Saturday, March 14, 2020

That Which Is Desirable

That Which Is Desirable



When was the last time you heard the words, "I love you?" In our society, we toss around these words so much they have lost their meaning. We read them in advertisements, hear them on the radio or view them on TV. However, many of us may have never heard these words addressed to us. Some may have only heard "I love you" in a romantic situation. How do you know someone loves you? Can you hear it in what they say, or see it in what they do? What is your love language?


How do you know God loves you? He called His Son beloved – agapetos (Matthew 3:17), and Daniel himself had the privilege of being told by an angel that he was greatly beloved (Daniel 9:23; 10:11,19). The Hebrew word for beloved is chemdah {khem-daw'}, and it is this word that we translate as "beloved." In Hebrew, Chemda means desire, that which is desirable, pleasant, and precious. And, this is how the angel addressed Daniel. This word Chemda is the same word that is Jews used to describe a precious jewel or fertile land. Friends, Daniel was being compared to a jewel or a productive land overflowing with cattle, and vegetation which produced delicious milk and sweet-tasting honey. Mmm-- imagine --the beautiful and delightful dishes the Jews could make from milk and honey. Just think of that which you desire, that which is precious to you, and pleasing to your senses-- maybe it is something that stimulates your palate, quenches your thirst, or satisfies your longing. Whatever it is that you've imagined (that is ethically acceptable), that feeling of pleasure you get, that joy, is a small fragment of the immense satisfaction that God felt about Daniel and feels toward us.


"I am no, Daniel," you may say, and of course, you are right. There was only one Daniel, and there is only one you, and one me. Let's agree on this, first; God loves each one of us because we are His, irrespective of our choices. He sent His Son to die for all who lived or would ever live-- that each might be saved (John 3:16) if he so desired. God sends His sunshine and rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45), and the beauty of nature is available to all mankind. As strange as it sounds, the act of destroying Sin and sinners is an act of love. Second, it is only by the Faith of Jesus that we please God-- not by our faith or belief, for even the devils believe and tremble. We are His beloveds when we yield to the bidding of His indwelling Spirit. We become His beloved when we allow Him to transform us into precious jewels, or soft fertile soil that bears fruit. It takes time to create a precious jewel. It takes heat and pressure to convert common mineral into a crystallized form. Then a jeweler works on the piece to mold and shape it into a beautiful piece of jewelry. The more delicate the work, the more the need for a master craftsman. This process is akin to God's work in us. He looks at us lovingly, determining by His skilled eye the nature of the work to be performed. We are His jewel, and He will (if we allow Him), not only remove the rough edges but will so cut our stony hearts with such precision, that the brilliance and clarity of the Son is apparent to all.


Just as it takes time and effort to dig the land for jewels, it takes time and effort to make it suitable for sowing. We have hearts of stone. To make them tender and fertile, God has to break the fallow ground and replace it with His perfect topsoil. It is He who must till the stony or thorny or wayside soil, and it is we who, if we choose, will be made willing (to do of His goodwill and pleasure -- Phil. 2:13). It may take years, but it doesn't have to. After the ground is tilled and fertilized, God sows the seed, then the soil is watered, and the ground weeded regularly. How patiently, the sower waits for the land to bear fruit. He must often wait at least three seasons. How he yearns for that crop to grow, and ripen that He may feed others; this is how Christ and the Father wait for us. It through the Holy Spirit working in us--tilling the soil with truth, softening it with the rain, and through the photosynthesis of the word, ripening the plant to produce copious delicious fruit. Allowing this kind of work to go on in us, we become that which the universe finds pleasant, precious, and desirable.


The process of making us precious jewels from rough crystal rocks, or fertile land from seemingly dry, rocky, thorny wayside soil, may seem harsh and unloving, but, well-- remember that desire we talked about earlier, that longing and yearning? Well, "Christ is waiting with longing desire for the complete reproduction

of His mind in the people who love Him-- then the end will come." What God puts us through is necessary for us to become genuinely loving people. All our selfishness and self-love must go. And God Himself is ready and willing to replace it with His selfless and unconditional, fertilized topsoil. It is His love that produces fruit, such as works of faith, that acceptable. It is His love with which we love our family members (and our neighbors), and all will know us by this love.


