keep this man away from Jesus.

 

So which group are in? Are you sitting in church, maybe even next to Jesus, but to you the church is just an exclusive club? Or are you in the second group, where you are busy bringing people to Jesus?

 

Notice too, they were willing to tear the house apart to get him in to meet Jesus. How much do we read into that if anything at all? Of course our standards and doctrine cannot be altered. However, I sadly remember being a Bible Worker in a church long ago that was made up mostly of older people. A young couple joined our church, and I began Bible studies with their teenage cousin and a few of her friends.  Three of them got baptized with her! They did not stay long though. They  wanted to become active in the church and the older people became threatened by their presence. One older lady in the church actually told me, “William, don’t let these kids take over our church!” I was shocked! What made this lady think it was her church in the first place! I thought it was God’s church! Sadly these teenagers did not last long in the church. Sadly that church is still struggling to exist even today.  Isn’t it our calling to bring people to Jesus?

Redemption in Romans, Lesson 11

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Friday’s section of this week’s SS Lesson asks, “What can we learn from the mistakes of many in ancient Israel? How can we avoid doing the same things today?”

I think as a whole we have the same struggle ancient Israel had when it comes to a proper association with the rest of the world. It appears to me, that either we join them in “Baal worship” or we have nothing to do with them whatsoever.  Jesus showed us the perfect balance to take.  In Matthew 5:13 Jesus says we are the salt of the earth. Salt is to have saving qualities. At the same time, salt must be mixed with the food in order to have any kind of savor. Likewise we must have some association with the world. Please allow me to share some quotes from the classic Desire of Ages and Ministry of Healing, that may help us find a healthy balance.

As disciples of Christ we shall not mingle with the world from a mere love of pleasure, to unite with them in folly. Such associations can result only in harm. We should never give sanction to sin by our words or our deeds, our silence or our presence. Wherever we go, we are to carry Jesus with us, and to reveal to others the preciousness of our Saviour. But those who try to preserve their religion by hiding it within stone walls lose precious opportunities of doing good. Through the social relations, Christianity comes in contact with the world. Everyone who has received the divine illumination is to brighten the pathway of those who know not the Light of life.   We should all become witnesses for Jesus. Social power, sanctified by the grace of Christ, must be improved in winning souls to the Saviour. Let the world see that we are not selfishly absorbed in our own interests, but that we desire others to share our blessings and privileges. Let them see that our religion does not make us unsympathetic or exacting. Let all who profess to have found Christ, minister as He did for the benefit of men.  –Desire of Ages, p.  152

  Jesus saw in every soul one to whom must be given the call to His kingdom. He reached the hearts of the people by going among them as one who desired their good. He sought them in the public streets, in private houses, on the boats, in the synagogue, by the shores of the lake, and at the marriage feast. He met them at their daily vocations, and manifested an interest in their secular affairs. He carried His instruction into the household, bringing families in their own homes under the influence of His divine presence. His strong personal sympathy helped to win hearts.– Desire of Ages, p. 151

     Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, “Follow Me.”–The Ministry of Healing, p. 143

How big of a mission field do you have as an ambassador for Christ? How many non Christians do you have on your cell phone contact list? In other words how many non Christians do you come in contact with on a friendly every day basis?  How many non Christians do you have as Facebook friends? Are you being exclusive and reclusive like the Pharisees or are you reaching out to the world in the same way Christ did? Christ calls us all to be missionaries. He may not need us to go overseas but He may be asking you to leave your big comfy church and Christian Community and move to a dark county where there are no churches for miles and start mingling with the people there and start a new church. He may be asking you to drop out of your church softball league and join a secular league where you can reach people you could reach no other way. I am just thinking out loud here, but you get the idea. 🙂 In Isaiah 58 God tells ancient Israel that while they thought they were worshipping God by debating theology in the temple with their friends, that real worship is going out to share His love and mercy with the world.

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light Of The Cross.

Never Give Up

I am writing from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And you, being dead in your sins ….. hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses. Colossians 2:13

  

Friday’s section of this week’s SS lesson asks the question, “How can we help someone who is spiritually dead?”I must share an experience I had several years ago, early in my ministry that taught me to never give up. I was a Bible Worker in a small church in Oklahoma . For the sake of anonymity, I will name the following couple Joe and Jane. Joe had gone back to drinking and soon he and Jane both stopped coming to church. One night at prayer meeting someone reported that not only had they left the church for the world, but they even told us to stop praying for them. Of course we kept praying any way. After several weeks I finally found them at home. I thought I had talked them into at least letting me come back to study the Bible with them even if they would not come to church. We set a time for me to come back. When I returned, I was met at the door by Joe. He told me he could not study the Bible with me, because just the thought of reading the Bible made him so sick and depressed, that he could not stand it. So he sent me away. I walked back to my car fully convinced this man must have grieved the Holy Spirit away, since he had asked us not to pray for him, and even the thought of the Bible made him so sick. I decided if he had grieved the Spirit away, there was obviously no reason to contact him again, so I never did. I never saw Joe in church or anywhere else for that matter.

  

Three years later I was working in North Texas as a Bible Worker when I got a phone call from my mother. She wanted to know what set of Bible study guides I like to use. I told her the “Good News Study Guides” by Don Grey.  She told me she needed to get some study guides because my father and she had just begun some Bible Studies with Joe and Jane. I could not believe it! First of all my parents don’t normally give Bible studies, and I thought Joe had grieved away the Holy Spirit with his drinking and constant rebellion. While studying with my parents, Joe left his drinking and rebellion and a few weeks later both he and his wife were re-baptized! I called my parents before writing this story. They tell me Joe and Jane continue to be faithful members ten years later.

  

I believe God used my parents to study with them so that I would be aware of this happy ending for two reasons. 1. To show me I should never give up on anyone. 2. To show me what He was able to accomplish with absolutely no help from me. God is able to work His greatest miracles when I am nowhere in the picture. 

  

I was a young Bible Worker back then with a lot to learn. I have since learned to follow Jesus’ example in all I do. The reason I never give up on anyone now is simply this-Jesus left me with no example on how to give up. He never taught us to give up, never talked about giving up, never thought of giving up. Even if someone seams spiritually dead we do not need to stop praying and give up. Jesus raises the dead! “Even when we were DEAD in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, by grace ye are saved.  Ephesians 2:5