Friday, November 20, 2015

How can the "good" turn bad?

How can the "good" turn bad? 


A few years ago I saw the movie "Lord of the Flies." It was a disturbing movie. How could a group of kids from a civilized country, from "good families," and attending "good schools," turn into savages when left unsupervised for a few days. Yes, the situation was extreme. They were lost in a jungle from a shipwreck. They were forced to fend for each other, to cope with an environment they did not know. Only in movies you say. 

In 1965 Stanley Milgram conducted a psychological experiment in which the subjects were led to believe that they were delivering ever more powerful electric shocks to a stranger, on the orders of a white-coated researcher. Our lesson elaborates on the experiment:


"… the depth of corruption that had befallen Israel can be seen in the kind of reforms that Josiah had to undertake. How, though, could the nation have fallen so far? In one sense, the answer is easy: it's because humanity has fallen so far. Just how far humanity has degraded was revealed in a famous experiment conducted at Yale University in the 1960s.

Participants were brought in arbitrarily through newspaper ads and told that they were to administer electric shocks to people tied down to chairs in another room. The switches that administered the shocks were marked from Slight Shock to Danger: Severe Shock, including two more ominously marked XXX. Participants were told to administer the shocks according to the orders of the scientist leading the experiment. As they did, the participants would hear the people in the other room scream and plead for mercy. In reality, the people in the other room were just acting: they were not getting shocked at all. The point of the study was to see how far these normal participants would go in inflicting what they thought was pain on those whom they didn't know, simply because they had been ordered to do it. The results were frightening. Though many participants got anxious, distraught, and even angry, that didn't stop a stunning 65 percent from administering the severest shocks to these people, believing that they were truly hurting them. Ordinary people, wrote the scientist who conducted the experiment, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. How many ordinary people have done terrible things through history, or even today? Too many have, for sure. Why? Christians know the answer. We are sinners, plain and simple."

Some of Milgram's subjects were anguished afterward by the revelation of their dark potential.  Milgram's high school friend, Stanford psychology professor Philip Zimbardo, conducted the now infamous Stanford Prison Experiment. The subjects of this experiment were put in a realistic mock prison. Some were selected as guards and some as prisoners. In five days the abuses by the guards to the prisoners were so disturbing, the experiment had to be cut short.  This experiment revealed the dark potential of humans.  The "good" turn bad, because they were not good to begin with. 


The only explanation for this is found in the Bible.   We read in Romans 3: 12,


They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (Rom 3:12 [KJV])


This is something Jesus agrees with.  In the tenth chapter of the book of Mark, a young man approached Jesus and called Him, "Good Master." Jesus answered Him,

Mark 10:18 * Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

Our biggest mistake is to think that there is any goodness in any of us. Our natures are tainted with Sin. We are conceived in Sin and born in iniquity.  Anything that comes out of us is evil and selfish. There lies the problem.  The solution is a heart renewal.   It can only happen when we allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts, pour God's love in our hearts, by letting Him write the Law of God in our hearts.  


Friday, November 13, 2015

“The Crisis Continues”…Today

Fourth Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Crisis Continues"…Today
For the week of November 14, 2015

This commentary is borrowed from another author.  I believe it is exactly what we need to hear.
In Jeremiah Chapter 9 we find the prophet weeping. "Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night, for the slain daughter of my people!" verse 1. The reason for the weeping is given in verses 5,6 and 13: "They have taught their tongue to speak lies", they "weary themselves to commit iniquity", their "habitation is in the midst of deceit" and "through deceit they refuse to know Me", says the Lord. In the Insight a few weeks ago, we learned that the Hebrew word translated in English as deceit, means "to seize someone by the heel, to betray, to supplant." Supplant means to take the place of. Synonyms would be to replace or supersede. These definitions are helpful as we look at verses 13 and 14 of Jeremiah 9 which tells us that God's people had "forsaken My law which I had set before them", "have not obeyed My voice" and have "walked according to the imagination of their own heart…after the Baal's." This could be summarized as the Baal's have supplanted My laws and My voice. Chapter 10 plainly states the depth of idolatry into which Israel and Judah had sunk to the point that they had to be reminded that these gods did not create, but the God of heaven had. Additionally the "know" in verse 6 of Chapter 9 is not just a casual knowing but the intimate relational knowing that is achieved in the marriage relationship. It is not intellectual ability or informational knowledge but an intimate knowing of the highest relational quality. Verse 6 says that through deceit, supplanting, betrayal, they don't just not know Him but they refuse to know Him. For these reasons we find Jeremiah weeping. Weeping for the transgression of God's people.

