We are Saved by His Life

For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Romans 5:10 NKJV

What if I told you that just as assuredly as you already sinned in Adam, you have also already lived a perfect life in Christ?

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19 NKJV

Paul is not merely saying Adam’s sin caused us all to sin. He is saying we all sinned in Adam when Adam sinned. It’s the same idea Paul was using in Hebrews 7:5 when he said Levi paid tithes in Abraham since he was in Abraham’s loins when Abraham paid tithe. Likewise, we were all in Adam when Adam sinned, causing us all to sin in Abraham. Romans 5:19 goes on to say that we are all made righteous by one man’s obedience.

How so? After we all sinned in Adam, Jesus became one with our flesh,

Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh…Romans 1:3 NKJV

Since the wages of sin is death, (Romans 6:23) Jesus took our sinful flesh to the cross, where we all died the death we deserve in Christ.

by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh…Romans 8:3 NKJV

What has happened so far? We all sinned in Adam, and deserved death. Jesus took our sinful flesh and went to the cross. Therefore our sinful flesh was crucified with Christ. The wages of sin is death, and I died that death with Christ.

knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him…Romans 6:6 NKJV

So I have died the death I deserve in Christ. I still need a perfect life but fall short of God’s glory. See Romans 3:23. Here is the good news! Just assuredly as I died in Christ I have also lived a perfect life in Christ. Jesus did not only die for me, He died as me. Jesus also did not only live a perfect life for me, He lived a perfect life as me! I am not only saved by His death. I am saved by His life!

much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Romans 5:10 NKJV

I don’t have a perfect life to offer, but Jesus’ perfect life counts as my perfect life! Jesus is not cheating when He credits His perfect life as my perfect life, because He took my flesh and lived a perfect life with my flesh, just as Abraham paid tithes with Levi’s flesh.

The good news is, when I accept Jesus I am accepting way more than just forgiveness. When I accept the life of Jesus the power of His life becomes the power of my life! In John 12:32 Jesus says if He is lifted up He will draw all men to Him. Still Jesus does not turn us into robots and force us to accept Him as our Savior. He gives us the choice of accepting or rejecting the plan of salvation

The sinner may resist this love, may refuse to be drawn to Christ; but if he does not resist he will be drawn to Jesus; a knowledge of the plan of salvation will lead him to the foot of the cross in repentance for his sins, which have caused the sufferings of God’s dear Son. –Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Page 27.

As we allow Jesus’ love to draw us closer to Him, He works in us helping us to love the good things we once hated, and to hate the bad things we once loved. 

…reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. Romans 6:11-12 NKJV.

Thus Jesus’ life is my justification and sanctification! I am saved by His life!

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

Why Heaven Needed Reconciliation

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. Colossians 1:19-20 NLT

Why did God need to make peace with heaven? This verse right here may help us understand just how real the war in heaven was. Even after Lucifer was cast out, those who remained may have still had their doubts. Did God really love them, or did Lucifer have some good points about God just being a tyrant? On earth Eve was convinced God did not care for her and she needed to eat the fruit and disobey, if she really wanted to be happy. While all this was going on, is it possible some of the remaining angels in heaven still had some questions? Have you ever been loyal to a boss not because you thought he was fair, but because you did not see any way out? So out of fear you remained loyal to him, still wishing you weren’t in that situation? If so, what did it take for you to reconcile the situation so you could have peace at work and not just conformity?

When the Son of God died on the cross He was not just atoning for Eve taking a piece of fruit she was told not to. Eve’s disobedience was a symptom of her doubts. The Cross of Christ did not just take care of the symptoms of sin. The Cross took care of sin itself! The Cross removed all doubt about God’s love. All questions in heaven and earth are answered at the cross! There can be conformity while rebellion is still in the heart. The cross goes way beyond bringing us into conformity and outward obedience. The cross replaces our thoughts of rebellion with peaceful thoughts towards God.

