Friday, August 19, 2016

Compassion Of God

Compassion Of God

The author of the week in review of our lesson suggests that one of the objectives should be to "sense a desire to experience the compassion of God on a daily basis." At first sight, this sounds like a lofty objective. However, compassion is a deeper experience than what our author suggests. It begs to question: What is the compassion of God? Does God desire to sense or experience compassion or does it just happen? How does God sense or experience compassion? How can we experience it?

In the dictionary, the word compassion means a. Sympathetic feeling, b. Mercy, c. Pity, and d. an expression of sorrow for another's loss, grief or misfortune. The word used in the Bible is splagchna, which indicates no ordinary pity but the deepest emotion one is capable of, an emotion that arises from the very depths of one's being. It refers to "the inward parts," "the bowels," considered the seat of the emotions in the ancient world. Compassion goes beyond sympathy (which merely can be intellectual). Compassion comes from the inside, from the heart and even the very gut. It suggests an 'intensive' involvement with the other, like the love the father showed to the prodigal son (Luke 15:20) and the compassion exhibited by the Good Samaritan and what those who left the victim lying on the ground refused to feel (Luke 10:33). Both parables used the word splagchna, which is the compassion of God.

How does God experience it? Probably, the same way Christ did. Christ probably experienced in His body a revolt or wrench in His gut or stomach. He experienced something robust and intense. It was something He could not ignore. It moved Him to respond toward what He saw. Sometimes the response was just prayer, other times it was speaking words of comfort, and other times it was healing those for whom He felt splagchna.

In the Gospels, Christ is quoted feeling splagchna at least four times. In Matthew 9: 35,36 It says that Jesus felt compassion for the people "because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd." In Mark 1:40, 41 it said that "moved with compassion" He touched a leper to heal him. In Matthew 20:29-34 it says that Jesus, moved with compassion, touched the eyes of the blind men to heal them. In Luke 7: 11-15 Jesus again moved with compassion touched the bier -the frame on which dead bodies were conveyed to the grave – to resurrect the child to his mother.

Can we sense a desire for something that God experiences? Again another question is the answer. Does God desire to feel compassion? The probable answer is no. If splagchna is God's compassion, then it is born out of agape. One can only desire what one does not have. God is agape. Thus this means that God feels compassion automatically. He has no need to desire it.

Can we sense or feel splagchna? Not unless God gives it to us. You can try all you want to detect it; if it is not there, you will not sense it. The verb to sense has several meanings. According to the dictionary to sense can mean the faculty of perceiving using sense organs. TO sense can also mean to perceive by the senses.  Furthermore, to sense can be defined as a bodily function or mechanism (a sight, hearing, or smell) involving the action and effect of a stimulus on a sense organ. Lastly, to be or become aware of, and or to detect. Whatever you are sensing is either in your body, pressing against it (If it is touch or taste), or is within your range of detection (if it is seeing, smelling, or hearing). When one feels splagchna it presses against your body, like any biological need. It requires attention and response.   We release the need for compassion by submitting to what the Holy Spirit would have you do at the moment.

Then what should you do? You should pray that God fills you with a desire to submit to His righteousness and let Him fill you with His agape. As the lesson says the single force that moved Jesus was agape – agape from the belly or gut. Splagchna, as a byproduct of this, will flow automatically. You will see others suffering and immediately you will feel in your body an intense feeling that will move you to respond in the person's favor.
Raul Diaz

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Man That Came From God

"The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good." Likewise, the Lord sent Jonah to mingle among the Ninevites as one who desired their good.  We know the story, the Lord accomplished His purpose in spite of Jonah's refusal.  Will we be like Jonah or Jesus?  Following is a previously published commentary.

The Man That Came From God

In 1958, a small town Pennsylvania church pastor – David Wilkerson - was emotionally moved as he read a copy of LIFE magazine that featured details of the upcoming trial of 7 teenaged members from the Coney Island (New York) based 'Egyptian Dragons' street gang. The seven boys had brutally attacked and murdered an innocent 15-year-old polio victim named Michael Farmer in Highbridge Park, leading to one of the most publicized gang murder trials of 1950's New York.   He later wrote that as he felt the Holy Spirit move him with compassion, he was drawn to go to New York in February 1958 to preach to them.  After being unable to secure visitation rights to visit the 'Dragon' gang members in jail, Wilkerson was detained while attempting to rush past security and police to gain an audience with the judge on the case. The press photographed the skinny preacher as court officers physically detained him; and by the next day, the picture would make the front page of more than one New York daily.

After this much-publicized incident, the young Pastor thought he had blown away his chances.  But, the Lord had other plans.  When Pastor Wilkerson returned to New York, his face is recognized everywhere.  God used this unusual circumstance to open the doors.  As a result of this incident, Pastor David Wilkerson became accepted by New York's toughest and most bloodthirsty street gangs as the preacher arrested for trying to help other gang members.  You could argue that gang members accepted Pastor Wilkinson as the man God sent to help them.

