Glimpses of the Cross Day 20; “It is Finished”

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

“It is finished” John 19:30

When Jesus cried out these last words, He gave up His breath, and rested in the tomb on Sabbath. Four thousand years earlier, He had finished creating the world and rested on the Sabbath. Adam and Eve rested too on that very first Sabbath, though I don’t think they were really tired. Adam and Eve did not exactly have a long week that week, and they were not in need of physical rest, but rather they were in need of a spiritual rest. I can imagine God walking them through the garden that first Sabbath and showing them all of His works. They realized on that first Sabbath,

it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves. Psalms 100:3

Likewise, when Jesus cried out 4,000 years later from the cross, “It is Finished” He was not only our Creator but also our Redeemer. On that Sabbath after the crucifixion it was realized, that not only had He created us not we ourselves, but He also redeemed us, and not we ourselves. Jesus is the author and finisher of our creation and re-creation. The Sabbath takes on a special meaning after the cross and makes it more dearer and special than ever before. Jesus gave us an example of resting on the Sabbath both at creation and at the cross. Jesus never gave any notion that Sunday was a sacred day. Rather when He told Mary not to touch Him because He must ascend to His Father, He was recognizing Sunday as a work day and not a day of rest. He rested on Sabbath and then rose on Sunday because He had to see His Father and get back to work! Others say we should observe Sunday as a memorial to the resurrection, yet nowhere is that mentioned in the Scriptures. Rather the Scriptures give us a memorial to the resurrection which is Baptism.

Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. Romans 6:3-6 

When we follow Jesus’ example of resting on the Seventh-day Sabbath, we are recognizing that Jesus finished all the work in saving and redeeming us. We rest from our works on the Sabbath and rest our faith in Jesus. in Baptism we crucify our own works of flesh when we go down into our water grave. We come up out of the water, taking a new breath and living a new life that God has created and not we ourselves. Jesus is the author and the finisher of our creation and our re-creation.

The Sabbath in Light of The Cross

Williams picture

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

“The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary. I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption—the Son of God uplifted on the cross. This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers.”- Ellen White, Gospel Workers, 315 (1915).

With this passage from Gospel Workers in mind, I have created a supplemental set of Bible study guides, called In Light of The Cross Bible Study Guides. I would like to share with you here, the lesson on the Sabbath. Many people have erroneous ideas about the Sabbath and its relation to salvation. We do not keep the Sabbath because we are saved by works. People have accused me of keeping the Sabbath in order to be saved by my works. I ask them how I can be trusting my works while I am resting?

Even some Seventh-day Adventists look at the third angel’s message in the light of legalism instead of righteousness by faith. Yet God’s messenger writes:

“Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel’s message, and I have answered, “It is the third angel’s message, in verity.”—Ellen White, The Review and Herald, April 1, 1890.

The third angel’s message warns us against trusting in our works to save us. Those who trust their own works, take the mark of the beast so they can conduct business, buy and sell, and thus provide and save themselves by their own works. Instead of trusting in works, those who take the seal of God rest on the Sabbath, showing their faith is in God and not their own works.

Please take a look with me, at the Sabbath in light of the cross.

The Sabbath 

Brief overview: The Seventh-day Saturday is God’s holy Sabbath where we are to rest from all secular work and activity. God sanctified the Sabbath day and made it Holy.  See Genesis 2:1-3, Exodus 20:8-11, Exodus 31:13, John 14:15, Revelation 14:12

Why it is important to understand the truth about the Sabbath:

The Sabbath is the only commandment that begins with “remember” while it is also the one commandment man has forgotten. While many agnostics believe that God created us and then left us on our own, the Sabbath tells us that our Creator wants to have a relationship with us. The Sabbath also tells us who our God is. You can keep the other nine commandments and worship any god you choose. You can have no other gods before you besides television and not bow to any other god than television and so forth. The Sabbath commandment is the only commandment that tells us who the Lord is. This is why Satan wants us to forget this commandment. He wants us to forget God. He wants to be our god instead! The Sabbath is a sign that we belong to the true God, the one who died for us.

Why it is important to understand the Sabbath in light of the cross:

Satan does not want us to forget the Sabbath because he wants us to forget the law. Satan knows we are not saved by the works of the law but by grace. The Sabbath is a sign of God’s grace. We do no work on that day, demonstrating that it is not our works that sustain or save us but rather God’s work both at creation and the cross that sustain and save us. We rest on the Sabbath showing that we are resting our faith in the only One who can save us, Jesus Christ. I can imagine God walking with Adam and Eve through the garden, as He showed them all He had made for them, and the wonders of not their works but His works. Adam and Eve realized that day with God, “it is] he [that] hath made us, and not we ourselves.” (Psalms 100:3) Before and after the Cross the Sabbath is a sign that it is God’s work that creates and sustains us.