The weeping of Jeremiah here can be seen as the weeping of God for His people then and now. There are at least 2 reasons God weeps. 

First Jeremiah Chapter 3:6-10 and verse 14 gives us a hint as to God's relationship to His people and His pain over "My people." Israel had gone upon every high mountain and every green tree and there played the harlot. After everything she had done God loved her still and pursued her, asking her to return to Him but she would not. Hear the language of the intimate relationship of marriage in verses 8 & 14. "Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce." "Return O backsliding children…for I am married to you." This is the broken heart of God supplanted, replaced in the heart and mind of His wife! God views His people in marital terms. 

"not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord." Jeremiah 31:32

"I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me
In righteousness and justice, In loving-kindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, And you shall know the Lord." Hosea 2:19,20

When God sees His people He sees His wife, and as she rejects Him, refuses to return and supplants Him with idols and refuses to know Him, His heart is broken, He weeps. But how can we in the 21st century relate to these kinds of texts about idolatry , which breaks the heart of God? Two quotes from the pen of inspiration:

"The apostle's words of warning to the Corinthian church are applicable to all time and are especially adapted to our day. By idolatry he meant not only the worship of idols, but self-serving, love of ease, the gratification of appetite and passion. A mere profession of faith in Christ, a boastful knowledge of the truth, does not make a man a Christian. A religion that seeks only to gratify the eye, the ear, and the taste, or that sanctions self-indulgence, is not the religion of Christ." AA317. Ellen White described that it was when the children of Israel sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play, that they threw off the fear of God and made the golden calf. 

"I was pointed back to ancient Israel. But two of the adults of the vast army that left Egypt entered the land of Canaan. Their dead bodies were strewn in the wilderness because of their transgressions. Modern Israel are in greater danger of forgetting God and being led into idolatry than were His ancient people. Many idols are worshiped, even by professed Sabbath keepers. God especially charged His ancient people to guard against idolatry, for if they should be led away from serving the living God, His curse would rest upon them, while if they would love Him with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their might, He would abundantly bless them in basket and in store, and would remove sickness from the midst of them. A blessing or a curse is now before the people of God—a blessing if they come out from the world and are separate, and walk in the path of humble obedience; and a curse if they unite with the idolatrous, who trample upon the high claims of heaven. The sins and iniquities of rebellious Israel are recorded and the picture presented before us as a warning that if we imitate their example of transgression and depart from God we shall fall as surely as did they. "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." 1T 609.

These quotes are compelling and worthy of much thought and meditation as to how the sections highlighted above apply. First of all then God weeps because of the rebellion and idolatry of His people.

The second reason Jesus weeps is found in the 2 episodes recorded in Scripture- John 11:35 with the death of Lazarus and Luke 20:11 when Jesus weeps over Jerusalem after the triumphal entry. Again Ellen White's comments are helpful.

Speaking of Lazarus she writes, "It was not only because of the scene before Him that Christ wept. The weight of the grief of ages was upon Him. He saw the terrible effects of the transgression of God's law. He saw that in the history of the world, beginning with the death of Abel, the conflict between good and evil had been unceasing. Looking down the years to come, He saw the suffering and sorrow, tears and death that were to be the lot of men. His heart was pierced with the pain of the human family of all ages and in all lands. The woes of the sinful race were heavy upon His soul, and the fountain of His tears was broken up as He longed to relieve all their distress." 