Jonah is also called by God to go to Nineveh.  We know the story.  He tried to escape.  But, God, in His providence, ordained circumstances to get Jonah back on track.  We know that a big fish swallowed Jonah and took Jonah to the shores of Nineveh, where the fish regurgitated Jonah out into dry land (Jonah 2: 10).  Any preacher would say, "Who would listen to a man that has spent three days in the stomach of a big fish."  Imagine how Jonah looked.  Seaweed all around him.  He was probably pale and discolored from exposure to the acid in the fish's stomach.  He probably smelled like fish.  Let us read Ellen White's narration of the events:

Once more the servant of God was entrusted with the commission to warn Nineveh. "The word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee." This time he did not stop to question or doubt, but obeyed unhesitatingly. He "arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord." Jonah 3:1-3.

As Jonah entered the great city, he began at once to "cry against" it as he had been bidden. Lifting up his voice in warning, he declared, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown." From street to street he went, all the while sounding this terrible note of warning.

God's message was not given in vain. The warning rang through the streets of the godless city, and was passed from lip to lip, until all the inhabitants had heard the startling pronouncement. The Spirit of God pressed the message home to the heart, and caused multitudes to tremble because of their sins, and to repent in great humiliation.

     "The people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything: let them not feed, nor drink water: but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?" Jonah 3:5-9.

     As kings and nobles, with the common people, the high and the low, "repented at the preaching of Jonas" (Matthew 12:41), and united in crying to the God of heaven, his mercy was granted them. He "saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not." Their doom was averted, the God of Israel was exalted and honored throughout the heathen world, and his law was revered."

God used the beliefs of the Ninevites to reach them.  One of the gods worshiped by Nineveh was the fish god Dagon. When the fish disgorged Jonah the coast of Phoenicia in the sight of the local fisherman on the shore, it must have been a most startling sight. The fisherman would convey what they saw to the people of Nineveh. No wonder Nineveh responded as it did, here was a messenger who was seen coming out of the mouth of a fish, one of their idols. Here was instant validity.

What is the lesson? The lesson is that God is in control, and His plans cannot be thwarted. Jonah was to preach to Gentiles, and his first converts appeared to be the sailors on the boat he was on to flee from speaking to Gentiles. God provided a fish to capture him and place him on the shore in the presence of people who worshiped a fish.

Isaiah quotes God saying,

Isa 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
Isa 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

God's methods are different than ours and more effective.  Ellen White says,

Let me tell you that the Lord will work in this last work in a manner very much out of the common order of things, and in a way that will be contrary to any human planning. There will be those among us who will always want to control the work of God, to dictate even what movements shall be made when the work goes forward under the direction of the angel who joins the third angel in the message to be given to the world. God will use ways and means by which it will be seen that He is taking the reins in His own hands. The workers will be surprised by the simple means that He will use to bring about and perfect His work of righteousness.--Testimonies to Ministers, p. 300.

Will we let Christ take the reins or will we not let go?
Raul Diaz

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Salt in Water

Salt in Water

Recently, I came across the following nugget of information.  Unfortunately, I forgot where I found it.  Let us read it, 

"In Palestine salt was used for flavoring and preserving. It was gathered from marshes along the seashore or inland lakes. If left in contact with
the ground, or exposed to rain or the sun, the soluble salt itself would wash away, leaving only insipid impurities. In other words, it lost its flavor!"

This week we will look deeper at being the salt of the world.

Salt in Water
Growing up, I remember seeing the men in my neighborhood work on their overheated cars. They would take a rag, remove the radiator cap, and release the steam which had been building. The men then poured water from a hose in the radiator to cool it down. Anyone hearing that now is likely to think that's crazy, as the coolant, an antifreeze/water mixture, is what is currently in use.  Antifreeze was developed to overcome the shortcomings of water as a heat transfer fluid.   The same mixture works as both coolant and antifreeze.  With antifreeze a wide temperature range can be tolerated by the engine coolant, such as -34 °F (-37 °C) to +265 °F (129 °C); as compared to water which is 32 °F (0 °C) to +212 °F (100 °C).  With only water in the engine, the water will turn into steam before the engine can reach its maximum temperature and will freeze when the temperature falls below 32 °F causing damage to the engine.  The central idea here is that when water is mixed with another substance, the freezing point is lower than it would be with water alone, and conversely, the boiling point is higher.

This expansion of freezing and boiling points is the principle behind using salt to melt ice or salted water to make ice-cream.  Let us begin with the melting of ice.  Ice cubes melt faster in salinated water than non-salinated water.  When the salt touches the ice, the salt is warmer than the ice, thereby causing it to melt. Once the ice melts, it mixes with the salt creating a saline solution, thus, lowering water's freezing point.  Because the cold temperature is not cold enough to freeze the saline solution it remains a liquid.