The Sabbath Commandment reminds us that God is our creator and we refrain from work and worldly activities on the Sabbath day as we rest our faith in God’s power to save and provide for us, instead of our own works and ability to do business and make money.

The same principle is seen in the story of Cain and Abel. In Genesis 4 we read about Abel worshiping the way God had commanded in bringing a lamb as a sacrifice. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice as the lamb God instructed him to bring pointed to Jesus: the Lamb of God who would be sacrificed for our sins. Abel, more than just worshiping as God had instructed was saying he trusted in Jesus to save him and not his own works, he was looking to the Cross. Cain’s sacrifice was refused because he did not worship the way God had instructed, and he brought his own fruit, the work of his own hands. God cannot accept our works and could not accept Cain’s works either. Only the Cross can save us.

Today, many people like Cain, try to be saved by worshiping their own way. Jesus says about them, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). Our own works and manmade ways of worship will never save us.

There is a story of a little boy years ago who had built his own wooden sailboat. Tied to a string he set the boat out to sail in a nearby creek and then would use the string to reel it back in. One day the string broke and the little boat fell victim to the rapids and sailed away. Several days later the boy is window shopping downtown when he sees his boat in a toy store window. He goes inside and tells the owner, “That’s my boat in the window.” The owner of the store not sure if he should believe the young lad tells the boy he will have to purchase the boat if he wants it back.

The boy does several chores around the home and neighborhood to get the few dollars the boat costs. He returns to the store and purchases his own boat. Walking home, holding his boat close to his chest he was overheard saying, “little boat you are twice mine. First I made you, and then I bought you.” That is what Jesus is telling us through the Sabbath today. As we rest from our works on the Sabbath and put our faith in Him, He tells us, “You are twice mine. First, at creation I made you, and then at the cross I bought you.”

Further study on the Sabbath:

Which day is the Sabbath?

But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates: For [in] six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Exodus 20:10, 11

Who was the Sabbath made for?

And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Mark 2:27

Whose day is the Sabbath?

Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath. Mark 2:28

What does God call the Sabbath?

If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking [thine own] words: Isaiah 58:13

When is the Sabbath to be observed?

From even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath. Leviticus 23:32

What marks the beginning of a day?

And the evening and the morning were the first day. Genesis 1:5

What did Jesus do on the Sabbath?

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. Luke 4:16

What else should be done on the Sabbath?

And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Matthew 12:10-12

What are we to “remember” to do?

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Exodus 20:8

What are we to refrain from on the Sabbath?

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them [is], and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Exodus 20:9-11

Why were the Jews carried into captivity?

In those days saw I in Judah [some] treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified [against them] in the day wherein they sold victuals. There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath. Nehemiah 13:15-18

What are we to learn from this?

There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. Hebrews 4:9-11

What does God want us to be?

And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. Isaiah 58:12

How only is this possible?

If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Isaiah 58:13

What is God’s promise?

Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. Isaiah 58:14

Click here for more Bible Studies on the law, Sabbath, and love and obedience.

Click here to study this week’s Sabbath School lesson about the Sabbath.

Dominos, Sabbath School and Controversy!

Dominos

I am writing from my home tonight in the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Dominos is a game played around the world, but I have found lately, it is not played the same way around the world. I was raised in Oklahoma, where my grandmother there taught me how to play, by playing off the ends as well as the sides, so that you are going in four different directions. (As seen in the picture) You score when all four sides add up to a 5, like 5, 10, 15, 20 and so on. For example in the picture the score would be 10. When the total does not round of to a five you get no points. Fact is, I did not know anyone played any other way. That is until I moved to Florida and sat down to play with some friends from Cuba. When I played off the side instead of the end my friends started laughing. They had never seen anyone play off  of the side before and thought it was a joke. I thought they were joking. Come to find out, they were serious. Where they were raised, you only play in a straight narrow line, and you don’t even score by fives. You don’t even score at all! You just play till you are out of dominos. We were both raised to play the same game in different parts of the world, each one, thinking our way was the only way it could be done. Obviously the other way they were taught was wrong. So we both thought.

This led me to do some research. My first reaction was I was right and they were wrong. Later I realized I thought I was right, only because that is how my family taught me to play. My friends also thought they were right only because that is how their family taught them. I decided to have an open mind and go to the rule book and find out what the exact rules are. I Googled “Dominos rules” and come to find out I was right! Actually we all were right. Seems there is more than one way to play Dominos. In the meantime I learned a valuable lesson about tradition, and how we all come from different parts of the world, with different views and opinions, each thinking our way is the Gospel truth, and we are going to save the world, by making the rest of the world just like us. I am being sarcastic, but how many times have we been tempted to correct someone, for no other reason than they weren’t like us? How many times has a country sent missionaries to another country, and instead of just teaching them how to be like Jesus, actually taught them how to be like the country the missionaries came from?

