I Don’t Need Anything the World has, the World Needs What I Have

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

When Paul stood before Agrippa he showed us the attitude of someone who has truly experienced the unconditional love of Jesus and has a genuine relationship with Christ. When someone has a sincere conversion, the things of this world lose their appeal. The tenth commandment, “Thou Shalt not covet” is not a struggle to keep. When Christ abides in the heart, the Christian is not looking at the things everyone else has and wishing they could have those things too. Instead they look at the world and desire for the world to have what they have. This was Paul’s attitude as he stood before king Agrippa.

Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?” Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.” Acts 26:28-29 NLT

Paul is standing in chains and his prisoner uniform before king Agrippa in all of his royal splendor. Yet Paul does not desire what Agrippa has. He wants Agrippa to have what he has! Likewise those who have had a real experience with Jesus will not be looking at the world longing for what the world has. Instead we long for the world to have what we have.

Coveting becomes an impossibility when your heart is filled with God’s love. When your heart is filled with God’s love you do not envy the world. Instead you feel sorry for the world because it does not have the love and joy that you have. Instead of having worldly ambitions we have the ambition of Paul, when he said,

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. Acts 20:24 NLT

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

What is Your Net-Worth?

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He gave justice and help to the poor and needy, and everything went well for him. Isn’t that what it means to know me?” says the Lord. Jeremiah 22:16 NLT

George W. Jenkins not only began his Publix grocery store incorporation during the depression, but he also set up several foundations and charities so that even after his death, in 1996, he could continue giving to the community and those less fortunate. After setting up and giving to so many charities, someone asked Jenkins what he would be worth had he not given so much away. He quickly answered, “probably nothing.” Jenkins saw his worth in what he could give instead of in what he could get. He did not figure he would be worth anything if he could not give. Unfortunately four of the “Last Five Kings of Judah” did not share that understanding. Only Josiah recognized that his worth lay in serving the Lord by serving his people. One of my favorite quotes that helps us keep a perspective on money is,

“Some people are so poor, all they have is money.”

This quote reminds us that life is not about things. Jesus says,

Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own. Luke 12:15 NLT

Jesus goes on to say,

..a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” Luke 12:21 NLT

Life is about relationships not money and things. Another one of my favorite quotes is,

The richest person is not the one who has the most but the one who needs the least.

Several years ago my friend’s daughter was having her 12th birthday during a holiday season, and I felt bad for her almost being “forgotten” with so many other celebrations. I gave her a card and twenty dollars, which I thought was a generous gift back then. Later I found out she had taken my gift along with the rest of the money she had been given and gave it to a fund at our church to help parents with children in the hospital. Turns out my young friend did not need to be remembered with money. She did not need money at all. She needed to be a blessing to others. I reckon she too figured she would be worth nothing if she was not giving to others. So, what are you worth?

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

8: Preparing for Success-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

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Prepared by William Earnhardt for Sabbath School class on February 25, 2023.

Main Theme: True success has to do with our faithfulness to God and our community.

Read in Class: Genesis 2:15, Ecclesiastes 9:10 and 2 Thessalonians 3:8-10. Discuss the common thread of these passages.

Study: What is the significance of the fact that, even before the entrance of sin, Adam (and certainly Eve, too) was given work? How might this explain why, as stated above, those who never had to work found their situation to be a curse?

Apply: What is it about work that, ideally, should make it something that can be a blessing to us?

Share: A couple you are friends with are having a light disagreement and want your opinion. The husband wants to buy a brand new car for their 16 year old daughter. The wife thinks the daughter should work and save her own money for a car. What do you share with your friends?

Read in Class: 1 Timothy 5:8, Proverbs 14:23, and Colossians 3:23-24. Discuss common thread of these passages.

Study: What important points can we take away from these texts about finances in the home?

Apply: Of course, no matter what they do no one has any guarantee about the direction their children will go. Why is it important for parents not to blame themselves for the wrong choices their older children might make?

