Thursday, December 30, 2004

God Took All the Steps

One year we had our end of the school year party at a country house on a large
diary farm in my hometown. Some of us wandered around, and just in time came upon a cow delivering a calf. What a spectacle for a 14 year old. Just a few minutes out of womb, and the calf was on its feet --yes, walking. He struggled, but with his mother's help, he was on his way. At a recent church party, one of my friends brought her 9-month son. The father held him for a while, but then the baby became restless. As he became fidgety, I took over, and made him stand on the table. To all of our amazement, he began to take steps. How excited and amazed we were at the baby's progress-- he was walking! Naturally, our conversation revolved around the baby, and how long it would take him to walk without outside support. Yes, friends, we were watching those first steps.

The _expression “first steps” is also used metaphorically to describe someone taking the initiative toward doing something, such as: starting or restoring a project or relationship. When it comes to God and man, the Bible says God took the first steps. In Genesis 3:9,10 we read:

Gen 3:9 And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?
Gen 3:10 And he said, I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid,
because I was naked; and I hid myself.

And, just as God went out looking for Adam, He comes looking for us. Sinners do not look for God. When they do, it is because they are responding by God's power, to the gift He is giving them. Both the power to respond, and the desire to do so are His gift to us. When we accept and receive the gift of His Holy Spirit -- even though He may be largely unbeknownst to us -- we are enabled by His power.

When we use the _expression, “God took the first step,” we assume Adam took the second step. Yet, as we continue reading the passage, we realize that God spoke and did everything. On the contrary, Adam listened to God and received from Him. In submitting to God, Adam was enabled to listen more closely, and hear more clearly with a willingness to do. Brothers and sisters, Adam did not meet God half-way; there was no negotiation or compromise. It was God who did everything. Adam was the grateful recipient --- of God’s love, grace and mercy. Yes, Adam would have to do some things, but it was in response to God’s act of mercy. It was not to call God’s attention and favor to himself. Adam already had God's attention, and His favor, because God loved him unconditionally. So we see that God not only took the first step, He took all the steps.

When God foresaw Sin, He immediately met in council with the Son and the Holy Spirit as to how to deal with it. In that meeting it was determined that the Son would pay the Sinner’s debt. God took the first steps from the foundation of the world, which according to Revelation 13:8, is when the Lamb was slain. The restoring of man would cost God everything and would be a gift to man. All man had to do, was receive it.

This is great news, for we are that man -- Adam. We exist through his lineage, as mankind. Thank God that Salvation does not depend on us. It is certain and complete because God takes all the steps. Won't you receive His gift personally, today?

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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Who are the Wise?

Growing up in a Catholic country in the Caribbean, Santa Claus and Christmas were not
as celebrated as the Three Kings Day which occurs in January. This Holiday is better
known in some countries as Epiphany, and the 3 kings as the Magi or wise men. Many
have asked "who are these men?" however the scripture is not clear concerning them. Matthew 2:1 merely says, “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.” The scripture does not say why they were wise. I have heard that they were astrologers who saw something in the night sky that was unusual. While observing the star, they studied the prophesies (of Daniel), understood them, and therefore knew it was time for the King to be born. There was wisdom in finding this baby, just as today, there is wisdom in finding the Cross.

According to Proverbs 1:20 & 9:10-- "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction...(not realizing that) the knowledge of the holy is understanding." The wise men were wise, because having access to the prophesies concerning the Messiah, they studied them. Scripture says, that the wise have an understanding of the times, and that they hear the word and build upon its foundational principles (Matt. 7:24, 25). In Matthew 16:1-4, Jesus tells the Sadducees and Pharisees that they are not only foolish, but wicked and adulterous because they can discern the signs of approaching weather, but are blind and deaf to the signs of the times. Thus we can reason that the Wise Men of the East were wise in that they were able to discern the signs of the times from the scripture. Not only that, but they prepared themselves and went to welcome and worship the King. If we are undiscerning of the times, with the word of prophecy
all around us, are we wise?

Who are the wise? According to John 8:32 -- "... you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." So the wise have knowledge of the truth, and hearing His voice (John 18:37, 10:27 & 8:47), they worship in Spirit and in truth, as did the Magi (John 4:23, 24 & Rev. 14:7). Having access to the prophecies concerning King Jesus, they were led to come and worship Him. You know, we not only have access to the same prophecies which we are studying now, but we also have access to and understanding of Revelation, which is a complimentary book to Daniel. Yet do we really know what time it is? Do we have understanding as well as knowledge of the great event now taking place in the Most Holy of Holies, where God is judging the living? We shall be very foolish indeed if we ignore the prophecies till the time is more pleasing or convenient. According to Daniel 12:10, "the wicked shall not understand (that the time has come to be purified in character, and made clean
and white through the righteousness of Christ's indwelling Holy Spirit). Continuing to do wickedly, they shall not understand, but the wise shall understand--" and that's a promise.

Another definition of the wise is found in Daniel 12:3, and in Proverbs 11:30. Daniel 12:3 states, "And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever." Proverbs 11:30 states, "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise. From these two texts we see that the wise person is the one, who through possessing the indwelling Holy Spirit, has the character of Christ shinning brightly, and thus wins souls.

Often we don't view wisdom this way. Instead we think that the person who gets the best grades in the class is the smartest, or the wisest. We think that the person who is most frequently chosen for work projects is the wisest or most talented. We tend to think that those who are effective at multi-tasking are the wisest, and we wish we could be like them. Unfortunately, our human tendency is to see things not as Christ sees them, but as the world does. In Luke 16:14, Jesus says that the Pharisees who heard all these things were covetous. And in verse 15, He "said unto them, You are they which justify yourselves before men: but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God." He further said, that we are to "look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal (passing away); but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18).

Sadly it seems that the wise are often not honored until they have passed away. Then we build monuments to them, repeat their stories, and if possible, show their works. Through Ellen G. White, Christ has said that every worker for Him receives a reward. Although it may not be visible here, the work, if done in simple faith, shall not fail to receive a wonderful reward. We shall not be disappointed. To everyone who is seeking to win souls for Christ, in the sight of heaven your work is a success and
you are ranked as one of God's noblemen (E.G.W. Notes, pp 86).

The wise then are those who seeking to win souls to Christ through the Cross. They study the prophecies, worship God in Spirit and truth, and like Daniel and the pioneers of old (i.e... William Miller, Ellen White, James White...) wrestle with God in prayer for enlightenment. The ultimate meaning of the visions was sealed for Daniel, but it began to open for the pioneers through Revelation. And, it can open for us too, if we choose to yield our preconceptions and bow humbly at the foot of the cross. Wisdom is the application of discernment, knowledge and understanding. Friends, let's take the instruction of the scripture seriously, and "study to show ourselves approved, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth." And if we lack wisdom, let's "in faith, ask God, that
giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (2 Tim. 2:15 & James 1:5, 6)."