A while back a gentleman joined my Sabbath School class. When I write, I enjoy giving all the details about places and times, however I can’t or at least should not do that this time, because this story also involves another Sabbath School class that may not wish to be identified. You see, the gentleman joined my class because he had basically been thrown out, or so he thought, from another Sabbath School class. He was not an Adventist. He did not believe in the Sabbath, and so he was asking questions that may not be usually asked in a traditional Adventist Sabbath School class. The class he was in, had a theology as narrow minded as those who can only play dominos in a straight line. They could not vary from the regular “cookie cutter” questions and answers that were to be given in a traditional study. Now I am not here to knock the way people play dominos, but, you may be able to play dominos in a narrow little line, but our God is too big for a narrow line.

Since the first class did not want to deal with his questions he showed up in my class. Instead of me telling him how my grandmother kept the Sabbath, or how we kept the Sabbath back in Oklahoma, we went to the rule book. We compared his questions to the Word of God and used that as our standard instead of how we each had been raised. (See 2 Timothy 3:16) My Sabbath school class was not intimidated by his challenging questions, because we did not have an agenda to defend ourselves. We were open to his suggestions, and compared them to the Scriptures to see if those things were so. (See Acts 17:11) When he saw that we treated him with respect, he treated us with respect. I wish I could tell you more, but the gentleman moved away before too long and I lost contact with him.

The Sabbath school class this gentleman originally joined apparently forgot that the whole purpose of Sabbath School is for evangelism! That’s right. Adventists got the idea of Sabbath School from Sunday keeping protestant churches’ Sunday Schools. After the dark ages, these Sunday Schools were instituted in addition to the regular worship service as a way to evangelize and teach people about Jesus.  In my church, the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, I teach what is called a Seekers class or new believer’s class, but actually the purpose of my class is the purpose of every Sabbath School class, which is evangelism.

In evangelism you have to allow people to ask questions. That is how we learn. I have preached sermons during the worship hour, and then gone home, quite satisfied that my points were well made. I only got that notion because in the worship hour nobody asks questions. Later I found I was not as convincing as I thought. I also found some people with Scripture that seemed to contradict my point. As we sat down and looked at all the Scripture on that point, there have been times that the people saw that I was right. There have been times we have seen we both were right, and there has been a time or two I have seen I was just plain wrong. That’s okay. Being wrong does not scare me. I have no personal agenda that I have to defend. All I want to do is go by the Bible and teach others to do the same. After all, isn’t that how the Seventh-day Adventist church was formed? By people coming out of other churches and saying, let’s sit down and study the Bible, and just go by what the Bible says?  If that is how the Seventh-day Adventist church was formed, should that not be our mode of Sabbath School evangelism?

Richard Tibbits, in his book Forgive to Live, says studies show Seventh-day Adventists have a harder time forgiving than the rest of the general population. Why is that so? Is it because of our unique beliefs, that we have always been taught to defend our faith and stand our ground, and show the world that we are right, that we get defensive? Even when there is no reason to be defensive? If you stand alone of the Word of God the B-I-B-L-E you don’t have to be defensive. You have no agenda, no dog in the fight so to speak, other than to go by the Bible.

In our Sabbath School classes we should not be afraid to ask questions, even untraditional questions, and just let the Bible answer them. This is what Sabbath School evangelism is all about. While you normally don’t ask questions during the sermon, Sabbath School is the place to be asking them, and questions should be encouraged, not discouraged.

Now I totally understand that at the same time, people should be respectful with both their questions and their answers. There have been times I have been teaching a class, and the debate has become a little heated, and so I tell everyone to direct their questions to me and not each other. That way nobody feels they are being personally attacked.

Remember in Sabbath School class we examine ideas. We don’t examine the people. We compare Bible verses with other Bible verses. We do not compare people with other people.

A while back two elderly ladies were in my class. One was extremely short. The other lady would playfully refer to the smaller lady as the “little lady.” I told the lady calling her that, that it was not appropriate to be commenting about people’s bodies in the class. People don’t come to Sabbath School to have their bodies discussed. She told me she meant no harm and continued calling her “the little lady.” I realized I now had to contact her outside of class to let her know the seriousness of the issue. I told her that these comments would not be tolerated in my class, and that if she refused to refrain from such comments she would be asked not to return to my class. A very awkward position for an evangelistic Sabbath School teacher to be in, but I had no choice! Thankfully the lady refrained from her comments and continued in our class.

When Jesus met Nicodemus He treated him with respect and let him ask his questions. When Jesus met the woman at the well He also treated her respectfully and let her ask her questions.  In both cases there was mutual respect. Honest, sincere questions with no personal attacks.

