Sabbath Blog

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This web page last updated
November 9, 2018

All quoted scriptures are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.

I have been encouraged to write a blog for this site. There are different ways that could be done. I'm going to try writing a "Sabbath Blog" where I just take one paragraph to discuss some topic that has been on my mind during the week leading up to the Sabbath. I won't necessarily do this every Sabbath, like when I'm out of town, but I will try to do this most every Sabbath. I hope this will be spiritually enriching for those who read them. If they are, it is through the power of the Holy Spirit and all glory and credit should be given to God and God alone.

 

Bad Things Happen To God’s Servants, Part 2 — November 10, 2018

When we talk about bad things happening to God’s servants, Job is near, if not at the top of the list. Job did a better job of obeying the letter of God’s law than just about anyone. Job 1:1, “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.” Notice it says he feared God, not that he loved God. We all know bad things happened to Job. However, in this story, God not only allowed bad things to happen to Job, God actually encouraged Satan to do bad things to Job. Notice how God brings Job’s righteousness to Satan’s attention. Job 1:8, “Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?’” Then God gave Satan permission to take away all that Job had, except Satan couldn’t touch Job himself. Job 1:12, “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.’” Satan not only took away all of Job’s wealth, he killed Job’s ten children. After this there is a repeat of the above with God then allowing Satan to hurt Job but not kill him. Job 2:6, “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.’” The big question is why did God not only allow bad things to happen to Job, but encourage Satan to do so. In my opinion, Job was not a vain individual, but he was trusting in his own righteousness instead of the righteousness of God in his life through the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, in my opinion, Job was not really converted. I believe the whole purpose for God allowing all this to happen was to bring Job to conversion, to trust in God for God’s righteousness in his life instead of his own. And to have a closer, loving relationship with God. Notice Job’s concluding statement. Job 43:5-6, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.” Job was an obedient servant of God, of what was he repenting? He was repenting of not really knowing or understanding God. He was now going to rely on God in faith, hope and love for righteousness, not his own physical character. Now Job was converted. By allowing bad things to happen to Job, God brought Job to conversion and a closer relationship with Him. The spiritual lessons Job learned were much more important than the bad physical things that happened to him. The same will often be true in our own lives.

Bad Things Happen To God’s Servants, Part 1 — November 3, 2018

Hebrews 11:4, “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.” Abel was a righteous man and is referred to as such five times in the New Testament. I know I forgot how often Abel is referred to as a good example of righteousness in the New Testament. Notice how the Apostle Paul states the importance of Abel's example, "God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks." However, his brother Cain murdered him. Why did God allow this to happen? Notice that God warned Cain and told him to control his anger. Genesis 4:6-7, “So the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.’” Why did God literally speak to Cain warning him against doing evil, but did not actually prevent Cain from murdering his brother Abel? Why didn’t God speak to Abel warning him about his brother’s anger? I don’t have all the answers. But let us consider the following. Adam and Eve had rejected God’s command concerning the Tree of Knowledge. Sin separates us from God and Adam and Eve chose a path of independence from God and slavery to sin not only for themselves, but their children and all humanity (Romans 5:12). If God had intervened and prevented Abel’s death, a different relationship would have been established between God and humanity. Was God going to intervene every time someone was going to do evil? No. God was leaving humanity take their own path and in order to be consistent He was not going to intervene in their day-to-day activities except on rare occasions to teach us a special spiritual lesson. Abel does serve as the first righteous human that something terribly bad happen to. We are to learn many important spiritual lessons from this story.  Let us review one as we close with the message of 1 Peter 4:12, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;”.

Doctrines that Differentiate — October 27, 2018

There are many doctrines that differentiate the Churches of God from mainstream Christianity. Keeping the Sabbath, the seven Feast and Holy Days, we don’t immediately go to heaven or hell when we die, there is a resurrection, there is not an eternal burning hell fire, we don’t have an immortal soul, clean and unclean meats, and there is no Trinity, the Holy Spirit is the Powerful Essence of God not another God being. In my opinion the two most important doctrines that differentiate the Churches of God are as follows. One, As the obedient and forgiven children of God, we will actually be Gods in the God Family through a resurrection to eternal life. In general, mainstream Christianity believes they will become angels or angel-like beings. Two, God is not now trying to save the world. God will accomplish that after the Millennium as depicted by the Eighth Day or Last Great Day of the feast. There are five doctrines that differentiate the Church of God Santa Rosa from most all other churches. One, we don’t believe in a hierarchical form of government but an administration of spiritual consensus based on love. Two, we still adhere to a revealed Monday Pentecost with several corrections in how to Biblically count 50 days. Three, Atonement is a day of group fasting, group repentance, group cleansing and group reconciliation with God. The Azazel goat is a living atonement over whom the sins of Israel were confessed and removed, Leviticus 16:10, 21. Only our Messiah and Savior is our Atonement to whom we confess our sins so they can be removed from us, John 1:29. Four, God allows spiritual blindness as a necessary part of His Plan of Salvation. If God had not hardened Pharaoh’s heart, Pharaoh could have let the Israelites worship God as requested and there would not have been the 10 plagues, Passover or the Exodus. Likewise, if the Jews had not been blind, they would have accepted Jesus as the Messiah and never turned Him over to the Romans to be crucified for the forgiveness of the sins of humanity. Hence, without spiritual blindness we would not have a Savior. And Five, we don’t believe in remarriage after divorce. Why do we discuss these differentiations? To make us feel superior? NO! For two reasons. One, to remember all truth comes by revelation and is a gift from God. 1 Corinthians 4:6b-7, “that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” And two, to remind us not to take these truths for granted, but to continually thank and praise God for the understanding He has given us. Colossians 1:12-14, “giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Praise be to God for granting us this spiritual understanding.

Only the God of the Bible Created Time — October 20, 2018

2 Timothy 1:9, “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,”. The Apostle Paul tells Timothy God’s Plan of Salvation through Jesus Christ was determined before time began. “Time” had a beginning. “Time” is the movement of planets, stars and galaxies and their rotations. Before these existed, time did not exist, only God and the Logos existed. Paul repeats this in Titus 1:2, “in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began,”. Isaiah 57:15a, “For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:” God lives in eternity. We humans cannot really comprehend that. God is not only eternal, His spiritual presence is everywhere at all times, past, present and future, simultaneously. God is Omnipresent and Omnipotent. The God of the Bible is the only God depicted as creating the universe and time itself. All the other gods of Greece, Rome, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc., are depicted as living in a universe that already exist. Yes, they may create or form the earth, but none of them are described as creating the initial universe and setting time in motion. What a difference! Only the one true God, the only God that exists and is eternal and all powerful is accurately depicted in the Bible as having created all things, everything that exist, the whole universe including time itself.

Faith and Science Prove God’s Existence — October 13, 2018

Hebrews 11:1-3, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” We have faith that God does exist. Answered prayer, fulfilled Biblical prophecy, the inspired truths of the Bible and the power of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives all add credence to the fact that there is, there must be a creator God. While we have faith God does exist, there is plenty of scientific evidence that a Supreme Being designed, created and “fine-tuned” the universe in order for human life to exist on this earth. An excellent book on this topic is “The Creator and the Cosmos” by Hugh Ross. In it, Dr. Ross presents and discusses the latest scientific evidence that proves there has to be a God that made the universe. In 1962 scientist had documented two criteria that were perfectly balanced in the universe in order for life to exist. Now scientist have discovered over 1,000 criteria, all of which are and must be tuned to the narrowest margins in order for there to be life on our planet Earth. Our planet Earth is just the right size and distance from our just right yellow sun. In the last 60 years with the latest telescopes, scientist have not been able to find another sun like our sun, it is unique. Scientist have spotted over 3,000 planets with their telescopes and logic tells us there are a vast number more. But none have been proven to be like our earth. There is no other solar system like our solar system and it is perfectly designed and laid out to support life on earth. The same is true about the Milky Way Galaxy. Scientist can count billions of galaxies, but not one is like our Milky Way Galaxy. The Milky Way Galaxy in almost a perfect circle which is necessary in order for life to exist on planet Earth. All other Galaxies are elliptical, spiral or irregular. Scientist have proven the universe is expanding. The Bible got it right a long time ago before scientific conformation. Isaiah 42:5, “Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk on it:” There are around a dozen verses in the Bible that state God has stretched or is stretching out the heavens. Our Earth is just the right distance from the galaxy core for life to exist. In addition, our solar system with planet Earth is between two spiral arms in the Milky Way Galaxy. This is just the right location for the best view of our Milky Way Galaxy and the rest of the known universe. If we were closer to the galactic core, there would be too many stars, thus hindering our view. If we were further away from the galactic core, there would be less galactic dust and gas and the night sky would be almost completely white with the light from all the stars in the universe which would also hinder our view. God designed it all this way as indicated by Psalms 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.”

Old Testament in the New Testament — October 6, 2018

Christians concentrate a lot on the New Testament. However, the New Testament can be said to be built upon the Old Testament. Depending upon how one differentiates between a direct quote and a general reference, the New Testament writers quote Old Testament scriptures up to around 850 times. Jesus quoted the Old Testament 78 times. Jesus quoted the first five books of the Bible 26 times. He also quotes from Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Amos, Jonah, Micah, and Malachi. In Matthew 4:4 Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3, "So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord." In Matthew 4:7 Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16, "shall not tempt the Lord your God as you tempted Him in Massah." A few verses latter in Matthew 4:10 He quotes Deuteronomy 6:13, "You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name." In Matthew chapter five Jesus quotes the Old Testament five times. Twenty-Two of the 27 New Testament books quote from the Old Testament. Books with 50 to 100 quotes are Matthew, Luke, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians and Hebrews. Maybe surprisingly, the book with the most references to the Old Testament in the form of direct quotes, general references of parallel thoughts is the book of Revelation with a count of 249. We need both the Old Testament and the New Testament to fully understand God's Plan of Salvation. Both Testaments support each other. And, of course, both the Old Testament and New Testament are the inspired, God's breathed words of God. Let's not take God's Word for granted and study our Bibles on a daily basis,

The Feast with No Name — September 29, 2018

I hope everyone is having an enjoyable and spiritually uplifting Feast of Tabernacles. This coming Monday is the seventh feast of God, the “Eighth Day.” Leviticus 23:36, “For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it.” Leviticus 23:39, “Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest.” Next to nothing Is said about this feast in the Bible. The Bible never attaches a proper name to this feast like it does for all the other six feasts. There are only two other places in the Bible where the Eighth Day is specifically mentioned. Numbers 29:35, “On the eighth day you shall have a sacred assembly. You shall do no customary work.” Nehemiah 8:18, “Also day by day, from the first day until the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day there was a sacred assembly, according to the prescribed manner.” One other possibility is mentioned in John 7:37-38, “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” It is not clear and Bible scholars are divided if this refers to the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the seventh day, or the following day, the Eighth Day. Some think Jesus is referring to the Jewish custom of going to the Pool of Siloam and filling a pitcher with water and carrying it back to the Temple to be poured out on the western side of the altar of animal sacrifices. This water He likens to the Holy Spirit – the Holy Spirit is often referred to symbolically as water. This water ceremony was not performed on the Eight Day. Some believe Jesus was “filling the gap” left on the Eight Day by saying this Eighth Day represents when the Holy Spirit will come to the rest of humanity. What does the Eight Day represent? It is the final Holy Day of the year and represents the culmination of God’s Plan of Salvation. 1 Timothy 2:4, “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” So many down through 6000 years of history have never even heard of the God of the Bible or Jesus as their Savior. When will God given them a chance to know Him? Revelation 20:11-12, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.” This event takes place immediately after the Millennium. The details of how this will be done and how long it will take are not given to us. The Church of God used to refer to Isaiah 65:20 that mentions 100 years as how old people will be when they die to determine how long the Great White Judgment Day of Revelation 20:11-12 would be. However, if we read the verses and chapters before and after Isaiah 65:20 we see the Millennium being described. These verses in Isaiah are referring to the average life span of people during the Millennium. Whether or not this has any relevance to how long people will live during the Great White Throne Judgment is not determined by this verse. We will have to wait and see. What we do know for sure is that God is a fair, merciful and loving God. We can rest assured that God will give all who have ever lived a chance to know Him, repent, be forgiven and enter into the Kingdom of God. The Eighth Day represents when the vast majority of all those who have ever lived will have their opportunity to enter into the Kingdom of God’s Family. Indeed, the Eighth Day represents the culmination of God’s Plan of Salvation.

Tabernacles and Rejoicing — September 22, 2018

The Feast of Tabernacles begins this coming Sunday evening. We are told to rejoice during this seven-day feast. While we should be spiritually blessed and happy on all of God's Feasts and Holy Days, there is a special emphasis on rejoicing during the Feast of Tabernacles. In fact, in Leviticus 23, it is the only feast where the word "rejoice" is used to describe how we should celebrate it. Leviticus 23:39-40, "Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest. And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days." This command is repeated in the last book Moses wrote. Deuteronomy 16:13-15, "You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days, when you have gathered from your threshing floor and from your winepress. And you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant and the Levite, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow, who are within your gates. Seven days you shall keep a sacred feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice." Why is this? Why do we save second tithe to physically rejoice before God during this feast more so than the other feasts? While there may be several reasons, the main reason would appear to be because these two feasts represents the culmination of God's Plan of Salvation. The Feast of Tabernacles represents the resurrected saints of God with eternal life in the Kingdom of God in heaven above. In addition, it represents a physical Kingdom of God on this earth for all those who survive the Great Tribulation. This is what all the other Holy Days are leading up to. The meaning of all the other Holy Days are necessary in order for the Feast of Tabernacles, that is, the realization of the Kingdom of God, to take place. We'll talk about the "eighth" or Last Great Day in the next Sabbath Thought. Have a great Feast of Tabernacles and may you greatly rejoice before the Lord.

Atonement Analysis — September 15, 2018

The Day of Atonement has been kept by the Churches of God with humble repentance. This has only differed slightly from Passover with the afflicting of our souls with fasting. However, there is more significance to this Holy Day than one might first imagine. An in-depth analysis of Leviticus 16 shows the Day of Atonement should be considered a group fast, not the fasting of individuals. Passover is about individual repentance. The Day of Atonement is about a group fast for the purpose of group repentance. In the Old Testament the sins of the whole nation were confessed over the live goat. In New Testament times, we should do this spiritually as a church, suggesting with a group prayer. There are several other important differences between Passover and the Day of Atonement that are often overlooked. Passover is about forgiveness and redemption. The emphasis for Atonement is reconciliation and purification. Three times in Leviticus 16 it is stated that the purpose of the five atonements is to cleanse the items of worship and the children of Israel. Let's quote just one. Leviticus 16:30 For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. Our sins separate us from God (Isaiah 59:2) and make us "dirty" in His sight. Jesus Christ as our High Priest not only died for the forgiveness of our sins, but also to cleanse us and reconcile us with God the Father. 1 John 1:7, 9, "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Romans 5:8-11, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation." In Old Testament times, the High Priest could only enter the Holy of Holies once a year, on the Day of Atonement - access was "limited" to God the Father and His Mercy Seat. But through the shed blood of our Savior Jesus Christ, we all can approach the Father and His Mercy Seat in heaven above in prayer at any time we chose. Hebrews 4:14-16, "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." These points are expanded upon along with several others in the article Atonement A Day of National Significance. You can read it by finding the website for the Church of God Santa Rosa and looking under the "Articles" tab. Or by simply clicking on here.

Doctrines that Differentiate Trumpets Keepers — September 8, 2018

There are several doctrines that most Christian churches espouse that the understanding of what the Feast of Trumpets represents will dispel. While there are many events that are associated with the Feast of Trumpets, an alarm of war and the seven trumpets to name just a couple, the main two doctrines associated with this Holy Day are the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the First Resurrection. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord." The resurrection of the dead negates a commonly taught doctrine of an immortal soul. Ezekiel 18:4, "Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die." Why don't most Christians believe this next scripture? Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Most Christians believe the wages of sin is eternal life in an ever-burning hell fire. But that is not what the Bible teaches. That brings up another doctrine not supported by the Bible, an eternal hell fire to torment unbelievers when they die. Why would a loving God torture sinners for the rest of eternity? Instead the scriptures tell us sinners will be destroyed and die a second death. Malachi 4:1, "For behold, the day is coming, Burning like an oven, And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up, Says the Lord of hosts, That will leave them neither root nor branch." Revelation 20:14-15, "Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." Notice the differentiation between the Book of Life and the second death. Another popular misconception is going to heaven immediately when good Christians die. John 3:13, "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven." Hebrews 11:39, "And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,". We don't have an immortal soul. There is not an eternal burning hell fire. We don't immediately go to heaven when we die. Instead, everyone will wait in their graves for a resurrection. For those called and chosen during the first six thousand years, the First Resurrection at Jesus' Second Coming. For everyone else, a resurrection after the Millennium has ended. We should not take for granted these Truths. Instead, we should be giving God continual thanks for the understanding of these Truths. Have a blessed and spiritually uplifting Feast of Trumpets everyone!

Never Give Up on Bible Study — August 31, 2018

We talk to God through prayer. How does God communicate with us? Through His inspired scriptures. However, we have to make the effort to read them. After Moses' death, just before the Israelites were to enter the land of Canaan to conquer it, Joshua gave them a command. Joshua 1:8, "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." David constantly thought about the laws of God. Almost every verse in Psalms 119 has a reference to the laws of God, or a synonym thereof. Let's read two. Psalms 119:15-16, "I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word." Daniel understood the Jews were to remain in Babylonian captivity for 70 years by studying the writings of Jeremiah. Daniel 9:2, "in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem." When the Jews returned from their Babylon captivity, Ezra was determined to study "the law," the first five books of our Bible. Ezra 7:10, "For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel." Luke records that the Bereans studied the scriptures daily. Acts 17:11, "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so." Paul emphasized the importance of Bible study to Timothy. 2 Timothy 2:15, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." We must study the Words of God if we want His approval. This is not a suggestion. It is a requirement. There is one book in the Bible that has a special blessing for those who study it. Revelation 1:3, "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near." We have to read the book of Revelation in order to claim that blessing. Let us never tire of reading and studying the scriptures of the Bible. They are the "God breathed" words of God meant for our benefit.

Saving the World — August 25, 2018

One-third of the world's population is Christian. That means two-thirds is not! Muslims, 21%; Hindus, 13%; Buddhists, 6%; all other religions, 12%; non-religious, 14%. If the God of the Bible is trying to save everyone now, He is doing a poor job, losing out to the efforts and influence of Satan. People often say that Allah is an evil god promoting acts of terrorism. But consider the God most Christians believe in and worship. Most Christians believe people who never heard of God the Father or Jesus our Savor are doomed to an eternal ever burning hell fire when they die. Does this picture an all-loving God? I think not. There are many scriptures that tell us this world is deceived. Here is just one. 2 Corinthians 4:4, "whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them." Jesus said He spoke in parables so the crowds that listened to Him would not understand. Why is this? The answer to that question is beyond the scope of this Sabbath Thought (for the answer to that question, listen to my sermon "Why Blindness Redux?" from March 28, 2015 found on our church website www.cogsr.org. For this Sabbath Thought, let us concentrate on what God's will is for all humankind. Romans 11:25-26, "For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;"". Notice that statement, "all Israel will be saved"! "Shall be" is future tense. 1 Timothy 2:4, "who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." If God desires all humans to be saved, but is now allowing the majority of those alive to be deceived, how is God going do remedy this situation? 1 Corinthians 15:22-23, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming." There are different times of salvation for different individuals (2 Corinthians 6:2; Isaiah 49:8). The Father's Plan of Salvation is a mystery to most people. Understanding it is like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. We can combine our understanding of various doctrines like the resurrections, no ever burning hell fire, you don't go immediately to heaven when you die, the millennium, and so forth, to figure out this dilemma. In addition, we must understand and keep all of God's seven Holy Feasts, for through them the mystery of God's Plan of Salvation is revealed. After the Feast of Tabernacles there is the "Eighth Day," labeled by many as either the "Last Great Day" or "The Great White Throne Judgment Day." By reading Revelation 20:5, 11-13 we learn there will be another resurrection after the millennium. Everyone who has ever lived and not known the True God, will have an opportunity to know God and reject or accept His mercy through our Savior Jesus Christ. Exactly how this will work, we don't have all the details. We do know that God is a loving and merciful God who prefers to forgive rather than to punish sinners (James 2:13). Yes, the incorrigible wicked will reject the Father's mercy and Jesus as their Savor. But the vast majority will humble themselves, repent and be forgiven through the gift of grace and faith. The vast majority of all humans will enter into the Kingdom of God, each in their own time order.

Equality vs. Responsibility, Part 4 — August 18, 2018

This Sabbath let us discuss equality vs. responsibility among God the Father and Jesus and the saints to be in the Family of God in the future. Let us first consider Philippians 2:5-6, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,". Jesus was God and equal as a God to God the Father. However, Jesus did not have the same responsibilities. He was a Son, the Son of God. God the Father has the greater responsibilities of a Father over a Son. Romans 8:14-17, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs-heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together." We are to be sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18) of God the Father, and joint heirs with Jesus. Joint heirs implied equality, equality with Jesus as the Children of God our Father. However, we will never have the same history or responsibilities as Jesus who is the Savior of all humankind. Likewise, as Children in the Family of God we will have different responsibilities in the Kingdom of God. Let us consider just a few examples. David is to be king over all Israel (Ezekiel 37:24). The 12 apostles will each rule over one of the 12 tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28). In the parable of the talents in Luke 19:12-19 we see two different individuals who were given the same amount of money to do business with. One gained 10 times as much and was rewarded with rulership over 10 cities. The other gained 5 times as much and was granted to be over 5 cities. It is interesting to note that neither this parable or the one in Matthew 25 mentions that the servants were men. Only the King James Version of the Bible adds the word "man" in Luke 19:15; this clarification is not in the original Greek. If the servant who gained 10 times as much happened to be female, she would rule over more cities than the one who could be male who only gained 5 times as much. Neither gender nor race will not be a qualifying parameter in the Kingdom of God. It is definite that some women like Sarah and Mary the mother of Jesus, to name just two, will have more responsibilities in the Kingdom of God than most men. All will be equal as Children of God in the Kingdom of God, but with different levels of responsibility. We all have the same opportunity to be the sons and daughters of God our Father. Our level of responsibility in the Kingdom of God will be determined by how much we overcome, build Godly character and accomplish in serving others. Our works will not earn us eternal life, but our works will determine our reward and level of responsibility in the Kingdom of God.

Equality vs. Responsibility, Part 3 — August 11, 2018

We now come to the topic of women regarding equality and responsibility in the Church of God. A delicate topic with a variety of opinions and justifications after reading the same scriptures. There are two main scriptures on this topic from the Apostle Paul. 1 Tim 2:11-12, "Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence." While not specifically stated, based on the next scripture, this is understood to refer to church services. The Greek word for "silence" means more than just to be quiet. In addition, it means to be willing to learn in a submissive and receptive attitude, however, without surrendering their intellect. It does not mean women cannot talk at all when gathering together to attend a church service, they can participate in the song services and conversation before and after the church service. Paul is most emphatic, however, that women are not to preach or teach during the church service. This is also emphasized in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, "Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church." Let us remember the context of this chapter. The church services at Corinth had gotten out of hand, multiple people were all trying to speak, they were interrupting the current speaker and some were speaking in tongues that no one could understand. The Apostle Paul gives directives to bring order to the services and avoid confusion. Then he adds that women are not to speak, again implied during the church service. Neither are women to participate in doctrinal discussions during church, this they can do at home with their husband. Some churches now believe it is okay for women to read the scriptures during their church services as long as they don't comment on what they are reading. They believe if all a woman does is read a few verses, she is not preaching or teaching. But please note the Apostle Paul was inspired to give two conditions: 1) let the women learn in silent submission, and 2) women are not to teach. Just reading the Bible during church is in of itself teaching others. Does this mean women can never pray or talk about God in public? No, it does not, just not in church, that responsibility is given solely to men. God foretold that He would pour out His Holy Spirit on both men and women and they would prophesy. Joel 2:28-29, "And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions." The Apostle Paul tells us it is okay for women to pray in public as long as she has her head covered with long hair. 1 Corinthians 11:5, "But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved." Philip, one of the original seven deacons became an evangelist and had four daughters who prophesied. Acts 21:8-9, "On the next day we who were Paul's companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied." Why does God reserve the right to speak in church only for men? 1 Timothy 2:13-14, "For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression." Does that mean women are of lesser importance entering into the Kingdom of God? 1 Timothy 2:15, "Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control." This last verse is understood to mean if a women is a good wife and mother, loving and obeying God, she shall enter the Kingdom of God just like a man who is a good husband and father. This doesn't leave out single people, but is talking about the majority of adults. These rules for church services were set by God, not men, and should not be argued with or changed. It is interesting to note all the Old Testament priestly and Levitical functions were performed by men. Even the Temple choir was an all men's choir, young male children were used to sing the soprano and alto parts. While there were male and female singers on other religious and public occasions outside the temple area, when it came to singing in the Tabernacle built by Moses or the Temple built by Solomon, only male Levitical singers were used. In synagogue services, only the males were allowed to speak and participate. These examples should lend clarity on why and how New Testament Church services should be conducted as expounded upon by the Apostle Paul. These are the inspired Words of God, not the imaginations of men.

Equality vs. Responsibility, Part 2 — August 4, 2018

This Sabbath let us discuss equality vs. responsibility among the brothers and sisters within the Church of God. There are different responsibilities God gives within His Church. Some tend to think these responsibilities make the holder more important. But, the Bible tells us differently. Let us review the scriptures, first looking at 1 Corinthians 12. Verse 18, "But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased." We should remember God ultimately chooses who has which responsibilities in His True Church. Verses 20-25, "But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another." While our different body parts serve different functions, all of them are important. Without any one part we do not have a complete functioning body. The same should be true within the Church of God. One member is not more important in the eyes of God no matter which responsibility God has given that person. The Apostle Paul reiterates this point in Ephesians 4:16, "from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love." Paul summarizes these points very succinctly in Romans 12:3-8, "For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness." Having different responsibilities as gifts from God are not to establish a ranking system of superiority. These gifts are meant to help us serve our brothers and sisters in humility. There are several scriptures that tell us to put the needs of other above our own, especially within the Church of God. In humility we are told to submit to one another (1 Peter 5:5). This should be practiced regardless of whether we are Israelite or Gentile, male or female, minister or lay member; responsibility does not grant us the right to exalt ourselves over others. Let us now look at two verses in Romans 12. First, verse 10, "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; ". Verse 12, "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him." We've talked about this before, that race and color of skin, male or female, doesn't matter to God our Father, we are all equal in the eyes of God, regardless of the responsibilities we have been given, and His future children if we love and obey him.

Equality vs. Responsibility, Part 1 — July 28, 2018

Women have been demanding "equal rights" for many decades. They had been denied them and they certainly deserved to have them. However, maybe without even realizing it, some wives have been demanding the same equal responsibilities as their husbands have. Last Sabbath we referenced Genesis 1:27. Let's read it this week, "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." Let's again read 1 Peter 3:7, "Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered." God created men and women as equals, but God made men and women different and He gave them different responsibilities. There are exceptions, of course, but generally speaking, men are stronger than women and that is why they usually don't compete against each other in the same sports. They may play together as a team against another mixed team, but you won't find a professional men's basketball, volleyball, soccer or tennis game against women. The best men are stronger and taller than the best women and would invariably win. Does this mean women are inferior? Do women feel inferior just because of this. No! On a nonprofessional level, I play tennis and I get beat some of the time by better women players. We're just getting exercise and having fun, the issue is not who is superior. Men are better at some things, women are better at other things. It seems in this day of "political correctness" we don't want to accept these differences, let alone appreciate them and make the best use of them. Most men can't sing soprano, most women can't sing baritone. Men can't bear and nurse children. You don't find too many women in hard physical labor jobs. You don't find too many male nurses (but that is changing somewhat). And the list could go on. The Bible states the husband is the head of the wife for good reasons. Ephesians 5:22-24, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything." A woman should pick a man for a husband whom she can follow his lead and be happy. She should pick a man who will love her in gentle kindness as Jesus loved the church. Ephesians 5:25, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,". When people quote these verses, they usually fail to quote the important verse that comes before these. Ephesians 5:21, "submitting to one another in the fear of God." This is a forgotten overriding principle relative to this topic. There are times when a husband should submit to the superior skills and wisdom of his wife. A husband who doesn't listen to the council of his wife is just as foolish as a king who doesn't listen to his councilors (Ecclesiastes 4:13 and many Proverbs). A lot of the problem with this situation is the husband. Husbands don't always treat their wives as equals. Then the wife struggles for equality and there is contention in the husband/wife relationship. Maybe the wife doesn't think she has enough responsibility and tries to run the family. This also usually creates contention. Two "wrong's" neither make a "right" nor a happy marital relationship. If the husband is a loving, kind and patient man involving the wife and getting her input in decisions and sharing the responsibilities of caring for their family according to each individual's strengths, you are going to have a happy relationship. Just because the Bible says the husband is the head of the wife and the wife should submit doesn't mean the husband makes all the decisions without her input and rules the family with total control without her help. Husband and wife should be a team. We cannot cover every possible situation here, the principle should be the guide. Let's take finances for an example. There is nothing in the Bible that says the husband has to have exclusive control of the finances, Proverbs 31 we quoted last Sabbath says the opposite. Certainly he should be aware of and approve of incoming and outgoing finances. But if the wife has a better sense of numbers and can do a better job of keeping track of finances and budgets, should she not have that responsibility? Again, this should be a team effort, maybe the wife does most all of the paperwork, but both husband and wife should then review the status of such together as needed. When husband and wife use their strengths to support each other in the marital relationship, you have a happy marriage. In summary, let us remember men and women were created equal in the eyes of God but given different strengths and responsibilities. Husbands should be a leader (not a dictator) in love. Wives are generally not as happy when they try to rule over their husbands. God made it this way. As husband and wife, they should work together as a team in not only their marriage and raising Godly children, but in their pursuit of the Kingdom of God.

Husband / Wife Relationship — July 21, 2018

In one sense, the Bible is all about relationships. Most of the Bible is about our relationship with God our Father and Jesus our Savior. The Bible also discusses parent / child relationships. This week, let's review a few scriptures on what the Bible says about the husband / wife relationship. This topic came to mind as we had our Bible Study on 1 Samuel 25. Nabal was a foolish man who had a wise wife, Abigail. After Nabal insulted David and refused to help David's men with some food, Abigail came to his rescue and prevented David from making a big mistake in killing Nabal and his servants. Nabal soon died and David asked Abigail to be his wife. Some people use the Bible to put women down and make second-class citizens out of them. In much of history, women have been treated like property. This is not what God intended. These people forget the inspired words of Proverbs 31:10-31, "Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil All the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, And willingly works with her hands. She is like the merchant ships, She brings her food from afar. She also rises while it is yet night, And provides food for her household, And a portion for her maidservants. She considers a field and buys it; From her profits she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength, And strengthens her arms. She perceives that her merchandise is good, And her lamp does not go out by night. She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hand holds the spindle. She extends her hand to the poor, Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, For all her household is clothed with scarlet. She makes tapestry for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, And supplies sashes for the merchants. Strength and honor are her clothing; She shall rejoice in time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, And on her tongue is the law of kindness. She watches over the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her: "Many daughters have done well, But you excel them all." Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, And let her own works praise her in the gates." Notice how this wife is capable of running more than one business adventure and her husband trusts her to do so without him having to okay her every decision. While many like to point out that a wife is to respect and obey her husband, they seem to forget about the scriptures about how a husband is to treat his wife. Ephesians 5:25-28, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself." That is quite a responsibility for husbands, to love and take care of their wife just a Jesus loved and takes care of the Church of God. Both men and women are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Let's close with 1 Peter 3:1-2, 7 from The Message Bible translation, "The same goes for you wives: Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs. There are husbands who, indifferent as they are to any words about God, will be captivated by your life of holy beauty. The same goes for you husbands: Be good husbands to your wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life of God's grace, you're equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don't run aground." Next Sabbath we'll talk about equality vs. responsibly between husband and wife.

Children of God — July 14, 2018

Genesis 1:27, "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." There is so much meaning in this verse. Males and females are both created in the image of God. We have to read other verses in the Bible to truly understand the significance of being created in the image of God. John 1:12-13, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." When we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savor, we become the children of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:14-17, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs-heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together." Who do children grow up to be like? Their parents, of course! Children grow up to be like their parents in every way except age. These verses tell us we are to be like Jesus, joint heirs with Jesus, to be glorified together with Jesus. The vast majority of Christians think when they die, if they are good, they immediately go to heaven and join the angels, playing harps and beholding the glory of God for all eternity. As we know, that is not true in many ways. Please read Hebrews the first chapter. It talks about how much greater Jesus is than the angels. It states that God the Father never called the angels begotten sons, but instead told the angels to worship Jesus. It also states the Father has never promised the angels rulership over this earth like He has Jesus. But these are the very promises God the Father has made to us: to be glorified like Jesus and rule with Him as kings and priest during the Millennium and thereafter. 1 Corinthians 6:18, "I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty." Take note of what the Apostle Paul was inspired to say in this last verse, sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. We used to say "mankind," but that is now politically incorrect and we say "humankind." When the Bible states "man" or "sons" it is often a generic term that includes both male and female genders. The Bible also calls us the children of God, children includes both boys and girls. 1 John 3:1-2, "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." The Apostle John very clearly states we will be like God the Father. However, we don't completely grasp what that will be like because the magnitude of the power, glory and eternal existence of God the Father is beyond our comprehension. Also note how John states the world does not know the destiny of true Christians. As Paul says elsewhere, God's plan of salvation is a mystery to the world. The understanding that converted Christians are to be born into the family of God through a resurrection and literally be like their Father and elder Brother is a doctrine that is uniquely understood by the Churches of God. In my opinion, it is the most important doctrine that differentiates the true churches of God from all other churches. Let us close with a verse near the end of the Bible. Revelation 21:7, "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son."

Honor the King — July 7, 2018

David was a man after God's own heart despite his many mistakes. That is because he loved God, meditated on God's laws and repented when his sins were pointed out to him as we have discussed before. Another good quality of David's was his respect for King Saul despite Saul seeking to kill him. A prime example of this is found in 1 Samuel 24. Saul had assembled 3,000 chosen men to hunt down David. One day King Saul went into a cave to relieve himself and rest. David and his men happened to be hiding in the very same cave. David's men urged David to kill King Saul, verse 4, "Then the men of David said to him, "This is the day of which the Lord said to you, 'Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it seems good to you.'"" Notice how they even quoted what God had said to David through one of the prophets, perhaps even Samuel himself. David did sneak up on King Saul and cut off the corner of his royal robe, probably while Saul was resting or taking a nap. But then David felt guilty for even doing that, verses 5 to 7, "Now it happened afterward that David's heart troubled him because he had cut Saul's robe. And he said to his men, "The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord's anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord." So David restrained his servants with these words, and did not allow them to rise against Saul. And Saul got up from the cave and went on his way." Let us take note of how much respect David had for King Saul because of the office he held. He called King Saul his "master" and "the Lord's anointed." After Saul got up and left the cave, David followed him, but keeping his distance, and talked to Saul. Notice how David starts the conversation, verse 8, "David also arose afterward, went out of the cave, and called out to Saul, saying, "My lord the king!" And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed down." Regardless of everything Saul had tried to do to David, David showed great esteem for the office of the king of Israel. We too have to learn to separate the person in the office from the office itself in whatever government we live under. Jesus, Peter and Paul all tell us in the New Testament to honor, obey and pray for the existing government. Let us close with two such scriptures. Romans 13:1, "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God." 1 Peter 2:17, "Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king."

A Spirit of Antichrist — June 30, 2018

1 John 4:1-3, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world." Way back in the last days of the Apostle John, supposed Christians were saying Jesus was not the Eternal God, "The Word" from of old that created all things come in the flesh. But this is exactly what we are told in John 1:1-3, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." The Apostle John wrote what he did in his gospel and epistles to combat this false doctrine that Jesus was not an Eternal Devine God who gave up His spiritual body for a short period of time to become flesh and blood so He could die as our Savior. Let us look at two other scriptures in the gospel of John that show Jesus existed as God before His human birth. John 8:58, "Jesus said to them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.'" John 17:5, "And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was." These "one God" preachers have different reasons for not believing these scriptures. Some say they are just allegories. Others say the books with John's name were not written by the Apostle John, but some other John and don't belong in the Bible. I don't know what they do with the scriptures from Micah, Matthew and the Apostle Paul relative to this topic. Let's review those. Micah 5:2, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting." Matthew 22:41-46, "While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, "What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?" They said to Him, "The Son of David." He said to them, "How then does David in the Spirit call Him 'Lord,' saying: 'The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool"'? If David then calls Him 'Lord,' how is He his Son?" And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore." Colossians 1:16, "For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him." Yes, even David knew there were two Gods as clearly shown in Psalms 110:1 which Jesus quoted above in Matthew 22:44. David knew that the Lord God that he dealt with on a day-to-day basis had a Lord God over Him, the one we now know as God the Father. Anyone who believes Jesus did not exist as God before His human birth has "a" spirit of antichrist. Anyone who does not believe in Jesus as the Savior of all human kind has "a" spirit of antichrist. We all know that in the future there will be "the" antichrist. We will have to wait and see what they preach and believe regarding Jesus as our Savior.

How All Things Exist — June 23, 2018

We have been discussing the timeless eternity of God and His Eternal Spirit Power. This Sabbath let's discuss in greater detail how all things exist only by and through the Eternal Spirit Power of God. 1 Corinthians 8:6, "yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live." This verse tells us that all things exist through God the Father and Jesus Christ who created all things and that by Jesus we have life. Acts 17:28, "for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.'" These verses are telling us life only exists through the continual Spirit Power of God. More confirmation of this fact is in Psalms 36:6, "Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep; O Lord, You preserve man and beast." All life, whether plant, animal or human is a miracle. Life is not a natural process that can exist of and by itself - it can only exist by the power of God. God must continually support all life every single moment or it would cease. Our Father and Jesus uphold all things, all life, all the laws of physics, the existence of all matter. Hebrews 1:2-3, "has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,". What is "matter," where did it come from? Jesus didn't create it out of "nothing." What did Jesus create matter from? Obviously, from the Eternal Spirit Power of God. What is an electron, proton or neutron? I personally think of them as extremely small "pieces" of Spirit Power bound or limited by "physical laws" to behave as physical matter. Colossians 1:16, "For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist." By Jesus Christ all things continue to exists, without His continued support, everything in the universe would cease to exists. Certainly, the Father took over this responsibility while Jesus was God in the flesh, but for the rest of eternity, this is a responsibility that the Father has given to Jesus. Maybe this will help us understand and really believe what Jesus said in Matthew 10:29-31, "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." God is truly aware of all things, knowing and supporting each and every living cell in all of our bodies.

The Eternity of Jesus — June 16, 2018

We've been talking about the timeless eternity of God, most specifically, God the Father. However, this is true for both God the Father and Jesus Christ, the Son of God. History tells us that even way back in the third century theologians started debating the divinity and eternity of Jesus. Some Christians today continue this debate. Some have argued that Jesus has only existed since his human birth. What an unfortunate spiritual conclusion to reach. When Moses asked God what name he should give the Israelites, God replied with the following. Exodus 3:13, "And God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM.' And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" Jesus used this same expression in John 8:58, "Jesus said to them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.'" The Jews knew what Jesus was saying, that He was God and had Eternal Existence. This is verified in the next verse because we see the Jews picked up stones to kill Jesus for what was blasphemy in their opinion. One of the great scriptures on the eternal existence of the Messiah is in Micah 5:2, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting." The word in this verse translated "everlasting" is the strongest Hebrew word there is for eternity. There is another interesting scripture on this topic in Hebrews 9:14, "how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" Jesus Christ was able to accomplish what He did in the flesh, including the sacrifice of his physical body for the forgiveness of our sins, through the Eternal Spirit Power of God. Here is another important scripture concerning Jesus in Revelation 1:8, "'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,' says the Lord, 'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.'" Let us read one final scripture from the Contemporary English Version of the Bible, Hebrew 1:3, "God's Son has all the brightness of God's own glory and is like him in every way. By his own mighty word, he holds the universe together. After the Son had washed away our sins, he sat down at the right side of the glorious God in heaven." Jesus Christ is the Divine, Eternal, All Powerful Son of God and just like His Father in all facets.

God Inhabits Eternity — June 9, 2018

Isaiah 57:15, "For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: 'I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.'" What an amazing scripture. The Eternal God wants to dwell with those of us who are humble and contrite. However, let's concentrate on the phrase, "the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity." What does it mean to "inhabit" eternity? We must remember that God created time. Time is the movement of physical things through space. Before The Father had Jesus create the universe, time did not exist, nothing existed but the two Gods. Therefore, God is greater than time, He is not controlled or limited by time or distance like we humans. As we discussed on Pentecost weekend, in addition to His Spirit Body, the Spirit Power of God is stated as being an Eternal Power. Romans 1:20, "since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,". We may think of God as "seeing" into the future. Prophecy and especially the book of Revelation prove God knows the future. The Apostle Paul said God considered future events as if they had already happened. Romans 4:17, "(as it is written, "I have made you a father of many nations") in the presence of Him whom he believed-God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;". How can He do that? Impossible for us to understand. However, I believe the statements "inhabit eternity" and "eternal power" give us additional information we need to form correct concepts. I believe the Eternal Spirit Power of God's presence exists everywhere at all times and I like to repeat the reverse of that, God exists at all times everywhere. God is not limited. We tend to limit God to one place and at one time and just think He can "see" into the future. But God is much greater than we think or can ever imagine in this physical life we live. God is beyond our comprehension. Theologians have used the following words to understand the nature of God. He is Omnipotent (all powerful). He is Omnificent (unlimited creative power). He is Omniscient (knows all things). And He is Omnipresent (present everywhere at the same time). It is evident that others have understood that God exists at all times everywhere, that God lives "outside" of time. I do not recall this being emphasized in the Churches of God. This is something we can all consider to increase our understanding of God, especially when we praise God in our prayers for the Great, Powerful, Glorious, Holy and Eternal God that we worship.

Love and Unity of the Spirit — June 2, 2018

Last week we talked about unity by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Church of God. Unity of the Spirit within the Churches of God is based on love. The Apostle Peter tells us how these should work together with humility. 1 Peter 3:8, "Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;" This is how we should treat each other. This is how we achieve unity, by how we respect and regard each other in love. The Apostle Paul encouraged the same behavior. Philippians 2:1-5, "Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,". Jesus said we were all equals in the Family of the Father. Matthew 23:8, "But you, do not be called 'Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren." Jesus is the Head of the Church of God and no one else. The rest of us, regardless of our spiritual gift or responsibility within the church are spiritual brothers and sisters. "Brothers" is a general term in these scriptures for males and females, all inclusive of everyone in the Churches of God regardless of sex, race, occupation or age. Jesus also said love within the Church of God would be a sign that we are truly the disciples of Jesus. John 13:34-35, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." Does your church truly have the sign of the Unity of Love among all the brethren?

Unity of the Spirit — May 26, 2018

We just kept the Feast of Pentecost five days ago. Like all Holy Days, there are many meanings to this day. Pentecost commemorates the giving of the ten commandments, the beginning of the New Testament church and the coming of the Holy Spirit. We also celebrate the gifts of Holy Spirit on this day. Galatians 5:22-23 lists many of the fruits of having the Holy Spirit, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." However, this is not a comprehensive list. There are also other gifts of the Holy Spirit. The "Spirit of Unity" is another one such gift. Ephesians 4:3-6, "endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." This is an important gift, not only for individual Christians, but for the Church of God. Unfortunately, this "Spirit of Unity" has been lacking in the Churches of God. It is a sad indication that the power of Holy Spirit has diminished in the Churches of God. The first indication of the lack of this particular gift was the changing of several doctrines. Then, what used to be one church, has now had split after split resulting in hundreds of different, usually uncooperative groups. This all started even before doctrines were changed with the wrong type of church government which was a result of a lack of love. Paul had to deal with the same issues. He warned the churches he preached to about this spiritual problem. 1 Corinthians 1:10, "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, "For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free-and have all been made to drink into one Spirit." While we cannot force others to follow the originally revealed doctrines and unite together in one body with one faith through the Spirit Power of Unity, we can strive to dwell peacefully with all people. Let us close with a scripture from Psalms 133:1, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!"

Eternal Power and Pentecost — May 19, 2018

We all know God is an Eternal Being beyond our comprehension. The first place in the Bible that God is referred to as an Eternal God is Genesis 21:33, "Then Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there called on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God." The first place the actual phrase "Eternal God" is used is found in Deuteronomy 33:27, " The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, And will say, 'Destroy!'" There is a very interesting verse in Romans that we have all read many times about how the universe is proof that God exists. Romans 1:20, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,". However, the phrase "eternal power" has never stood out in importance for me until just recently. Not only are God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son of God Eternal Beings, their power is an Eternal Power. This Eternal Power was used to create the universe. This Eternal Power sustains all matter, laws of physics and all life. We'll talk more about this with supporting scriptures in future Sabbath Thoughts. The Feast of Pentecost is only two days away. On this day we celebrate the Eternal Power of God that He send to the disciples of Jesus, including us, in the form of the Holy Spirit. The Eternal Power of the Holy Spirit gives us spiritual understanding and the ability to obey the spirit of God's laws. It is also a down payment or earnest or seal or guarantee of eternal life for us. Ephesians 1:13-14, "In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory." The Feast of Pentecost celebrates the beginning of the New Testament Church, Spiritual Israel, which is composed of Christians who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit in us is an infinitely small seal and down payment of the Eternal Power of God that we will be transformed into at the First Resurrection. Then we too will be Eternal Beings with eternal power like God our Father and Jesus Christ the First Fruit of the firstfruits of the first resurrection.

All Things Lost — May 12, 2018

The Apostle Paul lead a difficult life. He was persecuted, beaten, whipped and stoned. He gave up everything in this physical life to serve Jesus as one of His Apostles. Philippians 3:7-8, "But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ. " We too should have this same attitude. If it is more important to hang on to the physical things in our life than to follow Jesus, we will fail the spiritual tests and trials that will come our way. The day may come when we have to walk away from all our physical possessions and go where God leads us to go in order to ensure our safety. Mark 13:15-16, "Let him who is on the housetop not go down into the house, nor enter to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes." Yes, we need physical things like water, food, clothes and shelter to survive in this physical life. But we have to be willing to walk away from these in the face of impending disaster and put our faith and trust in God to take care of us. Revelation 12:6, "Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days." However important and necessary our physical possession are, they are still only temporary. It is much more important to accumulate spiritual possessions in heaven above. Matthew 6:19-21, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

New Moons? — May 5, 2018

Old Testament Israel celebrated the first day of the month or new moon. Why don't we? First, let's notice the command given Israel in Numbers 10:10. "Also in the day of your gladness, in your appointed feasts, and at the beginning of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; and they shall be a memorial for you before your God: I am the Lord your God." Notice the emphasis of the word "your" in this verse. "The day of your gladness" and "your appointed feasts" would be civil and national holidays comparable to our Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day. And while God established the calendar that He gave Israel to observe, note how God still calls the new moon "the beginning of your months." These are "physical" observances, no spiritual significance is attached to them. While Jesus may have observed new moons as a civil custom along with the rest of the Jews, there is no mention of that in the New Testament. There is no mention of the New Testament church ever observing new moons. There is only one scripture in the New Testament regarding new moons, Colossians 2:16. "So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.". The topic in this verse is not whether one must observe civil festivals, new moons or the Sabbath, but what one eats on these days. Some in the church were saying these days should be days or fasting, or a restricted diet while others were having big meals. Paul is saying it is not important what we eat or whether we fast on these days, but what is important is our relationship with Jesus. The New Living Translation has verse 17 as, "For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality." Leviticus 23 should clear up any questions one might have about observing new moons. Verse 1 and 2, "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts.'" This chapter then goes on to list the weekly Sabbath and then the seven feasts and holy days where church services are a commanded requirement. Obviously, there is no mention of new moons in this chapter. Notice the difference between Numbers 10 and Leviticus 23 - "your feasts and months" and "feasts of the Lord." If you want to be aware of the new moon relative to God's calendar, that is fine. But new moons are not holy days and there is no command for New Testament Christians to have a special observance of these days.

Jesus’ Resurrection Clarified — April 28, 2018

Last Sabbath Thought we talked about the timing of events surrounding Jesus' death and resurrection and the Wave Sheaf Offering of the Old Testament. After some input from my brother, I thought it was necessary to clarify some things. Jesus made an important point in John 10:30, "I and My Father are one." When Jesus was resurrected, He was no longer limited by a physical body living on this earth. He was once again an eternal, all powerful spirit God-being. As such, His spiritual presence would have been at one with God the Father at the moment of His resurrection. However, even as eternal God beings with their spiritual essence everywhere at all times, God the Father and Jesus do have spirit bodies. We see a description of Jesus' spiritual body in Revelation 1:13-15, "and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters;" While we don't get a detailed description of God the Father, we do see Him pictured as sitting on a throne. Revelation 4:2-3, "Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald." Revelation 5:1, "And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals." There are several stories in the Old Testament where individuals were privileged to get a vague view of God the Father or had a personal experience with the One who became the Son of God. The Wave Sheaf Offering on the first day of the week after the weekly Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread was a grain offering that Israel had to make to God to be accepted by Him before Israel was allowed to start partaking of the spring grain harvest. My personal beliefs are that while Jesus and God the Father were spiritually at one once Jesus' resurrection took place, there was still an "official" first meeting of their spiritual bodies in heaven above as symbolized by the Wave Sheaf Offering. God the Father does have formal procedures in His Plan of Salvation. In Revelation 5 we see God the Father holding the scroll with seven seals in His right hand. A mighty angel asks, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?" God the Father goes through this formal process even though He knows only Jesus is worthy to open the sealed scroll. Finally, John sees Jesus march forward and take the sealed scroll out of His Father's right hand. On the first day of the week "Jerusalem time," at the time when the Wave Sheaf Offering normally took place, I can just imagine Jesus walking on the crystal sea toward His Father while He sat on His throne in heaven above. I can imagine Jesus saying something like, "Father I did the work you gave me to do. I sacrificed my body and shed my blood so you could forgive all the sins of all humans who will ever live. Father, please accept my sacrifice on their behalf." And I can imagine God our Father responding with something like this, "My Beloved Son, I officially accept your sacrifice and shed blood on the behalf of all human kind. Come, sit beside Me while You wait to rule the whole earth as Lord of Lords and King of Kings."

Jesus’ Resurrection — April 21, 2018

Passover pictures the death of Jesus for our sins. And the Days of Unleavened Bread picture putting out and overcoming sin. However, we should also remember the importance of the weekly Sabbath during this seven day feasible and Wave Sheaf Sunday. Jesus said He would be three days and three nights in the grave, or 72 hours. Matthew 12:40, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” As we all know, Jesus took the Passover with His disciples on a Tuesday night. He prayed and then was arrested in the middle of the night. After midnight on Wednesday morning the Jewish Sanhedrin held a mock or “kangaroo court” as we would call it and condemned Jesus to death. However, the Romans did not allowed the Jewish government to carry out the death penalty. So, in the very early morning hours of Wednesday they took Jesus to Pilate for sentencing, which they eventually got. Jesus was beaten and nailed to the cross by around 9 AM Wednesday. He died six hours later and was laid in the garden tomb shortly before sunset Wednesday evening. Notice that Jesus said he would be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights, not that that was the exact time period of His being dead. That means He would come out of the tomb on the weekly Sabbath day shortly before sunset Saturday evening. It is believed that Jesus recited Psalms 22 while hanging on the cross. Many believe he recited Psalms 23 when He was resurrected. We don’t really know what he did our Saturday night until Sunday morning. As He did not ascent into heaven to meet His Father until Sunday, maybe He spent His time in prayer. Jesus told Mary Magdalene Sunday morning that He had not yet ascended to His Father. John 20:17, “Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.” This is the fulfillment of Jesus as our wave sheaf offering as given in the Old Testament for the Sunday after the weekly Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread. Jesus presented Himself to His Father and Our Father as our Savoir who died for our sins. That sacrifice had to be accepted by the Father and that event occurred according to the timing of the wave sheaf offering. This is our Living Savior being accepted by our Father paying the penalty for our sins so we don’t have to. This is our Living Savior, for while our sins are forgiven by His death, we are save by His resurrected life. Romans 5:10, “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” While we do not celebrate Easter and its pagan customs, let us not shy away from nor forget the significance of Jesus’ resurrection.