That which alone can effectually restrain from sin in this world of darkness, will prevent sin in heaven. The significance of the death of Christ will be seen by saints and angels. Fallen men could not have a home in the paradise of God without the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Shall we not then exalt the cross of Christ? The angels ascribe honor and glory to Christ, for even they are not secure except by looking to the sufferings of the Son of God. It is through the efficacy of the cross that the angels of heaven are guarded from apostasy. Without the cross they would be no more secure against evil than were the angels before the fall of Satan. Angelic perfection failed in heaven. Human perfection failed in Eden, the paradise of bliss. All who wish for security in earth or heaven must look to the Lamb of God.-Ellen White, Signs of the Times, December 30, 1889

Some have the idea that once we get to heaven, God will flip a little switch in the back of our heads that makes us stop sinning. After all, we will be in heaven and so we automatically won’t sin right? Wait. Where did sin begin? Heaven! The reason why humans and angels will not sin, is the same reason why God reconciled both heaven and earth to Himself. The cross of Jesus. The cross cures the root cause of sin which is doubting God’s love. The reason there will be no sin in heaven is not due to a mechanical correction that the flip of a switch will fix. The reason there will be no sin in heaven will be because the cross will cure humans and angels alike from ever doubting God’s love, and thinking we need anything God has not given us. There will be no reason to rebel. Rules without relationship causes rebellion. The love of Christ on the cross removes our fear of God, so we are not afraid to have an intimate relationship with Him. With our relationship cured we will have no reason to rebel. We won’t be conformists. We will be free thinking moral agents who are at peace with God because God is love.

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

Agape in the Crucible

Critics of Christianity will often argue that Jesus knew beforehand that, though He would die, He would be resurrected to life. Thus, they ask, what was the big deal about His death when He knew it would be only temporary? As we take a deeper look at the cross we see the agape of Christ in His crucible.

My mother knew that flying in an airplane is safer than traveling by car. She knew the sad statistics that people are killed every day on the highways, while a rare jet crash makes headlines around the world. Knowing all this, when my mother got on an airplane she sure did not feel that it was safer! There is a difference between knowing and feeling. Jesus died as a man, not as God.

As a man, this is what Jesus experienced;

“In that thick darkness God’s presence was hidden. He makes darkness His pavilion, and conceals His glory from human eyes. God and His holy angels were beside the cross. The Father was with His Son. Yet His presence was not revealed. Had His glory flashed forth from the cloud, every human beholder would have been destroyed. And in that dreadful hour Christ was not to be comforted with the Father’s presence. He trod the wine press alone, and of the people there was none with Him.”-Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 753, 754.

“The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal. Christ felt the anguish which the sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer plead for the guilty race. It was the sense of sin, bringing the Father’s wrath upon Him as man’s substitute, that made the cup He drank so bitter, and broke the heart of the Son of God.” –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, p. 753.

Foxe’s book of Martyrs tells us John Huss was singing songs of praise as he burned at the stake for his faith. We wonder if John Huss, a mere mortal man, could be singing songs of praise as He died at the stake, why couldn’t Jesus sing songs of praise instead of crying out “My God My God why have You forsaken me?”

It is because John Huss died a totally different death than Jesus died. John knew he would be resurrected. He knew he was at peace with the Father. But on the cross Jesus was being treated the way we deserve to be treated so we can be treated the way He deserves to be treated. Think about this, Jesus always called God His Father.

“In my Father’s house are many mansions.”
“I always do those things that please my Father.”
“I and my Father are one.”

But when Jesus was on the cross being treated the way we deserve to be treated He could not call God His Father! He did not know that He would be resurrected. Instead He cried out, “My God! Why have you forsaken me?” This fulfilled the prophecy of Psalms 22 of Jesus dying the second death.

Jesus was not crying out, “Why have you forsaken me till Sunday morning?” You don’t forsake someone when you leave them for the weekend. When I tell my Sabbath School class I will be preaching at another church next Sabbath, none of them ask me why I have forsaken them. They know I will be back the following week. When Jesus cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?” He felt abandoned forever. He felt what the wicked will feel.

Photograph by William Earnhardt

Obadiah 1:16 says the wicked will be as though they had never been. Jesus was not facing a mere six-hour pain endurance marathon. A lot of cancer patients would gladly trade their years of battling cancer for six hours on a cross. The physical pain is not what made it the supreme sacrifice. What Jesus was facing was going into total oblivion and being as though He had never existed! While Satan was willing to sacrifice anyone who got in his way of being number 1, Jesus was willing to go into total oblivion if He could just save even one of us.