Around this last election time in the United States, at my Bible study group which meets after school at a nearby Adventist grade school, I was surprised how passionate the youth were about the candidates. One student who supported Obama said something not so nice about Romney and offended another student. I pointed out to the Obama supporter that the other student had been hurt. I asked if the point could be made without having to insult Romney and his supporters. The Obama supporter was grieved when they realized their comment had wounded their friend, and quickly apologized and rephrased their comment more appropriately. We all decided, as we discussed vital social issues facing the youth, neither the Democrats, nor the Republicans have all the answers. Furthermore, while both candidates have good points they also have negative points, and neither one was all right or all wrong. We decided that since we all have good points and weak points, the solution would be for us all to work together combining all our good points.

In Sabbath School, I doubt any of us are all right or all wrong. We all have something to bring to the table. In the mid 1800s a Seventh-day Baptist lady by the name of Rachael Oaks introduced to a new Bible study group of Adventists the idea of keeping the Seventh-day Sabbath. The first reaction of the group was similar to the reaction my friends had, when they saw me playing dominos a different way than they traditionally played. However, this new group of Advent Bible studiers opened their minds, knowing like my after school Bible study group, that everyone should be treated with respect, and searched the Scriptures to see if what Rachael Oaks said was so. Turns out this Seventh-day Baptist lady did have something to offer the group of Adventists. Think it could happen again? Let’s be respectful of others and use the Bible as our only guide and we will find out.

Just a parting thought as I close. I realize not all Bible studies will end with everyone agreeing. Some disagreements are inconsequential. Other disagreements may actually have consequences concerning church membership, but even so that does not bar people from worshiping and studying together, and while there is such a things a baptism vows, and rightfully so, there are no Sabbath School class vows nor should there be. Again the Sabbath School serves a totally different purpose than church and the worship hour. As long as people can still be respectful of other people and their ideas, they should not only feel welcomed to attend Sabbath school, but also join in the discussion and be a part of the class.

You can study the current Sabbath School lesson here.

Grace – The Greatest Evidence There is a God

Sunset Bradenton

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves….Psalms 100:3

I entered the ICU in a Tampa Hospital, to pray with a family who was about to lose their mother. The mother was a Christian. The daughter was near believing, but I soon found out where her two sons stood. When the daughter announced I was here to pray, the two grown sons said, “no!” When the daughter said it was the mother’s wish, and I was going to pray, both sons stormed out of the room. As the youngest son went through the door, he shouted at me, “There is no God!” I kept silent, but wanted to ask him,”if there is no God, what are you running from?”

You can tell me I’m crazy, but I think a lot of people “don’t believe” in God, because they can’t manipulate Him to do exactly what they want, so they “hurt Him” by not believing in Him.   Some people tell me God is just some fairy tail made up to give people a make believe hope beyond the grave. Here is my question. If there is no God then why do we die? That’s right, why do we die if there is no God? Scientists do not know exactly why we die. They can’t explain death. It seems our cells should just keep on recreating themselves. Why do they stop? I mean if we just all happened to be here, and the universe is millions of years old, why aren’t we millions of years old too? I will tell you why. Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death. In order to get an explanation for death you have to go to the creation story in Genesis 1-2 where God tells Adam and Eve they will die if the disobey.  Without the creation story you have no explanation for death. While people accuse me of making up God so I have a fantasy hope beyond the grave, fact is, the grave proves to me there is a God! There is no scientific explanation for death. The Creation story gives us the only explanation.

Many Christians try to disprove the big bang theory by saying, it takes more faith to believe “bang! There is life” than it does to believe there is God. While I fully believe in God, I did not think that was a good argument. To me, “bang there is God” is no more or less a coincidence than “bang there is life.” That is until it dawned on my feeble brain, with God there was no bang! He did not just happen. Fact is He never “happened” He has always existed! Do you see the difference? Nothing coincidental caused God to exist because He has always been. I can’t wrap my brain around it, but it makes sense and satisfies my mind that it makes more sense than something out of nowhere just causing a universe to exist. I can set off a million firecrackers and I will never get a universe out of any of them.

Okay, back to Christians just want a make believe hope beyond the grave. The accusation is we dreamed up this God to give us life beyond the grave. Fact is I can see man making up some form of god who rewards you for being good. That is legalism, and legalism is human nature, so sure it is in our nature to invent legalism and a God who rewards those who are good. But seriously folks, could any of us left on our own invent a god who rewards bad people? Could any of us dream up this god coming to die and give hope beyond the grave to sinners? In pagan religions man sacrifices himself to get the blessings of the god. Aztecs used to have a human sacrifice everyday just to get the so-called sun god to rise.  But Christianity offers something none of us could dream up. The God sacrifices Himself! And He sacrifices Himself to give life beyond the grave to sinners! Paul saw this contrast too in Romans 5:7-8, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Paul is making a contrast between Christianity and man- made religion. Mankind is legalistic by nature, so it is in our ability to invent a religion where someone may save a good person, but Christianity is unrivaled in that is presents a God who died to save bad people! Truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to look logical to be believed. Truth can defy logic because it is truth regardless if it is logical or not. A God coming to die for bad people defies all human logic. It is not in the human psyche, therefore it is an idea out of this world. Man can invent a religion where man saves himself in his own strength by his own works, which is legalism. But Paul says we were saved without any strength of ourselves. Christianity defies legalism and human logic! The Sabbath also defies legalism. The Sabbath reminds us we are not saved by our works. We are saved by resting our faith in our Creator.

