July 9 2016
Romans 6:1, 2 –1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
According to the National Academy of Social Insurance, “Social Security's full-benefit retirement age is increasing gradually because of legislation passed by Congress in 1983. Traditionally, the full benefit age was 65, and early retirement benefits were first available at age 62, with a permanent reduction to 80 percent of the full benefit amount. Currently, the full benefit age is 66 for people born in 1943-1954, and it will gradually rise to 67 for those born in 1960 or later. Early retirement benefits will continue to be available at age 62, but they will be reduced more.”1
Each year employees reach the age of either early retirement or full retirement, leave their employer, spend some time at home in their new found freedom of not having to go to work, only travel back to work again. Why? Why would someone go through their adult life moving closer to the time of retirement only to come back out of retirement and work again? Why would someone, having achieved freedom from the bondage of being an employee seek, to be an employee again? The reasons vary from situation to situation but the question of why mirrors Paul’s question of “why” in Romans 6.
The Romans had developed an idea that having been delivered from sin by the grace of Jesus, they could sin even more because the grace of Jesus was able to cover any sin that is committed. While it’s true that grace can cover any sized sin, we should never pursue sin as a lifestyle, we should never seek to go back into bondage having been delivered from bondage. Financial coach Dave Ramsey asserts that, “your income is your greatest wealth building tool.” Encouraging people, “don’t give all your hard earned money out in payments. Get out of DEBT.”
Taking Dave’s advice and following the Baby Steps program outlined in Dave’s Financial Peace program one person tweeted, “my car, and all of my charge cards will be paid off no later than March next year, for a total of $730 extra MONTH in my pocket”.2
Being out of the bondage of debt would give this person $730 a month of cash with no obligations. Could you use an extra $730 per month? What would you do with an extra $730 per month? Would you believe me if I told you that after getting out of debt the hardest thing for a person to do is stay out of debt? It’s true. After spending so much energy into fighting debt, the next step is to learn how to avoid debt.
I am elated to announce that as of July 2016, Philadelphia SDA Church will be DEBT FREE!!! While that is a cause for rejoicing, it is also a cause for caution because as easy we got out we can get back in. Or as hard as we fought to get out we can fight to avoid going back in. With no debt comes an opportunity to do more ministry. More options to help more people to be delivered from the bondage they’re in.
Being free allows us to Teach freedom and Inspire freedom around the world.
Having been freed from bondage let us know longer seek to be in bondage but seek to enjoy a life delivered, a life empowered by God.
1What is the Social Security Retirement Age?, National Academy of Social Insurance, NASI.org.
2 @DaveRamsey, twitter.com
One Stroke at a Time
May 7, 2015
In this age of digital cameras it’s easy for the skill of painting to be forgotten. For the appreciation of the time, dedication, exactitude and creativity that it takes to transform a canvas into a beautiful portrait to be lost behind the bright flashes of instant photos.
The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, stationed in Vatican City, took a young Michelangelo four years to paint with a team of assistants.
The Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo da Vinci, has also been the focus of many in not just for its splendor but also the amount of time that it took to complete. It is said that da Vinci worked on the project for between four and sixteen years. The project began in 1503 and the painting was not released until he died in 1519.
More than the beauty and creativity of each of these works, I have always been amazed by their longevity. Both were finished in the early 1500’s, yet nearly 500 years later they are the benchmark for aspiring artists and the source of amazement for millions of tourists. To be sure, they have each required a portion of touchup since they were originally completed. The left elbow of the Mona Lisa lost some pigment and needed to be replaced and the section of Noah and the flood fell and needed to be replaced after a bomb explosion near the Sistine Chapel.
Yet, all in all both bodies of work have stood for some time. Reflecting the brilliance of the men that created them.
The Bible also speaks about a Creator whose work will stand the test of time. In Romans 12:3 we are told that “….God has given to each one a measure of faith.” And in 1 Peter 1:6,7 we are encouraged that the issues of this world test our faith but should not prevent us from being ushered in:
4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 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,
Thus we are the canvas on which God as chosen to paint His masterpiece. Every second of everyday He is adding to our landscape, taking us from a blank canvas to His magnum opus: moment by moment, situation by situation, one stroke at a time.
