It’s Okay to Just be Another Star in the Milky Way

milky-way I am writing tonight somewhere in the universe. It doesn’t really matter where.

You may listen to the podcast version of this article here. 


What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31 NLT

A while back I saw a book that had a picture of the sun as the center of the universe. after that the book had a series of pictures each one backing farther and farther out of the universe until finally the sun was just another one of the 250 billion stars in the Milky Way.

Often times we are insecure and tempted to think that we need to be the center of the universe. We are afraid to see ourselves as just another one of the 250 billion or more stars in the Milky Way. We are afraid if there’s nothing special about us then we won’t get that promotion or our needs will be overlooked and we will be forgotten and not cared for.

That is when the same Jesus who tells us to put everybody else first, also assures us that our Heavenly Father watches over the smallest sparrow. We needn’t feel insecure while being just one of 250 billion stars in the Milky Way. God cares for the smallest sparrow. He won’t overlook us. He will surely care for us too. We don’t have to be the center of the universe in order for God to watch over and love and care for us. Its okay if the 250 billion other stars get the promotion. Its okay if the other 250 billion stars get loved and cared for. Go ahead and put everyone else’s needs first. God will still love and take care of you. God cares for the sparrows and He cares for you. You won’t be forgotten.

Are Study Bibles Inspired?

Pirate Cruise Clearwater 101

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

You may listen to the podcast version of this article here. 

Study Bibles for the most part can be a huge blessing. However as a young Bible Worker back in the 1990’s I found them to be very challenging. Numerous times I would begin Bible studies with someone who knew very little about the Bible. They would run out to a bookstore in the community and buy a Study Bible, which they would be very proud to show me at our next Bible study.  I would hide my disappointment and act happy for them. But almost always, later when the notes in their study Bible would contradict a Bible principle I was teaching I would need to remind them that the study notes are not inspired. Of course a more seasoned Bible student would realize that more readily than a new Bible student who was looking for something to cling to. Of course when I disagreed with the study notes, both the Bible student and I obviously realized I was not inspired either. So we would have to keep comparing Scripture with Scripture to get our final conclusions.

Even as Adventists we must understand we learn truth by comparing Scripture with Scripture, and not by comparing Scripture with our favorite authors or preachers. Our Adventist pioneers came out of various protestant churches and sat down together to study out different doctrines in the Bible. Even though their group Bible studies led to the founding of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, our Adventist pioneers studied these things out for themselves. They did not study the Bible for us. It is still up to us to compare Scripture with Scripture just as they did so we too can know what is truth. The counsel given to Timothy is for all of us.

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV

Paul did not study for Timothy. Timothy had to study the Scriptures for himself. Likewise our Adventist pioneers did not study the Scriptures for you. You must study them for yourself.

Likewise commentaries like Study Bibles can be helpful, but keep in mind they are not inspired. In 1953 a group of dedicated people put together the 7 volume Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary. as scholarly and Spirit led as they were even they recognized their human limitations and fallibility. For example:

For such errors as may appear in these volumes we plead not only the indulgence of the reader but also his [or her] cooperation, so that future printings may come ever near to perfection. -Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 1 Page 17.

and also,

This commentary is published with no thought of presenting a creed or determining for all time the denominational interpretation of any passage of Scripture. Neither the contributors nor the editors possess either the power or the desire to do so. Let this fact be clearly understood at the outset. -Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 1 Page 18.

Let me make myself clear that I am not telling anyone to throw away their Study notes or commentaries. What I am saying is, remember study notes and commentaries are not on the same level as Scripture. Scripture is inspired and infallible.  Notes in study Bibles and commentaries are not infallible.

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

We are the Visiting Team

Rays Tigers Spring Game 005

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. 1 John 2:15-17 NLT

A few years ago I had baptismal studies with an elderly man named Oscar. He had just come to the United States from Guam but was actually already a U.S. citizen before ever stepping on American soil. Guam has its own government, but is an unincorporated United States territory. This gave Oscar the opportunity to become a U.S. citizen before even setting foot on U.S. soil.

I had never heard of someone being a citizen of a Country they had never been to before, but then it occurred to me that all Christians are citizens of a land they have never been to before. This world is not our home. The fact that the world is not our home could account for why we do not always fit in. It could explain why the world cheers at things that break our hearts, and why we sometimes cheer and the world does not cheer with us.

When people move from other countries to the United States, I notice they like to keep a lot of their cultural traditions, especially foods. I watched a documentary a while back on the History Channel, talking about how food companies in America expected immigrants back in the day to start buying traditional American foods,. The documentary went on to say that never happened! So the American food companies had to start catering to the diet of the immigrants.