“The Sabbath was instituted in Eden, as a memorial of creation. It points men directly to the true God as the Maker of the heavens and the earth. Thus it stands as a mighty barrier against idolatry, atheism, and infidelity. Had the Sabbath been universally kept, not one of these evils could have gained a foot-hold in our world. There could not have been an infidel nor an idolater.  –Ellen White, Signs of the Times, September 14, 1882.

The Sabbath is a sign of creation. After all, you have the sun to mark a year, the moon to mark a month, and the earth’s rotation to mark a day, yet the only thing that marks a week is the Sabbath from the seven day creation story. Like death, the seven day week can only be explained by the creation story in Genesis 1-2.  More than that, the Sabbath is a sign of rest and grace as opposed to works and legalism. It is a sign we have a Creator. Not just any creator, but a loving Creator. None of the pagan man-made religions offer a loving god, but always an angry god which man must make sacrifices for. The Sabbath not only tells us we have a Creator, it tells us we have a Creator full of love and grace. Something mankind could never dream up.

I wish  those two young men would not have ran away that day from their mother’s ICU room. Maybe one day they will get tired of running and rest. When they do, I know a great resting place. In my Creator’s arms of love.

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

What Does it Mean To Live Like A Seventh-day Adventist?

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This week’s SS lesson asks, “What does it mean to “live like an Adventist?” Here is what inspiration tells us about this name.

“No name which we can take will be appropriate but that which accords with our profession and expresses our faith and marks us a peculiar people. The name Seventh-day Adventist is a standing rebuke to the Protestant world. Here is the line of distinction between the worshipers of God and those who worship the beast and receive his mark. The great conflict is between the commandments of God and the requirements of the beast. It is because the saints are keeping all ten of the commandments that the dragon makes war upon them. If they will lower the standard and yield the peculiarities of their faith, the dragon will be at peace; but they excite his ire because they have dared to raise the standard and unfurl their banner in opposition to the Protestant world, who are worshiping the institution of papacy. The name Seventh-day Adventist carries the true features of our faith in front, and will convict the inquiring mind. Like an arrow from the Lord’s quiver, it will wound the transgressors of God’s law, and will lead to repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. {1Testimonies, p. 224.1}

The “Seventh-day” part of our name is very important because it identifies us as a people who are resting our faith in Jesus as our sole hope of salvation. It is only Jesus who can save us so we rest from our works and observe God’s grace on the Sabbath that He is Lord of (Mark 2:27-28). Remember you can keep the other nine commandments and worship any God you choose. The Sabbath Commandment reminds us Who God is. By observing the Seventh-day Sabbath we show that we want to follow our only example, Jesus Christ, in observing the day that he taught us to observe by example (Luke 4:16). Often we abbreviate the name to just “Adventist” because it is shorter, but I think we rob the world of a wonderful witness and testimony of God’s saving grace and rest from works and legalism when we do this. Satan wants us to forget that Sabbath commandment, and he wants us to forget the “Seventh-day” in our name because both point to God’s saving grace apart from works.

The Adventist part is special too. A true Adventist does not just believe Jesus is coming again, but loves His appearing! We are a people in love with Jesus and want to be with Him. We have a hope for a hurting world that is out of this world. Our name is a beacon of hope, pointing them to the rest that is in Jesus and the hope of His soon return.

Being a Seventh-day Adventist means to live like you are leaving. Living like a Seventh-day Adventist is also about living closer to Jesus in the here and now. This is where our health message comes in. While the December 2005 issue of National Geographic, mentioned that Seventh-day Adventists live on average eight years longer, what the health message is really about is not so much living longer, but living closer to Jesus. Now being a veggie-link eating Adventist will not make you holy. However, eating and drinking healthy, not only makes you physically healthy, but also clears the mind for the Holy Spirit to make greater impressions. When on the cross, Jesus was offered wine to drink (Mark 15:23), and if the health message were only about living longer, Jesus might as well have gone ahead and drunk the wine. He was dying soon anyway. But Jesus was on a mission, and He needed his mind to be clear and focused on His mission. This is why he refused the wine. In the Old Testament priests were especially forbidden to drink wine (See Leviticus 10:9), and the New Testament teaches the priesthood of all believers. (See 1 peter 2:5,9) Therefore as a part of the priesthood, we all are on a sacred mission and should treat our bodies as the temple of the God. Healthy bodies lead to healthy minds, which should lead to healthier decisions.

