Love, not Numbers Makes God’s People Great

The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; Deuteronomy 7:7 NKJV 

I suppose its natural that we are comforted with numbers. Years ago, while holding a revival in Connecticut, I took a night off and went to Fenway Park in Boston, where the Red Sox play. I took the advice of the clerk behind the hotel counter and took the subway to the game, instead of paying to park my car. This was my first trip to Boston and my first subway ride. I boarded the subway realizing I had no idea where to get off. However, I realized it was a no-brainer. I got off when all the people wearing Red Sox t-shirts got off. I followed the crowd right to Fenway Park. I found comfort in the crowd. 

As Seventh-day Adventists, we comfort ourselves by knowing that our church has around 22 million members world wide. When we baptize people in a small, isolated church, we assure them that there are millions of us around the world. We don’t want them to feel alone. After all people have made fun of us and have called us a sect. But is it always safe to follow the crowd? Should it make us feel more comfortable to be in a throng? What if Noah’s family did not get on the ark because people were making fun of how few of them there were? Are numbers necessarily a sign of success? When two football teams play in the World Cup, do we make fun of them because there are only two of them? No! They take pride that they are in an elite group. 

Of course we don’t want to be the only ones going to heaven. We want the whole word to be saved, and thank God, John saw a saved multitude that could not even be numbered! Still we need to be careful comforting ourselves with crowds and numbers. First of all, while we boast of 22 million members, those numbers are misleading. I have had to add people to my church by profession of faith who were already members. Why? Because the current conference that had their membership refused to transfer them because they did not want to lose any numbers. So in that 22 million, who knows how many people are actually being counted twice? How many are actually still practicing Adventist Christians? Just as importantly, how many are actually converted? 

It is a solemn statement that I make to the church, that not one in twenty whose names are registered upon the church books are prepared to close their earthly history, and would be as verily without God and without hope in the world as the common sinner. –Ellen White, Christian Service, Page 41.

While God wants the whole world to be saved, and it is our duty and privilege to take the gospel into all the world, we should never put our faith in numbers. The story of Gideon in Judges 7:4-6, and the story of David counting his army in 2 Samuel 24:1-25, teach us not to put confidence in numbers. Right now many churches are counting to see how many members they lost during the pandemic. Not people who succumbed to the virus but who just have not returned to church. At the risk of sounding cynical, I have to ask myself, did the church really lose this many people or did we just never really have them in the first place? 

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; … 1 John 2:19 NKJV

Yes, I want to win these people back. Yes, I understand John is not saying this is the case every time someone leaves the church, and yes, I understand that some people leave the church without leaving Jesus, which is better than staying in the church without Jesus. Still, John’s statement stands for us to take to heart. 

While it is important for the church to examine itself to see why it is losing members or not growing, it is also important to remember that we should never water down our message to get more people in the door or get them to stay. When many people left Jesus at the end of the 6th chapter of John, Jesus did not consult a marketing firm to see where He had gone wrong. When the rich young ruler refused to make a complete surrender and walked away, Jesus did not go chasing him and make an offer for him to come back if he could just make a partial surrender. 

Ministers who labor in towns and cities to present the truth should not feel content, nor that their work is ended, until those who have accepted the theory of the truth realize indeed the effect of its sanctifying power, and are truly converted to 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. These ministers should devote less time to preaching sermons, and reserve a portion of their strength to visit and pray with those who are interested, giving them godly instruction, to the end that they may “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” -Ellen White, Evangelism, Page 320.

On the other hand, there’s no virtue in sticking to tradition and keeping out new people. I was in a church years ago  that was preaching truth, and I cried as the older folk literally chased the youth out of that church. The youth believed and accepted the message, and in conversing with them, I found some of them knew their Bibles better than I did. (That’s not saying much I know.) So what was the issue? This particular church had Sabbath school after the worship service. The youth simply wanted it the other way around like most all churches do. The older folk were outraged by the youth who were “trying to take over the church” which “belonged” to the older people. I even had a little old lady tell me, “Don’t let those kids take over our church!” I was so stunned I forgot to ask her since when was it her church more than the youth’s church? The old folks won when they chased every young persona under the age of 30 out of the church. Today those old folks are dead and the youth never came back. Some victory, huh? 