When making ice cream, the ingredients are placed in a container.  The next step is to insert the container into a larger reservoir filled with salt, water, and ice.  The salt lowers the temperature of the water thereby making the water colder and thus the ice takes longer to melt. In other words, to make ice cream, the temperature around the mixture needs to be lower than 32 F so it will freeze. Salt mixed with ice creates brine which has a temperature lower than 32 F, in fact, the temperature reaches approximately 0 F. The brine is so cold that it easily freezes the ice cream mixture.

Christ told the disciples - and us - that we are to be the salt of the world (Matthew 5:39). What exactly did He mean? Well, we know salt flavors, preserves, and melts.  What does this mean spiritually? Many articles have addressed the Christian's flavoring of the world, and their preserving of Christ's standards for all to see, but not much is said of the melting properties of the salt on Christians.

Taking into consideration what we have learned as to why ice melts when in touch with salt, what is happening is that there is a wider range of tolerance toward extreme conditions.  Thus the person who possesses the salt of Christ will have a greater capacity to endure trials.  Circumstances that would harden someone's heart or cause a person to explode in anger will not harden or cause an explosion in a "salty" Christian.

One example is when Nebuchenezzer threw Daniel's friends into the fiery furnace (Daniel chapter 3).  "This incident revealed that the faith of these three Hebrew young men was as gold tried in the fire." (Our High Calling, 312).  Those who threw the Worthies in the furnace were scorched to death because they had no salt or no member of the Godhead with them; while Daniel's friends walked around the furnace as if the furnace itself was not hot.  Ellen White says, "The three worthies endured the fiery furnace, for Jesus walked with them in the fiery flame." (Testimony to the Church, Vol. 3, p. 47).  In other words, they were preserved.

Through the presence of Christ, their tolerance for heat increased. In this story, there is a spiritual lesson.  Not bowing to the image meant death. The King had no problem killing anyone that would not do as he said.  But, yielding to the King, in this case, was sinning against God.  According to the record, only these three Hebrews remained faithful.  All of the other subjects, nobles, and prisoners bowed down to the image (Daniel was not present).  In the face of this imminent threat, the Hebrew worthies chose death over sin.

Seemingly, what brought the other Hebrews to forsake God was not enough for these three young men to Sin. They were able to endure where their countrymen and professed fellow believers failed.  Was there anything these three did differently?  In Daniel 1, we read that they refused to eat the food of the King's table.  Ellen White says they would not dare to take a risk on, "the enervating effect of luxury and dissipation on physical, mental and spiritual development… they knew that their own physical and mental power would be injuriously affected by the use of wine... In reaching this decision, the Hebrew youth did not act presumptuously but in firm reliance upon God. They did not choose to be singular, but they would be so, rather than dishonor God. Should they compromise with wrong in this instance by yielding to the pressure of circumstances, their departure from principle would weaken their sense of right and their abhorrence of wrong. The first wrong step would lead to others, until, their connection with Heaven severed, they would be swept away by temptation." (A Call to Stand Apart, 54).

We can read in Ellen White's writings how great is the importance appetite; let's continue reading: "To every soul Satan comes with temptation in many alluring forms on the point of indulgence of appetite.  The body is a most important medium through which the mind and the soul are developed for the up building of character. Hence it is that the adversary of souls directs his temptations to the enfeebling and degrading of the physical powers. His success here often means the surrender of the whole being to evil." (A Call to Stand Apart, 56). 

This passage reveals the importance of disciplining our body, "bringing it into subjection lest that by any means, when we've preached to others, we should be castaway" (1 Corinthians 9:27).  The concept of disciplining our body, and bringing its appetites into subjection to Christ, is what is meant by having our mind – our understanding renewed so that our thinking and practices or habits are transformed (Romans 12: 2).  The mind, residing within the brain, is an essential component of the body.  A body given to indulgence will invariably affect the mind adversely and vice versa. Hence, Paul's preface from the previous verse, "that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world..." (Romans 12:1- 2).  Sister White has this to say: "A sanctified life, like that of Daniel and his friends, will be evident in physical health practices."  

Friends, a victorious Christian life, is one in which the devil cannot have access to the mind and the soul - by tempting the body with many alluring forms of temptations on the point of indulgence of appetite.  Just as with Jesus, the devil had nothing on Daniel and his friends (John 14: 30). They were like those spoken of in Revelation 14:4, 5 and 12.

These are followers of God who in submission to Him go wherever He leads, are undefiled, guileless and pure; without fault before the throne of God, they are redeemed from among men, and will be the first fruits before His throne. These are they that treasure and cherish the commandments of God, and possess the faith of Jesus.

The faith of Christ is that which allowed Him to listen more attentively and eagerly until his listening culminated in His death on the cross as the ultimate demonstration of God's wooing love for mankind.

All the commandments hang on love --agape – to God supremely, with whole mind, body and spirit, and then to man. It is this love which melts or hardens hearts. May we, by grace through faith, be the salt of the world.
Raul Diaz
Posted on 7/03/2015
Raul Diaz

Saturday, June 25, 2016