Hebrews 2:9 tells us Jesus tasted death for everyone. Jesus and Paul both refer to the first death as sleep. Jesus did not save us from that death, as we plainly experience that death ourselves. Paul did not say Jesus tasted sleep for every man. No, He tasted death, the death of the wicked. Yes, He prophesied of His own resurrection, but that was while He still felt the presence of His Father. When Jesus felt the Father turn His back on Him, He felt, as a man, that the promise of the resurrection had left with the Father. Jesus became the God-forsaken God.

Some say, how could Jesus have tasted the second death while He never lost faith in His Father? Remember Jesus had no sense of self-preservation. The sense of self-preservation belongs to Satan. Jesus had faith, but His faith was not that He would be saved but that you and I would be saved!

Some have a hard time wrapping their minds around this awesome love. Some refuse to believe that Jesus would be willing to die forever to save us. In that case they have made Moses more loving than Jesus. In Exodus 32:32 Moses is willing to be wiped out of eternity in order to save the children of Israel. Do you think Moses loved them more than Jesus loves sinners? Of course not! Only when Moses experienced the self-sacrificing love of God could he express such love. If you don’t believe that Jesus was willing to say good-bye to life forever in order to save us, then you believe that Moses demonstrated more love than Jesus.

Since the Jews were accusing Jesus of blasphemy they could have just stoned Him to death. According to Leviticus 24:16, blasphemers were to be stoned and not crucified. Yet Jesus was crucified. Why? Because Deuteronomy 21:22-23 tells us those who are hung are cursed by God. Someone could plead for mercy and have the hope of salvation, just like John Huss had, even though they were stoned to death. However, being hung was a sign you were cursed by God. Joshua 10 tells the story of five kings who refused to accept Israel’s God and were hung from five trees, telling the world they had rejected God and so there was no salvation for them. It was good-bye to life forever.

Friend, does this help you understand how much Jesus loves you? He could have come down from the cross and returned to heaven where He could wear His kingly Crown instead of the crown of thorns. He could have left the road to Calvary and walked on streets of gold. He could have left the mocking mob and returned to hear angels sing His praise. He could have returned to His mansion. Why didn’t He do just that? Because the thought of going back to heaven without you did not appeal to Jesus. Heaven would not be paradise without you, as far as Jesus is concerned.

There is nothing I would rather be preaching than this message here. It is the everlasting gospel in the three angels’ messages. This kind of love changes everything. It changes how we look at the cross and how we look at sin. Most of all it changes our hearts. The disciples were just a bunch of self-ambitious men until they saw this love displayed on the cross. After they saw this love they were willing to give everything – even their own lives. Revelation 15 tells us there will be a multitude singing the song of Moses and the Lamb. They will be filled with this self-sacrificing love just like Moses and Jesus. They will hate sin more than they hate death and they will love God more than they will love their own lives or self preservation.

In the the crucible of Christ we see true agape. Jesus’ love for you goes deeper than the nail scars. He loves you more than He loves life itself. He was willing to go into total oblivion and be as though He had never existed if that is what it took to save you!

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

Remember, It’s not Happening to you, it’s Happening in front of you

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I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20 NKJV

We live in a hurting world, and we all have been made aware that hurting people hurt people. It is easy to want to lash out at others when we have been hurt, but here are some things we need to keep in mind.

We are not the intended target-God is. In Acts 7:54-60 when Stephen was being stoned for his faith, he could see Jesus standing up for him in heaven. Stephen asked God not to charge this sin against them. Stephen did not take this stoning personal, as he realized it was not so much happening to him as much as it was happening in front of him. He realized Jesus was the intended target. Stephen knew it was “not I but Christ” who lived in him. He knew it was the Christ in him who was being persecuted. Stephen was not afraid to die, because as far as Stephen was concerned he had already been crucified with Christ. Dead people aren’t afraid to die. When we have been crucified with Christ we consider ourselves dead to self, and realize it is Christ who lives in us who is being persecuted. After all didn’t Jesus tell Saul who became Paul, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting?” Acts 9:5 NKJV. It was Jesus, not Stephen who was the intended target. Therefore Stephen could have considered that it was not him but Christ who was being persecuted. We are the body of Christ. Christ is the head of the body, and whenever the smallest part of the body is hurt, the head of the body is first to feel the pain.  