What Jesus’ Blood Purchased — April 14, 2018

Jesus’ suffering, death and shed blood accomplished many, many things – it would take numerous sermons to cover everything. Last Sabbath we talked about how Jesus death conquered sin. This Sabbath let’s cover a few additional points on this topic. All things are reconciled to God our Father through the blood of Jesus. Colossians 1:20, “and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” Jesus’ blood frees us from the guilt of sin. Hebrews 9:14, “how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” His death instituted the New Covenant that has better promises, the promise of eternal life. Hebrews 9:15, “And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” His shed blood gives us direct access to God the Father in heaven above. Hebrews 10:19, “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus.” We have been redeemed, purchased, reconciled, set apart and cleansed by the blood of Jesus. 1 Peter 1:18-19, “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” When we are baptized, we are baptized into Jesus’ death. Romans 6:3, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” When we share in His death, we are freed from sin and we put away our old self of sin so that we can share in eternal life with Jesus. Romans 6:6-8, “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. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,” What a great God our Father we have who so loved the world that He gave Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins and redemption. What a great and precious Savior we have in Jesus.

Jesus’ Death Defeats Sin — April 7, 2018

We all know Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins so we don’t have to if we repent of our sins. 1 Corinthians 15:3, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” It is interesting to note how many different ways using different terminology the Bible uses to express this most important concept. Let us look at just a few. The Bible says that Jesus not only died for our sins, but that He died to sin. Romans 6:10, “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.” What does this mean? It means Jesus not only died so our sins could be forgiven, but so that the power of sin over us would also be destroyed. The lure of sin, being slaves to the way of sin also had to be eliminated. And it was by Jesus’ death. Jesus also became sin. 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Note the phrase “to be sin for us.” Jesus not only died so our sins could be forgiven, He took our sins unto Himself where they were exonerated, the slate wiped clean, by His death. Since God our Father and Jesus our Messiah both made such a great sacrifice so our sins could be forgiven, we have an obligation to cease from practicing sin. We all are carnal human beings and it is impossible to live a sinless life. But we are obligated to not live a life of sin. We are to strive to overcome the desires of the flesh. 1 Peter 2:24, “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. ” We have just finished keeping the seven Days of Unleavened Bread which represent the putting of sin out of our lives. Let us conclude with what the Apostle Paul was inspired to write in Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Before the Foundation of the World — March 31, 2018

Acts 4:12, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Jesus Christ is our Savior, the Messiah and soon coming King of kings and Lord of lords. There is so much we could say about our Savior, but that would take too much time and print. Let us concentrate on one interesting point. Ephesians 1:4-7, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Before God our Father had Jesus create anything and everything, God had already determined His “Plan of Salvation,” that we would be saved by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh. Through Jesus Christ we would become the sons of God. This is the love of God, this is the will of God, this is the grace of God, this was the whole purpose for the creation to come. God our Father knew in advance that humankind would sin. The righteous holiness of our Father demanded that there be a penalty for the terribleness of sin, the breaking of the laws of the spiritual character that God our Father embodies. It was therefore determined before anything was created that Jesus would pay that penalty for us so we could be forgiven of our sins and live, to receive a gift of eternal life through His resurrection from death. This is an important point from which we can learn much. It is pointed out two more times in the Bible for a total of three times. Let us close with those two scriptures. 1 Peter 1:18-21, “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” And finally, Revelation 13:8b, “… the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

The Passover Lamb — March 24, 2018

We all know that for the first Passover, the Israelites had to slay a lamb, paint some of the blood on the door frame and then enjoy roasting it for a Passover meal. But this only looked forward to our real Passover Lamb, our Savor Jesus Christ. John 1:29, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” Jesus is our Passover Lamb. Figuratively speaking, we partake of His body, the bread, and His blood, the wine, every Passover. These symbols represent the stripes Jesus suffered for our healing and His shed blood for the forgiveness of our sins. In addition, as our Passover Lamb, only Jesus is worthy to appear before God our Father and be involved in end-time events. Jesus is referred to as the “Lamb” an amazing 26 times in 24 verses in the book of Revelation alone. Let us close by quoting a couple of these verses. Revelation 5:12, “Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.” Revelation 7:17, “For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Revelation 14:4, “These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.” Revelation 19:9, “And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.” Revelation 22:3, “And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:”

To the Glory of God — March 17, 2018

Colossians 3:17, "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." As Christians, we should always have our actions motivated by wanting to give glory to God our Father and Jesus Christ our Savior. Our Father does so much for us, not because of who we are, but because of who He is. Psalms 115:1, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, But to Your name give glory, Because of Your mercy, Because of Your truth." For the greatness of His Name and His Plan of Salvation, our Father loves us, guides us and forgives us. Psalm 23:3, " He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake." Psalm 25:11, " For Your name's sake, O Lord, Pardon my iniquity, for it is great." This is especially important and meaningful as we approach the Passover season, God's forgiveness is also for His glory as a loving and merciful God. Psalm 31:3, "For You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name's sake, Lead me and guide me." Everything we have is a gift from God. James 1:17, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. " The most important gifts are the spiritual gifts: spiritual understanding, repentance, peace, joy, patience, faith, hope, love, and so forth. If not for the spiritual gifts from God, we would not have the magnificent magnitude of spiritual understanding that we do. While we must make the efforts of prayer, Bible study and meditation, these actions by themselves do no grant us understanding. Only by the grace of God does that happen. This should greatly humble us. Let us close with what is fast becoming one of my favorite scriptures relative to this topic. 1 Corinthians 4:7, "For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?"

Never Give Up in Prayer — March 10, 2018

Praying to God our Father is likely the most important thing we can do in our lives in order to have a good spiritual relationship with the Eternal God. Bible Study would be a close second. Our prayer life is how we communicate with God. You can't have a good relationship with someone if you don't talk to each other. God talks to us through the power of His Holy Spirit when we read and study His inspired scriptures. We talk to God in prayer. Prayer is simply a conversation with God. It has been said good communication is the most important factor in any relationship. We can't get tired of praying. It can be difficult at times because it may seem like a one-way conversation since God doesn't verbally respond to our conversation with Him. However, this is the nature of a God-human relationship and we cannot let this discourage our efforts to communicate with God in prayer. Jesus encouraged His disciples to constantly pray. Luke 18:1, "Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart." The Apostle Paul states several times in his letters how important it is to constantly pray. Romans 12:12, "in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;" Ephesians 6:18a, "praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, …" Colossians 4:2, "Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;" We cannot over emphasize the importance of prayer. Let us make our best effort to pray with fervency and consistency with our Heavenly Father in the Name of Jesus Christ our Savor.

Give Thanks In Advance — March 3, 2018

1 Thessalonians 5:18, "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." We all know we should give God thanks for what He has done for us: the gift of life, our calling, the gift of the Holy Spirit, His forgiveness and all His spiritual and physical blessings to name a few. However, we tend to only give God thanks for past events. Have we ever considered giving God thanks for future events? We just read to give thanks for everything. Shouldn't we then give thanks for the future resurrection and Second Coming of Jesus Christ? And how about Hebrews 11:1 relative to this, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. " We cannot now see the first resurrection and Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Yet we firmly believe in them. Next, let's consider 1 Corinthians 10:13b, "…but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." God allows us to experience tests and trails. But He also promises to help us through those tests and trials, promising to provide a future solution while we are in the midst of those events. If we truly believe those promises in hope and faith, should we not thank God in advance for His future help and solution? Doing so shows our faith in His promise to help us. If we are sick or injured, should we not thank God in advance for helping us get better and heal us. If we lose our job, it would be a good idea in faith and hope to thank God for helping us find another job. If we lose our home, we can thank God in faith and hope for helping us build a new one. This might even cause the test or trial to end sooner because of our belief in the power of God. Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. " Here is another promise from God that we believe in. And another reason to give God thanks in advance for working things out for the better in our lives. Thanking God in advance for future healing and all types of future help might in some cases bring these solutions to pass much sooner. Regardless, we should be thanking God for all that He does for us, past, present and future.

Three Precious Words — February 24, 2018

After my wife and I were married, every day we were together we said those three precious words we all want to hear, "I love you." We seldom if ever missed unless one of us, almost always me, was traveling - we didn't have cell phones back then or texting or even the internet. We didn't like being separated even for one night. Which brings us to the question for this Sabbath Thought, do we tell God our Father and Jesus our Savor every day that we love them? 1 John 4:19, "We love Him because He first loved us." Of course, we love God and we know God loves us. However, do we actually say those three words "I love you", to our Heavenly Father and Jesus our Elder Brother? Matthew 22:37-38, "Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.'" If we don't already, we should start telling our Father and Jesus those three precious words every day, "I love you." It will make a difference in improving our relationship with our Eternal Father and Jesus our Messiah.

Depravity of No Conscience — February 17, 2018

The news is very disturbing with another school shooting where 17 individuals lost their lives. The person who did this prepared and said he was going to take out as many people as possible. What kind of person does something like this? How can people who do such horrible things sleep peacefully at night? And while not near as horrible, there has been stealing and looting in my neighborhood and other neighborhoods devastated by the recent fires. It always happen after a natural disaster. Who steals from people who have lost everything? These type of people have no regard for others, probably not even themselves. They are depraved and have no conscience. We forget how terrible the carnal mind is if it is not controlled by a good upbringing with rules, regulations and guidelines from good parents and leaders. Romans 8:7, "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. " The rules and guidelines that prevent such horrible behavior must be based on Biblical principles. While our actions are not as terrible as what we've mentioned here, we must also remember we are still sinners that need forgiveness and cleansing. Hebrews 10:22, "let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." So many reasons to constantly pray "Your Kingdom Come!"

Whose Problem Is It? Part 3— February 10, 2018

I got another reminder from my friend in Kenya about how Aaron didn't accept responsibility for his mistake in allowing the Israelites to make the golden calf. Exodus 32:21-22, "And Moses said to Aaron, 'What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?' So Aaron said, 'Do not let the anger of my lord become hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil.'" Aaron was given the responsibility of leadership over Israel while Moses was gone, up on Mount Sinai talking with God. Instead of being a strong leader holding fast to the laws of God, he gave in to the wants of the people to make an idol to worship. When confronted by Moses for this mistake, instead of admitting his error and taking responsibility, he blamed everything on the people. While there may be other examples of this lack of character, let us just briefly talk of one more. Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery. Rather than own up to their actions, they made up a story to cover up their sin. Genesis 37:31-32, "So they took Joseph's tunic, killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the tunic in the blood. Then they sent the tunic of many colors, and they brought it to their father and said, 'We have found this. Do you know whether it is your son's tunic or not?'" Now let us compare the stories we have discussed these last three Sabbaths to David. David was a man of many sins. He must have deluded himself when committing his sins that he was justified in his actions. However, when confronted by a prophet of God, he quickly recognized and admitted his sin, took responsibility for them and repented. 2 Sam 12:13-13, "So David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the Lord.' And Nathan said to David, 'The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.'" We are all familiar with Psalms 51. Let us read just the first four verses. "Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight-That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge." We all make mistakes. We all sin. The question is how do we react to the situation afterwards. Do we refuse to take responsibility and blame others? Or do we own up to our mistakes and repent? The difference is huge. One way leads to death, the other way to eternal life.

Whose Problem Is It? Part 2— February 3, 2018

After last week's Sabbath Thought, I was reminded by a ministerial friend in Kenya about how Adam and Eve tried to blame the reason for their sinning on someone else. Adam even went so far as to tell God, that God bore some responsibility for giving him "the woman" who had sinned. Genesis 3:12, "Then the man said, 'The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.'" Then Eve blamed Satan for her sin. Genesis 3:13b, "… The woman said, 'The serpent deceived me, and I ate'" Next in this story, God said the serpent would be cursed, Eve's sorrows would be greatly increase in childbearing, she would serve her husband, and the ground would be cursed for Adam's sin. Adam and Eve sinned and failed to take responsibility for their actions, blaming others. We have to wonder that even though they did sin, if they had taken responsibility for their own actions and said I did wrong and I'm sorry for my actions, might their punishments likely have been less severe. But such was not the case. When we blame others for our mistakes, we make matters worse for ourselves. When we blame others for our faults, we fail to take action for self-correction and improvement. 2 Corinthians 13:5a, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves…" We should be examining ourselves constantly and continually throughout our Christian lives.

Whose Problem Is It? — January 27, 2018

All too often, individuals blame their problems on others instead of taking responsibility for their own actions. Such was the case for King Saul regarding David. King Saul had disobeyed the directives of God from Samuel and refused to repent. Hence, Samuel told Saul he would lose his kingship. 1 Samuel 15:28, "So Samuel said to him, 'The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.'" When Saul saw David rising in popularity, he feared David would take the kingdom from him instead of acknowledging he had lost it. 1 Samuel 18:8, "Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, "They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?" As all too often happens, blaming David for his own problems, Saul thought if he could get rid of David, his problems would go away. 1 Samuel 19:1, "Now Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David; … " Regardless of the cause of the problem, and sometimes others do cause us a problem, we must make changes in our own life. We do not have a responsibility to force others to change. We do have a responsibility to make changes in our own lives. Even if someone else is causing us a problem, we have an obligation to make changes first in our life. We must examine ourselves first to see what we might have done wrong or what we could do better. Maybe we need to show more love or mercy toward the other person before we can expect them to even listen to us and change their attitude or actions towards us. We are responsible for our own attitude and actions. We must not blame our problems solely on others and think we have nothing to do to improve the situation. We must take responsibility for our behavior, examine ourselves and make changes as necessary to please both God and the individuals who are our family and friends.

Paul Never Gave Up — January 20, 2018

We may think are lives are difficult at times. But I doubt any of the difficulties we experience compare to what the Apostle Paul went through in his life. 2 Corinthians 11:24-28, "From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness-besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches." I'm sure the Apostle Paul was discouraged at times, but he never gave up. 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, "We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed-always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body." Paul's strength came from the "inner man," or the power of the Holy Spirit in his soul. And he kept his eye on the ultimate goal, eternal life. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." We too must put our faith and trust in God our Father and Jesus our Savior for the strength to endure a difficult physical life. Likewise, we must maintain our hope in the reward of eternal life. Keeping our eye on the ultimate goal will also give us strength in difficult times.

Spiritual Battles — January 13, 2018

We face many battles in life. Some are relative to our health or job or acquaintances or religious. There can be many different reasons for these battles. Sometimes, dark, evil spirits can be the cause of problems that require us to fight for good. Ephesians 6:10-13, "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." The Apostle Paul goes on to list our spiritual weapons for this warfare, but that is not the topic for this Sabbath's discussion. This thought is also covered in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds." We are physical, we cannot fight a spiritual battle on our own power. We must have God's help with His strength and protection. 2 Thessalonians 3:3, "But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one." When Jesus' disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray, He gave them a model outline of a prayer. Towards the end of this model prayer, Jesus said, Matthew 6:13, "And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one." Yes, Satan and his demons are real. And we would be helpless against them without God's help and protection. Let us remember to pray every day and ask God to help us fight our spiritual battles.

God Strengthens Us — January 6, 2018

We all face tests and trials. Sometimes tribulation and persecution. It takes a lot of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energy and strength to endure and fight these battles in our lives. God promises to strengthen us in these challenges. Isaiah 40:31, "But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 41:10, "Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." However, God says our own strength is not enough in these battles, we must rely upon the power of His Holy Spirit in our lives. Zechariah 4:6, "So he answered and said to me: 'This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' Says the Lord of hosts." The Apostle Paul also confirmed where his strength came from. Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." If we trust in our own strength, we will ultimately fail. If we put our trust in God to strengthen us in our times of weakness, we will ultimately succeed and enter the Kingdom of God.

David and Goliath — December 30, 2017

We all love the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. David was most likely in his early twenties when this story occurred. God, of course, was very involved in these event guiding and inspiring David in his actions. Let us first notice David’s faith that God will fight for him to defeat Goliath. Verse 37, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” As we continue to read this story two things continue to stand out, David’s faith in God’s help and that David gives all the credit for his victory to God, he doesn’t take any glory for himself. Verses 45 and first part of verse 46, “Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you.” And then verse 47, “Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.” We know how the story ends, God gave David the victory over Goliath and the Israelite army defeated the Philistine army that day. Our battles may be physical, emotional and spiritual tests and trials, but we too must do as David did – put our faith and trust in God to give us the victory and then give all credit and glory to God alone.

Never Give Up — December 23, 2017

In Genesis 32 we read where Jacob wrestled with the One who became Jesus Christ. How did this come about? We can speculate that Jesus came down and talked with Jacob about his future. We can imagine that Jesus Himself maybe told Jacob if you want My blessing, you’ll have to wrestle Me for it. They wrestled all night long. Jesus wrestled with only “human strength” and did not prevail. He then gave Jacob a Karate chop that dislocated Jacob’s thigh. Still, Jacob would not give up. Then Jesus said in the first half of verse 26, “And He said, ‘Let Me go, for the day breaks.’” Jacob replied in the last half of this verse, “But he said, ‘I will not let You go unless You bless me!’” Jacob had to be tired and in pain from the dislocated thigh, but he would not give up, he would not let go until Jesus blessed him. There are many New Testament scriptures on enduring, patience and continuing to obey God all of our life. Matthew 10:22, “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.” 1 Corinthians 16:13, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.” We too must never give up in our struggles to live by our Christian faith.

All Christians — December 16, 2017

John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” This is one of, if not the most famous and most quoted scriptures in the Bible. There are good reasons for that. This Sabbath Thought, let us pay particular notice to the phrase “whoever believes in Him.” All Christians, regardless of whether they currently keep the Sabbath and Holy Days or not, as long as they believe in Jesus as their savor, they will be saved and granted the gift of eternal life in a future lifetime. 1 Timothy 2:3-6, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. ” Let us emphasize the statement here, “God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved.” This is the love of God that all humans who have ever lived believe on Jesus Christ as their savor and receive the gift of the eternal life in the Kingdom of God. We know not everyone will accept Jesus as their savor and that indeed is sad. But, for those who do, the remaining question is “when.” Not everyone will have the privilege of being in the first resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:22-23, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” There is a time order. Most humans that believe in Jesus will have their opportunity for eternal life after the Millennium has come to an end. That is God’s Plan of Salvation. For us who have been granted spiritual understanding in this lifetime, our opportunity is now to be the firstfruits after Jesus in the First Resurrection. Only a small percentage of those who have ever lived will be in the First Resurrection. To have that opportunity is indeed a great privilege. Let us show God how much we appreciate that with continual praise and thanksgiving.

God Fights For Us — December 9, 2017

The Syrian army had surrounded the town that Elisha was in. His servant was very worried about their safety. Elisha said, 2 Kings 6:16, “So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” ” Elisha then prayed and asked God to open his servants eyes. Then he saw horses and chariots of fire with implied angels in the chariots. We don’t always see visible signs that God is watching over us, but He and our guarding angels are always on the job. This is one of the major lessons of the Exodus and the conquest of Canaan. Deuteronomy 1:30, “The Lord your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes”. There are several scriptures in the Psalms that reiterate this topic. Let’s close with just one. Psalms 34:17-19, “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all.”

Judging the Heart — December 2, 2017

When God sent Samuel to anoint a new king from the sons of Jesse, Samuel thought for sure Jesse’s tall, handsome firstborn was the one. But God had a different take on the situation, 1 Samuel 16:7, “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”” We know David was chosen. We also know David was not a perfect person, but a sinner, as are we all. So, why did God call David a man after His own heart? There are several reasons. One is in Acts 13:22, “And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’” Saul was also tall and handsome, but ended up disobeying God on several occasions without repenting. God knew David would make mistakes, but that he would repent and change and obey God to the best of his ability. David also had a deep love for God which we see expressed in the Psalms of praise and thanksgiving. Two more reasons why David is called a man after God’s own heart. Jesus also tells us to be careful in how we evaluate the character of others. John 7:24, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” The New Living Translation helps give us a better understanding of what Jesus was saying, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” The important thing we should be concerned about is that God will test us to see what is in our own hearts. Jeremiah 17:10, “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.” This is also the purpose of the Inspired Words of God, the Bible. In closing let us remember the admonition in Hebrews 4:12-13, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

Mysterious Ways — November 25, 2017

We have all probably heard the statement God works in strange and mysterious ways. There is no actual Bible verse that says this specifically. However, there are several Bible verses that support this concept in general. Romans 11:33, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” As you all know, practically everything on my property was consumed in the Santa Rosa Tubbs fire. But let me tell you a marvelous story. When my brother Doug and I went up to bury my dog Babe, he went for a walk along the winter creek. Unbelievably, he found a singed page from the Ambassador College yearbook, the Envoy. This particular page had the picture of his then future wife, Becky. A couple of days later he decided to walk along the creek again and he found five more pages. One of those pages had my then future wife’s picture, Terrie. And one of the other pages had the picture of our sister Sharon’s then future husband, Terry. Now, don’t try to tell me that was coincidence. Yes, to our disappointment, God allowed my property and possessions to burn. However, this was like a message of assurance from God. For me, God was saying there is a reason for all this and I will help you rebuild and give you a bigger and better new home. When I think of the long hard road to rebuild, I will think of this story and Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Living Sacrifice — November 18, 2017

Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” The dictionary has as one definition for sacrifice as “anything consecrated and offered to God.” As believers, how do we consecrate and offer ourselves to God as a living sacrifice? Verse 2 explains there are two main things we should do. One, don’t be like the world. Two, let our minds be spiritually transformed in doing what is good and acceptable to the will of God. Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The rest of this chapter goes on to further explain how we can be a living sacrifice. Let’s just summarize. Be humble, live by faith and use the spiritual gifts God has given us to serve the brethren in His Church. The Apostle Paul then expands upon these points. Love the brethren, abhor evil, rejoice in hope, be patient in trials, constantly praying, distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality and even praying for a blessing for our enemies. Let us remember just how important it is to not only love and obey God, but to also love, serve and take care of those brethren in His Church, especially those who are in need of help. This is what it means to be a living sacrifice.

Morning and Evening — November 11, 2017

After Moses and Israel constructed the Tabernacle of Meeting with the altar and other items of worship, God told Aaron and his sons that they were to offer two lambs for a burnt offering, one every morning and the other every evening. Exodus 29:38-39, “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs of the first year, day by day continually. One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight.” Continuing in verses 41 to 42, “And the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; and you shall offer with it the grain offering and the drink offering, as in the morning, for a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the Lord. This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet you to speak with you.” Let us note that these two sacrifices were to occur in the early morning and at twilight. Evidently, later on, the priest got lazy and changed the timing of these sacrifices to a more “convenient” time for them, 9 AM and 3 PM. As in all too many cases, Israel and the priesthood did not diligently obey the precise commandments of God. Nonetheless, let us ask the question, what spiritual applications can we learn for us today from the evening and morning sacrifices. Jesus Christ is, of course, the one-time sacrifice for our sins and the sins of all humankind. I think there is a very important lesson we should learn from the morning and evening sacrifice. Namely, that we should ask for God’s merciful forgiveness every morning and every evening of every day of our lives. In addition, the blood of Jesus is a protecting power from sin as when Israel put the blood of the Passover lamb on their doorpost to protect them from the death angel. Exodus 12:12-13, “For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” I also think, twice a day, we should ask God our Father for His protection from the evils of sin through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Let us not take the sacrifice of Jesus for granted. Let us remember to appreciate and ask God our Father for His forgiveness and protection every morning and every evening of every day for the rest of our lives.

Murmuring — November 4, 2017

God performed a multitude of miracles in bringing Israel out of Egypt. But what did Israel do? They complained, murmured, lusted, worshipped idols and sinned. There are a dozen or more stories in Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy where God was angry with Israel for behavior like this. We read in 1 Corinthians 10 that we should learn what not to do from their examples. Verses 5 and 6, “But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. ” Verses 10 and 11, “nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” Regardless of what tests and trials we may be experiencing, we still have much to thank God for. That we have been called and chosen to know God and His plan of salvation alone is worthy of constantly praising and thanking God. Let us close with Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Seek the Kingdom First — October 29, 2017

This week I have been remembering and contemplating several verses in Matthew chapter six. Let me quote a few that we all know so well. Verse 25, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” Verses 31 to 34, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” It is not hard to accept these scriptures when we have plenty to eat, clothes on our back and a roof over our head. However, it should not be any more difficult to apply these verses when these items are absent in our lives. It just takes more faith. We should always remember verse 33 no matter what our situation or predicament might be, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Then God makes a promise, “and all these things shall be added to you.”

Test of Faith — October 21, 2017

We have all had our own tests and trials including the loss of loved ones and physical possessions. It is a part of life everyone experiences. In my current trial of having lost my home and all my worldly possessions, my brother sent me an email with the two following well known scriptures for a little encouragement. I Peter 1:6-7, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,”. And from my favorite chapter, Roman 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” While there are many scriptures to encourage us in our tests and trails, I would add just one more for this Sabbath Thought. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” I am pleased to report that I am not discouraged or despondent. I am moving forward with my faith in God, continuing to put my life in His hands for His care and protection. It is going to be a long, hard road to recovery and rebuild my home. There will be ups and downs and I appreciate all the support and prayers on my behalf. I am sure I will learn many valuable lessons in this process that will help me be a better Christian and minister in serving others.

New Beginnings — October 14, 2017

The Bible has many stories of new beginnings, and different types of new beginning at that. Noah started a completely new world after the flood. Abraham and Sarah started a new life when God told them to leave their home country and move to the land of Canaan. Joseph had several new beginning after being sold into Egyptian slavery and later on elevated to second in command over the land of Egypt. Job, a contemporary of Joseph, had a new beginning after his yearlong trial. Moses had a new beginning when he fled Egypt and then again when God brought him back to lead His people out of Egypt. Israel had a new beginning when they left Egypt and also when they finally entered the promised land 40 years later. David had a new beginning when he became king of Israel. The 12 disciples had a new beginning from having been fishermen and businessmen to disciples of Jesus to apostles after receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost. When we become converted Christian, are baptized and have hands laid upon us for the receiving of the Holy Spirit, we become a “new person.” Life is full of new chapters, new beginnings, plus tests and trials. As most of you know, I must start a new beginning, the next chapter in my life. Everything I own, except what I have with me here at the Feast of Tabernacles, was burnt to ashes in the Santa Rosa Tubbs fire. However, everyone in my extended family is safe. We have plenty to eat and no one is persecuting us. So, there is still much to be thankful for. I will have to rebuild everything. I’ve already started the process. I think of a couple of relative scriptures. Luke 13:4-5, “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Ecclesiastes 9:11, “I returned and saw under the sun that—The race is not to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong, Nor bread to the wise, Nor riches to men of understanding, Nor favor to men of skill; But time and chance happen to them all.” Job 2:10 from “The Message” Bible, “He told her [his wife], “You’re talking like an empty-headed fool. We take the good days from God—why not also the bad days?” Not once through all this did Job sin. He said nothing against God.” Life must go on. There is no sense crying over spilled milk, that would only make things worse. There will be tears and sadness at times over lost personal items like wedding albums, wedding china, personally built items, etc. With a strong belief in God and the prayers and support of family, friends and church, we will pull through to a better day. I could ask questions, but what would that profit, we won’t know the answers until we’re born into the Kingdom of God. The way I look at it is that there is a more important lesson or outcome that God will teach and make known than the personal physical items of this life. I thank all of you who have supported me and my family and others who have suffered loss from these fires. Let’s close with one last scripture. Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

The Millennium — October 7, 2017

The Feast of Tabernacles pictures the Millennium, the 1000-year reign of Jesus Christ and the resurrected saints ruling over the earth. There are many scriptures about the Millennium in the prophetical books of the Bible. Let’s just look at a couple. Isaiah 2:2-5, “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the Lord’s house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come and let us walk In the light of the Lord.” Isaiah 25:6-9, “And in this mountain The Lord of hosts will make for all people A feast of choice pieces, A feast of wines on the lees, Of fat things full of marrow, Of well-refined wines on the lees. And He will destroy on this mountain The surface of the covering cast over all people, And the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever, And the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; For the Lord has spoken. And it will be said in that day: “Behold, this is our God; We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; We have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”” Isaiah 35:1-10, “The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, Even with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, The excellence of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, The excellency of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, And make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert. The parched ground shall become a pool, And the thirsty land springs of water; In the habitation of jackals, where each lay, There shall be grass with reeds and rushes. A highway shall be there, and a road, And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, But it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, Shall not go astray. No lion shall be there, Nor shall any ravenous beast go up on it; It shall not be found there. But the redeemed shall walk there, And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” I pray you all are enjoying the Feast of Tabernacles.

Atonement, Leviticus16 Lessons — September 30, 2017

Atonement started tonight at sunset on the weekly Sabbath. We have always fasted and repented as individuals on this day. However, there is a much more important spiritual significance to this Holy Day. We should find a spiritual application to the rituals of Leviticus 16 and apply them in our lives and the Church of God today. Leviticus 16:6, “Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house.” To apply this spiritually, all minister should say a special prayer on their knees before preaching on the Day of Atonement. They should ask for forgiveness of their sins, the sins of their family and the sins of all ministers in their church congregation. Leviticus 16:16, “So he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins; and so he shall do for the tabernacle of meeting which remains among them in the midst of their uncleanness.” The main spiritual purpose of Atonement is to make an atonement for the cleansing of the place of worship where the children of God gather to worship Him. We are all sinners. When we go to church with our sins, we defile the place of worship. Once a year, on the Day Atonement, those sins are forgiven and removed, cleansing the place of worship. How do we do that spiritually on this special day? The Church should get on their knees and the minister should lead in a prayer of church repentance and ask God to cleanse the church, which represents the body of Christ. Most Churches of God have missed the main point of Atonement. It is not a day of individual fasting. It is to be a group fast, a church fast. It is not a day with the emphasis on individual repentance. It is to be a day of group repentance, the whole church repenting as one body. With a special prayer, this will be a spiritually cleansing event for the church. Most Jews understand the Day of Atonement is all about the whole nation of Israel. Let us give God credit for this spiritual understand and fast and repent, not only as an individual, but as a church group and then asking God to cleanse our place of worship on this Holy Day of Atonement.

Days of Awe — September 23, 2017

Among the Jews, the ten days from Trumpets to Atonement are known as “the days of awe,” meaning in awe of God. These ten days are also called the “days of affliction” unto repentance. The Jews are supposed to carefully consider what sins will be held against them when God comes with His final judgment. These are the sins they rehearse and repent of on the Day of Atonement. Jewish tradition says that on the Day of Trumpets, God enters the righteous in the book of life and the wicked in the book of death. For those in between, the verdict remains open until the Day of Atonement. Trumpets calls for repentance while there is still time. Jewish tradition says these ten days determine whether a person will live or die in the next year. During this period, Jews seek forgiveness for their sins so that they may be written in the Book of Life for the coming year. A popular greeting is “May you be inscribed in the book of life for a good year”. The ten days until Atonement are also a time for righting wrongs done to others, paying debts and charitable giving. It is also a time to plan changes for the next year to live a better life before God. Jews are well aware of the need to forgive and be forgiven by others before seeking forgiveness from God. For Orthodox Jews, no weddings or any social events are to take place during these ten days of introspection. The Bible tells Christians to examine themselves. We should do this every day of the year, but we place special importance on this prior to Passover and Atonement. 1 Corinthians 11:28, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.” While we as Christians do not observe Jewish customs, there are many lessons we can learn from them and apply them in our spiritual worship of God the Father and Jesus our Atoning High Priest.

The Feast of Trumpets — September 16, 2017

The Feast of Trumpets is next Thursday. Leviticus 23:23-25, “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.’” The first three feasts of God have historical fulfilments. The fall feasts of God have future fulfillments. From past sermons, we have learned that the Hebrew word used for “trumpets” in reference to the “Feast of Trumpets” means to make a great noise or shout. The purpose for this noise or shout is to make an important announcement or proclamation. In addition, we are told to blow many trumpets on this day. Consequently, the two concepts have been combined and what is technically meant to be a great and loud proclamation is deemed to be made by the trumpets. There are many Old Testament activities associated with the blowing of trumpets, an alarm for war just to list one. In New Testament times, we associate the blowing of trumpets with events in the Book of Revelation, the first resurrection and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 4:16, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” The phrase “the trumpet of God” can mean the trumpet that is sounded belongs to God the Father. To speculate, I wonder for this great event if it might also mean that God the Father Himself might sound the trumpet that calls forth the first resurrection and the first phase of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” What is the “last trumpet” that Paul refers to? We have to remember when Paul wrote this, the Book of Revelation had not yet been written and he was unaware of the seven trumpet plagues. In Jewish traditions, trumpets were blown on the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah. Then on the Feast of Trumpets, many trumpets were blown throughout the day. The last trumpet blown by the Jewish priests on the Day of Trumpets was a memorial for the dead—a symbolic event of when the dead return to rejoin their descendants at the beginning of the new year. This is most likely what Paul is referring to, using this Jewish tradition to reference the first resurrection and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Have a great Feast of Trumpets everyone.

Good Health: Fighting Cancer and Alzheimer’s — September 9, 2017

3 John 1:2, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” God does want us to enjoy good health. However, we must make the effort and use the knowledge that is available to live a lifestyle that promotes good health. Our family has been favoring a healthy lifestyle since the late 1950’s. We joke that we came into the Church of God through the backdoor of the health food business. Our dad bought a health food store around 1957. He learned that you didn’t have to get sick if you ate a healthy diet. He then wondered if he had been lied to about diet, had he also been lied to about religion. He then started studying the Bible and eventually knew he needed to keep the Sabbath and Holy Days with the Church of God. His children continue that tradition and this Sabbath Thought I’d like to share a few important concepts. Cancer can be prevented or successfully treated in most cases with an alternative health program. There are many different ones, you have to study and find one that is good for you and your circumstances. One great book in my opinion is: Cancer: Step Outside the Box by Ty M. Bollinger. An easy to understand explanation with a simple program that I am currently using can be found at the website: life-saving-naturalcures-and-naturalremedies. An over simplified statement is that sugar feeds cancer, cancer loves and grows on sugar. Another great website, this time about sugar and cancer is: top-3-natural-sweeteners-for-cancer-prevention. Switching topics to Alzheimer’s and dementia. These diseases are becoming more and more prevalent. They take away an individual’s mind and destroy the relationships in a marriage and between family and friends. These two diseases are more difficult to treat than cancer. Until just recently, the causes and therefore coming up with a successful treatment plan was unknown. Now however, new research shows there are 36 metabolic factors that can trigger downsizing of the brain. To prevent or treat Alzheimer’s, an individual must consider all 36 metabolic factors. If you leave one out, the treatment may not be successful. There is now a test to determine which of the 36 metabolic factors one might be deficient in and need to improve upon to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s and dementia. There is still not a real known cure, but improving these 36 metabolic factors has had remarkable results in bringing mental clarity back to those affected by these diseases. The book that covers this topic is: The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline by Dale Bredesen. An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. I hope you never experience any of these diseases. If you do, we first pray to God for His healing by the stripes of Jesus. Then we do what we must, what God requires of us, to live a clean and healthy diet and lifestyle. May God bless us all with good health.

The Eternal God — September 2, 2017

Isaiah 57:15a, “For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, …” It is impossible for us as human beings to understand eternity. Nonetheless, I think we tend to limit God. Psalm 78:41, “Yes, again and again they tempted God, And limited the Holy One of Israel.” We probably think of God as sitting in one place at a time on His throne in heaven above. Almost like the Lincoln Memorial statue in Washington DC. But God created time, time did not even exist until the Father had Jesus create the universe. Time is the movement of heavenly bodies through space and before they existed time did not exist. Our Father and Jesus are not bound by time, they “live” outside of time as Isaiah 57:15 tells us. Remember, God moved the apostle John forward in time to actually see and hear the events John recorded in the book of Revelation. How did God do that? We can’t understand that. We just know God is omnipresent and omnipotent. As the apostle Paul said, we see God through a very dark glass. 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” Yes, the Father and Jesus have a spiritual body. Many scriptures including Revelation 1 let us know that. But I believe the spirit power of God exist everywhere at all times. I do not believe God’s presence is limited to one place and time. Think about those statements for a while. And then praise the Father and Jesus for their eternal power and existence.

New Testament Seven’s — August 26, 2017

We just finished reviewing the seven churches of Revelation. I never thought to count how many churches the apostle Paul wrote to, but he also wrote to seven churches: 1) Rome, 2) Corinth, 3) Galatia, 4) Ephesus, 5) Philippi, 6) Colosse and 7) Thessalonia. There are many “7’s” in the Bible including the New Testament. The apostle Paul wrote fourteen books, seven times two. There are seven general epistles: James, 1st and 2nd Peter, 1st, 2nd and 3rd John and Jude. There are seven parables in Matthew 13. Seven basic doctrines are listed in the first two verses of Hebrews 6. There are seven “Amen’s” in the book of Romans. In Ephesians 4 there are seven “one’s” of the Holy Spirit listed: 1) one body, 2) one spirit, 3) one hope, 4) one Lord, 5) one faith, 6) one baptism and 7) one God. Seven good things to do in following God are listed in 1 Thessalonians 5:15-22. James 3:17 lists seven aspects of pure wisdom. In addition, there are lists of faith and hope that come out to seven in Hebrews 11, 1 Corinthians 13, and 2 Peter 1:6. There are other lists of seven, too many to list in this Sabbath Thought. Of course, there are the well know sevens of Revelation: seven churches with seven letters associated with seven golden lampstands, stars and spirits of God. We see Jesus with seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God, in Revelation 5:6. Continuing, there are the seven seals, seven trumpets and seven vials with seven angels with the trumpets and vials. There are the seven thunders in Revelation 10. Seven thousand people die from a great earthquake in Revelation 11:13. The “beast” is pictured with seven heads and seven crowns. There are seven kings and seven mountains in Revelation 17:9-10. And the Bible ends with seven visions in Revelation chapters 20 and 21. Why is seven God’s favorite number? We don’t know. But I was thinking I’m glad it isn’t 14 or 21. What if the Sabbath was just once every 14 days? Just some interesting facts and questions for your spiritual entertainment this Sabbath Thought.

Church Comparisons and Lessons — August 19, 2017

We have just finished reviewing the seven churches of Revelation. It is interesting to note the similarities of descending outer pairs of these churches. Churches 1 and 7, Ephesus and Laodicea pair up. Both have lost their first love for God and watered down what they believe in. Both are told to restore their love for the truth. The next pair are churches 2 and 6, Smyrna and Philadelphia. These are the only two churches that receive no correction but are warned, specifically or implied, that they will suffer tests and trials before being spared from them. The last pair are churches 3 and 4, Pergamos and Thyatira. These two churches both had problems with sexual sins and the doctrines of Balaam, the Nicolaitans and Jezebel. God says He will actually fight against these two churches if they don’t repent. That leaves church 5, Sardis, the “dead church.” God does not list any great sins of this church or punishment, they just are not spiritually alive with good works. There are many lessons to be learned from studying these seven churches. The main lesson I wish to emphasize for this Sabbath Thought is that going to church does not guarantee a good relationship with God, faith and obedience does. Jeremiah 7:1-4, “The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah who enter in at these gates to worship the Lord!’” Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Do not trust in these lying words, saying, ‘The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these.’” Israel trusted that they were God’s people because they had the Temple of God in their midst. But they lacked faith and were disobedient and God allowed His temple to be destroyed. Likewise, God has allowed His New Testament Church to go through seven reiterations, removing many of their candlesticks and punishing them for losing their love for the faith once delivered. We are told in several scriptures to gather together in a holy convocation on the Sabbath and Holy Days. But that in and of itself will not establish a good relationship with God. It is how we live our lives outside of church, how we live our lives every minute of every day that establishes a good relationship with God.

Laodicea, the Lukewarm Church — August 12, 2017

Revelation 3:14, “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:”. As with Philadelphia, Jesus does not refer to anything said about Him in the first chapter to relate to this church. He instead uses three divine titles to confirm He is the source of Truth, which Laodicea had changed and watered down: 1) the Amen, 2) the faithful, and 3) true witness. “The Beginning of the creation of God,” does not mean that Father created Jesus, but that Jesus was the first fleshly body changed into an eternal spiritual body. Jesus was the Firstfruit of firstfruits. The English word translated “beginning” in the Greek could be translated “chief, source, origin, power, ruler, or first.” This letter to the Laodiceans has much in common with Paul’s letter to the Colossian church. Colossae was not far from Laodicea, so it is likely that the same heresy plaguing the Colossians had made its way to Laodicea (Colossians 4:16). That heresy, a form of incipient gnosticism, taught that Christ was a created being, one of a series of emanations from God. Its proponents also claimed that they possessed a secret, higher spiritual knowledge above and beyond the simple words of Scripture. Combating that heresy, Paul wrote of Christ, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” (Colossians 1:15–17) “Firstborn” is not limited to the first one born chronologically, but refers to the supreme or preeminent one, the one receiving the highest honor (Psalms 89:27). Christ is thus the source of the creation, and the supreme person in it. Laodicea is the only church where not one good thing said about it. Interestingly, the comparison between the last two churches, Philadelphia does not have one bad thing said about it. This church is well know for the phrase, “I would that you were cold or hot.” Why is that? It is hard to convince someone who is lukewarm that they need to change, there is a better change of accomplishing that with someone who is totally disobedient. This church is arrogant and assumes it is spiritually knowledgeable and safe from punishment when just the opposite is true. Revelation 3:17, “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” We might wonder how a church of God could be so deceived, but it happens, think of several of the other churches mentioned in this book and the New Testament. Their punishment is severe. But God says He loves this church and rebukes them in His love. Those who heed this rebuke and repent are promised to sit on thrones ruling with Jesus Christ during the Millennium. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (For a more detailed description of Laodicea and discussion of the Laodicean church, listen to the Bible Study of September 10, 2011 on this website.)

Philadelphia, the Obedient, Faithful Church — August 5, 2017

Little is known about the Philadelphia church apart from the letter to it in Revelation 3. Like most of the other seven churches, it was probably founded during Paul’s ministry at Ephesus (Acts 19:10). For the first five churches, their letters begins with attributes of Jesus taken from the first chapter of Revelation. The last two churches are different. For Philadelphia, Jesus uses distinctly OT descriptions of God. Jesus refers to Himself as having the key of David. A key is the emblem of authority and knowledge. The key of David is the inherited regal right or authority of David to control and govern Israel. David could chose his successor, open or close access to the kingdom of Israel, among other kingly responsibilities. Jesus has the same rights with the Kingdom of Heaven -- He determines who has access via the gospel in this lifetime to the coming kingdom of His Father. Having the key means having unlimited access to "the house" and the authority it represents. This spiritual principle receives double emphasis with the phrase, “He that opens, and no man shuts, and shuts, and no man opens.” Jesus invites and excludes whom He chooses to the first resurrection, it is not up to us or any man. No one can reverse His decisions! Jesus is omnipotent. While this is a small church, Jesus is accomplishing these goals through this church. In addition, Jesus says, “Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut.” Jesus opened a means for them to serve others and preach the gospel, based on Jesus' capabilities as God, not theirs as men. Christ had no words of rebuke for this church. Though small and struggling, the church in Philadelphia had stayed true to Christ. They “kept My word,” they did not change doctrine. “Have not denied My name,” they remained loyal to Jesus in face of pressures to do so when times were tough. Other churches have changed what they believe. Jesus told them simply to hold on to what they had. “Because you have kept My command to persevere” implies they would experience persecution and trials, but this church would continue to obey over a long, difficult period of time. “I will keep you from the hour of trial which will come upon the whole world.” Some think this means God will give them strength to endure thru great tribulation, but "keep from" means total separation, that is, to come completely out of, not to be protected while within. Jesus also tells this church He will cause others “to know that I have loved you.” What a wonderful accolade this is for the Philadelphian church. Jesus promises this church several spiritual rewards in the Kingdom of God: 1) a pillar in the temple, 2) will go out no more, 3) write upon him the name of my God, 4) citizen in the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, and 5) have My new Name inscribed upon him. All Christians who read these seven letters to the seven churches desire to be in the Philadelphian spiritual attitude and church. Let us make the spiritual effort to ensure that that is true. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (For a more detailed description of Philadelphia and discussion of the Philadelphian church, listen to the Bible Study of June 4, 2011 on this website.)

Sardis, the Dead Church — July 29, 2017

The city of Sardis was a commercial hub for the towns of the surrounding area, and wealth poured into the city. Sardis was given to Cybele worship, a Phrygian religion. The followers of Cybele were immoral and crude, not only in their lives but also in their worship. Revelation 3:1, “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” The “seven Spirits”, or, better translated, the “sevenfold spirit of God”, pictures the complete fullness of the Spirit Power of God – something the Sardis church was greatly lacking. Notice how Jesus says this church has an invalid reputation. This is therefore interesting in that other churches could not, or at least, did not, discern that the Sardis church was dying spiritually. A good question we should ask is why was that? For which the Bible does not give a specific answer. Jesus tells this church to repent. However, He does not specify any great punishment as they were not sinning like the previous two churches. Maybe this is why the other churches could not evaluate Sardis’ condition; they were not great sinners, they were just gradually losing the Holy Spirit, spiritually lackadaisical. Plus, there were a few in Sardis who had not defiled their garments, a positive negative. You and I can go to church, but that does not guarantee our salvation. Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (For a more detailed description of Sardis and discussion of the Sardis church, listen to the Bible Study of February 26, 2011 on this website.)

Thyatira, The Church that Tolerated Sin — July 15, 2017

Thyatira is the smallest of the seven cities addressed. It was known as a major commercial and trade center, famous for its purple dye (Acts 16:14-15). Only this church and the Laodicean church are addressed with official titles of Jesus. Revelation 2:18, “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass:” This is likely done because of the severity of the rebuke they are about to receive. Jesus, the Son of God, stands firm and sees all. Actually, this church has a pretty good list of good qualities: love, service, faith, patience, greater works. Revelation 2:20, “Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.” Some commentaries believe this verse refers to the wife of the pastor. Regardless, this appears to be someone within the church. The problem with this church was not an external attack or specifically persecution, but decay from within. Other speculation is that she adopted and preached a contemporary Greek philosophy; that the spirit is good and the flesh is evil. It was falsely argued that it therefore doesn't matter what one does with one's physical body, that is, one could eat things sacrificed to idols and commit acts of immorality. This was a church with good people and evil people living side-by-side. God then goes on to says he will kill the evil people with death while encouraging the good people to hold fast to the original doctrines. The major lesson here is that going to church doesn’t “save us,” it is how we live our Christian lives. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (For a more detailed description of Thyatira and discussion of the Thyatira church, listen to the Bible Study of December 18, 2010 on this website.)

Pergamos, The Worldly Church — July 22, 2017

Revelation 2:12, “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword:” A two-edged sword depicts the Inspired Scriptures’ potency and power in exposing and judging the innermost thoughts of the human heart. It also pictures Jesus as judge and executioner. This indicates the church at Pergamos needed a piercing reproof that would cut deep. This is not a positive introduction, but a threatening one. The Pergamos church has two good qualities: it held fast to God’s Name and God’s faith. But, it has several problems from the influences of where it was located. Revelation 2:13a, “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is...” Pergamos was a center of pagan worship; it contained a temple of Asclepius, the snake god of healing. In addition, Greek gods and emperor worship were also prevalent. God warns this church to repent of sexual sins, eating pagan sacrifices and doctrines of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. God says He will actually fight against this church if they do not repent. Revelation 2:16, “Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.” The lesson for us is that it is not enough to have love and faith in God when our doctrines and obedience to God is compromised with worldly beliefs and sins. We today live in a world that is influenced by Satan and becoming more and more corrupt every day. We must remain strong in our commitment to both love and obey God, not just one or the other. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (For a more detailed description of Pergamos and discussion of the Pergamos church, listen to the Bible Study of October 16, 2010 on this website.)

Smyrna, The Suffering Church — July 8, 2017

Revelation 2:8, “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, ‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life:’”. A special characteristic of Jesus is referenced at the beginning of each letter to each of the seven churches that has a particular and special application for that church. The Smyrna church suffered great persecution and Jesus is referred to as triumphing over death. This church is told they will suffer persecution, prison and death. They are also instructed not to fear what they will suffer. Verse 10, “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” There are many scriptures that warn Christians we will suffer tests, trials and persecution. Acts 14:22, “strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.’” Remember, most of the New Testament apostles and evangelist were martyred. Many Christian down through the last 2000 years have been persecuted and killed. So far, at least here in the United States, persecution has been minimal. That will likely change sometime in the future. We should be mentally and spiritually prepared as to how we would endure such situations. We have scriptures that inform us no matter what we suffer, it will be worth it. 2 Timothy 2:11-12, “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us.” Romans 8:17, “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” In the meantime, we should thank and praise God for the freedom to worship as we please and the lack of actual physical persecution. We should use this period of relative peace to grow stronger in the faith. We close again with the instruction to all seven churches, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (For a more detailed description of Smyrna and discussion of the Smyrna church, listen to the Bible Study of August 14, 2010 on this website.)

Ephesus, When Love Grows Cold — July 1, 2017

Ephesus was the largest commercial city in Asia Minor during the first 300 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. In Revelation 2:1 we see Jesus pictured as holding the seven stars in His right hand and walking in the midst of the seven golden lampstands. This shows that Jesus is Head of the Church, watching over not just this church, but all seven. This is mentioned because as time went by, the Ephesian church seems to have forgotten this important point. Hence, they trusted in their own abilities, pride crept into this church and they lost their first love. To begin with, they had many good characteristics: good works, patience, endurance, disdain for the deeds of the Nicolatians, testing and rejecting false apostles. However, as the apostle Paul said, if you don’t have love, you don’t have anything, 1 Corinthians 13. The Ephesian church gradually lost their first love for the Father, Jesus and the true doctrines. Notice the severity of their condition and the warning. Revelation 2:5, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.” Ephesians are characterized as “fallen.” They are warned to repent, twice, and return to their first love. Otherwise, their lampstand, symbolizing the church, would be completely removed. A very severe punishment for a once God-fearing church. Maintaining our zeal for God, not growing weary in doing good, enduring unto the end of our lives in the faith once delivered, is paramount in our Christian lives. Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Let us remember the closing statement to all seven churches, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (For a more detailed description of Ephesus and discussion of the Ephesian church, listen to the Bible Study of June 12, 2010 on this website.)

The Seven Churches — June 24, 2017

Revelation 1:1, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. …” The Book of Revelation is written specifically to show His servants what the future portends for them. Revelation is not specifically written for the world as a whole, even though many are somewhat aware of what is written in this book. Revelation 1:4, “John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: …” Even more specifically, John wrote to the seven churches of Asia Minor. This is emphasized by Jesus Christ Himself in verse 11, “saying, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,’ and, ‘What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.’” In my opinion, these seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3 represent four things. Obviously, there were seven literal churches in the afore mentioned cities in Asia Minor of the Roman Empire. I also think these seven churches represent seven spiritual stages any church might go through in its existence. Churches should evaluate this, but they seldom, if ever, do so. Churches just seem to assume they are always in the best spiritual condition with no need for examination or repentance as a group. Next, I think each of the churches represent seven different spiritual attitudes an individual Christian might have in their progression through this physical life. A Christian can be associated with any of the seven churches, yet they themselves as an individual, be in a completely different spiritual attitude. It is important as Christians to evaluate and examine ourselves to see which attitude we might closest resemble and make changes as necessary to be in one of the best spiritual attitudes. And yes, I also believe these churches represent seven eras of God’s Church down through the last 2000 years. Many who used to, no longer believe in church eras. Why is that? Laodiceans don’t want to believe in church eras because they know the Second Coming of Jesus is near. They know that the last church era would be the Laodicean era. They know after all the changes they have accepted, that would quite likely make them part of the Laodicean era. Therefore, they dispute the existence of church eras. Regardless of what we believe, we should heed the closing words to all seven churches. Revelation 2:7, 11, 17 29; 3:6, 13, 22, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

2 John Clarification — June 17, 2017

We talked last week about protecting our minds from the influence of ministers and churches that have perverted the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A question has been asked, how do we put 2 John into practice? Let us take a closer look. Last Sabbath we quoted verses 6 through 11. Let us concentrate on verse 7 for now, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” This is the central issue that John is making when He says we are not to allow other preachers into our homes or to wish them well. There are many “varieties” of Christian beliefs, but one of, if not the most dangerous of them all, is the belief that Jesus did not exist as God before His human birth. John has already warned against such beliefs in 1 John 4:2-3, “By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.” This would seem to be the only type of so-called Christian minister John is warning us not to allow in our homes. I do not like to give my personal opinions or decisions on how I conduct my personal life, but let me make an exception in this case. First, remember that in New Testament days, just like we often do today, they had very small churches that met in private homes. I personally would not listen to nor allow any such minister to preach in my home who did not believe Jesus was the eternal God who became flesh and blood. I would not even want to socialize with any person who holds these beliefs, only making an exception if that person were a relative. Regarding other Christians, as long as they believe Jesus is the Eternal God who became our Savior, even though they may not keep the Sabbath or Holy Days or a Monday Pentecost, and so forth, I could still be their friend and invite them into my home as a friend. But again, not to preach. I do like to listen to a few other ministers preach over the internet or on TV. If they stick to the scriptures or history of Bible times, it can be interesting and educational. But if they start to preach something that does not agree with what I know to be true doctrine, I turn them off. While I personally do not read literature from other churches, I just don’t have that much time, I would apply the same principle. We must maintain control over what we listen to or read in our own homes. This is what I do personally. I am not going to tell others they have to do things exactly the same way I do. Each person is responsible for making their own decisions. We have the scripture from 1 Thessalonians to guide us in our spiritual lives. 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, “Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” Let us never forget that five of the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 were told by God that He had something against them. Furthermore, if they did not repent, a severe punishment was in store for them. Let us always remember what God our Father said to all seven churches, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Mind Protection With Other Churches — June 10, 2017

We have been discussing separation vs. isolation. We are not to be isolationist. However, God does require that we not live a “worldly” life. But, what about our interaction with other churches? The Bible warns us of the dangers of becoming involved with churches and ministers that have departed from the faith once delivered. Galatians 1:6-7, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.” Note that Paul says the Galatians have turned away from the true gospel to a very similar gospel that is a slight perversion of the truth. Paul gives a stronger warning in Galatians 3:1, “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? ” Let us carefully consider the messages to the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3. Laodicea is a Church of God. But, would we really want to be associated with that church? Revelation 3:17-19, “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” Do we really want to go through the Great Tribulation because we had a need for fellowship with perhaps a closer, larger church? Or, should we seek out a church in a Philadelphian spirit no matter where or how small it might be? Let us remember the warning of the Apostle John in 2 John 1:6-11, “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it. For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward. Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.” In my observations, most individuals who become involved with other churches are usually influenced sooner or later to accept some of their teachings which are different than the faith once delivered. Let us heed these warnings from the Apostles Paul and John not to let anyone who preaches doctrines that may vary only slightly from the faith once delivered into our home, or more importantly, into our minds.