Brothers and sisters, let's allow God to call us His beloved, not because we try to be like Daniel, but because we allow Jesus -- to make us like Himself.

Friday, March 06, 2020

Forgiveness for Unknown Sin

Forgiveness for Unknown Sin

The police stopped a very famous film actor because of improper driving. The Police officer suspected that the driver was driving under the influence of alcohol. The officer approached the car window, and before he could ask the driver for his driver's license, he could smell the alcohol. He immediately asked the actor to leave the car. The actor gets annoyed by the request and starts insulting the officer. Recognizing the actor, the police officer asks the actor if he had been drinking and how much. The actor is now infuriated and tells him, "None of your business?" The police officer asks the actor one more time to get out of the car. The actor at that moment tells the officer some improprieties about the officer's apparent ethnic background. He then adds, "The reason why this world has problems is because of your people." The next day the incident was all over the press and the media. The actor released a statement of apology, saying in part, "It is a known fact that one effect of alcohol is losing your inhibition. You say things you would not say sober. However, I said what was inside my heart. I was not aware that I held such dark feelings about other ethnic groups. While the incident was indeed embarrassing, what it revealed in my heart is humiliating." Through this incident, the actor realized that we harbor Sin in our hearts and may not be aware of it.

In chapter 9, Daniel prayed for forgiveness. He prayed for forgiveness for him and his people. But, there is something unusual about his prayer. Daniel includes himself with his people. Let us read some instances from Daniel 9: 4 - 19, where Daniel includes himself with his people,

5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:
 6 Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets,
10 Neither have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.
 11 …because we have sinned against him.
 13 … all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth.
14 … for we obeyed not his voice.
 15 …we have sinned, we have done wickedly.
 16 … because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.
 18 …for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses,

As you can see, this prayer is not only intercessory but also corporate. Why does Daniel pray corporately? As far as we know, it was the iniquity of his people - not his own - that lead the Jews to the Babylonian captivity. Maybe Daniel knew the phrase, "there go I, but for the grace of God." Daniel perhaps understood that given the same set of opportunities and circumstances, he would have participated in the Sins of his people.  What separated Daniel from his counterparts? The grace of God, to which Daniel yielded, and his brethren did not.

We know that Daniel read Jeremiah. Daniel must have read Jeremiah 17:9 that says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Could it be that Daniel was confessing all Sin that his heart may harbor – even unknown Sin? However, any act or word we say comes out of the abundance of our heart (Luke 6: 45). All sinful actions that we commit, are committing, and will commit are borne in our hearts before we let them out. All these Sins need is the right opportunity. The problem is we cannot know what is in our hearts. However, God knows the secrets of our hearts (Psalms 44:21). Daniel, very likely, was aware of this truth. And, by including Daniel's prayer in this book of Daniel, sealed until our day, God was stressing the need to see this prayer as a model for us living in the last days.

God knowing how Sinful our hearts are, says through the prophet Ezekiel, that He wants to put in us, "A new heart … and [also] a new spirit … within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26).  Perhaps our prayer should also be "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer" (Psalm 19:4).    David understood this concept of unknown Sin. He probably never thought that he was capable of coveting his best friend's wife, committing adultery with her, and murdering his best friend; this is perhaps why David wrote, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalms 51:10).

What unknown Sins do we bear in our hearts? If only God knows what lays deep and secretly in our hearts, only He can take it out. But, we must let Him do it.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Victory Over Evil Forces

We live in solemn times.  We can look at what is happening today and see in it the fulfillment of Bible prophecy.  Bible prophecy shows us how the Lord is in control throughout until now and forever.  The following commentary, written for a previous lesson, is to encourages not to fear but be sure that in Christ, we are victorious.  