As citizens of heaven we find some cultural traditions in our communities pose no threat to our Bible standards, but many do. It is then that we need to remember to cling to our heavenly culture while living in another land. We need to remember we are the visiting team.  Have you ever followed your favorite sports team to a road game? It is a totally different atmosphere than when you are watching them play at their home stadium. When you are on the road you stand up and cheer when your team scores, but you cheer alone because everyone else is for the home team. And when something happens to make the home crowd cheer, you just sit there. Everything seems backwards when your team is playing on the road. I have been to several Tampa Bay Rays baseball games over the years,  and I notice how fans of the visiting team dress and behave. First of all you can tell they are not fans of the home team when you see them wearing shirts and ball caps with the visiting team’s logos. Funny, many Christians try to blend in with the world by the way they dress, but sports fans visiting another team’s ballpark never try to blend in with the home crowd by the way they dress. They are proud of the team they represent so they are proud to stand out from the rest of the crowd. As Christian are we proud to stand out from the culture and crowd we are around? Fans of the visiting team don’t cheer when the home crowd cheers. They don’t try to blend in with the home crowd by the way they act either. Do we as Christians we are the visiting team here on earth. Do we behave as we would back home in heaven or do we try to behave like the world hoping to blend in?

Now to stay balanced, the visiting team fans do follow general home field rules and cultural traditions. They all stand for the national anthem. They all stand for the 7th inning stretch, and they all politely wait in line at the concession stands, and wait their turn at the ticket counter. They don’t act differently just for the sake of being different. They only act differently when team loyalty is called into question. Likewise Christians should not be standing out just to look strange or weird. This does not help the cause of Christ when Christians act strange for no good reason. We should only act differently to make our loyalty to God clear.

As I am writing this, I am thinking of the many times a city or community has weathered a rough storm either literally or metaphorically, and they looked to their local sports team to lift their spirits and help put pride back in their community. Today with the COVID-19 affecting our communities, I could not help but think that we don’t even have sports now as a lighthearted way to lift our spirits. While some simple and even innocent pleasures of the world are now fading away as 1 John 2:17 describes, we now more than ever should be proud to belong to a God who always lifts our spirits. With ballparks and even church buildings that give us a sense of fellowship and lifts our spirits closed now, we still belong to a God who alone can lift our spirits and give us hope.

Do we dress and act here on this earth, the same way we would dress and act in God’s kingdom, where we belong?

As Christians, let’s let the world know earth is not our home. While being as polite and pleasant to be around as possible, let it be known that our home is in heaven, not here. We do not blend in with the world because we are not a part of this world. Let’s not be afraid to look different and act different. Lets be as proud of the kingdom we belong to as visiting team fans are proud of the teams they belong to. Actually even more proud.

You may listen to and share the podcast version of this article here. 

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

Podcast-Circumcision: Making Sense of an “Awkward” Bible Topic.

Rays Port Charlotte-Skyway Bridge 065

I am podcasting today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Many Christians do not understand the exact reasoning for circumcision in the Bible, while many atheists make fun of the Bible and Christianity over this apparent “strange ritual.” So let’s take a look at Scripture to make sense of this seemingly “awkward” topic.

You may listen to the podcast here. 

You may read the articlehere. 

The Bible is a Love Story and not a Collection of Proof Texts

Al Lopez Park

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. John 20:31 NLT

In Jacqueline van Maarsen’s book, My Name is Anne, She Said, Anne Frank, Jacqueline tells the story about her best friend, Anne Frank. When Anne Frank went into hiding, she could not tell her best friend goodbye. That would have been to dangerous. In order to protect your family, you simply disappeared with no explanation to anyone. While in hiding Anne did write a goodbye letter to Jacqueline, telling her sorry she could not say goodbye and that she did love her. having no possible way to deliver the letter, Anne simply hid it her diary. After being caught and taken to a concentration camp, Anne died just three weeks before American forces came to liberate the camp. Anne’s father was the only one in the family to survive the war.When he returned to the village where his family and he were captured, he found the house where they stayed. The landlady was still there. She gave Anne’s father the diary of Anne ‘s that she had found in the attic. Anne’s father saw the letter to Jacqueline and and found her and gave her the letter. Finally Jacqueline could read the letter her friend so lovingly wrote even though she had no way of delivering it or knowing that it ever would be delivered.

Anne Frank wrote a letter with no way possible of delivering that letter. In the middle of the chaos of a war where neighborhoods were blown to smithereens, and all of Europe was in upheaval, God watched over that letter, and made for sure that it got into the hands of the person Anne wrote it too. Why did God protect that letter in the middle of the chaos of war? Because Jacqueline needed to know she was loved.