The Cross of Christ is the science of all sciences. Let's choose today to view the prophecies concerning the "Time of the End" in the light of the Cross. We can be assured we'll become wise as we do so.

Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

The Special Insights web page resides at:

Friday, December 17, 2004

That Which Is Desirable

When was the last time you heard the words, “I love you?” In our society these words are tossed around 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, chemdah means desire, that which is desirable, pleasant, and precious. This is how the angel addressed Daniel. This word chemdah is the same word that is 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 wonderful and delightful dishes which could be made 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 pleasure 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 own 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 stoney 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 good 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 top soil. It is He who must till the stoney or thorny or wayside ground, and it is we who, if we choose, will be made willing (to do of His good will and pleasure -- Phil. 2:13). This may take years, but it doesn't have to. After the ground is tilled and fertilized, the seed is sown, then the soil is watered, and the ground weeded constantly. 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 truly 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 top soil. It is His love that produces fruits, such as works of Faith, that acceptable. It is His love with which we love our family members, (and our neighbors), and it's this love we will be known for.

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.

Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

The Special Insights web page resides at:

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Our Main Concern

If there is one thing I love about reading the Bible, it is how the holy
Spirit keeps the words and stories alive and fresh time after time. A text can
be read several times, and still upon another reading, the Holy Spirit illuminates
something in that passage you never saw before. I recently experienced this
while reading Psalm 17. In this psalm, as with many other psalms, David pleads
to God for deliverance from evil. It is evident that he perceives God as the only source of help, the only means of defense against those who persecute him. In verse 14, David identifies his persecutors and contrasts them with himself in verse 15. Let's look at verse 14 and 15.

Ps. 17:14 From men which are Thy hand, O LORD, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly Thou fillest with Thy hid treasure: They are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes.
Ps. 17:15 As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness.

Those whose major concerns are the affairs of this world are David’s enemies. Their life is centered on having children, working hard, amassing material wealth, running their household, and leaving an inheritance to their children. These things by themselves are not wrong, if viewed from the right perspective,-- as that of a servant-manager. After all, David himself left an inheritance to his son, Solomon. However, a large part of that inheritance was to be used to build the " temple," to worship the Lord. David was not satisfied with mundane things; verse 15 lets us know what mattered most to David: "the Kingdom of God and its Righteousness, for everything else is added" (Matthew 6:33).

Daniel 9 shows that Daniel had the same attitude. Upon reading this chapter we find that his main concern is to please God. All other things are subjected to this desire. He wanted his people to know God as he knew Him. He wanted them to understand His promises. Daniel wanted God’s sanctuary to be filled with God’s glory as well as with those who would worship Him in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24). Daniel desired God to fulfill His promises by restoring Jerusalem and its temple. Daniel desired for His people to return to Judah triumphant in their forgiveness received, and lessons learned. Daniel desired for God’s character to be evident in His people and among all nations. Daniel Knew these promises were conditional upon the humbling and repentance of Israel. If Israel would allow God to change their minds and hearts, the tenor of their thoughts to faithfulness and obedience toward Him, then God would restore their nation to its former glory. If Israel would turn their faces from worldly pursuits, and turn their eyes upon Jesus instead, He would exalt their status.

Daniel is an example to us. His prayer is a model prayer. He prayed for the forgiveness for the iniquities and transgressions of the law they as a people had committed. He prayed for repentance. He humbled himself by including himself among those who had sinned against God. He prayed for others. He claimed God’s promises, not because Israel had earned any favors from God, but because God is merciful and never fails to keep His word. Ellen White says,

If we as a people would pray as Daniel prayed, and wrestle as he wrestled, humbling our souls before God, we should realize as marked answers to our petitions as were granted to Daniel (E. G. White Notes, page 73).

Our prayers will show what our main concern is. Luke 6:45 says,

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

If our heart is concerned with the issues of the world, then our prayer life, if any, will determine that. If our heart is concerned with God's Kingdom, and His righteousness, then our prayers will follow. Sister White says,

Those who claim to be sanctified, while they have no desire to search the Scriptures, or to wrestle with God in prayer for a clearer understanding of Bible truth, know not what true sanctification is (E. G. White Notes, page 74).

What is our main concern? I pray it is the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness.
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Thursday, December 02, 2004

To Be Made Righteous

Have you heard of Murphy’s Law? It says that anything that can go wrong will. It seems that on many occasions this law proves to be accurate. Once while at a restaurant I saw a litany of events to which Murphy’s Law applied. Some of these cliches you may have heard: you cannot get a loan unless you do not need one. When a piece of bread falls it usually lands on the buttered side. When you are expecting a call the phone will ring when you leave the room. In my experience, I never seemed to drop food on my clothes unless I was dressed up. Of course, it always happened on the Sabbath during pot-luck lunch, so--the whole church could see the stain on my shirt or tie. To make matters worse there was no flour to absorb the oil stain. How do you remove grease from a silk tie? The dry cleaner offers no guarantees. Household detergents may or may not work, and you cannot just cut off the stained part of the fabric. Maybe you really like the tie, and replacing it is not an option. In a sense we are all stained ties. We are stained with Sin. Nothing we can come up with can take Sin away. Only the precious blood of Christ can cleanse us from Sin.

In Daniel 8:14 the Hebrew word for “cleansed”, (nisdaq) comes from a common Old Testament word meaning “to be set right” or “to be righteous.” So to be cleansed from the defilement of Sin is to be made righteous. This is in essence what is happening in the Heavenly Sanctuary’s Cosmic Age of Atonement. The Investigative Judgment of Daniel 7 and This Atonement process are one and the same. Sister White calls it a great day of judgement,

In the ministration of the earthly tabernacle, which served "unto the
example and shadow of heavenly things," the holy of holies was opened only
upon the great day of atonement, the typical day of judgment, set apart
for the cleansing of the sanctuary. (E. G. White Notes 67-68)

Every being that has lived or lives on this earth is being investigated.
Any being with sins that have not been confessed and thus not repented
will be stricken from the Lamb's Book of Life. This is a solemn age we live in.
This is a very serious process. In the Words of Ellen White,

As the books of record are opened in the Judgment, the lives of all who
have believed on Jesus come in review before God. Beginning with those who
first lived upon the earth, our Advocate presents the cases of each
successive generation, and closes with the living. Every name is
mentioned, every case closely investigated. Names are accepted, names
rejected. When any have sins remaining upon the books of record,
unrepented of and unforgiven, their names will be blotted out of the book
of life, and the record of their good deeds will be erased from the book
of God's remembrance. The Lord declared to Moses, "Whosoever hath sinned
against Me, him will I blot out of My book" [Ex 32:33]. And says the
prophet Ezekiel, "When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness,
and committeth iniquity, . . . all his righteousness that he hath done
shall not be mentioned" [Eze. 18:24].

