Friday, December 15, 2017

The Restored Tools

The Restored Tools

The following story is found in the teacher's comments for this week lesson,

 One night, while the carpenter was away, the toolbox opened, and the tools began to discuss their existence and purpose. The screwdriver lamented that she quietly was used and seldom noticed. The saw also was disenchanted with his purpose, noting that other saws had gone on to become musical instruments and did not have to put up with the sawdust. The wrench complained that he outshined many hood ornaments and felt denigrated when used to work with nuts. The hammer boasted that she had the highest pedigree, being crafted of the finest hickory and stainless steel. Why was she subjected to constant contact with the common iron found in nails? Other tools spoke about their superiority or how the carpenter favored them. None, however, wanted to be used for the purpose for which they had been created. Eventually, many tools plotted their escape. In the morning the carpenter noticed that many of his tools were missing. Of course, this slowed his work. Months passed. Gradually, the carpenter found his tools. The hammer was rusty. The saw was dull, and the screwdriver was bent. The wrench never was located. Meanwhile, the carpenter had replaced some of the missing tools but was unwilling to throw the rusty, bent, dull ones away. He painstakingly restored them. One night the tools were overheard. There was sadness over the wrench, who never had come back, but more rejoicing over the carpenter who had restored the others to usefulness.

The story is used as a parable.   Each tool represents how we feel about our lives.  According to the story, most of us fall in one of the following categories: underused, overused or misused.   Like the tools we blame whoever represents the carpenter – boss, parents, teachers, coach, etc.   The Jews were no exception. 

Like the tools, in the story, the Jews somehow believed that they were underused, overused or misused.   They thought that God did not certainly mean for them to deal with Gentiles; indeed God chose them because of their superiority.  So they set out to prove, on their own, how superior they were to others.   Paul says of them in Romans 10:2-3,

Romans 10: 2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
Romans 10:3  For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

Like the tools that ran away and found that they could not live successfully on their own, the Jews found that it was impossible to be righteous.  Even so, they deceived themselves by establishing their own standards and rules to enforce those standards.  Even then they found that it was impossible for them.  So, they created loopholes in their laws so they could bend them while still keeping them.  Christ was very stern with them.  He said they were like whitewashed tombs (Luke 11:44).  They looked beautiful on the outside but only dead inside.  Christ also compared them to barren fig trees (Matthew 21:19; Mark 11: 13; Luke 13: 16 – 19).  They were looking as if they should have fruit even outside of the harvest season, but not once bearing any fruit.  No wonder Christ told the disciples that their righteousness should exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees (Matthew 5: 20). 

In Romans 9: Paul contrasted the Jews with the Gentiles who had accepted the knowledge of the Gospel (which the Jews rejected).  He says,

Romans 9: 30  What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.
Romans 9: 31  But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.
Romans 9: 32  Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

Presented with the Gospel, many Gentiles realized that they were rusted, bent, and dull - something many Jews would not admit to themselves.  Those who accepted the Gospel God brought to His "tool shed" where He restored all who accepted the Gospel to their true purpose and proper usefulness.  They rejoiced in heartfelt appreciation over "The Carpenter" who rescued them and now cared for them.  Slowly "The Carpenter" got rid of the rust on the hammer, sharpened the saw, and straightened the screwdriver.  It may have felt painful, but in the end, the "tools" were grateful.  Would you be grateful to you "master carpenter" that he chose you to do his great work?  What will it take for you to know your Master Carpenter's good and loving character and His caring nature?  Again I ask the question: which tool are you?  I just pray we are not like the wrench.

Friday, December 08, 2017

God's Prerogative

God's Prerogative

In the late 1980's a young singer released a song called "My Prerogative."   Some the lyrics of the song, I believe summarized, the attitude of most in the world when it comes to how they make decisions about how they live their life.  Following are the lyrics I am referring to,

Everybody's talking all this stuff about me 
Now now why don't they just let me live 
Oh oh oh i don't need permission 
Make my own decisions oh 
That's my prerogative

It says, "How I choose to live my life is my decision.  I can do what I want to do, without having to answer to no one.  People should mind their own business."  That is what the word prerogative has come to mean.  The dictionary defines prerogative defined as a right or privilege exclusive to a particular individual or class; an exclusive or special right, power, or privilege.  Also, one belonging to an office or an official body, one belonging to a person, group, or class of individuals or one possessed by a nation as an attribute of sovereignty.  The word comes from the Latin praerogativa, which in turn comes from the word praerogare which meant to ask for an opinion before another or "to ask before others," (from præ-  "before" + rogare  "to ask").  So the word prerogative, used as a noun, originally referred to the one who was asked first.  It seemed that the ones asked first got used to it, felt important, and thought that this is the way it should always be.   You can see how if everyone is asking you for your opinion first, you can begin to feel as if you do not have to ask others for their opinion.  Therefore, they can do whatever they want without any repercussion.   However, they tend to do so irresponsibly, arbitrary and whimsically. 