By dying to self I can say “It is not I but Christ who is being offended.” As Isaiah 63:9 KJV says, “In all their affliction He was afflicted.” In Luke 9:23 NKJV Jesus tells us to take up our cross and die daily. In 1 Corinthians 15:31NKJV Paul says, “I die daily.” Years ago I held a “Cross of Christ” revival series in a small town in Southeast Oklahoma. I mentioned that if I die daily I cannot hold grudges anymore. After all, if I die daily and am born again every morning, I cannot hold a grudge over something that happened yesterday. How can you hold a grudge over something that happened before you were even born? You could not have hurt me yesterday if I was just born today. Dying to self and being born again on a daily basis not only frees me from my own sins from the day before, but it also frees me from the insults and slights that came flying my way from the day before. I am a new creature. You could not have hurt me yesterday if I was just born again today. After sharing that idea I came back to the same church a couple of years later. The pastor told me there was a cranky old lady in the church who was always holding grudges, but she changed after the seminar. He told me she had shared with him that it was this very illustration that turned her life around. She became a new creation indeed! 

When people are being mean and nasty we are not to take it personally. It’s their issue between them and God. It’s not happening to you. It’s happening in front of you. If we are crucified with Christ, it is not us but Christ who lives in us. Therefore it is not us but Christ who is being persecuted. Like Stephen, by faith we can look into heaven and see Jesus standing up for us. We can pray for their sin to not be charged against them. And like with Stephen and Saul who became Paul, Jesus will ask those aiming darts at us, “why are you persecuting me?” 

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

God’s Favorite Time is When we Least Expect it.

I enjoyed being a Bible Worker for 30 years. As one pastor told me, a Bible Worker gets to have all the fun of being a pastor without any of the headaches. Well I had my share of headaches and heartaches too, but I loved preaching and teaching and giving personal Bible studies. I loved watching people grow in their relationship with Christ. During those 30 years I rejoiced as some came, and cried when they left, only to rejoice again when years later they would return. Early in my Bible Worker ministry many people told me I should go on to become a conference pastor. I checked into it a couple of times but it never seemed to work out. A few times I would send my resume out but never got any calls. That was okay. God was blessing my Bible Worker ministry both spiritually as well as financially. So by the time I got into my mid fifties, I had joyfully accepted the fact that this was far as I would advance in the “ranks.” It was a wonderful life just the way it was. 

As 2022 began, I wrote a New Year’s devotional, called Submission Over Ambition. I wrote about how instead of having ambitions for the new year, we should just offer ourselves to Christ, and tell Him to take us and do with us whatever He wants in 2022. That could range from being taken to heaven in a chariot of fire like Elijah, or dying alone in a dungeon like John the Baptist. I told God to take me this year and just do whatever He wanted with me. I had no ambitions. After praying that prayer I went on about my Bible work planning to be a Bible Worker the rest of my life. 

Around July 1, I was listening to a sermon podcast by Pastor Derek Morris. In His sermon he talked about how he came to the Hope Channel to work with the Sabbath school program but ended up becoming the president of the Hope channel. He went on about how his calling became “much more” than he expected. He talked about how God has “much more” in store for all of us. As he kept repeating “much more” throughout his sermon, I started asking God why I was hearing this? Did God have more in store for my ministry? For years I had totally forgotten about ever becoming a pastor with the conference. Was God telling me that would still happen one day? 

On July 6 I was driving home to Tampa from Homosassa Florida, where I was doing Bible work for the Homosassa Seventh-day Adventist church. I was in my own little world, enjoying the leisure drive down the country roads leading me back home to Tampa, when I noticed a missed call from the Florida Adventist conference office on my cell phone. I found a place to pull over and return the call. What the conference official shared with me took me totally by surprise. The conference executives had met, prayed, and wanted me to be the conference pastor of a three church district including the Homosassa church. I would not need to do anymore fundraising for my Bible Worker fund. I would be a full-fledged conference senior pastor with a salary from the conference. Since this phone call came out of nowhere I prayed about it all night. I remembered my prayer as the new year began, “Take me Christ and do whatever you want with me in 2022.” I realized God was telling me what He wanted to do with me in 2022.