Share: Your friend says that while public schools are free, there are better things for him to invest his money in at this time rather than putting his children in an Adventist school. What do you tell your friend?

Read in Class: Genesis 39:2-5. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: Although the texts do not specifically tell us, what do you imagine Joseph had been doing that caused his master to look so favorably upon him?

Apply: What are the principles that you are following, not just in work, but in life in general? What changes might you need to make?

Share: Your friend says it seems Joseph was working with integrity even though it seemed there was no way out of his current situation. Supposed Joseph had died in prison, would his integrity still paid off? What do you tell your friend?

Read in Class: Proverbs 3:5-8. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study and apply: : How do we apply this principle in our basic financial matters?

An overview of the biblical counsel on financial management gives us very valuable points to follow. Let’s look at seven of them.

  1. Get organized. Develop a spending plan (Prov. 27:23, 24). Many families just exist from paycheck to paycheck. Without a simple plan for earning, spending, and saving, life is much more stressful.
  2. Spend less than you earn. Determine to live within your means (Prov. 15:16). Many families in Western countries actually spend more than they earn. This is made possible only because of the availability of credit and debt. Many problems plague those who are in debt.
  3. Save a portion from every pay period (Prov. 6:6-8). We save to make larger purchases in the future and to take care of unplanned expenses, such as accidents or illness. Some savings can be used to plan for the time when because of advancing age, we are no longer able to be employed.
  4. Avoid debt like COVID-19 (Prov. 22:7). Interest is one expense you can live without. A person or a family living with debt — that is, on borrowed money — is really living today on money they expect to earn in the future. If any life changes occur, then serious financial embarrassment can result.
  5. Be a diligent worker. “The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich” (Prov. 13:4, NKJV).
  6. Be financially faithful with God (Deut. 28:1-14). No family can afford to live without God’s blessing.
  7. Remember that this earth is not our real home. Our management says a lot about where our ultimate priorities are (see Matt. 25:14-21).

Share: Can you think of someone who could use some advice from this week’s lesson? How can you share it with him or her this week?

How Could I be Better Than Someone Jesus Died for?

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I think my parents did a pretty balanced job of raising me. I was taught that no one was better than me, and that I am no better than anyone else. A while back I was listening to a documentary on NPR , talking about how awkward it was for people who served as maids and butlers to become successful and turn around and have their own maids and butlers. To me it would not be awkward at all. I have actually had to hire a temporary housekeeper at times when I became so busy with multiple jobs. There were also times when I did some housekeeping or landscaping work myself to make extra money. When I was working for someone in their home I never thought of them as better than me, and when someone was working in my home I never thought I was better than them. I just thought we were all just helping each other out as we made our way through life. 

However some people are tempted to think they are better than others. Having worked with youth and families in churches and schools I have learned there are two types of parents. One type of parent teaches their kids not to act like they are better than anyone else. The other group teaches their kids they aren’t better than anyone else. Even with my professed balanced upbringing, I have had to tell myself, “If I shouldn’t say something condescending then I should not even think it.” 

Here are some ideas that keep me humble as if all my mistakes and failures were not enough.  

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 1 John 4:20 NKJV

I understand the word “love” here is “agape.” Agape is the love God has for bad people. Of course God is good so he does not need our agape, since He actually earns our love. So what I understand John saying here is this, “If you say would agape God and love Him even if He was bad, prove it by loving your brother who really is bad. Speaking on this passage I once heard Wintley Phipps say, “Our love for God is no stronger than the love we have for the person we love the least.” 

How could I be too good to love someone who Jesus loves? 

Speaking of the least, Jesus says,

‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:40 NKJV

Jesus gave His life for sinners. If the least of sinners needs my time and help, and I shrug them off as not worth my time or money then I have just put myself above Jesus. No matter how smart, rich or talented I think I am, if I think a sinner is not worth my time and effort after Jesus gave His life for them, then I must think I’m greater than Jesus!  