I want to encourage us to be as accommodating to new members as we possibly can be without sacrificing Bible principles. I also want to encourage us to make true conversions the goal instead of making a goal out of numbers.  According to Deuteronomy 7:7 what makes a nation or a church great is not the number of people, but the fact that God has set His love upon them. True love leads to true conversions.

Let us daily represent Christ’s great love by loving our enemies as Christ loves them. If we would thus represent the grace of Christ, strong feelings of hatred would be broken down and into many hearts genuine love would be brought. Many more conversions than are now seen would follow. –Ellen White, Medical Missionary, Page 254.

6: For What Nation Is There So Great? – Sabbath School Teaching Plan

6: For What Nation Is There So Great? – Teaching Plan

Posted on  by Michael Frackeravatar

Key Thought: Israel got into trouble when they ignored certain aspects of the law, but also adding to it by bringing in practices not specified in the law.
November 6, 2021

1. Have a volunteer read Deuteronomy 4:1,2.

  1. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the most important point is in this passage.
  2. Why did God give them the statutes and judgments right away?
  3. Personal Application: Even though we wouldn’t take someone’s clothes for surety for debt today, is there a principle that still applies to us? Share your thoughts.
  4. Case Study: One of your relatives states, “Weren’t the statutes and judgments part of the law and Moses that was nailed to the cros and not applicable to us today?” How would you respond to your friend?

2. Have a volunteer read Deuteronomy 4:4..

  1. Ask class members to share a thought on what the most important point in this text is.
  2. Who were the “all” that were still alive before Moses that he referred to?
  3. Personal Application: What shows the difference between those who fell into sin, and those who didn’t? How can we keep ourselves in the right group? Share your thoughts
  4. Case Study: One of your friends states, “The New Testament says all Israel shall be saved. Does this mean all Jews shall be saved? All Christians will be saved? Or is this referring to something else?” How would you respond to your friend?

3. Have a volunteer read Deuteronomy 4:5-9.

  1. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
  2. Why did the Lord say to Israel what He did here?
  3. Personal Application: Do you feel like God has given you a special calling? Share your thoughts.
  4. Case Study: One of your relatives states: “Do you think the Lord has blessed America because it has made its laws based on Biblical principles and the Ten Commandments? Can God continue to bless if we change or pervert or turn away from those principles?“ How would you respond to your relative?

4. Have a volunteer read Matthew 15:1-9.

  1. Ask class members to share a thought on what the most important point in this text is.
  2. How does this connect to not adding to or subtracting from God’s statutes and judgments?
  3. Personal Application: How do we today add to or take away from the word and get stuck in traditions that lead us away from God’s commands? Share your thoughts.
  4. Case Study: Think of one person who needs to hear a message from this week’s lesson. Tell the class what you plan to do this week to share with them.

(Truth that is not lived, that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing virtue. Its blessings can be retained only as it is shared.”Ministry of Healing, p. 148).

An Open Newsletter for Those Contributing to the Plant City SDA Bible Worker Fund

It’s that time of year again when I like to celebrate and share the wonderful things God has done through the Plant City Bible Worker Fund. Even with the COVID restrictions God has been providing more ways than ever to share the Gospel.

As well as continuing online Bible studies via Zoom and Facetime, personal and group Bible studies in person are growing as well. This year I have been enjoying several youth, adult and family Bible studies on Zoom as well as after school on the NTCA school campus. I have also been able to give Baptism studies in the Tampa Bay area, extending beyond the Plant City community. In just a few weeks I will be conducting another week of prayer evangelism series at the New Port Richey Adventist school.