In the middle of a cosmic conflict between good and evil, Christ and Satan, God wrote a love letter to all humanity. He wrote that love letter to you, my friend. Throughout the dark ages, Satan has done all he could to destroy that letter to make sure it never got into your hands. Yet men gave their lives to preserve that letter, and to translate that letter into your language. The Bible is the one book that man has tried to wipe out for centuries, and yet it is the one book that has survived for centuries. God has watched over His own love letter to make sure that it got into your hands. Why did God protect that letter in the middle of the chaos of a cosmic war? Because you need to know you are loved.

Suppose once Anne’s letter was miraculously placed into Jacqueline’s hands, she thought to herself, “This looks boring. I don’t think I want to read it?”  That would be unthinkable! Yet after all God has done to miraculously place the Bible into the hands of people, that is the attitude many have. That is too sad! I pray that you take time to read God’s miraculous love letter to you.

Years ago the church I was in had a prophecy seminar series. a young man I will call Nate, attended with his wife. They were fascinated by all the prophecies, especially the mark of the beast. Nate understood that the Mark of the beast was choosing a common day of worship over the day God made holy. Nate loved talking theorizing about how the mark would actually be administered. Would it be a computer program? A chip? Would it be a debit card? Instead of absorbing his mind with the love of Jesus, he absorbed his mind with conspiracy theories surrounding Bible prophecy. One day I was hanging out with Nate and his wife, when as usual he started talking about how the mark would be given. This time I finally asked him, “Nate suppose you knew exactly how the mark would be administered. How would that information make you more like Jesus and help you love him more?”  Nate gave me a look of surprise and a response similar to “What does that have to do with anything?” Sadly Nate and his wife did not stay long in the church. He was wrapped up in prophecy conspiracies and proof texts, and never did truly see the love letter that was placed in his hand.

When I first came to a certain church to be a Bible Worker, I met a couple of men in the church who were starch King James Version only men.  They were always putting together presentations touting the supremacy of the KJV, forgetting it was a version also. It was not the original manuscripts. The tow men worked together during the week. One day I was at their office, and as always they were having an intellectual conversation on the virtues of the KJV. Well, since I am a fairly simple guy, and obviously not too intellectual, I decided to try to simplify the discussion and bring it down to my lever. So since I was still relatively new to the church, in an order to become better acquainted, I asked them how they came to know Jesus as their Savior and how His love has changed their lives.  They both looked at me like a deer in the headlights. Neither of them could simply tell me what Jesus meant to them.

A while back I was talking with an Adventist missionary pastor, who is known for his solid Adventist theology. Even with his devoted appreciation of Adventist theology, he shared with me why the Adventist church is not growing more. He said, “we are so concentrated on being right, that we forget to be relational.”  Jesus was always right, but he was also always relational. While sharing proof texts do we also teach people how to have their own personal relationship with Jesus? Do we present the Bible to the unbeliever as a collection of proof texts or as a love letter? Thousands have made it through the Adventist school system with their minds filled with proof texts about the Sabbath and state of the dead, but their hearts have never read the love letter in their hands. Thousands have sat in prophecy seminars where proof texts where shared on the screen one right after the other, proving we are right, but did they see anything relational?

Here is what Ellen White said in regard to those who use isolated verses as proof texts to prove their own belief, which applies to Adventists as well.

Some will take a text, wrest it from its true bearing, and force it into service to sustain some preconceived opinion. By linking together isolated passages of Scripture, they may deceive others. But what appears to be Bible proof for their position is no proof whatever; for the scriptures are not used in their true setting. In this way error is often magnified, and truth diminished. Those who thus wrest the scriptures to sustain error, greatly dishonor God, and in the day of judgment, they will be held responsible for the disobedience of those who through their sophistries have been led to disregard the divine law. –Ellen White, Review and Herald, August 13, 1959 

Simply put, proof texting is when you look for verses in the Bible to prove what you believe instead of reading with an open mind like the Bereans did in Acts 17:11.

God did not protect Anne’s letter during the chaos of war to prove that Anne was right. He protected it to prove that Jacqueline was loved. Jesus did not die on the cross to prove that He was right. He died to prove that you are loved. God preserved the Bible so you would know you are loved.

There is a joke a like to tell whenever anyone mentions the dictionary. I tell people,” I tried reading the dictionary but I could not follow the plot”. It brings chuckles because of course there is no plot. The dictionary is simply a collection of definitions and facts with no plot or story line. But the Bible is not a mere collection of facts and proof texts. The Bible has a plot. The Bible has  a story line. It is a love story. By reading the Bible the way you would a dictionary things are taken out of context and we miss the purpose of why the Bible was written. Please don’t try to read this greatest love story the way you would a lifeless dictionary. Don’t miss the entire reason the Bible was written.

But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. John 20:31 NLT

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