For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Hebrews 2:16 NKJV

How could I be too good to help someone who Jesus helps? 

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NKJV

How could I be too good to die for someone who Jesus died for? 

Our attitude towards the least of these shows our attitude towards Jesus. 

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

7: Unto the Least of These-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

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Prepared by William Earnhardt, for Sabbath School Class February 18, 2023.

Main Theme:  Because we are managers of God’s business, helping the poor is not just an option. It is following the example of Jesus and obeying His commands.

Read in Class: Leviticus 23:22 and Deuteronomy15:11. Define the common thread of these passages.

Study: However different the context may be from our lives today, what principles should we take away from these verses?

Apply: How should the gospel, the idea that Christ died for everyone, impact how we treat everyone, regardless of who they are?

Share: Your friend says we should not be helping the poor, because they are just lazy. How do you respond to your friend?

Read in Class: Matthew 19:16-22. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: What did Jesus mean when He said to him, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” (Matt. 19:21)?

Apply: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:35-37). What does it mean to lose your life for the sake of the gospel?

Share: Your friend asks, “Does Jesus expect everyone who follows Him to give up all they have?” How do you respond to your friend? What have you given up to follow Jesus? How can we surrender our goods and resources to Jesus even while they stay in our own possession?

Read in Class: Luke 19:1-10. Discuss the main idead of this passage.

Study:  What were the differences between this rich man’s experience with Jesus and that of the rich young ruler?

Apply: Most adults don’t climb trees, but Zacchaeus was willing to sacrifice his pride in order to see Jesus. Zacchaeus also quickly sacrificed his pride by repenting so quickly and freely. What can we learn from his example? How does being humble like Zacchaeus help us become better stewards of God’s money and resources?

Share: Your friend asks, why Zacchaeus gave so much to the poor when he was converted? Isn’t salvation free? What did his paying back those he defrauded and giving to the poor have to do with his salvation?

Read in Class: Job 1:8 and Job 29:12-16. Discuss the common thread of these passages.

Study: How was Job described by God Himself? What is depicted here that gives us even more insight into the secret of Job’s character?

Apply: Read Isaiah 58:6-8. How can we take these ancient words and apply them to ourselves today?

Share: We are all going through difficult times these days, but can you class think of someone who may be going through an extraordinarily difficult time financially? Can your class take up a collection and help this person or family out financially without ever mentioning it outside of class?

There’s More to Your Work Today Than What Meets the Eye

Sometimes I wonder if God keeps us from seeing all of the successes of our ministries in order to keep us humble, but yet He lets us see just enough to keep us going. We all need an encouraging nudge in the right direction from time to time. Some of these nudges may seem more significant than others, but they are just what we need at the time. 

Around 2005, I started a small group Bible study with a family in their neighborhood. A teenage neighbor friend of the family would occasionally join us. During this time she sent me a Facebook friend request, which I accepted. Well a couple of years ago I was going through my friends list and ran across her name. I thought to myself, it has been so many years since I have seen this person, I might as well delete them as a friend. I never talk to her and will never see her again. Its been over 15 years since I ever saw her, what’s the point of having her as a Facebook friend? As I stated to delete her as my friend another thought came to me, just leave it alone. It’s not like it’s hurting anything to have her as a friend. Just leave her as a friend, what difference does it make? So I left it alone and we remained Facebook friends even though as far as I could tell we had absolutely no connection for at least 15 years. 

Then last year at the funeral for a family member of the home where we had our small group studies, I ran into this girl for the first time in at least 15 years. She told me how much she loved and appreciated my inspirational Facebook posts. She made a comment letting me know she was still following my recent posts. My first thought was, Good thing I did not delete her! Since she never “liked” my posts or commented, and we had no communication between us, I had no idea she had still been following me for the last15 years! 