In August my promotion was made official, and Pastor Javier Diaz, the conference official, took me to all three of my new churches one Sabbath, and installed me as their senior pastor. Many of my friends congratulated me, and told me I deserved this promotion after working so hard as a Bible Worker to become a pastor. I appreciated their kind encouraging words, but I did not work hard as a Bible Worker to become a pastor. I worked hard as a Bible Worker to lead people to salvation and a better life in Christ. When I get to heaven titles and positions won’t mean a thing. All that matters is having my friend’s names written in the Lamb’s book of life! Several saints who supported my Bible Worker ministry through the years told me this promotion from Bible Worker to pastor was way overdue. It was about time they said. It should have happened long ago. But again I knew it was the perfect time. First of all, like I said at the beginning, I loved being a Bible Worker. As a matter of fact, I still have my Bible and I still work with it so I am still a Bible Worker even while being a pastor. I have so many precious experiences and memories studying with so many different families and individuals. I would not trade any of those memories for anything. Even when people were telling me that I should be a pastor, I never felt like I was waiting to be a pastor. I was enjoying and loving being a Bible Worker. As a matter of fact, when I learned it was official and was given my start date as a pastor, I did not rush the days by until I was finally a pastor. I had enough life experience to realize that I will one day look back on my Bible Worker days with fond memories. So I savored each of my last days of being a Bible Worker. God blessed me with an amazing 30 years as a Bible Worker. With so many life experiences, I have learned to enjoy the present instead of looking back or trying to reach for the future. Every phase of life is a gift from God, that should be loved, appreciated and embraced. 

I don’t believe my new assignment was long overdue. I think it came at the perfect time. 

But like the stars in the vast circuit of their appointed path, God’s purposes know no haste and no delay. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 32. 

Sure, when I was much younger I had dreamed of being a pastor one day, but it wasn’t until I had surrendered my ambition, and embraced and loved being exactly where God had me at the time, that the call finally came. I expected the call when I was younger but it never came then. It came when I was not expecting it at all. But isn’t that how God works? Sarai has her first child after her child bearing years. Jacob is reunited with his son Joseph long after he had given him up for dead. One thing I learned in our previous lesson quarterly on Genesis is, God is not in a hurry to do anything. Regarding the second coming, Jesus warns all the date setters, 

You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected. Matthew 24:44 NLT 

Throughout history, God’s favorite time to do anything seems to be when we least expect it. 

I can hardly say I was waiting in the crucible to become a pastor. Being a Bible Worker for 30 years was no crucible. It was 30 precious years of precious and amazing experiences I would not trade for anything. However if you feel like you are waiting in a crucible here would be my words of encouragement for you. Stop waiting. Stop waiting for the storm to pass and learn how to dance in the rain. Learn to love where you are now. Surrender all your ambitions to Christ, and 

At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen. Isaiah 60:22. NLT 

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

A Young Maiden Exhibits Grown-up Meekness

Imagine being captured as a young child or teenager, and being dragged away from your family, to be a slave to total strangers in a foreign country. If you are like me you would feel resentful, and would be seeking a way to escape. I would be tempted to wish harm on those who thought they were my masters. However a young maiden in 2 Kings 5:1-19 was meek and thoughtful of others, even her masters. In this way she turned out to be a light in Syria. 

The young maiden was the servant of the Syrian army leader, Naaman and his wife. It turned out Naaman had leprosy. If most people were in her place, I imagine they would be thinking, “Good! I’m glad he has leprosy! It serves him right.” But even as young as this girl was, she was seeing a bigger picture. I wonder if instead of seeing herself as a slave girl, I wonder if she saw herself as a missionary for God? Turns out she was a missionary. Instead of cursing her master she found a way to be a source of salvation even in her crucible. 

Then she said to her mistress, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.” 2 Kings 5:3 NKJV

The story goes on about how the King of Syria reached out to the King of Israel, which led to Elisha coming to heal Naaman. Because of this young girl a great political figure like Naaman got to learn about God. Instead of wanting the freedoms her masters had, she wanted them to have the freedom in God that she had. Just like Paul, later in Acts 26:1-32, told King Agrippa that he wished Agrippa had the salvation in Christ that he enjoyed. Paul told King Agrippa,

“I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.” Acts 26:29 NKJV

Paul did not need the freedoms Agrippa had. Agrippa needed the freedom in Christ that Paul enjoyed. Both Paul and the young maiden saw themselves as missionaries for God instead of prisoners of men. They appreciated God’s love so much they wanted others to have what they had instead of wanting what others had. Its very possible both Paul and the young girl may have had to battle some pretty resentful emotions, but if so, they overcame them and humbled themselves as meek missionaries. As humble missionaries they reached some pretty powerful people for God. Imagine what powerful missionaries we can be if we are meek and humble in our crucible? 

