Celebrating the Friendships That Didn’t Last a Lifetime

They all cried as they embraced and kissed him [Paul] good-bye. They were sad most of all because he had said that they would never see him again. Then they escorted him down to the ship. Acts 2:37-38 NLT

Growing up back in the 20th century, long before Facebook and social media, a pastor or Sabbath School teacher we all loved would move away. It seemed there would always be one member of the congregation or Sabbath School class who would keep in fairly regular contact with the pastor after he moved. Through this member we would hear about the pastor’s current mission trips and his daughter’s graduation and marriage. Looking back now, it never occurred to me to get the former pastor’s contact information. It was enough to hear the stories through that one member who kept in contact, and I suppose subconsciously in the back of my mind, I assumed if I ever needed to talk to the former pastor again personally, all I had to do was get his number from that one member who had it. Looking back, before social media, we still had a healthy and balanced way to stay in touch. 

Often times I read memes about lifelong friendships and how wonderful they are-and yes they are! I treasure my friends that I discuss current events with, while remembering going through Watergate together. A couple weeks ago I shared a story about a lifelong friend who had to remind me of an accident I had decades ago. That was very special albeit embarrassing. yes, lifelong friendships are very special, but let’s not let that distract from the specialness of the friendships that didn’t last a lifetime. 

While I was in first grade my family moved into a home just a couple blocks from the church school, so I moved with them. Next door lived “Hans” who was about my exact age. In no time we were playing together all the time. He was into puppetry, and we even did a puppet skit on a local TV cable station. We played super heroes and on certain summer nights would sleep outside in the treehouse, with the plans of waking up at 4am to go fight crime. Looking back I thank God I never could wake him up. No telling what trouble we would have ran into. Later in middle school we started drifting apart, and in our teens while we still lived next door we seldom saw each other at all. He had his public school friends and his music. Even as a little boy he loved playing the “Entertainer” on the piano with his front door wide open. To this day I can’t hear that song without thinking of “Hans.” I digress. Anyway Hans and I drifted apart, and for the last few years we were neighbors we were basically total strangers. However, there were times in high school where I was struggling with Algebra and Geometry.  “Hans” was great at math, and would let me come over so he could explain it to me. I would thank him, and he would express his pleasure at being able to help me, then I would go back home. That was the extent of our friendship at that point. 

At the turn of the 21st century, I learned from his sister that “Hans’ was living in New York City. (Thankfully his sister did indeed turn out to be a lifelong friend.) About this time I got my first computer with Internet capabilities, and had some questions. “Hans” was into computers so I called him up, and once again he enthusiastically helped me out. Once again, I thanked him, he said I was welcome, we hung up and have never spoken since. Ever since 7th or 8th grade “Hans” has had his own friends, hobbies, career and a life that I simply haven’t fit into since around 6th grade. I love staying in touch with people. I love lifelong friends. At the same time I realize it is not practical or even healthy and balanced to expect everyone from my past to still be an active friend today. That would be about as silly as a playwriter putting the entire cast into every single scene. The entire cast does not belong in every single scene, not even the star. It would be about as crazy as a field goal kicker expecting his coach to put him in on every play. That’s not how it works or how you win games. 

Fact is, there is a time for actors, once they have served their purpose, to make their final exit from the play. Solomon’s wisdom teaches us there is a purpose for every season, but seasons change and so do our needs, and so do the needs of our friends. But while we celebrate lifelong friendships, lets remember the wisdom of Solomon and also celebrate those wonderful friendships that did not last a lifetime. They still served their purpose. Every friendship howbeit ever so brief, serves a purpose and brings a lesson. While my friend “Hans” had moved on with his life, and really did not need me in it, he was still there when I needed him for Algebra. Through him I have learned how to move on in my life and leave some people alone, while leaving the door wide open for that moment when I may actually be able to serve them again. That’s why I also came up with the analogy of the field goal kicker. While the field goal kicker is not needed on every play, he is needed to be on the sidelines throughout the entire game for that one moment he is needed to kick the winning field goal as time expires. Just because the coach seldom puts the kicker in on a play does not mean he does not value the kicker-he does! Just because a friend called another friend for lunch today without calling you does not mean your friend does not value you. We don’t have to be in on every “play” to be valued and appreciated. 