Should We Be Spiritual Isolationist? – Part 5 — June 3, 2017

Does God really expect us to be isolationist? Let’s remember several verses from what Jesus prayed in His final hours on this earth. Early in His prayer, Jesus states that the Father “gave” or called the disciples out of this world and gave them to Jesus as His disciples. John 17:6, “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.” A couple of verses later Jesus states that He is leaving this world, but His disciples would still be living in this world. John 17:11, “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.” Next, notice how Jesus emphatically states He does not want His disciples to be taken out of this world, but that they should be protected from evil and sanctified. John 17:14-19, “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” Let us concentrate on the word “sanctify.” Sanctify means to set aside, to purify or consecrate for a special purpose, to make holy. This is what Jesus requested of our Father, that while we live in this world, as His disciples, we be set aside for a holy purpose. That includes Jesus’ disciples then and now. John 17:20, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;” What is to be accomplished with this calling and sanctification? John 17:23, “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” Yes, we have to live in this world, but we are not to partake of its way of live. Furthermore, what a priviledge it is to be called and chosen to be a true disciple of Jesus and to receive the love of the Father as He loved His Son Jesus Christ.

Should We Be Spiritual Isolationist? – Part 4 — May 27, 2017

We continue our discussion on sanctified separation in how we live in this world vs. being an isolationist. Last Sabbath we read a few scriptures that said we are to live in this world but not partake of its way of live. There are many scriptures that show us we are not to be isolationist. Here are a few. Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” If we live in complete isolation, we are not letting our spiritual light shine so that the world can see an example of how a good Christian lives his life obeying God. Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,” We all remember this scripture about loving and praying for our enemies. In addition, let us take note of the phrase, “do good to those who hate you.” We are to do good things for our enemies – we can’t do that if we are living in isolation. Jesus also told His followers to make good use of the wealth in this world to make friends in case we should lose our physical wealth. Again, that can’t be done if one is living in isolation. Luke 16:8-9, (NLT) “The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light. Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.” The last scripture we will quote this Sabbath is from the book of Acts. Acts 8:1, 4, “Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” We are not only to be a light and a good example of Christian living making friends in this world, we are to tell them we believe in God and His Bible. We don’t have to get on a soapbox to do this, nor do we have to get “preachy” with everyone we know. We can let them know we keep the Sabbath, the Holy Days and believe in living by every world of God in the Bible. If we lived a life of isolation, we really would not be accomplishing God’s will in our life. Next Sabbath we will discuss what Jesus said relative to this topic in His long prayer to God our Father in John 17.

Should We Be Spiritual Isolationist? – Part 3 — May 20, 2017

Does God really expect us to be completely isolated from the world? What did the Apostle Paul say about this topic? 1 Corinthians 5:9-10, “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.” The Apostle Paul makes it clear we have to live in a world surrounded by sinners. In part one of this topic we read two scriptures that said we are to be separate from the world. The definition of separate is: “1) to set or keep apart, to make a distinction between. 2) to set aside for a special purpose. 3) to part by legal separation.” We are to be separate from the world, that is, set apart, yet still living in the world. The Bible states that we are to be sanctified by the blood of Jesus. Hebrews 10:10, “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” The Bible meaning of sanctification is "the state of proper functioning." To sanctify someone or something is to set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer. The definition for isolated is: “1) far away from other places, building, or people; remote. 2) having minimal contact or little in common with others. 3) single, exceptional, one by itself, alone.” We have to live in an evil world but we don’t have to part of that world. We are to be set aside for a special Christian purpose. God does not require us to live an isolated life with little or no contact with other human beings. We’ll talk more about that in next week’s Sabbath Thought.

Should We Be Spiritual Isolationist? – Part 2 — May 13, 2017

Last Sabbath I mentioned how the former Church of God leadership tried to prevent the brethren from reading or listening to other church literature and ministers. However, consequently, that same leadership fell victim to what they feared would happen to the general congregation. In order for the college to achieve accreditation, some ministers and professors went to other institutions of higher learning to get their doctors degrees in theology, Greek, Hebrew and other subjects. With their “new knowledge” and “insights,” they started to work at influencing the whole church to accept changes in keeping Pentecost, Divorce and Remarriage, and other doctrines. We live in a spiritually misguided world. That cannot be changed at this time. What we are to do, is not let the world influence us to do the wrong things. That is a spiritual battle. One that God warned Jeremiah he must fight. Jeremiah 15:19-20 (NLT), "This is how the LORD responds: ‘If you return to me, I will restore you so you can continue to serve me. If you speak good words rather than worthless ones, you will be my spokesman. You must influence them; do not let them influence you! They will fight against you like an attacking army, but I will make you as secure as a fortified wall of bronze. They will not conquer you, for I am with you to protect and rescue you. I, the LORD, have spoken! Yes, I will certainly keep you safe from these wicked men. I will rescue you from their cruel hands.”’ For this Sabbath Thought let us emphasize the phrase, “You must influence them; do not let them influence you!” That is the continual dilemma all Christians face, living in a corrupt world without being unduly influenced by worldly ways. However, God promises to protect us and our minds if we resist being influenced by the thoughts of the world. More on this important topic next Sabbath.

Should We Be Spiritual Isolationist? – Part 1 — May 6, 2017

Long-time members of the Church of God were originally taught, directly or indirectly, not to have anything to do with other churches. Perhaps the following two scriptures were used to reinforce this concept. 2 Corinthians 6:17 (quoted from Isaiah 52:11), “Therefore ‘Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.’” Revelation 18:4, “And I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.’” For all practical purposes, we were forbidden to read literature from other churches or listen to their ministers. There were additional reasons for this. The church leadership was fearful that the brethren might be unduly influenced by “outside” literature and accept undesirable ideas or even leave their church. They did not have confidence in the spiritual character of the brethren to differentiate between spiritual wheat and chaff. Like all spiritual teachings, we must consider all the scriptures. We will continue this discussion in the next few Sabbath Thoughts. We will ask questions concerning Jesus and the Apostle Paul’s examples and how that might apply to us. We will read other scriptures in considering both sides of the argument. We will then try to determine the right balance as given to us through spiritual understanding after considering many scriptures relative to this topic.

The Privilege of Our Calling — April 29, 2017

Matthew 22:14, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” This is a very simple statement with powerful implications. In giving the “parable of the sower,” Jesus said most of the seeds that were scattered would not produce grain due to birds, stony ground, scorching heat and thorns. When the disciples asked Jesus why He spoke in parables, He replied in Matthew 13:11, “He answered and said to them, ‘Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.’” It is a great privilege to receive the opportunity to be part of the Body of Christ, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” It is a privilege obtained by mercy. It is a great privilege that should be cherished, held on to and nourished. It is a privilege with great spiritual promises. 1 Peter 2:4-10, “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.’ They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”

Whoever Believes In Him — April 22, 2017

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” There are so many lessons to learn from this most famous scripture. This Sabbath, let’s think about the phrase, “whoever believes in Him.” All Christians “believe” in Jesus. The question then is, does this mean all of them will receive everlasting life? Jesus also said if we loved Him, we would keep His commandments. John 14:15, 21, “If you love Me, keep My commandments. … He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” Unfortunately, all too many Christians do not obey Jesus’ commands. Will that disqualify them from receiving eternal life? 1 Timothy 2:3-4, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Understanding God’s Plan of Salvation lets us know those who love Jesus but do not now obey Him, will not be in the first resurrection. However, they will have a future chance to repent and obey God after the Millennium. Paul gives us a hint about this in 1 Corinthians 15: 23, “But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” The scriptures are God-inspired and cannot be broken. What a great comfort to know all those who believe in Jesus as their Savior will receive the gift of everlasting life, even though different individuals will receive that gift at different times in God’s Plan of Salvation.

Resurrection and Life Eternal — April 15, 2017

Romans 5:10, “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Church of God Christians emphasize Passover and the death of Jesus Christ at this time of year. Nothing wrong with that. However, I believe we can make a mistake due to a tendency to ignore the resurrection of Jesus Christ because of the emphasis of Easter and its pagan customs associated with Jesus’ resurrection. As stated in the scripture first quoted and 1 Corinthians 15, there is no eternal life without the resurrection. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus go together. God’s Plan of Salvation requires both events. You cannot have one without the other. Without either one, there would be no salvation, no hope of eternal life. Jesus made a few statements that emphasized the importance of His life, in spiritual reality, His life after death. John 11:25-26, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’” John 14:19, “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.” In what we call the Resurrection Chapter, the apostle Paul talks about the importance of Jesus resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:14, 17, 19-20, “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. … And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! … If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Notice Paul’s inspired emphasis that if Jesus was not resurrected we would still be in our sins. In other words, what good would the sacrifice of Jesus be if there is no hope of eternal life. The whole purpose of Jesus' death and shed blood is so that our sins can be washed away in order for us to receive the gift of eternal life. The weekly Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The next day celebrates His acceptance before God the Father as our sacrificial atonement or wave sheaf offering as so pictured in the Old Testament. These are all most important events, none of which should be ignored. Instead, they should be celebrated with great hope and joy. Let us remember the importance of the resurrection of Jesus this Sabbath. Let us rejoice in the hope we therefore have — because He lives, we shall live also!

Precious Blood — April 8, 2017

With Passover just two days from now, we all have been thinking about the overwhelming sacrifice of our Savor and Messiah, Jesus Christ. It is difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend the magnitude of what both God the Father and Jesus the Son of God did so that the terribleness of our sins might all be forgiven and we can be washed clean of the filthiness of past sins in our lives. There are so many scriptures that talk about what the precious shed blood of Jesus accomplishes for each and every one of us. Let’s review four of these and reflect upon them in the coming days. Matthew 26:27-28, “Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.‘” Ephesians 1:7, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Colossians 1:19-20, “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” 1 Peter 1:18-20, “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

Jesus had to Suffer — April 1, 2017

Matthew 16:21, “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” With Passover just a little over a week from now, we should stop and think what our Savor went through for us and the forgiveness of sins. After His resurrection, Jesus told His disciples in Luke 24:46, “Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,”. Jesus not only had to die for our sins, He had to suffer for our sins. Jesus could have died a quick, painless death. But would that have paid the full price for our sins? That was not the Father’s will for several reasons. One, we would not realize the terribleness of sin if Jesus paid the penalty for us with a quick, “easy” death. With His great suffering we feel the guilt of the magnitude of our sins, which should lead us to tearful, heartfelt remorse over our sins. Two, we suffer in this physical life; it was necessary that Jesus also suffer and have the same experiences that we do in order for Him to be the perfect Savior, High Priest and Atonement for our salvation. Hebrews 2:10, “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Hebrews 5:8-10, “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek,”. Yes, Jesus suffered greatly because of our sins. This should motivate us to strive to cease from sin. 1 Peter 4:1-2, “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” Think about the contrast Jesus experienced. He was God in the flesh, perfect in every way. Yet He not only had to die for our sins, He had to suffer for our sins. He was beaten, mocked, spit upon, a crown of thorns crushed upon His head, scourged to just short of death, nailed to a cross and had a spear thrust up His side into His internal organs. Jesus not only suffered physically, He suffered mentally and emotionally with the weight of all the sins of mankind, past, present and future, on His shoulders. We should meditate on the significance of all this as we approach the Passover and what we need to do to honor and appreciate the death and suffering of our Savior for us. — This is a reprint from a year ago. This is an important topic and it has been on my mind a great deal of late and I feel worth repeating.

Examination — March 25, 2017

As we approach Passover, a little over two weeks from now, we often think about or hear read in a sermon 2 Corinthians 13:5 which says we are to examine ourselves. We think and are told we should look for the sins in our lives and then to repent and change. And indeed we should do so. However, let us carefully read the whole verse. 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.” In this particular verse we are told to specifically examine whether we are in “The Faith.” Why? In other scriptures, we are told to fight for “The Faith” once delivered because in the later times some will depart from “The Faith.” Jude 1:3, Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” 1 Timothy 4:1, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,”. “The Faith” refers to the basic doctrinal teachings of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament by the disciples of Jesus. Passover is also a good time to perform this examination, are we still following and obeying the original teachings of Jesus as originally revealed to His end-time church? Or have we watered down and become lukewarm in our beliefs by accepting changes based on scholarly research and the traditions of men. To water down or leave “The Faith Once Deliver” would, of course, also be sin that needs to be repented of and changed. Let us carefully examine all areas and aspects of our lives and believes as we approach this Passover season.

Love of Nation — March 18, 2017

Last Sabbath we discussed that the end-time was not somethings to look forward to or desire. The question this Sabbath is, how do we feel about the nation we live in relative to end-time prophecy? Jesus knew Jerusalem was to be destroyed a few short decades after His death. Here is how He felt about that. Luke 19:41-44, “Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.’” The apostle Paul said he would give up knowing Christ and being in the first resurrection if he would mean his fellow Israelites could receive protection and salvation in their first lifetime. Romans 9:1-5, “I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.” While the disobedience of our fellow citizens greatly saddens us, we can still have a great love for the nation we live in and the people thereof. There is nothing wrong with that.

Do We Desire the Day of the Lord? — March 11, 2017

We all know prophecy will be fulfilled. There is no stopping it. But how do we view God’s punishment of sinners during the end-time? Will we be glad to see it happen? Do we think “they have it coming for their evil deeds”? What does God say and how does He feel about it? Amos 5:18, “Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! For what good is the day of the Lord to you? It will be darkness, and not light.” Next, let us consider that verse from the New Living Translation, “What sorrow awaits you who say, ‘If only the day of the LORD were here!’ You have no idea what you are wishing for. That day will bring darkness, not light.” And also The Message paraphrased Bible, “Woe to all of you who want God’s Judgment Day! Why would you want to see God, want him to come? When God comes, it will be bad news before it’s good news, the worst of times, not the best of times.” How did Jeremiah feel about the “bad news” he had to prophesy? Let’s read Jeremiah 17:15-16 in the New Living Translation, “People scoff at me and say, ‘What is this “message from the LORD” you talk about? Why don’t your predictions come true?’ LORD, I have not abandoned my job as a shepherd for your people. I have not urged you to send disaster. You have heard everything I’ve said.” Does God enjoy watching the wicked being punished? Ezekiel 33:11 answers that question, “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’” Yes, evil people will be punished during the Seven Seals and the Day of the Lord. However, we should remember that God is punishing evil out of love, tough love for sure. Nonetheless, loving punishment that will eventually cause most people to turn from their evil ways and repent. This is God’s desired outcome. The process is not always pleasant, but the end result will be wonderful.

There is also a Reward — March 4, 2017

Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” We all know that salvation is a gift from God through His grace, a gift that cannot be earned through works. However, in addition to the gift of eternal life, there is a reward that is based on works. As this scripture in Hebrews says, the promise by God of a reward should be motivation for us to obey and have faith in God. We know there are many scriptures that tell us that salvation is a gift not based on works. There are also many scriptures that inform us there is also a reward. Here are several such scriptures. Revelation 11:18, “The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, And the time of the dead, that they should be judged, And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, And those who fear Your name, small and great, And should destroy those who destroy the earth.” 1 Corinthians 3:8, “Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” Matthew 16:27, “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” Matthew 5:12, “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Rewards are also mentioned in the parable of the talents. Matthew 25:21, “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’” Luke’s version of this parable is more specific about a reward. Luke 19:17, “And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’” Another servant was given five cities to rule over for his reward. Some of the final words in the Bible spoken by Jesus are about a reward. Revelation 22:12, “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” How hard we work at being an obedient Christian, how much we help others, the good we do in this life will make a difference in the reward we receive once we are granted the gift of eternal life.

A List and A Book — February 25, 2017

What a wonderful complement it would be to have our name mentioned in the Bible as an example of faith or obedience. Many of the servants of God received this privilege. Jeremiah 15:1, “Then the Lord said to me, “Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind would not be favorable toward this people. Cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth.” Ezekiel 14:14, “Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,” says the Lord GOD.” This is repeated in verse 20 for emphasis, “’even though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘they would deliver neither son nor daughter; they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness.’” Noah, Job, Moses, Samuel and Daniel are given as the best examples of complete and careful obedience to the laws of God. However, such righteousness would not cause God to spare rebellious Israel. Elijah is referred to several times in the New Testament as an example of a great prophet accomplishing the will of God. John the Baptist is likened unto Elijah, Luke 1:17, “He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”” And then we have a list of many of the Old Testament faithful in Hebrews 11: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and then a general reference to all the prophets. The Bible refers to a “Book of Life” several times, four times in the book of Revelation. In addition, there is a promise in the book of Malachi that can potentially include you and me. Malachi 3:16, “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord And who meditate on His name.” Let us strive to live in faith and obedience before God so our name can be added to the list of the faithful and recorded in God’s Book of Life.

God Complements — February 18, 2017

For the past two Sabbaths we have discussed the compliment the Bible scriptures gave King David. Was David the only servant of God to receive such a complement? No, several other patriarchs received spiritual complements, they are just worded differently. Daniel comes to mind with two verses in Daniel 10. Verse 11, “And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you …” Verse 19, “And he said, ‘O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong! …’” Twice in one discourse, an angel of God tells Daniel he is greatly beloved by God. For Noah we have a simple, but beautiful and powerful statement in Genesis 6:8, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Moses had a unique and special relationship with God, Exodus 33:11, “So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. …” We also have Abraham, whom we refer to as the father of Israel and the spiritually faithful. Genesis 18:19, “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” When God says He “knows” someone, it means “loved, chosen”. James 2:23, “And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God.” Two other scriptures refer to Abraham as a friend of God: 2 Chronicles 20:7 and Isaiah 41:8. What about us as everyday Christians? In one sense, Jesus refers to all obedient disciples as “His friends.” John 15:13-15, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” What a wonderful God our Father and Jesus Christ our Savior we have who are both so willing to have a close relationship with us when we are obedient Christians.

Why Only David - Part 2 — February 11, 2017

We continue our discussion on why only David was called a man after God’s own heart. I believe there is a second reason this statement was made in this manner about David alone. There were servants of God in the Old Testament who were more successful in living a life of strict obedience than David: Noah, Daniel, Job, Moses and Samuel (Jeremiah 15:1 and Ezekiel 14:14). However, as we read the Psalms of David, in my opinion, David rose above all others in explicitly expressing a deep and emotional love for God and God’s laws. David is well known for his Psalms that detail his love for God in unique poetry. Psalms 42:1-2, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” Psalms 18:1-3, “I will love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; …” Psalms 116:1-2, “ I love the Lord, because He has heard My voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.” David also had a great love for God’s laws and commandments. The longest chapter in the Bible expresses this many times. Psalms 119:48, “My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments, Which I love, And I will meditate on Your statutes.” Psalms 119:97, “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” Psalms 119:127, “Therefore I love Your commandments More than gold, yes, than fine gold!” Psalms 119:167, “My soul keeps Your testimonies, And I love them exceedingly.” David is not the only servant of God who loved God and God’s laws. Still, David articulated that love openly and unashamedly more so than anyone else recorded in the Bible. David, however, was not the only servant of God to receive a special complement from God. We will review those next Sabbath.

Why Only David? — February 4, 2017

After last week’s Sabbath Thought, someone asked me why only David received this spiritual complement of being a man after God’s own heart. The Bible does not give us a direct answer to that question, but let us consider a few possible explanations. First, let us examine the context of the scripture quoted last Sabbath with the previous verse. Acts 13:21-22, “And afterward they asked for a king; so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.” The apostle Paul was inspired to combine two Old Testament scriptures to form this verse, Psalm 89:20 and 1 Samuel 13:14. Let us quote 1 Samuel 13:14, “But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” In my opinion, both these scriptures about David being a man after God’s own heart are not saying that David was the only person God ever considered to be a person after His own heart. Surely, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Job, Moses, Ruth, Samuel, Elijah, Daniel and others were also individuals after God’s own heart. For me, the context of these two verses is more of a comparison between King Saul and David. King Saul disobeyed a direct command to wait for Samuel to make an offering before going into battle. Instead, Saul himself made the offering. God is saying King Saul was a disobedient king that did not truly repent when told he had made a mistake, but that he make excuses and justified his actions. God therefore said I’m going to choose a better person, a man who will obey me and repent when he makes mistakes, as all individuals do. The way God declares this is by stating David would be a man after His own heart in comparison to King Saul. In addition, I believe there is a second reason David received this distinction. We’ll cover that next Sabbath.

A Man After God's Own Heart — January 28, 2017

Acts 13:22, “… He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ ” The question for this Sabbath Thought is “why?” We all know David committed some major sins: adultery with Bathsheba, had Uriah murdered and numbered Israel, to name the worst three recorded in the Bible. So, what was it about David that prompted God to make this statement? One website listed ten reasons: humble, reverent, respectful, trusting, loving, devoted, recognition, faithful, obedient, repentant. Several of these points are reflected in Psalms 18:1-3, “I will love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.” Of these ten, to me, the two that stand out are loving and repentant. David was outspoken about his love for God, which is reflected in many of his Psalms. Psalms 116:1-2, “I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.” David made his mistakes, but he always deeply repented when his sins were pointed out to him. Psalms 51 is well know in this regard. Here is another verse, Psalm 25:11, “For Your name’s sake, O Lord, Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.” While our own sins may not be the same as David’s, we too fall far short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” For me, the greatest lesson from all this is the magnitude of God’s mercy. As God forgave David of all his horrible sins, so too can each of us be forgiven no matter how bad the multitude of our sins might be. In Psalms 136 the phrase “His mercy endures forever” occurs 26 times. Because God’s love and mercy does endure forever, it will never run out or end. If we in turn love and obey God with all our heart, we too can have a close, similar relationship with God like David did.

Inauguration — January 21, 2017

I was going to talk about King David this Sabbath Thought, but changed my mind after watching today’s inauguration of a new president for the USA. I was touched by many things, too many to mention. I am grateful to God to live in such a great and wealthy nation. Yes, this nation is becoming more secular, but it is rewarding to still see the Bible read in prayer at the beginning and end of the swearing in ceremony. God and the Bible were referred to several times in the presidential address to our nation. The oath of office is taken with a hand on the Bible and the last four words are, “so help me God.” It reminds me that not all peoples in nations around this world have the freedoms we do to worship the God of the Bible, God our Father and Jesus our Messiah. We have so many other freedoms to be able follow our own pursuits. We are blessed as a nation due to the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; with many of us as descendants of Manasseh, son of Joseph. We should be grateful every day for these blessings. The Bible tells us we should respect and obey our government. 1 Peter 2:17, “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” Romans 13:1, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” In addition, we are told to pray for our leaders, 1 Timothy 2:1-2, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” This scripture was read as part of the closing prayers. Note why we are to pray for our leaders, that we as Christians may live a quiet and peaceful life as we strive to live a godly and reverent life. Let us remember and obey these scriptures as we give God thanks for the blessings and freedoms we have in this nation. Regardless of the status and problems of this nation, like the song says, “I am proud to be an American.”

Ruling Through Fear — January 14, 2017

Without realizing it, many Churches of God rule over their congregations through some level of fear. This is usually very subtle and may seldom rear its ugly head, but it is always lurking in the background. This is done using tactics similar to those of the Pharisees. John 7:13, “However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews.” The common Jew was afraid of speaking well of Jesus for fear of what the Jewish leaders would do against them. This is more clearly explained in John 9:22, “His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue.” Church leaders threaten those who would disagree with any statements put forth by the church with excommunication. Then they either state or just infer that if a member leaves their church they will lose the Holy Spirit. They will also, sometimes literally, state that if a member does not follow the directives of their church they will not be protected during the Great Tribulation. They may go on to say if such a member does not repent of these offenses against their church, the former member might well end up in the Lake of Fire. This is indeed ruling through fear instead of leading through love. Yes, once in a great while there are those who should be excommunicated for gross sin, but that is rare and not the topic for today. Out of love and patience there should be room for two-way discussions and growth in understanding by either party about church teachings and the inspired scriptures. It should not be “do it my way or hit the highway.” Church brethren should be inspired to obey and follow the scriptures due to their great love for God, not due to fear of some form of punishment by the church. Let us close with 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”

Resolutions — January 7, 2017

Many individuals make “New Year Resolutions.” There is nothing wrong with making resolutions to make improvements in our lives. However, most “New Year Resolutions” fail or are forgotten after a rather short period of time. There are many reasons why “New Year Resolutions” fail. You can look that up with an internet search and find some very good reasons along with helpful points on how to be successful. One reason I didn’t see though was that making resolutions only once a year is not going to encourage real beneficial change in our lives. As Christians we know we are to examine ourselves prior to Passover. 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. …” However, this and other such scriptures are not Passover specific. Examining ourselves and making resolutions to make changes to improve our Christian behavior is something we should do all the time, not once a year. There are several Psalms that show that David practiced this type of self-improvement. Here is just one, Psalms 119:59, “I thought about my ways, And turned my feet to Your testimonies.” Several scriptures by the apostle Paul also reflect this principle. Here is one written to Timothy, 2 Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” New habits can be hard to establish, old habits hard to break. That is why we should resolve every day of our lives to do better in improving our life styles as Christian disciples of God our Father and Jesus Christ our Savior.

Tradition — December 31, 2016

There are two types of traditions in God’s Church: 1) the traditions inspired by God, and 2) the traditions of men. The Pharisees had many of their own traditions and berated Jesus and His disciple for not keeping them. Mark 7:5, “Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, ‘Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?’” Note Jesus reply in verse 9, ”All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.” Jesus proceeded to give an example of how they did this. It is probably hard for us to believe that the Pharisees encouraged people to take away from their support money for their parents and give it to “the service of God”, thus enriching the Pharisees. This shows how far astray one can go in justifying their own actions without the guidance of God. Paul told the Churches of God to hold firm to the Biblical traditions he had given them. 1 Thessalonians 2:15, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” He also warned against the traditions of men infiltrating the church. Colossians 2:8, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” How can we tell the difference between the traditions of God and men? The beginning point would be that any tradition must have strong scriptural support. And one must beware that men can twist the scriptures to support their traditions. In the end, there is only one way to tell the difference, though the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives. 1 Corinthians 2:10-13, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” As in all areas of our spiritual lives, it is not how smart and studious we are, it is all about the glory of God through His Holy Spirit in our lives guiding us and giving us spiritual understanding. Let us be extremely careful when it comes to traditions in the Church of God to make sure we don’t allow traditions of men to infiltrate our spiritual lives.

Leaven of the Pharisees; Part 4 — December 24, 2016

A major problem of the Pharisees, if not their biggest one, was trying to establish their righteousness by obeying the laws of God with their own efforts and abilities. In doing so, they elevated themselves in vanity and self-righteousness, looking down upon others. Luke 18:9-14, “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Here is another example of this behavior. Luke 10:25, “And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’” To which Jesus replied, love God and your neighbor as yourself. But notice the lawyer’s reaction to Jesus. Luke 10:29, “But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” Jesus answered him by giving the parable of the “Good Samaritan.” We can again relate this to the scribes, lawyers of the law, Pharisees and Sadducees attempts to hang on to the law once delivered through Moses. There are two major flaws with this concept. One, it is impossible to do, no one can keep the laws of God perfectly. And two, obedience to God’s laws only counts if it is done by faith in God. Romans 9:31-32, “but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.” The scribes, lawyers of the law, Pharisees and Sadducees were all seeking to obtain an eternal reward for obeying God. However, they were greatly lacking in love, faith, hope and mercy. And when Jesus came as the Messiah, they did not recognize Him as such. Let us remember the particulars of the statement, “fight for the faith once delivered.” Faith! While we must strive to obey the laws of God, we will fall short of the glory of God in such an attempt. Only through faith can we have a good relationship with God. And that, faith, in and of itself, is a gift from God. We are nothing. We can accomplish nothing. All things worthwhile, spiritual character, a spiritual reward, are all accomplished through faith.

Leaven of the Pharisees; Part 3 — December 17, 2016

Jesus told the Jewish people to listen to what the Pharisees and scribes taught, but not to follow their example. Matthew 23:1-7, “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’” It can be said the Pharisees were trying to hang onto the faith once delivered, the law given through Moses. But while they had a strict religious observances of the law, their hearts were far from God. It would be good to read this whole chapter where Jesus gives a stinging rebuke to the Pharisees, but let’s read just two more verses. Matthew 23:25-26, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.” It is not enough to just hang on to the faith, the doctrines originally revealed to God’s Church. We must have a humble love for God and our neighbors in our hearts. Put another way, if we do a good job of keeping all the laws of God, hanging on to the faith once delivered at the beginning of the Philadelphian church era, but we don’t treat the brethren with love and respect, we will miss out on the first resurrection. We will continue discussing the lessons we can learn from the Pharisees next Sabbath Thought – that lesson being we must both obey the doctrines of God and have humble love, one without the other is spiritually useless and unprofitable. For this Sabbath, let us close with what the apostle Paul was inspired to write in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.”

Leaven of the Pharisees; Part 2 — December 10, 2016

Last Sabbath Thought we read where Jesus warned His disciples about the false teachings of the Pharisees. We then read Philippians 3:4-6 where Paul stated his former claim to fame as a Pharisee that was blameless in keeping the laws given through Moses. Let’s continue where we left off with Philippians 3:7-9, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;”. Paul had to come to realize that a righteousness from a diligent keeping of the law did not earn him salvation. Salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God our Father. Jesus described this important distinction in berating the scribes and Pharisees. Matthew 23:23, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” We must do both, keeps the laws of God and love and have faith in God. We cannot receive the gift of salvation with just one of these attributes in our spiritual lives. We will continue this discussion with more verses from Matthew 23 next Sabbath Thought.

Leaven of the Pharisees — December 3, 2016

Matthew 16:7, 11-12, “And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have taken no bread. How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? — but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” What is the doctrine of the Pharisees? Didn’t they keep the Sabbath, the Holy Days, tithing and so forth? Yes, they did. In fact, they strived to keep the letter of what they referred to as “Moses’ law” perfectly. In verse 12, the word “doctrine” would be better translated “teachings,” and most modern translation so translate it. For the most part, the Pharisees and Sadducees had the correct doctrines as given through Moses. But they were nowhere close to having a good spiritual relationship with God. The apostle Paul acknowledged this in his own live prior to his conversion. Philippians 3:4-6, “though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” The issue is not whether the Pharisees and Sadducees had the correct doctrines or not, but how they practiced keeping those doctrines in their daily lives. We will continue to discuss this topic in the next few Sabbath Thoughts.

Sing to the Lord — November 26, 2016

Last Sabbath Thought we reviewed how important it is to give thanks to God. One way we can do that is by singing praises to God. Psalm 147:7, “Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; Sing praises on the harp to our God,”. Of course, there are many scriptures that tell us to sing to the Lord, most of them in the book of Psalms. Here are two more. Psalms 96:1-2, “Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.” Psalm 104:33, “I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.” In the book of Acts, Paul and Silas were thrown in jail for their preaching and casting a demon out of a fortune telling slave girl. What did they do? Acts 16:25-26, “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.” Revelation 15 talks about those who have the victory over the beast, now in heaven, singing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb, glorifying God. We don’t have to have a fabulous voice or even to be able to carry a tune. We don’t have to sing out loud or have memorized a lot of songs. All we have to do is make a joyful noise in our hearts to our great God the Father and our Savor Jesus Christ. When I was in grade school, maybe third or fourth grade, before reading the Bible was frowned upon, I had a teacher that read Psalms 100 every morning before we started the school day. Let’s close with that. Psalms 100:1-5, “Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.”

Thanksgiving — November 19, 2016

For me, Thanksgiving is the most important, meaningful and enjoyable US holiday. Our family always makes a concerted effort to get together for this day. We, of course, enjoy the great abundance and variety of food. In addition, I know that we enjoy the fellowship and conversations. We also like to play games and play with the children and grandchildren on this special day. Most important is not to forget the name and meaning of this day, giving thanks to the Great Almighty God for all the blessings He has given us. This day should renew are commitment to constantly and consistently give thanks to and praise God every day of our lives. Here are my two favorite scriptures on giving thanks to God. Colossians 3:15-17, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Hebrew 13:15, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Our prayers should spend a great deal of time in simply praising and thanking God for all He has done for us. Let us close this Sabbath Thought with Psalms 91:1-2, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, And Your faithfulness every night”.

Preconceived Prejudices — November 12, 2016

This is not a political blog. However, I would like to discuss one of my observations about the just finished presidential campaign and election to propose a spiritual warning. Almost all news media and polls did not understand what the majority of average Americans were thinking, that they are really fed up with most politicians who put their private needs of staying in office above what is best for the nation as a whole. How did the news media and polls miss this and get it wrong? To over simplify and make one generalization, these groups wanted the Democrats to win and viewed and analyzed all incoming data believing it supported their preconceived conclusions. The questions that the pollsters asked and who responded made the polls inaccurate. Democrats love to answer polls, especially in this election. While many Republicans walk away and say leave me alone. Preconceived prejudices skewed the resulting broadcast and news articles in newspapers and on the internet. The spiritual comparison we should ask ourselves is, do we do the same thing when studying the Bible. Do we reach a conclusion first and then study the Bible to support that preconceived prejudice in what we want to believe? I’m afraid many Christians unwittingly study the Bible this way. They don’t find and study all the scriptures on a given topic. Instead they only read those scriptures that support their point of view. Or they find a way to interpret the scriptures, actually twisting the scriptures in some cases, so that they do support the conclusion they want. Just as almost all news media predicted the Democrats would win even when election results started proving them wrong, many Christians refuse to give up their preconceived beliefs even when reading scriptures that are opposed to those beliefs. While there are no scriptures that use the terms preconceived prejudices, there are general spiritual principles that warn us not to study the bible this way. Prove all things, 1 Thessalonians 5:21. All scriptures are inspired by God and profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16. And quoting Matthew 13:15, “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” Let us be most careful in how we study the Bible asking for God’s will and understanding to be made known to us, not our own will and understanding.

Benefits of the Golden Rule — November 5, 2016

We all know what the Golden Rule says, Matthew 7:12, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” While I don’t usually use my personal life as an example in this Sabbath Thought, following this scripture made a large impact in my life this past week. I received two complements for how I treated the involved parties. I’m selling the home I bought 18 years ago and will make my parents’ home my new home. There are realtors, inspectors and buyers to interact with. The buyers requested an additional inspection for possible asbestos and when my realtor’s office assistant called me to ask permission, I quickly said, “sure”. The office assistant then felt free to tell me that she had just told my realtor I was so easy to work with. Both my realtor and office assistant are very religious people from the same church. We then started talking about the Golden Rule and she told me a story of how her daughter’s car had “died,” but through answered prayer quickly found a better car. The buyers of my home are a young couple with the husband having served in the Navy. They have their own top notch realtor who specializes in helping Vets. Selling a home requires a few inspections and they and their realtor have been at my home the whole time for two of them so far. This is not usually the case. The husband told me during the second inspection that he was hesitant to meet me, not knowing if I was reluctant to sell my home or upset over any aspect of the sale and having to move. But he said I made him feel welcome and that he and his wife appreciated that I gave them a walk-through of the home pointing out additional features, tips and best practices with do’s and don’ts – for instance don’t run the furnace and have a fire in the fireplace at the same time, the return air vent will pull all the smoke into the living room instead of going up the chimney. I also told them I great respect for those who have served in the military and that my father was a pilot with the Flying Tigers in WWII. After I got to know them and could see how much they liked the improvements I have worked so hard to make to the home, I told them I was happy that they were going to be the new owners of the home. I again brought up the Golden Rule and that it is such a good principle to live by. I had to leave early for teeth cleaning at my dentist and the wife gave me the biggest smile, waved vigorously and said a nice, loud goodbye as I drove off. Even if people don’t let you know they appreciate being treated as they would like to be, it is always profitable to follow the Golden Rule in interacting with others. If nothing else, God will bless us for following this important principle.

Fair And Balanced???? — October 29, 2016

The Fox News channel’s motto used to be “we report, you decide.” Now it is “fair and balanced." Neither is really true. All the news broadcasts, all politicians, all ministers are always trying to influence what we think in one way or another. In addition, for many years we have had the promotion that we must be “politically correct,” that is, don’t say anything that might offend someone or some group. In theory that sounds great. And indeed we should not belittle the disadvantaged, minorities or those who think differently than we do. But in reality, this also prevents the pointing out of critical flaws a person or group may have that may be causing a negative impact upon us and others. There is a Biblical principal that not only applies to our study and receiving of the Word of God from His Bible, but this principle should also be applied to every concept that is presented for our consideration. 1 Thessalonians 5:21, “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” And again in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Most individuals just accept what sounds good to them. Or they only believe those things that support what they have already decided they want to believe. This is a major reason why the peoples of all nations are sinking in a sea of mental lethargy, they don’t take the time or make the effort to research if what they are hearing is true or not. Here is another spiritual warning that also applies to all areas of our lives. Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” Let us not only be alert to test the spiritual teachings we listen to, but let us guard against all falsehoods that are presented as factual by those who want to influence us to think the same way they do.

A New Heart For All Nations — October 22, 2016

During the Feast of Tabernacles, we picture and contemplate the coming Kingdom of God. For those in the first resurrection, the Kingdom of God will be a spiritual existence in heaven with God our Father and Jesus Christ our Savior. For those who survive the end time events or are too young to be in the first resurrection, the Kingdom of God will be a physical kingdom here on earth. God promises to restore and bless Israel, all 12 tribes. Their greatest blessing will be the conversion of the whole nation where the nation of Israel and the Church of God will be one and the same. Ezekiel 36:26-28, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.” Israelites will be sent as “missionaries” to the Gentile nations to teach them about the One True God. Isaiah 66:19, “I will set a sign among them; and those among them who escape I will send to the nations: to Tarshish and Pul and Lud, who draw the bow, and Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off who have not heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles.” God will be well known and worshipped by the Gentiles. Malachi 1:11, “For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations, Says the Lord of hosts.” Yes, God will be known among all nations of the earth. Habakkuk 2:14, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” What a beautiful time to look forward to. There is such a bright future we have to celebrate during the Feast of Tabernacles.

Rejoice! — October 15, 2016

There is much unhappiness in this evil world that we live in. However, we have the opportunity to greatly rejoice because of the coming Kingdom of God at the Feast of Tabernacles starting this coming Sunday evening. For eight days we are to “come out of this world” and gather together with like-minded Christians worshipping and celebrating the Gospel of the Good News of the coming Kingdom of God. Deuteronomy16:13-15, ”You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days, when you have gathered from your threshing floor and from your winepress. And you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant and the Levite, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow, who are within your gates. Seven days you shall keep a sacred feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice.” We know we are to keep a “second tithe" that can only be used to celebrate the seven feasts of God, and primarily the Feast of Tabernacles. Deuteronomy 12:17-18, “You may not eat within your gates the tithe of your grain or your new wine or your oil, of the firstborn of your herd or your flock, of any of your offerings which you vow, of your freewill offerings, or of the heave offering of your hand. But you must eat them before the Lord your God in the place which the Lord your God chooses, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your gates; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all to which you put your hands.” May we all have a great Feast of Tabernacles, rejoicing before our Great and Loving God our Father and our Savior and High Priest Jesus Christ. God be with and bless us all.

Atonement and Prayers — October 8, 2016

We all want God to listen to our prayers, our request for His guidance, help and blessings. David talked about what we have to do to make sure this happens. Psalms 66:16-20, (NLT) “Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me. For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke. If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me.” We all remember what it says in Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.” It is very simple, if we want God to hear our prayers we must continually admit and confess our sins and ask for forgiveness. David admitted there was a short time when he refused to do this and suffered greatly for so doing. Psalms 32:3-5, “When I kept silent, my bones grew old Through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah”. This is not only true for us as individuals, but also as a church. As a group of Christians, as a congregation, as a church, we must confess our group sins if we want God to guide, help and bless us as a church. This is what the Day of Atonement is all about, group repentance. In order to stay close to God as an individual and a church group, we must confess our sins and ask for forgiveness. Doing so leads to being at one with God, the lesson of Atonement.

Are We Ready — October 1, 2016

Matthew 24:40-42, “Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.” The Feast of Trumpets is Monday. This Holy Day represents many things: an alarm for war, a call to meeting for the congregation, the seven trumpets of Revelation, and most notably the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the First Resurrection. We are seeing the prophecies of the Bible coming to pass, the “signs of the times” that we see being more and more fulfilled all around us in the news, the weather and natural calamities. Wars and rumors of war, famines, pestilences and earthquakes in various places. The question is will be prepared for these events and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ? The Bible indicates even God’s churches will not be fully prepared. Matthew 25:1-2, “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish.” Next, let us ponder the dramatic differences in the last two churches mentioned in Revelation 3. To the Philadelphian church, verse 10, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” Now compare that to what the Laodicean church is told, verses 17-19, “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore, be zealous and repent.” Two churches of God, one promised protection during the Great Tribulation, the other told they will have to develop spiritual character in the fire of the Great Tribulation. Which group do we as an individual fit into? Are we really spiritually ready for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?

Purge Evil — September 24, 2016

In the Old Testament, Israel was told to purge evil from their midst. We have a modern saying, “one bad apple spoils the whole barrel.” So it was to be done in Old Testament Israel, evil was purged by executing the guilty parties by stoning. One such example scripture of several is Deuteronomy 22:22, “If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die—the man that lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall put away the evil from Israel.” In New Testament times Jesus changed this approach from a physical cleaning to a spiritual cleansing. In John 8 we read where the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus to test Him. Jesus said in verse 7, “So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” But He then concluded by telling the woman in verse 11, “ … And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” We are still to purge evil from New Testament Israel, that is, the Church of God. But we are to do it spiritually as individuals putting sin out of our own lives. Paul summarizes this in Romans 8:6, “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.” Paul also told the Corinthian church to purge sin, 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.” In verse 11 he tells them not to keep company with, not even to eat with a church attendee who refuses to repent and brings sin into the church in a public manner. We are still to purge evil. Mainly, we are to purge evil from our own personal lives and not to keep company with Christians who refuse to purge evil from their lives.

Kindness — September 17, 2016

There are many fruits of the Holy Spirit. But I think we forget, I know I did, that “kindness” is one of them. Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” The KJV has “gentleness” instead, but many of the more modern translation use “kindness”. There are many ways we can be kind to one another, spiritually and physically. Ephesians 4:32 “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.” Colossians 3:12 “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;” Here is one dictionary definition of kindness: "The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. The act of going out of your way to be nice to someone or show a person you care. Kindness is doing something and not expecting anything in return. Kindness is respect and helping others without waiting for someone to help one back. It implies kindness no matter what." Kindness is one of the qualities of love. 1 Corinthians 13:4 “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;” Let us as Christians with the gift of the Holy Spirit always remember to show great kindness to one another.

Sharing Wealth — September 10, 2016

As we continue to discuss the topic of money and wealth, I am reminded of the story of David and Nabal in 1 Samuel 25. The Bible says Nabal was very rich and lists the number of cattle he had. David and his men had been living in the wilderness with Nabal’s shepherds, protecting Nabal’s men and cattle. It was time to shear the sheep after which they had a big festival. David sent ten of his men to ask Nabal for a contribution of food. Nabal sarcastically turned them down insulting David. David was angry and set off to kill Nabal, a mistake on David’s part to be sure. But Nabal’s wife Abigail rushed to intercept David and told him she knew her husband was a foolish man. She then pleaded with David not to stain his hands with the blood of vengeance, but let God take care of the situation. David blessed God for sending Abigail with her good advice. When Nabal found out about all this he apparently had a stroke and ten days later died. Moral of the story, don’t be stingly with your God-given wealth. There are many scriptures on sharing what we have with others which we will cover at a future date. For now, let’s close with just one. 1 Timothy 76:17-19, “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”

Riches and the Day of Wrath — September 3, 2016

Last Sabbath we reminded ourselves that accumulating physical wealth doesn’t accomplish much, but establishing treasures in heaven will result in a great reward. Several Sabbaths ago we talked about remembering to pray that we might be counted worthy to escape the Great Tribulation that will come to try all the earth. Money, gold or silver will not achieve that result. Proverbs 11:4, “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, But righteousness delivers from death.” Ezekiel 7:19, “They will throw their silver into the streets, And their gold will be like refuse; Their silver and their gold will not be able to deliver them In the day of the wrath of the Lord; They will not satisfy their souls, Nor fill their stomachs, Because it became their stumbling block of iniquity.” And once again we can think about the deplorable status of the Laodiceans. Revelation 3:17-18, “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.” The Laodiceans will find true spiritual wealth as they wake up in the “fire,” the Great Tribulation. They will finally learn not to trust in their self-righteousness, but truly put their faith and trust in God, sadly for most, at the cost of their physical lives. It is so important to have the correct priorities, physical wealth counts for little, spiritual wealth is what we should be striving for in are everyday lives.

You Can’t Take It With You — August 27, 2016

Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I’ve been thinking about this scriptures a lot lately and the impact it should have in our day-to-day lives. Our lives revolve around money, acquiring it, buying what we need to support us and our families. In one sense it drives our lives. But that should be our physical lives! Much more important, of course, is producing spiritual fruit in this life resulting in spiritual treasures in heaven. Let’s review one parable that emphasizes these points. Luke 12:16-21, “Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ ‘So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Jesus gave this parable to emphasize the importance of this topic, the point He made before giving this parable. Let us close with that point as stated in verses 13 to 15, “Then one from the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’ But He said to him, ‘Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?’ And He said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.’” We’ll have more Sabbath Thoughts on this topic in the near future.

Watch and Pray — August 20, 2016

Luke 21 is the parallel chapter of Matthew 24 and Mark 13. Towards the end of all three chapters there are warnings. Let’s look at Luke 21:34-35, “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.” After this warning, Jesus gives some straight forward instructions. Luke 21:36, “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Do we remember to pay daily that we would be “counted worthy to escape all these things” – “these things” being the Seven Seals as detailed in Revelation and summarized here in Luke 21 and Matthew 24 and Mark 13. There are many scriptures that tell us to be alert, watch and pray. Let’s look at just three. 1 Thessalonians 5:6, “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.” 1 Peter 4:7, “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.” Revelation 16:15, “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” Let us not forget to make this important request a consistent part of our daily prayers.

Guardian Angels? — August 13, 2016

We’ve all heard that Christians have guardian angels. But do the scriptures support this concept? While the Bible never uses the term “guardian angels,” there are indeed scriptures that indicate God does assign His angels to watch over His Christian children. Matthew 18:10, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” Psalms 91:11, “For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways.” In the book of Acts, an angel of the Lord had appeared to Peter and loosed him from prison. Peter went to Mary’s house, where Christians were praying for his release. When he knocked on the door, a maiden answered it, couldn’t believe it was Peter, and when she told those inside, this was their response. Acts 12:15, “But they said to her, ’You are beside yourself!’ Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, ‘It is his angel.’” The Jews at this time did believe every Jew had a “guardian angel” and in general, they practically worshiped angels. While we know we are not to worship angels, we do recognize God has an innumerable host of angels and that they carry out God’s assignments and instructions. Certainly, as this last scripture for this Sabbath Thought teaches us, some of those angels are indeed assigned to watch over Christians. Hebrews 1:14, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?”

The Evil One — August 6, 2016

We are all familiar with what is usually referred to as the “Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6. Verse 13 in the King James Version begins, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:”. The New King James Version and many other modern version have this phrase as “And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.” The Greek work used here for “evil” can mean either evil in general or a wicked being. Most commentaries agree “evil one” is preferred here as the intent is for God to protect us from evil as both internal (temptations) and external (Satan). By context Jesus and the other New Testament writers often used this Greek word to refer to the “wicked one”. The main question for this week’s Sabbath Thought is, do we remember to pray for protection from Satan in our daily prayers? God warns us against Satan’s attacks in 1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” We are told here and in James to resist Satan and how to do that. James 4:7-8, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Paul also talks about the battle against Satan and how to have God’s protection. Ephesians 6:10-13, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Let us never forget that we are in a life and death struggle against Satan. Let us remember to resist Satan by being close to God and to always pray for His protection against the evil one.

The Final Victory — July 30, 2016

We all know well the resurrection chapter, 1 Corinthians 15. At the end of the chapter is the “victory over death” statement, verses 54 through 57. “So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” But how many of us realize much of this is paraphrased quotes from the Old Testament? Isaiah 25:8, “He will swallow up death forever, And the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; …” Hosea 13:14, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction! Pity is hidden from My eyes.” Yes, victory over death was promised and foretold in the Old Testament. And God reaffirms this promise as the Bible comes to a close in Revelation 21:4, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Adam and Eve brought sin and death into this world. But through Jesus Christ our sins can be forgiven. And as He was resurrected, we too can be resurrected and receive the gift of eternal life (Romans 5). While this physical life seems long and difficult for us and ends in death, what a wonderful God we have who wants to share eternity with us. Never forget that. Praise and give thanks to God.

Number Our Days — July 23, 2016

Psalms 39:4-5, "Lord, make me to know my end, And what is the measure of my days, That I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my age is as nothing before You; Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah” With the recent death of both our Mother and Father, scriptures like this one come to mind. Life is short. But there is a purpose for our existence that goes beyond this physical life. That is what we need to remember, indeed, death should really impress this upon us while we ourselves are alive. Psalms 90:12, “So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.” When we experience the death of our parents, family member or friend, it should remind us just how short our lives are upon this earth and that we need to live in careful obedience before God, growing in grace and spiritual knowledge. Solomon talked about what it is like to grow old in the first half of the last chapter of Ecclesiastes. But he first warns all who would read this to remember their Creator while they are young. Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come, And the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them.”” Let us close with another quote from the inspired wisdom of Solomon. Ecclesiastes 7:2, “Better to go to the house of mourning Than to go to the house of feasting, For that is the end of all men; And the living will take it to heart.”

Paul Scott Royer — July 16, 2016
December 29, 1919 to July 13, 2016 – 96 years, 6 ½ months on this earth

Our Father died peacefully in his sleep at 9:30 this past Tuesday evening, 44 ½ days after Blanche, our Mother and his wife of 68 years had died. Dad’s ability to function and get around started to go downhill more rapidly after Mother died. He said he really wanted to die and be with her. God granted his prayer. Dad will be remembered for many things. He was a pilot in the Flying Tigers during WWII, flying 63 sorties over the Himalayan Hump. He came back to Ohio, got married and made a small fortune selling radishes. He bought a health food store knowing nothing about health foods, learned the business and improved the health of the entire family. During this time he became more interested in religion, was baptized by the Worldwide Church of God, decided he wanted to attend Ambassador College at age 40. Moved his whole family to Pasadena two weeks after getting accepted. It was hard being a student at age 40, but he did well enough and made an impression. Dad was given more and more responsibilities ending up as a pastor rank minister and personnel director also coordinating Feast of Tabernacles preparations in the US and Canada. When church politics escalated and church doctrines were changed, he decided he needed a change. Dad and Mother and eventually their two sons and families ended up in Santa Rosa, California. There he lived a quieter life, ministering to a few, but mainly enjoying working outside, especially with his tractor on the eight acre ranch he eventually purchased. But most of all he wanted to spend time with family – he loved to go camping with them, having everyone over for a real wood fire barbeque and playing with his grandchildren and eventually his great-grandchildren. Dad was a driven, committed man. He set goals and didn’t let anything get in his way to reach them. He did not make compromises. But he also liked to play practical jokes, read Louie L’Amour books, watch the news on TV and enjoy a glass of wine. He taught his family to obey God, love family, be true to their principles, work hard, avoid debt and never lie. He wanted to be remembered as a man who loved God, his wife and family, and the country he had served so long ago. In addition to the scriptures read at Mother’s funeral, I will read his favorite Psalm that he carried in his pocket all during WWII, Psalm 91. Then Psalms 89:48, Hebrews 9:27 and 2 Timothy 2:11, “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him.”