Victory Over Evil Forces

Romans 8:37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

We read the verse for this week's lesson, and we have to ask ourselves several questions. One of them is what does Paul means by "in all these things?" To answer this question, we have to go to the context of the passage. Romans 8 is telling us that because of what Christ has accomplished on the cross, sin no longer has to defeat us. We are not reading the whole of chapter 8, for lack of space and time. Yes, we will suffer, and we will be afflicted. None of that means that God does not love us. God has given us all for us to succeed as Christians. All we have to do is receive it. Paul seems to be telling us that we do not need to fear or doubt. God loves us, and He is in control. We can trust Him.

Why would Paul emphasize this? Because, in chapter 7, Paul spoke about how sin worked internally. When we are living by faith, sin is still within us, striving for mastery and control. And, this battle continues and intensifies for as long as we live and grow in faith. It will not stop until we die or are translated. So, Paul is saying that sin attacks us from within and without.  But,  our greatest struggle with sin is inside; sin, after all, is iniquity – a bent toward self. Paul is saying that despite all that, we should never doubt that God loves us; this is perhaps better said in Romans 8: 35 – 39,

Rom 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Rom 8:36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
Rom 8:37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
Rom 8:38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Rom 8:39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now, the word Victory, from the title means the overcoming of an enemy or antagonist. So, the one that defeats or overcomes an enemy or opponent is called a victor. This word victor comes from the Latin word vincere, which means to win, to conquer, or to overcome – the term used in verse 37. What do we overcome? Sin's mastery over us. We are no longer captive or enslaved by sin, whether external or internal, through Christ, who loved us. Here our Victory is tied to God's love for us. So, just as His love is certain and constant, so is our Victory in Christ.

Let us read a couple of quotes from Ellen White in this subject,

"Jesus gained the victory through submission and faith in God, and by the apostle He says to us, 'Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.' James 4:7, 8. We cannot save ourselves from the tempter's power; he has conquered humanity, and when we try to stand in our own strength, we shall become a prey to his devices; but 'the name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it and is safe.' Prov. 18:10. Satan trembles and flees before the weakest soul who finds refuge in that mighty name."—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 130, 131.
"The omnipotent power of the Holy Spirit is the defense of every contrite soul. Not one that in penitence and faith has claimed His pro­tection will Christ permit to pass under the enemy's power. The Saviour is by the side of His tempted and tried ones. With Him there can be no such thing as failure, loss, impossibility, or defeat; we can do all things through Him who strengthens us. When temptations and trials come, do not wait to adjust all the difficulties, but look to Jesus, your helper. Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 490, 493.

Now, what about Victory over demons? You will notice that Ellen White does not talk about Victory in terms of casting out demons. Not all victors in the faith will be called to do that. The fact that we do not follow their prompting is Victory in itself. Casting out demons is powerful and given by God. However, Christ tells the disciples, "Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20). Ellen White elaborates on those whose names are written in Heaven,

From age to age, all who have truly repented of sin, and by faith claimed the blood of Christ as their atoning sacrifice, have had pardon written against their names in the books of Heaven, and in the closing work of Judgment their sins are blotted out, and they themselves are accounted worthy of eternal life. {Volume 4, Spirit of Prophecy 309}

Included in this list are those mentioned in Hebrews 11. Not one of the names of people mentioned there made the list because demons were subject to them. They were there because they believed the promise of God, and it was counted to them as righteousness. Their Victory came from believing that God loved them. And, they died believing the promise that had not been fulfilled. They died with the hope that one day God would fulfill this promise and they would be there to enjoy it. They died with the joy and certainty that their names were written in Heaven. They died with the assurance of God's love for them. Do we have this certainty of God's love for us? Do we have the Victory that is ours in Christ? 