Let’s learn from the stranger who helped us fix that flat tire and then disappeared into the night never to be seen again. He came and taught us kindness, served his purpose and exited the scene. He doesn’t even need to exchange Christmas cards. He taught us a lesson, served his purpose and that was enough. 

Let’s learn from the Sabbath School teacher who harped on that one idea all the time till it drove you crazy. You haven’t seen or heard from her since the turn of the century. But sitting in Sabbath School class last week a question came up and you remembered what she said so many years ago. You used it to help someone last Sabbath understand the point a little more clearly. 

My ex-fiancé dumped me over 20 years ago, but I still remember how she showed me to add sour cream to mashed potatoes and gravy. I still love making them that way to this day. And as I look back, I learned some important lessons from that relationship that are more important than mashed potatoes and gravy. I learned some hard lessons that have helped me in my relationships today. I am glad she was a part of my life! 

While the blessings of lifelong friendships are amazing beyond words, lets not forget to celebrate the friendships that didn’t last a lifetime. After all, those friendships were not in vain even though they did not last. They served their purpose and they taught us valuable lessons that last a lifetime. 

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

Does the Bible Teach About a Secret Rapture?

“Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.” Matthew 24:40-41 NLT

Many people have used this passage to suggest a secret rapture, where people will suddenly just disappear and be taken to heaven. Growing up, I occasionally saw bumper stickers, warning that in case of rapture this car will be unmanned. But when you read this passage in context you will see no hint of a secret rapture.  *Unlike the secret rapture theory, the Sabbath is found in the Bible and has been taught and observed in the Bible and throughout history. The secret rapture was never taught before 1830 and is not found in the Bible.

Let’s take a look at the entire context of the passage in Matthew 24.

“When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes. “Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left. Matthew 24:37-41 NLT

In the days of Noah the people who were swept away or “taken away” as other versions describe, were the wicked people, not the righteous. Jesus tells us it will be the same when He comes. So the ones taken in the field and at the mill are not the righteous, they are the wicked! They are taken away from the presence of the righteous and destroyed, just like in the days of Noah. So, Jesus is telling us that two men will be in the field; one will be taken and destroyed, just like the tares that are bundled up and destroyed in Matthew 13:30 while the wheat remains in the barn. By saying the other man is left, Jesus means that man is left alive and not destroyed. In Matthew 13:38 Jesus says the field is the world. That tells us that the one who is taken is destroyed while the one who is left inherits the new earth. (See Matthew 5:5 and Revelation 21:1-5.)

Luke makes it even more clear that those who are taken are not taken to heaven, but rather are taken to destruction like those left to be eaten or destroyed by vultures.

I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.” And they answered and said to Him, “Where, Lord?” So He said to them, “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.” Luke 17:34-37 NKJV

Neither Matthew or Luke give any hint of a secret rapture. After all, when the wicked were swept away in the flood that was no secret. The whole world at that time saw what was happening. The eight who remained and took over the earth knew what was going on the whole time also. There were no secrets either way.

Far from being a secret the entire world will know.

Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. Revelation 1:7 NKJV

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 NKJV

Yes there will be a rapture when we are taken up, but it will be no secret. Why is it so important that

everyone sees Jesus coming instead of the righteous just secretly disappearing? There are many reasons, but I am sure that Satan does not want to have to face the music. He would rather avoid that confrontation when Jesus comes as King of kings and Lord of lords. But there is no avoiding it. One day,

As I live says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God. Romans 14:11 NKJV

When the great controversy is finished, the entire universe will declare that God is love. And that is a truth that Satan would rather cover up and keep secret, but he won’t be able. The whole world will see Jesus coming, and He will take home with Him all those who have accepted His love into their lives. Let’s accept Him into our hearts now so that we will greet His coming with joy.

*By the way the secret rapture rapture was never even taught until the theory was invented by John Darby around 1830. The Sabbath truth was re-discovered around the same time. 