In Plant City I have been having group Bible studies as well as personal Bible studies. Some groups meet at the church while I have also started a group Bible Study at the Krazy Kup Café in downtown Plant City. This group is intended to reach the unchurched as well as those who want a personal worship service but are not comfortable returning to a regular sized church yet. The start was rather small, but it has been growing steadily, and more people are showing an interest. Some Adventist members have been reluctant to come because it is at a coffee shop on Sabbath mornings. However no one in our group buys anything (not that I have told them not to, that’s their personal business) and we meet in a private meeting room the café provides at a reasonable cost.

This year also saw several new members coming into the kingdom of God at the Homosassa SDA Church by way of baptism and profession of faith. The Homosassa SDA Church generously provides for half of my fulltime salary. This is why I rely on God providing contributors like you to the Plant City Bible Worker Fund for the other half of my fulltime salary. The Plant City SDA Church itself is unable to contribute, but generously hosts the fund so I can do Bible Work in the Plant City-Tampa Bay area and beyond. Jim, is one of those who I have studied with and baptized at Homosassa. However there still turned out to be a link between him and my ministry in the Tampa Bay area. As it turns out, Jim is the cousin of some friends of mine from the Tampa First SDA Church. Both his family at Tampa First and the Homosassa SDA Church family were very encouraged to see Jim make his decision for Jesus!

As well as doing personal and online Bible studies and seminars, I am usually preaching twice a Sabbath. While many people are uncomfortable returning to the actual church for worship service and Sabbath School, this includes some lay preachers who hesitate to return, thus creating a greater demand for me to speak. The Homosassa SDA Church has graciously moved its services to the afternoon, allowing me to preach mornings at the Plant City SDA Church before driving to Homosassa to preach. Other area churches have had several pastors retire this year, and I have also been called to preach at a few of those churches as well.

Several times recently I have been given the opportunity to preach at the New Port Richey SDA Church.

Meanwhile, as I have been giving personal and group Bible studies and seminars in person in the Florida area, I have also been conducting Zoom and FaceTime personal Bible studies and seminars from Georgia to California and several points in-between. I want to thank those who have been faithfully contributing to this ministry with their generous monthly contributions as well as one time contributions. This ministry has been successful now for over 6 years. Yet there is still so much more to be accomplished. Also while this ministry relies on the continued support of contributors like yourself, some who have begun contributing 6 years are no longer able. This is why we are always welcoming new contributors to contribute monthly or with one time contributions.

You may send your tax deductible contributions to the Plant City SDA Church, P.O. Box 5379 Plant City, FL 33563. Please mark your check or envelope “Bible Worker Fund.”

You may also contribute online by going to the Plant City Adventist Online Giving page, and go to the third line item under “Local Church” which reads “Bible Worker.” 

Thank you so much for your prayers and support!

Your Christian Servant,

William Earnhardt

4: To Love the Lord Your God – Sabbath School Teaching Plan

4: To Love the Lord Your God – Teaching Plan

Posted on  by Michael Frackeravatar

Key Thought: In the heart of the Hebrew Schema is the statement, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength.
October 23, 2021

1. Have a volunteer read Deuteronomy 10:12Ephesians 2:1-10..

  1. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the most important point is in this passage.
  2. How are we supposed to love and fear God at the same time? How does this make sense?
  3. Personal Application: For what reason should we be telling people to “fear God” today in preparation for His coming? Share your thoughts.
  4. Case Study: One of your relatives states, “If God is love, no one should fear Him. There is no reason to be afraid of God anymore than if we believed that He doesn’t exist.” How would you respond to your friend?

2. Have a volunteer read Deuteronomy 4:377:7,8,1310:15..

  1. Ask class members to share a thought on what the most important point in this text is.
  2.  ?
  3. Personal Application: What reasons do we have for wanting to love God in our hearts and minds? Share your thoughts
  4. Case Study: One of your friends states, “Many religions teach about a god orgods that have human characteristics of love, hate, jealousy, and indifference. How is God any different than those perpetuated by other religions?” How would you respond to your friend?