Friday, February 07, 2020

Weighed and found wanting

Weighed and found wanting


A few thousand years ago, a Greek King ordered some craftsmen to make him a crown of gold. The craftsmen were paid handsomely and delivered a beautiful golden crown worthy of royalty. The King had a gut feeling that the craftsmen had cheated him, so he went to the wisest man in his kingdom for help. The name of the man was Archimedes. Archimedes accepted the project, admitted it was a challenge, and requested the King for time to determine whether the craftsmen made the crown of pure gold or not. Archimedes thought for days, the problem riddling him and absorbing his life. One day he filled his tub with water to its average level. Upon entering the tub, Archimedes realized that the water level rose a few inches. His weight had displaced the water and raised the volume in the tub. Archimedes had an epiphany. Running out of the tub, he yelled, "Eureka! Eureka! I found it!' Archimedes discovered that to determine whether the crown was pure gold, all he had to do was learn the amount of gold the crown was supposed to weigh, place it in a tub of water, and mark the water displacement. Afterward, Archimedes repeated the same process with the crown. If the craftsmen made the crown out of pure gold, it would displace the same amount of water as pure gold. If, however, the crown was not made out of pure gold, the amount of water displaced would differ. In the end, Archimedes determined that the craftsman cheated the King. The gold in the crown was weighed and found wanting.


With this in mind, we look at Daniel 5. But, first, We use the expression, "the writing is on the wall," to mean the signs are apparent. In Daniel 5, the biblical passage for this week, it means that you have crossed the point of no return, and judgment has been rendered. If Belshazzar were a crown, Archimedes would have found him lacking gold. Belshazzar was, at best, a gold plated crown. What type of Christians are we? Are we pure gold or gold

plated? Pure gold will not tarnish and become purified in the fire. Gold plated will tarnish and completely melt in flames. How can we become pure gold Christians?


The author of Hebrews says that "without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6). So to become pure gold Christians, we need faith. Where do we get faith? Roman 10:17 says, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." But it is not just any faith or belief in God. James 2:19 says, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." The faith we are talking about here it is humanly impossible to develop. Human faith is corrupted by sin, imperfect, and finite. Revelation 14:12 describes the multitude that God saves as having the faith of Jesus; this is pure gold faith. Human faith is a gold plated faith.


Belshazzar lacked this faith of Jesus. His problem got worse because he had opportunities to acquire it, but chose not to, against the convictions of his heart, despite all the evidence God had given him. Daniel points this out to Belshazzar as Daniel interprets the writing on the wall:


Daniel 5:18 O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour:

Daniel 5:19 And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before Him: whom He would He slew; and whom He would He kept alive; and whom He would He set up; and whom He would He put down.

Daniel 5:20 But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him:

Daniel 5:21 And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will.

Daniel 5:22 And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this;

Daniel 5:23 But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified:


Ellen White states concerning Daniel and Belshazzar,


Daniel did not swerve from his duty. He held the King's sin before him, showing him the lessons he might have learned but did not. Belshazzar had not heeded the events so significant to him. He had not read his grandfather's history correctly. The responsibility of knowing truth had been laid upon him, but the practical lesson he might have learned and acted upon had not been taken to heart; and his course of action brought the sure result. (Ellen G. White Notes, 36)


God will also find Those who like Belshazzar reject the opportunities that God grants them found wanting. They are gold plated Christians. 2 Timothy 3:5 describes them as, "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away." Revelation 3 calls them Laodicean--


Revelation 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

Revelation 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Revelation 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:


Ellen White explains regarding those who follow the steps of Belshazzar,


In the history of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, God speaks to the people of today. The condemnation that will fall upon the inhabitants of the earth in this day will be because of their rejection of light. Our condemnation in the judgment will not result from the fact that we have lived in error, but from the fact that we have neglected Heaven-sent opportunities for discovering truth. The means of becoming conversant with the truth are within the reach of all; but, like the indulgent, selfish King, we give more attention to the things that charm the ear, and please the eye, and gratify the palate, than to the things that enrich the mind, the divine treasures of truth. It is through the truth that we may answer the great question, "What must I do to be saved?" (E. G. White Notes, p. 33)


God offers us-- Laodiceans, an opportunity to become pure gold faith Christians. He says to us in Revelation 3:18,


I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.


Will we accept His invitation?