Mirror, Mirror — July 9, 2016

How many of us have looked in the mirror of God’s word and not spiritual responded as we should? James 1:22-25, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” We’ve all made this mistake. We make excuses, find ways to justify our actions, make compromises, and devalue the magnitude of our sins. To be able to see our sins for what they are is a gift from God. To ignore that gift and continue on in our sinful ways is the road to disaster. Mark 4:11-12, “And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that ‘Seeing they may see and not perceive, And hearing they may hear and not understand; Lest they should turn, And their sins be forgiven them.’” ” Let us not be a forgetful hearer, but remember to show God how much we appreciate the spiritual eyesight He has given us by being a “doer” of His word.

They Do Not Know What They Do — July 2, 2016

When Jesus was being crucified He said in Luke 23:34, “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’” Stephen, when he was being stoned to death said in Acts 7:60, “Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ …” We know we are to forgive others when they repent and ask for forgiveness. But here are two important examples where there was no repentance, however, Jesus and Stephen still forgave. Why should we forgive others who are hurting us with no intentions of repentance? If we don’t forgive others who do harm to us, seeds of bitterness, resentment, revenge, downgrading criticism and self-righteous thoughts of I’m better than them can grow within us, destroying our spiritual character from within. For our own spiritual good, our own spiritual character development, our own spiritual peace of mind, we need to forgive all others regardless of whether they repent or not. And while they may never repent in this lifetime, we need to remember they are also children of God and will most likely repent when they have the opportunity in a future life when God opens their minds to spiritual understanding. As we hope for their future repentance, we should forgive them now with that in mind. Jesus did. Stephen did. This is also implied in Jesus well know statement in Matthew 5:44-48, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” In seeking to develop the character of God our Father, we will learn to forgive all other, all the time, under all circumstances.

Taking Things For Granted — June 25, 2016

We all take things for granted: clean water, food at the grocery store, electricity, and so forth. We often forget how important these things are in our lives until they are taken away from us. In our spiritual lives, we should frequently review if we are taking any of God’s gifts and blessings for granted. If we take God’s love, grace, mercy and spiritual understanding for granted, not showing God how much we appreciate these gifts from Him, we would most likely start to become lukewarm in our love and obedience towards God. The opposite of taking these spiritual gifts for granted is to continually give God thanks for them and to actively use them in our lives. Peter and the other apostles instructed the brethren to “remember” what God had done for them. 2 Peter 1:12-13, “For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you,”. 2 Peter 3:1-2, “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior,”. As we remember these invaluable gifts that make our spiritual salvation possible, we must always be thankful. Hebrews 12:28 from the New Living Translation, “Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.” Let us always remember to show God that we do not take His love and gifts for granted lest they be taken away from us.

"How" Matters — June 18, 2016

Does it matter “how” we worship God? Is one day just as good as another to observe the Sabbath or Holy Day? Is it okay to take the customs from other religions to worship the One True God? In Deuteronomy 12, God starts this chapter by telling Israel to destroy all the items the former nations of Canaan used to worship their gods. Then He commands them in verse 4, “You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things.” This is important enough that God repeats this concept in verses 30 to 31, “take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; …” Many Christians know their Christmas and Easter customs have pagan origins, but they justify it is okay because they are worshipping God the Father and Jesus. Yet we have a specific prophecy against one of the main Christmas customs, the Christmas tree. Jeremiah 10:2-4, “Thus says the Lord: “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, For the Gentiles are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are futile; For one cuts a tree from the forest, The work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; They fasten it with nails and hammers So that it will not topple.” There are many examples in the Old Testament where Israel used pagan customs and made idols for the worship of Jehovah God. But God ultimately punished them severely for these practices. We must only follow God's commanded customs in worshipping Him. Only the seventh day of the week is Holy Time, only the seven feast of God are holy with commanded church assemblies, only the Monday 50 days after the weekly Sabbath of the Days of Unleavened Bread is Holy Time. Let us remember how careful we must be in “how” we worship God lest we suffer the punishment God is soon to send upon this world before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

The Importance of Firstfruits — June 11, 2016

Pentecost is now only two days away on next Monday. The “test” Holy Day as I call it. A test to see if God’s church will accept His revelation or rely on scholarship to determine the correct day. There are three different names used in the Old Testament for this Holy Day: Feast of Harvest (as opposed to Feast of Ingathering for the Feast of Tabernacles), Feast of Weeks, and Feast of Firstfruits. There are quite a few scriptures in the Old Testament about the importance of giving our firstfruits to God. Here are seven of them. Exodus 22:29-30, “You shall not delay to offer the first of your ripe produce and your juices. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to Me. Likewise you shall do with your oxen and your sheep. It shall be with its mother seven days; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.” (Children and unclean animals were to be redeemed.) Exodus 23:16, 19, “and the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field; ... The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God.” Exodus 34:22, “And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest,”. Exodus 34:26, “The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God. ...” Numbers 28:26, “Also on the day of the firstfruits, when you bring a new grain offering to the Lord at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work.” Deuteronomy 18:4, “The firstfruits of your grain and your new wine and your oil, and the first of the fleece of your sheep, you shall give him.” Proverbs 3:9, “Honor the Lord with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase;”. Notice that statement in Proverbs 3:9, “the firstfruits of ALL your increase.” The big question then for those in the church of God at this time is, do we offer God our firstfruits? And if not, why not? Do we make excuses that we’re not farmers or ranchers? That is the same excuse some make for not tithing at all. Instead, we should be figuring out a way to honor God with an act of worship by offering some form of firstfruits to Him. Let us remember what God says in Malachi 3:8. We don’t want to make excuses and end up being guilty of robbing God. Let us close with this scripture and put it to heart in our spiritual relationship with our Great God. Also note that offerings is plural! Malachi 3:8, “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.”

Blanche Mae (Wenger) Royer — June 4, 2016
December 4, 1923 – May 29, 2016 – Six days short of 92 ½ years of life on this earth

Our Mother died peacefully in her sleep at 7:30 this past Sunday morning. A wonderful mother, grandmother and wife of her husband Paul of 68 years. She had lived a full life. She was born, grew up and started to raise a family in the same town of North Canton, Ohio. However, later in life after the family moved to Pasadena, California, she and Dad traveled to England and Europe. Years later they made a round the world trip together. She raised her three children with much love and outgoing concern. She got to enjoy many years with her seven grandchildren and spend some time with most of her eleven great-grandchildren. She was like a mother to many of the Ambassador College students who she knew through her children’s attendance there. She put taking care of her family ahead of taking care of herself. She was a selfless person who never promoted herself, she was a truly humble person. We will miss her greatly, but we know she sleeps peacefully with her soul in the hands of God awaiting her resurrection when Jesus Christ returns to rule the earth. Scriptures that I have prepared to read at her funeral are the following:  Psalms 116:15;  Isaiah 57:1-2;  Ecclesiastes 12:7;  Job 14:14-14; 1 Corinthians 15:50-57;  1 Thessalonians 4:13-17;  2 Corinthians 5:1.

Asking Balanced With Thanking — May 28, 2016

We’ve all heard a lot of sermonettes and sermons. How many do we remember? Not that many for me. While I don’t remember that many church messages specifically, hopefully I took the messages to heart and incorporated it into my Christian way of life. One sermonette I do remember established the principle of spending as much time thanking God for fulfilling a prayer request as you did in asking God for His intervention. This sermonette had a large impact on me and I have always tried to remember to do this. If we spend a month in prayers asking God to do something for us or someone we know, and God then grants that request, we should spend at least one month in giving thanks to God for fulfilling our request. For some things that are really important, we might want to give God thanks for His help for the rest of our lives. Thanking God for His help should be a most important part of our Christian lives. This principle is most evident in the event of Jesus’ life when He healed 10 lepers, Luke 17:15-18, “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” There are many scriptures in the Bible about giving thanks to God. Let us conclude with a review of a few of them to remind ourselves of this most important principle in our relationship with God. 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18, “Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 4:2, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;” Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;”

God's Cure for Weariness — May 21, 2016

We all get weary at times. It’s just part of what happens in this physical life. There are different types of weariness. I divide most things affecting our lives into four categories: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. But regardless of what type of weariness we may have or what may be causing our weariness, God’s “cure” for weariness is basically the same: call upon God for refreshing strength. Here are four scriptures to remind us of what God will do for us if we ask and believe in His promises. Psalms 28:6-8,”Blessed be the Lord, Because He has heard the voice of my supplications! The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him. The Lord is their strength, And He is the saving refuge of His anointed.” Isaiah 40:28-31, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” Jeremiah 31:25, “For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.” Matthew 11:28-30 from the New Living Translation, “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” For a sense of what Jesus may have meant in verses 29 and 30, let’s read those verses from The Message Bible, “Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” The Greek word for “easy” has a wider range of meaning, it includes the concepts of good, helpful, kind and profitable. Regarding the phrase “the burden I give you is light,” we can think of 1 John 5:3 where we are told God’s commandments are not grievous – the way of obedience and life is far less stressful than they way of sin and death. We’re also talking about salvation through faith, not works. Our works do not earn us forgiveness and salvation. But accepting the way of faith through Jesus Christ leads to a profitable outcome. Yes, we all at times get weary in life on this earth, but with the strength of God helping us, we can endure unto the end of this age and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Judging The Heart? — May 14, 2016

Matthew 7:1-2, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” In these Sabbath Thoughts we have referred to this scripture many times. We have stated it is okay to determine the difference between right and wrong in someone else’s actions, but it is wrong to pass judgment. This often takes the form of trying to determine if someone will or will not be in the first resurrection. It also means we are not to guess at someone’s final punishment or reward. And why is that? We find that answer in 1 Samuel 16:7-8, “But the Lord said to Samuel, Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” As human beings we cannot know what is inside a person’s heart and mind, their true beliefs or their motivation for doing what they do. Only God can know that. And God puts us through different tests and trials to exercise and clarify what are those beliefs and motivations. Jeremiah 17:10, “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.” Only God is qualified to pass judgment with the correct sentence of reward or punishment. We should not be concerned with the judgment of others. What we should be concerned is what is in our heart and mind and what God’s judgment of that will be.

Flat Bread, Importance of Humility — May 7, 2016

Last Sabbath we discussed how putting leavening out during the Days of Unleavened Bread represents putting out sin, and especially sin as expressed by vanity, pride and arrogance. This Sabbath let’s remind ourselves with familiar scriptures on the importance of humility. First and top priority, humility before God. Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?” We can’t have a good relationship with God if we are arrogant. James 4:6, “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” This is a paraphrased quote from Proverbs 3:34, “Surely He scorns the scornful, But gives grace to the humble.” This scripture is quoted again, this time by Peter, but this time, humility as just related to human interactions, 1 Peter 5:5, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Notice how Peter is inspired to say everyone is to be submissive to one another, clothed with humility. Next, let’s concentrate on the promised rewards in verses 6 and 7, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” While a humble relationship with God is paramount, it is not enough. In order to receive the reward of eternal life, we must also have an attitude of humility in serving and helping all the people in our lives. God is love. We are to love one another. Humility is a most important characteristic of love, 1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;” Let us never forget the importance of humility and let us strive for true humility towards all.

Unleavened Bread vs. Pride — April 30, 2016

During the Days of Unleavened Bread, leavened bread represents sin. Leavened bread is “puffed up” in one way of looking at it. And the specific type of sin that it represents is vanity, pride, arrogance, ego, and self-centeredness. Paul warned the Corinthians against the like during this feast. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Pride and vanity are at the root of many sins. Let’s take lying for instance. Why do people lie? It is often to hide their mistakes, to cover up something they have done wrong. Why don’t they want others to know this? They think they would be belittled in the eyes of others. They lie to protect their status, they lie to promote their status in the eyes of others. It is all about vanity and pride. Proverbs 8:13, “ The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way, And the perverse mouth I hate.” We are not to take pride in what we can accomplish in this physical life that others may see and notice. Jeremiah 9:23-24, “Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord.” Pride is all about the cares of this world: wanting wealth, status and control over others. 1 John 2:16, “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” True humility is not just before God, but true humility is also how we behave before our “neighbors” (second great commandment, love our neighbor as ourselves). Philippians 2:3-4, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Let us learn this lesson from the Days of Unleavened Bread, let us be truly humble both before God and our fellow mankind.

The Father Suffered — April 23, 2016

I hope you all had a spiritually meaningful Passover last evening. Last week in this Sabbath Thought, we talked about how Jesus not only had to die, but had to suffer for our sins. This Holy Day and Sabbath I’d like us to think about how God our Father would also have suffered watching His Only Begotten Son suffer and die. Let us first consider Genesis chapter 22. God tested Abraham as a type and forerunner of what He and Jesus would experience. Verses 1 and 2, “Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”” We all are very familiar with this story. As we reconsider this story, notice the the emphasis in this whole chapter is from Abraham’s point of view, as a type of what God our Father would experience when Jesus died. Let us think about the mental suffering Abraham experienced as he had time to think during the several days journey to Mount Moriah and relate that to what what God the Father was thinking as He saw His Son, the perfect God in the flesh, beaten and crucified. When our children suffer, we as parent suffer. One of the most well known scriptures is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Let us notice and emphasize the two words “He gave.” Similarly Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” God our Father also made an unimaginable sacrifice in deliberately and willingly offering His Son to pay the penalty for our sins. It had to be done, it had to happen. However, it must have been very difficult for our Father to watch it all occur. We get a sense of how the Father felt by reading Matthew 27:45-46, 50-51, “Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” ... And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,”. God the Father not only suffered watching His Son die, but the terribleness of sin, our sins, that made it necessary for Jesus to die must have had such an impact upon God our Father. As we observe the Days of Unleavened Bread, let us remember the terribleness of our sins and the suffering they caused not only our Savior Jesus Christ, but His Father and ours. Let us truly strive to cast out the sins in our lives like we do the leavening in our homes. And let us be tremendously thankful for the sacrifice of Jesus that allows our Father to forgive all our sins.

Jesus Had to Suffer — April 16, 2016

Matthew 16:21, “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” With Passover just short of a week from now, we should stop and think what our Savor went through for us and the forgiveness of sins. After His resurrection, Jesus told His disciples in Luke 24:46, “Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,”. Jesus not only had to die for our sins, He had to suffer for our sins. Jesus could have died a quick, painless death. But would that have paid the full price for our sins? That was not the Father’s will for several reasons. One, we would not realize the terribleness of sin if Jesus paid the penalty for us with a quick, “easy” death. With His great suffering we feel the guilt of the magnitude of our sins, which should lead us to tearful, heartfelt remorse over our sins. Two, we suffer in this physical life; it was necessary that Jesus also suffer and have the same experiences that we do in order for Him to be the perfect Savior, High Priest and Atonement for our salvation. Hebrews 2:10, “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Hebrews 5:8-10, “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek,”. Yes, Jesus suffered greatly because of our sins. This should motivate us to strive to cease from sin. 1 Peter 4:1-2, “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” Think about the contrast Jesus experienced. He was God in the flesh, perfect in every way. Yet He not only had to die for our sins, He had to suffer for our sins. He was beaten, mocked, spit upon, a crown of thorns crushed upon His head, scourged to just short of death, nailed to a cross and had a spear thrust up His side into His internal organs. Jesus not only suffered physically, He suffered mentally and emotionally with the weight of all the sins of mankind, past, present and future, on His shoulders. We should meditate on the significance of all this as we approach the Passover and what we need to do to honor and appreciate the death and suffering of our Savior for us.

O Wretched Man That I Am! — April 9, 2016

The apostle Paul was raised to be a Pharisee, taught to strictly obey the letter of the law. We hardly know anything about the personal life and habits of Paul, but once he was called by God to be an apostle, we probably imagine him as being very obedient to all the laws of God. But then we also remember what he said about himself in Romans chapter seven. Verse 8, “But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. ...” Verses 14-19, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” He goes on to state that he sincerely wants to do right all the time but does not succeed, verses 21-23, “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” Paul knows he is a sinner and then asks a significant question, verse 24, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” And then we have the profound and simple answer, verse 25, “I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” As we near Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread let us remember the many lessons we should learn from these scriptures, inspired of God and written down by the apostle Paul to benefit us all.

Do We Weary God? — April 2, 2016

Weary -- to faint, give up, to be anxious, be distressed, be grieved, loathe, tiresome, be exhausted (as the result of excessive exertion or lack of sleep). We all get weary at times for different reasons. Even Jesus when He was human got physically weary. John 4:6, “Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.” Jesus had been walking over 40 miles during the previous two or three days, it had been a long journey. We may be weary from the tests and trials of life, like Job or David. Psalm 6:6, “I am weary with my groaning; All night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears.” As we approach Passover, there is another type of weariness of which we should be reminded, God gets weary with the constant sinning of mankind. Isaiah 43:22-24, “But you have not called upon Me, O Jacob; And you have been weary of Me, O Israel. You have not brought Me the sheep for your burnt offerings, Nor have you honored Me with your sacrifices. I have not caused you to serve with grain offerings, Nor wearied you with incense. You have bought Me no sweet cane with money, Nor have you satisfied Me with the fat of your sacrifices; But you have burdened Me with your sins, You have wearied Me with your iniquities.” Other scriptures tell us God’s patience will not last forever, He will punish those who do not repent of their sins. Let us make sure we are not included in that group. Let us be among those who not only repent and seek forgiveness by the blood of Jesus Christ, but let us put out the sinful leaving in our lives that we may counted among God’s true and faithful children. 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

Repentance is a Gift! — March 23, 2016

As we approach Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, I am reminded of Romans 2:4, “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” The ability to truly understand one’s sins, to repent and change is a gift from God. Without God’s help we do not understand of what we need to repent. Without God’s help we don’t know how to repent. Without God’s help we do not have the strength to change. On our own we cannot find true repentance even if we strongly desire to do so. Esau was an example of this, Hebrews 12:16-17, “lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.” This all relative to the great important lesson God is teaching mankind: salvation is not by our own works, but by the grace of God. Yes, we must have works, but our works do not earn us righteousness or salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” As we approach Passover let us ask God to give us the gifts of open eyes and ears to see our sins and the ability to truly repent and change. Let us also continually give God the glory for the gifts He does give us. Let us be ever grateful and thankful for the love of God in our lives.

You Can’t Cross the Red Sea ... — March 19, 2016

Regarding the Exodus, I remember one of my college professors saying, “You can’t cross the Red Sea until God parts the waters.” God had performed many miracles in bringing Israel out of Egypt. His pillar of cloud by day and fire by night had led Israel to a place of perceived entrapment by the Red Sea. The Israelites were encamped with the Red Sea in front of them, mountains on both sides and the Egyptian army behind them. But in Exodus 14:13-14, “And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”” Then God spoke to Moses and made what seemed like an impossible request, verse 15, “And the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.” And how was this seemingly impossible direction going to be accomplished? Verse 16, “But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.” Of course, the Israelites could not accomplish this directive until God indeed did part the waters of the Red Sea. They should have had faith that God would help them even though surrounded by impossible odds. God says something similar to the Philadelphian church. Revelation 3:7-8, “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”: “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.” We all face impossible situations in our Christian lives. We need two things in such circumstances, faith and patience. As we discussed last week, God promises to give us a way out of our temptations, tests and trials after we learn the lessons He wants us to learn. We can’t walk across the waters of the Red Sea on our own ability, and neither can we walk through a closed door. We have to have faith and patience that God will provide a way out of our dilemma, part the waters of the Red Sea, open the closed door. And when He does, with the strength that God gives us, we had better “Go Forward”!

Crown of Life — March 12, 2016

Acts 14:22, “strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.’” Last Sabbath we discussed the need to ask for wisdom in traversing through these many tests and trials, so we understand the lessons God is trying to teach us for our own spiritual good. God does promise to help us in our tests and trials, 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” The lessons we learn from our tests and trials, whether that be because of temptations, tribulation or persecution, are critical in order for us to receive the Crown of Life in the First Resurrection. James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” As we discussed last week, these lessons that we learn from these experiences increase our patience, faith, hope and love. These spiritual characteristics are precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 1:7, “that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,”. What a great and glorious treasure awaits those who obtain the First Resurrection. (This week’s topic came from N.N.’s response to last week’s Sabbath Thought.)

Plus Wisdom — March 5, 2016

My sister recently reminded me to think about what lessons God wants me to learn through the experiences I currently am having in taking care of our parents. This is something our dad taught us I believe, don’t ask for God to take away your trial, ask God to understand the lesson you need to learn and then the trial will go away or no longer be necessary. This is one “proverb” I have remembered over the years and talk to God in prayer about this when experiencing tests and trials. Put another way, this is asking God for wisdom to understand why He has allowed the test or trial to take place. Two scriptures to consider on this topic: Romans 5:3-4, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” James 1:2-4, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” If God took away all our tests and trials as soon as they began because we asked for that in prayer, we would be cheating ourselves from fully learning and developing more of the spiritual character traits of faith, hope and patience in our Christian lives. The next verse is very important relative to this topic and we should remember the context in which it is given. Verse 5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” We may often think of this verse 5 but forget the context is relative to the tests and trials we all experience. We need Godly wisdom to not only endure our tests and trials but to learn important spiritual lessons in growing our spiritual faith and patience. The same is true when we experience a physical test or trial of poor health. Yes, we are to be anointed and ask God for healing. In addition, we should pray for wisdom to understand why we became sick, what we can do to improve our health and prevent the illness from happening again. Let us remember to not only ask God for miracles of relief from tests, trials and sickness, but to give us Godly wisdom in continually developing our spiritual character and learning lessons so we do not need to have these tests, trials and sicknesses repeated over and over again.

Bible Definition of Vanity — February 27, 2016

Romans 8:20-21 (KJV), “For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,”. What is the meaning of these two verses? Did God make mankind arrogant and prideful to begin with? When we think of the word vain or vanity, we think of someone who has a large ego, is excessively proud, thinks very highly of themselves compared to others. But when the King James Version of the Bible was translated, some words had a very different meaning. Even today, “vain” has other meanings, but we are most familiar with the one already noted. The secondary meaning as given in dictionaries is: producing no results; useless; having no success. This is how vain and vanity are used in the King James Bible. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 15, in the KJV “vain” is used six times in five verses. Verse 2, “By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.” Verse 10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; ...” Verse 14, “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” Verse 17, “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” Verse 58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”. Three different Greek words are used, but they mean basically the same thing: idly, without reason, empty, profitless. Without God in our lives, without God’s gifts to us of faith, hope and love, our lives are worthless, meaningless and will come to nothing. But as it says in Romans 8:20-21, God started us out this way to teach us how much we do need Him in our lives, that only through Him do we have the hope of our lives meaning something spiritually and the hope of life after death. This is a most important lesson. We do have spiritual hope. Let us give our lives to God so that He can use them to mean something spiritually worthwhile and receive the gift of eternal life.

Fasting Benefits — February 20, 2016

Fasting is an accepted religious practice. There are not that many scriptures in the Bible telling us to fast. However, there are several examples of God’s servants fasting in the Bible. There are only two commands to fast in the Bible. The first is to afflict our soul, or fast, on the Day of Atonement. The second was by Jesus Christ Himself regarding His disciples, Matthew 9:14-15, “Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.” The benefits of fasting are many, both spiritually and physically. Spiritually, we should humble our souls and examine ourselves for sins we should repent of and change. The apostle John also says God desires good physical health for us, 3 John 1:2, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” There are many physical benefits from fasting, many just now being understood through recent scientific studies. “Intermittent Fasting,” the current popular term, means short fasts on a regular basis. Intermittent Fasting usually does not mean a total fast, but anything from calorie restriction to water or juice fasting, etc., during a time period as short as one meal. The physical benefits of this type of fasting are many. Intermittent Fasting can help the body regulate insulin sensitivity and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. It allows individual cells to remove stored up waste materials allowing them to initiate important cellular repair processes and to function better as originally intended. This can help prevent cancer and has been proven to boost brain functions and help protect your brain against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and even depression. There are many other physical benefits, these are only a few. I would encourage you to pursue additional research on Intermittent Fasting and make it a part of a healthy lifestyle. However, some studies indicate Intermittent Fasting is not as beneficial for some women as most men. Also if you are severely underweight, have a medical condition or have serious health problems, you should consult a health professional before undertaking any major dietary changes such as Intermittent Fasting. If you can fast, you can dedicate any type of fasting to God, using the additional free time you have to spend in prayer, Bible study and meditation. We would be wise to improve both our spiritual and physical health with regular periods of fasting.

Deal Makers? — February 13, 2016

Jephthah made a deal with God in Judges 11. If God would grant him victory in leading the armies of eastern Israel against the Ammonites, he would sacrifice the first person from his home who greeted him upon his return. He was probably expecting a slave, but his daughter came out first to congratulate him. Israel was in a very depraved religious condition where human sacrifices were practiced. We, of course, would never do something like this. But do we try to make other kinds of deals with God? Let’s notice the second half of Isaiah 58:4, “... You will not fast as you do this day, To make your voice heard on high.” Here in this chapter on fasting and Sabbath keeping, God is not pleased. People are fasting with the intent of making God notice and listen to their demands. Instead, God says when we fast we should humble our souls and loose the bands of wickedness. Of course, it is not wrong to make requests of God. But we are not to make a “deal” with God or expect that God has to listen to us and grant our request because we have done “this or that thing” that pleases Him,” in this case fasting. No, our goal should be to humble ourselves and examine ourselves looking for sins and repenting and changing for the better. This is making an effort to draw closer to God, to improve our relationship with God. James 4:8, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” When we have a closer relationship with God, He naturally will give our request closer consideration, not because we demand it, but because of His great love for His humble, obedient children. It is so easy to start thinking if I do “this or that,” God will do something for me in return. This would be thinking that our “works” earn us something in the sight of God. Yet we know this is not true, but we can slip into patterns of making deals with God without even realizing it. So let us all continually examine our relationship with God. Let us make sure it is based on love, expecting nothing in return but the love of God. With an attitude like that, it will be more likely God will listen to our prayers and bless us accordingly.

Asking For Prayers When Sick — February 6, 2016

James 5:14-16 contains several important principles. “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” As one of our church friends emphasized, it says elders, plural. And it does. I agree that if at all possible (we do live in difficult times where the Church of God is small and scattered) one should be anointed by two or more elders. The second point for this Sabbath Thought is that these verses say we should confess our trespasses one to another. Let us remember the context, requesting healing for our fleshly illnesses and infirmities. We’re not talking about confessing all our spiritual mistakes to each other. We’re talking about letting others know about our illnesses and infirmities and asking them to pray for our healing. It is to be part of the process. I wonder sometimes if one of the reasons we don’t have more healings is that we don’t carefully follow these instructions exactly as they are given to us. We don’t have to go into a detailed explanation for everyone. And depending upon how personal the illness or infirmity might be, we may only share it with family or close friends. But we must let others know we have been anointed and ask them to add their prayers for our healing. It is what God tells us to do in order to be healed.

Favorite Psalms — January 30, 2016

In addition to favorite scriptures, we all probably have one or more favorite Psalms, it is hard to have just one. Every Bible reader appreciates Psalms 23. My dad’s favorite Psalm is Psalms 91. He carried it in his pocket during all his WWII experiences, and he had some miraculous escapes from certain death. We give God thanks for that or none of us children would ever have been born. Of late I have three favorite Psalms. I love Psalms 103 where it talks about God’s mercy, His anger doesn’t last forever, He forgives and removes our sins far away from us and remembers how frail we are. I have come to greatly appreciate Psalms 107 where God says He lets us get in trouble so we will call out to Him for help and then glorify His name for having done so. I also treasure the message of Psalms 136, God’s mercy endures forever. Other translations have it as God’s love never quits. How wonderful all the Psalms are. They are a comfort in times of trials, they help us see the glory of God and they are a great aid in worshipping and praising God at all times.

Everything In Prayer — January 16, 2016

We all know the importance of prayer. We have a saying in our family, “Nothing is to small to pray to God about.” This is supported in Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;” Notice how this verse states “but in everything by prayer ... let your requests be made known to God.” We might think something is too small or insignificant to pray to God about, but God is our loving Father and He wants us to bring our every need to Him no matter how small it might be. Jesus made an important point relative to this in Matt 7:7-11, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Our Father in Heaven wants us to ask Him for our every need. Yes, there are more important things like our spiritual salvation that should be the most important part of our prayers. But it is not wrong, indeed we should also ask for God’s help with the little things in life. There is always much to pray about. Let us give God thanks and be thankful that He listens to everything we take to Him in prayer.

Serving God — January 16, 2016

What does it mean to serve God? Certainly it means to obey God. Obeying God would also include loving your neighbor as yourself. Deuteronomy 10:12-13, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?” It means to renounce the ways of sin, idols and the ways of this world. But to truly serve the Lord God is more than that. It is to be a living sacrifice. Romans 12:1-2, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” But there is even more to serving God. The glory of God must be reflected in us by the way we live our lives, therefore bringing glory to God. Ephesians 5:8-11, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Serving God is no small, easy task. But the rewards are great. Let us strive to truly be a servant of God and serve Him in ever aspect of our lives and bring more glory to His Great Name.

Vain Repetitions — January 9, 2016

We all remember the scripture in Matthew about not using vain repetitions in our prayers. Matthew 6:7, “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.” We may be concerned that our own prayers seem very repetitious, that we pray for the same things over and over again. The important key word in this scripture is “vain” as in “vain repetitions”. Jesus taught us in the parable of the unjust judge in Luke 18:1-8 the principle of continually asking God for what we need until God answers our prayers. The first verse of this parable is, “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,”. There is a huge difference between repetition and vain repetition. Vain repetition is when one says the same words over and over again to where they are a memorized, rote and meaningless dialog without any heartfelt feelings. We are to praise God constantly in our prayers. We are to ask Him for the help and answers we need to our problems in life on a daily basis. But these prayers should be heartfelt conversations with God where the words we use are different from day to day while the subject matter remains the same. Prayer is having a conversation with God. We don’t want to repeat the same empty words over and over again, who would listen to a conversation like that. Our mate or family members never get tired of hearing that we love them, but the words need to come from our hearts and should be expressed in different ways at different times. We need to tell God we love Him over and over again. And He also expects us to ask for His assistance with our physical and spiritual needs. Let us do so with our innermost love for God pouring out in the most colorful and diverse words we are capable of saying in our prayers.

Remember the Poor, Widows and Orphans — January 2, 2016

We’ve been having a series of sermons on serving: how Jesus and the Father serve us, how the ministry should serve the congregation, how we should all serve one another, especially those in the Christian faith. Today we will review many of the scriptures about remembering the poor, widows, orphans and strangers in the land. While the Bible scriptures don’t actually use the words that we should serve these individuals, it is certainly implied that we should consider and serve their needs. It should come as no surprise that there are many, many scriptures that tell us that we are to help these people, that there is a blessing in so doing and a curse if we forget, or worse, take advantage and abuse these people. Here are just a few verses by way of a reminder upon this important topic. Deuteronomy 24:19, “When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” Psalms 41:1, “Blessed is he who considers the poor; The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.” Proverbs 14:21, “He who despises his neighbor sins; But he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he.” Matthew 10:42, “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.” Acts 10:4, (NLT) “Cornelius stared at him in terror. “What is it, sir?” he asked the angel. And the angel replied, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering!”” Galatians 2:10, “They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do.” James 1:27, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” 1 John 3:17, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”

Enhanced Prayer — December 26, 2015

We all probably would like to pray better and know that God hears and understands the points we are trying to make even though we may be doing a poor job of expressing ourselves in His presence. We’d like our prayers to be more like David’s prayers in the book of Psalms. We can take comfort that God understands our shortcoming and lack of ability to fully express ourselves spiritually to The Great Almighty God. His Holy Spirit within us, a small down payment which we receive when baptized, expresses our intentions and thoughts in ways that we cannot do physically. Romans 8:26-27, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” Isn’t it wonderful that our Omnipotent God realizes that we as physical beings cannot properly communicate with Him, our Eternal Spiritual Father. Spirit power can better communicate with spirit power. Notice how this same point is expressed in other scriptures. Galatians 4:6, “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”” Ephesians 6:18, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, ...” Jude 1:20, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,” It is not we who pray by ourselves, but our prayers are enhanced and expounded by the Holy Spirit within us as we talk to our Father in prayer. What a wonderful Father we have who shares His Holy Spirit with us so that we might be able to better communicate with Him in prayer.

Boss vs. Leader — December 19, 2015

One topic that often comes to my mind, for different various reasons, is rulership vs. leadership. Our church group is in the midst of a series of sermons on serving: Jesus served mankind; ministers to serve congregation; we to serve each other; we to serve the widow, orphan, stranger, poor; we to serve God. One scripture that always comes to mind and often quoted here is Matthew 20:25-28, “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’” I had a friend post what follows below on Facebook and it struck home again. Before we get to that, I looked up what is the difference between a ruler and a leader. Here is what I found. A ruler “owns” his subjects. They are accountable to him but he isn’t accountable to them. A leader carries a collective from one point to another, leading by example, magnetic personality, inspiring others to join in the journey. A ruler is an owner, a leader is a driver. A leader’s only authority is the authority those who follow him/her chose to give them. A leader and their collective agree upon a destination. A ruler moves his subject where and how they see fit as their property to do with as they chose. A ruler type person may not actually own the collective, but that is how he/she treats the collective. Here then is the simple chart I referred to using the terms “boss” and “leader”.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN:
BOSS LEADER
Demands Coaches
Relies on Authority Relies on Goodwill
Issues Ultimatums Generates Enthusiasm
Says “I” Says “We”
Uses People Develops People
Takes Credit Gives Credit
Places the Blame Accepts Blame
Says “Go” Says “Let’s Go”
My way is the only way Strength in Unity
(FB/DavidAvocadoWolfe)

Gideon — December 12, 2015

In our church Bible study we’ve been reading about the story of Gideon in Judges 6 to 8. The Bible says Gideon had faith. Hebrews 11:32, “And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets:” It took Gideon awhile, he wanted several signs, but he finally learned to have faith that God would give him victory over Israel’s enemies. However, after the battle was won, Gideon asked for and got about 38 pounds of gold from which he made an ephod. The Bible says this became a snare to Gideon and Israel. Gideon also married many women and had 70 sons. So the question is, did Gideon have the faith of salvation or just a belief that God would grant him a victory? The same question could be asked about Barak, Samson and Jephthah. A hard question to answer. Especially when we read the last few verses of Hebrews 11, verses 39-40, “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” Another question would be, should we even try to figure out who will be in the first resurrection and who will not? Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” There are many applications of this verse, but the strongest one for me is that we should not judge what the ultimate reward or punishment of any person will be. That is up to God and God alone. We’ve discussed this topic several times before in these Sabbath Thoughts. We reviewed 1 Samuel 16:7 and 1 Corinthians 4:5, both which say we can’t judge like God does for only God knows what is in the heart of a person. I am just reminded of this principle when I read or think about Gideon and Samson, two well known Biblical stories. We may be curious. But we should not speculate about their reward nor the reward of others we have either known or read about. We ourselves need to strive to obtain the gift of the first resurrection and be content to wait until then to find out the answers to these questions and more.

Ministers and Politicians — December 5, 2015

What do ministers and politicians have in common? Or better put, what should they have in common? Both should be servants of their communities. When used as a verb, the dictionary definition of minister is to attend to the needs of someone, to tend to, care for, take care of, look after, nurse, treat, help assist. When we think of a minister, we usually think of a minister in a church. It is also used in some countries to indicate the head of a government department, as in Britain’s defense minister. Unfortunately we see too many religious ministers and government officials who are more interested in maintaining their office of responsibility and the associated lifestyle than in serving their congregations or constituents. This is not true of all, but far too many. Here in the United States our founding fathers never intended that we should have career politicians. Community leaders and businessmen were intended, putting their personal business affairs on hold while they became a Senator or Representative for one or two terms, serving their public constituents and then returning back to their regular life of family, business and local involvement. Now it seems we have professional politicians who have never worked at a real job. There is a dire warning in Ezekiel 34 against the shepherds of Israel, both religious and political. Verses 1 – 5, “And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered.” We are a religious and secular nation that is becoming weaker, exposed to our enemies, because we lack strong, caring servants of the public at large. God is upset at this and states in verse 10, “Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them.” This whole chapter is about shepherds who do not properly care for the people of God. The same warning occur in Jeremiah 23:1-5. And Jesus often spoke against the scribes, lawyers and Pharisees who made life more difficult for the people rather than acting as servants to improve those lives. Jesus taught the same thing with some of His parables. God says the day is coming when He will remove these selfish shepherds and establish new shepherds that will truly serve their brethren. Jeremiah 3:15, “And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” We long for that day that will only come after the Second Coming of Jesus Christ when He will rule over all this earth.

The Father Serves — November 28, 2015

We tend to think of God the Father as a distant Almighty God in a far away heaven. God our Father is an Omnipotent God, that is for sure. In the last Sabbath Thought we discussed how Jesus served mankind by example and what He accomplished by His death and resurrection. What about the Father, does He serve His children or does He only expect us to serve Him? God the Father loves all His children and desires that all would be saved. 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” To accomplish this goal as much as spiritually possible, the Father sacrificed His Son to die for our sins so we could be forgiven and receive the gift of salvation. In addition to John 3:16, this is also stated in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” God our Father does serve His children. He does not serve them by actually spoon feeding them or building them a home. He has provided a world in which we have the means to accomplish these needs with our efforts using the materials He created for our use, Matthew 6:25-34. He listens to and answers our prayers, but not always with an immediate yes, Matthew 6:6. He gives the Holy Spirit to the called and chosen, Luke 11:9-13, “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Parents are in charge of their young children. Yes, they have total authority over their infants. But who serves whom when our offspring are infants? The parents serve the children: feeding, cleaning, entertaining and protecting them. As the children grow older they in turn learn how to help and serve their parents by helping with family responsibilities. Think of the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. When the wayward son in humility and repentance came back to his father, the father served his son by having compassion and forgiving him, giving him new, clean clothes and throwing a feast to celebrate his return. Now, let’s conclude by discussing the wedding feast in Revelation 19:7-9, “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” Who is responsible for having this wedding feast? Who is in charge of the setup, the food and drink, the guest list, the fine white linen for the bride? Who will unite Jesus Christ with His bride, the born again Church of God? God our Father Himself will serve His Son and His Son’s bride by performing all of these functions and more. God our Father is the God of Love. He does serve and will continue to serve His children. He then expects His children to mature in their spiritual service to Him and our spiritual brothers and sisters. Let’s not disappoint Him.

Jesus Serves — November 21, 2015

Matthew 20:28, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Most of us will remember this statement by Jesus. We would associate this with what He did at His last Passover, washing His disciples feet, setting us an example. And then He died for our sins. That is real service towards you and me and all humanity. But Jesus’ service to mankind does not stop with His death for our sins. He will continue to serve His disciples even when they are born into the Kingdom of His Father. Luke 12:37, “Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.” How many times have we read this scripture and not realized the full impact of what Jesus said? Jesus said He would provide a meal for His disciples at His Second Coming and that He personally would serve them. Tie this together with other scriptures like Revelation 19 that describe a wedding feast in heaven above. And Jesus made a promise to the Laodiceans that repent, Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Oh, what a wonderful Savior and Father we have. Their love and service towards us is beyond our comprehension.

Impatience, Vanity & Forgiveness — November 14, 2015

As I was researching how to develop more patience in our lives, it became obvious that impatience is a form of vanity. Vanity has so many different ways to manifest itself and impatience is one of them. Ecclesiastes 7:8, “The end of a thing is better than its beginning; The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” Notice the comparisons in this verse, the second one is patience versus pride, patience is better because pride tends to be impatient with others. This happens when we think the other person is not living up to our expectations, not getting things done as soon as we think we would, not doing things the way we would or as good as we would. In short we compare what we think we would do in the same situation to what the other person is doing and we believe we would do better. Patience with others involves humility, and of course, that is all part of loving others. There are several scriptures that mention humility and patience together. Ephesians 4:2, “with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,”. Colossians 3:12-13, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” We also must forgive others, even if they don’t realize what they have done to test our patience, to make us impatient. If we forgive them, we will naturally be more patient with them. When we get upset and impatient with others, we ourselves are not extending forgiveness. God is patient with us and He expects us to be patient with others. Romans 15:5, “Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus,”. Let us continue to grow in humility and patience and always be willing to forgive others. If we do, we’ll develop better and stronger relationships with one another.

Increasing Patience — November 7, 2015

There are several scriptures on patience in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Here is one relative to a principle on this topic that I have been concentrating on of late, Proverbs 15:18, “A wrathful man stirs up strife, But he who is slow to anger allays contention.” When we lose patience with others, we always make the situation worse. Even if the other person doesn’t realize we’ve lost patience with them, our own attitude deteriorates into frustration, displeasure and maybe even anger. If we let our lack of patience show, we upset not only ourselves, but also the other person. There are many scriptures in the New Testament that tell us we must be patient with one another. Love is longsuffering, with is just another way of saying it is patient. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Many qualities in these verses are relative to having patience with others. How do we learn to be more patient with others? We should ask ourselves some questions. For instance, why are we in such a hurry. Other questions: why are we trying to do so much in such a short period of time, who or what tends to trigger our impatience. In short, become aware of what triggers a lack of patience and once we know that, take corrective action to change it. If impatience is a real problem in our life, in addition to reading the scriptures, we can do research on how to improve in this respect. Yes, patience is a virtue. It is one of the fruits of having the Holy Spirit. Let us be sure that having patience when dealing with others is something we are constantly seeking to improve upon in our Christian lives.

Your Favorite Scriptures — October 31, 2015

Here are some of your submissions on favorite scriptures from the Bible. Ken in Idaho listed two scriptures. Ecclesiastes 1:9, “That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.” Philippians 3:13, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,” Corrine from Missouri gave Romans 11:26-36 as her favorite, “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?” For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” Genesis 2:7 was the favorite scripture for Nicodemus from Kenya, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

Favorite Chapter — October 24, 2015

My favorite chapter in the Bible is Romans 8. Hebrews 11 would be a close second. These are just personal selections. All this means is that a selected chapter has several scriptures that have a special meaning to me. There are many chapters in the Bible that have special significance, and the whole Bible is important. When we say we have a favorite scripture or chapter, we’re not saying it is the most important spiritual part of the Bible, we’re just saying as a human being a certain verse or chapter has made a unique impact upon our Christian life. Some of the verses I especially like in Romans 8 are as follows: Verse 14, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” Verses 17-18, “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Verse 28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Verse 31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” And then the last two verses, verses 38-39, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” If you’d like to share your favorite passage in the Bible with me, I will list those in a future Sabbath Thought with just your first name and state. The whole Bible is my favorite book. As long as we don’t ignore any part of the Bible and live by every Word of God, it is not wrong to have a favorite passage, yes, more likely, several and even many, many favorite passages from the inspired scriptures from our Father.

Patience — October 17, 2015

Hebrews 10:32, “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” Some translations have “endurance” for “patience” in this verse. These two characteristics are similar but different. In this verse Paul is telling his audience that they need to develop more patience. The issue about developing patience is that there is no quick way to do it. Therefore, in that sense, it is a Godly characteristic that God insist that we continue to develop all our lives until the very end. We always need more patience. The main difference between patience and endurance is that patience is “passive,” waiting for something to happen over which we have no control. Endurance is “active,” we must make an effort to continue in the struggle to obey God in faith. We need patience in two main areas of our lives: 1) with each other, and, 2) with God’s promises. We patiently wait for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. There is nothing we can do to change the timing or manner in which that happens, we just have to patiently wait. There are things in our lives that we cannot change. We cannot expect a baby to never cry. We cannot change an elderly person who loses their mobility or ability to reason logically, we just have to patiently take care of them. If there is road work or an accident that stops traffic, we cannot make it go away, we just have to wait patiently for our turn to pass. When we lose patience, we make the situation worse, not better, and this creates stress. Love is patient and reduces stress. We’ll close this Sabbath Thought with James 5:10-11, “My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”

Favorite Scriptures — October 10, 2015

What are your favorite scriptures? In my freshman year at Ambassador College, the dorm monitor had each of us taking a turn posting our favorite scriptures on a bulletin board. I don’t remember what I posted when it came my turn, I probably just made up something to comply with the request. Or maybe it was one of my current favorite scriptures I will list in future Sabbath Thoughts, I just cannot recall so many decades later. But I do distinctly remember a scripture one of the other dorm mates posted, it became and has remained one of my favorite scriptures of all times. Luke 12:32, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” This scripture means so much to me because despite our flawed existence in a small Church of God, God our Father really wants to give us the Kingdom of God and has done everything within His power to make it so.

Heavens Declare Glory of God — October 3, 2015

During this Feast of Tabernacles, our group has been reading scriptures on giving glory to our glorious God. We’ve been relating this along with fascinating facts about how the Earth, our solar system, the universe and the human body are so well designed and all intricately linked together that they could only possibly exist by an Almighty Creator God. Psalms 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.” We’ve discussed stars, galaxies, superclusters of galaxies, and so forth. We were reminded of Psalms 147:4, “He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name.” How could God do that? Well, He created them all, He can certainly count them and call them by name. That is our Great God. He and His creation are beyond our comprehension. He is worthy of our praise and thanksgiving in glorify His name.

Keep the Feast with Thanksgiving — September 26, 2015

The Feast of Tabernacles begins next Monday. What a privilege it is to understand we should observe the seven holy days and feasts of God. There are over seven billion people on this earth. How many will be keeping the Feast of Tabernacles? I would think that number would only be several hundred thousand, but let’s say it is one million people worldwide. That would mean only about 0.00015 percent of the world’s population is observing the holy days of God as given in His inspired scriptures. This relates to what we discussed a few Sabbaths ago about the narrow gate and that many are called, but few are chosen. There are also many scriptures on how blind this world is to the the Truth of God. One is 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” Paul goes on to say our spiritual understanding is to God’s glory, not something we have accomplished by ourselves. Verses 6 to 7, “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” It is by the grace of God in our lives. And for that we should be most thankful and glorify God. Verse 15, “For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.” I hope and pray you all have a wonderful Feast of Tabernacles. And just as importantly, remember to give God our Father and Jesus our Savor the credit and thanks they deserve for having mercy upon us and revealing to us the need to keep the feasts of God.

Cleansing the Church — September 19, 2015

Atonement is in a few days. As are all of God’s Holy Days, Atonement has its own unique and special instructions and meanings. A careful reading of Leviticus reveals to us that several atonements were to be made throughout the day. It can be said there were two main purposes for these atonements. One, to cleanse Israel, as a group, as a nation, from their sins. Leviticus 16:30, “For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.” Second, to cleanse the tabernacle and altar from the sins of congregation of all Israel. When the Israelites worshiped God as a sinful people, when they offered their sin offerings upon the altar, their sins defiled the place of worship along with the altar. Therefore, once a year, God ordained the congregation of Israel, the Old Testament church and the place where they worshipped were to be cleansed with the atonements of animal sacrifices. Leviticus 16:16, “So he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins; and so he shall do for the tabernacle of meeting which remains among them in the midst of their uncleanness.” Jesus did the same thing for the New Testament Church. Ephesians 5:25-27, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” And even the heavenly temple needed to be cleansed. When we go before our Father in Heaven and ask His forgiveness, our sins also defile the place of worship. But the heavenly temple was cleansed with the blood of our Savor Jesus Christ and only needed to be cleansed once for all eternity. Hebrews 9:23-26, “Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another—He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” On the Day of Atonement, I hope the Churches of God and their congregations, as a group, will ask God’s forgiveness and ask God to cleanse His church that has been defiled with our individual sins that we bring with us when we gather together to worship and honor God.

Few Chosen — September 12, 2015

As we are only two days from the Feast of Trumpets, I am reminded of what a great privilege it is to know the necessity of keeping the Feasts of God and to have the knowledge of their important meaning in understanding God’s Plan of Salvation. With a world population now over seven billion people, one wonders what percentage actually observe the seven Feasts of God as commanded in His inspired Word, our Bible. We can remember what Jesus said and realize, unfortunately, how true were His teachings. Luke 13:22-24, “And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 22:14, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” This last scripture comes at the conclusion of parable of wedding feast where many who were invited made excuses not to attend and one who did attend did not come with a wedding garment. Let us never take for granted what a privilege it is to keep the Feast of God. Let us never forget to thank God that He has chosen to bestow this privilege upon us, the few.

Submitting — September 5, 2015

We all know wives are supposed to submit to their husbands, Ephesians 5:22. But do we remember and understand the verse that comes before that? Ephesians 5:21, “submitting to one another in the fear of God.” We are all to submit to one another in the church. We all know that the younger generation should respect and submit to their elders. But do we really remember and fully comprehend the second half of this verse? 1 Peter 5:5, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”” Paul made this perfectly clear when writing to the Philippians. Philippians 2:3-4, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” I think the Churches of God fall way short in practicing these principles. In my opinion, there is way too much attention given to the perceived status of an individual. The church leadership talks about the need for “servant leadership,” but how much is it really practiced. I think we all fall short in this area of submitting ourselves to the brethren in the church and putting serving their needs ahead of our own. I’m sure we do it some of the time for some of the people. But that is not good enough. Let us meditate upon this import spiritual principle and all strive to do a better job of implementing it in our Christian lives. More on that in today's sermon.

Controlling Our Thoughts — August 29, 2015

Perhaps one of the hardest things we have to do as Christians is to control what we think about. If we are long time Christians, we have probably established good habits relative to controlling our actions in obeying the laws of God. However, controlling our thoughts is far more difficult, especially in this world where we are constantly bombarded with entertainment and advertisements aiming to entice us to do that which is wrong or at least contemplate what it would be like to engage in sinful behavior. Wrong thought are going to come into our minds. That in and of itself is not sin. Sin is when we allow sinful thoughts to linger and grow in intensity in our minds instead of casting such thought out and replacing them with good thoughts and Godly thoughts. Paul tells us to “capture” every thought and bring them into obedient subjection, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” We need to train our minds to quickly purge negative, evil thoughts generated from the evil world around us and think about good things. Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” A lofty goal difficult to achieve, but one we should continue to work on every day of our lives in the flesh.

Influencing Thoughts — August 22, 2015

Who do we allow to influence our thinking? All around us different groups and different people are trying to influence what we think. Advertisers try to influence us to think their product is the greatest and that we can’t live without it. Politicians try to convince us to believe in their promises that they say will make our country and our situation in our country a better place to live and work. Our children will try to persuade us that they deserve some treat or a new toy. Wives may try to sway their husbands they need new clothes or appliances. A husband may list reasons why he needs new tools or more sports equipment. None of this is necessarily wrong in and of itself. It depends upon the circumstance and how it is done, a pleasant, logical presentation open to debate or an intimidating barrage with treating force. Our mind and our ability to think and to remember are most precious gifts from God, they are what make us, us. We should carefully select who and what we allow to influence our thoughts and guard against improper and negative manipulation. There are many proverbs related to this topic. Proverbs 12:26, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray.” Proverbs 13:20, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.” Proverbs 22:24-25, “Make no friendship with an angry man, And with a furious man do not go, Lest you learn his ways And set a snare for your soul.” And from 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits.” Therefore, we should carefully chose who we associate with and listen to.

Creating More Love — August 15, 2015

We all know the scriptures that tell us God is love, primarily in 1 John the 4th chapter. Verse 8, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” Verse 16, “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” God showed His love for us and all the world by sending His Son to die for our sins, verses 9 and 10, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” God loved us first before we existed or knew about Him. In return we are to love God, verse 19, “We love Him because He first loved us.” To truly know this God of love, we must learn to love one another, verse 7, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” And as verse 7 tells us, if we learn this spiritual lesson of loving others, we will be born of God. 1 John 3:1-2 tell us, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” When we are born into the Family of God, the Kingdom of God, through a resurrection, we will be like God. God is love. We then will “be love.” There will be millions and eventually billions of people who will be born into the Family of God through a resurrection. As the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father, so will all those born into the Family of God love every individual born into that family. Without a doubt, we can accurately state that through this process, God our Father is “creating more love.”

Obey Civil Government — August 8, 2015

We’ve been discussing the efforts of civil authorities to change Godly based moral laws of the land. However, when it comes to strictly civil laws, the Bible tells us quite plainly we should be obedient to these laws. Romans 13:1-3, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.” Titus 3:1 “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work,” 1 Peter 2:13-14, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.” Both Jesus and Paul said we are to support our government by paying the taxes they impose upon us. Mark 12:17, “And Jesus answered and said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Romans 13:6-7, “For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” This all comes under the umbrella of getting along with the government God has allowed and given authority over our civil lives, even to pray for our civil leaders. 1 Timothy 2:1-3, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,” Let us remember to live by every word of God, that we might live at peace, first with God and secondly with man as much possible.

A World In Darkness — August 1, 2015

In the past several Sabbath Thoughts we’ve been discussing how this world is now rejecting more and more the basic principles of God’s moral laws about how we should treat and respect the life, rights and possessions of our neighbors. It started many, many years ago when prayer was forbidden in public schools. Then all Christian religious principles were forbidden to be taught, foremost being the teaching of evolution with no reference whatsoever to the possibility of a Divine Creation. Now we see efforts to prohibit the display of anything religious on government buildings or property with several example regarding the Ten Commandments. We cited the prophecy about an increase in disobedience in the last days in 2 Timothy 3. Another scripture on the same topic is Jude 1:17-19 “But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.” We see more of a display of the basic nature of mankind in these last days as stated in Romans 8:7, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. ” John talked about this as it affected his own time and it is all the more true in these last days. John 3:19-20, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” This is the world we live in, surrounding us with disregard for the foundational principles for Christian living. As God warned Israel, so He warns us not to be friends with this ungodly world. 1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” Let us never forget this warning and take heed to hang on to the faith once delivered.

