Month / November 2020
Stacy and Charlie’s Baptism Pictures and stories
I first met Charlie about 5 years ago in the youth Bible studies at the Plant City Seventh-day Adventist Church on Wednesday nights. Several of the youth from the community would come to play games and have a Bible study. So I was very happy when Charlie’s girlfriend, Stacy contacted me for baptism studies! We were able to study at the church while practicing social distancing as well as over the phone.
Charlie’s grandmother was a big part of the Plant City SDA Church back in the day. She even designed the picture on our baptistry. She now lives in Ooltewah Tennessee. This morning, November 28, 2020 Charlie and Stacy surprised his grandmother by being baptized in the Ooltewah SDA Chruch! A very big thank you to Pastor Peter Kulakov (Right) for being such a gracious host for this baptism!
Charlie and Stacy with their “Just baptized” masks.
What and exciting day for the Plant City SDA Church, the Ooltewah SDA Church and all of heaven! If you are interested in giving your life to Jesus because of His great love and sacrifice that He made for you I would love to talk with you! You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I also want to thank all of my contributors to my ministry that keep these wonderful baptisms coming! Click here to find out how you can be a contributor. Thank you!
Thanking Teachers for Thanksgiving
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Ephesians 4:11-12 KJV
I follow a Facebook page made up of thousands of people from my hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. People post pictures and comments about their favorite restaurants, hangouts and businesses while growing up in Tulsa. They also posted pictures of their schools. One day after seeing a few pictures of the schools, I added a post to the page asking people to give a shout out to their favorite teachers in those schools. My post must have had over a thousand comments about how certain teachers touched their lives. Each comment warmed my heart as I read about different teachers touching the lives of their students making their life and community a brighter place.
So while millions are studying about Education in Sabbath School I would like to ask you to share a comment about a particular teacher or teachers even using real names, who touched their life for the better? It may be in the Adventist School system or another parochial or private institution or even public school. While we pride ourselves in our Adventist school teachers, we thank God for the angels who serve as teachers in public schools where they are so desperately needed. Also remember Sabbath School teachers are real teachers too.
If we haven’t already said it before, now would be a great time to say thank you to a wonderful teacher. Who wants to go first? 🙂
Jesus Taught Dignity and Compassion
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:11 NKJV
For years the church has loved pointing out that while Jesus forgave the woman trapped in adultery, He also told her to “sin no more.” And for years Seventh-day Adventists have been overlooking one of the greatest lessons Jesus ever taught. Jesus did not tell the woman to go and sin no more and then He would not condemn her. He told her He would not condemn her. More than freeing her from the condemnation of the law, Jesus was freeing the sex-slave who was callously thrown at his feet from her own self condemnation. He was restoring her dignity and sense of self worth so she was was now free to live the better life that she so desperately longed for but had only dreamed about.
Now she was kneeling half naked, humiliated before Jesus. Eyes closed, not wanting to see the stones that would soon be crushing her head, she waited in terror. It seemed like eternity. When would it be over?
Barely peeking through one eye she sees Jesus doing something in the sand. Not sure what. She hears footsteps as men walk away. What is going on? Then she hears a word she had not heard in years directed at her.
Jesus didn’t call her a “slut,” or “whore.” He called her “woman.” He was addressing her with the same title of respect that He gave to his own mother, who spoke with angels and gave birth to the Son of God.
“….where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” John 8:10 NKJV
She opens her eyes and looks around. They are all gone! She makes no accusations against the men. We know little about the background of this woman. She may or may not have been a victim of sex trafficking. But we do know that, terrified as she was, she was ready to face the consequences without blaming anyone else for the choices she had made, and the role she had played, which now brought her half-naked and humiliated into the presence of Jesus. Yet incredibly, as guilty as she was, it was her accusers who slunk away. As she lay helpless at His feet, there was no one to condemn her! When we fall helplessly at the feet of Jesus, there is no condemnation for us either.
He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10 NKJV)
She said, “No one, Lord.” (John 8:11 NKJV)
What was next? A sermon? A lecture? Nowhere is it recorded, but I can imagine Jesus placing His coat over her near-naked body.
The Holy One Who would be hanging naked on a cross in front of the entire universe one day, takes off His robe and covers this woman, protecting her human dignity more than just covering her sexuality.
