Thanks be to God who watches over us and provides help in time of need. In Spalding County we have been witnessing many who are helping with the aftermath of the tornados. FOX 5 Atlanta reports, “More than 360 volunteers have registered to help, with many more just rolling up their sleeves in an effort to clear it all.” The Spalding County Sheriff’s Office “reports that a total of five tornadoes touched down last Thursday.” The most severe was an EF-3, where winds are strong enough to lift mobile homes and snap trees. Our own Missy had reported over twenty trees had been felled across their family’s property blocking their driveway access to the road. The family had been working since Friday to clear the fallen trees, and seven volunteers aided them this past Sunday to finish the job. Praise God!
As I drove through the area, the destruction is heartbreaking. But the evidence of the Spirit of God is abundant through the many who are helping out. There are power lineman trucks with as many as 150 lineman, many from other states who are working to restore electrical service. There are several groups, like Colliers, City Church, and First Methodist who are providing food, blankets and other needed supplies. Various local restaurants are feeding workers. And there are several individuals who are delivering food and supplies to those in need.
Yet the need is so great. Many still without power. Many lines still down. Many homes destroyed. FEMA is now in town and beginning to better coordinate relief efforts, and that’s a good thing. Spalding County is perhaps the worst hit, with Butts, Henry, Jasper, Meriwether and Troop counties all now officially declared disaster areas, which qualifies them for federal assistance. And then there are other areas of the Nation like Selma, Alabama where tornados caused even more devastation, or California where an “atmospheric river” of eight consecutive storms has caused unprecedented flooding and destruction, homelessness and loss of life.
Ironically, just before the tornado warnings were issued on Thursday past, I had just finished taking an online course through FEMA to get trained for Incident Command System (ICS), which helps prepare volunteers to work with various government and private sector teams when they respond to any crisis or disaster. In fact, all of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference pastors were together last week for our annual ministers meetings to begin this training in association with Adventist Community Services. The Griffin church heard my sermon this past Sabbath which began with that story/illustration. The Thomaston church will hear that sermon this coming Sabbath.
If you missed the service, here is the YouTube link:
I am thankful for the elders of these two churches, Richard, Mort and Norm, who have taken up the mantle to preach when I am away, for I cannot be at both churches every Sabbath. And yet I pray…
Tonight, Tuesday at 6:30pm the Griffin prayer group will meet on Zoom. Tomorrow afternoon, Wednesday at 1:00pm the Thomaston prayer group will meet in their fellowship hall.
Here we find ourselves in 2023, a New Year has launched itself upon us, ready or not. I know that there are those who make resolutions every New Year. This can be a good time to rethink the path you’ve been following and reset yourself. Some may make new goals, perhaps even embark on a new course. Yes, there could be a total reset. Others will remain on the same path by choice while making slight corrections as needed to find success. And then there are those that are just stuck, unable to make any significant improvement to their lot.
Of course, I’m just generalizing here. But, what if there was a way to not only survive, but to thrive? No matter your circumstances. No matter whether you’re rich or poor, slave or free. No matter whether you come from a successful family or have no family. And the answer is not what most people might think. For in this world too many are trying to base their ideas of success on the Hollywood model.
What do I mean by the Hollywood model? In the 20th century the Hollywood model would have been mainly limited to movies and television, for that is where people were looking for entertainment and news. And for meaning.
We are now twenty-three years into the 21st Century, and the influence of the Hollywood model is stronger than ever, for now anyone with a smart phone and a twitter account can be a social media influencer. I do not need to make a case to prove this, for you all know what you follow and who you follow. Whether it’s on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter or Instagram, etc., etc., what’s app with that? Pun intended!
The thing is that much, even most of what is “followed” is what I am calling the “Hollywood Model.” Yes, I include sports within that paradigm. It’s the ways of the world to want to be rich, to want to be famous, to want to be “followed” and adored by others. But are the ways of the world, the world’s ideas of success, the world’s ideas of what it means to thrive, are those ways the only ways to thrive? Or could it be that is a false narrative that was laid out long ago to divert humans away from God’s plan of salvation?