All who have truly repented of sin, and by faith claimed the blood of
Christ as their atoning sacrifice, have had pardon entered against their
names in the books of Heaven; as they have become partakers of the
righteousness of Christ, and their characters are found to be in harmony
with the law of God, their sins will be blotted out, and they themselves
will be accounted worthy of eternal life. The Lord declares, by the
prophet Isaiah, "I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for
Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins" [Isa. 43:25]. Said Jesus,
"He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I
will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his
name before My Father, and before His angels." "Whosoever therefore shall
confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is
in Heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny
before My Father which is in Heaven" [Rev. 3:5; Matt. 10:32, 33], (E.G.
White Notes, page 69-70).

Our sanctuary (minds) must be cleansed (made righteous) for us to
remain in the book of life. Christ, through His Spirit, must dwell in us
sanctifying us. The Holy Spirit purges us of all Sinful tendencies, ("both cultivated and inherited") making us more and more like Jesus. This word atonement can be rewritten at-onement. It is the process of making us one with God. For this process to occur we need to transfer our Sin to the Lamb that takes away the Sin of the World (John 1:29), which was slain form the beginning. He shed His blood to pay for our Sin (Leviticus 17:11, Hebrews 9:22). His blood cleanses us from all Sin (Col. 1:14). Christ in turn takes our Sin and gives us His Righteousness. This happens when we confess our Sins to Him (1 John 1:9). This process must happen while we are alive on this planet. Only If we submit to it by faith, will we live eternally.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Counterfeit Gospel

A counterfeit is something which imitates the genuine article -- with the
intent to defraud or deceive. Such is the case with forged documents,
jewelry, leather goods, and many renown works art. Counterfeiters, in the
form of talented artists, have adeptly reproduced genuine articles, in the
hope of profiting from their deception. Counterfeiting has reached such epic
proportions, that global policing and investigative agencies have united to
protect their countries from the flow of stolen goods and services.

While the motive of the counterfeiter is evident with those who traffic in goods
and services, it not so with those who propagate a spuriously false gospel.
Profiting from deception is not merely the domain of earthly counterfeiters,
but is the specialty of the evil one who is at war with the God of the universe.
You see, profit is not always gained in the form of material goods. Sometimes,
what is acquired is a soul.

Human organizations put great effort into catching counterfeiters, should
God and those who love Him do any less. By no means am I suggesting that
we should be on the offensive toward counterfeiters. No, instead, we should
become so familiar with the original, that the imitation is recognized immediately.

Matthew 24:24 says that in the last days the deception would be so clever
that if it were possible the very elect would be deceived. So here we are studying the book of Daniel, becoming knowledgeable concerning the gospel, and the power of our Judge and Advocate, that we might not be deceived. Daniel 8:11 says regarding the earthly power that shall attempt to deceive the whole world,

Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the
daily*…was taken away, and the place of the sanctuary was cast down.

This verse presents to us a master plan to keep us from learning the true
Gospel. By introducing a counterfeit gospel, the Papacy has taken away
the daily ministration of Christ, and has cast down the sanctuary. It is a deception
so great, that the majority of the world follows it as if it was the true gospel. Not only has the Papacy, under the power of Satan, effectively convinced the world that the Roman Catholic Church has authority to forgive and atone for sins, but that there is no heavenly sanctuary at all. Through the doctrines of the Papacy, even we have come to believe in a diminished atonement, and that Christ was unlike ourselves.
The result of this is that many of us believe that we have a saviour who came to save
us from the second death, but that we have no earthly example of how to overcome
sin. Consequently, we believe we can be expected to continue in our sins--till He

Many of us understand the big picture of the role the Papacy has played in the past.
Some of us believe that this role will expand in the future till it is global in scope and power. However, many of us do not rightly understand the framework of Papal beliefs, and how these doctrines have effected us. Underestimating the power and determined plan of Satan to oppose God's kingdom through us, we often think that our personal trials demonstrate the force of evil. But Satan's plans are more far reaching and sinister than that. How wise to remember that only one of his intents is to deceive us into being defrauded from everlasting life. The other is to defraud many through our influence, and ultimately to defraud God of the pleasure of our company throughout eternity. It's true, human beings, through confessing the secrets of their hearts to the priests, have elevated the priests to a position only Christ should have. The priests, claiming tobe representatives of Christ have taught that they can absolve those who trust them, of their sins. So far they have carried the deception that they claim that in their communion service Christ dies all over again, and the bread and wine are truly the flesh and blood of Christ. In essence, the Roman Catholic Church has convinced the world that the remission of Sin needs no shedding of blood, countering the essential biblical truth found in Hebrews 10:18:

Now where remission of these (sins, iniquities and transgressions) is, there is no more offering for sin.

Sister White adds,

They were taught not only to look to the pope as their mediator but to trust to works of their own to atone for sin. Long pilgrimages, acts of penance, the worship of relics, the erection of churches, shrines, and altars, the payment of large sums to the church--these and many similar acts were enjoined to appease the wrath of God or to secure his favor; as if God were like men, to be angered at trifles, or pacified by gifts or acts of penance (E. G. White Notes, p.63-4)!

By perpetuating the painful physical beating and bruising aspect of Christ's Crucifixion, in contrast to His broken heart of love, and His ultimate separation from His Father's face (2nd death), they have blocked the world from the knowledge and experience of His self-denying love. Therefore, the people are unable to enter boldly into the Most Holy place to receive the ultimate benefits of Christ's intercession on their behalf (that they overcome as He overcame). This is where Christ is -- ministering at this very moment (Hebrews 4:16). By blocking the knowledge of the sanctuary, the entrance is blocked, and the world does not pass in to transfer their sins to the sanctuary. Since, they do not defile the Sanctuary with the Blood of Jesus to take away their sins, they keep their Sin. When the sanctuary is cleansed in the Great Cosmic Age of Atonement, which we believe is now,
they are not cleansed. Through this great deception of the counterfeit Gospel, the Devil has secured the eternal condemnation of the World (all those who will not believe).

How can we keep from falling in this trap? Christ has said He is able to keep us from falling, and present us faultless (without a blemished, stained character) before the Father with exceeding joy. (Jude 24). You know, the best way to spot a counterfeit, is still to know the original. Brothers and sisters, let us become one with God--in Christ. Let's go on to know Him so well, that the mere sound of His voice woos us to follow Him. Christ said that His sheep know His voice (John 10: 1-30). It is in this type of relationship that we are safe from the trap, for we cannot be safe alone. Only the indwelling Holy Spirit protects us with His power of discernment from this great deception. Oh, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us not be enemies of the cross, despising the shame. Let's choose instead to trust Him.

