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.
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.
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.
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.
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.