3. Have a volunteer read Deuteronomy 5:107:910:12,13..

  1. a. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
  2. ?
  3. Personal Application: Should we obey God to avoid punishment? What if we don’t want to obey God? What are your motives for obedience? Share your thoughts.
  4. Case Study: One of your relatives states: “Oh, I love God, and I love my family. I tell them that all the time. But I don’t want the church or my family infringing on my time or trying to tell me what to do. I want to live my life to please me, and not to serve or wait on others.“ How would you respond to your relative?

4. Have a volunteer read Mark 12:28-30..

  1. Ask class members to share a thought on what the most important point in this text is.
  2. Why is obedience and love so intricately tied together? Does obedience bring love, or does love bring obedience?
  3. Personal Application: How can you love God when you have never seen Him personally? How can you love the invisible, the untouchable, the intangible? Share your thoughts.
  4. Case Study: Think of one person who needs to hear a message from this week’s lesson. Tell the class what you plan to do this week to share with them.

(Truth that is not lived, that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing virtue. Its blessings can be retained only as it is shared.”Ministry of Healing, p. 148).

Love is why we Have to

Photo by Katya Wolf on Pexels.com

Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law. Romans 13:10 NLT 

A young grade school boy and his daddy were walking down a country road, when they noticed a car pull over to the shoulder a few hundred meters up the road. The passenger door opened, and a little puppy fell out the door into the ditch near the shoulder of the road. The boy watched in amazement as the car then sped off. The boy ran to the aid of the little puppy. He found the puppy whining and confused as well as looking malnourished. When the father finally caught up to the boy, the boy firmly told his daddy, “I know you may not let me keep him, but we have to take him home and feed him right now!” 

What did the little boy mean by “we have to?” How did an abandoned puppy suddenly became his problem? Was there some law written in stone that the boy had to rescue this poor dog? As a matter fact there was a law, but it was not written in stone. The only reason why the boy said, “we have to” is because there was a law written on that little boy’s heart. 

In Luke 10:30-37 Jesus tells a familiar story we call today, “The Good Samaritan.” In the story both the Levi and the priest knew the law of God which was written in stone, but yet they passed by a suffering brother, because that law was not written on their hearts. Then a Samaritan walks by who has the law of love written on his heart. He at once recognized what he had to do, not because of the law written in stone but because it was a law of love tugging at his heart strings. Like puppet strings, his heart strings controlled his behavior. Love and compassion were written on his heart and controlled his behavior. 

Writing God’s law of love on our heart is not new to the New Testament. the goal was never to have the law of love written on stone. The ultimate goal was always to have the law written on our hearts. This goes back to the Old Testament. 

But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Jeremiah 31:33 NLT 

And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5 NLT 

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:18 NLT

True justice must be given to foreigners living among you and to orphans, and you must never accept a widow’s garment as security for her debt. Deuteronomy 24:17 NLT

In the Old Testament as well as today, God does not just want the letter of the law written on stone. He wants the spirit of the law written on our hearts. That means showing love and compassion for a little puppy that will never be able to help you. It means showing love and compassion for a neighbor or foreigner who would probably just spit on you and pass you by if the situation was reversed.  

This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3:3 NLT 

A Samaritan had to rescue a foreigner left to die in a ditch, a young boy had to rescue a helpless puppy, not because of a law carved in stone. They had to because the law was etched upon their hearts. 

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

3: The Everlasting Covenant-Sabbath School Teaching Plan

3: The Everlasting Covenant – Teaching Plan

Posted on  by Michael Frackeravatar

Key Thought: All through the Bible the covenant and the gospel appear together. The central truth of the covenant was the gospel: salvation by faith.
October 16, 2021

1. Have a volunteer read Deuteronomy 9:527.

  1. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the most important point is in this passage.
  2. What do these verses tell us about the covenant promises made?
  3. Personal Application: Since we are saved by grace through faith, what role does the law play in our lives today? Share your thoughts.
  4. Case Study: One of your relatives states, “Does God overlook and excuse our sins because we have accepted Him as our Savior and become His children? Did He excuse and overlook Israel’s sins in the desert?” How would you respond to your friend?