Speaking of priests and the sanctuary, in the sanctuary service the priests wore jewels on their uniforms “for glory and for beauty“ (Exodus 28:2). In the Bible we read again and again that all glory belongs to God for glory is His character. So the priests officiating in the sanctuary wore jewelry because they were to represent God’s character to the people. The jewelry represented God’s glory and character, which is perfection.

Since we have not reached perfection of character, I believe we are not worthy to wear the jewels. However, just like the prodigal son, when we go home with Jesus, He will give us the jewels to wear (James 1:12, Revelation 2:10). And just as the prodigal son did not place the jewelry on himself but let his father do it, we are not to place the jewels on ourselves. But when we get home, our Father will give us the jewelry to wear.  And even then we will cast our crowns of jewels at His feet because we will feel unworthy to wear them! If we will feel unworthy to wear jewelry in heaven after our characters have been perfected, why would we want to wear it now in our sinful condition?

Now before we  start pointing fingers, let’s keep in mind that the problem with jewelry is pride. For too long, Seventh-day Adventists have told people to take off their jewelry but not get rid of their pride. So the pride just showed up in other places, like expensive cars or watches. Some Adventists are proud that they don’t wear jewelry, and that is still pride! So why is it wrong for a young woman to wear a nice set or earrings, but okay for the rich elder to make sure everyone saw the hundred-dollar bill he causally tossed in the offering plate? Both can be a sign of pride. And yet we cannot judge the wearers of jewelry, because we cannot judge hearts.

To live like a Seventh-day Adventist means keeping our eyes on Jesus and not people. This means we neither imitate or judge our brothers or sisters. Living like a Seventh-day Adventist means having a balanced work week which also includes a Sabbath rest. It means to live practical lives day to day, while keeping in mind that Jesus is coming and this world is not our home. It means having a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, so that we live closer to Jesus and not just longer. Our only glory is in the cross, and not in what we wear or don’t wear.

As Seventh-day Adventists, we believe our salvation in Jesus alone, and we demonstrate that by seeking to follow Jesus’ example of holiness and humbleness.

 

Ten Commandments in Light of The Cross Part 4

 

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.  Exodus 20:8-11

For years, Sabbath keepers have been called legalists. But think about it. The Sabbath is not about works and legalism, it is about rest and faith. It is not a day of works, it is a day of no work. Several times over the years I have heard a non-Sabbath keeper talking about the ten commandments as though they are still valid, which of course they are. However when the Sabbath is mentioned that same person will turn around and with the same mouth say that the commandments are done away with. That’s funny. They weren’t done away with before the Sabbath was mentioned. The Sabbath is a pivotal part of the law because it introduces grace to the law instead of legalism. “Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it [is] a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that [ye] may know that I [am] the LORD that doth sanctify you.” Exodus 31:13 It is not our works but God’s work that sanctifies us.

Satan does not want us to forget the Sabbath because he wants us to forget the law. Satan knows we are not saved by the works of the law but by grace. The Sabbath is a sign of God’s grace. We do no work on that day, demonstrating that it is not our works that sustain or save us but rather God’s work both at creation and the cross that sustain and save us. We rest on the Sabbath showing that we are resting our faith in the only One who can save us, Jesus Christ. I can imagine God walking with Adam and Eve through the garden, as He showed them all He had made for them, and the wonders of not their works but His works. Adam and Eve realized that day with God, “it is] he [that] hath made us, and not we ourselves.” (Psalms 100:3) Before and after the Cross the Sabbath is a sign that it is God’s work that creates and sustains us.

The Sabbath Commandment reminds us that God is our creator and we refrain from work and worldly activities on the Sabbath day as we rest our faith in God’s power to save and provide for us, instead of our own works and ability to do business and make money.

The same principle is seen in the story of Cain and Abel. In Genesis 4 we read about Abel worshiping the way God had commanded in bringing a lamb as a sacrifice. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice as the lamb God instructed him to bring pointed to Jesus: the Lamb of God who would be sacrificed for our sins. Abel, more than just worshiping as God had instructed was saying he trusted in Jesus to save him and not his own works, he was looking to the Cross. Cain’s sacrifice was refused because he did not worship the way God had instructed, and he brought his own fruit, the work of his own hands. God cannot accept our works and could not accept Cain’s works either. Only the Cross can save us.

Today, many people like Cain, try to be saved by worshiping their own way. Jesus says about them, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). Our own works and man made ways of worship will never save us.

The story goes of a little boy years ago who had built his own wooden sailboat. Tied to a string he set the boat out to sail in a nearby creek and then would use the string to reel it back in. One day the string broke and the little boat fell victim to the rapids and sailed away. Several days later the boy is window shopping downtown when he sees his boat in a toy store window. He goes inside and tells the owner, “That’s my boat in the window.” The owner of the store not sure if he should believe the young lad tells the boy he will have to purchase the boat if he wants it back.