He doesn’t preach to her. He ministers to her.
Did you know you don’t have to be a preacher to be a minister? Ministering to sinners doesn’t always have to include a sermon. An-ill timed sermon can do more harm than good. Jesus could preach with the best of them, but He knew when to preach and when not to preach. He also knew when to minister.
He called her “woman.” He placed His coat over her near-naked body and gave her the sense of dignity she had been promised by the man who betrayed her trust. Then He did not preach to her with words, He ministered to her with words.
“Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:11 NKJV
His words were brief and clear, yet somehow we get them mixed up. Have we ever told someone “Go and sin no more, and then I will stop condemning you!” Have you ever told a young man or woman, “we treat you like a child because you act like a child? Stop acting that way and then we will stop treating you that way.” That’s not what Jesus said. Jesus restored her dignity instead of asking her to act more dignified.
Jesus said clearly, “Neither do I condemn you.” Present tense.
“Go and sin no more.” Future tense.
The world told her they would stop condemning her once she stopped sinning. Jesus promised not to condemn her, so she could stop sinning.
They called her a whore and a slut.
Jesus called her a woman.
Mankind promised her she would be special, and then humiliated and betrayed her.
Jesus restored her dignity and made her special.
There was no condemnation for this woman at the feet of Jesus, and there is no condemnation for you, when you kneel at the feet of Jesus. By the way I love how Jesus turned a dirty trick into something beautiful. No matter how ill intended their evil plot was, these wicked men still brought a woman to the feet of Jesus where she found salvation! Their plan backfired! Grace has a way of defeating every intention of Satan. By the way to this day we still do not know exactly what Jesus wrote in the sand that day. That message was for those evil men alone. He wrote in the sand so he could reach their hearts without anyone else being able to see. Jesus will leave no means undone in His attempt to save, but public humiliation is the last thing Jesus wants to do if there is any way around it. That is one reason why Jesus says in Matthew 18 to go to the offender privately so hopefully it can be resolved without anyone else hearing of the matter. Still Jesus loves the sinner so much if not resolved it may have to be brought before the entire church and public humiliation may have to be encountered so salvation can become a reality. Yet Jesus wants to protect human dignity. After all He worked His first miracle of turning water into wine just to save a host from public embarrassment. He wrote in the sand to save sinners from public embarrassment, while also protecting the dignity of the woman. Picture of Jesus show a towel around His waist as He hung on the cross. Reality check, there was no towel around his waist in real life. Jesus hung naked in front of the entire universe taking on all of the public humiliation the universe deserves so He could save the universe from all of the public humiliation the entire universe deserves. Let that sink in. Ellen White in Desire of Ages, page 25 tells us Jesus was treated as we deserve so we can be treated as he deserves.
Jesus, the Master teacher did not embarrass His students. He dignified them. He did not tell them to stop making mistakes so He could stop condemning them. He stopped condemning them so they could be free from making the same mistakes again.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
Why the Cross is too Huge an Event for any one man-Made Label
You may listen to the podcast version of this article here.
While I was in Cradle Roll Sabbath School, before I could even read there was a picture in my Bible of Jesus dying on the cross. I was mesmerized by this picture and would study it in church as the preacher preached. As I took in the entire scene one thought kept reverberating in my heart, Jesus died for me. One night when I was seven I put my Bible away to fall asleep. As I laid there contemplating that picture the Holy Spirit was painting that very scene on my heart. That night I decided to give my heart to Jesus and be baptized because Jesus died for me.
Over time the world and even people in the church have pressured and even threatened me to compromise my faith and convictions. When they demand my loyalty to them I remember that night when I gave my heart to Jesus. I remember the people pressuring me to compromise did not die for me. Jesus died for me. I must be loyal to Him. I gave my heart to Jesus. I did not give it to people in the world or in the church.
Way too many times over the years I have compromised my faith without any pressure from anyone else at all. Again my mind goes back to the picture of the cross that the Holy Spirit painted on my heart on that night so long ago. I don’t give up. Jesus died for me. I ask His forgiveness which He so freely offers me. I know I am forgiven because Jesus died for me.