What if God has a better plan than Hollywood? What if He has a better plan than most of what the world has to offer. Better than being rich? Better than being a famous actor or sports star. Better than having thousands of followers on social media. Better than… You name it.
So, what is my resolve? My resolve is to thrive. How can I do that, you ask? I follow Jesus. If you accept Jesus and follow His teachings and His laws you will not only survive, you, like me, will learn what it really means to thrive. For I know that the only way to really thrive, no matter your lot in life, rich or poor, slave or free, young or old, healthy or sick, yes, and no matter your family circumstances, there is way that you, like me, can thrive.
Think about this for a moment. When someone becomes a champion athlete, even a world record holder, they may thrive in their sport. They may be at the top of their game. But, how long does that last? Only for a short period of time. Then as the champion ages, and is removed from his prime, someone else, another champion comes to take their place. The star athletes of yesterday are no longer in the spotlight. This is also true of famous actors, famous models, famous rich people, and famous social media influencers. To thrive according to the Hollywood model only lasts for a brief moment in the grand scheme of eternity.
“But the path of the just is like the shining sun, That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.”
Then He also said to the multitudes, “Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is. And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather’; and there is. Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?
The LORD impressed me to change my sermon, because of Hurricane Ian, which just cut across the middle of Florida from West to East leaving a swath of devastation. I have family there, as do many of you. Now the Lord had already given me another sermon. Just this past Wednesday morning I hurriedly sketched it out as I was preparing for part three of my series, “Stories from Mark.” In fact I was really excited about what the Holy Spirit had revealed to me. Yet, Wednesday night as I heard from my daughter and son-in-law (Christina & Crist) how the winds were already starting to whip up and the rain was already starting to fall in Volusia County where they live and work, my mind was being changed.
Yes, the next day, Thursday, after speaking to them again on cell phones and losing the connection, texting was not working, power was out across the State, that is 2 1/2 million people without power, and after seeing news footage of the destruction in such places as Fort Myers and Sanibel Island, a place where Tracie and I vacationed just last year, my heart was filled with earnest to preach a message that would more directly speak to the current situation of Georgia’s sister State.
Yes, Tracie and I live in Georgia, and like many others, we visit Florida often, usually pulling our 5th-Wheel camper and staying near beaches. Most of our camping trips we stay in New Smyrna Beach or Port Orange RV parks. Crist and Christina live in Port Orange, a short five mile drive to Daytona Beach. She owns an ice cream shop in Daytona Beach Shores right on A1A, a place at which we frequently and conveniently find ourselves hanging out to socialize and sample the wares. Christina’s shop is called “Ice Scream Social” of DBS. The ice cream is among the best I have ever sampled, and the atmosphere is memorable. You might even find your picture or that of an acquaintance on their wall of fame. Two doors down is one of the best Mexican fast food restaurants, “Senor Taco,” with authentically delicious burritos that go well either before or after ice cream.
Then came Ian and life has changed for Floridians and those of us who frequent the various vacation destinations there. The famous Daytona Beach Pier is destroyed. Of course, piers are usually the first thing to go during major storms. We used to live in Brunswick, Georgia where not infrequently the different board walks of the barrier islands, St. Simons and Jekyll Islands, would get washed away. We also used to live in Southern California, where the piers from Newport Beach to Huntington Beach to Seal Beach, etc. would be broken or destroyed and later rebuilt only to have that cycle repeated over again after another major storm.
Yes, life near the beach can be a precarious undertaking, especially when it comes to major storms. We may expect to lose a few structures, like the piers. I mean, can they even buy insurance for piers? I don’t know, but I doubt it.