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Thursday, November 18, 2004

Dressed For The Judgment

We live in a society that judges individuals according to their attire, ascribing
values based on socio-economical status to people. We then proceed to treat
the person according to our evaluation of them, based in part, on their attire.
The better the dress for the occasion or event, the better treatment they receive. The worse the dress for the occasion, well, you get the picture. The point is that how we dress matters. Yes, we live in a very casual society, and we've all heard the come as you are mantra. But you would be as unlikely to attend a wedding in shorts, as you would be to picnic, wearing -- a tuxedo. True? Yes, dress matters, not only to human beings, but even to God.

How we dress spiritually, will determine whether we will be part of the group who will be vindicated and shall possess the eternal kingdom. According to Daniel 7: 22, 26-27:

Dan 7:22 Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.
Dan 7:26-27 But the judgment shall sit, … And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the
people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting
kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.

The investigative judgment will determine whether we are properly dressed or not.

Consider the Parable of the wedding banquet in Matthews 22:1-14. A king
calls for his guests to come to his son’s wedding. Most of the guests, who
had already been invited, decline to attend, although preparations had been
made for their attendance. Many declined for personal reasons. Others, became irritated and eventually angry at those reminding them of the upcoming wedding. Annoyed, they verbally abuse, and push the King's messengers away. Snatching the invitation, they tear it into shreds, and with contempt, throw it to the ground, and step on it. This they feel will finally settle the matter of their attendance. But no, other messengers are sent, requesting the presence of these subjects to the King's son's wedding. Angry beyond measure, the invitees quarrel with the messengers. As their contempt and rage climb, the crowd grows, till with mob mentality, the invitees kill the King's messengers, and burn the invitations. The King himself, is insulted and outraged at the behavior of his subjects and friends. Justice requires that he quell the insurrection, so he sends his army to avenge the death of his servants. But everything is still ready. The wedding cake is dressed
and stands in the middle of the ballroom floor, the flowers adorn each table. The orchestra awaits the command to strike the first cord. The singers await the first note. The five course meal is reheating, and even the bride and groom to be await the guests. Frustrated, the Prince asks his Father the King, "How long Father, how much longer shall we wait?" "Doesn't anyone want to attend this joyous occasion?" "Didn't they say they were coming?" "What has happened?" "Don't they know you could command their attendance, yet you have invited them, and they-- have refused." "What more could we do?"

Saddened that his friends have rejected the royal invitation, but determined to celebrate his son's wedding with others, the King sends additional servants. Quickly, into the outer regions of the kingdom they go, bidding people to the wedding. Anxious that the wedding banquet be filled, they tell the potential guests, "all is now ready, make haste and come." Responding with amazement, the people, flattered that the King has invited them, come, and at last, the wedding is furnished with guests. Pleased, the King -- as host,
greets his guests. One by one they are presented to him, and oh how beautifully they are attired. Thoughtfully, the King has spared no expense to clothe each, that none might feel ashamed. As one of guests approaches the king, a murmur is heard from the servants and the other guests-- "what is he wearing?" "Did he not receive the invitation and the royal wedding attire?" Noting that the guest is inappropriately attired, the king kindly asks, "why didn't you wear the attire I sent for you?" Ashamed, and embarrassed, the man could give no reason for his ‘oversight.’ Angered, the King ordered his servants to tie the man and throw him into the darkness.

Sister White says that the inspection of the guests symbolizes the investigative segment of the judgment. Furthermore, she states that the people invited to the banquet represent those professing Christ. But, only those who are worthy are allowed to stay at the banquet. The man who was not dressed for the occasion suffers the same consequence as the first group of unworthy guests-- subjects, who outright rejected the King's invitation. These represent the
wicked. Those who remain in the banquet are the righteous. What is the difference between them? Who are the wicked and who are the righteous?

The wicked are those who reject the character of Christ, symbolized as the robe of Righteousness given to us by Christ. Many of these individuals are pillars in their community. They are “nice” people, well mannered and cultured. We may even “like” them. They are people who are well respected in our churches, neighborhoods, businesses, and government. In contrast, the worthy do not only profess to abide in Christ, they actually do. They have accepted the robe of righteousness given by Christ. The worthies love God supremely and their neighbors as He has loved them. Although loving and kind, they are not necessarily deemed as nice. While they may not be easily liked, they are
capable, through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, of loving you while at the same time hating what you do.

The investigative judgment is happening now-- Christ is evaluating our wedding attire. Concerning this, Sister White says,

It is while men are still dwelling upon the earth that the work of the investigative judgment takes place in the courts of heaven. The lives of all His professed followers pass in review before God. All are examined according to the record of the books of heaven, and according to his deeds the destiny of each is forever fixed. (E.G. White Notes page 55)

Those who accept and wear the robe of Christ's Righteousness have nothing to fear. The investigative judgment vindicates them against the accusations of Satan before the watching universe. By their name in the Lamb's Book of Life is written, forgiven and their sins are blotted out that they may receive the
refreshing rain of the Spirit. When your name is presented to the King, will you be found dressed?
Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

The Special Insights web page resides at:

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Assurance of Salvation

A reading of Daniel chapter 7 can cause wonder and fear. At a glance it seems dreadful. To a certain degree these feelings are understandable. Daniel, who actually saw these beasts, was so disturbed that he was grieved (Daniel 7:15). So distressed was he about this dream, especially the fourth beast, that he confessed that even his countenance changed. We naturally fear beasts. They are bigger, faster, and fiercer than we are. It always seems as if they want to devour us. This is a consequence of sin – a natural enmity between man and animal. So, as we read this chapter, our natural fear of beasts and of the unknown (i.e. - prophecy) takes over.

But wait, who is giving the prophetic vision? Who wins in the end? Upon careful reading, the answer is provided to us. God wins and those who by faith believe He has given them the victory, win also. This prophecy demonstrates -- as does all prophecy -- that God knows what is happening on this planet. Because, He cares, God lets us know what has happened, is happening, and what will happen. We are thus warned. Having already made provision for us, He remains involved in our world. He assures us victory, if only we believe in His Son as our Savior.