In chapter 9 of Romans we see God stating that He acts according to His prerogative.  Let us read certain texts where God speaks of this,

Rom9:13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
Rom9:15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
Rom9:18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
 
God not only tells us that He acts according to His prerogative but in the following verses asks those who dare to question Him,

Rom9:19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
Rom9:20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
Rom9:21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
 
Is it that God does not like questions?  Or, is it that God does not like to be questioned?  Is there a difference?  God wants to be trusted as the true and only "praerogativa."  He wants us to go to Him first.  The issue is not asking questions, but not trusting Him.  The issue is not so much that God does not like to be questioned as much as that when we do not trust Him we harm ourselves and others more than what we think.  As it says in our teacher's comments for this lesson, "When humans try to frustrate God's purposes, God never loses; only disobedient humans lose out. Therefore, when He chose to save our world, the outcome was never in doubt. Those who try to frustrate that pur­pose are the only losers."  Ellen White elaborates on this,

"No finite mind can fully comprehend the character or the works of the Infinite One. We cannot by searching find out God. To minds the strongest and most highly cultured, as well as to the weakest and most ignorant, that holy Being must remain clothed in mystery. But though 'clouds and darkness are round about Him: righteousness and judg­ment are the foundation of His throne.' Psalm 97:2, R.V. We can so far comprehend His dealing with us as to discern boundless mercy united to infinite power. We can understand as much of His purposes as we are capable of comprehending; beyond this we may still trust the hand that is omnipotent, the heart that is full of love."—Ellen G. White, Education, p. 169.

Paul echoes Ellen White's sentiments in Romans chapter 8, after telling us that we are in Christ in verse 17 "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ…"  He then proceeds to tell us that, "if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.  For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8: 17 – 18).  Paul encourages us to trust God's purpose even if we do not understand it.  Paul reminds us that nothing will separate us from the Love of God.  We read in Romans 8:
 
Rom8:34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
Rom8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Rom8:36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
Rom8:37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
Rom8:38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Rom8:39 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.
 
In Christ God cast the first vote for us.  Let us cast our first vote for Christ.  Let us trust Him to finish His work until the end.

Friday, December 01, 2017

What's filling you?

What's filling you?

How is your freedom related to whom fills you?  To answer that question the teacher's comments on this week's lesson recommended reviewing the following story from last quarter's teacher's comments: 

Wind: Wake up, puppet head. You look like a pile of rags.
Puppet: I am a pile of rags, and I can't get up. The only way I can stand up is if someone wears me on his or her hand. Otherwise, I'm just what you see right now—a flop.
Wind: So?
Puppet: Well, I really don't want that grubby brat's hand to wear me again. I feel violated. He's always dirty and germy—never washes his hands. I'm already so filthy inside that I can't stand it.
Wind: Can't stand up either?
Puppet: It's horrible, and you don't have to rub it in. No, I can't stand it, and I can't stand. The only way I ever get up is when he's in control. Some choice: Whenever I get up and get noticed, it means he's in charge of my every move. It's nice hearing kids laugh, but deep inside I know I'm just getting dirty. Otherwise, I live like this, a total flop.
Wind: You don't have to.
Puppet: Oh, I used to think so. I used to think there was a way out. I saw another puppet, and he was free as a bird. He didn't need the help of a hand to stand up, and he moved through the air with the greatest of ease. He looked He looked so happy and free.
Wind: And?
Puppet: It was all an illusion. When I got closer I could see it. There was no grubby hand helping him stand, but he was all tied up. There were strings attached everywhere—mouth, hands, feet. I had such high hopes. I just crumbled back to the ground—shattered. There was no freedom after all.
Wind: But there is!
Puppet: Lies!
Wind: No, I mean it. My family business is setting puppets free to soar.
Puppet: (skeptically) Really? I can't even see you.
Wind: A little faith, how about it? What do you expect from the wind?
Puppet: Make your pitch.
Wind: A family member paid the price for all puppets to live . . . even while you were still flops. Now you can go anywhere you want.
Puppet: And how much does this cost?
Wind: Oh, it cost a ton! More than you could ever afford . . .
Puppet: Figures!
Wind: . . . but it's free to you. A grant from the family foundation took care of it.
Puppet: No! Really?
Wind: Really. And all you have to do is let me live inside you, and I'll clean out all of Grubby's dirty germs. . . . Don't worry, we only use nonchlorine bleach, since it's gentler.
Puppet: Really? Oh, I'll try anything. Do it! . . . Now! . . . Oh . . . I don't believe it . . . I didn't mean that—I really do . . . I'm filling up . . . I'm soaring . . . I'm free!