Our homes are another thing though. And our places of business. Our modern day society tends to think of them as more permanent. If they are threatened by impending natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes or hurricanes we are willing to take that chance, because it doesn’t happen that often, and then the threat usually dissolves into something less threatening. Like the time about ten years ago we had camped on the Gulf Coast of Florida at Carabelle Beach and were chased out by a tropical storm named Debby.
Debby’s highest sustained winds were clocked at 65mph. Nothing compared to Ian. In fact, Ian may be the costliest hurricane to ever hit Florida. The Governor of Florida called it a once-in-500 years type of disaster. It competes well with two major hurricanes put together, Charley and Francis, both of which hit Florida in 2004. Charley for the wind speed of 150mph, and Francis for the enormous amount of rain water. Ian’s winds pushed back major rivers to cause them to flood inland, and it’s storm power poured down rain in torrents causing major flooding and ruination of multiple homes, businesses and other structures, including tearing away several large sections of the lovely causeway from Fort Myers to Sanibel Island. Sanibel has been completely cut off from the mainland. What are the over 6,000 residents who live on Sanibel going to do? And for those who evacuated, how do they go back to investigate their former residential or business situation?
Then there is the after cost through loss. Crist and Christina, for example, are just one couple with a teenage daughter, our granddaughter, who like many entrepreneurs make their living running their own businesses. Crist as a Chiropractor, and Christina as the owner of an ice cream shop. Their townhome was flooded with three inches of water in the downstairs, but outside was worse with the water level quickly rising above your knees… and then to your waist as you enter the complex’s parking area. Their cars were sitting in water up to the top of the hood. They were a total loss. She did attempt to start one car after the water had abated three days later. She recorded a short video on her cell to show me later. Water poured out the exhaust pipe as if it was a garden hose, and the engine sickly puttered for about a minute and then stopped forever.
How much insurance will give them in remuneration towards purchasing other cars is still unknown. Both of their cars were completely paid for, and they were proud of the fact. Prior to Ian, their overall financial plan, was to keep those cars, and work hard to save money, so that they may one day buy a regular house, where the property would be their own.
Will FEMA help everyone affected with financial loss? How much will homeowners insurance cover? Can one afford to pay the deductibles? What about the business? When will it be up and running again? Producing a modest income again? And that adds to a persons anxiety over how they will come out of this mess economically speaking. Not to mention mentally and physically speaking. Of course it could be worse, for some were injured. Others died.
What about those of you who believe in Jesus and God? How do you see this hurricane and any other natural disaster that may affect your livelihood at any given moment? What counsel does the Bible give for believers in Jesus?
This is why I changed my sermon. I preached it this past Sabbath at the Thomaston Seventh-day Adventist Church in Thomaston, Georgia. The title is written above in this blog. I also taught an impromptu Sabbath School lesson by combining the children with the Adults. Well, it was the adult lesson, but since three children showed up, I had them stay with the few adults who were present, and taught them altogether. The lesson is titled, “Rebellion In a Perfect Universe.”
The question has been frequently asked, “Why do bad things happen to good people.” The link below will bring my YouTube page where you can watch the Bible study lesson and also view the worship service and hear the sermon. And if you would like to support my ministry, please subscribe and share. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today.
Sketch: The title of my sermon is, “The Adventist Calling.” This is the second sermon in my new series, “Stories from Mark.” You may well ask, What is the Adventist Calling? Do you mean what we are called to do? Or, do you mean what we are called to be? I mean both. For what we are called to do, cannot be done unless we become what we are called to be.
Mark says that Jesus came preaching, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.” But take a look at how Marks Gospel begins… He opens with “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” He begins with John’s calling as the messenger who was sent before, for John came “preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” (Mk. 1:4) What was that for? That baptism of repentance? And just what does Jesus mean by “repent and believe”? Could it be that there are more than just a few “Christians” who say they believe in God, but fall short of what Jesus is calling them to be? Is Jesus calling you?