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

We all Need Mercy

Just a few years ago, I was meeting a friend from church at the bank to handle some church business. I parked my car in what I thought was a secluded area of the parking lot away from the other cars. My friend followed behind in her car, and for reasons I still do not know, sideswiped the back of my car as she parked next to my car! All she did was scrape some of the paint, but I was upset by the senseless destruction. There was no reason! She could have parked anywhere else where she would have had plenty of room, but no! She had to park right next to my car, and then hit it. She said she was sorry and would pay for it. But as I kept playing the scenario over in my mind it just upset me that what happened to my poor car was so needless and senseless. It never should have happened. 

Later that night I called my lifelong friend back home so I could vent. (After all I wasn’t going to gossip about it to my church family or anyone who knew her.) I told my friend back home all the tragic details but assured her my friend would pay for it. After listening, my friend replied, “William do you remember when I bought my brand new red Pontiac Fiero not long after we graduated from high school?” I replied, “Oh no! I remember now! Don’t remind me.” My friend still continued, “Remember at church while it was still new, you parked next to me and side scraped it as you left church ? Do you remember how you offered to pay to fix it, but I knew you didn’t have the money so I just forgave you?”

Thanks Collin’s Classic Auto for permission to use this image.

Immediately I realized out of all my friends on earth God directed me to call this particular friend,-the only friend whose car I have ever damaged the exact same way it just happened to me! A friend since early childhood who freely forgave me and never held a grudge. As a matter of fact in the 35 years since I side swiped her car in the church parking lot, she never mentioned it once. That is until I told her that I was having trouble forgiving someone who did the exact same thing to me. Then she had to remind me that I had been forgiven so I must forgive also. It was like the forgiving master telling his unforgiving servant,

Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Matthew 18:33 NLT 

I found it was a lot easier to forgive someone once I realized I had to be forgiven for the exact same thing. It  was good that my friend forgave me and forgot about it, but when my other friend accidentally did the same thing to my car I should have remembered on my own, how freely I had been forgiven, and then freely forgave my friend. 

For example, Jonah was upset with God for being merciful on such a wicked city, forgetting that the same mercy that spared Nineveh was the same mercy that provided the fish to save him. Jonah should have rejoiced that the same mercy that saved him also saved a wicked city. Maybe Jonah forgot about the mercy that had been shown him. 

When we remember all the things we have been forgiven it makes it so much easier to forgive others. 

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

Twice Mine

So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation. Genesis 2:1-3 NLT

I can imagine God walking Adam and Eve through the garden that very first Sabbath. Having been created the day before, Adam and Eve didn’t need a physical rest after a long week. As God showed them all His created works that first Sabbath, they rested in the fact that it was God who made them and not they themselves. See Psalms 100:3

When God had finished our creation He rested and gave us the Sabbath as a sign that He created us. We mark a year by the sun. We mark a month by the moon. We mark a day by the earth’s rotation. What do we have to mark a week? The Sabbath, which takes us to creation and reminds us that we have a Creator.

“It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30 ESV

When Jesus finished the work of our redemption He again rested on the Sabbath, this time in a tomb.

Be careful to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you from generation to generation. It is given so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy. Exodus 31:13 NLT

The Sabbath is not only a sign of God’s power to create, but also a sign of His power to redeem and to make us holy.

An old story tells of a little boy who had built a wooden sailboat and took it down to a creek by his home. He had tied a string to it so he could watch it float, and then reel it back in, but the string broke. His boat went sailing down the creek and out of sight.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

A few days later when the boy was walking with his father downtown, he saw his boat in a toy store window. “That’s my boat!” The boy exclaimed. He went inside and told the store keeper that it was his boat. But the store keeper informed him that, since he had no way to verify the boy’s story, if he wanted the boat back, he would have to pay for it.

After working for several weeks at extra chores the boy earned the money to buy his boat back. He walked out of the store, clutching the boat to his heart and was overheard saying, “Little boat you are twice mine. First I made you. Then I bought you.”

Today the Sabbath is a sign from God that we are twice His. Once, at creation He made us, then on the cross He bought us.

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

If Jesus is our Rest, do we Still Need a Weekly Sabbath?