A few years ago I was a guest speaker at a church not far from a church where I was serving. I preached my sermon, greeted the folk and left.  As far as I could tell it was a pleasant service but nothing exceptional. A couple of months later a friend from the church I was serving in told me his son and his fiancée were at the church I spoke at. He told me that his son’s fiancée was so touched by the sermon that she decided to be baptized. She never said anything to me. If her future father-in-law had not gone to my church and told me, I never would have known the success of my sermon that day. 

These are just a couple of experiences I have had to remind myself and you that we walk by faith not by sight. We are not to give up because we will never know until we get to heaven just how successful our efforts have been. Just recently someone shared this passage in a pastor’s meeting, from The Message version. It really touched my heart and the hearts of those around me. 

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 The Message 

My soul really resonated with the “There’s more here than meets the eye” part. I hope you already feel your ministry is a huge success, but I am here to tell you, the greater portion of your success will never be realized until heaven. For example there was that book in the attic I shared with you four years ago.  Palchelbel’s Cannon was written in the 1600’s but laid around in obscurity for years until it was re-discovered and made popular in the mid 1900’s. Needless to say Palchelbel never saw the success of his masterpiece. Likewise you may never see the success of your work in this life. But we walk by faith and not by sight. There is more to your work than what meets the eye. When I became a literature evangelist way back in 1990 a good friend shared this passage with me. It has remained a source of inspiration throughout the various stages of my ministry. 

Christ rejoiced that He could do more for His followers than they could ask or think. He spoke with assurance, knowing that an almighty decree had been given before the world was made. He knew that truth, armed with the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit, would conquer in the contest with evil; and that the bloodstained banner would wave triumphantly over His followers. He knew that the life of His trusting disciples would be like His, a series of uninterrupted victories, not seen to be such here, but recognized as such in the great hereafter…….Christ did not fail, neither was He discouraged, and His followers are to manifest a faith of the same enduring nature. They are to live as He lived, and work as He worked, because they depend on Him as the great Master Worker. Courage, energy, and perseverance they must possess. Though apparent impossibilities obstruct their way, by His grace they are to go forward. Instead of deploring difficulties, they are called upon to surmount them. They are to despair of nothing, and to hope for everything. With the golden chain of His matchless love Christ has bound them to the throne of God. It is His purpose that the highest influence in the universe, emanating from the source of all power, shall be theirs. They are to have power to resist evil, power that neither earth, nor death, nor hell can master, power that will enable them to overcome as Christ overcame. – Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Pages 679-680

Don’t give up. Walk by faith not by sight. There is more to your work today than what meets the eye. 

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

6: Laying up Treasures in Heaven-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

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Prepared by William Earnhardt for Sabbath School class, February 11, 2023.

Main Theme: The Bible shows us how to store our treasurers in heaven and reap an eternal reward.

Read in Class: Mark 8:36-37 and Matthew 6:19-21. Define the main idea of these passages.

Study: What words of warning and encouragement do we find in these passages?

Apply: How can we make sure we don’t lose our soul while chasing worldly gains? How can we invest ourselves in the kingdom of God?

Share: Your friend asks, “If our treasurers in heaven are golden streets and mansions doesn’t that make us just as materialistic as those who are materialistic here on earth? Do you agree with your friend? How do you respond?

Read in Class: Genesis 12:1-3 and Hebrews 11:8-13. Define the common thread of these passages.

Study: How are all of the families of earth blessed through Abraham? What did Abraham do to make sure he could be a part of this blessing? What example here is given to us?

Apply: Read 2 Corinthians 4:18. How should the message of this verse impact the kind of spiritual decisions that we make? How did both Moses and Abraham follow that same principle?

Share: Your friend has been teaching in an elementary school in a troubled neighborhood. After one year she is ready to quit as she says, “With all things working against these kids it’s a losing battle.” How do you respond to your friend.

Read in Class: Genesis 13:10-12 and Genesis 18:20-33. Define the main idea of these passages.