The puppet never had control, really.  But, he did not like dirty hands controlling him.  He also did not want strings attached to him.  To be free from the grubby hands and be cleansed from the dirt the hands left inside he had to let the wind fill him up and let the wind help him fly; this meant that the puppet yielded its will to the wind.  The wind was in control now.  Thus the puppet served the wind. 

Clearly, the Puppet represents us.  The puppet handlers could be said to be either Sin or the Devil.  Thus, The Wind represents the Holy Spirit (John 3: 5 - 8).  The Family is the Godhead. The other family member is Christ.  The money of the family foundation is the blood of Jesus.  

Before the Holy Spirit comes along we are just as the puppet, controlled (enslaved) by Sin.  As the puppet, we can neither cleanse ourselves nor free ourselves from Sin.  Our lesson asks, what frees a person from slavery to sin? Then asks us to read, Romans 8:2 "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death."

The expression "The law of the Spirit of life" in this verse means Christ's plan for saving humanity.   This law stands in contrast with "the law of sin and death," which Paul described in chapter 7 as the law by which sin ruled, the end of which was death. Christ's law instead brings life and freedom. So what does Christ's fill us with so that this "law of the Spirit of Life" become effective in us?   It is evident that it is the Holy Spirit.  This is whom Christ sent to us to give a testimony of Him and convict us of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 15:26; 16:8).  It is this Spirit, our Comforter, who dwells in us to cleanse us from Sin and free us from the serving the Law of Sin and death.  

Paul elaborates on this concept in Romans 8,

Romans 8: 4  That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Romans 8: 5  For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
Romans 8: 6  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 
Romans 8: 7  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
Romans 8: 8  So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
Romans 8: 9  But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
Romans 8: 10  And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Notice that in verses 9 and 10 Paul makes the indwelling of Christ and the Indwelling of the Spirit the same thing.  So, to be free from the slavery of Sin we must be filled with whom can free us from Sin, The Holy Spirit.  However, just as the puppet had to let the wind fill it, we must allow the Holy Spirit fill us.  Are you allowing Him?  Is He filling you?

Friday, November 24, 2017

She needs a Savior

She needs a Savior
 
After a shipwreck in the middle of the Ocean, a female survivor is stranded in the waters.  She has no food and no drinking water.  She also does not know where she is.  Imagine her in the vastness of the ocean how small and insignificant she must feel.  She can swim, but she would not know where.  No amount of swimming could save her.  The nearest land is who knows where.  The boat's staff sent a distress signal before the ship sank.  Her only hope is that someone hears the signal answers it and comes to her rescue.  She knows that without being rescued her only fate is death.  When she no longer has the energy to swim she will drown.  Of course, the fact that she is immersed in salt water and exposed to the sun does not help her chances of survival.  Staying in one place can be dangerous, but swimming away may lessen her opportunity to be discovered by the rescuers.  It is indeed a dilemma.  
 
Now, let us say that the rescuers do find her (before she dies) she still has to consent to be saved.  When the rescuers come, she must do as they say.  Ignoring them or fighting against them will not help them rescue her.  The mere presence of the rescuer will not save her.   
 
The woman at the beginning of Romans 7 is in a similar situation.  As long as she is married to her current husband, she will die.  Let us read this passage,
 
Romans 7:1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?
Romans 7:2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
Romans 7:3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
Romans 7:4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
Romans 7:5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
Romans 7:6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
 
The woman may be willing to stay in her current situation until she meets a new man.  There is something about the new man that makes her see the reality of her present condition.  She realizes that if she remains in her current marriage, she will end up dying eternally.  She needs someone to be rescued.  The only way she can escape eternal death is to be the with the new man.  But, how can she do this without breaking the law?  That is her dilemma.
 
The woman is bound to her husband until he dies.  So, to be free and continue to live he must die.  So, now she wants to leave her current husband but cannot do it legally.   Divorce is out of the question because that would be adultery.  Killing the current husband is also not an option because that would be murder.  The new man gives her a third solution.  She goes into Him, He dies, and she dies with Him since she is inside Him.  He will be resurrected and since she is in Him, she will be resurrected with Him.  The  previous thought is what Paul is talking about in Romans 6: 3 – 7,
 
Romans 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
Romans 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
Romans 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
Romans 6:7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.
 
When the couple - who are now they are two in one - dies,  they are freed from Sin.  Therefore, when they are resurrected the Law can no longer bind them to the "old man" or "body of Sin."  They are now under grace, not under the law.  They can now be married legally.  How does this relate to us?  We are the woman in need of rescuing.  The issue is we cannot save ourselves.  It does not matter how much we try we cannot do it.  Jesus is our only rescuer.  Only He can save us.  He has already saved us in Himself.  But, for this salvation to become a reality in us we must consent to be saved by Him.  Ignoring Him or fighting against him will not help Him save you.  The mere presence of Christ will not save you.