I was listening to a preacher on the radio talking about the Sabbath. He explained that the weekly Sabbath pointed us to the rest we have in Christ, so we no longer need the weekly Sabbath because we now have Jesus. He sounded sincere, and I really appreciated Him pointing people to Jesus and resting their faith in Him, since the grace of Jesus is the only way to be saved.

As a matter of fact the Sabbath is a sign that we are resting our faith in Jesus’ grace and not our works. God explicitly set aside that day as a sign of His covenant with His people – a sign that He sanctifies His people, in contrast to sanctification by works.1 That’s why I find it ironic when people accuse me of trying to get to heaven by my own works by keeping the Sabbath. The radio preacher was correct that the Sabbath pointed us to the rest we have in Christ. However, he apparently did not realize that the Sabbath is a sign of God’s New Covenant in which He promises to write His law within our hearts:

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Jeremiah 31:33

Do you see that the New Covenant is the Lord’s promise to sanctify us? A promise to write His law in our hearts, so we would serve Him from the heart? And that’s exactly the meaning of sanctification of which the Sabbath is a sign. Sanctification means to make holy, and God wants to make us holy by writing His law in our hearts.

Some other things he did not appear to consider:

Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished.

And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. Genesis 2:1-3 NKJV

While the feast days and ceremonial Sabbaths such as the Passover, were not instituted until sin came into the world, we have the weekly Sabbath made holy (sanctified) before there was sin and the need of a Savior. Paul says in Colossians 2:16-17 that the ceremonial feast Sabbaths were done away with at the cross. 2Some people say we should still keep the feast days. They don’t seem to realize that we are literally living in what the feast days symbolized! We no longer need a ceremonial Passover because Jesus dying on the cross was the real Passover to which all the other Passovers pointed. We no longer keep the ceremonial Day of Atonement because, beginning in 1844 we are living in the real Day of Atonement. So those feast days that point us to the cross are done away with, but the Bible nowhere indicates that the weekly Sabbath was a “shadow of things to come.” The weekly Sabbath was there before our need of the cross, and the Bible tells us that it will still be there after the cross.

While Paul tells us the ceremonial Sabbaths were done away at the cross, He continued observing the weekly Sabbath.

And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks. Acts 18:4 NKJV

The weekly Sabbath was not a Jewish custom. He met with the Greeks also.

Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, Acts 17:2 NKJV

I have heard people argue that the only reason Paul was at the synagogue on Sabbath was because that’s the only day he could meet the Jews there to talk about Jesus. However we just saw in Acts 18:4 that in the New Testament, Greeks were worshiping on Sabbath as well, and Paul was persuading them all about Jesus as they continued keeping the seventh-day Sabbath. In Acts 17:2 we see Sabbath keeping was still Paul’s own custom even after accepting Jesus. In the New Testament, those who accepted Jesus continued keeping the seventh-day Sabbath.

The Sabbath was not just made for the Jews. The gentiles were keeping the Sabbath as well. Jesus Himself said that the Sabbath was made for mankind, which included Jews and Gentiles alike.

The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Mark 2:27 NKJV

Nowhere does Jesus or anyone else in the Bible say the weekly Sabbath was made for Jews. Jesus says it was made for mankind. Not only was the Sabbath made for everyone, it will be kept by everyone even in the new earth.

And it shall come to pass That from one New Moon to another, And from one Sabbath to another, All flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the Lord. Isaiah 66:23 NKJV

The weekly Sabbath was instituted before sin and remains after the cross. The Sabbath was given to all “flesh” and “mankind.” “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.”-Hebrews 4:11.

Will you enter into the Sabbath rest that remains since the creation of the world? Will you keep God’s holy day as an outward sign of your inward faith in Christ as both your Creator and Redeemer? Let us remember that only sanctified people can really keep a sanctified day. So let us enter into that rest by letting Jesus be Lord in our lives.

See Exodus 31:13Ezekiel 20:1220 
For more details see “THE SABBATH IN COLOSSIANS 2″ by Andy Nash. He references Ron DuPreez’s book, Judging the Sabbath: Discovering What Can’t Be Found in Colossians 2:16, which you can buy at Amazon.com. The book is particularly valuable in solving the question of whether or not faithful Sabbath keepers should also keep the feasts today. And here’s an article by Ron Dupreez: “No “rest” for the “Sabbath” of Colossians 2:16: A structural-syntactical- semantic study.” 