2. Have a volunteer read Deuteronomy 5:1-7.

  1. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
  2. What shows how central the idea of the covenant is to the book of Deuteronomy?
  3. Personal Application: Do we look at this covenant as pertaining to us as Israel today? How different is this covenant from the new covenant in Hebrews 8:10 and 10:16? Share your thoughts.
  4. Case Study: One of your relatives states: “Why did Moses say that the covenant was not with their fathers, but with them, and they are here today? How do I make sense out of this verse?“ How would you respond to your relative?

3. Have a volunteer read Deuteronomy 26:16-19.

  1. Ask class members to share a thought on what the most important point in this text is.
  2. How is the covenant relationship between God and Israel summed up?
  3. Personal Application: Share your thoughts
  4. Case Study: One of your friends states, “What does it mean that God wanted Israel to be a holy people? Can anyone ever really be holy? Keeping God’s commandments even from a heart of love is impossible for sinful beings. So what is God’s expectation for holiness?” How would you respond to your friend?

4. Have a volunteer read Deuteronomy 8:514:132:6.

  1. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
  2. What kind of imagery here reflects the kind of relationship God wants for His people?
  3. Personal Application: How do you look at God? What kind of relationship do you have with Him??” Share your thoughts.
  4. Case Study: Think of one person who needs to hear a message from this week’s lesson. Tell the class what you plan to do this week to share with them.

(Truth that is not lived, that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing virtue. Its blessings can be retained only as it is shared.”Ministry of Healing, p. 148).

2: Moses’ History Lesson-Sabbath School Teaching Plan

2: Moses’ History Lesson – Teaching Plan

Posted on  by Michael Frackeravatar

Key Thought: Just as Israel was to enter the promised land, Moses gave them a history lesson, remember what the Lord has done for you in the past. This should also mean something to us as we prepare to enter the promised land.
October 9, 2021

1. Have a volunteer read Exodus 32:29-32.

  1. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the most important point is in this passage.
  2. What does this show about the character of Moses and why God was able to use him?
  3. Personal Application: Most people want to be leaders in concern for themselves, while God picked a leader who was concerned for others above himself. Do you see this kind of leadership in your church? Share your thoughts.
  4. Case Study: One of your relatives states, “Why would Moses risk his own eternal life for the Israelites who had rebelled against him, accused him, didn’t listen to him, and constantly complained about his leadership?” How would you respond to your friend?

2. Have a volunteer read Deuteronomy 1:9-11.

  1. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
  2. What is significant about the fact that this is mentioned as the fortieth year?
  3. Personal Application: Why would Moses want Israel to multiply so much when he just said that they were too much for him to handle? Share your thoughts.
  4. Case Study: One of your relatives states: “How can you be so sure of the prophecies you mention that are supposed to happen in the future?.“ How would you respond to your relative?

3. Have a volunteer read Numbers 14:11-20.

  1. Ask class members to share a thought on what the most important point in this text is.
  2. What reasoning did Moses use in interceding for the people with God?
  3. Personal Application: How are we to bring about the manifold wisdom of God to the world? Share your thoughts
  4. Case Study: One of your friends states, “Why did God put up with the Israelites in the wilderness? Why didn’t He just destroy them all and start over like He did at the flood?” How would you respond to your friend?

4. Have a volunteer read Genesis 15:1-16.

  1. Ask class members to share a short thought on what the main idea of this text is.
  2. How do we understand God’ purpose in destroying whole cities including men, women, and children in Israel’s march across the area?
  3. Personal Application: How do you respond to someone who says that God is love and He doesn’t destroy anyone?” Share your thoughts.
  4. Case Study: Think of one person who needs to hear a message from this week’s lesson. Tell the class what you plan to do this week to share with them.

(Truth that is not lived, that is not imparted, loses its life-giving power, its healing virtue. Its blessings can be retained only as it is shared.”Ministry of Healing, p. 148).