 Then speaking of Jerusalem she writes this in DA 575 and 576:
"Jesus gazes upon the scene, and the vast multitude hush their shouts, spellbound by the sudden vision of beauty. All eyes turn upon the Saviour, expecting to see in His countenance the admiration they themselves feel. But instead of this they behold a cloud of sorrow. They are surprised and disappointed to see His eyes fill with tears, and His body rock to and fro like a tree before the tempest, while a wail of anguish bursts from His quivering lips, as if from the depths of a broken heart. What a sight was this for angels to behold! their loved Commander in an agony of tears!... In the midst of a scene of rejoicing, where all were paying Him homage, Israel's King was in tears; not silent tears of gladness, but tears and groans of insuppressible agony….The tears of Jesus were not in anticipation of His own suffering. Just before Him was Gethsemane, where soon the horror of a great darkness would overshadow Him. The sheepgate also was in sight, through which for centuries the beasts for sacrificial offerings had been led. This gate was soon to open for Him, the great Antitype, toward whose sacrifice for the sins of the world all these offerings had pointed. Near by was Calvary, the scene of His approaching agony. Yet it was not because of these reminders of His cruel death that the Redeemer wept and groaned in anguish of spirit. His was no selfish sorrow. The thought of His own agony did not intimidate that noble, self-sacrificing soul. It was the sight of Jerusalem that pierced the heart of Jesus—Jerusalem that had rejected the Son of God and scorned His love, that refused to be convinced by His mighty miracles, and was about to take His life. He saw what she was in her guilt of rejecting her Redeemer, and what she might have been had she accepted Him who alone could heal her wound. He had come to save her; how could He give her up?"

Jeremiah's weeping is for the same reasons that God the Father and God the Son weep. Jesus weeps because He has been a husband to His people and they have scorned His love. He weeps because the result of scorning Him would cause suffering and sorrow and pain to the human family. He weeps because we have rejected the world's Redeemer who alone can heal our wounds and it pains His heart to give us up! 

Jeremiah says that might and riches are nothing to glory in, but knowing and understanding God. "Thus says the Lord: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight," says the Lord." Jesus Himself says, that "this is eternal life that they may know You the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." What is it we are to know? After all, Jesus said that it is eternal life. And how does it change us? When Moses asked this question of God, He showed Him His glory, which was His character comprised of both His justice an His mercy (see Exodus 34: 6,7). There is no greater place that the ability to know is manifested more clearly than on the cross of Calvary where as Friday's lesson points out the sundering of the Divine powers pierces the hardness or our hearts. The lesson highlights that in the cry of Jesus, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?" is the clearest and most powerful expression of that "sundering", of what it cost the Godhead to save us. 

There is hope for us who caused the Divine powers to sunder.  We, that pierced Him, will one day mourn Him.  We read in Zechariah 12:10,
"Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the house of David and the residents of Jerusalem, and they will look at Me whom they pierced. They will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child and weep bitterly for Him as one weeps for a firstborn."
In that day He will rejoice. Finally, His bride will be ready for Him.


Friday, November 06, 2015

Spiritual Pipettes

Fourth Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Symbolic Acts"
For the week of November 7, 2015

Spiritual Pipettes

In every field of work, there are instruments and devices to perform that work.  Each of these has their proper names and a particular use.  In the laboratory where I work, most of the tests are performed with automated and computerized instruments.  There is no need to make reagents.  All that the instrument needs is pretty much supplied by the manufacturer, typically in plastic containers.  One of the tests we do, however, is still performed the old way.  We have to make our reagents.  Making our reagents requires weighing solids, measuring the volume of liquids and mixing.  So, we still use the old type of containers for the preparation of these reagents.  There are many kinds of containers with different shapes and sizes and made out of different materials.  Each of them has a purpose.

When preparing the reagents we pretty much follow a recipe:  you weigh so much of this and add so much that.  It always has to be the same amount.  So, for weighing we have a scale.  For measuring the volume of liquids, we have graduated cylinders and volumetric flasks.   If we need to transfer a certain amount of liquid from one flask to another, we have pipettes.  With a pipette, you suction a certain amount of liquid inside the pipette from one flask and dispense the liquid into another flask.  Unlike, many of the other flasks used for storage, pipettes have only one function: transferring liquid.  So, the pipette has but one principle: you fill them to empty them: just as a pot from a potter.

In Jeremiah 18, the Lord tells Jeremiah to "... arise and go down to the potter's house . . . to hear [the Lord's] words" (Jeremiah. 18:2-6).  Let us read the rest of the story.

Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.

And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.

In case we missed in the text, Isaiah also tells us Who the potter and the pot represent, "But now, O LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand" (Isaiah 64:8).