Don’t let the worries of life discourage you. Don’t let the time that it’s taking for you to be completed get you down. The work that God is doing in and on you takes a lifetime. Yet, when He is finished we will be complete, and we will endure for eternity!!
Finding the Right One
February 20, 2015
Creating a Safe Place
In an article for Educause one researcher declares, “Information technology has had a globalizing effect, knocking down many barriers. We can communicate twenty four hours a day without regard to time zones; we can send information across national boundaries; and we can, with voice-recognition and speech-translation software, converse in languages that we do not even know.”1 Yet, while these advances have surely drawn us closer together in some regards, they’ve pushed us further apart in others.
Today we have online banking, online bill pay, online classes, email, video calling, thousands of apps, and sites for watching movies or TV shows on our mobile devices. Each of these advances were designed to make our life easier, but each requires a complicated password of 6 characters or more, that must include each of the following: one capital letter, one number, one special character; and cannot resemble a previous password!
These passwords are safety measures to keep the bad people out, to protect our private information, but more often than not we forget which password we've created for which account and find ourselves locked out from our own information after too many incorrect attempts. Meanwhile, hackers are able to access our information with the click of a button.
The year 2014 could easily be classified as “the year of the data breach”. J.P. Morgan Chase, Target, and Home Depot combined to report that the card data of 202 million customers was accessed by hackers, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. With dozens of other companies reporting similar data breaches we can attest that the ease and convenience that we desire is often a big inconvenience.
In a world where IT has brought us closer together, we find that we need more privacy and more security. The more we have the less we want people to know about it, creating what can be classified as a “secretive society”. This secretive society has had an adverse impact on the church.
In 2013, a student committed suicide on the campus of Andrews University. Close friends said they never would have expected something like that to happen, and they didn't know that anything was wrong but clearly there was. Countless young people and even adults say they don't feel that the church is a “safe place”, and so they go on to repeat the same mistakes and experience the same heartaches of their predecessors. In a world where technological advances have drawn us closer together even in the church we have grown further apart.
Yet, James 5:16 encourages us to "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".
James is not recommending the phone booth-esque confessional that occurs in the Catholic Church (which in many ways resembles the walls that have been set up in the world) but rather face to face communication. An interaction free of judgment, where each person is able to be transparent, and where healing is able to occur.
James counsels us that there is healing in being close to one another, that through removing the barriers that we've become used to having in secular society, that we may be delivered from the issues that continuously beset us amongst though being closer with our church family.
In the song "I need you to survive" Hezekiah Walker et al, affirm the counsel from James singing "you pray for me, I pray for you, I love you, I need you to survive. I won't harm you, with words from my mouth, I love you, I need you to survive". In the church we must tear down the walls that divide us, the church is to be a safe place, where together we are delivered; together we draw closer to God!!!
January 15, 2015
More Than a Superhero
In the year 1960, DC Comics began the production of comic books that highlighted the amazing powers of a group of individuals that came together to protect the world, they were known as the Justice League. Since then millions of boys and girls; men and women have gone to see the movies, watched cartoons, purchased action figures and donned costumes representing these “superheroes”.
But here’s something to think about. How many people have you ever see dressed up like Diana Prince? How about rushing to a movie about Jay Garrick? These are the civilian names of Wonder Woman and The Flash respectively; it’s my position that you never see any one dressed like them for the same reason no one wants to be Clark Kent before he goes into the phone booth, or Peter Parker before he puts on his “Spidey-Suit”.
We are attached to the power and prestige that come with being a superhero. The ability to overcome any foe, the idea that a world depends upon a sole source for protection, the reality that the liberation of the people comes through one person in a fancy suit with superhuman powers, draws millions to adore these masked defenders.
Yet, it is in this point that Christ sought to turn humanity’s definition of a “hero” on its head. Philippians 2:7-9 reads:
7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. (NASB)
The word emptied used here is the Greek word kenoó, which can be translated “perceived as valueless”. Christ, the Savior of the world, came without pomp or grandeur, no shiny suit or mask. He came as a man, in the image of those that are considered “valueless”, because we are invaluable to Him.