You see there is a difference in knowing that God is capable of saving us, and being assured of that salvation. Paul talks about assurance, not capacity. We are not waiting to see if Christ is capable of being victorious. Christ is victorious! He lived a perfect life in our sinful flesh. He died the second death. He was resurrected and taken to Heaven in glory. Christ endured all that we will experience, and He has given us that which made His victory possible: the Holy Spirit and His power. Christ has assured salvation for us all, that is, the whole world, on the cross. His resurrection is the proof of this. Are we still at war? A look at Daniel 7 will remind us that we still are. But do not fear. There is provision for this too. Salvation is in three stages. Have you noticed the verb in the verses dealing with salvation or deliverance is in three different tenses: Past, present, future? That is because salvation is in three stages. On the cross Christ paid the world’s penalty for sin. As the scripture states, “the wages of Sin is death.” But thanks be to God, we can be assured that Christ’s blood paid the price. Titus 3: 5-6 says,

Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
Titus 3:6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;

We are thus justified. In other words the cross allows for the Righteousness of Christ to be imputed to us. We are declared Righteous through the merits of Christ (Romans 5:1). The next stage is in the present tense. We are currently being saved. 1 Corinthians 1:18 is a good example,

1Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

This stage of salvation imparts His righteousness to us. It sanctifies us. It saves us from the power of sin. That is why 2 Peter 2:9 says, “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations…” We are thus assured that not only will we not die eternally, but that in our sinful flesh we can have perfect and sinless characters, as Christ did. The last stage of salvation is in the future tense. We will be saved. Matthew 10:22 states, “…he that endureth shall be saved.” Other examples are Mark 16:16, John 10:9, and Acts 15:11. This is glorification. This shall happen at Christ’s second coming. When “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1Co 15:52). And we shall be saved from the presence of Sin. Christ went through these three stages and was victorious. He assures those who believe by faith, that His grace is sufficient and complete, and that they too, are being, and will be victorious.

Daniel 7 may seem to be a dreadful passage, but it is actually good news, because, we see God’s hand saving His own throughout this world’s terrible history. If we trust God He gives us His perfect love – agape. His perfect love casts away all fear (1 John 4:18).

Raul Diaz

The Special Insights web page resides at:

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

What is a Classic?

This question arises ever so often, and everyone has an answer. While most people would agree on the definition, few would actually agree on what should be considered a classic. Simply put, a classic is something that has passed the test of time. In other words, although it is old, it is still relevant, still in style. Furthermore, when we say that it is old, we mean that while the object although created in the past, is still as good or better than anything created today. For example, the Salsa music I grew up listening to is now called classic Salsa. (I think it is another way of calling those in my generation old). Believe it or not, there are arguments about what should be considered a classic. I wonder just who it is that decides what is in style and what is not -- and what criteria do they use? Alas, I'll probably never know.

What I do know is that the story of Daniel in the Lion's Den is a classic. Its truths, based on eternal principles, have never gone out of style. These principles are still as relevant today as they were several thousand years ago, and continue to encourage us on our journey to the kingdom . What is it about Daniel that stands out in each story? According to Daniel 6:3,4-- " ... an excellent Spirit was in him." The scripture indirectly describes Daniel as temperament, full of faith, without fault or error, humble, dependent on God, truthful, honorable, trustworthy, uncorrupted, filled with spiritual knowledge, understanding and wisdom "of the gods." He was filled with the fruit of the Spirit--Gal. 5:22,23.

Does this mean that he was sinless? No, like you and me, he was a sinful human being, with temptations from within and without to sin. According to Romans 3:10, 12-- "there is none righteous, no not one," and "They are all gone out of the way (like sheep) ...there is none that doeth good, no not one." So, Daniel had the sinful human nature bequeathed from Adam after the fall. Yet in character, he was righteous--as Daniel 5:14; 6:3 says, he was "filled with an excellent Spirit," and therein lay his righteousness. In Daniel, there was no separation between who he was in his professional (social) and spiritual life. This kind of cohesion in the follower of Christ never goes out of style in the eyes of God.

For the Christian, faith is always in vogue, because without it no man can please God or see Him and live. Daniel understood that talking with God was never out of style. He knew that without it he would fail. He understood that he was not justified because he obeyed the Law of God, and was God's workman, but because he trusted and believed God. As with Abraham, his faith was accounted as righteousness. Was it Daniel's righteousness? No, it was God's righteousness given him because he believed, trusted, had confidence in and listened attentively with the willingness to do (this is the true definition of obedience). This is classic righteousness which never goes out of style.

Just what is it in the Christian life that eventually will go out of style? Serving God out of fear--fear of reprisal, fear of His wrath, fear of being wrong, fear of failure. These kinds of things will cease, eventually--particularly for those who learn to love the Lord with all their hearts, minds and yes, bodies. What else will go out of vogue--at some point? Thinking of God as a despot. God too has destroyed rebellious individuals with their families (Korath, Dathan and Abiram--Num. 16:1-33), because they too shared in stubborn attitudes and actions of unwillingness. In the case of Achan who coveted the "goodly Babylonian garment," all Israel shared in the responsibility for his sin, and had to punish him by stoning, as prescribed by the Lord. When we are truly convinced, and convicted of the Lord's great self-denying love, we will be converted to Him, and covetousness, rebelliousness, acquisitiveness will no longer be found in us. These garments of self-righteousness will seem like the rags they are, for His loving kindness will be seen in its true splendor. There's nothing like a classic garment, which, never going out of style, fits as if it is tailored just for you.

The story of Daniel is a classic, because the principles of God's character which he demonstrated, never go out of style. Through the Holy Spirit, Daniel possessed ageless eternal qualities. This is why Daniel was relevant in his day as well as ours. Well, should we vow to be like Daniel? I think not, for our promises are like proverbial ropes of sand. Instead, let's yield our wills to God--continually / daily, as we talk with and listen to Him. Let's resist the temptations of covetousness, jealousy, envy, malice and
pride. In so doing, we are more than conquerors -- victorious over sin, satan and ultimately over death. I'm asking Christ for this classic kind of character exemplified by Daniel. How about you, are you asking too?

Maria Greaves-Barnes & Raul Diaz

The Special Insights web page resides at:

Friday, October 29, 2004

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 crown had been made of pure gold. Archimedes thought for days, the problem riddling him, and absorbing his life. One day he filled his tub with water to its normal level, he was preparing to bathe. 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 found what he was looking for. 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 determine the amount of gold the crown was supposed to weigh, place it in a tub of water, and mark the water displacement. Afterwards, the same process would be repeated with the crown. If the craftsmen made the crown out of pure gold, it would displace the same amount water as the pure gold. If, however, the crown was not made out of pure gold, the amount of water displaced would differ. In the end, it was determined that the King had been
cheated. The gold in the crown was weighed, and found wanting.

We use the _expression, "the writing is on the wall," to mean the signs are obvious. In the biblical passage for this week-- Daniel 5 --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 gold plated. 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 the 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 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 Belshazazar as he 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:

Sister White 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)

Those, who like Belshazzar reject the opportunities that God grants them will also be 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:

Sister 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?