We learn from this parable that we are a "vessel" the Lord has been forming on the potter's wheel. He has a happy purpose for us to be useful in His great work of lighting the earth with the glory of His "everlasting gospel" message.  But, as a vessel, we are marred from the beginning, because "all" of us "have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23).  In His mercy, the Divine Savior-Potter never throws any marred vessel (us) in the trash, no matter how lowly it may have become through being "marred."  This act of kindness is the "good news" encouragement. So, the Potter always takes the marred vessel to "[makes] it again into another vessel, as it seem good to the Potter to make" (v. 4). By this action the Potter reveals redemption in action.

However, unlike the real vessel we can resist the Potter's work.  We have freedom of choice and can resist God's will.  This resisting God, Paul considers foolishness.  He says in Romans, "But who are you, my friend" asks Paul, "to talk back to God? A clay pot does not ask the man who made it, 'Why have you made me like this?'"(Rom. 9:19, 20, GNB).  Remember, in this context Paul thinks of himself as the chief of fools (1 Timothy 1:15).  It is obvious that the "clay pot" needs to be reconciled in the heart to the Potter, as Paul did!

The obvious point here is that you cannot fill a marred pot, and empty it effectively, later.  When the Potter remakes us, we are ready to be filled with living water.  Christ told the woman at the well, 

John 4:14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

Jesus repeats these words to the crowd at one of the feasts.  Let us read John 7:37-19,

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

John says that Jesus was referring to the Holy Spirit.  Paul says that "God has poured out His love [agape] into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit, who is God's gift to us" (Rom. 5:5, GNB).  Filled with His love, we cannot help but love in return.  As Mary Magdalene loved Jesus, pouring all that she had on Him, we will pour all that God has given us back on Jesus in the form of our giving to others in need.  Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 25.  He told the sheep on the right that they'd receive a reward for helping Him in a time of need.  They asked, "When did we do this?"  Jesus replied, "As you have done unto these, you have done unto me."

Brothers and sisters let us take counsel and heed the Word. We are all broken, but, God can remake us.  Let us allow Him to do His work, by filling us with His love.  Only, then, will we truly love others.  

Raul Diaz


Friday, October 30, 2015

Why does God permit suffering?

This week's memory text is: 

Memory Text: O Lord, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me (Jeremiah 20:7). 

Jeremiah suffered greatly.  But, God did not forsake Him.  He suffered for Christ's sake.  Christ said, 

Matthew 5:10-12

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.11 "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Paul adds in Hebrews 11 that, 
Through faith ... 
Hebrews 11

36 ...others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:

37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;

38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:

40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

This week we take a look at suffering and how God uses it,

Why does God permit trials?

Sister Grant was distraught and frustrated. She could not understand why her life seemed to be a never-ending drama. It seemed like one crisis engendered another. She asked herself, "Why would God do this to me?" Her Pastor said that "those who are faithful to God will not see so many trials in their life. In fact," he added, "trials are a sign that God is not favoring you; which means that you are living in Sin." She met with some co-workers for support and prayer and told them about her dilemma. Surprisingly, most of them agreed to be in a similar situation. However, not one of them could find what was wrong. They did all the things that their pastor's said they should do. They were faithful attending church. They tithed and gave the offering. And, they were active in church programs. Why was God not rewarding them?

The youngest in the group, Ms. Bradley, waited until all the other ladies finished talking. She asked them a question, "What do Job, most prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus, and most Apostles have in common?" They all were silent looking at Ms. Bradley, suspecting she had an answer. Sister Bradley understood their silence so she continued, "Were they not faithful?" They all looked in toward each other murmuring possible answers to the question. After, a few moments, they all agreed and said, "Yes they were faithful." Sister Bradley, then said, "Then, why did God allow them to suffer? And, many of them died horrendous deaths. Could it be that we have it all wrong? Why would God treat us any differently?"  What does James 1: 2 – 4 tell us about trials,

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and com­plete, lacking nothing" (James 1:2–4, NKJV).

The word patience here is from the Greek hupomone, which means, endurance, steadfastness, and fortitude of every affliction that one confronts on one's spiri­tual journey.  The word Paul uses in Galatians 5:22 is macrothumia – translated as longsuffering - which essentially means "long tempered" as opposed to short tempered.