I have completed many more trips around the sun since my cradle roll days and baptism when I was seven. Still one theme still grips my heart and mesmerizes my soul. Jesus died for me. As time passes the Holy Spirit continues painting even more details into that picture of the cross. As I continue studying Scripture and not just a picture the details become increasingly more vivid on my heart making the scene more real, more wonderful and more awe-ful. While many want to give specific theological labels to the cross I find the picture of the cross the Holy Spirit is painting on my heart is much to grand and vivid to fall under any one label. As I have written before, many camps of thought are not so much wrong in what they teach as much as in what they fail to teach. One camp of thought does not necessarily have to replace the other. I believe we get the big picture of the cross when we put all the camps of thought together, and just throw away the labels. After all I did not fall in love with a theological label. I fell in love with Jesus because Jesus died for me.
The first time I heard the Gospel presentation I was taught that when I chose to knowingly break God’s law that was counted as sin according to 1 John 3:4. Sin is punishable by death according to Romans 6:23. John 3:16 tells me God gave His Son to die the death I deserve so I can have eternal life. As I continue studying I find another definition for sin besides 1 John 3:4. In John 16:9 Jesus also defines unbelief as sin. I have studied that Jesus died not so much because humankind took a piece of fruit they were told not to, but because in taking that fruit they showed they did not trust God or really believe in His love. Therefore God became a man and went to the cross to die and prove that He loves us so we can believe in His love. Therefore Jesus heals us from the sin of unbelief. The atonement appeases an angry race instead of an angry God. So which is it? Did Jesus die because humankind sinned by breaking the law which is punishable by death, or did Jesus die because humankind stopped believing in God’s love and by dying on the cross Jesus reconciled us by convincing us He loves us? Both! Interestingly John records both definitions of sin-in 1 John 3:4 the sin of breaking the law, and in John 16:9 the sin of unbelief. John understood Jesus died for every definition of sin.
I have heard that Jesus took on human nature so He could give us an example of human obedience. I have heard that Jesus took human nature because He had to die as a man. So which is it? Both!
The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4 NLT
There is not a law in this universe that will allow someone to die for someone else. I can’t go to a murder trial and offer to die for the defendant so that he can go free. They won’t allow that. God can’t allow it either. So what was God’s solution? Jesus took my human body to the cross and died not just for me but as me. Not only is my sanctification dependent on the humanity of Jesus, my justification is dependent on it as well.
Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:14-17 NLT
Jesus had to become us and die as us. This is why Paul never actually refers to Jesus dying for us as much as he writes about Jesus dying as us. Where we all sinned when we were in Adam we have now all lived a righteous life in Christ.
Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Romans 5:18 NLT
Also as I sinned in Adam I have now been crucified with Christ. Take a look at how these verses describe us dying with Jesus and not just Jesus dying for me.
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 NLT
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. Romans 6:3-7 NLT
Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.2 Corinthians 5:14 NLT
Where I sinned in Adam I have now been crucified with Christ. He took my flesh to the cross and crucified it. That is my justification. The good news is it does not stop there. Jesus also took on humanity and died so we can be sanctified and have victorious lives. Consider how these passages describe the victory Christ gives us by taking on humanity. Lets go back to where we began at Hebrews 2.
Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested. Hebrews 2:18 NLT
He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. 1 Peter 2:24
For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin,so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT
The atonement was not only possible because of Jesus’ complete humanity but also because of his complete divinity.
The broken law of God demanded the life of the sinner. In all the universe there was but one who could, in behalf of man, satisfy its claims. Since the divine law is as sacred as God Himself, only one equal with God could make atonement for its transgression. None but Christ could redeem fallen man from the curse of the law and bring him again into harmony with Heaven. Christ would take upon Himself the guilt and shame of sin—sin so offensive to a holy God that it must separate the Father and His Son. Christ would reach to the depths of misery to rescue the ruined race. –Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, Page 63.
Did Jesus make an atonement as fully man or fully God? Both. Did Jesus die to free us from the power of sin or the penalty of sin? Both. Did Jesus die because of the sin of breaking God’s law or the sin of unbelief? Both. I have learned so much more about the cross since my early childhood days. But I am still not in any one theological camp or label. When I am tempted I look at the picture of the cross the Holy Spirit has painted on my heart. His love empowers me to overcome as I remember Jesus died for me. When I make stupid decisions and fall into sin I look to the cross and know I can find forgiveness because Jesus died for me. I am reconciled to God and can believe in His love because Jesus died for me. God made an atonement for my sin and transgression of the law when Jesus died for me.