The Special Insights web page resides at:

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Keeping It Real

Daniel 4 is a chapter not often mentioned. Not even in the Daniel and Revelation Seminars is it talked about. A lot of the focus is in the miracles, dreams and prophecy. However, Daniel 4 is a powerful chapter. Daniel 4 is the gospel in verity. Daniel 4 shows us that we are sinners in need of a Savior, what we become when we are proud and rebellious, and what we can become if we just listen and submit to God by faith. Like Nebuchadnezzar, we would be not afraid to worship God and tell others about it if we tasted and saw how good He is.

You see, outside of Christ we are all Nebuchadnezzars. In our sinful nature, we are all proud and rebellious. Pride and arrogance are usually combined in the Old Testament, and sometimes used intermittently. These terms mean presumption, swelling, exaltation, and puffed up; thinking yourself more important and better than you really are. Pride is a delusion that comes from our human sinful condition, and rebellion follows in its trail. Rebellion is unwillingness to yield to the authority of the ruler or government to which one owes obedience. Now, if obedience as per the Old Testament, means to listen attentively, to hear-- with a willingness to do, then rebellion is obviously disobedience whether felt or expressed verbally or behaviorally. Sinfulness is the path of wanting to do your own thing, your own way, and in your own timing. It is self-righteousness, and nothing less. As has been so aptly stated by Pastor Sequeira, "All of this world's systems- nationalism, commerce, education, politics, recreation, sports clubs, are based on Satan's principle of self-love." Self-centeredness, and selfishness underlie all of these systems, because they were constructed by sinful human beings, for whom self seeking is the norm. According to I Cor. 13, love seeks not her own, is not puffed up, is not boastful, rejoices in the right... you get the picture. So none of the systems devised by the world (human beings) are based on true love. Instead ethics and morals, and policies have been used to replace God’s indwelling Spirit. But,they are all vanity and futile (Ecclesiastes 2:11) and will fade away like a leaf. In reality, when we put our trust in these systems, and their outcome to "have the good life," we fail of reaching the mark of God's character He has set before us, and we sin--“for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23.)

We can understand why God sends us His messengers, trials and judgments, if we want to. He wants to restore us to what we would have been had we never sinned. Sin is deceptive, and we have a bent to it, a tendency to lean into crookedness. We can never be with them (the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) while we have the attributes of His mortal enemy. Thus the messengers, trials and judgments are to allow us to see how we really are, and who He really is in relation to us. God want us to get a reality check. In a sense God wants for us
to keep it real. This is an _expression now used to mean: do not forget where you come from, and the ones who love you. God is trying to remind us that we belong to Him and no one can ever love – agape - us like He does. God is reminding us that we need to totally depend on Him, if we are to be good and righteous. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:” (Rom. 3:10.) and, “there is none good but one, that is, God.” (Mark 10:18.)

Like with Nebuchadnezzar, sometimes His judgments seem harsh. But, are they really? Someone determined that between Daniel 1 and Daniel 4 was at least 25 years. In twenty-five years he still did not get it. You may also notice in Daniel 4, and throughout the Scriptures, that God always sent warnings prior to sentencing the guilty parties and executing the sentence upon them. There was ample time and opportunity for Nebuchadnezzar to repent from his proud and rebellious ways. I would argue that God revealed his character to Nebuchadnezzar and those surrounding him, through
the Hebrew captives who served him. He is not a God who hides His true nature. To save the king, God allowed him to become outwardly, what he was inwardly: a beast without consciousness or dignity. God did say He would humble the proud. He humbled King Nebuchadnezzar, and He will humble all of us-- to save us from ultimate destruction-- if it is necessary. Talk about keeping it real. Daniel 4 says,

Dan. 4:34 And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes
unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and
I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation:
Dan. 4:35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and
he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the
inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?
Dan. 4:37 Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of
heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.

Nebuchadnezzar’s words-- his ultimate praise of God's sovereignty and power, can be ours if we only learn his lesson. Sister White says,

The lesson that the Lord would have all humanity learn from the experience of the king of Babylon is that all who walk in pride He is able to abase. By stern discipline Nebuchadnezzar had to learn the lesson that God, not man, is Ruler, that His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. So men today must learn that God is supreme. When men gain success in the work of the Lord, it is because God
has given them this success, not for their own glory, but for God's glory. He who seeks to steal a ray of light from the glory of the Lord will find that he will be punished for his presumption. (E. G. White Notes, p. 26)

Christ says in Revelation 3:20-- " Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if
any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will
sup with him, and he with Me." How will we answer Him?
Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes


Today is October 22, 2004. It has been 160 years since the Great Disappointment. 160 years of our Seventh Day Adventist movement. Happy Disappointment Day to all. The Investigative Judgment of the Magnificent Cosmic Atonement Age is underway. When our High Priest is done, He will come for us. Amen!!! Hallelujah!!! Here is a poem to commemorate this great event.

It is no secret that we all long to connect to that special someone. However, dating may not be the best way to find them. It opens up the door of or hearts to many hurts and pain. God longs to bring them to us, just like He did with Adam and Isaac. He promises we will be joyful if we wait on Him. Here is how He has done it with me.

The Special Insights web page resides at:

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Unshakable Faith

The story is told of a group of Christian refugees praying in a church during a time of civil upheaval. Storming the church property, a group of soldiers discovered the people praying. Not wanting to alert the people to their presence right away, they quietly searched the church for anything of value. Unfortunately, they found nothing but a picture of Jesus on the wall. Angered, the commanding officer decided to take it out on the praying Christians. Ordering all those present to come forward, the commander insisted they approach the picture, spit on it, and renounce Jesus by stating, “You are worthless, and I don’t need you!” If they failed to do this, the commander threatened to shoot them on the spot. The elders of the Church were the first to come forward. Boldly they stood up, approached the picture, spat on it, and repeated the heinous words. Others, one by one, followed the example of the elders. After a few moments, and several persons later, a young girl stood up. Walking to the picture with her scarf in her hand, the young girl wiped away the saliva, softly uttering the words, “Jesus, I need You for I am worthless.” All were silent, wondering what would happen next. The girl, apparently unafraid, stepped before the Commander and said, “You can shoot me now.” Falling to his knees, the now contrite commander began to cry inconsolably; his heart broken, he gave it to Jesus. This true story of courageous faith occurred in Rwanda during the bloody massacre of its people. We all need to ask ourselves this question, "in the moment of truth, will we have 'the faith of Jesus' " as this little girl did?