Although, hupomone is not part of the fruit of the Spirit, it is nevertheless very important in our walk of Faith.  According to James, it is through trials that we develop the endurance to continually overcome unbelief and remain faithful to God.  A past lesson stated about this,

'The Greek word for "trials," sometimes translated "temptations," is the word peirazo, which has the broader significance of "proving" or "testing." The devil tries us or tempts us to do evil. The tests and trials that God allows to come into our lives are for the purpose of developing our characters.'  

Ellen G. White talks about this,

"The trials of life are God's workmen, to remove the impurities and roughness from our character. Their hewing, squaring, and chiseling, their burnishing and polishing, is a painful process; it is hard to be pressed down to the grinding wheel. But the stone is brought forth prepared to fill its place in the heavenly temple. Upon no useless material does the Master bestow such careful, thorough work. Only His precious stones are polished after the similitude of a palace."—Ellen G. White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 10.

This doesn't mean, however, that every trial is in God's providence. Often we bring suffering upon ourselves through disobedience; often, too, trials and suffering are just the results of what it means to live in a fallen, sinful world where we have an enemy who hates us (1 Pet. 5:8). What this does mean, however, is that through a complete sur­render of ourselves to the Lord, to grasping hold of Him in faith and obedience, no matter what we go through, we can come out better or more refined if we allow God to work in us. No one said it will be fun. Life here often isn't fun, but we are given this wonderful promise: "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6).

Job never understood why he suffered. His cry to God was, "Why?" However, Job never stopped trusting God. In the middle of his crisis, Job cried out, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" Job13:15. Daniel's friends were faithful in all things, yet under threat of being burned they declared, "… our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." Dan3:17, 18. 

In contrast, we have the people of Israel. God was with the people of Israel. The people of Israel saw how God delivered them from the Egyptians. God accompanied them in the day with a cloud, and at night with a pillar of fire. The pillar probably gave them not only light but also warmth. With all this, the people disbelieved that God would have them drink the waters of Marah. But, did God not sweeten the water when Moses put a tree in the well (Exodus 15: 22-27). 

After all this when they reached Rephidim they disbelieved God again. In Exodus 17:1-7 we read how they threatened Moses life accusing him of bringing them out of Egypt to die in the desert. How soon they forgot about God being able to provide for them any and every need they had, including water to quench their thirst. The cried out, "Is the Lord among us or not?" Sister White says of this experience,

It was by the express command of God that the children of Israel encamped at Rephidim. He knew of its lack of water, and he brought his people hither to test their faith. But how poorly they proved themselves to be a people whom he could trust! Again and again he had manifested himself to them. With a high hand, he had brought them out of the land of their captivity, slaying the first-born of all the families of Egypt to accomplish the deliverance of his people. He had fed them with angels' food, and had covenanted to bring them into the Promised Land. Now, when brought into difficulty, they broke into rebellion, distrusted God, and complained that Moses had brought them and their children out of Egypt only that they might die of thirst in the wilderness. 

The lesson is for us. Many think that in the Christian life they will find freedom from all difficulty. But everyone who takes up the cross to follow Jesus comes to a Rephidim in his experience. Life is not all made up of pleasant pastures and cooling streams. Trial and disappointment overtake us; privation comes; we are brought into trying places. Conscience-stricken, we reason that we must have walked far away from God, that if we had walked with him, we should not have suffered so. Doubt and despondency crowd into our hearts, and we say, The Lord has failed us, and we are ill-used. Why does he permit us to suffer thus? He cannot love us; if he did, he would remove the difficulties from our path. Is the Lord with us, or not? {RH, April 7, 1903, par. 2 - 3}

Perhaps this is why Peter admonishes us 1 Peter 1:6-7,

1 Peter 1:6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:

1 Peter 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

This verse tells us that trials are neither random nor chaotic. Trials have a purpose. One of them is to produce genuine faith in those who will persevere through all kinds of trials. In other words, trials teach us to depend on God to overcome temptation and to endure the pain and suffering that Sin brings to us until we either die or are translated. We can trust that God's promises to us will be fulfilled. We may not see it now. Only in retrospect, God may allow us to see a glimpse of the purpose of trials. For many of us, it will be until we reach eternity before we see clearly God's purpose in letting us suffer. We will also see that God was in it with us all the way. We were not alone. And, in fact, our faith grew stronger and our character became more Christ-like because of the suffering God put us through.--