Many years later I have experienced hundreds of victories since my Cradle Roll days. Victories I never imagined possible. But before you pat me on the back I have also suffered a multitude of defeats that I never would have imagined possible, when I first gave my heart to Jesus at the tender age of seven. Sin has brought me lower than I ever comprehended possible and Jesus has raised me higher than I ever comprehended possible. I have found theological theories and labels get me nowhere. When I need forgiveness or power to overcome I do what I have been doing since Cradle Roll. I look at the cross and remember, Jesus died for me.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.
Video Presentation: What did Jesus Teach About the Ten Commandments?
Video Presentation: The 7 A’s of Confession and Reconciliation
Wednesday’s section of this week’s lesson reminded me about the importance of reconciliation. Reconciliation is so important to God that from Genesis 3 to Revelation 20, the theme of reconciliation.
Like King David in 2 Samuel 12:1-12, we all get mad when we hear about oppression and injustice. Like King David, most of us have been guilty of oppression and injustice at some point. When we find ourselves guilty, it is important to make confession and reconciliation, not just to get rid of our guilt and heal our conscience, but to heal the pain of those we have hurt. In Ken Sande’s book, Resolving Everyday Conflict, he shares the 7 A’s of confession and reconciliation. I would like to take a further look at them here, along with God’s Word. In so doing, I believe we can find a genuine and successful approach to healing the pain we have caused others. Please keep in mind that not all the steps need to be followed for lesser offenses. You will need to pray and let God lead you as to exactly what steps to follow.
The 7 A’s of Confession and Reconciliation.
- Address Everyone Involved.
Sins committed only in the heart need to be confessed to God alone. Public sins need to be confessed to all those who were hurt.
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16 NLT
2. Avoid Using the words, “if” “but” and “maybe.”
Say “I hurt you.” Not, “If I hurt you.” Say “I was wrong.” Not, “I was wrong but so were you.” Say, “I know I made a mistake.” Not “Maybe I made a mistake.” Don’t shift, minimize or excuse your guilt.
People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy. Proverbs 28:13 NLT
3. Admit Specifically Where you were wrong.
Don’t be vague.
Forgive me for shedding blood…Psalm 51:14 NLT
4. Acknowledge the Hurt.
You can even ask, “Do I understand how much I’ve hurt you?”
When Saul sinned, the throne was taken from him, because he was only sorry about what his sin had cost him personally. David sinned an even greater sin, but kept the throne, because He was truly sorry about what his sin had cost God.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; Psalm 51:4 NLT
5. Accept the Consequences.
Genuine repentance accepts any due penalties.
Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” Luke 19:8 NLT
6. Alter Your Behavior.
You are not really sorry if you keep willfully repeating the same offense. Ask people to hold you accountable. You may even put your plan for change into writing. One of the reasons I am writing about this topic is to reinforce it in my own mind.
If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Ephesians 4:28 NLT
7. Ask for Forgiveness (and allow time)
If it took you a while to confess, it may take a while for the other person to forgive. Don’t push it or rush it. If you are sincere and genuine in these 7 steps, most people will be quick to forgive.
Often when we try to place the blame on others, they will turn around and place the blame on us. On the other hand, when we accept full responsibility for our actions, others will often accept responsibility for their actions.
I have attempted to simplify and paraphrase the ideas in Ken Sande’s book, to reinforce them for myself and to help others to make reconciliation. When we find ourselves being oppressed or treated unjustly it is easy to just run away or attack back. When mankind rebelled against God, God neither ran away or attacked back. Instead He presented Himself as the peace offering for our offense! Genesis 3 to Revelation 20 deals mainly with God’s attempt at reconciliation. This tells me reconciliation is very important.
It may seem hard to make confession and reconciliation. It may seem easier to run away. It may cost us our pride to make reconciliation, but that is a small price considering it cost God His dear Son. If reconciliation is worth God’s Son, then it is definitely worth anything it would cost us.