Although frightening, we often wonder, "how can I develop this type of unshakable faith--and do I want to?" To these questions, let's add the question, "is wanting to enough?" Let's begin by looking in the book of Daniel, to see if there is an answer. Scripturally, the story in Daniel chapter 2 follows consecutively the one in chapter 3, as would be expected. Thus both stories seem to have occurred relatively close in time, yet they did not. Ten to twelve years intervened between the King's dream of the image, and his golden construction of it. How easy it is to forget the impression made on the mind by the Holy Spirit, and the response of faith, when we do not abide in Him. The time in between chapter 2 and chapter 3 provides a test for King Nebuchadnezzar-- namely, will he after accepting the interpretation of the dream as from the Lord, wait on Him for its fulfillment. All of heaven and earth were
waiting to see, "will the Babylonian King surrender his will -- along with its attendant pride and ambitious plans -- to the King of Kings, or after a time of delay, will he be found building a monument to his own dreams?"

In Daniel chapter 2, King Nebuchadnezzar is confronted with the choice to exercise faith. Brought to the point of decision at the revelation of his dream, the king honors the Lord by saying in Daniel 2:47-"Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret." Hearing this, we would say that the King believed Daniel, and God. But His response, while a heart response, was not made by a broken, contrite heart. It was made by a heart still prideful and boastful, thus allowing Satan control of this stronghold in his life. The disciples also found themselves in this predicament when they could not cast out the demon filled child (Matt. 17:14-21) and again when they were almost capsized in the squall on the lake (Matt. 14:22-33). Vacillating between the "pride of life, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes," they were unprepared to hold on to the Word of promise -- their living saviour.

In Daniel chapter 3, the three Hebrew youth are also confronted with the choice to exercise faith. They too are brought to the point of decision when it is declared that if they do not bow down and worship the golden image they are to be burned alive. Imagine, the peer pressure to conform. It was worse than when they refused to eat the King's food from his table. After all, the King has his pride to lose if these Hebrew youth refuse to follow his orders this time, and that will make him extremely hostile and angry. All the dignitaries of every land of importance are there, ready to oblige the King's decree. There is no mention of Daniel's whereabouts, so we must assume he is absent, but everyone else is present. The statue itself is 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide--in plain view--in the plain of Dura. It was not to be missed. So, how do the Hebrew youth stand up to that pressure? How would you stand? In Daniel 3:12, we note that they did not yield--bow down. The pressure to yield to doubt and disbelief increased greatly, as they were called before the king. In verse 14-15, the King gives them another chance to obey his decree, because he liked them. What is their response? Let's view Daniel 3: 15-18:

"O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us our 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."

Their response is one of belief and trust in the God who delivers. According to their statement, they believed that God would do right by them whatever the outcome was. Yet they had determined to stand steadfast without regard to whether they were delivered or not, for they were representing Him --and He changes not. Their will was to do the will of Him who sent them there, which was to demonstrate His character to Babylon as well as the surrounding nations. Israel and Judah's kings had been proud and boastful. They lacked the humility that comes from a contrite and broken heart, and so they led the people and their nation into captivity.

In captivity, how did the Hebrew youth get to this place of faith? The answer is in Daniel chapter one. Remember, they refused to eat the King’s food-- because they knew that it was God who fed them (with manna in the wilderness then, and in captivity now) to make them know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live (Deut. 8:3). Although captives, their hearts were contrite and broken over the wickedness that led to their national ruin and captivity. Yielding their will to God in the little things, they were counted faithful, and God blessed them further. By remembering God's goodness and mercy, they continued to be faithful. Through prayer and fasting, they were prompted to join with Daniel as he beseeched the Lord to reveal the dream and with its interpretation (in chapter two). Thus Christ developed these youth from faith to faith, and from grace to grace. By the constant yielding of their will to Christ, they were dying daily, and thus were prepared to state that fact under great pressure.

The three Jewish youth were like Job who said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him:” (Job 13:15). There was in these three – and in Job – a total dependence on Christ. Such a life of yielding, Christ lived, remaining faithful to the end by depending on His Father completely. This constant dependence on God for everything enables us to conquer, as He conquered. It is through dependence on God that we receive the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through us, enabling us to be willing to hear and to do all of His good will. This is what gives us unshakable faith.

The King of Babylon did not yield his heart. He yielded his emotions, and intellectually assented to the truth. Thus he had no root in himself, and as the great tree, could not stand. Had his feelings and thoughts been constantly bound up with the truth, had he like the King of Nineveh, who repented by faith through grace, his pride would not later have driven him mad. Lessons of those who with contrite and broken heart demonstrated the faith of Jesus are among the pages of inspiration and we would do well to hear them. Listen well, for our willingness to attentively hear and to do is at the foundation of heart obedience without which it will be impossible to endure.

According to Sister White:

"Important are the lessons to be learned from the experience of the Hebrew youth on the plain of Dura. In this our day, many of God's servants, though innocent of wrongdoing, will be given over to suffer humiliation and abuse at the hands of those who, inspired by Satan, are filled with envy and religious bigotry. Especially will the wrath of man be aroused against those who hallow the Sabbath of the fourth commandment; and at last a universal decree will denounce these as deserving of death.

As in the days of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, so in the closing period of earth's history the Lord will work mightily in behalf of those who stand steadfastly for the right. He who walked with the Hebrew worthies in the fiery furnace will be with His followers wherever they are. His abiding presence will comfort and sustain." (Ellen White Notes, page 25.)

As unpleasant as it may seem, let Christ break our hearts upon Himself, let Him wash us and make us contrite. It will be natural to yield to Him then, and we will have that unshakable faith we so desperately need.

The Special Insights web page resides at:

Thursday, October 07, 2004

How God shows He cares

You have read in the Bible how God takes cares of everything if you trust Him. If you believe He will provide for everything, and if you pray then He will answer. You share this with some friends, and to your surprise, there is disbelief. You are amazed, because, you know they read the same scripture you do, and perhaps even the same translation. To your puzzled _expression, comes the reply, “God gave you a brain so you could use it,” or “How do you know it is the voice of God,” or “God has more important things to worry about.” Some go as far as to say, “God does not intervene in the affairs of men.” Yet, Daniel 2 shows me differently.

Daniel 2 shows me that the attitude of these nay-sayers is not new. If anything, it is an age old attitude arising from the fall of Adam and Eve. The question was put to Eve in a subtle manner, suggesting doubt in the form of, did God really say thus and thus...? So the tendency to doubt and distrust is not new, not for the followers of God, (and certainly not for those who follow lesser gods). Indeed, this is the human condition. From Genesis through Revelation, we can find numerous instances of doubt, and distrust of God's love and care for us. So, we should not be surprised, when specifically in Daniel 2, we see the wise men of the court, intimating the same thing, namely, that God is far away, and cannot be bothered with trivial things, such as the meaning of a dream. In fact, their response to King Nebuchadnezzar's command to reveal his dream and its interpretation is:

Daniel 2:11 "And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh."