He cared so much for humanity that He not only came and lived but He died for each and every one of us, that by accepting Him as our Savior “we may not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).
I am reminded of the words penned by Ellen White:
“…you know the height from which He stooped, the depth of humiliation to which He descended. Having once entered upon the path of self-denial and sacrifice, he turned not aside until He had given His life. There was no rest for Him between the throne and the cross.” (AA 332.3)
In this new year and beyond, let us look beyond the costumes of these fictitious heroes, and refuse to venerate them for their amazing abilities, proclaiming our desires to be like them. And instead daily desire to be like Christ. To appreciate what He has done for us and to daily put on the full armor of our true Savior, Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 6:10-18 for more on the armor of God). For He is our Savior, He is our sole source of protection, He is more than a superhero.
No Matter the Situation
There is no way that this time of year can come around and you not here a message about Dr. Martin Luther King:
Did you know:
1. His original name wasn’t Martin but Michael
2. He was considered a better preacher that activist
3. He never planned to give the “I Have a Dream” speech that he became known for
I considered his life and it seems that Martin was repeatedly a victim of change. But he didn’t complain, as matter of fact it seems like he flourished in the midst of change. Looking at his life what we are lead to understand is we are never in control of what happens to us, but we are in control of how we respond.
Viktor Frankl, a psychologist from Australia once said:
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Consider for a second that space. The section between the thing that happens to you and your response, How do you usually handle that space?
- Some of you have never realized that there was a space. For some of you the transition from stimulus to response is so rapid that the two seem to be fused together.
- For others you don’t want a space. As a matter of fact, some people think about the response regardless of what the stimulus may be. You’ve heard, saw or maybe you’re that person that says “I wish somebody would…..!!” This person is looking for an opportunity to respond, they’re looking beyond the space.
Turn in your Bible to Genesis 39.
The star of the chapter is Joseph. He like Dr. King was familiar with change. Despised by his brothers, he was sold into slavery. He’d gone from being his father’s favorite, from being the most trusted amongst his brethren, to being a prisoner. He didn’t let the unfortunate changes, alter his principles. He didn’t compromise on his standards, he didn’t lose sight of whose he was.
Read: Genesis 39:1-6
Here we see the awesomeness of God! We see how through His mercies a prisoner, sold into slavery by his enemies could rise to the second highest person in the household.
It reminds me of the story of Nelson Mandela. Mr. Mandela was locked up for 27 years. During this time, he contracted tuberculosis and, as a black political prisoner, received the lowest level of treatment from prison workers. However, while incarcerated, Mr. Mandela was able to earn a Bachelor of Law degree through a University of London correspondence program. He didn’t just stop there. He went on to become the first black President of South Africa.1
Nelson Mandela never gave up. Even after being released, he believed that there was still work to do. Yet, the work that he would do would only be effective if he’d been doing work while he was locked up. As stated above, when he was locked up he was still doing work, he was still trying to grow. Sometimes we get in a bad situation and we become lax, sometimes it’s easy for us to become comfortable even when we’re in uncomfortable places.
Read: verses 7-13
You probably know the end of the story. Potiphar’s wife, tired of being rejected, cries out that Joseph tried to rape her. Again Joseph experienced change. He went from being second in command to back in prison.
Just for clarity, it doesn’t have to be a sexual advance. It could be a plot to steal, and it could be a temptation to lie. For Adam and Eve it was to eat the fruit, the people of Israel it was worshipping other gods, during the time of Jesus it was the worshipping of self, during the time Paul it was surrendering to flesh. Regardless of the classification,its compromise!!!!
Our focus today is on maintaining standards. Joseph could’ve said I have the money, I have the power, I have the prestige, it makes sense that I get the girl, but he didn’t. In verse 9, how can I do this great wickedness and sin against God!!!
We have to get to a point where we recognize that the sin that we do is against the same Heavenly Father that we pray to and ask to deliver out of our situation. We need to recognize that He wants us to succeed, that He doesn’t want us to compromise.
Read: 1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.