The boy does several chores around the home and neighborhood to get the few dollars the boat costs. He returns to the store and purchases his own boat. Walking home, holding his boat close to his chest he was over heard saying, “little boat you are twice mine. First I made you, and then I bought you.” That is what Jesus is telling us through the Sabbath today. As we rest from our works on the Sabbath and put our faith in Him, He tells us, “You are twice mine. First, at creation I made you, and then at the cross I bought you.”

For further study on the Sabbath click here.

Ciera’s Baptism Pictures

This morning was a special day at the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church.  Not because it was St. Patrick’s day, but because we welcomed another saint into the body of Christ. Ciera gave her life to Jesus today by being baptized, because Jesus gave His life for her. Please enjoy the pictures.

Ciera has been looking forward to this day for a long time. Over the years, at Tampa Adventist Academy, she has been in several of my baptism classes. In addition to baptism classes, she is also pictured here in my Bible marking-chain referencing class that I hold at TAA. She is learning to share Jesus with others. The other day in class I did some role playing, and pretended I did not believe in the Sabbath. Cieria quickly found Bible verses to let me know the Sabbath, and the rest we find in God’s grace is still very much in effect.

This morning, Pastor Brad Cassell, went over the baptism vows with Ciera before the congregation.

The smile on Ciera’s face shows she has been looking forward to and preparing for this day for a long time.

Even though Ciera’s family are members of another Adventist church in the area, Ciera chose to be baptized at Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church by Pastor Claudette Aleman. We are glad Ciera chose Tampa First, and consider her family a big part of the Tampa First family.  All the area Tampa Bay area Adventist churches are just one big happy family!

For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. Colossians 2:12 NLT

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. Romans 6:5 That new life sure puts a smile on your face, doesn’t it!

Ciera and her family had several family and friends over for lunch today to help celebrate!

After a long day of celebration, worship and fellowship, we closed out the Sabbath together with some songs and a devotional thought from the Bible.

Please don’t let the sun set on you before giving your life to the One who gave His life for you! If you are interested in baptism I would love to talk to you and help you prepare for this important life changing step. You can contact me at LayPAstor@TampaAdventist.net

Glimpses of Grace; Cain and Abel

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.  And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:  But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.  Genesis 4:3-5

Cain represents those who want to be saved by their own works and by creating their own method of worship. Cain presented his works to God, but our works will never save us. Abel represents those who put their faith, not in their own works, but in the Lamb of God. Cain represents those who think they worship any way and any day they want to work out and make holy on their own. Abel represents those who observe the Bible Sabbath and cease from their works and rest their faith in the Lamb of God for their salvation.

If man had always kept the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, there never would have been an atheist or an infidel in the world. Through the fourth commandment, the attention of men is called to the power of the infinite hand that placed the stars in the firmament. If they had obeyed this commandment, they would have worshiped God, as they looked at the sun that rules the day, and the moon which rules the night. Everything in nature,–the tints and coloring that he has given to every opening bud and every blooming flower, the lofty tree, the grass that clothes the earth in its green mantle, would have spoken to the soul, bidding us to remember God and the commandment in which he says that he created all these in six days and rested on the seventh day, and hallowed the Sabbath day which he had made. He blessed man, and gave the Sabbath to him to be observed as a memorial of his creative power. But Satan has come in, and shown himself the decided enemy of man, and he seeks to make of none effect the work of God, and get in every conceivable thing of human origination, to hide God and his glory from our sight. The man of sin, it is declared in Daniel, “shall think to change times and laws,” And is not this very work done now? Is he not seeking to change times and laws?  {RH, April 15, 1890 par. 11} 

     He cannot do this, because God’s holy law is as unchangeable as his throne, and is from everlasting to everlasting. Christ has said, “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” But the question of Sabbath and Sunday observance is to be agitated everywhere, and  the deceptions of Satan will flood the world. The man of sin has instituted a spurious sabbath, and the Protestant world has taken this child of the papacy and cradled and nurtured it. Satan means to make all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of the fornication of Babylon. Men are binding themselves together in bonds of union to show their disloyalty to the God of heaven. The first day of the week is to be exalted and presented to all for observance. Shall we be partakers of this cup of abomination? Shall we bow to the authorities of earth and despise God? The powers of darkness have been gathering their forces to bring this crisis about in the world, so that the man of sin may exalt himself above God. God does not force the conscience of any man, but the powers of darkness have been trying to compel the  consciences of men ever since Abel fell under the murderous blow from the hand of pitiless Cain because Abel’s works were righteous and his own were sinful. God had respect unto the offering of Abel, but he had no respect for Cain’s offering, and this made Cain very angry, and the Lord said, “Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.” God was not at fault that Cain’s offering was not respected. It was valueless because it was destitute of the thing that gave it virtue, and that was the blood that was to be shed for the sins of the world,–the blood of Jesus Christ.  {RH, April 15, 1890 par. 12}

