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.

Video Sermon: Invited


A couple of years ago, the divorced mother of a young girl I was studying with for baptism called me. Her daughter had a piano recital that Sunday afternoon and her father was going to be a no-show, as usual. The mother shared that it would mean a lot if I could be there. I dropped what I was doing and ran to the recital. Sure, the daughter was happy to see me, but when a daddy rejects his little girl, it leaves a hole in her heart that an entire village will never fill. There are private wounds that a million public accomplishments will never heal. 
I can’t read David’s heart, but if he was anything like the rest of us, I’m sure he had a private wound in his heart. The prophet Samuel came to the house to anoint someone in David’s family as king, and Jesse, the father, invited everyone but David. You can read about it in 1 Samuel 16:1-13. Wow! David’s dad invites everyone but him. Talk about rejection. When Samuel passes over the other brothers and asks Jesse if there are anymore, look at the father’s response. 
“There is still the youngest,” Jesse replied. “But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.” 1 Samuel 16:11 NLT 
That “but” might as well have been a “never mind. He is out in the fields watching the sheep and goats. That’s all he’s good for. That’s why I didn’t bother inviting him.” Its not like someone else could not have watched the sheep for the family so David could have been invited to meet the prophet with his family. Rejection. Rejection by your own dad and brothers. Yes, Samuel calls for him and anoints him as king. God did not reject David and neither did the prophet. To a little girl at a piano recital, smiling while the crowd cheers, the clapping sounds hollow as she listens for her daddy’s missing applause. Just so, David had a prophet who believed in him, and he would one day hear the crowds singing, “David has slain his tens of thousands!” But that would never drown out the screams of REJECTION! My own father and brothers did not even include me in the family meeting. I’m just a worthless shepherd boy to them. 
Maybe the private hurt and rejection explains why David wanted to  react with such bitter revenge against Nabal’s rejection. While running from Saul, David hears the news of Samuel’s death. Samuel believed in David even when his own family did not, Now Samuel is gone.  Saul the king is out to kill David. His own family rejected him. Samuel, the one person who believed in David is gone now. David could be struggling with insecurities right now. Yes he stood tall and strong before Goliath. I am not saying David lost faith. What I am saying is, that while we all stand strong as we do our duties for God, there can still be a hole in our heart that no one can fill, except for the loved one who never filled it. That one single hole in the heart of a mighty conqueror makes him no stranger to rejection and insecurities. And while all of this is going on, David sends his men to ask Nabal for some food, and this was Nabal’s response,
“Who is this fellow David?” Nabal sneered to the young men. “Who does this son of Jesse think he is? There are lots of servants these days who run away from their masters.  Should I take my bread and my water and my meat that I’ve slaughtered for my shearers and give it to a band of outlaws who come from who knows where?” 1 Samuel 25:10 -11NLT 
Samuel, the one who believed in David is gone, and Nabal slaps David in the face with rejections and insecurities. “Who is this David?” He’s a nobody! Just like his father suggested when he told Samuel he was not invited to the family meeting because all he was good for was watching sheep. “Who does this son of Jesse think he is?” Sounds like David’s brothers in 1 Samuel 17:28. When David was ready to fight Goliath, they told him to go back and watch those few sheep. Who do you think you are? You’re not even that great of a shepherd, which is why we only left you a few sheep to watch. Go back to where you came from. You are not wanted here. Uninvited. Uninvited to family meetings. Uninvited to the battle. Uninvited to anything that matters! And Nabal confirms all those rejections and insecurities haunting David’s heart. David is once again uninvited! This time to Nabal’s home. 
So when David declares he is gong to kill all of Nabal’s men, it wasn’t just one rejection that set David off like that. It was probably a life time of rejections all adding up until he just couldn’t take it any more. I know I am showing you the side of a mighty warrior you may have never seen before. David stood like a man before Goliath, but speaking for all men, I know there are times we feel like a little boy inside, no matter how tall we stand before the rest of the world. Why would it be any different with David? Elijah stood tall before the Baal worshipers and then ran away from the queen like a little boy. I have been a boy and now I am a man, and I can tell you, there is a man inside every little boy and there is a little boy inside every man. And when David meets with Nabal’s condescending rejection, I believe it was the voice of a very hurt little boy that said, 
May God strike me and kill me if even one man of his household is still alive tomorrow morning!” 1 Samuel 25:22 NLT 
David and Nabal’s egos are both flaring out of control. How is God going to solve this when both men are mad beyond reason? Enter Abigail, Nabal’s wife, God’s perfect solution. You see, Abigail is a woman. Later when Haman’s ego was out of control and countless Jews were about to be destroyed, God sent a woman to save the day.Esther, a  woman with no ego, whom God brought in for such a time as this, to save the Jewish race by putting her ego aside and saying, “If I perish I perish.” Now, right here in 1 Samuel 25, God is using a woman to save the day as well as lives! Just like in Esther’s day, Abigail uses the same humility as Esther to diffuse two egos that are about to explode. 
Look how Abigail heals David’s ego. 

When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed low before him. 1 Samuel 25:23 NLT

Abigail showed respect. She didn’t treat David like some outlaw bandit as Nabal suggested. She respected him as the new king of Israel. 
She fell at his feet and said, “I accept all blame in this matter, my lord. Please listen to what I have to say. 1 Samuel 25:24 NLT 
Abigail forsook her ego and took all the blame on herself so she could be  a peacemaker. By looking like the fool in the situation, which she wasn’t, she saved David from making himself into a fool. She also saved the lives or her husband and his men. By making herself look like an idiot she was the hero! 
The Lord will surely reward you with a lasting dynasty, for you are fighting the Lord’s battles. And you have not done wrong throughout your entire life. 1 Samuel 25:28 NLT
Abigail confirms the dynasty of David’s kingdom. He is not a runaway shepherd boy as Nabal and his brothers and even father insinuated. He is a king. Samuel is not the only one who believes in him. 
Even when you are chased by those who seek to kill you, your life is safe in the care of the Lord your God, secure in his treasure pouch! But the lives of your enemies will disappear like stones shot from a sling! 1 Samuel 25:29 NLT 
I love this woman! She knows all the right things to say. David is running from Saul, and while Saul’s attacks and Nabal’s rejection makes him feel insecure, Abigail tells him his kingdom is secure! He is established!  I love her reference to the stones and sling. She is reminding David of his great victories. In the story she feeds David some food. He is invited! But more than feeding his stomach food, she feeds his insecure heart with confidence! 
Abigail will hear the words, from Jesus, “When I was hungry you fed me.” She will hear Jesus say, “When you did it for one of the least of these,” (and at that point David probably felt like the least of all his brothers), “you have done it for me.” 
But as I said at the beginning. There are  private wounds that a million public accomplishments will never heal. A little girl playing the piano for a pleased crowd would rather be playing alone for her daddy instead. A shepherd boy whom everyone hails as a king, except his own daddy who thinks the only thing you can do is watch a few sheep, is hurting. Public accomplishments will never heal those wounds, but God will! I know God will because David himself said, 
He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. Psalm 147:3 NLT 
Abigail ministered to a man who felt rejected like a dog, and was the least of these in his family and possibly even nation. Turned out she was ministering to a king, and that is how she saw him. When we reach out to the least of these around us let’s do so as if we were ministering for a king. If we do, we will one day be thanked by the King of Kings. 

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

Photo by Ihsan Adityawarman on Pexels.com

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.