Naaman seemed like a pretty generous man all things considered. He tried to pay Elisha for his kindness. I wonder how Naaman rewarded the young maiden for her kindness? I know one thing for sure, God will reward the young maiden for her kindness. When we are building our new mansions in the new earth, don’t be surprised if you see a beautiful young woman decorating her home, with a strong man carrying heavy gems wherever she wants them placed. Don’t be surprised if while they are working and laughing together if she calls him, “Naaman.” 

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

How I Ruined Satan’s Day

Has Satan ever tried to ruin your day? Well let me tell you about when I ruined his day. Years ago, I was driving in the middle of the night across country to see my sister and see about a job. I had just quit a job that was not working out and had no idea what the future held. I had no job, no money, no future, as far as I could see, and then, to make matters worse, I looked in my rear view mirror and see lights flashing! Just what I needed— a speeding ticket while I was broke without a job! I honestly had no idea I was speeding enough to warrant a ticket, but the officer was not the least bit sympathetic.

Photograph by William Earnhardt

Needles to say I was very frustrated. I was already feeling down before I got the ticket. Now I was in despair and gloom, as I asked God how He was going to take care of this ticket for me, since He knew I had no money when He allowed this to happen. (Never mind the fact that it was my foot and not His on the gas pedal!)

As I was complaining to God about the situation He had just placed me in and asking Him in despair how in the world He was going to provide the money for the ticket, I suddenly realized the obvious: God does not have to provide for this ticket. God does not have to do anything for me! God does not owe me anything! Then it hit me what I was doing. After He created me and died for me, I was withholding my praise from Jesus until He took care of this ticket for me. All at once it dawned on me, if God never provided the money for this ticket and stopped giving me any more blessings from this day forward, He still had already given me way more than I deserve! As a matter of fact, Calvary alone warrants all of my thankfulness, praise and devotion, without God ever giving me anything else.

There in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, I changed my attitude from gloom and despair to joy and praise. I decided not to ask God to help me pay for the ticket, but instead just thank Him and praise Him for everything else He has already done for me. I then remembered reading a passage from inspiration about how Satan cannot stand to be in our presence when we praise God, “When the evil one begins to settle his gloom about you, sing praise to God. … strike up a song about the matchless charms of the Son of God, and I tell you, when you touch this strain, Satan will leave you. You can drive out the enemy with his gloom; . . . and you can see, oh, so much clearer, the love and compassion of your heavenly Father. (Ellen White, Heavenly Places, p 95.)

Considering the above passage, I thought to myself, “Hey, if Satan is going to try to ruin my day by giving me this ticket (Remember it’s never my fault when I get a ticket), then I am going to ruin his day by singing praises to my God. I started singing praises at the top of my lungs. I was traveling in the middle of the night hundreds of miles away from my friends or family, but I felt the presence of angels as they sang with me. I wasn’t worried about the ticket any more. I was worried about making sure God knew I appreciated His sacrifice at Calvary. By the way, God did take care of the ticket for me. My sister also happens to be an angel. But even more impressive were the two lessons I learned that night:

One: God owes me nothing and I owe Him everything. After Calvary if He never gave me another gift, I still have cause to praise him for the rest of my life!

Two: If Satan tries to ruin your day, instead of murmuring and complaining, start singing songs of praise and ruin his day instead!

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

When Everything Seems to go Wrong

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Curse that day for failing to shut my mother’s womb, for letting me be born to see all this trouble. Job 3:10 NLT

While our experience may be different than Job’s, many of us have been in situations, so dire, that we even question our existence.

Wayne’s parents never married. Growing up, he learned to shrug off the names he was called on the church school playground, and ignore the older ladies whispering behind his back in church.

Wayne managed to work his way through school. He got a job, and then got engaged to his best friend. Finally he had someone who loved him and would never leave him, unlike the father he never even knew. He vowed to himself as much as to his fiancee that he would create the perfect home for her, and unlike his biological father, would always be there to provide for his future children. As he looked forward to the wedding, he hoped to begin a new and better life.

But then Wayne’s whole world came crashing down. First, his fiancee broke off their engagement. Then he lost his job. And when he thought he had found a new job at least, his new supervisor told him things were not working out.