I am beginning a new sermon series on the gospel of Mark. Why? Because I have been impressed by how this shortest of the four gospels moves. It just takes off and all the stories connect well with the central theme of Mark, found in chapter 10 and verse 45,
“For even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
In my new series, “Stories from Mark,” each of the stories that I will tell connect well with that all important main theme. You may well ask, “Why are you beginning with chapter 12? Good question. The short answer is that the Holy Spirit impressed me to start there, after weeks of study and devotional time spent in Mark. And, I have already started writing and pretty much finished the second sermon in the series, and you’ll have to wait for that until after I preach it live. But I started writing it early this morning while sitting up in my bed. It is based in Mark chapter one, so from there I will press forward over the next several weeks. In fact, I used my iPhone 13 to write it, fairly quickly just by sliding my finger across the keyboard. Amazing how technology has advanced to enable ease of writing and publishing, even to blogs like this one. I thank God for that.
For this first sermon I am preaching from the parable of the wicked vinedressers as found in Mark 12:1-12. Here is the situation. A certain man owns a vineyard which he dug and planted himself. That’s some serious hard work. Then He decided to lease it to some vinedressers before he left for a long stay in a far away place. However, at harvest time he did send his servant to receive payment for the lease.
Now what should the owner reasonably expect to receive from those vinedressers? Some form of payment. Right? Do you know the story as written in Mark’s gospel? Do you know what happened to that servant, and to the other servants the owner had sent? What would you have done if you were the owner? What are the spiritual implications for today concerning this parable? And just what should the LORD God reasonably expect to receive from His churched people today?
This is a powerful sermon on the meaning of “enough.” (1 Peter 4:1-4; 7-11)
Do you have enough? Enough what? you may ask. How about enough food? Sufficient clothing and shelter? When it comes to material stuff, some do not have enough. Others have more than enough. When does enough become too much? What about companionship? And what about love? Not just human love, but God’s love? Peter admonishes christians to stop living for the will of the flesh because, “We have spent enough of our past lifetime” in doing just that.The apostle further counsels, “since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” And more importantly Peter strongly urges, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.'”
I’m going to begin with a text from 2 Corinthians chapter 3 and verse 18. The scripture says, “ But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
If you read through this chapter of second Corinthians, yes and even the whole book, but especially here, The apostle Paul who wrote this is making a distinction between serving God in the Spirit versus serving only in the letter. The inside of the cup versus the outside of the cup. And he is making a comparison to the people in the time of Moses, who “had a veil over their face,” meaning that they really did not understand the gospel. Because of that, many of them were in disobedience to God’s expressed commands over and over again.
And yet, what about Christians today? I believe that the whole goal of the Bible is to draw people closer to God, nearer to God, through Christ. Yet if there is confusion of hypocrisy within Christianity, where God’s professed people are not living to glorify God, but rather living more like they don’t understand or even know the gospel, then there will be a great disconnect. And the rest of the world will not be drawn to God, because of the hypocrisy and contradictory teachings of the many and various Christian groups who value religious tradition over what scripture actually says. This is why God raised up reformers during the Protestant Reformation, Luther, Calvin, Knox, Wesley, Miller…
Now you can draw people nearer to God through other religions. But ultimately, you’ll reach a sticking point. Unless you come into Christ. And then the sticking point is removed.
But, in Christianity, we have the same principle applied. Because, why are there so many denominations out there? For example, different groups claim to have the truth. “No no no! You don’t have the truth we have the truth.”
And Adventists, we’re really no different, because we also believe we have the truth. We believe we have a progression of truths… that came through these reformers, that were renewed by God during the reformation beginning, oh, about five/600 years ago, that had been lost sight of since the time of the apostles.
And what’s interesting is, y’all know about Martin Luther? Martin Luther lived in the 16th century. So did John Calvin. Two great reformers! John and Charles Wesley came almost two centuries later… The 18th century. In fact, right here in Georgia there are monuments to the Wesley’s where they landed after coming from England, in Savannah and also in Brunswick. You can go into the museums and read the different things about them there.