Willful Ignorance — July 25, 2015

A few Sabbaths ago we started talking about how this world is rejecting the moral laws of God. Moral laws based on the last six of the ten commandments that make common sense for all peoples and governments to implement in order to have an orderly and peaceful society. However, of late we see a constant attack against any morals of ethics based on the inspired scriptures of the Bible. Do as you please with any willing participants who care to join you is the new mantra of today. Here are a few Old Testament scriptures that prophesied this would happen. These scriptures are true from the standpoint of moral, fiscal and civic responsibilities. Proverbs 1:7, 29-30, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction. ... Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the Lord, They would have none of my counsel And despised my every rebuke.” Jeremiah 4:22, “For My people are foolish, They have not known Me. They are silly children, And they have no understanding. They are wise to do evil, But to do good they have no knowledge.” Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” Just like Christians have an obligation to prove all things they hear from their church, likewise the peoples of a nation have an obligation to research what their government officials are telling them, to determine if it is true or a lie, to determine if it is morally right or wrong. But the vast majority or just too lazy or ignorant to do that. They just listen and go along with whatever sounds the best or whoever makes the best promises to take care of them and their needs. When a nation collapses due to moral, fiscal and civic bankruptcy, the people are just as guilty as the government leaders who lead them to destruction. When and how will they all wake up to reality? Unfortunately, they will learn these lessons the hard way, through suffering at the hands of those who will take advantage of them. Our hearts break for the foolishness and ignorance of our people while we wait for the Kingdom of God to come.

Sacrificing Children on the Altars of Pagan Gods? — July 18, 2015

The news gets worse day after day. We are all disheartened this week concerning the deaths of our young men and women who fight to protect this nation. We don’t allow our military personnel to carry arms when stationed on US bases and they are defenseless against terrorist who are out to kill them. We have rules of engagement that protect the enemy and put our troops in harms way when fighting wars on foreign soil. It seems when someone is elected to public office they often lose all common sense as to what is best for this nation, the people of this nation and those who would protect this nation. Add to that the killing of unborn children and the harvesting of their organs for medical use. We abhor stories of ancient cultures who sacrificed their children to their pagan gods. We know the God of the Bible abhors and forbids such acts. Deuteronomy 12:31, “You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.” But at times Israel followed the pagan customs of the land of Canaan, Psalms 106:37-38, “They even sacrificed their sons And their daughters to demons, And shed innocent blood, The blood of their sons and daughters, Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; And the land was polluted with blood.” But we as a nation are also sacrificing our children to false gods. Unborn children are murdered for the god of selfishness. We send our sons and daughters to try and help other peoples who worship a different god and would destroy all Jews and Christians. This is the modern day equivalents of sacrificing children on the altars of pagan gods. There are several prophecies in the Bible that foretold these types of events. One is in Ezekiel 16:20-21, “Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your acts of harlotry a small matter, that you have slain My children and offered them up to them by causing them to pass through the fire?” In this chapter God talks about how He found Israel as a dirty, forsaken baby. He then saved Israel, took care of her and nurtured her until she grew up to be a beautiful woman. Then He married her. But what did Israel do? She forsook her Husband, played the harlot and even sacrificed the children born to them in this holy union of a marriage contract. It is no mystery why God is very angry with this nation and the whole world. His punishment is coming. We ask for His protection from such punishment and pray His Kingdom Come.

Is Mankind Without Excuse? — July 11, 2015

Down through history, human governments have had laws that closely matched the last six of God’s ten commandments, they just make good sense for a society whether that be a tribe or a nation. Outside the tribe or nation it was okay to kill or steal but usually not within the tribe or nation. You cannot destroy the family and have a strong moral nation. You cannot allow people within the nation to go around killing everyone they don’t like. You cannot just steal and take what you want from someone who has more than you do. You should not lie in a court of justice. And so forth. Paul states this fact in Romans 2:14-16. From The Message Bible, “When outsiders who have never heard of God’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong. Their response to God’s yes and no will become public knowledge on the day God makes his final decision about every man and woman. ..." But in the last days it was prophesied that obedience to the natural laws that are instinctively within humankind would be forsaken. 2 Timothy 3:1-5, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” When you break the laws of God whether you recognize them as such or not, society breaks down and suffers many problems. Moral laws are important and necessary and as we said last week, only God can determine what is morally right and wrong. When a people or a nation reject the moral code God gave mankind for their own benefit, they are rejecting God. There is a severe penalty for that. Romans 1:18, 21-22, 25, 28, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, ... because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, ... who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, ... And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;” We usually apply these scriptures relative to being blinded to spiritual understanding. But they equally apply to the physical moral code God ordained for all mankind. These are the end times and we are witnessing this downfall where everyone wants to do what is right in their own eyes and that is becoming more and more opposed to the moral code from God.

Who can make law? — July 4, 2015

Who can make law? First we need to ask the question what type of laws are we talking about. To over simplify, there are two major categories of law: 1) moral or God ordained laws of human behavior, and 2) civil law or laws that the governments of humankind enact to establish an orderly society. Alarmingly, we are seeing governments and popular voting trying to determine what is acceptable moral conduct. No majority can vote on what is acceptable moral conduct when it comes to killing, rape, marriage, stealing, and so forth. If the majority votes that it is okay to kill someone because you don’t like their gender, race or religion, that does not make it right. Only God can set moral laws of right and wrong. No one else has the right to do that. Moral laws must come from a divine God. When humankind believes they have the right and ability to establish a moral code, inevitability the laws of God are broken sooner or later. With human enacted laws, unborn children are murdered and the sanctity of marriage is discarded and it is all “legal” in the eyes of the government. God warned against this in Isaiah. Isaiah 10:1, “Woe to those who decree unrighteous decrees, Who write misfortune, Which they have prescribed.” Isaiah 5:20-21, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own sight!” We’ll continue this topic next Sabbath.

Death vs. Troubled Times Ahead — June 27, 2015

Our church group lost a dear, long-time member this week. John Yoder, age 85 I think, died Tuesday evening after finding out he had cancer a few months ago. His wife, Esther, had died around two years ago. We miss them both. And while we grieve, we have mixed emotions knowing they are better off in their graves then having to face the troubled times ahead. Isaiah 57:1, “The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.” Christians of all faiths and their beliefs are increasingly under attack. Foremost are the attacks from other religious groups who believe their god commands them to kill Jews and Christians. This is especially true in countries in the middle east and Africa. Here in the United States, anti-Christian legislature and rulings are increasing day by day. Daniel foretells a troublesome time even for those who “understand”, Daniel 11:33-35, “And those of the people who understand shall instruct many; yet for many days they shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plundering. Now when they fall, they shall be aided with a little help; but many shall join with them by intrigue. And some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time.” John was inspired to prophecy about the same events relative to the beast power, Revelation 13:7, “It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.” Christians of all faiths face difficult times ahead. Those who “die in the Lord” will be spared having to endure those times while they wait to receive their final reward to be granted them by our Savior Jesus Christ and God our Father.

Meditation — June 20, 2015

When we think of what we need to do to have a good relationship with God, we usually think of two lists of three items each. First list, love, faith and hope. Second list, prayer, Bible study and fasting. However, I think we’re overlooking another important point for the second list, meditation. Meditation has been an important activity in the lives of the patriarchs. Genesis 24:63, “And Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening; ...” We live such busy lives in this modern world that few of us set aside some special quiet time to just meditate. Most of the scriptures about meditation are found in the book of Psalms, starting with the very first one. Psalms 1:2, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.” Our prayers are in reality a special kind of meditation. But we should be meditating on God, His laws and His love, grace and mercy towards us much more than just on our knees in prayer. Deuteronomy 6:6-9, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” I’m sure we all can make an improvement in our spiritual lives by spending more time meditating about the love, laws, wonders and glory of God our Father and His Son, Jesus Christ our Savior.

Never Stop Trying — June 13, 2015

I come from a family where most of us have been active in athletics. I don’t feel good physically or mentally if I just sit around, I need to get my body moving, the heart beating rapidly and the blood flowing. But sometimes there are other priorities, sometimes I even procrastinate, sometimes I start a new effort only to see it drop off after awhile. It happens to all us. Of even greater importance, however, is if we let conflicts or setbacks discourage us to where we stop trying and quit, or, if we never give up and keep trying. The apostle Paul talked about athletics and not giving up to make the same point in our spiritual lives. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” Paul again refers to running a race and that Jesus Christ endured, never giving up, therefore neither should we. Hebrews 12:1-3, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” We all get weary and discouraged at times. But do we let it continue or do we take action to correct the situation so it is just for a short period of time? Our prayers can get stale, we can miss having a Bible study every day, we can forget to fast on a regular basis. So, what should we do? Give up and quit? Just the opposite! We should recommit our efforts to break the cycle of weariness and discouragement. It is good for our physical body to keep it healthy and in shape with regular exercise. It is also of supreme importance that we keep our spiritual body in shape with regular prayer, Bible study, fasting and meditation. Let us stop procrastinating and letting other priorities interfere that keep us from doing what we must to keep up our spiritual health. Let us continue to make a new commitment to get our spiritual bodies back in shape and keep at it until we accomplish that goal.

Losing Character Filters — June 6, 2015

As we grow up from being children, we learn to control our behavior and what we say to others. We put filters in place and use other techniques not to do the first thing that comes into our minds, for instance, throwing temper tantrums or believing everything is “mine”. We usually learn to be nice and say nice things even when we don’t like someone. The same is true when we become converted. We learn to try and do a better job of controlling our carnal nature, our anger, jealousy and covetousness, to name a few, through the power of the Holy Spirit. When individuals become very old, suffer Alzheimer's or some serious brain injury or disease, those filters and mental controls can diminish or be completely lost. Such individuals say and do things they would otherwise never do when they were younger and healthier. The same can be true when an individual or even a group of individuals lose or have the Holy Spirit diminished in their lives. 2 Timothy 4:2-4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” Solomon was inspired to make a simple statement with a magnitude of truth, Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” If we are fighting for and hanging on to the faith once delivered, we will have noticed how others have lost their control and filters regarding their spiritual conduct and beliefs. As the Holy Spirit diminishes in their lives, they revert back to behavior and beliefs that they had before conversion or adopt strange new beliefs. The weak points in their spiritual character become more noticeable and are emboldened. The question and point for our consideration would be what are the weak points in our spiritual character and beliefs that would be manifest if we were spiritually blinded? What beliefs would we change? What “new truths” would we adopt? How would our carnal nature resurface in unchristian behavior? Good points to meditate on and take corrective action to strengthen them now with the active power of God’s Holy Spirit within us.

Control of the Holy Spirit — May 30, 2015

The apostle Paul was inspired to make an interesting statement regarding the Holy Spirit in
1 Corinthians 14:32, “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” From the New Living Testament Bible, “Remember that people who prophesy are in control of their spirit and can take turns.” And The Message Bible has this verse as, “If you choose to speak, you’re also responsible for how and when you speak.” God gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit to comfort us, teach us, strengthen us and inspire us. We can use our gift of the Holy Spirit to help and inspire others in various ways. When and how we use that give is largely up to us. This gift and privilege can however, even be misused. Recall that in this chapter Paul also corrects some in this church for speaking in tongues to basically show off. And all too many men were competing with each other claiming inspiration and therefore had the right to preach in the church service. This lead to a disorganized church service which Paul strongly disapproved, verse 33, “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” Paul concludes this chapter with verse 40, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” Let us do likewise, let us wisely control and use whatever gift God has given us through His Holy Spirit to humbly help and edify whomever we can as Paul says in the last part of verse 26, “... Let all things be done for edification.“

Nourish the Holy Spirit — May 23, 2015

We reckon the official beginning of the New Testament church on the day of Pentecost, Monday, June 18, 31 AD. I still think that is the best date to use for this event. Here we are now, getting ready to observe a Monday Pentecost 1,984 years later on May 25, 2015. God our Father graciously gave a down payment of His Spirit Power to those disciple who accepted Jesus as the Messiah, repented and were baptized. In the past several Sabbath Thoughts we’ve been discussing how it is possible to quench and see the Holy Spirit diminished in our lives, there are many warnings in the Bible that should cause us to take heed. How then do we prevent this from happening to ourselves? Or, in other words, how do we nourish the Holy Spirit within us so that it remains a powerful aid and comfort in our Christian lives? John 15:4-5, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” We must maintain a strong connection with Jesus our Savior and God our Father. How do we do that? The tried and true Christian activities of prayer, Bible study, fasting, meditation and obedience. If we want to have a strong, loving relationship with our Father and Jesus, we must stay in constant, close contact with them. We must talk to them in prayer, we must listen to them through daily Bible study, we must humble ourselves in fasting and we should meditate on the God’s laws and way of life relative to how we are living our life. We must also obey God, walking in the spirit of His commandments, resisting the lusts of the flesh. By doing these things, and they must be done every day, we renew the Holy Spirit within us. Ephesians 4:22-24, “that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” The result of staying in constant contact with God and renewing His Spirit Power in our lives is that we will bear much spiritual fruit, fulfilling what Jesus requires of us as we read in John 15. I pray that you all will appreciate and strengthen the Holy Spirit within you as we observe Pentecost this coming Monday.

The Important Benefits of the Holy Spirit — May 16, 2015

The Holy Spirit is a critical gift that God gives to us as an individual when we repent and are baptized. We’ve been discussing how it is possible for the Holy Spirit to be diminished in our live and that God prophesied this would happen to some of His people in the end time. This Sabbath, let us remember the important benefits of the Holy Spirit and strive to keep them active in our own lives before God. Understanding the spiritual aspects of God’s laws and desired way of life can only be accomplished through the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:10-14, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” The Holy Spirit gives us the strength to obey the spirit of God’s laws along with a deep love for the brethren in God’s church. 1 Peter 1:22, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,”. It is through the Holy Spirit that we produce spiritual fruit. Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” It is through the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives that we become true children of God and heirs together with Jesus Christ of the Kingdom of God. Romans 8:14-17, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” We just cannot be true Christians without the active power of the Father’s Holy Spirit in our lives. There are many more benefits of the Holy Spirit than can be covered in this short Sabbath Thought. More of them will be reviewed in today’s sermon.

What Do We See In The Mirror? — May 9, 2015

As we count down the days until Pentecost, the importance of the Holy Spirit in our lives and the fact that we can lose it, should continue to be a warning to us all. We have been reviewing the scriptures that show us Christians can lose the Holy Spirit. We have read a few scriptures that prophecy that this will happen. Here are a few more that warn us of these possibilities. 1 Timothy 1:19-20, “having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” Hebrews 6:4-6, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.” Hebrews 10:26-27, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3, “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, ...” One cannot fall away from the truth unless they had the truth at one time. We should not think these scriptures are about worldly unbelievers, they are warnings to the true people of God. As we read and meditate on these scriptures, we are indeed reminded that Christians can fall away from the faith once delivered and lose the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. While we as an individual may realize this truth, the main issue is would we be aware that it is happening in our own personal Christian life? In other words, does a deceived person realize they are deceived? Look around us and we will see many deceived people, few if any aware that they are deceived. We should then with the utmost urgency and spiritual sincerity examine ourselves and ask God to open our eyes to see us as He, God sees us. We don’t want to be like a person described in James 1:23-24 who looks in the mirror, but as soon as they turn from the mirror they forget about their spiritual problems that they saw therein. As we draw near to a Monday Pentecost, let us take a really good look in that spiritual mirror, acknowledge our faults, repent and change so we can draw nearer to God and have His Holy Spirit renewed in our lives on a daily basis.

Revelation Churches and the Holy Spirit — May 2, 2015

The letters to the seven churches of Revelation reveal many, many important spiritual points. One of these points is very relative to our topic that Christians can allow the Holy Spirit to diminish in their lives. These are true Churches of God. But all churches have problems and we see that demonstrated very vividly in these letters. The Ephesus church is chastised for leaving their first love. That can only happen if the power of the Holy Spirit is no longer at its full strength in the lives of this church. God threatens to remove this church’s candlestick if they do not repent and return to their first works. For a church to have its candlestick removed would certainly indicate a great loss of the Holy Spirit. God says the Sardis church has a name that they are alive but God says they are dead. How would God say they are dead if they are full of the Holy Spirit? Like the five foolish virgins they must have run out of the oil of the Holy Spirit. Regarding the Laodicean church, not only does God say they are lukewarm, He rebukes them for thinking they are rich when they are actually wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. What do they think they are rich in? As a church of God, would they not be thinking they are rich in the Holy Spirit? But God says they are deceived, it is just the opposite, they too have lost the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. God tells us seven times to listen to each and every message to all of the seven churches and apply it to our own Christian lives. The sad aspect of these churches is that they don’t realize they are losing the Holy Spirit. The Ephesus church still thinks they have a great love for God with good works. The Sardis church thinks they are spiritually alive and alert. The Laodicean church thinks they are rich with spiritual eyesight. But they are wrong. Not only is their spiritual health in a state of sickness, they are so deceived they don’t even realize it. We recently observed Passover when we are to examine ourselves. Most of the people in these churches must not have done a very thorough self evaluation to miss such glaring problems. Monday Pentecost is only three weeks away and represents the coming of the power of the Holy Spirit. Keeping Pentecost on the wrong day results in more spiritual losses than might seem possible at first. These letters should help convince us we have no guarantee that once we do receive the Holy Spirit that we will always have it. We can either make an effort to nourish and strengthen the Holy Spirit and keep it active in our lives or we can let it dry up and fade away.

Can You Lose the Holy Spirit? — April 25, 2015

We used to think that once someone comes to an understanding of the mystery of God’s Plan of Salvation, they could never be deceived. Matthew 24:24 was referred to to support this concept, “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” Then the Church of God broke up into over 400 groups with a wide divergence of different beliefs. Then harsh reality set in, our concept of once imbued with the Holy Spirit always imbued with the Holy Spirit, similar to the concept of broad Christianity that once saved always saved, was erroneous. The parable of the tares sowed among the wheat reminded us the Church of God is a mixture of individuals in different spirituals states as confirmed by 1 John 2:19 , “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” We had to come to the conclusion that not every individual in the Church of God was in reality “one of the elect.” Maybe certain other scriptures came to mind to reinforce this, like the parable of the ten virgins we discussed last week. Here are a few other such scriptures that also remind us of this possibility. 2 Peter 2:20-21, “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” Ephesians 4:30, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” The New Living Translation begins this verse as, “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live.” This same sentiment is also stated in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, “Do not quench the Spirit.” These are scriptures that are meant to warn us about a real possibility, if we do not constantly nourish the Holy Spirit within us, it can diminish, or like the light from a burning lamp, it can flicker and go out. David also knew that his sins could potentially result in such a loss in his own life. Psalms 51:11, “Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” David realized he had to do something to change this. He deeply repented before God, changed His ways and renewed a closer relationship with God. We too must continue to honestly evaluate our relationship with God. Are we fighting to hang onto the faith once delivered and striving to obey God? Or are we changing and watering down the truths we were once taught from the scriptures? Next Sabbath we’ll look at some of the seven churches of Revelation to further reinforce the importance and consequences in the discussion of this topic.

Foolish Virgins — April 18, 2015

We all know the parable of the 10 virgins. We just finished observing Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. The question we should always be asking ourselves as part of our self examination is if we could be one of the foolish virgins. Matthew 15:1-5, “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.” Many believe, and I would agree, the parable of the 10 virgins is a prophecy relative to the end-time Church of God. Notice that the five foolish virgins still had oil in their lamps, but they did not have a reserve or a backup of oil in what is simply referred to in this parable as a “vessel”. A “vessel” was a separate container of oil for when the oil in their lamps was used up. The Holy Spirit must be renewed in our Christian lives on a day by day basis. If we don’t, it will run out. Let’s notice John 7:37-39, “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” In this analogy the Holy Spirit is likened unto water. Just as the human body needs water every day, so we are to go to Jesus every day and drink of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is flowing from us in our efforts to obey God and help others, that source of water, i.e., the Holy Spirit, must be replenished or the flow will dry up and stop. How do we renew that supply? The tried and true old standbys: prayer, Bible study, fasting and faithful obedience with love in our hearts for all. More on this topic on upcoming Sabbaths.

Spring Holy Days — April 11, 2015

Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread ended at sunset today. Hard to believe they are over already, it seems the days flew by faster than ever this year. And now we keep track of the count to Pentecost, six days out of 50 have now been counted. Deciding what to preach about on the Holy Days when your congregation has been part of the Church of God for 40 to 55 years can be a challenge. I’m reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 13:52, New Living Translation, “Then he added, “Every teacher of religious law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings from his storeroom new gems of truth as well as old.”” Our topic on the first holy day was about forgiving others. After Jesus gave the outline of prayer, He emphasized one key point, Matthew 5:14-15, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Jesus also implied we should forgive our enemies, even if they have not repented, Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,” Forgiving others, even our enemies is not only a prerequisite for the Father’s forgiveness, it is for our own good. It frees us from bitterness and anger and wasting time rehearsing the sins of others. This is covered in that day’s sermon or you can also look up forgiving others on the internet and find some good discussions on this important topic. On the last holy day we covered comparing ourselves with others. We discussed how such comparisons can lead to the sins of vanity, covetousness, envy and jealously. Reviewing some of the major sins and relationship problems in the Bible shows that most of them began when comparisons were first made. Instead of making comparisons, the apostle Paul tells us in Hebrews 13:5, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”” Paul tells us in other scriptures that instead of making comparisons, we should give God thanks for what we have, whether that be little or much. If we strive to please God, then we won’t worry about making comparisons with others. I hope you all had a wonder holy day season and may God be with you as we count down the days to Pentecost.

Wanting to Forgive — April 4, 2015

I hope everyone had a significant and meaningful Passover. To me the sacrifice of God in the flesh, our Savior Jesus Christ the Messiah, is the most important and meaningful event in all eternity. Without this sacrifice to pay for our sins, there could be no Plan of Salvation by which mankind, created in the image of God, could be born into the family of God. The shed blood of Jesus covers our sins so they can be forgiven and forgotten. This shows that God our Father and Jesus are elder brother and Savior were willing to do whatever it took to redeem us from our sins -- that God our Father wants to forgive us so much that He sent His Son to die for us. While Jesus did not look forward physically to His death, He did with joy look forward to what His death would accomplish spiritually. Hebrews 12:2, “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The Father and Son want to forgive us of our sins. Let’s review a few scriptures on this topic. Isaiah 53:10, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, ...” Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together, Says the Lord, Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.” Isaiah 55:7, “Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.” Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.” Psalm 86:5, “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.” Micah 7:18-19, “Who is a God like You, Pardoning iniquity And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea.” 1 John 4:9-10, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Zero Tolerance? — March 28, 2015

Does God have a zero tolerance policy in regards to sin? In one sense, yes, one sin would be enough to require the death of Jesus as our Savior. In another sense, no, He will forgive us no matter how many times we sin. Matthew 18:21-22, “Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Peter asked how often he should forgive his brother, 7 times? Jesus said 490 times. Are we expected to keep track of this for everyone we know? No, we accept that what Jesus meant is that there is to be no limit to how often we forgive others. Since this is true between us humans, it must be even more true with how often the Father will forgive us. We can also be very thankful God does not have a “three strikes law” like they do here in California. This law states that if an individual is convicted of any new felony, if they have been convicted of two or more violent or serious felony crimes, they must be sentenced to state prison for twice the term otherwise provided for the crime. We sin every day and if our Father had a policy like this we would never get out of jail. Instead, we have a loving Father who will forgive us of all our sins. Note in the following scriptures statements like “cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness”, “that ALL should come to repentance”, ”I will cleanse them from ALL their iniquity”, “I will pardon ALL their iniquities”, ”God is READY to forgive” and “ABUNDANT in mercy.” 1 John 1:7-9, “... the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” Jeremiah 33:8, “I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned and by which they have transgressed against Me.” Psalms 86:5, “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.” Psalms 103:3, “Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases,” Psalms 130:8, “And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” To the woman who was known to be a sinner, but humbly came and anointed Jesus feet with fragrant oil and her tears, Jesus said in Luke 7:47, “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” We’re all sinners. But that is the very reason Jesus was born in the flesh, to die for our sins. This means no matter how times we sin, God does not want us to perish. He wants us to repent of all our sins and thenb He will surely forgive us of ALL our sins.

Jesus Came To Save Sinners — March 21, 2015

As we approach Passover, we naturally think about this most important event in human history, God in the flesh shed his blood for the forgiveness of all our sins. This might seem unbelievable that a God would do this for us humans. But this points out what a great and marvelous God we have, what a loving God we have that held nothing back to save His children. This famous scripture is such a beautiful expression of God the Father’s purpose for sending Jesus to be born of a human mother, John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” We all know and cherish the many scriptures relative to the importance of Passover. Here are a few to remember. Mark 2:17, “When Jesus heard it, He said to them, Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Matthew 18:11-14, “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” 1 Timothy 1:15, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” Yes, we are all sinners and our sins are a terrible thing. But this is the very reason for Jesus’ sacrifice, to free us from the death penalty for our sins making it possible for us to receive the gift of eternal life. Let us meditate on these things day and night and praise both God our Father and Jesus our Savior as we draw near to the Passover.

Judging Ourselves — March 14, 2015

We have three weeks until Passover and we all know we are to examine ourselves for sin. Paul makes the necessity and importance of this clear. 1 Corinthians 11:26-32, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.” In addition to stating we should examine ourselves, Paul also puts it as we should judge ourselves so that God would not have too. Paul also talked about this in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. ...” There is a prophecy about Israel finally doing this during the Great Tribulation. Lamentations 3:40, “Let us search out and examine our ways, And turn back to the Lord;” Another interesting scripture on this topic is that God welcomes the wicked who judge themselves and repent. Ezekiel 18:27-28, “Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness which he committed, and does what is lawful and right, he preserves himself alive. Because he considers and turns away from all the transgressions which he committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.” As Christians we have the constant responsibility to consider our ways, to examine and judge ourselves with the intent to find sin and then repent, changing and overcoming for the better. By this process we respect and honor the holy sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ and can correctly partake of the Passover symbols.

Judging Brethren — March 7, 2015

How can we be a true Christian is we don’t judge others, that is, make a determination between good and evil, between people who are doing good or bad deeds? 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore put away from yourselves the evil person.” Obviously there must be different types of judging, something we’ve been discussing for the past several Sabbaths. Jesus said not to judge and we understand that to mean to made a verdict of a person’s final fate. But in the previous scripture Paul says we are to judge those inside the church. With this type of judging, we are making a decision concerning how we will respond to a persons behavior, we are not determining their final fate. Jesus made a comment relative to this topic. Matthew 18:15-17, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” This is also making a judgment that someone has sinned, in this case, against us. These were Jesus’ instructions on how such matters were to be handled among the people of God. This type of judging, determining sins among the people of God’s church is something we are to do. The purpose is to remove gross sins and unrepentant sinners from among the congregation of the followers of Jesus, to keep the body of Jesus, His Church, clean from this magnitude of sin. Next Sabbath, we’ll discuss this topic relative to Passover, judging ourselves.

Judging Current Conditions — February 28, 2015

The last two Sabbaths we have discussed judging and respect for authority, good or bad. We’ve read the scriptures that say we are not to judge others. But we’ve talked about that meaning we don’t try and determine the final fate of others as to their final reward. But what about judging people in this life as to whether they are good or bad, whether they obey or disobey God’s laws. Is that wrong? Is that also included in what the scriptures mean by not judging others? The apostle Paul said he had delivered Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan because they were shipwrecked in the faith, 1 Timothy 1:19-20. We might think that is judging, but not in the sense we talked about in the previous Sabbath Thoughts. Paul was not stating what he thought their final fate would be, he was evaluating their current condition in the Faith Once Delivered. He did label them for what they were. They were sinners who had given up on their obedience and faith in God’s Way of Life . As an apostle, it was his responsibility to make a separation between the Church of God and these two individuals. The same thing occurred in 1 Corinthians the 5th chapter. Paul determined this individual had committed a major sin in front of the whole church and he needed to dwelt with, he was not to be permitted to be part of the Church of God while continuing in his sins. As a side light, why did Paul do this? 1 Corinthians 5:5, “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” Paul called sin sin and dwelt with it when it was a church brother in order to help that person learn a lesson so they might be saved in the day of judgment. Paul did not make a judgment of what these individuals’ final fate would be, he was concerned with trying to wake them up to their current condition of sinfulness and hoped they would repent. This is calling a spade a spade as we say today. This is not wrong as long as we don’t make a final judgment on such individuals in the process. Paul again labeled false ministers and Satan for what they were in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” Notice again how he handles their final verdict, it will be according to their works. And that is up to God to judge, not any of us. In that sense, there are different types of judging, some of which are wrong, some of which are okay, and in reality, necessary as a Christian. More on this topic in the next Sabbath Thought.

Railing Accusation — February 21, 2015

Jude 1:9 (KJV), “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.” What is a “railing accusation”? For “railing accusation,” other translations have: did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, railing judgment, abusive condemnation, slanderous accusation, slanderous judgment. It means to use “blasphemous” language as would be considered wrong to do so against anyone at any time. We should also ask what is the context or discussion in which this verse appears. Consider verses 4 and 8, “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. ... Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.” The topic is about those who hate all forms of authority over their own lives. They have no respect for any government or anyone in authority. Their only concern is their own desires of the flesh. Jude is making an analogy in verse 9 about how we as humans should respect other humans in positions of authority. He is not talking about how we ourselves should address Satan, he is only using the interaction of Michael and Satan as an example to make a point. Michael didn’t use his own power and authority as an archangel to bring a slanderous accusation or judgment against Satan, but left the matter in the hands of God. One understanding for “reviling accusation” might be that Michael was not going to “tell off” Satan. When one “tells off” another, they lower themselves to the level of the person they are “telling off.” Michael instead reminded Satan, Satan’s argument was with God, not himself Michael. Michael restrained himself, leaving all judgment and vengeance to God. Jude wanted believing brethren to realize even archangels are careful about how they address other powers, even evil ones. Therefore, how much more should mere mortal humans watch their words when speaking of angelic powers, good or evil. The same is true for how we as humans talk about human rulers. Let’s go on to consider a few other points. Notice, Michael was contending and having a dispute with Satan. That was not a wrong thing for Michael to do. Reading between the lines, Michael told Satan he was wrong and could not have the body of Moses. Michael stood fast against wrong and evil. But he did so by calling upon the authority and power of God. It is not wrong to call evil evil or sin sin. But as we discussed last week, it is wrong to pronounce a judgment of a final verdict upon others for their deeds, whether those deeds be good or bad. It is also wrong to be disrespectful, to show contempt, to just spew out vindictive and hateful language against anyone. We’ll continue this topic next Sabbath.

The Resurrection Judgment Game — February 14, 2015

When someone we know dies, do we ever give our opinion on whether they will be in the first resurrection or not? This might be a natural tendency, but is it the right thing to do? Matthew 7:1-2, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” When we say we believe a person will be or will not be in the first resurrection, we are in fact making a judgment that is way beyond our capabilities. God can judge by knowing what is in a person’s heart, we cannot. 1 Samuel 16:7, “... For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” The apostle Paul specifically warned us not to make judgments about a person’s final reward. 1 Corinthians 4:5, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.” We cannot know what “internal sins” a person may or may not have committed. It is very unlikely that we know how often and how deeply a person has repented of their sins. Only God does. We may mean well, and maybe it isn’t so bad to say “I hope and believe there is a good chance that person will be in the first resurrection,” but we cannot really know one way or the other. Let us be very careful in this regard and let all judgments up to God and God alone.

Offending Your Brother, Part 2 — February 7, 2015

Last Sabbath we talked about Paul’s statements regarding eating and drinking if it offended a brother. Jesus Christ also talked about offending believers in a more general statement. Matthew 18:6-7, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” Jesus is not talking offending someone by obeying His commandments, He said we would be persecuted and hated for that. He is stating that if our actions or bad example causes a little one in the faith to commit sin, we’d be better off dead. Read this scripture in different translations to get the full impact of Jesus’ statement. Here are two more scriptures on this topic in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Romans 14:13, “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.” We know Paul said if someone was causing division in the church, the brethren should avoid that person. But note that causing division was not the only reason. Behavior that offended the rest of the church was a second reason. Romans 16:17-18, “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.” Let us conclude this Sabbath Thought with another statement from Jesus. Matthew 5:23-24, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Jesus is saying we cannot have a good relationship with our Father if we first do not have a good relationship with our brethren. If an offense has caused a division between brethren, it must be resolved before we can have a close relationship with our Father. Let us remember to consider our behavior at all times, the example we set before others, the impact our actions have on others, and let us strive to make sure our behavior does not give cause to any brother to stumble and sin.

Offending Your Brother — January 31, 2015

How many of us think about how our actions in regards to what we eat and drink might offend our Christian brothers? The apostle Paul talked about this twice in his letters to the Romans and Corinthians. Even if it was okay to do, even if it was in accordance with the laws of God, if it offended his Christian brother, he would not do it. Romans 14:19-23, “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.” In all probability, Paul was talking about how “old timers” in the church conducted themselves with new converts. The issue back then was eating in a “restaurant” associated with an idol, not something that really concerns us today. 1 Corinthians 8:9-13, “But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” Pretty strong words. What principle can we learn from this to be applied to our lives. It should be noted that in both cases the topics is relative to dietary habits, eating meat or drinking wine. Paul was certainly not talking about if keeping the Sabbath offended his brother. However, this same principle should be applied to non-doctrinal issues. For instance, we could apply this to “how” we keep the Sabbath, what and how we prepare food or what we do or don’t do on the Sabbath. We know we are not to work on the Sabbath, yet we all may have different definitions of what is “work”. One person might think it is okay to build an outdoor fire with wood gathered on the preparation day in order to roast some meat and another may not. If you had company over to eat a Sabbath meal and you knew they would be offended if you build a fire on the Sabbath, would you go ahead and do it? Paul would not. Remember, we are not talking about whether to obey the laws of God or not. We are talking about the principle of the minor physical details of how we keep the laws of God being different and potentially offending a fellow Christian. Are we thoughtful enough to take that into consideration when in their presence. Paul did. And so should we.

Near or Far? — January 24, 2015

Do we feel we are in a close relationship with God? Or does He seem far away? We have a responsibility to determine this. James 4:8, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you....” We have to first make the effort to get closer to God, not the other way around. God is always there waiting for us. How do we do this? The second half of this verse gives us the first major step. “ ... Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Double-minded means to be divided between God’s way and the way of the world. Isaiah 59:2 reinforces this, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.” Second, we must have a good relationship with our brethren. Matthew 5:23-24, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” These are two important areas that would prevent us from having a close relationship to God. Once we have taken care of these two, there are other major tasks we must pursue to draw closer to God. Prayer, Bible Study and fasting are vital to improving our relationship with God. Is our prayer life stale and boring? Are we just putting our time in with Bible study? Do we forget to fast? 2 Timothy 1:6 tells us we have the responsibility to strip up the Holy Spirit of God within us, “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” We must do something to revitalize our prayers. We must make our Bible study interesting. We must remember to fast. We've talked about these topics in previous Sabbath Thoughts, but we can always use a reminder and a review. We fast to humble ourselves before God asking His help to overcome our faults. Isaiah 57:15 tells us humility is a most important quality that determines who God will dwell with and help, “For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Let us remember these are our responsibilities. Let us continually put these principles into practice and draw nearer to our God. He is waiting for us to do so and He will respond.

Experiential Learning — January 17, 2015

Last Sabbath we discussed how we are to study and learn from reading our Bibles in order to improve our spiritual character. However, can we really develop some qualities like love, faith, hope, patience and endurance, for example, as part of our character by just reading about them? That answer should be obvious, we have to have real life experiences that develop these qualities. We cannot fully learn about and develop the afore mention qualities, plus others, by just reading about them. Sure, reading about them, about how others developed these qualities in their lives can be inspiring and educational. But, for example, there is a big difference between learning about various animals by reading about them compared to going to a zoo and actually seeing these animals. Even more so, would be learning by having an animal for a pet and having to take care of it. The same is true for us in developing love, faith, hope, patience and endurance in our lives. This is why God gave us marriage and the family, so we ourselves could experience love. Ephesians 5:33, “Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Titus 2:4, “that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,” Ephesians 6:2, “Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise:” As we think about faith and hope, how can we develop these by study alone? We have to practice faith and hope in our own lives. And consider patience and endurance. There is no way to develop patience and endurance by reading about them. And there is no “quick” way to develop these in our lives, by their nature alone, these two qualities take a lifetime to fully develop. This is one more reason why we have tests and trials, so our love, faith, hope, patience and endurance are exercised so that they grow in magnitude and strength in our lives. Romans 5:3-4, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” James 1:3-4, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” The best combination is “Academic Learning” from the Bible working together with “Experiential Learning” in our own lives. What we study in the Bible should guide us as we experience our tests and trials in life. Our tests and trials should reinforce and confirm what we have learned from reading the Bible. Together, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, we then become stronger Christians in all areas of our lives.

Academic Learning — January 10, 2015

What is the best way of learning spiritual truths? Or is there more than one way.? God does expect us to study the Bible and learn from what we read. 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV), “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” One of many reasons for studying the Bible is to learn from the mistakes others have made so we don’t repeat them in our own lives. 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11, “Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. ... Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” God also expects us as parents to teach our children, not only His laws, but also the stories of what He has done for His people and the lessons that should be learned from those historical examples. When God brought Israel out of Egypt, one of His instructions was that the Exodus story was to be told to their children. Exodus 12:26-27, “And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD’S passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped.” Moses repeatedly told the Israelites to teach their children about the laws of God. Deuteronomy 11:19 is one such scripture, “You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” A great summary of this principle is found in Psalms 78:1-8 (NLT), “O my people, listen to my instructions. Open your ears to what I am saying, for I will speak to you in a parable. I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us. We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD, about his power and his mighty wonders. For he issued his laws to Jacob; he gave his instructions to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, so the next generation might know them—even the children not yet born—and they in turn will teach their own children. So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands. Then they will not be like their ancestors—stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God.” But God wants us to do more than just book learning. He also wants us to internalize and have real life experiences in practicing His way of life for us. Some qualities like love, faith and hope cannot be learned by just reading about them. We’ll discuss this next week.

Muscle Faith — January 2, 2015

Recently my dad and I were watching the The Hal Lindsey Report as we like to hear his report of the news relevant to Jerusalem and the nation of Israel. This particular week he was also talking about Thanksgiving and the sin of ingratitude. We should be thankful even for our tests and trials as we know the scriptures state this several times. He then made a good analogy. A weight lifter, lifting heavy weights tears down muscle fibers. When they heal, they grow back bigger and stronger. God is doing the same thing in our lives with our faith. He allows tests and trials to challenge our faith in Him. This could physically weaken us temporarily, but we should eventually grow spiritually stronger in our faith. Let’s study one of the several scriptures on why we should rejoice in our tests and trials. Romans 5:3-6, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” Notice how this is stated, tribulation builds and increases perseverance and endurance within us. This in turn develops Godly character (love and faith) and increases our spiritual hope. By this hope we will not be disappointed because by the love and faith of God in our hearts we will eventually receive the gift of eternal life. Notice again the statement made in the first half of verse 6, “For when we were still without strength, ...” This statement is made in the past tense, before we were converted, before we experienced spiritual tests and trials, we were without spiritual strength, we were spiritually weak. The point being made in verses 3 and 4 is that now, through our spiritual tests and trials, we have developed spiritual strength in the form of perseverance, Godly character and hope. This is indeed something that should bring us spiritual joy and happiness. Let us conclude with 1 Peter 5:10, “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”

Is It Necessary? — December 27, 2014

Last week we discussed gossiping. One definition of gossip is, “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.”. We tend to think of gossip as untruthful rumors or false details about a person’s personal or private life. And while that is true, we as Christians should go above and beyond just avoiding gossiping. We may think if what we have to say is true and a provable fact, that makes it okay to relate it to others. But is that right? Even if we have knowledge that is true and accurate, does it build up or tear down? Even if what we tell others about a person doesn’t really hurt or defame that person, that doesn’t mean we should tell others what we know. I have been thinking a lot about this lately and asking myself questions before I relay information I know to others. Does the other person really need to know what I know? Will what I have to say raise or lower the listeners opinion of the person being discussed? Would the person being discussed want me to tell others what I know? If it were me being discussed, would I want this repeated to other? Does the person I wish to give this information really want to know about what I have to say? Why am I telling this to someone else, is it to make me look better by comparison? Does God want me relay this information? One of the major challenges for all of us is to think before we start talking. All too often we just start spouting off about all we know without thinking about the consequences, the consequences for the person we’re talking about, the person listening and even ourselves as the information bearer. We could all stand to read again the scriptures on this topic covered over the last month. Here are two more from The Message Bible. Proverbs 15:4, 23, “Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim. ... Congenial conversation—what a pleasure! The right word at the right time—beautiful!” Colossians 4:6, “Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out.” An old, old modern proverb we were all taught as kids, if you can’t say something nice about somebody, don’t say anything at all. We spend so much time talking, and a lot of that is talking about others. As Christians, let us make sure what we say about others is pleasing before them, and more importantly, before God.

Gossip — December 20, 2014

We have all gossiped about others, it is a natural thing to do. But through the power of God, we are to overcome the natural or carnal things we tend to do . Gossip is a very hurtful thing. It can destroy all types of relationships: coworkers, business partners, friends, family, even marriages. Let us review a few scriptures on this topic. Leviticus 19:16, “You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people;” Proverbs 11:13, “A talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.” Proverbs 16:28, “A perverse man sows strife, And a whisperer separates the best of friends.” Proverbs 26:20-22, “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife. The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, And they go down into the inmost body.” 1 Timothy 5:13, “And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not.” There are many scriptures about how wrong it is to say hurtful things about others. Slandering and gossiping are mentioned as two characteristics of the disobedient, see Romans 1:29 and 2 Corinthians 12:20. We are to do unto others as we would have them do to us. Do we want others to say hurtful things about us? Let us look at one more scripture with a positive admonishment. Ephesians 4:29 (English Standard Version), “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” We all need reminders about the aspects of our behavior that we should review and improve. We all need to consider very carefully what we are going to say about someone else, before we say it. Let us make sure we are eliminating gossiping about others from all our conversations.

Proverbs About The Tongue — December 13, 2014

We’ve been discussing the tongue and what we say with it the last few weeks and I wish to continue that topic. Life is all about relationships. And how do we build or destroy relationships? Both by what we say and what we do. We spend a great deal of time communicating in this life, whether it be talking or writing down our thoughts. In this modern age we have so many ways of communicating: phones, TV, newspapers, magazines, email, texting, video, the internet – blogs, Facebook, Twitter – and so forth. And as we first noted in “The Tongue” on November 15, we shall be judged for everything we say. Here are a few scriptures to remind us to use wisdom in how we communicate. Proverbs 10:19, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise.” Proverbs 13:3, “He who guards his mouth preserves his life, But he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.” Proverbs 15:2, 28, “The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness. ... The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.” Proverbs 16:23, “The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, And adds learning to his lips.” Proverbs 17:27-28, “He who has knowledge spares his words, And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.” Proverbs 21:23, “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue Keeps his soul from troubles.” Proverbs 25:11, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver.” Proverbs 29:11, 20, “A fool vents all his feelings, But a wise man holds them back. ... Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Psalms 39:1, “I said, “I will guard my ways, Lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, While the wicked are before me.” James 1:19, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;”

Silence — December 6, 2014

A couple of Sabbaths ago we discussed answering or not answering a fool. Jesus set us a marvelous example for all aspects of our lives. Jesus taught and preached at length during His three and a half year ministry. But when He was put on trial, He said very little. His first trial was before the Jewish leaders. Matthew 26:62-63, “And the high priest arose and said to Him, Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You? But Jesus kept silent. ...” This was regarding His statement to rebuild the temple, His body, in three day, which they took to mean their physical temple. In this case, Jesus did not answer their foolish questions. But Jesus did answer their next question, for two reasons I think. One, to clearly witness before them that He was the Messiah, and two, so they would have something they wanted upon which to justify crucifying Him as He knew the scriptures required. Matthew 26:63-64, “... And the high priest answered and said to Him, I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God! Jesus said to him, It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Also, at His trial before Pilate we see the same pattern. Matthew 27:12-14, “And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing. Then Pilate said to Him, Do You not hear how many things they testify against You? But He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly.” Jesus did not answer any of the accusations the Jewish priests brought before Pilate. But Jesus did answer Pilate’s own questions if He was a king. See John 18:33-38. Jesus had perfect wisdom regarding when to answer and when not to. While we will never obtain that level of wisdom, it is something we should strive to accomplish.

Family — November 29, 2014

One of several main goals in my Christian life is to continuously give God thanks and praise. The Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. is an appropriate holiday in an increasingly secular world. Even in our tests and trials, we have much for which to be thankful. This year the importance of being thankful for family was predominate in my mind. We all know the fifth commandment which says we should honor our parents. It has been said, and I would agree, even if you had terrible parents, one would not exist if it were not for them being together and we should be thankful for that and that they at least gave us life. Psalms 127:3-5 tells us children are a gift from God, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; ...” How thankful we should be if we have a close and loving family. However, in all too many families there is conflict and division for a variety of reasons . If this is so, we should strive to resolve differences and restore family peace and affection. Matthew 5:23-24 applies not only to our spiritual brethren, but certainly as a high priority, our own flesh and blood family members, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” If there are problems in your family, try again to reach out in love and humility, admitting errors as necessary. Be the one to say "we're family and I love you, lets bury are differences and be together as a family once again." Even if there are irreconcilable spiritual difference, you can strive to have a good physical relationship within your family. God is a family, Father and Son, many more Godly children to be born into that family in the first resurrection. Jesus said many times that He and the Father were one, see John 17. We should strive to achieve the same thing in our earthly families as much as is humanly possible. God is love. The love of family members for one another is very precious and important in the eyes of God.

Answering a Fool — November 22, 2014

Proverbs 26:4-5, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.” Some who do not want to believe the Bible is truly inspired like to think these two verses are contradictory. Actually, these two verse complement each other by describing how to respond to a fool under different circumstances. The key is the last phrase in each verse. Verse 4 says not to answer a fool lest we be like him. In this case a fool has asked a silly question or posed a silly argument for which there is no basis for a wise and logical answer. The person asking the question has no desire to hear and receive an answer, they are not looking to be taught. They simply want something to debate and argue. To try and answer someone under these circumstance would be lowering ourselves to their level of foolishness in an empty and pointless discussion. Jesus refused to answer questions by the Pharisees and Sadducees several times. In some cases He would ask them a question in return for which they had no answer. Then in verse 5 we have the statement to answer a fool lest he be wise in his own eyes. In this case the fool has made a statement or asked a question that has a somewhat logical basis, but the logic is flawed. In this case the flawed logic needs to be pointed out lest the person thinks his logic is correct and makes him a wise person. The apostle Paul came across other men who claimed to be apostles. For him to remain silent would have seemed to give their claims credence. Therefore, he had to speak up and refute their claims to prevent them from misleading true Christians. We should not get involved in debates about the Bible with someone who is not seriously looking for guidance and answers, who would deny the scriptures read to them. However, if confronted with a false statement about the Bible, we should point out the correct answer but be careful not to get drawn in to a religious argument. It takes Godly wisdom to both understand the different circumstances in which statements and questions are made and then to determine whether or not to answer. We should always be ready to stand up for the truth when called upon to do so, 1 Peter 3:15, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;”.

The Tongue — November 15, 2014

There are many scriptures in the Bible about being careful about what we say, the words that we utter while we live. One of the longer statements made with great sternness is in the book of James. James 3:2, 5-10, “... If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. ... Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.” The ability to communicate with words is one of those abilities only given to mankind in this physical realm we live in. Herein lies great pitfalls and responsibilities. We spend a great deal of our lives talking. What we say to others and about others is, of course, also heard by God. Jesus made a very important point about this that we should never forget. Matthew 12:36-37, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Let us renew our awareness of what we say and make sure it is right and good and pleasing before God.

Temptation and Choices — November 8, 2014

Last Sabbath we discussed how Jesus experienced temptation without ever sinning. Temptation presents us with a choice, to refrain from doing wrong or to do that which results in sin. I think every being has been confronted with this choice except God the Father. All humans face this choice and we all too often fail, Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”. Lucifer sinned and became Satan the Devil. He made a wrong choice when tempted by his own beauty and became vain. Revelation 12:3-4, “And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. ...” All of the angels had a choice to make, follow Satan or remain as followers of God the Father. The angels who resisted the temptation of the glory Satan promised them, as wrong as he was, build spiritual character by correctly choosing to respect the Father for the positions He had granted them in accomplishing His Master Plan to raise spiritual children. God the Father cannot be temped with evil, James 1:13, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” God is total love, goodness and righteousness beyond our comprehension – evil is never even a consideration for Him, let alone a temptation. That God cannot be tempted with evil would also include Jesus as God in heaven above – Jesus was only susceptible to temptation when He was flesh and blood on this earth. Neither God the Father nor God the Son can be tempted with evil. Jesus had to become flesh and blood to experience temptation. As we stated last Sabbath, the Father so ordained this so that through His personal experience, Jesus would have this understanding of what it is like to be flesh and blood giving him a special compassion for mankind that came from that experience. It also gives Jesus a more personal comprehension in what He can do to help us in our fight against evil and sin. Let us be thankful for that help and continue to pray for that help in our fight against sin in our lives.

Sympathizing Help — November 1, 2014

Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Here is one of the greatest learning experiences in all history. The Word of God became flesh and blood so He could experience what it is like to be tempted. Jesus was tempted throughout His life on this earth, Luke 22:28, “But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials.” As usual, I always quote from the New King James Version, but for this verse, the King James has “temptations” instead of “trials”. Why did the Father allow Jesus to be tempted? Jesus could have died for our sins without resisting sin. That has already been answered in Hebrews 4:15 and is further expounded upon in Hebrews 2:17-18, “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Many spiritual virtues were greatly enhanced with Jesus living in the flesh. He experienced first hand what it is like to be hungry, tired, cold and eventually hurt by beatings and crucifixion. And He experienced what it is like to be confronted with and tempted by sin. This personal experience like we all have in our own human lives, allows Jesus to more understanding and to better help us in our fight against sin. It also gives Him the proper balance between judging sins and showing mercy for repentance. Because of these special qualities Jesus has gained by His experience of living in the flesh, the Father has given Jesus the responsibility of judging all who have lived. John 5:22, “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son,”. Oh, what a glorious Father we have Who has done everything imaginable to be not only forgiving, but completely fair in carrying out His Eternal Plan of Salvation by which we can be born into His Family, the Kingdom of God.

Why Old Age? — October 25, 2014

Why did God create us in such a way the we grow old and feeble before we die? We observe that many of the elderly suffer loss of mobility, fall and break bones and joints, have difficulty with memory and brain functions, are more prone to diseases like Alzheimer's and cancer, endure diminished bodily functions including dementia and incontinence. Why didn’t God create us so that once we grew up and reached the prime of life we would continue to enjoy the rest of our lives in that condition until the day of our death? Let’s review Ecclesiastes 12 beginning with verse 1, “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come, And the years draw near when you say, I have no pleasure in them:” The time does come as we grow older that we do not have the same pleasure in living as we did when we were younger. As we reach adulthood and watch parents, family and others grow old, we start to consider what our own old age will be like. God does, of course, have an important purpose in all of this – to encourage us to consider that life is short, that we don’t live forever and therefore we do need to have a higher power in our lives leading us, guiding us, giving us a path to another existence after we die in the flesh. If once we reached the prime of life, we continued to live in good health without the slowdown of old age, we would be a lot less likely to consider the need for God in our lives. Psalms 90:10-12 also discusses this concept, “The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath. So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Ecclesiastes 12 continues to talk about the effects of old age and then gives us the same important reminder in verse 6, “Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, ...”. Life is empty like the wind we are told in verse 8, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, All is vanity.” The whole purpose of life is summed up in the last two verses of this book, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.” The infirmities of old age teach us that we need God. Old age reminds us that our lives are short and that we’re not going to live forever in the flesh. And more importantly, it should motivate us on how to live, obeying God, for after we die, the day of God’s judgment is coming. Therefore we should constantly strive to love God and His commandments along with love and mercy towards other. This will build Godly character so we can receive the gift of eternal life in the Kingdom of God.