Wayne came home to his empty apartment and threw himself down on the floor. Feeling as low as you can get, Wayne felt a huge void in his life.

His fiancée did not want him. His old job did not want him. Now things were not working at at his new job, and he wondered if anyone needed him or wanted him at all? It sure did not feel like he was wanted or needed by anyone. He was all alone, and it seemed nobody cared if he lived or died. And if no one cared if he lived or died, why should he? Who would miss him if he just vanished away? Obviously no one from his work, or his ex-fiancée.

No one called from church to check up on him either. What’s the point of surviving in a world where no one cares if you survive or not? Wayne cried out, asking God why nothing was going right. Suddenly a thought came to him – but not from God. He reasoned that his parents never should have had the affair that brought him into this world, and therefore he was never supposed to be born! That has to be it, Wayne reasoned. Nothing works out for me, because God does not have a plan for my life, seeing how my parents never should have made me.

Wayne was so sure his theory was correct, that the following day at lunch he shared it with a friend from church. When Wayne explained that nothing was working out because he was not supposed to be born, his friend surprised him, by responding, “That is the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard!” Wayne’s friend was close enough that only he could get away with a response like that, but it woke Wayne up enough to realize his theory simply was not true. After all, Solomon was a product of Bathsheba and David’s sinful encounter, yet Solomon went on to write inspired proverbs and became an ancestor of the Savior.

Long story short, Wayne discovered that God did have a plan for his life. Although he’s had his ups and downs, he has had many opportunities to see God’s hand in his life. And God used him and is continuing to use him to pastor his flock.

Like Job, even though God greatly loved and had a plan for Wayne’s life, did not mean his life was just a walk in the park. Even Mary, Jesus’ mother had her moments.

Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you! ” Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! Luke 1:28‭-‬30 NLT

Mary was chosen. She was favored and the Lord was with her. I’m sure she didn’t feel that way when she heard her Son being called a demon and folks questioning the legitimacy of His birth, or when she watched Him being crucified. Still, she was chosen and favored, and God was with her.

If your heart is fully surrendered, take heart. Whatever storm you are going through. You are chosen. You are favored, and the Lord is with you. And yes! God has a plan for your life!

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

I did my Very Best! Maybe Not?

In the third grade I was diagnosed with learning disabilities. I was told I could do the work, I just needed to try harder. Well, sometimes I was not just tired of trying harder, I was just tired of the work, period. For example, in English we had to find the noun, verb and adjective in several sentences. Each assignment had about 20 sentences as I recall. However, I thought 10 sentences was plenty and 20 was just unreasonable. So after actually trying during the first 10 sentences I just hurriedly guessed on the last 10. One time, just to throw my teacher off, after guessing on the last 10, I turned my paper over and started writing over and over, “I did my very best. I did my very best.” For some reason, writing “I did my very best” 20 times seemed easier than actually doing my very best. It worked! The teacher showed the paper to my mother and told her, “I guess we have been too hard on Willie. Look how frustrated he must have been when he wrote over and over I did my very best.” I wasn’t doing my very best. I knew it and God knew it. In the end, I wasn’t cheating my mother or my teacher. I was cheating God.

  …or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 NKJV

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, Colossians 3:23 NKJV

In Acts 5:1-11, Ananias and Sapphira tried to make it look like they were giving 100% but God knew better. Even though I tried to make it look like I was giving 100% in 3rd grade English class God knew better.  

Sometimes people think we are trying our best when we are just being lazy. Sometimes though, people think we are not trying our best when we really are. Only God knows. 

I have been an avid golfer since 2007. I have practiced, I have watched golf instruction videos. I play regularly. However my golf score has not changed much since I first began. When someone asks me what my handicap is, I tell them, “It’s my swing.” Several times I have gone golfing with a friend who has told me, “I have not played in several years, and you play all the time, so I know you will win.” And then they are surprised when we walk off the 18th green and they have won. My score clearly does not show how much I have practiced and how much I have tried. My scores today are only slightly a little better than my scores 15 years ago. That may not be entirely true because I do not give myself as many mulligans as I did in the past. So my scores 15 years ago were probably even worse had I not given myself so many mulligans. Still, I don’t think my poor scores reflect how hard I really try. 