Study: What rational factors could have led Lot to make the decision that he did? What did God tell Abraham was the reason for His visit to earth? What was Abraham’s response to the news that God was planning to destroy these wicked cities?

Apply: How can the message in Mark 8:36-37 help prevent us from making the same mistakes Lot made?

Share: Your young Adventist friend has been offered a scholarship at a prestigious university playing football on Sabbath afternoons. He realizes he will have to compromise, but does not want to pass up on such a “miraculous” opportunity. What do you share with your young friend?

Read in Class: Hebrews 11:24-29. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: Think about what Moses left behind and what he had to face instead. Try to look at it from his position, before he made the choice. What was he leaving, and what was he choosing to accept by leaving?

Apply: From a worldly perspective, Moses should have stayed in Egypt. However, as Christians, we have been given a view of reality that takes us way beyond this world. When we are tempted by the world, how can we keep the big picture always before us? Why is it so important that we do so?

Share: Can you think of someone who could use a word of encouragement or even warning from this week’s lesson? How can you plan to share it with them this week?

Love is the one Debt That Will Never be Paid off Completely

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Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. Love Your Neighbor Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. Romans 137-8 NKJV

When we think of debt I know I usually think about money, however I have come to realize there are things we owe besides money. It is staggering to think that over half of Americans have less than a thousand dollars in the bank. But it is also staggering to realize that over half the American population feels lonely and unloved. When it comes to money the poor feel like they are being oppressed by the rich. Instead of being oppressed by the rich the poor want the rich to pay higher taxes and share more. After all, don’t the rich already have enough? Why can’t they give more?

Should we ask the same questions when it comes to love? Shouldn’t those who feel loved share more of their love and time with the lonely? Years ago, in the first district I worked in as a Bible worker, a man I was studying with brought his 14 year old step-daughter to church for the first time. I went to the women in the church who had teenage daughters and asked them to encourage their daughters to befriend our teenage visitor. Do you know what  one of the mother’s told me? She shrugged her shoulders and said, “our daughters already have friends.” Thirty some odd years later I have never been able to forget that. They left a 14 year old girl, starving, not for food or money but for love! I actually met the stepfather years late at another Adventist church, where he got baptized. I never saw or heard from the stepdaughter again. She never came back to the church that snubbed her, and the sad thing is the church does not care that she never returned. Their own emotional needs were being met and that is simply all that mattered to them. 

Isaiah 58:1-14 talks about a people who love to go to church and debate theology with their best friends but forget to care for those who are left out. Isaiah goes on to say that they are breaking the Sabbath by debating theology in Sabbath School class with their best friends. Yes, they are in Sabbath School talking theology on the Sabbath but they are still breaking the Sabbath by doing their own pleasures. In this case their own pleasure is not going to a football game or shopping mall on the Sabbath-its going to church! They are breaking the Sabbath because they are not reaching out to those who are unloved. 

The poor don’t like it when the rich are stingy with their money, but can the poor be just as stingy with their time, love, forgiveness and mercy?  While the poor feel oppressed financially do we oppress even the rich by not giving them mercy and forgiveness? God has been so rich and generous with us by showering us with grace and mercy. Do we share this grace and mercy with others or do we hold grudges and oppress them emotionally by not being gracious and forgiving toward them?  

There is such a thing as debtors prison, but there are other prisons as well. We put people in prison when we hold a grudge and when we refuse to let them into our circle. We oppress people when we withhold our love and friendship. 

Money debts are more tangible and so maybe that’s why they stick out in our mind more than other debts. But are there other debts we need to pay back that may not be monetary? Do you owe someone a thank you? A compliment? A hug? A pardon? How about your time? Is there someone who just needs you to lend them your ear for a while? You may have paid off all your bill collector’s but are you really debt free? Is there someone you still owe love to? Can you begin paying them back today? And tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that…….

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