Are All Things Possible With God? — October 18, 2014

Matthew 19:26, “But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”” Christians often quote the last part of this scripture and say “All things are possible with God!” Let’s consider this and do a little fine tuning. Is it possible for God to do any and all things? In the truest sense, not really. Hebrews 6:18, “that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, ...” Here is one of several things that God cannot and will never do. Others things include: not to be a loving God, to be unjust, to be unfaithful, to refuse anyone who comes to Him in humble repentance and love, to fail, to be selfish – to list a few – we get the idea. So what did Jesus mean by His statement? We need to consider the context of this verse. A young man had come to Jesus asking what he needed to do to enter the Kingdom of God. After saying he needed to keep the commandments, Jesus added for this rich person that he needed to sell what he had and give it to the poor. The rich young man walked away in disappointment. Jesus went on to say it is really hard for a rich person to enter into the Kingdom of God. The disciple asked, “Who then can be saved?” This is when Jesus answers, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”” Specifically, nothing is impossible for God in helping us make it into His Kingdom. He even sacrificed His only begotten Son so our sins could be forgiven. What a comforting thought that should be for us. We just finished celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles where we look forward to the coming Kingdom of God. It is our goal and we can only obtain it with the help of God. When we say “All things are possible with God,” it is understood we mean all things that God wants to do are possible for Him. To fine tune this, I have gotten in the habit of saying, “Nothing is too difficult for God.” Either way, the same issues and assumptions are inherent in both statements left alone on their own out of context. But we know what we mean. God will do everything in His vast and unknowable love and power to make it possible for us to receive the gift of eternal life in His Family, the Kingdom of God. Glory, praise and thanksgiving be to our Great God.
Rejoice — October 11, 2014

I pray and have faith that readers of this Sabbath Thought blog are enjoying a spiritual and physical Feast of Tabernacles. How great it is to leave behind the cares of this troubled and evil world and commemorate the Feast of Tabernacles. God commands that we rejoice before Him during this feast. Leviticus 23:39-40, “Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest. And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.” This is the only time in this chapter the word “rejoice” is used. While we are to rejoice at all of God’s feast, the Feast of Tabernacles is to be a period of special rejoicing. For Old Testament Israel it was after the fall harvest was complete and Israel was to enjoy the fruits of their labor at this feast. In addition to rejoicing before God with our second tithe in New Testament times, we should express our special joy before God for His love, grace and mercy as depicted by His “Plan of Salvation.” It can be a challenge to rejoice before God in this present wicked world. However, we still have much to rejoice about. Isaiah 61:10, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” We understand God’s Plan of Salvation, we can look to our Savior for the forgiveness of sins, through Jesus’ life we have the hope of the first resurrection, and we have an invitation to the wedding between Jesus and His Church. Let’s really do our best to ignore the problems of this present world for these eight days and let us make due diligence to glorify God by rejoicing before Him with all of His spiritual blessings in mind.

Atonement — October 4, 2014

Atonement is a most holy day with very special Old Testament rituals that have important spiritual lessons for the New Testament Church of God. We know it is different in that we fast on this day. However, Leviticus 23 does not use the usual Hebrew word for fasting, but says “afflict your souls”. There is a special reason for that, we must humble our souls or else our sins cannot be transferred to the sacrificial goat. On this day in the Old Testament, the high priest was required to oversee many sacrifices in making approximately seven atonements. These included the house of Aaron, the holy place, the tabernacle, the altar, all Israel, the priest for the second time and the congregation for the second time. What is most important is the spiritual lessons we should learn from this. While Passover is about the individual, the Day of Atonement is a about the group – Israel in the Old Testament, the Church in the New Testament. This day of fasting is supposed to be a united group fast, not a fast of individuals. The atonements on this day were more than just for the forgiveness of the sins of the group, it is also very importantly about the cleansing of the place of worship. Let’s read just one verse, Leviticus 16:16, “So he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins; and so he shall do for the tabernacle of meeting which remains among them in the midst of their uncleanness.” These topics and more will be examined and expounded upon in more detail in today’s sermon.

Instant Character? — September 27, 2014

God the Father desires a family. Why didn’t He just create a family of spiritual gods? These children would need to have the same love, the same perfection, the same values, the same character that He has. If God could have replicated Himself and created instant godly character in spiritual beings to be His children, I think He would have. But in that sense, godly character cannot be instantly created, it has to be developed over a period of time. It has to be developed through choices of doing good instead of evil. This requires freewill and the freedom to make the wrong decisions. This then also requires the existence of evil in order for there to be a choice. These choices have to be made over an extended period of time to prove they are a permanent attribute of the individual. Therefore, “instant character” would be an oxymoron. Romans 5:3-4, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” The apostle Paul here describes character development as a process beginning with tribulations, or trials where we are required to choose good when faced with wrong. The development of godly character leads to hope, the hope of the resurrection into the Kingdom of God. The half-brother of Jesus says much the same thing in James 1:2-3, 12, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. ... Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” God is creating godly character in human begins who are willing to give their lives to Him. In once sense, God is doing this in a very short period of time, a short period of time for God compared to eternity – it just seems like a long time to humans who live their short lives against that backdrop.

Why Satan? — September 20, 2014

Why did God create Lucifer and allow him to become Satan the Devil and corrupt one third of the angels? These are my personal conjectures and there are no specific scriptures to quote to support them, just what I think are valid spiritual principles. I have two points to make this week, maybe more next week. One: The Father and Son in their great love decided they wanted to share their eternal existence with “newborn children.” These children would be newly created beings beginning as flesh and blood and need to develop Godly character in order to receive the gift of eternal life. In order to develop Godly character, they would have to have free will. To really experience free will, they would have to have choices to make. If all there was to chose from was “good,” that would not really be a choice. There had to be a contrast, something the opposite of “good”, that is, something “bad” as a possible choice along with the freewill to do so. I think God in His wisdom decided evil must be made to exist in order for mankind to have a freewill choice to make between good and evil in order to develop Godly character. However, the dilemma was, so to speak, God was total love and good and did not know evil and could not directly create evil. Point number two: We know God can see into the future, He lives in eternity, He is not bound by time like we humans. I believe God considered a vast multitude of options and then let them play out in His mind to see which option would allow for the most children being born into His family. The best option was to create billions of angels, full well knowing one of them would become vain and sin and introduce evil into His creation. God would allow him to influence and temp Adam and Eve into sinning introducing evil and carnal nature for the rest of mankind to experience with the goal of overcoming evil with the good spirit power of God. We have to remember, compared to eternity, 6000 years plus a brief sequence at the end of the millennium is a small price to pay in the eyes of God as long as it results in billions upon billions of humans eventually being born into the Kingdom of God as His eternal children. I also believe according to the last two chapters of Revelation this will be an ongoing process for the rest of eternity. More about that in next Sabbath’s Blog. If you have any additional thoughts you’d like to share on this topic, email me with them. I would then consider sharing them anonymously here in a future Sabbath Blog.

Satan the Tempter — September 6, 2014

We’ve discussed the topic of why God does test us, but never tempting us. However, God does allow, and in some cases seems to encourage Satan to tempt us. One of the most well known is regarding Job where God calls to Satan’s attention how righteous Job is. Job 1:8, “Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” We all know how the story goes. God removes His protection from Job, his family and his possessions with the stipulation that Satan cannot take Job’s life. Another example is relative to the death of Ahab, King of Israel. 1 Kings 22:20-22, “And the Lord said, ‘Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?’ So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, and said, ‘I will persuade him.’ The Lord said to him, ‘In what way?’ So he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And the Lord said, ‘You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so.’” Obviously, this had to be one of the fallen angels. There are other examples in the Bible, but the most famous of them all is in Genesis 3 where Satan tempted Adam and Eve. God knew this was happening and allowed it to occur. He could have told Satan “No! You are not allowed to talk to Adam or Eve.” The consequences of this have impacted all of mankind since then. Why does God allow Satan and the demons to affect mankind this way? That will be the topic of next Sabbath’s blog.

Why Does God Test Us? — September 6, 2014

A couple of Sabbaths ago we talked about God will test us, but He will never temp us with sin. Why does God test us? Let’s look at two scriptures we’re probably familiar with but from The Message Bible. Jeremiah 17:10, “But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.” Put another way, I think God tests us for our own good, to make us demonstrate what are true motives and beliefs are, to exercise our faith, to grow our faith. Psalms 7:9, “Close the book on Evil, God, but publish your mandate for us. You get us ready for life: you probe for our soft spots, you knock off our rough edges.” Further more, God tests us to toughen us up, make us stronger in the faith. Also to help us get rid of even minor flaws that diminish our spiritual beauty before God. Let’s look at two more scriptures, this time from the New Living Translation. Psalms 139:23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” David understood the necessity of being tested by God, he specifically asked God to test him, to learn where he fell short so he could improve that area in his life so he could receive the gift of eternal life. Proverbs 17:3, “Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but the LORD tests the heart.” Just like we use the extreme heat of fire to melt precious metals to separate the gold or silver from the impurities in them, that is the same reason God tests us. That is why other New Testament scriptures tell us to rejoice in our tests and that the trying of our faith is much more precious that gold. Let us accept the tests God gives us with both thankfulness and the motivation to use them to improve our spiritual health before God.

Situational Ethics — August 30, 2014

“Situational ethics” or “moral relativity” is when one justifies doing something wrong because they believe it is the only way to accomplish a “greater good”. This is often stated as “the end justifies the means.” We see a lot of this in the religions around the world. Some religions even go to war in order to force others to convert to their religion (or die), which they believe to be the greater good. Some claimed this is what Paul preached, Romans 3:8, “And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say... ” The New Living Testament finishes this verse as follows, “ ... Those who say such things deserve to be condemned.“ But does God approve of such tactics? Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25, “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” There is a good example of this relative to David and his first attempt to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. His heart was right, his intentions were good, but he and the priest did not do their research into the laws of God regarding how to move the Ark. They put it on an oxen drawn cart and Uzzah touched the Ark when the oxen stumbled and he died (2 Samuel 6 and 1 Chronicles 13). Wanting to do good but breaking the laws of God is not justified in the eyes of God. 1 John 3:4, “Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” While others may try to justify in their minds their breaking of the laws of God to accomplish something they believe as good that outweighs the bad, let us not fall into that trap. Let us only do good while faithfully remaining within the laws of God.

Good Deeds vs. Bad Behavior — August 23, 2014

Do we ever think our good deed make up for our sins and bad behavior? Maybe we have a fault we’re having a hard time overcoming, but we think of our good deeds or service in helping others and believe these equalize, outweigh, or in some way help make up for our wrong doing. Or maybe we believe God will be patient with us in our sins because of all the good things we do. When we stop and carefully consider this topic, most true Christians probably see the fallacy in this logic. However, I think many of us have been tempted to believe our good deeds in some way help negate or diminish the severity of our bad deeds. God emphasizes this is not true in Isaiah 64:6, ‘’But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.” Paul makes this very plain in Romans 3:20, “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” And why is this true? Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Our bad deeds, our sins mean only one thing, death. We know our sins are responsible for making it necessary for Jesus Christ as God in the flesh to die. No amount of good deeds can compensate for this. Only by the shed blood of Jesus can our sins be forgiven and through the gift of faith from God can we receive the gift of eternal life. And what is one of the reasons why God does it this way? So no one can boast about what their good deeds have earned them. Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Yes, we should serve, help others and perform as many good deeds as possible, for this is how we live when we truly love others. But we must remember, such good deeds earn us nothing. Only by the grace of God can we receive eternal salvation.

Tests vs. Temptation — August 16, 2014

James 1:13, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” However, the Bible does say God will test the heart of His servants, Jeremiah 17:10, “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.” What is the difference between a “test” from God and “temptation.” God tests us by asking us to obey Him. He gives us His laws and says obey them. In special cases like the patriarchs in the Old Testament, He gave them a specific task to do. But God Himself does not put sin in front of us to see if we will fall and indulge ourselves in wrong doing. Satan will tempt us to do wrong. Our carnal nature and the influences of this wicked world will temp us to do wrong. But God will never tempt us to do wrong, only to test us to do what is right. In both cases we have a choice to make. Let us be sure to make the right choice and then we can receive the promise stated in James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

The Fifth Commandment — August 9, 2014

Growing older is a fact of life.  We all get older day by day.  We watch family and others around us get older.  Those who are blessed with long lives inevitably slow down and have difficulties with health, mobility and memory.  In our family, our Mother is 90 and Dad is 94.  Helping take care of them is  a full time job.  My brother, sister and myself do our best to care for them with our different talents and locations.  With our help, our parents are able to continue to live in the home they love surrounded by open fields, their garden, a swimming pool and nice but distant neighbors one can barely see. We remember the fifth commandment, Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”  Our parents have thanked us many times and ask God to bless us for continuing to honor them.  Young or old, let us all remember to honor our parents.  We would never have come into existence without them.  Let’s remember to visit more often, especially if we live close enough.  We can always pick up the phone and give them a call and we should probably do that more often too.  And don't forget the occasional gift of flowers, or a card, or a visit to a favorite restaurant, or something else that would be  special for them.  Let us always remember to express and show our parents how much we care for them.

Life if Full of Surprises — August 2, 2014

1 Timothy 3:1, “This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.” Some personal history, I wanted to be a high school teacher, not a minister. Yes, I wanted to teach Bible classes and did enjoy giving sermonettes in the many churches around headquarters. But I did not really want to be a minister responsible for one or more church congregations. In reality I would end up being neither, God had other long range plans for me. Two things happened that resulted in big changes in my life. One, the church changed Pentecost to a Sunday and liberalized Divorce and Remarriage. Two, Imperial Schools where I taught, was closed. They offered to send me to a church as a ministerial assistant and I thought at the time if I could help some brethren remain true to the faith once delivered, that would be a good thing to do. Then that fell apart and for over 30 years I earned a living as a computer programmer and just volunteered to preach once in awhile. After many twist and turns in the events among the many Churches of God, here I am 40 years later, just trying to do my best to still preach the word of God about the faith once delivered as God allows. I have a spiritual motto, “no delusions of grandeur.” I am a simple spiritual teacher with no intentions of trying to raise up a large church. I just want to humbly preach the truth. And thanks to the internet, anyone who wants to listen is indeed truly welcome.

Battle Alert — July 26, 2014

We all remember Matthew 24:6-8, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” Currently we see a rise in conflicts with the Israeli / Hamas and Russian / Ukraine encounters. And then there are the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan to name just a few. These are national conflicts. We also hear in the news that Christians are being persecuted more and more around the world. But more importantly than these physical conflicts that are signs of the end of the age, are the spiritual conflicts. Ephesians 6:12-13, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” 1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” We are in a war for our Christian souls. We are told to be good soldiers, be prepared, be awake and have our spiritual armor properly fitted and ready for action. Just because we are not engaged in some literal fighting, let us not get spiritually sleepy, let our guard down and get caught by surprise by a significant spiritual test or trial. Stay strong in the faith and use the power of God to not only fight these battles, but to win them.

Compassionate Leaders — July 12, 2014

I was ordained a minister. I am a sinner. What lessons should I learn from all this? Hebrews 5:2, “He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness.” This was written by the Apostle Paul concerning the Old Testament Aaronic priesthood, but also applies to New Testament ministers. Ministers of God are to remember the significance of their own relationship with God is based on grace and mercy. Hence, God expects that they in turn should have grace and mercy for those to whom they minister and serve under God’s direction. This is further expounded upon by Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.” God does not tolerate sin, but He is merciful and compassionate with sinners. Likewise, so should we all. I think we all have noticed in some of the people of God that there is a lack of compassion for others because these others don’t live up to the standard they think they themselves do. This is a double standard. These individuals want God to be compassionate with them, but don’t think they need to be as compassionate with others. We should never compromise with sin, but we should be understanding, helpful, patient and compassionate with others in their difficulties in striving to obey God. We all serve each other within the Body of Christ with the different gifts God has given us through His Holy Spirit. Let us examine ourselves and make sure we in deed do serve each other with true loving concern and great compassion, especially so if we are a leader, deacon, deaconess, elder or minister.

God's Calling — July 12, 2014

When God called Jeremiah to be His prophet, he replied in Jeremiah 1:6, “Then said I: Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.” When Isaiah was called and saw the glory of God’s throne, he said in Isaiah 6:5, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.” When Jesus called Peter to be His disciple, Peter responded in Luke 5:8, ‘’When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” John the Baptist didn’t claim to be important even though Jesus said later that he fulfilled the office of Elijah. John 1:21, “And they asked him, What then? Are you Elijah? He said, I am not. Are you the Prophet? And he answered, No.” The apostle Paul did not talk about what a great minister he was, but what great grace God had given him. Ephesians 3:8, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;” All too many Christians may think there is a reason why God chose and called them to be one of His disciples. Christians who truly understand God’s calling realize how unworthy we are of that calling or to serve Him in any capacity. Let us always remember it is by God’s grace that we are called and understand His Truths. Let us always give God all the credit and glory for what He has done in our lives.

National Blessings — July 5, 2014

Today was July 4th, the celebration of independence for the United States of America. I have been striving in my prayers to give God thanks that I live in the USA and enjoy the many freedoms and physical blessings that we have as a people and a nation. The blessings this nation enjoys are the result of the promises God made to Abraham and then Isaac and Jacob. Genesis 12:2-3, “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Jacob gave the greatest physical blessings to the two sons of Joseph whom he adopted as his own. We believe those specific promises are fulfilled in the peoples of Great Britain and the United States of America. I have great compassion for those true and faithful Christians who live in other nations scattered around the world where conditions are anywhere from almost as good as in the USA to very unstable and extreme poverty. However, these are physical conditions. More importantly is the spiritual promise God made to Abraham. Galatians 3:14, “that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Anyone can be a spiritual child descendent of Abraham and receive the much more important spiritual blessing of salvation through Jesus Christ. All Christians should constantly give God praise and thanks for His spiritual blessings. And if we are fortunate enough to live in a nation of Israelite descendants, we have so many more reasons for which to give God thanks.

The Greatest Love — June 28, 2014

Last Sabbath we talked about how our love for the brethren in God’s Church should be a great identifying sign that we are truly the people of God. What question could we ask ourselves to determine how much love we indeed have for our spiritual brothers and sisters? Would we die for them? The apostle Paul thought about the ramifications of this in Romans 5:7. Let’s read that from two different modern translations. In the God’s Word Translation, “Finding someone who would die for a godly person is rare. Maybe someone would have the courage to die for a good person.” And from the Weymouth New Testament, “Why, it is scarcely conceivable that any one would die for a simply just man, although for a good and lovable man perhaps some one, here and there, will have the courage even to lay down his life.” Paul seems to be discussing how rare it is that someone would give up his life to save someone just because that person is a Christian, a godly and righteous person. However, a few might die for a good friend or family member. Jesus emphasizes, as His disciples, we should be willing to lay down our lives for any of our truly spiritual brothers and sisters. John 15:12-13, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” 1 John 3:16, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” God has high expectations for those of us who are blessed by being called to be disciples of Jesus. We have a lot to live up to. We are to following the example Jesus set for us. That’s includes having so much of the love of God in our lives for others that we would sacrifice our own life in order that they might continue to live.

Identifying Sign — June 21, 2014

In the Old Testament, God said keeping His Sabbath holy would be a sign identifying Israel as His covenant people (Exodus 31:13, Ezekiel 20:12, 20). And while the Sabbath is still an identifying sign of who God’s spiritual Israelites are, Jesus gave another new identifying sign. John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus said in these two verses that one of the most distinguishing marks that would prove to others that we were His disciple was our love for the other disciples. This would have to be an outward appearance of love that others would be able to see. This would have to be a love that is unique and above and beyond the normal love friends and family have for each other. This would have to be a very special love. This would have to be a very deep and moving love, a love that helps and comforts others in a profound manner. This would have to be a love that bears much fruit that would be noticed by any and all who witness the lives of Jesus’ disciples. The question we have to ask ourselves is, do we really have this type of love for each other, our brothers and sisters in the faith of our Father and Savior Jesus Christ? This type of love is to be an identifying sign that we are true disciples of Jesus. Can others look at how we live our lives and how we treat our spiritual brothers and sisters and conclude we are truly followers of Jesus because of the demonstration of love that is so overwhelmingly evident to them? Trying to be spiritually honest, I’d have to say there is much room for improvement for all of us, including yours truly, in putting this scripture into practice. Let us think about the magnitude and significance of what Jesus said in this scripture and examine ourselves and think about how we can improve in developing and showing love for our spiritual brothers and sisters. It should be the single most important identifying mark that we are true disciples of Jesus.

Forehead of Flint — June 14, 2014

We all face hard times with our tests and trials. We know it is not going to get easier either. As we approach the opening of the seven seals, we can expect conditions in this world to get worse and worse. Persecution of Christians around the world is escalating. God promises to strengthen His chosen ones. For this Sabbath Thought, let’s review a few of those scriptures. Ezekiel 3:8-9, “Behold, I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads. Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house.” Psalms 28:7-8, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him. The Lord is their strength, And He is the saving refuge of His anointed.” Isaiah 40:29, 31, “He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. ... But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” We’ll never survive the hard times physically or spiritually on our own strength. Only with the help of God can we have the strength to endure; endure persecution if it comes our way, endure in obedience to our Great God, endure in the faith, hope and love of God. Let us close with the words of the apostle Paul found in Philippians 4:12-13, “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

What Have We Learned? — June 7, 2014

It has been 40 years since the then largest Church of God changed their keeping of Pentecost from a Monday to a Sunday. What have we learned in these last 40 years? More specifically, what have we learned about how God distributes His Holy Spirit within His Church? The apostle Paul gives us a stern warning about the Holy Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:19, “Do not quench the Spirit.” Like main stream Christianity’s teaching “once saved, always saved,” I think most brethren in the Church of God thought once they had the Holy Spirit, they’d always have the Holy Spirit. Paul’s admonition should warn us otherwise. After his sin with Bathsheba, David realized he could lose the gift of the Holy Spirit from God. Psalms 51:11, “Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” He then went on to ask God to restore and strengthen him, verse 12, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.” Then there is Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25 of the 10 virgins, all of which fall asleep, 5 of which do not have enough oil or Holy Spirit to keep their lamps burning when the bridegroom finally comes. We also have the prophetic example of the Laodicean Church. Revelation 3:17, “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked”. I believe this is talking about perceived “spiritual wealth,” not physical wealth. The Laodiceans think they are a very spiritual people rich in the gift of the Holy Spirit when God says it is just the opposite. And this is a Church of God! This is a major lesson we should have internalized in our own personal Christian lives – we can diminish or lose the gift of the Holy Spirit through sins and straying from the originally revealed doctrines from God our Father. There are other major lessons we should have learned. That will be the topic of the sermon on Pentecost this coming Monday. By all means, let us each take heed and ask God to renew and strengthen His Holy Spirit within us on a daily basis.

Pentecost and 40 Days — May 31, 2014

As the sun sets starting this weekly Sabbath, we have 9 days left to count before a Monday Pentecost begins. One day ago we passed the 40 day mark of the fifty day count. The fifty day count of Pentecost can be broken down into 40 days plus 10 days in regards to Jesus appearing to many people after His resurrection. Acts 1:3, “to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” The gospels mention ten appearances of Jesus to various people plus, of course, His disciples. The apostle Paul recounts some of these and adds two more. 1 Corinthians 15:5-7, “and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.” John says in his gospel that not everything Jesus did was recorded. So some speculate, and this makes sense to me, that He most likely also appeared several times to Mary, His physical mother. I wonder if He may also have appeared to His physical brothers and sisters. It is likely he also appeared to others. But we just don’t know for sure if any of these conjectures are true. We wouldn’t know He also appeared to a group of 500 if Paul hadn’t mentioned it. Some think Jesus spent this whole 40 days on this earth. Others think He went back and forth from heaven. I would tend to agree with the latter. Why did He appear to others for 40 days? Acts 1:3 answers that question. One, to prove He had been resurrected, He was alive! And two, to reinforce His teachings, specifically regarding the Kingdom of God. Especially for the apostles, this was to be their mission, to be witnesses to the world of the resurrected Savior and to preach what He had taught them for three and one half years. Why didn’t He live with the disciples during this 40 day period. That would have served no real purpose, in fact it might have lowered the grandeur of Jesus in their eyes now that He was a spirit being – He was no longer the exact same person who had lived with and taught them for three and one half years, He was once again an eternal spirit God being. They had been taught all they needed to be taught, what was necessary was to confirm that they had been taught by God, that Jesus was God in the flesh, and He rose from the dead to prove it. Why did He “ascend” in such fashion in the disciples presence as described in Acts 1? I think it was to impress upon them that this chapter of His association with them was finally over. They would no longer have His personal presence to guide and teach them. He was “gone”, He had departed this earth. From now on they would be lead and taught by the power of the Holy Spirit, starting 10 days hence on a Monday Pentecost. Why 40 days? We understand 40 is the number of testing and trials. But when you stop to think about it, it is more than that. It also represent that God is with us during our tests and trials, furthermore, that God is leading us during a special period of 40 days or 40 years. Think of Moses on Mount Sinai for 40 days, Israel wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, David’s rule over Israel for 40 years, Jesus' fast of 40 days, and many other such periods of time. The big question for us is has God been leading, guiding and teaching us for the past 40 years? I pray and hope all who read this can answer that question with a yes, if not in whole, at least for the last several years leading up to the present.

War — May 24, 2014

Ecclesiastes 3:8, “A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.” This weekend here in the United States we observe the Memorial Day holiday dedicated to those who have fought for our freedom, especially those who paid the ultimate price with their lives. War is hell. War is suffering. But sometimes there is a worse alternative, oppression and slavery in one form or another. Like most of us, I hate war. But I do very much respect, honor and care about those who have fought for my freedom. I think they deserve every benefit and help we as a nation and we as individuals can give them. We look forward to the day when war will be abolished. Isaiah 2:4, “He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore.” We as Christians are also fighting a spiritual war for our souls. Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” When you see a Vet, give them a smile. If you get the chance, shake their hand and thank them for their service. And also pray for the day when they become fellow soldiers of Jesus fighting against spiritual evil. That day is not too far away as we constantly pray, “Thy Kingdom Come!”

Leadership vs. Rulership — May 17, 2014

Last Sabbath we talked about Jesus being our perfect leader, a leader showing us the way to salvation. One lesson among many in this regard is that we must first learn to be a good follower, a disciple of Jesus before we can be a leader. Once we mature as a follower of Jesus, then we can start to set the example as a good leader in helping and serving others. We all must learn to be good leaders before we can become rulers in the Kingdom of God. This is one of my personal “pet peeves” when considering elders and ministers in the Churches of God, many do not seem to understand the differences between rulership and leadership. Many practice rulership when they should have first learned how to be a good follower and then a kind and effective leader. I had a boss over our department when working for Hewlett-Packard who had chosen new managers after three Information Technology departments had been merged into one. I had a good relationship with him and after a couple of months he told me the people he picked knew how to manage, but they were not very good leaders. An individual can be both a ruler and a good leader. However, that seems to be a fairly rare occurrence. Jesus Christ is, of course, one such individual. Within the Church of God, the Father has never granted any elder or minister the right to rule over His flock. Only Jesus Christ has that responsibility. The apostle Paul knew he was a leader, not a ruler over the church in many of his writings. 1 Corinthians 11:1 from the The Living Bible, “And you should follow my example, just as I follow Christ’s.” And better summarized in 2 Corinthians 1:24, “Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand.” Oh that all the Christian elders and ministers fully understood and practiced this scripture. Let us all remember Jesus’ statement about rulership among Christen brothers and sisters. Matthew 20:25-28, “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’” The problem is that many think they are practicing leadership when indeed they are being rulers. They cannot tell the difference and this has been the cause of major problems within the Churches of God and many brethren has suffered as the result. A leader guides and sets an example and inspires others to follow their example. A ruler seeks to control the lives of others. Even with the best of intentions, where there is a central office that controls the paychecks of their ministry, that is rulership. When an elder or minister seeks to force obedience either through fear and threats of disfellowship, missing out on the first resurrection, verbal abuse or belittlement of the brethren or “lower ranking” elders, that is the same kind of rulership the Pharisees and Sadducees practiced. It would be a good idea to make an effort to be introspective and examine ourselves to see if we as an individual practice leadership or rulership. Maybe, in addition to considering the Biblical scriptures on this subject, reading a good Christian book on the topic might help clarify the differences and show us areas where we could make changes and improvements.

The Perfect Leader — May 10, 2014

Last Sabbath I referred to Dr. Henry Cloud, a Christian author who has written many books on setting boundaries in child rearing, marriages and leadership. While I have not read any of them at this point, his interview and quotes would seem to indicate he has some good Christian values that he uses in trying to help others be good leaders, whether that be as a parent, family member, friend or coworker. One quote concerning leadership from Dr. Cloud is, “A leader's responsibility is to cause a vision and mission to have tangible results in the real world.” Let’s consider this statement in regards to the greatest leader ever, Jesus Christ in the flesh. Yes, Jesus will at His Second Coming return as the ruling King of Kings and Lord of Lords. However, He did not come as a ruler when He was born of the virgin Mary, He was a fantastic leader and teacher. Think about how the world was changed by His mission and vision of God the Father and the Kingdom of God that He gave to the world. Talk about tangible results, whose life has ever achieved greater or better results in others. Almost all Western Nations have had Christianity as the predominate religion of their peoples. Even other religions have been influenced by the teachings of Jesus. Think about it and consider what Jesus accomplished as a leader, and then try to imagine what the world would be like if our Father had never sent Jesus to live in the flesh – not a pleasant thought. Hebrews 2:10 says that Jesus is the captain of our salvation and that He was made perfect though suffering. The actual Greek word for “captain” mean “chief leader” or “author”. Here is this verse from two other translations: New Living Translation, “God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation." The Message, “It makes good sense that the God who got everything started and keeps everything going now completes the work by making the Salvation Pioneer perfect through suffering as he leads all these people to glory.” Many of the modern translations use “author”, “founder” or “pioneer” instead of “captain”. When calling His twelve disciples Jesus said in Matthew 4:19, “Then He said to them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Two good questions we can all ask ourselves are, one, how good of a job are we doing in following our Leader of Salvation Jesus Christ? And two, are we practicing the same type of leadership that Jesus set as an example for us? We can all improve in these areas of our Christian lives.

Hard on Issues, Soft on People — May 3, 2014

I was overhearing a program my dad was watching as they were interviewing a Dr. Henry Cloud. He is a noted author on leadership and I was impressed by many of his statements. One such statement was, “Hard on issues, soft on people.” This reminded me of the scripture found in James 2:13, “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” God prefers to show us mercy rather than judge us for our sins. But He will only do that if we have showed mercy to others. God is very strict about His laws, He does not change them. Jesus did not come to do away with His Father’s laws, He came to magnify those laws by telling us the importance of the spirit of law in addition to the letter of the law. But God is also merciful. That is why He sent His Son in the flesh to die for our sins, so He could have mercy on us and forgive us. But He does this without compromising His laws. The very fact that we need forgiveness shows that His laws are still in force to the full extent. We should have the same approach in dealing with others. We should never compromise our Christian beliefs, either in our own lives or the lives of those with which we have a close personal relationship. However, when those who are closest to us make a mistake as we all do, we must be compassionate and merciful towards them. Just as we want God to be merciful towards us when we sin. Let’s close by quoting Luke 6:36, “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”

Living Savior — April 26, 2014

Last Sabbath we talked about Jesus’ resurrection on the Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread. We also discussed how the wave sheaf offering on the morning of the first day of the week was in anticipation of Jesus’ acceptance by the Father as our risen Savior. Life can only come from life and spiritual life can only come from spiritual life. Jesus’ shed blood washes away our sins, but that alone does not allow us to inherit eternal life as a gift from the Father. Jesus had to rise from the dead. Jesus is our Living Savior, our Eternal High Priest. Paul summarizes the unique importance of each of these two events in Romans 5:10, “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Jesus stated we can only obtain eternal life through His life in John 11:25 “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” Paul further expounds upon this in 1 Corinthians 15:20-22, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” Jesus is pictured as our all powerful living Savior in the book of Revelation, not a baby in a manager or a dead being on a cross, Revelation 1:18, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” Jesus is the way to eternal life, He has the keys to life or can sentence us to death. Let us always remember the importance of Jesus’ resurrection as our Eternal Savior.

Resurrection and Wave Sheaf — April 19, 2014

This is a very special Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread. Just as Passover commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus, this Sabbath represents His resurrection. After three days and three nights in the tomb that served as His grave, Jesus was resurrected as God late Sabbath afternoon before sunset. We believe Jesus recited Psalms 22 while hanging on the cross and we think He probably recited Psalms 23 upon His resurrection. Another important event occurs on the morrow after the weekly Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread, the wave sheaf offering, a firstfruits offering of the spring grain harvest (Leviticus 23:9-14). Jesus is our wave sheaf offering, the firstfruit of God’s Plan of Salvation. 1 Corinthians 15:20, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” The wave sheaf also pictures the resurrected Jesus being accepted by God the Father as our Savior. John 20:17, “Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.” Jesus waited until Sunday morning to ascend to the highest heaven and approach His Father and our Father to present Himself as having paid the death penalty for all the sins of mankind. God our Father officially accepted His sacrifice at this time for the remission of our sins, our atonement. He accepted Jesus as the Eternal Living Savior of mankind, the Captain of our salvation. He accepted Jesus as our Mediator and High Priest. He had Jesus sit by His right hand side, made Jesus the Judge of all mankind, made Him the Head of His church, designated Him as future ruler over all creation. Romans 8:34, “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” Let us remember these important events during the Days of Unleavened Bread and their significance. We’ll do that in today's sermon.

Two Emotions — April 12, 2014

Passover is two evenings hence from when I write this. As we approach Passover and we examine ourselves and the meaning of Passover, two different emotions can well up within us. Primarily, the first emotion is sorrow over our sins which required the death of Jesus as our Savor so our sins can be forgiven. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 7:10, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” Peter’s reaction when he realized what he had done in denying he even knew Jesus is found in Matthew 26:75, “And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, 'Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.' So he went out and wept bitterly.” Surely, when we think of all our sins, we too should have great sorrow, that a perfect God in the flesh suffered, was beaten and then crucified to pay the death penalty for those sins in our stead. A second emotional reaction to the significance of Passover that we should have, but may forget, is the solemn joy we can have because our sins are indeed forgiven by Jesus’ sacrifice. The apostle Paul talks about this to the Romans. In Romans 4:7-8 he quotes from Psalms 32:1-2. Here it is from the New Living Translation, “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of sin.” Even though Jesus did not look forward to the physical suffering He had to go through, He did rejoice over the spiritual good His death would accomplish in His Father’s Plan of Salvation. Hebrews 12:2, “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” We are forgiven by His shed blood and freed from a death sentence. What liberty and peace of mind this should give us as we strive to build Godly character in our Christian lives. Let us remember and encourage both of these emotions to encompass our spiritual thoughts as we examine ourselves and prepare to take the Passover.

Passover Worthy? — April 5, 2014

1 Corinthians 11:27 says, “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” Stated another way, we can ask ourselves the question, “How do we take the Passover in a worthy manner?” None of us wants to be guilty of dishonoring the body and blood of our Lord and Savor Jesus Christ. While strictly speaking, none of us can ever be worthy of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we can partake of the Passover in a “worthy manner”. But how do we do this? The apostle Paul starts to answer this question next in verse 28, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” What is the goal of examining ourselves? It is to find, admit and repent of our sins. When we go through this process ending in repentance, then we can partake of the Passover symbols in a “worthy manner,” for our sins will be forgiven by the shed blood of Jesus the Christ. Paul goes on in verses 29 and 30 to further explain this, “For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.” If we do not seek out our sins and repent of them before taking the Passover, we will be judged for our sins instead of having them forgiven. The result of that judgment will be God’s punishment, and that can sometimes take the form of sickness and ultimately death. Paul summarizes a conclusion in verse 31, “For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.” If we judge ourselves for our sins and recognize we are guilty and need to repent before God, then God forgives and forgets and only sees a clean slate regarding our life as a disciple of Jesus. There then is no judgment of sin in our lives for all our sins have been forgiven. The apostle John also gives the same answer to this question of how to partake of the Passover in a worthy manner. 1 John 1:8-10, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” The process of examining ourselves and repenting is of critical importance in our relationship with God our Father and Jesus our Savor. Let us give due diligence to this process before partaking of the Passover. While we can’t review every concept relative to the importance of Passover here in this blog, I would encourage us all to review Passover related sermons, articles and this blog during the month of March 2013. We can then take the Passover knowing our sins are forgiven and we can stand before God in the spiritual white robes He will give us.

Letting Go — March 29, 2014

We know we are to forgive others if we want God to forgive us of our sins against Him. This is clearly stated in Jesus’ outline prayer (Matthew 6:12). Peter wanted to limit how many times he forgave someone, but Jesus said our forgiveness should be unlimited (Matthew 18:21-22). We don’t want the Father to limit His forgiveness of our sins, therefore God expects us not to limit our forgiveness of others. Forgiveness, however, is more than just forgiving others of their sins against us. Someone may do something that irritates us, but it is not really a sin. Someone may have a different way of doing things than we do. Either way may be okay, they have their preference and we have ours. If we let little things like this build us between us and another person, it will hurt our relationship with them. Another form of forgiveness is “letting go”. The other person may not even be aware that we are irritated by their actions, because what they have done isn’t “wrong”, just different than we’d like to see. So what do we do? If we continue to let it bother us, that is detrimental to our well being. We should learn to “let go” and forget about it, move forward and think about the positive things in our relationship with others, not the negative. This will release us from our irritation, it will give us peace of mind. It will be better for our spiritual, physical and psychological health – lower blood pressure, fewer symptoms of depression, and so forth. Signs that we have not “let go” are holding grudges, feelings of resentment, bitterness, anger or wanting to “get even”. Paul talks about this type of forgiveness in Ephesians 4:2, “with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,”. The Living Bible states it in modern English as “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Practicing all “types” of forgiveness, not getting upset with the idiosyncrasies of others, forbearing the faults of others, letting go of what bothers us will free us so we can experience a more peaceful life in our pursuit of the Kingdom of God.

Savior of All — March 22, 2014

It is a little over three weeks until Passover and our minds have begun to meditate upon this most significant event. Jesus is our Savior and our Messiah. He is the Sacrificial Lamb of God Who died for our sins so that the Father could forgive us and wash away our sins with the holy blood of His Son Jesus Christ. And while it is proper to think of Jesus dying for our sins, let us not forget that Jesus did not die for our sins alone, but for the sins of everyone who has ever lived or will live. The Father is not a respecter of persons, He sent His Son to die for everyone. It is true that some, the few, will reject the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and refuse to repent. But they will not be able to say Jesus was unwilling to die for them. No, the onus is on them, Jesus did die for them. It is the incorrigible wicked who refuse to have Jesus’ death and shed blood applied to themselves. This is the love of God our Father and His Son our Savior. Let us close with some of these wonderful scriptures that remind us of the complete love the Father and Jesus have for all human beings who will ever live. 2 Corinthians 5:15, “and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” 1 Timothy 2:3-6, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,”. 1 Timothy 4:10, “For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.” 2 Pet 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 1 John 2:2, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

Why Blindness? — March 15, 2014

I hear individuals saying wonderful, heartfelt prayers to God for spiritual understanding and guidance. But as of now, they continue to be blinded to one or more of God’s important truths. Why? I hear Christians profess their love for the Father and the Son (and in many cases the Holy Spirit), but God allows them to be deceived about the Sabbath, Holy Days and other basic core doctrines in the inspired Bible. Why? The apostle Paul discussed this topic and asked the same question in Romans 9. He first talks about his sorrow over the deception of his fellow Jews and all Israelites. He then discusses how God chose Jacob over Esau before they were even born. Next, we hear about how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Then we have a bold statement we’ve all read many times, Romans 9:18, “Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.” In the following verse 19, Paul asks a question very similar to the first two in today’s blog, “You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?’” Paul doesn’t immediately answer the question, but states who are we to question the will of God. Paul is basically saying why God is doing what He is doing, allowing most people to be spiritually blinded, is beyond our complete comprehension. Even when Paul gives a response to this question, it is a general “what if” answer. What if there is some important reason for God to show His wrath upon those He has chosen to blind. What if God decides to make known His Glory and Mercy upon just a few whom He decides to “call and choose,” like Jacob, long before they were born and before they’ve done anything good or bad that could be perceived as to why God had chosen them. I think this is describing one of the main and most important lessons God is teaching mankind throughout all human history, only by God’s power in us can anything “good” be accomplished. Mankind has to be taught that all their efforts, no matter how sincere and well intentioned, do not account for anything before God. I believe this is the lesson most evident in the story of Job. In order for mankind to learn this most important lesson, it means the majority of them will suffer spiritual blindness and deception in part or whole. The lesson they will learn as individuals and as all mankind, not to reply upon their own abilities but to trust totally in the power of God in their lives, is far more important than to have complete spiritual understanding at this present time. We must also remember that their current blindness is only temporary. God will indeed answer their prayers, however it will be at a later date, in most cases a far later date. In all humility, we should praise and worship God with much thanksgiving for allowing us to see and hear His spiritual truths now at this time in our lives. And remember to give God all the credit and glory without thinking we’ve done anything at all to deserve what God has allowed us to understand.

Count Your Blessings — March 8, 2014

Most of us have probably heard the saying, “I was sad because I had no shoes until I met a man that had no feet.” At times we all get a little overwhelmed with all the responsibility we have along with all the tests and trials that make life a real challenge. It can generate feelings of deep tiredness or depression and maybe feeling a little sorry for ourselves. One sure way to combat this and lift our spirits is to do what a song says that most of us have sung in church, “When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.” There are many scriptures which support this concept without stating it exactly like in this song. Psalms 103:2, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:”. 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Most of us reading this have little to complain about compared to some people who live in Africa, Asia or Central and South America. No one is persecuting us or trying to kill us. We have plenty to eat, have a roof over our heads, have a nice, warm, soft bed to sleep in, have clean drinking water, and so forth. It would behoove all of us to actually recite in our prayers before our Heavenly Father and His Son our Savor all the things we are blessed with. It should be a long list. And when we do this, the problems that we do have just won’t seem as big or important by comparison.

Throwing Stones — March 1, 2014

As we observe the behavior of others, it is often easier to concentrate on their faults than our own. We all sin and we tend to categorize and rank the level of sins. As we notice the faults of others, we may evaluate their sins as worse than how we are doing spiritually. We may even be correct in our evaluation and comparison. The next possible step is to look down upon those people whom we perceive as making more mistakes in their normal physical lives or as Christians than we think we do. We might even hope God punishes them for their sins, to wake them up of course, we tell ourselves, to make them better individuals. But what was Jesus’ attitude toward sinners, even sinners “caught in the act”. Notice what He said as part of verses 7 and 11 of John 8, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first. ... Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” None of us is worthy enough to “throw stones” at other sinners, for we are sinners ourselves. Let us recall part of that famous statement in John 3:17, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” The stones we throw are not physical, they are mental thoughts. Nonetheless, that activity is very damaging, spiritually more so to us than the person we throw them at. Jesus did not throw stones at others. Let’s not throw stones at others, let’s see what we can do to help them live a better life instead. That’s what Jesus did.

Blood Moons — February 22, 2014

What’s a “blood moon” and what does it have to do with prophecy? The “blood moon” is more commonly known as the “hunter’s moon". The scientific definition for a “hunter’s moon" is the full moon immediately following the “harvest moon,” the "harvest moon" being the full moon occurring most closely to the autumnal equinox. As the “hunter’s moon” rises shortly after sunset, while it is low on the horizon, the additional atmosphere between us and the moon gives it a reddish look, hence, “blood moon.” However, a few television evangelist are using the term to refer to a special sequence of full moons associated with total lunar eclipses. They call this a “tetrad,” which is four successive total lunar eclipses with no partial lunar eclipses in between, each of which is separated with six lunar months in between. This is an extremely rare happenstance. But it will occur during the years of 2014 and 2015 with each total lunar eclipse occurring on or very near to the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles. Historically when there has been a tetrad, these ministers say significant events are associated with the Jews and their nation of Israel – United Nations recognition of Israel as a nation and their following War of Independence against the Arab nations, and years later, the “Six Day War”. They site Joel 2:31 as being relevant, “The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red before that great and terrible day of the LORD arrives.” Also Revelation 6:12, “I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.” These two scripture obviously refer to events during the period of the seven years of the seven seals, not to events prior to the seven seals. Will something significant happen relative to the nation of Israel and their surrounding Arab nations with this tetrad of blood moons? We’ll just have to wait and see. Regardless, we watch and pray based on the actual Biblical scriptures, not the evangelizing preaching of men.

Do Not Add — February 15, 2014

The vast majority of the time we as Christians are concerned with subtracting from the laws of God and disobedience.  While not mentioned that often in the Bible, there is just as stern a warning about adding to the laws of God.  Deuteronomy 4:2, “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”  A similar statement is made at the very end of God’s inspired scriptures, Revelation 22:18, “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book;”  The Pharisees are the best example of adding to the laws of God.  For instance, they added many do’s and don’t to the keeping of the Sabbath and made it a burden to others.  Jesus addressed this in Mark 7:5-9, “Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?” He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.”  Why did the Pharisees do this?  They thought they could gain God’s favor by more strictly keeping the Sabbath by adding rules for what was “work” and the avoidance of performing such tasks.  We probably do not have a lot of added rules and traditions for obeying God.  But maybe we have a few.  Most importantly, do we feel like we’re a better Christian in God’s eyes because we have a stricter code for obeying God.  We should remember Romans 4:2-4, “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.”  We know from other scriptures we must have works of obedience with our faith in God.  But our works do not save us.  And if we strive for more works based on more rules, regulations and our own traditions, we may without realizing it, be trying to earn favor with God instead of by our believing faith alone.  We should obey the letter of God’s laws, but without adding to them.  Obeying the spirit of the law with faithful belief in God is far more important.

Overcoming — February 8, 2014

Overcoming our sins is something we must work at our whole Christian life. We know this is easier said than done. Some of our spiritual shortcomings, big or small, are just extremely difficult to completely get rid of. We all need help to do this. We don’t like to admit our problems to others in asking for their help. Sometimes this may even seem too sensitive to ask a mate for their help. But what about God? Do we ever just admit we can’t overcome a fault and ask for His help. Why not? We ask God for many other things: blessings, healings, finances to afford food and shelter. We must admit and repent of our sins and faults before our Father and Savior in order to be forgiven. But we often repeat some of our mistakes over and over again. We want to stop the cycle of sin, but we are not as successful as we know we should be. We do need help. Spiritual help. Does it ever occur to us God wants to help us overcome? But to teach us a lesson, He waits for us to “wake up,” humble ourselves and actually ask Him for His help. There are many scriptures that say God will grant us what we ask for according to His will. While we may not know for sure if it is God’s will to bless us with this or that, it is always God’s will to help us overcome sin. We just need to admit to God we are weak and need His help. He will not belittle us for doing this, indeed it will spur Him on to help us. A few of many available scriptures relative to this topic. Luke 11:9-10, 13, “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. ... If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Psalms 55:22, “Cast your burden on the Lord, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” It should not be difficult to ask God for help and the results can be most encouraging. Let’s do a better job of remembering to ask God for His help in overcoming our faults.

Comparing — February 1, 2014

We all make comparisons between the people we know, including ourselves. As we interact with others and notice their behavior, we make comparisons. It can’t be helped, it is an automatic process within our minds. How do we reconcile this behavior with what the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” While Paul talks about making comparisons, notice what the real emphasis is, measuring for the sake of commending themselves. It is not wrong to notice the differences between different individuals, including ourselves. But what is wrong is when that is done for the specific purpose of promoting the self, in making the judgment that I’m doing better than others. This was being done out of vanity and apparently to acquire influence, control and power over others within the church. Notice what Paul goes on to state next, verse 13, “We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us—a sphere which especially includes you.” Paul is essentially saying he will boast in what God’s Spirit Power has accomplished in the church, not what his physical efforts have accomplished. Noticing differences is not wrong in and of itself. What is wrong is looking for perceived superiority in one’s own behavior and promoting one's own self above others. Love and humility are the key, as always, to doing the right thing. Read 1 Corinthians 13 again for a reminder of the qualities of love relative to this topic. Let us live humility before God and our fellow brethren, friends and family.

Judgmental Redux — January 25, 2014

Matthew 7:1-2 states, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” We’ve talked before in these Sabbath Thoughts about what it means to “pass judgment” on others, that is, to want to hand out a sentence to punish others for their bad behavior. This can be for bad behavior in general, but often happens when someone else’s bad behavior has an negative impact on us personally. Overcoming that tendency may not be that difficult once we are aware of it. But what about ramifications? For instance, we may not mentally hand out a punishment for bad behavior, but do we make negative and derogatory comments about the individual in question? Do we think how foolish and ignorant they are for what they did compared to how we would have done it? We might also have thoughts about what an inferior person they are for doing what they did. We may not mean too, but by being very critical of the actions of others, we may indeed be judging them without realizing it. Let us remember what Jesus said in Matthew 5:22-22 (Contemporary English Version), “But I promise you that if you are angry with someone, you will have to stand trial. If you call someone a fool, you will be taken to court. And if you say that someone is worthless, you will be in danger of the fires of hell.” Jesus said to love our enemies. If we truly do, we will not have judgmental thoughts about their value as a person, regardless of what they might have done. We must have patient, merciful, kind and loving thoughts towards them even as we want our Father to have such thoughts towards us.

God's Mercy Redux — January 17, 2014

Some Biblical topics seem to impress themselves into out thoughts more frequently than others. I have again been thinking about and praying about God’s mercy towards the few at this time. I’ve mentioned this subject a few times in these Sabbath Thoughts and I’m going to do so again for two reasons. It has been on my mind a great deal this past week and it is a very relative topic for true Christians living in the end times. Romans 9:15-16, “For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion,’ So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.” I’ve been thinking, “Why me God? Why have You had mercy on me and not others. Others whom I know try harder to be a good Christian than I do.” Quite the quandary! I know I’m not going to figure that out and therefore don’t really try. But I do think about those who are striving really hard to be a good disciple of Christ and yet remain blinded to one or more Biblical doctrines like the Sabbath, the Holy Days, a Monday Pentecost, Church administration, and so forth. I am reminded that they too are God’s children and God will have mercy on them in the future. 1 Corinthians 15:22-23, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” I then remind myself to have patience and compassion for those whose opportunity to fully understand is in the future, whether that be the near future or distant future. And I give God thanks that for some unknown reason, He has now had mercy on me.

True Lies — January 11, 2014

Many years ago there was a spy movie comedy with that title. Most movies and TV shows are based on people lying and the problems that result, be it action, comedy or dramatic. Think about the world we live in and how lies, half-truths and ignorant beliefs are so prevalent. Besides the proverbial used car salesman, nobody believes politicians tell the truth all the time. And it seems many of them are more interested in getting reelected than doing what is best for the nation. Lawyers defending the guilty are not interested in presenting the truth, but look for loopholes to free their client. Most doctors can’t or don’t know what to tell their patients to improve their health, they just treat the effect, not the cause. Most are influenced by the medical journals they read and few have taken nutritional courses or study into alternative health. Christian ministers preach about heaven and hell in a way not supported by Biblical scriptures. Most Christians tell their kids to believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Most people probably cheat a little bit on their income taxes. That is a society based on a lot of lies, half-truths and ignorance. Jesus spoke to this in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” Adam and Eve’s first sin was because they listened to and believed in a lie told to them by Satan as a serpent. Thankfully the God we worship is always truthful. Titus 1:2, “in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began,”. As God is always truthful, so should we. Colossians 3:9, “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,”. Let us all continuously examine ourselves and make sure we are always truthful in everything we do and say.

The Roman New Year — January 4, 2014

2014. A new year according to the Roman calendar. In some ways, it is hard to believe it is the year 2014. But time marches on as we wait for the prophecies of the Bible to be fulfilled with the momentous event we’re all looking forward to, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. As we wait, we watch the world around us and can’t help but notice most everything seems to be getting worse. As we often do on God’s Holy Feasts, we also ask the same question at this time of year, what will the next year bring in world events? In related thoughts, we should also ask ourselves, what will be our spiritual status a year from now. An important scripture on this topic is Luke 21:19, “By your patience possess your souls.” The New Living Testament paraphrases this verse as, “By standing firm, you will win your souls.” Regardless of whether or not there is a dramatic beginning to the fulfillment of prophecy this year or several years from now, we always have a hugely important spiritual task, to patiently continue obeying God with love, hope and faith in the faith once delivered.

God’s Greatest Creation — December 28, 2013

We’ve talked about God’s creation that last two Sabbaths. But what would you say is the most important creation of God? A hint, this creation of God has three phases and the last phase has not yet been completed. Phase one is summarized and began in Genesis 1:26-27, “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Phases two and three are described in Romans 8:14-17, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” The Father’s greatest act of creation is the procreation of Himself in the begetting of Godly children. First in a physical form, second by infusing them with His Holy Spirit to give them the understanding of the third phase, the gift of eternal life as a spiritual child of God. We are God’s greatest creation. We are the children of God.

Name a Star — December 21, 2013

We’ve all probably heard the commercial where you can name a star for someone, have it entered in the Universal Star Catalog database and receive certified documentation – all for a small fee of course. Well, God already has a name for every star. Psalms 147:4-5, “He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite.” Last Sabbath we talked about the incomprehensible design behind a very complex but harmonious creation. Lets think about the stars alone for a moment. Did God create a mass of star matter and just fling it out into the universe to see what would happen? If we stop and think about it, each star had to be individually created and placed in a precise location in the universe. There are star groups within galaxies, numerous galaxies form a galaxy group where there is a gravity and rotational relationship between the galaxies in the group. And beyond that, scientist have found that numerous galaxy groups also have a gravity and rotational relationship which they call a galaxy cluster. God would have had to place each star in a specific spot within a galaxy and position each galaxy in a relationship to other galaxies and start them all moving like a precision orchestra. And each star and galaxy has a God-given name. As a human being, we cannot comprehend the energy and effort it took for God to do all that. That’s what verse 5 of Psalms 147 is saying. We can’t even count all the stars, we don’t have a number large enough to handle that. Nor are there enough names in our vocabulary to give all the stars a name. Impossible for humans, easy for God. Praise God for His glorious creation.