Glimpses of Grace; God is Love And Not A Pyschopath

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. Genesis 2:3

Suppose my girlfriend told me this Valentine’s day that she wanted pink roses. I may not be the brightest  Romeo in the world, but I know better than to go to the flower shop, thinking, “a rose is a rose and all roses are alike, I will just pick one. Let’s see, everyone else is getting red roses, so since it doesn’t really make any difference I will just get her a red rose. I know she asked for pink but what difference does it make?”  If I love my girlfriend I will get her the color rose she specifically mentioned. Likewise, if I really love God, I will observe the Sabbath day that He mentioned, and not just say, after He mentioned the seventh-day, that it really doesn’t matter.

Speaking of God and Valentine’s day, you know how I know that God is really love? Because He looks out for our needs instead of just thinking about Himself in our relationship with Him. If you are in a romantic relationship, or any other relationship for that matter, with a person who isolates you from your family and friends, you can be sure this is not love. It is a psychopath! Only psychopaths try to isolate you from others. Notice what God says in Genesis 2:18, “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” God could have said, “I am God and I am all that Adam needs.” But that would not be a God of love. That would be a psychopath. Even God realizes He is not all that we need! God realizes we need a community, so God creates Eve so that Adam  can have a help meet, but even beyond that, Adam and Eve can now create a community. God encourages us in Hebrews 10 to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. God is love. He is healthy and not a  psycho-ego maniac. If God understands that He is not all we need, but that we also need a community, then shouldn’t we all realize that in order to be healthy, we need to be a part of a church and community, and not live our lives as hermits? Also, shouldn’t we realize too, that our loved ones need space and time with other friends too? If  our relationships are truly healthy, and motivated by love instead of ego, we will not be smothering or isolating our loved ones from others. Healthy couples and healthy families are active in their church and communities and are not jealous when the other member in the relationship has friends.  If you are involved with someone who thinks they are all you need, and isolating you from family and friends, then they are really messed up, thinking they are even greater than God. Not even God thinks He is all you need.

Glimpses of Our God; The Holiness of God

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.  And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.     And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.  Genesis 2:1-3

The Sabbath is an illustration on how the Lord makes us Holy. After all, Christianity and even more specifically, Seventh-day Adventism, is not so much about a day being holy as much as it is about a people being holy. The Sabbath did not makes itself holy. This seventh day was totally powerless and helpless. Yet God made the day holy. Likewise we can do nothing to make ourselves holy, yet God can make us holy just as He made the seventh day holy.  Thus, the Sabbath is all about grace. It is a sign that all of God’s work is complete and we can rest without trying to add anything to His work. No wonder Satan wants us to forget the Sabbath. The Sabbath points us to grace, the cross and the creating and re-creating power of God. If the Sabbath was about the law and works, Satan would care less if we kept it or not, as he is smart enough to know we are not saved by the law or works. Satan is at war with the Sabbath, because he knows it points to grace and the cross where we find salvation.

I can imagine what the first Sabbath may have been like.  Adam and Eve did not need a physical rest that first Sabbath. It’s not like they had a long week that week. But I can imagine God taking them through the garden, showing them all the wonderful things He had made, and the works He had done. On that first Sabbath, Adam and Eve realized, “It is He that hath made us and not we ourselves.” Four thousand years later, Jesus cries out on the cross, “It is finished” and completed all the work for our salvation. He rested in the grave on Sabbath. There was nothing mankind could add or needed to add to the works of Jesus. After the cross the Sabbath has double meaning. It is He who has made us and not we ourselves, and it is He who redeemed us and not we ourselves.

The works of Cain in his field could not add to the salvation God Himself worked out, by providing a Lamb. The builders at the Tower of Babel could not add to God’s salvation no matter how hard they worked. Thinking to change times and laws, and thinking to turning a work day into a Sabbath day will never add to salvation either. We cannot make ourselves holy, so how can we think we can make Sunday or any other day holy? Only God can make a day holy and only God can make a people holy. I find it odd that some have accused me of trying to be saved by my works by resting on the Sabbath. How can resting be considered work?

Every Sabbath I stand in awe of God’s works just like I imagine Adam and Eve did on that first Sabbath. I understand God made a day holy that was totally powerless to make itself holy. I understand that it is He who made me and not my own works or effort. I rest my faith in His amazing grace as He also redeemed me by His work on the cross and not by my works.  If God can make a day holy, He can make me holy too.

To study this week’s SS lesson click here.

To download the SS app to your phone click here.

For further study on the weekly Sabbath click here.