But, what’s interesting to me about John and Charles Wesley, is that they became ordained ministers before they really understood the gospel of grace. Yes, they didn’t know the gospel. These are their own words, not mine. They didn’t know about salvation by grace through faith. They were very high on the law of God. And they were very high on Holy living. Trying to, by their own works of holy living, make themselves acceptable before God.
And here is the reason. When the reformation began… let’s just go to Martin Luther‘s day. There was a struggle. You know there was a struggle. But, the people who accepted Luther’s teachings, they were free. They had liberty. Because they were accepting salvation through Christ alone, through faith in Christ alone. “By grace you have been saved through faith.” Luther taught that great teaching of being justified by faith.
You might remember the story when he was ascending the stairs in Rome. Called Pilates staircase. As he was ascending the stairs on his knees, a voice spoke to him. A voice that basically said, “why are you doing this?” You cannot be made righteous by your works because you are on your knees trying to climb the stairs in some sort of penance. And that text from Romans chapter 1 verses 16 and 17 flashed into his mind, “the just shall live by…” What? FAITH! Of course that New Testament quote originally came from Habakkuk. “The just shall live by faith.”
200 years goes by… between the Time of Luther and the Wesley’s. And the Church in England which had separated itself from the Papacy, because they had reformed, had backslidden. The reality was that it had only exchanged one supreme leader for another. The King for the Pope! And the nation was in a period of spiritual declension.
What did God do to bring the Wesley’s into an understanding of the gospel? Listen and watch my sermon to find out: https://youtu.be/gwrdXfu8dHc
Psalm 98, verse 1 says: “Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! For He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.” What is this new song that the psalmist calls us to sing to the Lord? It is a song of victory. But whose victory? A few questions we might ask: Why did the Lord God need to gain a victory? I mean, He is Almighty God. He already rules all things, for He created all things. All things exist by His power. Nothing exists apart from His will. And to help us answer the why, we might also ask, How did the Lord gain this victory? The bible answers in verse 1, “His right hand and His holy arm…” And what is the victory? Just what did this victory win?
I preached this sermon live on Jul 16, 2022. I upload it here for a blessing to those who desire to share in making known the Lord’s victory and proclaiming His salvation.
Going green is not really all that green. When will we ever learn to count the whole cost? The push to go solar in California, is now resulting in a huge mess for how to dispose of these “toxic solar panels.” The heavy metals like selenium and cadmium can leach into and poison underground water sources. And The cost to recycle them is prohibitive, so they are just being thrown out, and filling up landfills. What a tragic irony.
Our Church service July 2, I led from home. We used Zoom because of COVID-19 cautions, Yes, I caught the bug this week, and my wife and a few others, but probably from different sources. Yet God is good. I had at first wanted to cancel the services, yet, God turned it around, and I was well enough Friday to change plans and run the service through Zoom and stream live to YouTube. It was a different and special service for us. We began with a “Welcome & Season of Prayer.” We had a sweet season together for the first twenty minutes. Then, I streamed one of the messages Tracie and I heard at our NAD Ministers “Called Convention” when we were in Lexington last week. Here’s what you’ll see. 1) Adventist Historian Dr. George Knight presents, “We Stand On Their Shoulders” (5 minutes). 2) NAD Pastors Song Team leading over 6,000 of us to sing together “God Turn It Around,” and “In Christ Alone.” 3) the sermon: “Hope Is A Habit” by Hallerin Hill (18 minutes of powerful story telling preaching) Hallerin is the CEO and Founder of Wisdom House. 4) The Closing Song (our theme song) “Because I Am Called” written by Hallerin, Sam Ocampo and Ivan Williams the NAD Ministerial Director. 5) I come back live to give the benediction and we say our farewell greetings.