Wonders of a Creator God — December 14, 2013

When we look at the heavens and earth that God created, we truly see a marvelous thing. Even more impressive to me is the design behind all of God’s creation. If this were a human effort, we’d wonder how much time and effort went into the planning before the actual work began. But, of course, time did not exist until God created the heavens and the earth. Even then, God “lives in eternity”. Nonetheless, think about it, how did God come up with the ideas of electrons, protons, neutrons and the mysterious energies that hold them together to form atoms? How did God come up with all the various combinations to make hydrogen, oxygen, zinc, gold and all the items in the Periodic Table of Elements? How did God come up with the ideas for stars, binary stars, nebulas, black holes and so forth. Not only did God design different types of stars, He designed solar systems, galaxies, galaxy groups and galaxy clusters. That’s on the big, grandiose scale. Then consider earth. How much “time and effort” did God put into coming up with the idea of a flower? And then all the varieties of flowers? In addition, God had to design wheat, corn, tomatoes, carrots, apples, minnows, sharks, wales, cedar trees, worms, dogs, cows, and all the other plants and animals? In designing these as individual creations, He also had to build in how they would relate to each other and function together. Animals breath oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Wow! Talk about intelligent design as some like to refer to this topic. Like all things relative to God, this goes way beyond our ability to comprehend how God functions in all His capacities. Creation, with all its complexity and harmony is a definite proof of God’s existence. Let us remember what God said to Job. Job 38:4-13, Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut in the sea with doors, When it burst forth and issued from the womb; When I made the clouds its garment, And thick darkness its swaddling band; When I fixed My limit for it, And set bars and doors; When I said, ‘This far you may come, but no farther, And here your proud waves must stop!’ Have you commanded the morning since your days began, And caused the dawn to know its place, That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, ...” Let us truly praise God for His creation and sing for joy like the angels did at creation.

The Need for Nourishment — December 7, 2013

If you exercise a lot or are working out, like lifting weights, or training to compete in some sports event, you will be burning a lot of calories. To stay strong and healthy you have to consume a lot of carbohydrates and protein to keep your body nourished and able to compete. The same is true in our spiritual lives. The apostle Paul uses the analogy of comparing our spiritual journey to running a race. 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” Our race, fighting to hang on to the faith once delivered, enduring tests and trials and resisting evil, requires a lot of spiritual energy. Like the sports athlete, we must also consume a lot of spiritual carbohydrates and protein. Paul also talked about the need for daily spiritual nourishment. 2 Corinthians 4:16, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” Ephesians 4:23, “and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,”. How do we get spiritual nourishment? The spiritual basics: prayer, Bible study, fasting, living by faith in the love and hope of God. Just as our physical bodies cannot survive very long without physical food, neither can God’s Holy Spirit within us survive without spiritual food on a regular basis, a daily basis. Let’s not forget the basic principles of Christian living, or put another way, Christian survival in a competitive and combatant world. Let us always remember what Jesus said on this topic. Matthew 4:4, “But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’””

Giving Thanks — November 30, 2013

Beyond understanding God’s plan of salvation, I think one of the most important lessons we can learn from the Bible is how necessary it is for us to praise God and give Him thanks. Ungratefulness, especially before God, must be a sin that we don’t want to be guilty of. God said David was a man after His own heart. And that despite David’s many sins. Why is that? While a sinner like all of us, besides deep, heart-felt repentance, David expressed his love for God in prayerful praise and thanks. Many of his Psalms are a testament to this and a great example to us that we should follow. Despite our tests and trials in this life, we always have something to be thankful for. Even if our life is miserable, at least we have life – which means we have the opportunity to receive the gift of eternal life. And we usually always have more we can give thanks for than just that. Two scriptures come to mind. Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,”. And one of my favorite scriptures, especially related to this topic, Hebrews 13:15, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” This same thought is repeated several times in the Bible, Psalms 34:1, Ephesians 5:20, Philippians 4:6 and Colossians 3:17. Let us always remember to not only love and honor God our Father and His Son our Savor, but let us continually praise and give thanks to them for everything we have, especially the hope we have of the resurrection to eternal life in the Family of God.

Widows, Orphans and Strangers — November 23, 2013

Last Sabbath we talked about showing respect for the elderly. There is one other group that gets special attention from God in this regard, a group composed of widows, orphans and the stranger. Exodus 22:21-24, “You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.” Quite a strong indictment if we do not remember and take care of the widow, orphan and stranger. Here in the United States, orphans are taken care of by the states or private institutions. We also have several government programs and private enterprises that help take care of widows. For foreigners that run into hardship, there is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program known as “Food Stamps” and other assistance programs. Because the widows, orphans and strangers are taken care of by state and national programs, and are not always out begging for help in public view, we can forget about this responsibility God has given all of us, not just the government. God set up the third tithe specifically as a “church program” to take care of widows, orphans and foreigners. It is true that many churches have programs to help this group. The question is, are we actively involved in helping, encouraging and showing love and respect for such individuals? Or do we assume they are all okay and well taken care of? Even if they are taken care of physically and financially, there is no substitute for friendship. Many of those who fall into this group are lonely and discouraged. Let us heed what God commands us and remember these people not just with our money, but with our time and affection. James 1:27, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

Respect the Elderly — November 16, 2013

A few Sabbaths ago we talked about honoring our parents. We should all realize, inherent in the second great commandment, love your neighbor as yourself, it is implied we should honor and respect all individuals. However, certain groups deserve special attention and this Sabbath I want to remind us to show great respect to all the elderly. Leviticus 19:32, “You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the Lord.” Notice from this scripture that having respect for the aged is more than just an attitude, we are to show our respect with our manners and actions. Next, let’s read Proverbs 16:31, “The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, If it is found in the way of righteousness.” While we should have respect for all the aged, this is especially true if the older individual is a true and faithful Christian. And finally for this Sabbath Thought, Job 12:12, “Wisdom is with aged men, And with length of days, understanding.” Not only should we show respect and honor the elderly, we should talk to them, ask them questions and then listen to what they have to say. Regardless of their IQ or success in financial affairs, their experiences in life, life lessons, are worth hearing. And remember, one day we too may be considered the elderly and how would we want others to treat us? Let’s then treat the elderly as we would want to be treated when we are their age.

Always Forgive? — November 9, 2013

We’ve talked about forgiveness many times in these Sabbath Thoughts. In the “Golden Rule Revised” on July 21, 2012 we covered this topic with several scriptures relative to forgiving our fellow man. But should we always forgive everybody in all situations? Let’s ask another question, does God always forgive everyone? I think the answer to both questions is, “No”. Although not always stated as such, granting forgiveness implies that the sinning individual has repented. Who does God throw into the Lake of Fire? The answer is, unrepentant sinners. Does God forgive them and then sentence them to the “second death” in the Lake of Fire? I don’t think so. They refuse to repent and they are not forgiven, they are punished with eternal non-existence, that is, eternal death. If someone sins against us and hurts us or a family member and is belligerently unrepentant and shows no signs of remorse whatsoever, do we have to forgive them? I would give a two-part answer. No, I don’t think we have to forgive them in the strictest sense. However, I do think we have to “let go” and “move on”. If we allow hatred, bitterness and the desire for revenge to consume us, we will be the ones to continually suffer anguish. Hatred, bitterness, revenge and other related emotions will destroy us as a person from within. While God will destroy unrepentant sinners, that does not mean He hates them. Yes, God hates evil deeds, but I don’t think God hates the evil person. Ezekiel 33:11, “... As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. ... ” Jesus and Stephen both did ask the Father to forgive those who put them to death. Were these unrepentant sinners? Yes and no. Yes they were, however, they did not comprehend what they were doing was wrong because of their personal beliefs. The unrepentant sinner we’re discussing in this Sabbath Thought is one who knows they’ve done wrong but has no intention of feeling sorry for their actions or repenting. An additional thought concerns what Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-45, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; ...”. But notice in this instance Jesus did not say we have to forgive our enemy. Why does Jesus tell us to love our enemy and do good unto him? Is it for our enemy’s welfare? It is a good example to our enemy and there is always the small possibility it might do some good in changing that person. However, the main reason for us to love, do good unto and pray for our enemy is for our own good and peace of mind. In everything we do in this life, we should look to our Father in Heaven and Jesus our Savior and do our best to follow their example.

Tolerance — November 2, 2013

None of us is perfect, we all know that. You could say that because of this, God commands us to be tolerant and work to get along as fellow spiritual brothers and sisters. We all do things that other people don’t “appreciate” and might even irritate them. This is also true in return, with each of us having our own personal way of doing things differently, we’re bound to irritate some of those around us. This is to be expected in this life. What is important in our Christian lives is how we handle and respond when this happens. Let’s look at The Message Bible for a few verses in Ephesians. Ephesians 4:2-3 “And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.” Ephesians 4:31-32 “Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.” This is a different way of saying we must forgive others as we want God to forgive us. In this case, however, they are not actually sinning or harming us, their actions are just different than what we personally like to see. We have to learn to not only be tolerant of others, but accepting of their differences. If we truly learned to always put this into practice in all our lives, there would be a lot less problems and issues between us.

Honor Parents — October 26, 2013

We all know the fifth commandment is to honor our parents. This is the first commandment with a promise, in fact, the only one of the ten. This is a life long responsibility as noted in Proverbs 23:22, ”Listen to your father who begot you, And do not despise your mother when she is old.” In some cultures, and this all to often, unfortunately, seems to be true in the United States, many of the younger generation ignore their parents in their old age. For instance, they put them in nursing homes and seldom visit. For health and safety’s sake, a nursing home may be appropriate, but our parents should never be forgotten or ignored just because it is inconvenient to our own busy life style. This brings to mind Proverbs 30:11, “There is a generation that curses its father, And does not bless its mother.” This is of course, not true of everyone. There are also many who do an outstanding job of caring for their elderly parents. Some cultures do have a reputation and set a better example for nurturing the deep respect for their elders that last a life time. Is family important to God our Father and Jesus the Son of God? We know it is. And it should therefore always be of the greatest important in our own lives.

Carnality — October 19, 2013

Long time Christians often do a great job of putting into practice God’s laws, so much so that it seems they hardly have to think about the right way to do things. It becomes a way of life. Even when tests and trials come, they have trained themselves to respond and react in a Godly fashion. But then something way out of the ordinary can occur, something totally unexpected that really catches us by surprise. Strong carnal thought arise along with a desire to retaliate. As we evaluate the situation and our carnal reaction, we may think, “Where did that come from?” It is almost like we’ve forgotten how carnal we still really are as humans. The apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 7:14, 18, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. ... For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.”. When we obey the laws of God as a way of life, that is only possible because of the gift of God’s Holy Spirit within us. But we should never forget underneath it all, we are still very carnal beings. God’s Holy Spirit can help us keep that carnality in check, but it never goes away. Our carnality is ready to rear it’s ugly head any time we grow complacent or encounter unusual and unexpected situations. As Paul was inspired to say later in this chapter, verse 23, “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” Fighting our carnal nature and keeping it under control through the power of the Holy Spirit is a lifetime tasks. It never ends. Let us not be lulled into complacency. Keep the Spirit Power of God in us active and in control, renewing it through daily prayer, Bible study and self examination.

Evaluating vs. Judging — October 19, 2013

We’ve all heard the scripture read many times in Matthew 7:1-2, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” But what kind of judging is this? Does it mean we should not even evaluate the actions of others to determine if they are good or bad? The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5 that he had judged a member of that church as a major sinner and who, in that condition, should not be allowed to associate with the church. Later in this same chapter he says he didn’t mean we should never have contact with immoral people in the world, but that if professing Christians are immoral, we should not keep company with them. In order to make these determinations we have to observe and evaluate an individual’s actions. This is one type of judging, but it is an evaluation judgment. The type of judging Jesus was denouncing in Matthew 7 is the passing of a sentence judging where an individual is condemned to punishment. We are not to wish for or pray for or in any way want a specific punishment handed out to other sinners. That is the responsibility of God alone. As Jesus said, if we want to condemn others to punishment for their sins, we will receive the same condemnation for our sins. That famous scripture in John says Jesus came to save sinners, not condemn them. And we are all sinners. Yes, we have to recognize sin as sin and do our best not to associate with the worst of sinners. But we are never to render what we think their final verdict should be. God is a forgiving God and prefers all sinners repent and live. We should be developing that same type of love for others, hoping they will repent and be forgiven. Just like we want God to forgive us when we repent of our sins.

Appreciate What You Had — October 5, 2013

We all suffer losses in this life. The most painful of which is the loss of a loved one. This is especially true when someone dies “before their time.” There is no way to get rid of the sorrow and in reality we should not try to do so, sorrow serves a needed purpose. However, there is a way to diminish the sorrow and help mitigate the grief. Give God thanks for what you did have instead of lamenting about what you lost. There are hundreds of scriptures on giving thanks to God for all things, here is one. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Therefore, give God thanks for the time you did have with a loved one. Be grateful they were a part of your life even if they were taken away all too soon. I think there is scientific evidence that when one concentrates on being thankful for what they had in their life instead of focusing on the loss, it changes the brain balance from a negative chemistry to a calmer, more peaceful and positive condition. Try it. I have. It works.

The Long Road Ahead — September 28, 2013

The Feast of Tabernacles is over and it is natural to start thinking about and look forward to the next Feast of Tabernacles. We might also wonder what will happen during this next year. And then there is the reality of 6 months with a cold and wet winter until the spring feasts. The winter months can indeed be a “dark” period in more ways than one. It is a scientific fact that less light exposure can put a damper on our emotional moods. We may have to strive to prevent this from causing a spiritual depression in our lives until the warmer, sunnier spring time once again brings Passover and The Days of Unleavened Bread. Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Hebrews 6:11-12, “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Let us remember this admonition and also make an effort to be kind, considerate and encouraging to others to help them. Doing so will also be good for our own soul. God bless you all.

Thy Kingdom Come! — September 21, 2013

Sabbath Eve greetings to everyone during the Feast of Tabernacles. I pray that everyone is having an enjoyable time, having uplifting spiritual services and rejoicing before God. This is usually our favorite time of year. A time when we can get away from the day-to-day cares and troubles of this world. We travel somewhere peaceful to gather together with spiritual brothers and sisters and hopefully even our own family members that we may not get to see all the time. We read scriptures about the coming Kingdom of God and longingly wait for it to come. There is a better life ahead of us, the gift of eternal life in the Family of God. For our children and grandchildren, a better world to live in and raise their children. No more war, crime, hunger or oppressive governments. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of God as water fills the seas. People will want to go to Jerusalem to learn about and worship God. Everyone will be keeping the Feast of Tabernacles with chosen representatives privileged to go to Jerusalem. Zechariah 14:16, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.” We picture the Kingdom of God during the Feast of Tabernacles. We continue to always earnestly pray, “Thy Kingdom Come!”

What Will It Be Like! — September 14, 2013

Like all Holy Days, there are multiple spiritual meanings and lessons associated with Atonement. Atonement is to be a day of group repentance and cleansing. As you read Leviticus 16, you will see that several atonements were to be offered on this day. What was the purpose for all these sacrificial atonements? Leviticus 16:16, “So he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins; and so he shall do for the tabernacle of meeting which remains among them in the midst of their uncleanness.” The altar also had to be cleansed on this day from the sins of all the people of Israel during the prior year. There is a very important spiritual principle to be learned here, the sins of the people defile the place of worship and that place of worship God demands be cleansed once a year on the Day of Atonement. Asking God’s forgiveness for the sins of His Church and to cleanse the church as a place of worship is something all churches should do on this day. But very, very few churches admit to making mistakes, let alone believe that group repentance would be a spiritually beneficial practice. This day is about the process of how the group, the church, and yes, the whole nation, can be forgiven and cleansed. In addition, there is another spiritual concept we can consider on this day, what is the end result of this process. The answer should be obvious, being at one with God our Father. While we usually cover the process of atonement cleansing, in tomorrow’s sermon we will talk about what it might be like when we are at one with our Father and our Savior and the other resurrected patriarchs, prophets and saints in the Kingdom of God. Indeed, what will it be like? It will be unbelievable! May God be with us all and increase our spiritual understand on this special Holy Day.

Victory! — September 7, 2013

I pray everyone had a spiritually rewarding Feast of Trumpets. As we continue to see this world decline and become more and more like Sodom and Gomorra, we experience a different type of rejoicing on the Holy Days of God. It is a solemn, quiet rejoicing as we think about the wonderful Plan of God’s Salvation as we live in the midst of an ever increasing evil world. In our church service, we talked about “Death is the Enemy”. We first read scriptures on how sin brought death upon us all and then read those scriptures about the resurrection and our ultimate victory over death. And more than that, the day is coming when there will be no more sorrow and all tears will be wiped away. Revelation 7:17, “for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 21:4 “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” How we look forward to that time and always pray, “Thy Kingdom come!”

Holy Days — August 31, 2013

This past week I told my tennis group I would not be playing on three of the next four Thursdays because of church activities. As we were walking out to our vehicles, one of my friends sincerely asked me what religion I practiced. I told him “Church of God” – that we keep the Sabbath and all the Holy Days mentioned in the Bible. I briefly mentioned there are no other days we are told in the Bible to observe. Isn’t that amazing! Not one scripture in the Bible that allows for, let alone, commands a Sunday observance. The only reference to current customs observed during Christmas and Easter are condemned in the Bible. A lot of Christians know this, but justify their actions by saying they are worshipping the Father and the Son, therefore it is okay. Deuteronomy 12:29-31, “When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; ... ”. I continually remind myself that “but for the grace of God, there go I.” It is only because our Father has had grace and mercy upon us that we understand the need to observe the upcoming Holy Days instead of the world’s holidays. What an honored privilege it is to be among the few whom God is calling as firstfruits that we will worship the one and only true God on these days. Let us rejoice before God on these Holy Days and count are blessings.

Peace — August 24, 2013

Is it possible to experience more than one emotion at the same time? I think it is, especially with “spiritual emotions”. Even in the midst of our sorrows from tests and trials, there is a state of mind we should be grounded in, spiritual peace of mind. Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Even as we experience worldly turmoil all around us, we should have an inner peace from the power of God’s Holy Spirit within us. We know there is a purpose and a reason for the tests God gives us and the trials He allows us to experience. We know that God loves us and will do everything in His power to help us make it into His Family, the Kingdom of God, via the resurrection. Therefore, as Jesus said, we should not let our tests and trials trouble us nor are we to be afraid as we endure them. Surely Jesus experienced sorrow as He was dying, but as we read in Hebrews two weeks ago, He also kept the joy of what He was accomplishing through His death before Him. Knowing the purpose for His death and that the Father was always with Him must also have given Him an inner peace even as He died by crucifixion. As Jesus experienced sorrow, joy and peace of mind all at the same time in His test and trial of dying for our sins, so should we strive to experience joy and peace of mind in the midst of our sorrows due to our own individual tests and trials.

Sorrow Into Joy — August 17, 2013

Sorrow has been our topic for several weeks, until last Sabbath when we discussed the joy Jesus had in accomplishing the plan of His Father, salvation through His death and resurrection. Jesus warned all true Christians, His disciples, that they would have sorrows in this life due to tests and trials. But He made a promise to all of His disciples. John 16:20, 22, “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. ... Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” We do not strive for the joy this world offers – a physical, temporary joy. Our goal is to receive the future spiritual, eternal and permanent joy that will come when we are born into the Family of God at the first resurrection.

The Joy Set Before Him — August 10, 2013

We’ve been discussing sorrows relative to the sins of mankind the past several weeks. The opposite of sorrow could be said to be joy. And while our sins necessitated the death of Jesus our Savior, there is a path to a happy ending. Hebrews 12:2-3 “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” Jesus did not get bogged down or discouraged by His sorrows in life and suffering on the cross. He looked forward in time to the outcome that would become possible as the result of His death and resurrection, the spiritual birth of sons and daughters into His Father’s Family through the resurrection of the dead. He kept this joyous spiritual goal continually in mind as He experienced the momentary physical pain of His suffering. So must we. As we experience our own individual sorrows in this life, we cannot afford to become weary and discouraged. We must also keep the goal in mind, the gift of eternal life if we love and obey and have faith in God our Father and Jesus our Savior. Just as Jesus looked forward to a joyous result from His death and resurrection, so we too should continually look forward to the joy of entering into the Kingdom of God.

Our Sorrows — August 3, 2013

We’ve been talking about how Jesus was a Man of Sorrows and last week that the Father has sorrow regarding the sins of mankind that required the death of His son. This week let’s talk about what sorrows we should have. We all have sorrows in this physical life when things don’t go right: when we or a loved one are sick, suffer harm, have financial difficulties and ultimately experience death. But that is physical sorrow and that is automatically part of life. What we want to talk about is spiritual sorrow that doesn’t specifically come naturally or automatically. We too should have sorrow because our sins required the Son of God to die. We should also have sorrow over our sins themselves as that goes against the love of God and the love we should have for our neighbor. These two types of spiritual sorrow should motivate us to do something, repent and strive to lead a better Christian life. 2 Corinthians 7:9-11, “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.” There are many examples of this type of spiritual sorrow throughout the Bible, especially in the book of Psalms. In Matthew 26:75 we see where Peter wept bitterly after denying that he knew Jesus. Luke 18:13-14 gives the parable of the publican who would not lift up his eyes, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. Jesus then said the publican was forgiven, whereas the Pharisee who prayed about his supposedly good deeds was not. Yes, sorrows abound in this world and our physical lives, but that only leads to death. On the other hand, deep spiritual sorrow over our sins and Jesus’ death for them will result in our Father having mercy upon us and giving us the gift of eternal life in the Kingdom of God.

Our Father and Sorrows — July 27, 2013

For the past three Sabbaths we have discussed why Jesus was a “Man of Sorrows.” But what about God our Father? Does He experience sorrow? Let’s turn to Genesis 6:6, "And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” This is from the New King James Bible. Most other modern translations for the word “sorry” use either “regretted” or “sorry”. For the word “grieved” they say something like “broke his heart” or “grieved”. The magnitude of the sins of mankind before the flood caused our Father much sorrow and grief. A similar statement is made in Hebrews 3:8-10 and 17, “Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness, Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.’ ... Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness?” These are quotes from Psalm 95, but the Apostle Paul is using them as a warning to all New Testament Christians. Just as the Israelites coming out of Egypt grieved and caused God sorrow with their sins, so do we when we live a life of sin. Our individual sins along with the sins of all mankind required our Father to sacrifice His Son. His sorrow and anger at the death of His Son is indicated by the darkness and earthquake that occurred when Jesus died. With His great love and desire to have children born into His family, the Father was willing to make this sacrifice. However, our Father still experiences the emotions of sorrow and grief due to the terribleness of sin. We might also say the Father morns over all the suffering His children experience in their physical lives due to their sins and ignorance of His laws. As we look forward to being born into the Family and Kingdom of God, so must our Father and Jesus look forward to the time when the suffering of their children will be removed. This is indicated in Revelation 21:4, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” While we wait for the Kingdom of God, let us try to live Christian lives that cause our Father and Jesus as little additional sorrow as possible.

Man of Sorrows, Part 3 — July 20, 2013

For the third and last reason in this series that Jesus was a “Man of Sorrows,” let us return to Isaiah 53, this time verse 5, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” This is the main reason that we all know, for Jesus being a “Man of Sorrows” – He bore our sins and was beaten and crucified so they could be forgiven. And not only our sins, but the sins of all mankind from Adam and Eve throughout the rest of human history. The next three verses help expand upon this, “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.” All the sins of every person who has ever lived throughout human history, including those yet to be born, were laid upon the shoulders of our Savior Jesus Christ. We cannot conceive or imagine the heavy weight of those sins upon Jesus as He was beaten and crucified. What a wonderful, magnificent and loving Father we have who sacrificed His only Son for our salvation. What a humble and loving Messiah we have in Jesus who became flesh and blood and suffered the sorrows of a physical life onto death so our sins could be forgiven. We have so much to be thankful for and to love and praise God the Father and God the Son.

Man of Sorrows, Part 2 — July 13, 2013

We are discussing the reasons why Jesus was a man of sorrows as we read in Isaiah 53:3. For the next reason, let us continue in Isaiah 53 with verse 4, “Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.” Jesus as God in the flesh experienced human sorrows in a way He never could as God the spirit being. Jesus experienced the sorrows of seeing a loved one die, probably even His own step-father Joseph. Jesus felt sorrow and grief as He witnessed the suffering of those around Him due to sickness, accidents, arguments among family and friends, financial difficulties, abuses by the Romans, and so forth. Jesus Himself must have also personally experienced family and friends who disagreed and got upset with Him for various reasons. It is likely He was engaged in business transactions as He worked for a living until He began His ministry. Some of those most likely went sour when the client changed his mind or reneged on a contract. Jesus also experienced loneliness, hunger and the cold. Just like you and me, life was not easy for Jesus either. He didn’t live a charmed physical life because He was the Son of God, indeed it was the Father’s purpose for Jesus to experience all the difficulties in life that you and I do. Jesus eventually experienced great personal emotional and physical pain during His beating and crucifixion and abandonment by all His disciples. This was to make Him a “better Savior” because He could then better understand and sympathize with what we have to go through in this physical life. The first half of Hebrews 4:15 states this, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, ...”. We too are to learn from our sorrows and have sympathy for all the suffering that goes on in this world. Jesus came to not only take away our sins and sicknesses, but also our tears and sorrows. John 16:20, “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.” Yes, Jesus was a man of sorrows because He experienced the same things we do. But now He sits beside God His Father with eternal joy, eternal joy He promises we will also experience when we are born into the Family of God.

Man of Sorrows, Part 1 — July 6, 2013

Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus, the Son of man. Jesus was both God and a man, deity in the flesh. As God in the flesh, Jesus experienced what we do, but without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Last week we read from Isaiah 53:3-4 that Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Why was Jesus referred to in this manner? There are several reasons. Let’s examine those, one at a time, over the next few Sabbaths. For the first one, let us read the entire verse from Isaiah 53:4, “He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” Jesus lived His physical life knowing He was the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior of all mankind. Yet, no one really understood there were two comings of a Messiah, they did not understand the Father’s reason for sending His Son for the first time. There are many scriptures that state in different ways that no one understood Jesus was their Savior who would die for their sins, they wanted a king who would establish Israel as the greatest nation on earth. John 1:10-11, “... the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” Luke 4:24, “Then He said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country.’” John 12:37, “But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him,“. Luke 8:52-53, “Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, ‘Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.’ And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead.” And while Peter accepted Jesus as the Son of God, he and the other disciples really did not comprehend Jesus’ mission nor believe, at first, in His resurrection. Mark 16:11-14, “And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe. After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either. Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.” Jesus came to die for our sins, the greatest act of love that He could give all mankind. But no one realized this until after His death and resurrection. This is one of the reasons for His being a “man of sorrow” while living in the flesh.

How Stop Missing Someone? — June 29, 2013

YOU DON’T. Nothing can stop the pain from the loss of a loved one. Their death leaves a “hole” in our lives, an emptiness that cannot be filled. Like a deep wound, it will take a long time to eventually heal, but scar tissue forms in the healing process leaving a reminder of the wound. Personally, my wife died over 34 years ago after only 6 years of a wonderful marriage. It took me a really long time to adjust to her absence in my life. 25 years later, at times, I was still suffering depression from loneliness. Then I made several changes in my thinking. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and I started giving God thanks for the 6 years of marriage I did have and the three wonderful sons that were born as a result. Giving God thanks for what marriage I did have instead of grieving over what I no longer had was how I applied James 1:2-3, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” It is not wrong to grieve and feel sorrow, Jesus did. Consider the whole chapter of Isaiah 53, but I will only quote parts of verses 3 and 4, “He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. ... Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; ...” Jesus tells us to come to Him with our burdens for relief. Quoting Matthew 11:28-30 from “The Message” Bible, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” My favorite chapter in the Bible, especially during “dark times” is Romans 8. In this chapter we read that through the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus was raised from the dead, so can we. We are the sons of God and what we suffer in this life is not worthy to be compared to the glory God will share with us when we are born into the God Family. We groan now waiting for this future moment of the redemption of our body. We are saved by our hope while we wait. The Holy Spirit helps us with our weaknesses. All things work out together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. If God be for us, who can be against us? God did not spare His own Son in order to give us all things. Nothing can separate us from the love of God! What wonderful and comforting scriptures. We have faith that God has a purpose for us which will continue without the person in our lives that we momentarily have lost to death. This life is temporary, short. We indeed do have hope in the resurrection and that we will see our departed loved ones again. Our real, permanent lives are yet ahead of us. And in that life, all those we’ve lost to death will join us in an eternal, spiritual existence in the Kingdom of God.

Lessons — June 22, 2013

God has taught me many important lessons during my life – and I’m sure the same is true for you. One of my fears is that I will forget those lessons and make major mistakes in how I treat others or follow God’s path to eternal life. Two things can help prevent this from happening. One, we should review and meditate on the lessons God has taught us on a regular basis. And two, ask and rely on God to help us do this by His Holy Spirit in us according to the principle stated in John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” As human beings we have short memories, we forget, we make the same mistakes more than once. It should be part of our prayers to ask God to help us remember lessons He has taught us so we remember to continue to make the necessary changes to better our spiritual lives. Here are some of the lessons that I strive to remember as being most important to me:
     Don’t look down on or feel superior to others who are making spiritual mistakes.
     We’re to try to help others, not condemn them for their mistakes against God or us.
     There is nothing I can do to make others see spiritual truths, it is all up to God, I am powerless.
     But for the grace of God, there go I, making the same spiritual mistakes others make.
     Why me? Why did God call and chose me, a sinner like everyone else, to understand spiritual truths? Be thankful and give God full credit.
     Be quiet, don’t sound a trumpet, but set a good example and be a light.
     Don’t limit what God can do in our lives and the lives of others.
What are the important lessons God has taught you? Can you list them? Do you meditate upon them regularly? It would be spiritually wise for all of us to be able to do so.

Faith and Trials — June 15, 2013

We know that God can see the future. Hence, the total accuracy of all the Biblical prophecies. In addition, this is also true in our individual lives, God can and does see our individual futures. With these spiritual facts in mind, let us ask the question, does God test us so He can know what we will do, obey Him or not, put our faith and trust in Him or not? Since God can indeed see our future, He already knows how we will respond to our tests and trials. The purpose for our tests and trials is so we will know how we will respond. Hopefully the answer being that we will continue to obey God no matter what the conditions. Thus, we learn how much faith and trust we have in God. We need to know the answer to these questions. But since we cannot see into the future, the only way we can learn the answer to these most important questions in our spiritual lives is to live through the experiences of our tests and trials. Think of the test Abraham had to go through when God told him to sacrifice Isaac. Could God look into Abraham’s future and see what Abraham would do? Of course He could! God already knew what Abraham would do before God tested him in this matter. But Abraham didn’t, not for sure. Not until he actually passed this test and it was history to him could he know with absolute certainty that he was indeed willing to sacrifice his son Isaac to the will of God. Did Abraham’s faith and trust in God increase as the result of the test? I would think so. While we cannot measure or quantify the amount of faith one has, we can say Abraham had more faith or that his faith in God was much stronger after this test than before. And let us not forget Isaac. Isaac also was tested and submitted to the will of God even if it was to result in his death. Isaac also had his obedience and faith tested and increased as the result of this event in his own life. With this in mind, let us please reread James 1:2-5 and 1 Peter 1:6-9. We need to have our faith, patience and spiritual wisdom ever increasing in this life. The way God helps us to do this is with tests and trials. The end result is most important, the salvation of our souls!

Purpose of Trials — June 8, 2013

We all have our own tests and trials. We usually wonder “Why?” Sometimes, maybe many times, we will never know in this lifetime why we have some of the trials we do. Even if we never know the reason why we have a specific trial, there are still lessons we can always learn from them. Think about the man born blind in John chapter 9. Jesus’ disciples asked why this man was born blind, who sinned, the man or his parents. Let us notice the importance of Jesus’ response in verse 3, “Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” This birth defect was not the result of sin. Did God Himself cause this to happen on purpose? We don’t know that one way or the other. Maybe in this case it was just time and chance with some type of natural physical defect as the fetus grew in the womb of his mother. What we should notice is how God used this for the greater good of His purpose. God used this situation to the glory of Himself as His power was manifested through Jesus His Son in healing this man. Think of the suffering this man went through during his lifetime up to this moment. Never able to see from birth, totally dependent upon others to take care of him. Yes, this man suffered for many, many years. But God determined that the good that would come from this blind man being healed outweighed his suffering. That may be one reason for our test or trial – the spiritual lessons we learn from our trials glorify God the Father and Jesus our Savior and far outweigh any suffering we go through (Romans 8:18). And who knows, sometime in the future, God may also heal or rectify our problem in such a way as to glorify His Name even more. We have to consider the greater good God is accomplishing in our life. That is much more important than any suffering we have to endure. In addition, there are always the basic spiritual reasons for our trials: to make us trust and have faith in God to help and strengthen us. A final reason, easy to understand, is that all the test and trials we have to endure make us pray more diligently “Thy Kingdom Come!”

Unexpected Death — June 1, 2013

It is with deepest sorrow that I announce the unexpected death of my brother Doug’s wife, Becky, daughter of Jack and Wilma Williams. Becky was one of those joyful, outgoing individuals that everyone loved. The Williams and Royer families gathered together for the funeral on Thursday and to remember what a wonderful wife, mother, sister and friend that she was. While we morn the loss of someone so special to us all, we do not morn like others. We have the HOPE of the resurrection. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 says, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” 1 Corinthians 15:19-23, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” In cases like this, we ask the question of why did God let her die at this stage of her life. While we never have all the answers concerning God’s plan and purpose in our lives, we can understand what He inspired to be written in Isaiah 57:1, “The righteous perishes, And no man takes it to heart; Merciful men are taken away, While no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil.” The living will have to endure the seven seals and plagues described in the book of Revelation. Becky will be spared having to experience all this as she “rests” and “sleeps” in peace in her grave awaiting her resurrection. On behalf of my brother, his children, the Williams and Royer families, we thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. I will close this Sabbath Thought with Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Stir Up the Holy Spirit — May 25, 2013

Last week we talked about the purpose of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a gift given to us by God. However, once we have that gift, we have some responsibilities in taking care of and nourishing that Holy Spirit within us. In 2 Timothy 1:6 the apostle Paul told Timothy, “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19 says, “Do not quench the Spirit.” These are our responsibilities. Like a fire, we have to take care of the Holy Spirit so it doesn’t die. We are to stir up the coals and put more wood on the fire so we have a roaring, flaming fire, not a smoldering, dying fire. How do we do this? The old, standard basics: prayer and Bible study. How often do we need to do this? 2 Corinthians 4:16 states, “...the inward man is being renewed day by day.” In Acts 17:11 we find that the Bereans “... searched the Scriptures daily ...”. David asked God to “ ... renew a steadfast spirit with me” in Psalms 51:10. David went on to say in verse 11, “... And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” We can let the Holy Spirit diminish in our lives. It can even die within us if not continually nourished. Or if we start to follow a path of disobedience, God can withdraw and take away His gift from us. The Holy Spirit is a powerful and necessary gift in the lives of all Christians. But we also have our part to do, to keep fuel on the fire by studying the word of God and talking to God in prayer on a daily basis. Let us all make sure we are stirring up and renewing the Holy Spirit within us every day of our Christian lives.

Purpose of the Holy Spirit — May 18, 2013

Once we are born, what is the most important and precious gift we can receive in our lifetime? I am thinking, of course, of receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit once we have repented of our sins, been baptized and had the laying on of hands. Following is a partial list of what the purpose of the gift of the Holy Spirit is and what it can do in our lives. Just one scripture of many possible scriptures is given for each point. We will be commemorating the coming of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the New Testament church this coming Monday Pentecost. May God be with you all and bless you with a renewing of the power of His Holy Spirit within you.
   Leads us to be where we need to be for an important event or to miss something bad (Luke 2:25-28)
   Part of the baptism (Acts 8:15-17)
   Helps us pray concerning our troubles and infirmities (Romans 8:26-27)
   Gives us spiritual understand and insights, the ability to understand spiritual truths (John 16:6-15)
   Comforts and reassures us (Acts 9:31)
   Gives us the ability to obey God’s laws (1 Peter 1:22)
   Are to “walk in” the HS on a daily basis, renewed in us daily, and renews us spiritually (Galatians 5:16)
   The HS in us now is a down payment, a seed that grows into eternal life for us (Ephesians 1:13-14)
   Holy Spirit witnesses that what is in the Bible is true, historically and prophetically (Acts 5:32)
   Inspires us in what to say and how to respond verbally to others (Matthew 10:20)
   Is how people are called into God’s church (Romans 15:16-19)
   Is how have unity in God’s church (Ephesians 4:3-6)
   Makes us a temple of God where God abides in us (1 Corinthians 3:16)
   Needed to produce spiritual fruit, the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
   The Holy Spirit should flow through us to help others (John 7:37-38)

The Test Holy Day — May 11, 2013

With the beginning of this weekly Sabbath at sundown, we now have 9 days left in the count to a Monday Pentecost. I wonder if one of the reasons God has us count 50 days is that during that whole process, our minds are continually focused on that upcoming Holy Day and its meaning. We often refer to the weekly Sabbath as the “test commandment” for new converts. Will they make a total commitment to God in giving up “their time” on the seventh day of every week to observe Holy Time by resting and worshipping God? I personally believe that Pentecost became the “test Holy Day” for established converts. Would they hold fast to the previously revealed truths, even if ministers made mistakes in understanding how to count, or would they put their trust in “the scholars” who would tell them how to count so as to arrive at a Sunday Pentecost? Sadly, after 40 years of keeping a revealed Monday Pentecost, the vast majority did not hang on to the faith once delivered and changed to a Sunday Pentecost as promoted by the scholars. My dad said a long time ago, “First, you have to count Pentecost spiritually or you will never understand how to count physically.” That is a most important point. Without God’s spiritual guidance, one will never figure out how to physically count Pentecost to come to the right day of its observance. I am working on another article with a "simplified" explanation of how to properly count Pentecost and the mistakes others make in the counting of 50 days. I hope to have the first half on this web site in a few days. Let us count our spiritual blessings that God has opened our minds to understand the truth of a Monday Pentecost. Let us make a total commitment to put our trust in God, not the scholars, and continue to hang on to the faith once delivered (Jude 1:3).

A Friend of God — May 4, 2013

Last week we discussed that we cannot be both a friend of God and the world. Being a friend of God is a very special relationship. The Bible emphasizes a few individuals that had this type of relationship with God. James 2:23, “And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.” James is referring to the statements made in 2 Chronicles 20:7 and Isaiah 41:8. Look them up to see what they say. Moses’ relationship with God is also described in this manner. Exodus 33:11, “So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. ...” The real question for us is, can we too have this type of relationship with God? John 15:13-15 answers that question, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” We all can have this type of a “special friend” relationship with God – if we obey His commandments and put our total faith and trust in Him. We must do our part. Then God will be pleased to call us His friend! What a wonderful opportunity we all have to be a friend of God.

Whose Friend Are You? — April 26, 2013

James 4:4 says, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Unfortunately, it seems many Christians forget this principle. Over time, it is easy to become more and more friendly with the ways of the world, kind of like slowly sinking in quicksand and not realizing it. Then one day you wake up, but it is too late as the quicksand starts to cover your mouth, nose and eyes. This scripture says we cannot be friends with the world and God – it is one or the other, it cannot be both. This is such an important point that it is repeated a few times in the Bible. 1 John 2:15 states, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” Jesus said in His prayer recorded in John 17:14-16, “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” No, we cannot totally separate ourselves physically from this world. But we must separate ourselves in every way spiritually. We are warned again about the Babylon Mystery Religion in Revelation 18:4, “And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.” Watch out! Be on guard! Don’t let the ways of the world creep into our Christian lives. Let’s chose to be a friend of God and let our actions show that we have made that choice.

Relationships — April 20, 2013

It is all about relationships. Our most important relationship is with God our Father and His Son, our Savior. The second most important relationships should involve our families. And third would be friends and neighbors. We don’t usually think of the Bible as a book about relationships, maybe because that word is never used. We do tend to think of the Bible as a book of commandments, laws, statutes, judgments and prophecy. However, what is the purpose of those commandments, laws and statutes? Did not God give them to us so we could establish and maintain a good relationship with Him and with our “neighbor”. Is not the book of Proverbs a good example of many instructions on how to build a good relationship with God (including wisdom personified), wife or husband, children, parents, brother or sister, friends and neighbors? Indeed it is — along with the Bible as a whole. And what about prophecy? Are not prophecies given because of either a good relationship with God (blessings given to Abraham’s decedents for example) or a bad relationship with God (punishments for disobedience as in Revelation). Indeed, the Bible is a book all about relationships. Matthew 22:37-40 is again a good summary scripture, "Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." An important question we should all ask ourselves is, are we building good healthy relationships or tearing them down? Looking at the Bible with this perspective, let’s remember our goal in this life is to build good relationships with God and everyone we know.

Family — April 13, 2013

Next to God, our families should be most important in our lives. When God created Adam and Eve He also created the first family. Adam and Eve had children and their family grew. When we stop and think about it, the Bible is full of the stories of families. The family of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and his wives, David and the kings of Israel and Judah, to name a few. Think of the laws of God – many of them are given to protect the family: honor your father and mother, don’t commit adultery, don’t bear false witness, and so forth. There are many other commandments and guidelines that tell us family is important and that we are to love them and provide for them. 1 Timothy 5:8 says, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” And think about Jesus and the physical family He was part of, when He was dying on the cross He took the time and made the effort to tell John to take care of His mother. In this day and age many people make the mistake of putting their career or friends or sports or entertainment before family. In today’s world adultery, divorce and remarriage, parents out of wedlock and single parents are all destroying the importance of family. What a tragedy. While it is true that there is not as much insight given into the families of New Testament individuals, there is still an emphasis on family, the spiritual family of God. God the Father and our Savior the Son of God are a family. Most important of all, They are inviting us to join their family. 1 John 3:1-2, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Let us make a renewed commitment to express our love for all members of our family here on earth as we strive to enter the family of our Father.

All Glory To God — April 6, 2013

We all give praise to our Great and Holy God. We praise Him for His creation. We praise Him for His "Plan of Salvation". And we praise Him for the spiritual understanding He has given us. Jeremiah 9:23-24: “Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,’ says the Lord.” Spiritual understanding is a gift from God. If we receive spiritual edification from our own prayers and Bible Study, it is not due to our own efforts. If we receive spiritual edification while reading or listening to what others write or preach, it is not due to the efforts of men. Yes, God does use some people as tools to spiritually help others. But they are just tools and are only as effective as they allow God to work through them. Isaiah 10:15 (The Living Bible), “But the Lord says, ‘Shall the ax boast greater power than the man who uses it? Is the saw greater than the man who saws? Can a rod strike unless a hand is moving it? Can a cane walk by itself?’ ” How foolish we would be if we were to take credit for our understanding or to say some person’s teaching has given us spiritual understanding. 1 Corinthians 4:7 says, “For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” If a minister or teacher helps us understand spiritual principles, it is because God has given them the gift of spiritual understanding. They as a tool in God’s hands are merely sharing their gift with others. We can be thankful and respect the ministers and teachers of God, and we should, as we should all our spiritual brothers and sisters. But we should never give them glory for this. That should be reserved for God alone. Neither should we ever boast about our own spiritual understanding. All spiritual gifts and understanding come from God, not the efforts of men. Let us remember this lesson every day for the rest of our lives and continually give all praise and glory to God alone.

Life! — March 30, 2013

Eternal life can only come from eternal life, not death. While it is indeed true that before we can receive the gift of eternal life, we must be washed clean of our sins and the incurred death debt. This we know can only happen through the shed blood of Jesus Christ which we commemorate in our observance of Passover. However, there is more to our salvation than this by itself. Romans 5:10 says, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” It is only through the resurrection of Jesus that we too can be resurrected to eternal life (John 11:25, Romans 6:5-11, 1 Peter 1:3). I sometimes think that since we reject Easter because it is Pagan, we forget that it is important to remember and commemorate the resurrection of Jesus. Both His death and resurrection are equally important. You can’t have one without the other. Our salvation requires both. And when was Jesus resurrected? Just before sundown near the close of the weekly Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread. Let us all remember this very special and significant Sabbath. The resurrection of Jesus should not be overlooked. I’d suggest we each come up with some special way to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on this Sabbath. We should rejoice that our Savior came back to spiritual life. It is because Jesus was resurrected that we will have the opportunity to be in the first resurrection and receive the gift of eternal life in our Father’s Kingdom.

Unbelievable! — March 23, 2013

With Passover this Sunday evening and the First Holy Day of Unleavened Bread next Tuesday, we think of many different thoughts relative to our God, sin, repentance and forgiveness. What I’d like to discuss in this week’s Sabbath Thought is the unbelievable greatness of our Father and His Son, our Savior relative to this time of year. Just the fact that there is a Great and Holy God in one sense seems unbelievable. By that, I do not mean it really is spiritually unbelievable, I mean it can almost seem too good to be true. We look at creation, the unknown vastness of the universe is unbelievable. We look at the miracle of life, the unbelievable complexity of what it takes for any form of life to exist. We look at the interaction and interrelationships between trees that turn carbon dioxide into oxygen, life that needs oxygen to live and expels carbon dioxide, water that floats when it turns solid while all other substances sink when they turn solid in their own substance, and so forth and so forth. All this seems too good to be true that it all works together in perfect harmony (until mankind interferes). But what seems most unbelievable is that God loved you and me and all humans who will ever live so much that, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).” It truly is hard to comprehend the magnitude and greatness of love from our Great and Perfect Father for us sinners. It seems unbelievable that a God would give up His Perfect Spiritual Body and take a body of flesh and blood that would experience hunger, cold, tiredness and ultimately pain, suffering and death, (Philippians 2:7-8). That His shed blood would forgive all our sins and all sins of all mankind (1 John 1:7; 2:2) does seem too good to be true. But it is true! And beyond that, once our sins are forgiven, through the grace, mercy and love of God, we can receive the gift of eternal life in the Family of God our Father (John 3:16, Romans 6:23, 1 John 2:25). It seems unbelievable that we can actually live forever as the children of our Father in His eternal family. This almost seems like fiction, a story too good to be true, unbelievable. But we have the promises of God our Father, who cannot lie, that it is indeed true, we can believe it, we can put our hope and trust in God’s Plan of Salvation and His promises to those who love Him and overcome. Passover is a very solemn event, our sins made it necessary for God to die. But it is also an occasion of hope and reassurance of the love of God for us all. Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Our Father has done everything possible so that we might share eternity with Him and His Son. While we morn over our sins, let us also praise our Great, Holy and Loving God for all that He has done for us in order to bring us into the Kingdom of God.

Death Debt — March 16, 2013

As we approach Passover we put more thought into examining ourselves and the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for our sins. Our sins and Jesus’ sacrifice are extremely serious topics. God our Father is a holy, perfect, righteous and loving God beyond our comprehension. However, in order to remain true to His character, there has to be a penalty for sin, when we do not live according to His holy character standards. Due to the extreme opposites of the righteousness of our life-giving Father and sin, when we sin we incur a “death sentence”. Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, ...”. This is indeed a “death debt” that can only be paid with the shedding of blood. This is why Jesus said in the model outline prayer of Matthew 6:12, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Note that Jesus did not say we should pray “forgive us of our sins”, but “forgive us our debts”. When we sin we owe a debt to the Father that can only be paid with the shed blood of death. Hebrews 10:4-14 tells us the the blood of bulls and goats cannot pay the debt for our sins, but that the shed blood of God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, has paid off that debt for all mankind. This topic will be covered in more depth in today’s sermon. How thankful we should be to both the Father and the Son for the sacrifice Jesus made to pay off all our death debts so that we might receive the gift of eternal life.

Physical Sin vs. Spiritual Sin — March 9, 2013

Most Christians do not seem to place near as much importance on “physical sin” as they do “spiritual sin”. Yet both made it necessary for Jesus Christ to sacrifice His life for the forgiveness of both our physical and spiritual sins. When we are sick or are suffering from some physical sin like careless that results in our getting hurt, most Christians do not go through the same process of self-examination, repentance and change as they do when they are aware of their spiritual sins. Why is that? Why do regard our physical sins as being far less importance then our spiritual sins? Doing so means we forget the suffering Jesus went through so we could have our physical sins forgiven (and sometimes with a miraculous healing) -- being beaten with a cat-of-nine-tails, having His hands and feet nailed to the cross and having a spear thrust up through His rib cage. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 says, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in You? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy which temple you are.” Our bodies are a temple for the Holy Spirit of God to dwell in. God expects that our physical temple be strong, clean and healthy – we are not to defile our physical bodies with poor diet, lack of sleep and lack of exercise; as we talked about in last week’s Sabbath Thought. 1 Corinthians 11:27-31 states, “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.“ Notice the equal importance the apostle Paul puts on “the bread” and “the body of the Lord” along with “the cup” and “the blood of the Lord”. And notice his last statement, that because some have not properly discerned the Lord’s body, many in the Corinthian church were weak and sick, some even having died. To regard our physical sins as being far less importance than our spiritual sins is a major mistake. We should go through the same process of examining our physical mistakes, repenting and changing as we do our spiritual mistakes. There is a series of 10 sermons on “Keys to Healing” given in 2008 and 2009 on this web site where this subject was covered in great detail. It might be a good review to listen to these again prior to the Passover. The Passover involves the bread and the wine as symbols of Jesus' death, not just the wine, we must partake of both. Let us not forget the importance of the broken bread of Passover representing the broken and beaten body of our Lord Jesus Christ and take heed to repent and correct our physical sins as well as our spiritual sins.

None of These Diseases — March 2, 2013

In Exodus 15:26 God says, “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.” We can ask the question, “Are the people of the Churches of God free of disease?” I think we would all answer “No” to that question. I think we see little, if any, overall difference in the health of the members of the Churches of God and the world as a whole. Why is that? There can be several reasons. One, many Churches of God are not obeying God spiritually as they should. While few if any want to admit to being a Laodicean, many Bible scriptures unfortunately foretell this will be the prominent spiritual condition of God’s people in the end time. The second main reason is that the people of God must obey God not only spiritually, but also physically. Even if one diligently obeys all of God’s spiritual laws and ignores God’s physical laws of good health, one cannot expect to claim the promise of Exodus 15:26. The Bible contains some general principles relative to healthy living. S. I. McMillen and Dr. David E. Stern wrote a book in 1984 titled “None of These Diseases” based on Biblical principles. It would be worth a read. Obviously, we cannot be ignorant of or ignore God’s laws of healthy living whether or not they are in the Bible. I am surprised at how most Christians don’t bother to research and follow a healthy lifestyle of diet, sleep and exercise. One cannot expect to drink sweet sodas, eat lots of fatty meats, fried foods, junk foods and processed foods from a can or box and be healthy. A healthy diet avoids sugar, restricts meat intake (which should be from free-range animals, not caged or penned animals), is low in fat, moderate in grains and dairy, and high in organic fruits and vegetables as much as possible. Most Americans know there is an “obesity epidemic” in the United States, but few may realize many health experts also say there is a “sleep deprivation” epidemic. The experts say we need 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night and at the same time. Many think they can get by with less than this, but they are only deceiving themselves and hurting their health in the long run. Another vitally important key to a healthy life style is exercise, 30 minutes of heart-pumping exercise 6 days a week. This is a must, and it can be as simple as a fast-paced 30 minute walk every day. I read several health newsletters and they all say exercise is the key to living a long healthy life – the only way to find the lost fountain of youth as they put it. How many of us do all this? Very, very few. Without a healthy lifestyle, God doesn’t need to PUT disease upon us, our unhealthy lifestyle breaking the physical laws of health will by itself BRING disease into our lives. Hosea 4:6 says “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. ...” While this is mainly a spiritual principle, it is also true relative to physical health. Do the research and get educated about your physical health and changes you need to make regarding your diet, sleep and exercise programs. Most Christians do not treat “physical sin” as seriously as “spiritual sin”. More about that in next week's Sabbath Thought.

Why Me? — February 23, 2013

When things go wrong for ourselves, we’re often tempted to ask “Why me?” Why was I involved in an accident? Why did I have to be the one who got hurt? Why am I the one who got sick? Why did I loose my job? I think we can remember many circumstances where we asked this question “Why me?” But when we ask this question this way, we are asking it in a negative way, almost saying “Why is God picking on me?” We’ve talked before about how we are to rejoice in our trials because of the spiritual lessons we are learning (1 Peter 1:6-7, James 1:2-4). The question for this Sabbath is, do we ever think about the special privileges God has allotted for us and ask “Why me?” from a positive point of view giving glory to God? Matthew 7:13-14 tells us the many enter the wide gate to destruction, but only the very few find the narrow gate that leads to life. Do we ever ask God, why did you allow me to find the narrow gate and give Him thanks and glory because He opened that path for us to find? Jesus said in Matthew 20:16 and 22:14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Do we ever ask why have I been chosen to understand these spiritual truths? Romans 8:29-30 describes God’s selection process, that He decides by foreknowledge whom to give understanding to and then He calls them so they can be justified and saved. Do we ever ask “Why me? Why am I so fortunate to have been chosen and given the opportunity to be in the First Resurrection?” Instead of a negative “Why me?” when things don’t go well, let’s think of the many special spiritual blessings God has afforded us. Let’s ask a positive “Why me? Why am I so fortunate?” in a way that glorifies God for His special calling, spiritual understanding and open door to salvation.