The Lost art of Thinking

Be still, and know that I am God; Psalm 46:10 NKJV

I have a friend I meet every week before prayer meeting at the Mexican restaurant in town. Sometimes I run a few minutes late and find her just sitting there waiting on me. I’ve suggested to her,

“Bring a book or read something on your cell phone, so you have something to do while you wait. I feel bad for wasting your time.”

She told me,

“I love to just sit and think.”

Photo by Gary Barnes on Pexels.com

When she said that, I remembered reading a short note in a Reader’s Digest issue a few years ago. It was about how we always have our cell phones to entertain us while we stand in line at the store or wait for the doctor at his office. Because of this we no longer have time to just pause and think. The idea was that it is good to just pause, stop and think for a while. After all, before cell phones I had a brain. I guess it would be okay to turn everything else off for a while and just use my brain. My friend at the restaurant sure seems to enjoy it. 

I guess I do too. Often when I go to bed I enjoy listening to my Bible app on audio. However something in the Scripture will get my attention and I have to make a choice. Keep marinating in that one thought, or keep up with the rest of the audio narration. I have learned to pause the audio and just think about a certain thought for a while. Same while I am searching Scripture for myself. I have learned not to measure the quality of my personal Bible study by minutes or chapters, but rather by new ideas and fresh revelations. Sometimes it may take an hour and other times just a second to gain a new idea or revelation. (That does not mean I stop studying after just one second!) I have learned to take a moment and meditate on a passage instead of feeling like I have to finish the rest of a section of Scripture. 

Long before cell phones and Bible apps I was aware of a passage in the book, Steps to Christ, encouraging us to keep our Bible with us. Today I forget that we used to keep books with us before cell phones. So its not like we were totally without “data” before cell phones. Yet I just realized recently there was something I missed in this passage, when I read it back in the day,

Keep your Bible with you. As you have opportunity, read it; fix the texts in your memory. Even while you are walking the streets you may read a passage and meditate upon it, thus fixing it in the mind. –Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Page 90

Silly me only picked up on the idea of always having your Bible handy so you could read whenever there is any “down time.” But that is not the actual counsel here. The passage also talks about meditating on Scripture. This resonates with my friend saying she does not always need a book or cell phone to read. She enjoys thinking. The passage is not telling us to read our Bible all the time whether in actual book form or tablet. Either way the message is, put your book or tablet down and think. As a matter of fact let’s read what was written just before the passage we just read,

But there is but little benefit derived from a hasty reading of the Scriptures. One may read the whole Bible through and yet fail to see its beauty or comprehend its deep and hidden meaning. One passage studied until its significance is clear to the mind and its relation to the plan of salvation is evident, is of more value than the perusal of many chapters with no definite purpose in view and no positive instruction gained. –Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Page 90. 

Even when reading the Bible it does well for us to stop and quietly think for a while. Now please check out this passage that was written long before cell phones and tablets. To me it just goes to show that there is nothing new under the sun. Same issues just different modes of the same old habits. 

Even fiction which contains no suggestion of impurity, and which may be intended to teach excellent principles, is harmful. It encourages the habit of hasty and superficial reading, merely for the story. Thus it tends to destroy the power of connected and vigorous thought; it unfits the soul to contemplate the great problems of duty and destiny. -Ellen White, Counsels to Parents, Teachers and Students, Page 383.

I remember reading an article in a business magazine telling bosses not to get onto their employees for just relaxing at their desks doing nothing for a while. They may be brainstorming and that may be when they get their best ideas. I can relate to that. I often get my best ideas for church ministry when I am driving down the road lost in thought or just relaxing on my day off. All this goes back to the brief thought in Reader’s Digest so long ago, or my friend at the restaurant. Its okay to put your book or tablet down and just think for a while. Its more than okay. Its crucial. Its not just okay, it is crucial to be still and know that I am God-Psalm 46:10.

Well I’m going to stop writing so you can…you know….just relax and think for a while. Enjoy!