Golf is just a game, but I have to remind myself in life, just as I am trying harder than my golf score reflects, many in the church are trying harder than their actions reflect. Golf is just plain easier for others than it is for me. The score does not really show how hard you have tried. In life it may be easier for me to study my Bible every day than it is for others. After all, liking to read or not liking to read does not make you a better person. And even after all the Bible studying I do, during the day I am amazed at how much more Christlike people can be who don’t even believe in Christ! There are atheists who act more like Jesus in every day life than I do! Then again we meet people who are really struggling. It seems like they are living their whole life in a sand trap. It may be easy to criticize, but God may know their hearts, and know they are actually putting more effort into their Christian walk than some of us who come by certain things more naturally. This is why we should never judge. We simply don’t know what is going on inside their lives and minds. Ellen White puts it this way. 

“While some are continually harassed, afflicted, and in trouble because of their unhappy traits of character, having to war with internal foes and the corruption of their nature, others have not half so much to battle against. They pass along almost free from the difficulties which their brethren and sisters who are not so favorably organized are laboring under. In very many cases they do not labor half so hard to overcome and live the life of a Christian as do some of those unfortunate ones I have mentioned.” Ellen White, Testimonies Volume 2 page 74

Let’s remember to be patient with others. We don’t have a clue the crucible they may be enduring. And after all, 

Often we regard as hopeless subjects the very ones whom Christ is drawing to Himself. – Ellen White, Christ Object Lessons, Page 71.

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

Try a Little Love and Tenderness

Monday’s section of this week’s lesson, reveals the relentless love of God. For me, here is the key verse.

But then I will win her back once again.
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her there. Hosea 2:14 NLT 

I am so thankful for parents who understand this. I wish all parents understood this is the way to win their children’s loyalty to God and to themselves

.

Several years ago I was preaching for Father’s Day, and I had a few people, young and old, tell us what they liked about their fathers. One young man, about 12 years old, gave a powerful, heartfelt tribute to his dad, even saying “nobody reminds me of Jesus more than my father.”

That same Sabbath morning, the son was offered some cookies in his Sabbath School class which he gladly took. His father saw him eating the cookie and starting publicly berating him and telling him how sinful it is to eat in church! (News to me!) The son could not hide his hurt and humiliation. The son definitely was not trying to be a hard-hearted rebel by taking a cookie just like everyone else. I know the father meant well too, but you don’t have to be a parent to know that publicly embarrassing and humiliating your child is not a good thing to do. Remember, Jesus worked His first miracle, turning water into wine for no other reason than to save the host from public embarrassment. It would not have killed them to just drink water, but Jesus is a Savior from public humiliation and embarrassment. It is not one of His tools.

Not long after this, the father called me up and wanted me to lecture his son because he was becoming defiant. I came to their home as requested, but the talk did not actually go the way the father expected. The father was accusing the son of being disrespectful. With father and son both present, I asked the son about the beautiful tribute he gave to his father. Both agreed that was very nice and respectful. I then asked the son how he felt when later, his father publicly berated him for eating a cookie just like everyone else. He said it was very hurtful and you could see the hurt in his eyes as he said that. I shared Hosea 2:14 with them both and asked the father if he thought he could be a little more tender when correcting his son. I was not asking him to change his standards, just his approach. But I did share with the father that I was unaware of any Bible teaching against eating a cookie in church. Being a father is a very sacred calling, and I did not want to distract from that or appear to try to trump him. However I did encourage him to follow 2 Timothy 3:16 and be sure to correct his son according to Scripture.

Tears were in the son’s eyes by now as I explained to the father how much his son loved him, and how hurt he was, when publicly humiliated for doing something he thought was totally innocent, with no rebellious intentions. I assured the father that his son would not have written such a loving tribute if he did not deeply love and respect him. His son nodded in agreement with tears still in his eyes.

I thought the father was going to turn on me now for not ganging up with him on his side, but, instead, he actually thanked me! I know the father had a good heart and really cared about his children. Why else would his son write that no one reminded him more of Jesus than His father?

Parents, please be tender with your children. You may not think they love, appreciate and respect you, but at school and church I hear them say things you may never hear. I always tell kids, “Your parents love you more than you think they do,” and I say the same to parents. “Your children love you more than you think they do.” As a third party observer, I know this for a fact.

If you don’t want to take it from me, take it from God,

But then I will win her back once again.
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her there. Hosea 2:14 NLT