Prayer Request for the Sick — February 16, 2013

James 5:14-16 contains an important principle. “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” With God’s people often split and scattered I think this is another principle that can sometimes be difficult to follow. But “difficult” should not prevent us from following this command from God. As humans, sometime we think our illness isn’t that bad, or we’re embarrassed to tell others about our physical health problems, or we just plain forget we’re supposed to do this. Case in point, I came down with a bad case of the flu last Monday and it did not occur to me to send out a prayer request until three days later. Here is what the Church of God Santa Rosa can do for you if you so request. If you’d like to submit a prayer request, I can do one of two things. One, post it on the Sabbath Blog with just your first name and last initial. Or two, I can forward your request to everyone on our church email list. Let’s follow every word of God and always be in prayer one for another. And I greatly appreciate your prayers.

Victim or Volunteer? — February 9, 2013

Last Sabbath we discussed how Jesus is often pictured as a Shepherd tenderly caring for His sheep, setting us an example to follow. We know we are to love one another and help those in need as we are able. The question for this Sabbath is, do we help others because we feel we are a victim of circumstances or because we love to volunteer to help others? 1 Peter 4:9 says, “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” 2 Corinthians 9:7 is in reference to sending help to the saints in Judea who were experiencing drought conditions. It says: “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” If we help others because we feel we have to, because we must obey God’s second great commandment, that circumstances have forced us into a situation where we are obligated to help, but we resent having to make sacrifices of our time and finances, then we will feel “victimized” – and in reality are missing the whole point of building Godly character in helping others. On the other hand, if we are eager to volunteer in helping others because of our tender love for them and because we have compassion and sympathize with their unfortunate circumstances, then and only then, are we fulfilling the royal law of love. We are commanded to love and help others. Let’s be a cheerful volunteer when we do and not a sad victim.

Tender Love — February 2, 2013

Isaiah 40:11 has a beautiful picture of how Jesus and the Father care for us. Jesus, as He often is, is pictured as a Shepherd feeding His flock. But notice that Jesus is pictured as gathering the lambs in His arms and carrying them in His bosom. Now notice the next statement, “and gently lead those who are with young.” Next, let’s notice Ephesians 4:32, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” And finally, 1 Peter 3:8, “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;”. We know we are to love one another, that is the second great commandment from Jesus. But what about the “quality” of our love? There are different types and degrees of love. We’ve all heard the term “tough love” and at times that is needed -- God is pictured using “tough love” in the book of Revelation. But that should only be for a short, temporary period of time. What God expects of us in general, is that our love for others is tender, kind and compassionate. That’s the type of love we’d prefer to experience from the Father and the Son. It is the type and quality of love that God expects us to have toward one another the majority of the time in fulfilling the second great commandment.

Reacting to Mistakes of Others — January 26, 2013

It is difficult to watch others of various spiritual beliefs do things differently than we do. Unfortunately, numerous people we used to associate with in the Churches of God have either changed or given up on what they originally believed. The question for this Sabbath is, how do we react to that? What outlook or attitude or type of interaction do we have with such people. I’ve been giving this considerable spiritual thought and here is the thought process I’m working on for myself as I relate to these people I love.
     Grace – there but for the grace of God go I. I’d be making the same or similar mistakes if God had not spiritually opened my eyes and kept them open.
     Providence – God has blinded them to one degree or another, they didn’t chose to be blinded, we did not earn our spiritual eyesight.
     Humility – don’t feel better than them.
     Compassion – have love and compassion for them.
     Mercy – Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.
     Prayer – for their enlightenment, whenever that might be, what am "I" supposed to learn from this experience in the meantime.
     Patience – all things work out together for good, the timing is up to God, we cannot control that.
     Faith/Trust – it is God’s responsibility to open their minds, it would be a mistake to try and force them to see things the way we do.
     Love – to share what we spiritually have with others to help them, not put them down for their mistakes.
     Hope – look forward to the day when we will all walk together in spiritual unity talking about and glorifying God.
     Glory – give all glory to God for what we understand and what He will do in the future to help these individuals.
     Grace – there but for the grace of God go I. It is worth repeating that without God’s grace and intervention in our lives, we would be in a similar situation. Never forget that!

Pray for the King — January 19, 2013

The Presidential Inauguration will be held in Washington DC on Monday, January 21, 2013. There is a command in the scriptures that I think many Christians forget to follow most of the time. I know I do. 1 Timothy 2:1-4 says pray for the king that we may live a peaceful life. How often do we remember to pray for the leaders of our nation? We may not approve of the politics of our leaders. They may not have the best Christian character. But we are still told to pray for them. However, notice that we are allowed to pray for our leaders with our own self interest, or more accurately, for the best interest of all of God’s people in His church, in mind. We are also told in Romans 13:1-7 to be subject unto the higher powers, for they don’t exist without God’s permission. We have to live in this world and that means we all live in one nation or another under the governmental authority of that nation. Jesus even told us to pray for our enemies. Hopefully our governmental leaders are not our enemies, but they could be, especially if we fail to pray about it. We would do well to remember these scriptures and pray that God would influence our leaders in a way that we might have religious freedom and live in Christian peace. Let’s try to do a better job of remembering to pray for our leaders.

Don't Live in the Past — January 12, 2013

Church of God Christians are amused by the “once saved, always saved” believe of mainstream Christianity. But do we have a similar belief? Many COG Christians think they can’t be deceived, which could be stated as “once I know the truth, I’ll always know the truth”. Others recall how God has answered their past prayers or maybe even performed a miracle for them earlier in their lives. They then think, “God was with me yesterday, He must still be with me today”. They are unable to realize that having changed the doctrines they used to belief in, the determining factor is what they do and belief today, not what God did for them yesterday. In Ezekiel 18:24 God tells us when a righteous man turns away from doing right, that person will be punished just like the wicked man. And it should be obvious from the seven letters to the churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, that some of the Churches of God can decline into disobedience. God even said in some cases He would remove a church’s candlestick. We all probably know someone “who lives in the past” and how unfortunate that is. We need to carefully examine ourselves and ask if we are relying on past spiritual obedience instead of fighting for and hanging on to the faith once deliver in our current spiritual life. Let’s not live in or count on our spiritual past like so many others do without realizing it.

Feeling Sorry For Ourselves — January 5, 2013

We all feel sorry for ourselves at times. But if we stop to think about it, does feeling sorry for ourselves ever make us feel better in the long run? Or does it do anything to improve our situation? No, it does not. Proverbs 15:13 states, “A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.” While feeling sorry for ourselves may seem to feel good briefly for the moment, doing so is very destructive to our emotional well being. It leads to depression and discouragement. 2 Timothy tells us that through the Holy Spirit God has given us, we should have a sound mind with power and love, not fear. While there may not be specific scriptures that tell us not to feel sorry for ourselves, I think we all instinctively know that this is not a healthy attitude. There are many scriptures that tell us to be happy and rejoice before God, even in our trials. As an example, Paul sang songs when a prisoner in jail, Acts 16:25-28. Philippians 4:4-6 tells us to always rejoice in the Lord. Obviously, when we are feeling sorry for ourselves, it is impossible to rejoice at the same time. Verse 8 says to think on good, honest, just, pure, lovely and virtuous things for which we can give praise to God. As Christians, let’s stop feeling sorry for ourselves before it becomes a habit and work on always having a positive mental attitude. Let’s think about all the good things God does for us and the unbelievable reward He has in store for us at the first resurrection.

How We Worship God — December 29, 2012

The way we worship God, is that important? I think we know the answer to that, but at this time of the year a review is appropriate. Jeremiah 10:2 states, “Thus says the Lord: Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, For the Gentiles are dismayed at them.” A general warning and it also sounds like a warning against astrology to me. The apostle Paul was inspired in 1 Corinthians 10:20-22 to say that we cannot eat at the Lord’s table and the table of demons – that would provoke the Lord to jealousy. The main scripture that comes to mind is Deuteronomy 12:30-31, “... and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; ...” There are many other scriptures that tell us not to adopt the same practices as the “heathen”. Consider Leviticus 18:3, Deuteronomy 12:4, Deuteronomy 18:9, 2 Kings 17:15-17, 2 Chronicles 36:14, Ezekiel 20:32 and Romans 12:2 to list a few of the more direct scriptures. God says He is a jealous God and that He will not give His glory to idols or anything else. He also tells us not to “add to or take away” from what He commands us. We should therefore be very careful to pay close attention to how God tells us to worship Him and only follow those instructions, not to incorporate or mix them with the customs of the heathen, pagans and other traditions of mankind.

Sharing God's Glory — December 22, 2012

Last Sabbath we talked about doing all things to the glory of God and giving God all the glory, not having dual motives for our actions. The good news is that our Great God wants to share His Glory with us when we are born into His family by the resurrection. We learn from 1 Corinthians 15:43 that our dishonorable physical bodies will be raised in glory at the resurrection. Hebrews 2:10 tells us that Jesus is the Captain of our salvation leading many sons to glory. And Romans 8:17 is very significant on this topic, “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” What a Great God we have Who wants to share His Glory with us. What a small price to pay, so to speak, that we give our Dear Father in heaven above all the glory in all that we do in this physical life – and then in return we receive glorious, spiritual bodies in our Father’s Family and Kingdom for all eternity.

How many motives? — December 15, 2012

In James 1:8 we read that a “double minded” person is unstable in all his ways. Jesus said in Matthew 6:22 that, “... if therefore your eye be single, your whole body shall be full of light.” As we strive to follow God’s ways and live a life that is pleasing unto Him, the question for this Sabbath is, how many motives do we have? Let’s take one topic from 1 Corinthians 1:31, “That, according as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord.” This is repeated in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Relative to this topic of giving all glory to God, the question is, when we pray for God to bless us, do we do that just wanting God to receive the glory, or do we want some of that glory too? In other words, do we want God to bless us so others will notice we have been blessed by God and therefore come to the conclusion we are “wonderful Christians” and God therefore does special things for us? If we were to be asked the question, are we doing all things so God gets the glory, we would of course, say yes. And indeed, that might be our primary motivation. But again, the question is, do we have a secondary motivation – we want others to see and recognize we are blessed of God, and hence, receive a little glory ourselves? I’m afraid all two often when we ask for God’s blessing, we have multiple motivations other than just God being glorified. As fleshly human beings, this is an extremely difficult, if not impossible, spiritual frame of mind to exercise. Let us at lease be aware of this likelihood and examine ourselves for what our motivations are in obeying God and asking for His blessings. Then let us strive to have a single purpose and motivation, doing all things so that God gets ALL the glory.

Abba Father — December 8, 2012

The phrase “Abba, Father” appears three times in the New Testament. In Mark 14:36 Jesus said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me, nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:15, “You did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’.” He states basically the same thing in Galatians 4:6 saying, “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father’.” “Abba” is a close literal translation of an Aramaic work for father. Yet the three times it is used, it is immediately follow by the Greek word for father, “pater.” Why is this? In most cultures there are different words used at different ages with different levels of affection and intimacy. In English cultures, infants might start out by saying “dada,” later on “daddy” or “papa” and when adults “dad” or “father”. Given its simplistic origin, “Abba” most likely was meant to be a name of intimacy by which our heavenly Father is called, with the Greek “pater” being a more formal address. It might be like us saying, “Daddy God” or “Papa God”. Too often I think we address God our Father in a distant, cold, formal manner. Yes, we should be respectful and awestruck by the tremendous power and glory of God the Father. But we must not forget the love God our Father has for us and all that He has done for us because of that love. God our Father does not want to have a distant, cold, formal relationship with us, His children. Neither should we with Him. Let us strive to improve our relationship with a more intimate calling out to the Father and Son. We should be encouraged to come up with something we are comfortable with, “Daddy Father,” “Papa God,” “Dearest Father”, “Beloved Father” or something that has a special close meaning for us. Doing so will help us draw closer to both when addressing the Father and Son in our prayers.

Trials are "Relative" — December 1, 2012

If a very rich person were to loose $10,000, it might be of little consequence, they might hardly even notice. If you or I were to loose $10,000 is would be a major disaster with severe consequences. For someone in Africa, they’ve never had $10,000 to loose and may never see $10,000 in their lifetime. It’s the same amount of money, but the severity of this trial varies according to the circumstances. We all have trials, and they do vary in intensity. But I’m not aware of any of the people I know here in the United States who don’t have a home to live in, clean running water, plenty of food in the frig and cupboards, plenty of clothes to wear, heat and often air conditioning, flushing toilets, and so forth. Is life hard for us? Not really, not compared to many others. I think of other people around the world who don’t have these “luxuries”. I think of those people down through history who had to struggle every day to find enough to eat and often did not. They certainly did not have the variety or convenience of food found in supermarkets that modern civilization has. Many wore the same clothes day in and day out. Many didn’t have enough blankets to keep warm at night and slept in their clothes. So, when we think life is difficult because of our personal trials, let’s keep things in perspective. We are not suffering anywhere near what many others have suffered in their lives. That is not to say our trials are not real or are not painful. But most of our trials are probably do to mental and emotional stress over “relatively” minor physical difficulties compared to the downtrodden of the world, current and historically. And are we persecuted? Not yet. Many Christians have been persecuted and even died for their beliefs. So again, we have it pretty easy, “relatively” speaking. Let’s keep our trials in perspective. And let’s remember those who are truly suffering do to a lack of food, water and shelter. And most of all, let us remember to pray for each other as we all face our individual trials.

Giving Thanks — November 24, 2012

We know the two greatest commandments are to love God with all our soul and might and love our neighbor as our self. Jesus said all the laws “hang” on these two great commandments. Besides loving and obeying God, how could we summarize any other of the most important characteristics God wants us to develop? Two are found in Micah 6:8, “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”. Loving mercy, forgiving others, and walking humbly before God are two traits we must develop if we expect to become like God in the resurrection. For me, there is one more. There are many, many scriptures for this final characteristic. Hebrews 13:15 is my favorite, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” God wants us to be thankful for all that He has done for us. He expects us to praise Him for His goodness and love for us. Here in the United States we just celebrated Thanksgiving Day, a good, godly tradition started by the Pilgrims. There are so many Psalms that praise and give thanks to God. Psalms 35:18 talks about giving God thanks in the congregation and offering praise among the people. Psalms 50:14 tells us we should offer unto God thanksgiving. If we are not careful, our prayers can be mostly about our troubles and what we want God to do for us, praying with the “gimmes”. The first thing in Jesus’ model prayer after the salutation is honoring the Father’s name. I have a rule I try to live by in my prayers, spend at least as much time thanking God for something as I did in asking for it. We should dedicate a large part of our prayer life to thanking and praising God. God has given us His love, His mercy, Jesus our Savior and a place to live on this earth. We owe God everything. We should let Him know how much we appreciate it all.

Making Trials Go Away — November 17, 2012

1 Peter 1:6-7, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” It is hard to rejoice in trials, we just want them to be over with. In fact that is how we may pray to God, “God please make this trial go away.” It may not even be “our personal trial” so-to-speak, it could be a mistake that someone else has made and we suffer the consequences too – their trial then becomes our trial. We become involved because of our association with them and they may even need our help to make it through their trial. In that case we may think, I wish they’d hurry up and get right with God so this all would be over with. The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:26 that when one member in the body of Christ suffers, we all suffer, when one is honored, we all rejoice. This is just part of life, whether that be church group, family group or our close circle of best friends. We have to remember there is a good spiritual reason why God allows trials to come our way. Like with Job, God allows a trial because there is a lesson we need to learn. If God were to take away our trial before we learn our lesson, then the trial would serve no spiritual benefit. Instead of praying for God to take away a trial, we should pray that God would open our eyes to see the lessons we need to learn as soon as possible. Once we have learned those lessons, then there is no spiritual reason for the trial to continue. If someone else caused the problem, maybe we need to learn more compassion and make the sacrifices necessary to help that individual. Maybe we just need to grow in patience or faith or one of many other spiritual lessons that would be good for our spiritual character. Maybe sometimes it is just a physical mistake and we have to wait patiently for physical repairs to take place as in the case of a broken bone. James 2:14-17 tells us faith without works is dead. Maybe we think we have lots of faith but we are reluctant to actually go out and help people. God could be teaching us to “walk the talk, not talk the walk.” James repeats what Peter said in James 1:2-4, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” I don’t think any of us has reached the point in our spiritual development that it can be said we lack nothing, we are complete. So, we should expect trials and we should try to figure out what lessons need to be learned. The spiritual lessons learned will be much more valuable than all the gold in the world, we’ll have spiritual treasures in heaven waiting for us.

Who Won? — November 10, 2012

We all waited for the election results to see who our next president of the United States would be. It is difficult not to root for one candidate over the other, maybe just because we don’t like one candidate for whatever reasons. We read in Daniel 2:21, “And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; ...”. The question then might be, does God select every single person He wants to rule over a nation, kingdom or empire? The Bible doesn’t really answer that question. Yes, God certainly can and does determine who a ruler is under specific circumstances. For instance, God chose a specific person to be Pharaoh during the Exodus who would be stubborn and hard-hearted. Romans 9:17 says God chose this Pharaoh so God could demonstrate His power to the glory of His Name. However, when it comes to determining every ruler that has ever been, my personal opinion is that God is not always involved in the choosing of one person over another. It may not make any difference who the ruler is and have no impact on fulfilling Bible prophecy. Also, I think in many cases it may not be the ruler who determines the course of history and the fulfillment of Bible prophecy, but the “powers behind the throne”, and God may be determining who those people are. We also read in Romans 13:1 that we should be subject to the powers that be as none of them exist without God’s permission. Whether or not God directly determines who is to be the ruler, He definitely always permits or allows that government and ruler to be in authority. Obviously, nothing happens without His awareness. But back to the United States elections. Did God determine or influence who the winner would be? Since we are at the “end of the age” and the United States will play a major role in world events as Bible prophecy comes to pass, I would think God most likely did determine who was the best (or worst, depending upon the point of view) person to fulfill prophecy. We know Biblical prophecy will be fulfilled and there is no stopping it. We just have to wait and see when it will happen and who will be involved. This I know for sure, the timing and those involved will be different than what we expect.

Natural Disasters? — November 3, 2012

Our hearts go out to those who have suffered losses from hurricane Sandy. Natural disasters have always been a part of human history, at least since Noah’s flood. I think the climate of the earth before the flood was much milder and more evenly controlled. Indications are that the flood of Noah’s time changed the earth’s climate patterns and even land mass interactions. In Zechariah 14:5 God predicts there would be a future earthquake like a past one that occurred in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah. This past earthquake is referred to in Amos 1:1 in dating the time when Amos wrote his book. In Isaiah 29:6 God says in He will punish Israel with thunder, storm, tempest, earthquake and fire. Jesus said in Matthew 24:7 in addition to increased wars, there would also be increases in famines, pestilences and earthquakes. God allowed an earthquake in Judah even when they had a good king. We can’t say for certainty that God at this exact time is increasing major storms and earthquakes, but they are increasing and at the least, God is not preventing them and the harm they cause. Why does God allow natural disasters? In Psalms 107 God says He sends troubles upon mankind so that mankind will “cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses.” This statement is repeated many times in this Psalm after describing different types of trouble God can send. We also know from the book of Revelation that God will cause great earthquakes as part of His punishment on disobedient mankind. I think we have to say “natural disasters” have two causes, natural according to the earth patterns God created and those directly caused by God Himself. At this time it is difficult, if not impossible, to tell which is which. But we do know natural disasters are increasing and God will definitely cause them as part of His judgmental punishment upon mankind in the future. Regardless, as compassionate Christians, we should sympathize with those who suffer and do what we can to help them.

Temple Maintenance — October 27, 2012

We read in 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19 that our bodies are the Temple of God in which His Holy Spirit dwells. What a special privilege that is for those of us who are called and chosen to be the disciples of Jesus Christ. The question for this Sabbath Though is, “What is the current condition of our Temple?” Is it clean, strong and healthy? Or is it run down, overweight and sickly? Of course, the most important factor is our spiritual condition. And I do not think God will keep anyone out of the Kingdom of God if their temple is in poor physical condition. But which physical condition do you think God prefers? Which physical temple is better able to serve God, our spiritual brothers and sisters, family and friends? The apostle John says in 3 John 2 that he wished that we be prosperous and in good health. That is fully within our responsibility and capability. If we cannot easily move around, are not at our sharpest mentally, lack motivation because we lack energy and are too tired, we are not being the best servants of God that we could be. Think about Jesus Christ in the flesh. Can you envision Jesus as being overweight, sedimentary and sickly? Or do we envision Jesus as a lean, muscular, healthy and active individual in the flesh? I think it is obvious that God expects us to take good care of the physical bodies He has given us. Admittedly this is more difficult in this current world filled with pollutions and “fast junk food.” But let’s not make excuses. Let us strive to do the best we can to exercise, eat the best diet and get the proper amount of sleep. Let us make our utmost effort to glorify God by keeping the temple of our body in the best physical condition that we can possibly achieve in this life.

Know Your Heart — October 20, 2012

As a child I had to memorize scriptures using flash cards my dad had made. One of those was for Jeremiah 17:9. Refreshing our memories, lets look at that in two different translations. The Living Bible: “The heart is the most deceitful thing there is and desperately wicked. No one can really know how bad it is!” The Message: “The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.” I think we can tend to forget the importance of this verse. With the help of God and His Holy Spirit we “rule over” our carnal nature and strive to keep it in “subjection” to the laws of God. But if we forget that we do indeed still have a carnal nature, then we will not be watching for it to rear its ugly impact in our lives and fight against what it would have us do against the two great commandments of God. Paul reminds us in Romans 8:4-11 that we cannot obey God in the flesh, that to be carnally minded is death. Only through the power of God’s Holy Spirit can we attempt to live a righteous life. It is said in all types of battles, “know your enemy” and “never underestimate your enemy”. We would do well to remember these principles in our own spiritual lives. We are often “our own worst enemy” and it would be a disastrous mistake to underestimate our own carnal nature. So, while we hopefully have our carnal nature under control through the power of the Holy Spirit, let us never forget it is a life-long battle we must be aware of day-in and day-out lest we be surprised to discover we are reacting carnally to situations in this life instead of spiritually. Know your enemy, know yourself.

Back to Reality — October 13, 2012

I hope you all had a great Feast of Tabernacles. As the Feast of Tabernacles comes to a close, we often are reluctant to go back to our “normal” lives, “back to reality” we might say. The apostle Paul was inspired to write in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 that we’re not to keep company with fornicators. But he goes on to explain we have to keep company with the world because we cannot remove ourselves out of this evil world. He says that he was speaking of within the church itself, that there is no room for fornicators. In John 17:12-15 Jesus prayed to the Father to “keep” those He had given Jesus as His disciples, then present and also future. He stated He did not expect the Father to take them out of the world, but to spiritually preserve them in the carnal world they had to live in. He also stated we are not of this world and therefore the world hates us. Yes, as much as we might wish that it was different, we have to live in this world, work our jobs and interface with unconverted family, coworkers and friends. Sometimes we have to suffer with that, other times it is maybe not so bad. We have to remember, either way, that Romans 8:18 says any suffering we have to go through will not compare to the reward and glory we will receive in the first resurrection and the Kingdom of God. Like an old, trite saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. With our hope, faith and love in God and His Holy Spirit in us, we can do it. But we do need to remember that God says in Zechariah 4:6 that it is not by our own power that we accomplish our spiritual goals, it is by the might and power of God’s spirit that we accomplish those goals and overcome both our carnal nature, the world and Satan that are all against us. Let’s put our trust in God and do what we have to to succeed in our day-to-day Christian lives as the disciples of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Thy Kingdom Come — October 5, 2012

Sabbath Greetings during the Feast of Tabernacles to you all. We picture and celebrate the coming Kingdom of God with this feast. Why did Jesus tell us to pray “Thy Kingdom Come” in Matthew 6:10? Will the Kingdom of God not come if there are not enough Christians praying for it to come? No, of course not. The Kingdom of God will come whether or not any one prays for it to come. Can we make the Kingdom of God come sooner by praying so? No, the Father has determined the timing of Jesus’ Second Coming and that won’t change no matter how we might pray that it come sooner. So why is this the first thing we should pray for after glorifying and praising the Father in the opening of our prayers? I can think of two reasons. One, when we pray for the Kingdom of God to come, we are actually reminding ourselves we need to make sure we are prepared for its coming. And two, we are praying for the good of the whole world. This horrible world with crime, pollution, hatred, hunger, oppression, depression and wars, to name a few, desperately needs the Second Coming of Jesus and His Millennial rule to bring peace, safety, love and abundant physical blessings for all. We can get all rapped up in our personal lives which may not be too bad, but we must remember the world as a whole desperately needs the Second Coming of Jesus. When we pray “Thy Kingdom Come” we are reminded to think of others and not just ourselves. So, praying for the Kingdom of God to come is for “our good” — we need the Kingdom of God, the world we live in needs the Kingdom of God. We are not trying to impact how and when it will come. We need to be thinking of the needs of others and to make sure we ourselves are spiritually ready when it does come. Let us never forget to pray “Thy Kingdom Come” and let us pray more and more fervently for it to come.

Feast of Tabernacles — September 29, 2012

The Feast of Tabernacles is next week for the Churches of God that continue to observe this commanded occasion before God. It is the most festive of all the feasts of God and we look forward to it all year long. In addition to the spiritual food we receive during this eight-day festival, I think one of the things we look forward to the most is just “getting away from this world”. Being able to get away from the job and the cares of this world. Being able to gather together with family and friends of like mind. We live “spiritually lonely” lives. During the Feast of Tabernacles we get to see spiritual family every day for eight days. While we may be reminded that there are not as many keeping the Feast of Tabernacles as there used to be, we can still rejoice with those who do attend. And most of all, we look forward to when Zechariah 14:16-21 will be fulfilled. Try as hard as we can, it is difficult to image what it will be like when the whole world will be keeping the Feast of Tabernacles. Leaders and ambassadors from all nations will even travel to Jerusalem to represent their peoples. And the last few verses of this chapter are amazing, everything in Jerusalem will be dedicated to the worship of our Great Eternal Father and His Son, our Messiah, Passover Lamb and Atoning Sacrifice. But most amazing of all, is that we have the opportunity to be in the first resurrection and to sit on thrones and help rule over the earth with Jesus Christ for a thousand years. While the world we live in now is spiritually dark and evil, we have a glorious and wonderful future to look forward to. May we all strive our hardest to enter into the Kingdom of God.

Day of Atonement — September 22, 2012

There are many similarities between Passover and Atonement. Both involve the blood of a sacrifice, for us, the blood of Jesus Christ. However, the reason for our observance and remembrance of this sacrifice is very different on these two days. For Passover the emphasis is on the forgiveness of sins, the first step in God’s Plan of Salvation for us as individuals. We cannot start down that process without the sacrifice of Jesus Christ first so our sins can be forgiven. Atonement has a different emphasis, the emphasis is on the result of that sacrifice and the forgiveness of our sins as an individual and as a group—now as a church group, in the past and future, as a nation living before God. When we sin we naturally feel guilt for our mistakes and that they required the death of God in the flesh. Passover is about the forgiveness of those sins, whereas Atonement is about the erasure of the guilt associated with those sins. The book of Hebrews has several scriptures relative to this. Hebrews 9:9 tells us that the sacrifices of the Old Testament could not give someone a “clean conscience” relative to the sins they had committed. Hebrews 10:2 points out that if the sacrifices of the Old Testament could purge the conscience, they would not have needed to be offered continuously. Verse 22 tells us the “once for all eternity” sacrifice of Jesus Christ gives us full assurance that our hearts are sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Passover is about redemption and justification. Atonement is about cleansing and reconciliation. All of the preceding can only occur through the blood of Jesus, but the emphasis is different for each of these two feasts. Atonement represents becoming “at one” with God, reconciled to our Father. That can only occur if we are cleansed from our sins and guilt by the blood of Jesus Christ. We have so much to be thankful for. Let us rejoice before God that not only are our sins forgiven, but that we can be made clean and come into the presence, guilt free, of the Being who sits on the Mercy Throne of Grace.

Feast of Trumpets — September 15, 2012

We associate several different meanings and lessons we should learn associated with each Holy Day. In my personal opinion, the Feast of Trumpets seems to represent more topics and lessons than any of the other individual Holy Days. From past sermons we have learned that the Hebrew word used for “trumpets” in reference to the “Feast of Trumpets” means to make a great noise or shout. The purpose for this noise or shout is to make an important announcement or proclamation. In addition we are told to blow many trumpets on this day. Consequently the two concepts have been combined and what is technically meant to be a great and loud proclamation is deemed to be made by the trumpets. There are many reasons, past and future, for the blowing of a trumpet or trumpets. Trumpets where used by Israel to: 1) call an assembly together, 2) time to journey for the camps of Israel, 3) alarm of war, 4) days of gladness [Israel designated holidays], 5) solemn days [Holy Days], 6) beginning of months, 7) over burnt offerings and sacrifices. Ezekiel 33:1-6 tells the watchman to blow the trumpet to warn Israel about their great tribulation in the end time. Joel 2 says to sound the alarm for the Day of the Lord is coming. To me, the Feast of Trumpets represents the Second Coming of Jesus at the “last trumpet”, the first resurrection, the seven trumpet plagues of Revelation, the Day of the Lord and judgment day for everyone. In addition, in God’s Plan of Salvation, the first three feast of God have been historically fulfilled. The Feast of Trumpets represents the next step in God’s Plan of Salvation to be literally fulfilled – the Second Coming of Jesus and the First Resurrection. We believe if we are able to stay alive during the difficult times ahead, most of us could actually live to see the events of Revelation come to pass and the return of Jesus Christ. The question we should always ask ourselves is, “Am I ready?” Here is to having a joyous and rewarding weekly Sabbath and the Feast of Trumpets on Monday to help us be better prepared for these coming events.

Have you fed Jesus lately? — September 8, 2012

Last Sabbath we talked about remembering the elderly and the less fortunate and referred to James 1:27. Continuing that thought this Sabbath, let us first look at what James said in the next chapter, verses 15 and 16. James makes the strong point of what good is it to say to someone who is hungry or needs clothing, “I’ll pray for you”. What we need to do is to actually DO SOMETHING physically – to actually give them some food and clothing. Now consider carefully Matthew 25:31-46 where Jesus separates His sheep from the goats at His Second Coming. And what determines this? Those who have fed the hungry and housed the destitute will be among the sheep that will inherit the Kingdom of God. Jesus will tell the goats to depart from Him because they never provided Him with food and shelter. They ask, when did we ever see you hungry or destitute? Jesus says that because they didn’t take care of the hungry and destitute it was the same as ignoring Him. Do we forget the seriousness, importance and magnitude of this scripture? How often do we in reality put these scriptures into practice? When is the last time we actually gave a hungry person some food? When is the last time we helped provide shelter or clothing for the poor? When is the last time we visited the sick, the elderly, the lonely? Will Jesus be impressed with our excuses for not doing these things? Jesus gave money to the poor out of His support funds (John 13:29). We should constantly “do something physically” to help the less fortunate, not just think about it. It will make a difference in what we hear Jesus say to us when we meet Him face-to-face at His Second Coming!

The Elderly — September 1, 2012

My Dad is 92 and my Mother is 88. It is hard watching your parents grow old where life is so challenging for them and they need a lot of help doing things they can no longer do for themselves. But at least they are still able to live in the home they love so much. I remember the nursing home where Mother stayed for over a month after she fell and broke her hip. I remember the sick and dying elderly, many who were alone, very seldom having any visitors. Between my dad, brother and myself, we stayed a couple hours each with Mother every day. In relationship to this I've been thinking about all the elderly people in this world whose families are to busy to visit them, I'm thinking about all those who are sick and those who are dying, I'm thinking about all those who are poor, who lack food, clothing, shelter. I'm thinking about the Feast of Tabernacles which represents the coming Kingdom of God. The Lord's prayer and Jesus statement "thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is heaven" becomes more and more important as the days go by. And I remember James 1:26-27 where it says pure religion is to look after the poor orphans and widows. It is easy in our busy lives to forget all those who suffer without the blessings most of us have. Let us not forget them. Let us remember to love our neighbor as ourselves and take care of and visit those who are less fortunate and lonely. And let us pray more diligently for God's will to be done with the coming of His Kingdom, for that is the only solution to this worldwide problem.

Sports Metaphors — August 25, 2012

The apostle Paul must have been a sports fan and appreciated athletic events including maybe even the Olympics. He spent several years of his ministry in Greece and may have attended some of the athletic events the Greeks held. In his inspired writings he makes several references and comparisons to athletics and sports and striving for the Kingdom of God. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 he compares the running of a race to win a perishable crown to the imperishable crown Christians strive for. He also mentions being a fighter who disciplines his body to stay in “spiritual shape”. Ephesians 6:12 refers to wrestling against not the physical, but spiritual wickedness. In 2 Timothy 2:5 he reminds Timothy that those who compete in athletics must compete according to the rules, implying we must play by God’s spiritual rules to win the prize of eternal life. He along with other writers of the Bible also seem to make analogies based on sports metaphors. Philippians 3:13-14 talks about pressing toward the goal to win the prize God offers us. 2 Corinthians 5:10 mentions that we will be judged based on things done with our body. Hebrews 12:1 says we need to run with patience and endurance the race that is set before us. And in the Old Testament we have Isaiah 40:29-31 where is says God will give strength to the weary so that will run and not get tired, walk and not become weary. There are many other scriptures that talk about strength and victory -- not giving up or becoming weary. While these scriptures may not be specifically sports related, there are common principles that are easy to see in athletic sporting events that we can apply to our spiritual lives. May we all strive to run our spiritual race by the strength of our faith in God and then receive the victor’s crown of eternal life in the first resurrection.

Ambassadors — August 18, 2012

Another nice thing about the Olympics is that most of the athletes are proud to represent their nation over their own personal interest. Many “high priced” athletics throughout the year are only interested in how high their salary is and how much recognition and “star power” they can generate for themselves. But when it comes to the Olympics, most -- but not all, there are always exceptions -- put “the self” aside and compete to represent “their nation,” not their own personal glory. They know the “eyes of the world” are upon them and how they represent their nation. They are athletic ambassadors to the whole world from their respective nation. What about us? None of us are great athletes, but we are ambassadors of a different type. We are religious ambassadors for the Father’s Kingdom of Heaven. In Ephesians 6:20, the apostle Paul asked the churches to pray for him that he would be inspired to preach the gospel of Christ, for which he was an ambassador in bonds. In 2 Corinthians 5:20 he was inspired to write that all Christians are ambassadors for Christ. Do we remember that the eyes of those around us are upon us as Ambassadors for Christ? Can they see that we represent and act in the interest of the Kingdom of God and not our own selfish personal interest? We often get so wrapped up in our own personal lives and our own individual problems that we forget the bigger picture. It is not about “the us”, but about giving glory to the Father, Jesus His Son and the Kingdom of Heaven. When we are baptized, we become Ambassadors for Christ and His official representatives to this world. Let us act accordingly in representing the Kingdom of Heaven as its Ambassadors.

Congratulations — August 11, 2012

One very nice thing about the Olympic Games is that at the end of an event, win or lose, all the competitors congratulate each other. Those who didn’t come in first congratulate the winner. The winner congratulates the others on having done their best. Sure, everyone would like to be the winner, but they treat it as a privilege to be in the Olympics and regardless of where they finish, are thankful for the chance to have participated in such a special event. This raises the question for Christians, how often do we congratulate or do something to encourage our Christian brothers and sisters?  In 1 Corinthians 12:26 the apostle Paul was inspired to state, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” Do we express our joy when others in the Christian Church succeed or are blessed in a special way? This is an important Christian principle as it is mentioned more than once in the Bible. Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” We have talked about the “Golden Rule” recently in these Sabbath Thoughts. Applying that principle, if we wish others would appreciate and congratulate us on a job well done when we experience any type of success, we then should make the effort to congratulate others when they make progress in accomplishing their goals in life. As we would like to receive encouragement from others, so then should we give encouragement to others. This is all part of “love” and fulfilling the second great commandment. Even just a smile or a pat on the shoulder can “make someone’s day.” Let us show our love for others by letting them know we care and notice their accomplishments.

Olympic Example — August 4, 2012

Like many around the world, I enjoy watching the Olympics. I tape it on my DVR and watch what I want skipping through the rest. I especially enjoy the opening ceremony and the “Parade of Nations”. I even get emotional when I see the athletes from 204 nations marching peacefully and cooperatively into the arena. The Olympic athletes get along with each other, they enjoy meeting the other athletics and especially the “stars” from other nations and like to share personal experiences. Even some nations who don’t “like” each other put aside their differences for this athletic competition. It is a small example of how the world’s nations and their peoples will get along peacefully during the Millennium. Except for those whose religion teaches them to hate other races, most people even now want to live peacefully with each other – it is the government and religious leaders who want to go to war against other nations to get what they have. Children don’t hate other children, all they want to do is play with other children and have a good time. Children are taught by some religions or nations to hate other peoples. Jesus will stop that and the world will enjoy 1000 years without war. We all wait patiently for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to make all things right according to the laws of God Almighty.

Keep The Baby! — July 28, 2012

Unfortunately, we live in a world where religious leaders sometimes take advantage of those in their churches. We find a strong indictment against the “shepherds of Israel” in Ezekiel 34 because these shepherds only care to feed themselves and not the flock. Verse 4 states, “... but with force and cruelty you have ruled them.” This can take many different forms, overbearing rulership, financial misconduct, even physical abuse, to name a few. Or, even if they don’t take advantage of anyone in their church, they have serious hidden sins because they don’t practice what they preach. When these sins become public or the congregation becomes aware of the abusive administration of the church, many might leave that church. In fact, they should leave. Ezekiel 34:5 foretold this by saying, “So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; ...” However, the mistake many make is that they indelibly link together the hearing of the truth of God and those who preach that truth. When they find out those who have preached to them are guilty of misconduct, they come to the conclusion what they preached must also be faulty. Significant numbers of former Church of God members have left the faith completely, some having gone back to a Sunday observance and Christmas after finding out about the misconduct of certain church leaders. Others give up on attending a church altogether, forgetting the promise Jesus made in Matthew 16:18, “... and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” As difficult as these circumstances can be, especially if an individual has suffered personal harm, we must remember what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 3:3-4, “For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. ...” The Truth of God will always be the Truth of God regardless of sinners who might preach it. Our faith should have been based on the Bible, not those who did the preaching. We might have to leave a group, but that doesn’t mean we have left “the church.” We should never leave our faith, faith based on the Bible itself. Like the old saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”, we should never throw away our faith, but continuously for a lifetime, fight for the faith once delivered and hang on the original truths at all costs.

Golden Rule Revisited — July 21, 2012

Last Sabbath we talked about the “Golden Rule” and how this principle is inherent in the Second Great Commandment. This principle is exemplified throughout the Bible, most notable in the parable of the Good Samaritan. In addition, there is another related principle that relays the same intent with different wording. We find this principle relative to forgiveness. One of the clearest statements is in what is referred to as “the Lord’s Prayer”. Matthew 6:12 states, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” This was such an important point in the model prayer that it is the only part of the prayer that Jesus expanded upon after giving the prayer to His disciples. Verses 14 to 15: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” We also see the importance of this principle in the discussion with Peter and the following parable found in Matthew 18. Peter asks how often should he forgive his brother, seven times? Jesus answered 490 times. Obviously this was not to be taken as a literal number one keeps track of, but is meant to convey forgiveness without limit. Jesus then gave the parable of the unjust servant. Jesus describes a servant who was forgiven by a king of a large debt. Yet this same servant would not forgive a fellow servant of a small debt. Other scriptures that state the same principle are Mark 11:25-26, Luke 6:37-38, Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:13. How might we state this principle in a more general way patterned after the Golden Rule? The Golden rule is stated as, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This could be embellished relative to this principle as, “Do unto others as you would have God do unto you”. We change just one word and we have a totally new impact. We want God to love us, to shower us with His grace, favor, mercy, hope, faith, blessings and forgiveness. Since we hope God will treat us in this manner, God is also saying we should treat others the same way. Just like we want unlimited forgiveness from God for all our sins, so God expects us to always forgive others no matter how many times they may "sin against us". This is all about building the same character as God has. Let us follow these principles and always try to treat others in the same manner we want to be treated by God.

The Golden Rule — July 14, 2012

In Matthew 7:12 we have what Christians refer to as the “Golden Rule”. And it is a great Christian principle we all should adhere to in our daily lives. There is so much implied in this Golden Rule. We must be aware of our actions and considerate of the feelings of those we interact with. We can’t just blindly stumble through life like the preverbal “bull in a china shop” – causing considerable damage because we are totally unaware of how our actions affect others. This implies we listen to, not ignore, the feedback of others. This feedback can take many forms whether it is in a direct statement to us from a person who did not like how we treated them or just how they behave toward us that we “read” and pick up on their feelings and emotions. We notice when they are not happy or open or friendly around us. When we note that someone we interact with is withdrawn and on-guard around us, we don’t automatically determine “they” have a problem, we evaluate “our” behavior and try to figure how what we have done has offended them. If need be, we ask them what we have done wrong. And most of all, we change our behavior towards others in an on-going effort to improve our relationship with them. For me this is synonymous with the “second great commandment”: love your neighbor as yourself. In order to follow both of these synonymous Godly laws, we must make an effort to evaluate our lives as we are commanded to in other scriptures. This will also help satisfy the commandment to “bear spiritual fruit”. Without effort there are no results, or I should say, no good results. It does take effort, thoughtful consideration, evaluation and change. What is the purpose of these Godly laws? To improve our relationship with others. Are we putting as much effort into that as we do trying to improve our relationship with God? We should be.

Rivers of Living Water — July 7, 2012

God gives us love, faith, hope, mercy, grace, forgiveness and other gifts by and through His Holy Spirit. We indeed must have these to understand spiritual truths, to be a true and faithful Christian and to eventually receive the free gift of eternal life. But is that all we’re expected to do with what God gives us? Just use it for our own needs? John 15 says we are to bear fruit, spiritual fruit. How do we do that? A couple of ways: living a good life according to God’s laws and being an example to others, to the end that sooner or later they will follow Jesus like we do. For this Sabbath Thought, however, I want to concentrate on John 7:37-39. We are to drink in of the Holy Spirit. But it doesn't’t end there, that would be selfish if we only use the Holy Spirit for our own advantage. We are to let the Holy Spirit flow through us and out to others so they also may benefit spiritually. We could try another analogy and say God the Father is the spigot (or fire hydrant) and we are like a connected hose to get the “water” to others in need, either due to their own thirst (or flames of evil in their lives). We are just another tool, in this case a conduit, a hose, to get the “water” from the source to those in need. This “water” is called “rivers of living water”. The Holy Spirit we receive from God is not just for our own personal use. Yes we are to use it for our own spiritual growth, but it needs to be more than that. We are to use it to help in the spiritual growth of others. At times that is difficult. Like the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”, not many at this time want the help of the Holy Spirit. They are spiritually dehydrated but they don’t know it. Nonetheless, we must do the right thing and try to share what God gas given us. It will produce fruit in others sooner or later, we must be patient and wait on God’s timing.

Do we compare ourselves with others? — June 30, 2012

Last Sabbath we talked about competition among Christians and that that is not a good thing. Right along with competition is comparing ourselves with others, they are practically the same with only a slight difference. 2 Corinthians 10:12 says it is not wise to compare ourselves among ourselves. However, it is human nature to do this and we all do it even though we don’t want to. We all might say we don’t compare ourselves with others – and probably what we mean is that we don’t want to and try not to compare ourselves with others. But how we talk about others, how we live our lives, how we react to what others do in their lives, all this shows that we do indeed make comparisons without realizing it. When we talk about others and rehearse many of the things they do wrong what are we really doing? If we do that, what we are really doing and saying is “look at all the things they are doing wrong compared to the good things I do in living my life”. Read Luke 18:9-14. Jesus spoke this parable to warn us against trusting in our own abilities. He recounts a Pharisee who prayed to God saying he wasn’t like other men, didn’t sin like others did and then rehearsed to God all the good things he was doing. He certainly was comparing himself with other religious people, in this case those he considered sinning more than he did. Why? Because it made him feel good because he was living a better religious life in his mind then they were. We prefer to compare ourselves in most cases with those we consider “inferior”. We wouldn’t say that or put it that way, but that is usually what happens. We seldom compare ourselves to those who live better lives than we do and use that to motivate ourselves to try harder and do better in our Christian lives. Why do we feel a need to always talk about what “bad sinners” everyone else is, even though it is true? Why do we need to tell everyone else in listening distance what is so obvious to us all? It is like making a deliberate effort to point out the sins of others and by comparison silently saying I’m better than that. While I don’t think it is wrong to call a sin a sin, I think there is a practical limit to how often we need to do that before others, and it is not over and over and over again. So, while I think it is humanly impossible not to make any comparisons at all, let us at least try to keep it to a minimum and certainly not voice those comparisons out loud. Let’s let God make those comparisons and then pray we hear those words, “Well done you good and faithful servant”.

Christian Competition? — June 23, 2012

Many Christians act like they’re in a competition with other Christians. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 tells us to run like we are in a race where there is only one prize. What is the point of the analogy Paul is making? Is it that we are competing with other Christians and we need to show we are better than the rest? That we are winners and by comparison, they are losers? I know that if we asked a Christian this question they would say “Of course not”. Yet that seems to be the way some Christians talk about others indicating this is exactly how they feel even though they don’t realize this is what they are doing. This type of Christian is rigorous in obeying the letter of the law. Not that it is wrong to obey the letter of the law, we all should be doing that. But they put so much emphasis on obeying the letter of the law it almost seems like they think they can earn “brownie points” or favor with God for their good behavior and their good behavior will help them win the race, get the prize and defeat everyone else. Again, most Christians know spiritually that this is a wrong attitude. Yet it is one thing to know something is wrong and another to be able to avoid practicing it in everyday spiritual life. This can come close to being like the Pharisees. The point the apostle Paul was making was we all need to put in the spiritual effort to overcome and live a good life AS IF there were only one prize. He is not talking about competing with other Christians trying to beat them in a spiritual race and claiming a victory while others go down to spiritual defeat because they didn’t do as good in running the race. He is talking about the effort each of us needs to make in our own lives to overcome, no comparison with others. However, some Christians seem to think there are a limited number of open spots in the First Resurrection or a Place of Safety to escape the destruction of the coming seven seals of God. They must secure one of those spots and it will be so sad for all the others. As hard as it is, let us not act or think like we are in spiritual competition with others. We have a merciful God, Who is no respecter of persons. He desires all to be in the Kingdom of God. Yes, we do know He has a time order, there are the firstfruits that will be in the first resurrection. However, I don’t think that number is limited or set by God to just a few from this time period. I hope and pray for a spiritual revival among the people of God. I hope at least half of them will wake up in time, like the parable of the 10 virgins indicates, and be ready for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Throwing stones — June 16, 2012

Last Sabbath we considered “the speck in your brother’s eye” found in Matthew 7 and Luke 6. This Sabbath we’ll compare that to the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Both stories involve a reaction to sin. In both cases we ask the question, “Who is qualified to respond to these sins?” The differences are twofold. First, the responses are different. Regarding “the speck” the response is to try and help your brother by removing that speck. Regarding the woman caught in adultery, the response is condemning judgment and throwing stones to execute her. So the difference boils down to “helping” vs. “condemning”. The second consideration for both examples is “Who is qualified to participate?”. Regarding “the speck” we found out that those who are spiritually mature and strong in the faith are supposed to humbly and lovingly help others in the congregation overcome their faults. However, this story in John 8 presents a completely different situation – who is qualified to throw stones. We all know the answer. Jesus said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” Obviously, the answer is no one. None of us is qualified to condemn another human being for their sins. Yes, we can recognize sin is sin. Jesus did not ignore that this woman had sinned. But as the Son of God, neither did He condemn her for her sin. He told her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” God can forgive all sins. We read in Ezekiel 33:11 that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but He desires that they would turn from their sins and live. We must have this same attitude that God does. That attitude is love. In love we try to help others improve their spiritual lives, not condemn them for the mistakes they make. This is how we would desire God to treat us. That is how we should treat others.

The speck in your brother's eye — June 9, 2012

I’ve been thinking about the difference between “the speck in your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7 and Luke 6) and “not throwing stones” (John 8). I’ll talk about John 8 next Sabbath. Matthew 7 and Luke 6 tell us not to try and remove a speck (relatively “small” sin or fault) from our brother’s eye when we have a plank (relatively “large” sin or fault) in our own eye. This is not about recognizing sin or condemning someone as a sinner. This is about “who is qualified” to help someone overcome a sin or fault in their life. Are we as Christians permitted to do this? Yes we are, but there are conditions. Jesus ends this analogy by telling us to first remove the plank from our own eye and then we will be able to see clearly to remove the speck from our brother’s eye. So, it is permissible for a Christian to try and help his brother or sister overcome a fault, but first he must be sure that he has no major faults that would interfere with his perception of the other’s fault. The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 15:1-2 and Galatians 6:1-2 that those who are “spiritually strong” should gently and humbly help the “weak” get back on the right path. How do we know if we are “spiritually strong”? We need to have a realistic self-appraisal or ourselves. But if we are in denial and suffering from self-deception we won’t be able to properly evaluate our spiritual condition. Here is a case where what others think, other Christians in the congregation, is important. If the rest of the church congregation recognizes certain individuals as spiritually mature and strong, then that would lend evidence that such a person could give his advice to others. In addition, it requires that the other person is willing to listen and heed the helpful advice. And, of course, while we can be tools in God’s hands, nothing can be accomplished unless it is done through the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Both the giver of help and the receiver must have and use the Holy Spirit if such actions are to bear good fruit. There are many scriptures in the Bible that state we are to help one another in love. We all need help regardless of any perceived “status” or “position” in the congregation. If we truly seek the Kingdom of God, we will also accept the loving help from others in our efforts to overcome.

Too much "ME" in Christianity — June 2, 2012

As a Christian I’m always evaluating my actions and what I need to do better or differently. For the last couple of months I’ve started a list of the major spiritual lessons I’ve learned in my lifetime. I plan to turn this into a series of sermons sometime in the future. One of those lessons is that I think there is too much of the “ME” in Christianity and not enough glory given to God. For instance we may look at others who in our opinion don’t understand the Truth like we do and think “I’m right and they’re wrong”. Instead we should praise God for His mercy and granting us an open mind to understand His spiritual truths. “God is right,” and only God, it is never about us being right, we have just been privileged with understanding. We should have compassion on those who lack understanding, loving them as the future children of God according to the timing of His plan of salvation. It is our human nature to think in terms of what we think the “I” has accomplished, obeying God in keeping His Sabbath and Holy Days, etc. Yes, we must have works, but the only works that produce spiritual fruit are the works accomplished through faith and the power of the Holy Spirit, not our own efforts. Again, true Christianity, true religion is not about the “ME” and what we are doing, it is about what God is doing in me and in you.

Selfish with the Holy Spirit? — May 28, 2012

I just wanted to say hello to everyone on this very special Holy Day of Pentecost. All the Holy Days are special in their own way with the meaning they relate to us about God’s Plan of Salvation for mankind. I pray for the day when God will once again give of His Holy Spirit more liberally to His people around the world. Only He knows who “His people” are, presently and in the near future. I’m reminded this day of the incident with Moses and Joshua when 70 elders where chosen to assist Moses in Numbers 11. Two were not able to make it to the ceremony and were in the camp. Still the Spirit of Prophecy came upon them. Joshua asked Moses in verse 28 to forbid them – Joshua was jealous of the relationship Moses had with God and only wanted those elders who were surrounding Moses at the time to share in the Spirit Power of God. But notice Moses’ response in verse 29! “But Moses said, “Are you jealous for me? Would that all God’s people were prophets. Would that God would put his Spirit on all of them.” I think some, if not many, of God’s people only want to see God’s Holy Spirit given to a few, the few in their group. This is selfish and religious vanity. I hope and pray, and hope you all share in this understanding, for the day when God’s Holy Spirit will rest upon and spiritually revive many people regardless of which group they may now be attending. I don’t view our spiritual journey as a competition or that there is only one prize or a limited amount of God’s Holy Spirit to go around. I pray for the day when even my “enemies” will receive the Holy Spirit, and repent and then we can humbly walk together in spiritual harmony and unity before God forgetting our past differences. It is not about “me”, it needs to be about God and what He will do for all, in His time order. I hope you all have a rewarding Feast of Pentecost regardless of where and with whom you keep it. The main thing is that God be with us regardless of the individual circumstances.