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

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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 

Was God Just Using Job as a Guinea Pig?

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Occasionally I hear people ask why God used Job for a guinea pig. Why did God allow Job to be tortured just for the sake of making a point to Satan? Was Job just a pawn in God and Satan’s chess game?

At first glance it may appear so, but let’s look a little closer. First of all it is said of God,

In all their suffering he also suffered, Isaiah 63:9 NLT

While watching a documentary on the holocaust, I heard a woman talking about seeing a small child killed by a concentration camp officer. She said, when that happened, she stopped believing in God. She didn’t understood that God was suffering with that poor child.

No, that in and of itself does not answer all the questions as to why God allowed Job to suffer and the holocaust to happen. But if He is suffering just as much as everyone else, it does tell me God is not using humanity or Job as a guinea pig or as pawns in some chess match with Satan. I don’t have to have all the answers to trust God. If God allowed sin and suffering, knowing it would cost Him His own dear Son on the cross, then I know there must be a good reason.

Job’s friends came up with a quick answer to the problem of suffering. Surely Job brought this upon himself! For some reason we feel better about God allowing pain and suffering if we figure that people somehow deserve suffering. When we do this we misunderstand the character of God. Fact is God does not want to see anyone suffer, even if they deserve it.

Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign Lord. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live. Ezekiel 18:23 NLT

So while we are prone to draw peace from knowing people deserve to suffer or brought it upon themselves, the fact that they may deserve it is no consolation to God. He hurts just the same.

Even though Job’s friends might not have had the right attitude, Job did learn and grow through his suffering. While he maintained his innocence for the most part of the story, at the end, Job said,

I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance. Job 42:6 NLT

While Job’s friends may have been more than a little rough on him, Job did have some precious lessons to learn, and yes, some precious revelations of God’s grace that could only be found through suffering. Even though God bragged on Job in the first chapter, He did not imply that Job had “arrived.” Job still had some things to learn about himself, and his need for God’s righteousness. Theologians have been trying to answer the question for ages, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” In fact, they’ve come up with a fancy name for it – theodicy. 1 The question why bad things happen to good people is actually hypothetical, because, there are no good people for bad things to happen to!

No one does good, not a single one. Romans 3:12 NLT

Job grew throughout the story, and in his suffering became more intimate with his Redeemer.

But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought! Job 19:25-27 NLT

God did not allow Job to suffer like a guinea pig so God could prove a point to Satan. Job had to suffer to learn obedience just like Jesus did.

Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. Hebrews 5:8 NLT

The suffering and obedience led both Jesus and Job into intimacy with the Father. Again, I do not know why. Maybe you do and can comment below. But for now it is enough for me to know that if Jesus had to suffer too, there must be a good reason. My theory is simply that anything that was proven to Satan was not the main event. Job’s character growth and intimacy with God was the main event. The things Job endured were not just to put on some show for the devil to see. They were to bring Job closer to God, and to realize joys and victories, and yes and intimacy with God, that could not have been realized any other way.

  1. Theodicy covers a little more ground than just the question of why good people suffer. It deals with the questions of God’s goodness in the presence of evil. 

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

How a Tree Made Life Sweet Again

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And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they [were] bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD showed him a tree, [which] when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,  And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I [am] the LORD that healeth thee.  Exodus 15:23-26

Why did God have Moses put a tree in the bitter water? How did a tree make the water sweet? In 1 peter 2:24, Peter refers to the cross as a tree.

who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 1 Peter 2:24 NKJV

In a world of hate and bitterness, Jesus died on that tree to save us from a bitter world. Sin has caused suffering and bitterness but Jesus was lifted up on the cross to make our lives sweet again. I and many others believe this is why Moses used a tree to make bitter water sweet again.

If life has made you bitter, Jesus is offering living water that can make your life sweet again.

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 14:13-14 NKJV

I would like to invite you to find the sweet life through fellowship with Jesus and other believers, by finding a Christ-centered Bible based church in your area. You can find one here.

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

Eddie’s Baptism Pictures and Stories

It was a special Sabbath today at the Homosassa Seventh-day Adventist Church as Eddie gave all of his life to Jesus, because Jesus gave all of His life for Eddie. Several months ago Danny and Maritza started coming to our church and we began studying the Bible together. Soon their friend Eddie started coming to church with them and joined our Bible studies. Eddie Started telling me about the changes he was making in his life, as he decided to live for Jesus and be baptized. Eddie has family members who have fallen asleep, and he wants to be with them and Jesus one day. All of heaven and the Homosassa SDA church rejoiced as Eddie was baptized today.

“For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” Galatians 3:26-29 NLT

Eddie wrote about how happy he was to be baptized and to know the salvation that comes from living your life for Jesus.
After the baptism we gave Eddie his baptism certificate and a gift study Bible. Eddie shared with the church family how he let God change his life so he can live with God here on earth every day, as well as being ready to meet Jesus when He comes again.
Don’t let the sun go down on you before you make the decision to give all of yourself to Jesus, because He has given all of Himself for you. I would love to help you make this decision and prepare for baptism if you would like to reach out to me at racerthree@gmail.com.