To these wise men, the gods did not live among their creation, instead, he remained afar off--perhaps disinterested. We wonder, how can Christians -- those who know and love God, have the same belief system as those who make no profession? How is this possible? It's certainly understandable that a new follower of Christ could have questions about the nearness of God to us. But how can we? Through the various authors of the scriptures, God has described how the enemy has clouded our minds so that we cannot discern God's personal love and care for us. Yet, many behave as if God intended for us go out on our own -- become independent thinking -- once we are of age. Although many think this way, a different picture presented in the scripture. And, that picture is crucial to understanding the Gospel message and prophecy.

The accurate and true picture of God, is that He is so interested in us that He even knows the amount of hair we have -- or in some cases, no longer have, on our heads (Matthew 10:30). He states, "Behold, I have engraven thee on the palms of My hands; thy walls are continually before Me" (Isaiah 49:16). Here God is telling us that He knows all about us, and that like a precious jewel with an engraved message of love from the beloved, He has engraved our names on His hands-- we are never forgotten. God also says that He has searched and known us, that our thoughts are continually before Him, that He is before, behind (and in) us, and even laid His hand upon us. Through the psalmist, David, God continues by saying that He knew us when as yet we were not made, when we were unperfected (in the womb), and that in His book all was written, even when there was none (Psalms 139:1-5, 15, 16). How much more of an intimate knowledge could God have concerning us. And, the whole worship service -- yes, the plan of salvation is one long story of God initiating a relationship with us, in hopes that it will be reciprocal.

Looking back to the inception of the 'God with us' experience, we see in Exodus 25:8 & 29:45, God telling Moses: “And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God.” Furthermore, in Isaiah 9:6, a child is promised us, and in Matthew 1:21-23, we see His name is not only "Jesus -- who will save us from our sins, but Emmanuel, which is interpreted, God with us." In John 14: 2, 3, Jesus says that although He's going away He wants to be with us, so He's preparing a place for us that where He is, we might be too. Lastly, Paul assures us in 1 Corinthians 2:16, that God’s Spirit dwells in our body-temples. It's amazing how often Christ has told us that He desires intimacy with us. Unfortunately, sometimes we're slow to hear, afraid as were the 'Children of Israel,' who when the Lord spoke, " And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die" (Exodus 20:19; Hebrews 12:19, 20). Thus, another way God shows He cares, is by choosing persons to speak to us in His behalf--that we not be afraid.

So in essence, God dwells among us, through His prophets. The word in Hebrew for prophet is “Nabi.” It may mean: one who is called to men in the name of God, or one who calls to men on behalf of the name of God. (It is also possible to mean: One who calls to God in prayer). A prophet then is the one who not only speaks the words of God, given from God, but gives the message to the audience targeted by God, for His purposes. A prophet is an ambassador. When God sends the prophet somewhere, the Prophet represents Him (See Jonah). The scripture says that prophets "were men of like passions." Although they did not consider themselves more special than others, they did think their relationship with God was special and wished all men could have the same relationship. Prophets were in a continual communication with God -- as was Enoch-- and submitted their will entirely to God -- continuously.

How could you tell if a prophet was from God? According to our lesson, the true prophet's message always focused on God, who inspired or gave the message. True prophecy always reveals God’s glory – which is His character (Exodus 33:18). True prophecy always reveals God’s intention – which is to, 1) save us from Sin and its eternal consequences and, 2) restore us to what we would have been had we never fallen, so that we may enjoy eternity with Him. True prophecy reveals God’s agape – unconditional Love. True prophecy reveals God does care for us. God dwells among us through His Son. “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:” (Philippians 2:6-7). Indeed, John 1:14 says that He as the Word, became flesh. Romans 8:3 says that He took upon Himself sinful flesh and “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15). Luke 4:1 says that Jesus was filled with the Spirit. And, this is the same Spirit Christ has promised to us if we ask for Him.

Speaking through the prophet Joel, God said:

Joel 2:28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
Joel 2:29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.

Just as Daniel and Sister White, were imbued with "His Spirit," God will pour His Spirit on us, and give gifts to men. We will all be called to use them to build up His kingdom, thereby demonstrating His character of unconditional love (I Corinthians, chapters 12-14). Are we willing to submit ourselves to His loving Spirit?

Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

The Special Insights web page resides at:

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Who … What … Where is Babylon?

Commentary On Sabbath School Lesson

The first time we read of Babylon in the Bible, is in Genesis 11:9. The
inhabitants of the world thought they could build a tower to overtake God’s throne and make a name for themselves right after the flood. In thus doing they rebelled against God’s will. God had instructed them to spread themselves and their families over the earth, but they decided to stay put and build this tower. The name of this place was Bab-ilu, which means “gate of God.” By confounding the builder's ability to communicate their plans to one another, God frustrated their objective. Incommunicado, the builders became angry, and were forced to separate and go their own way. Needless to say, individuals assembled themselves together in groups according to their common language. Ever since that fateful day, Babylon has symbolized humanity’s folly. Now, the term Babylon represents at its most elemental level, confusion.

Used in prophecy, the term Babylon refers to a rival city who through its earthly customs, traditions and expectations, binds its inhabitants to itself. Symbolically, it rivals the New Jerusalem ( Revelation 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21). Both cities are diametrically opposed to one another in principles. Babylon's citizens are selfish and self centered. Their entire civilization is built on the foundation of sand -- false doctrines, false ideas or concepts and
false systems of belief. In contrast, New Jerusalem's citizens love others as their redeemer has loved them. His indwelling presence with its inherent power enables these citizens to build their homes on the Rock of Ages, where the Chief Corner Stone stands. In the time of trouble, those who have their hearts and minds secured through faith on the foundation of the Word -- God's
doctrines, His ideas, and His principles of government -- will stand.

In the past, we have typically identified Babylon as Papal Rome, the Papacy, or the institution of Catholicism. Because the Roman Catholic Church considers all protestant churches as her errant off-spring, we have also considered all Christian Sunday keeping churches as daughters of Babylon. For although, these churches call themselves Protestants, we say they are confused for they follow the traditional day of worship established by Papal Rome. We thus believe that if we are Seventh-Day Adventists we are not Babylon. But, what if we start believing, thinking, speaking, and behaving as Babylon, while remaining Sabbath Keepers in the Seventh Day Adventist Church? Would we not become Babylonish? Would we not be citizens of Babylon living abroad? To be in
Babylon means to adhere to and engage in false doctrines, false ideas and false systems of belief. Oh what a shame to be found living abroad with the Saints, while we're really more at home in Babylon. God gave His children His angel to guide them in the desert where they wandered so long, He has given us Christ, His Holy Spirit and His Word to keep us from evil. Shall we not avail ourselves of them? Were not the children of Israel and Judah punished by God for adopting idolatry and paganism while living in the very land He promised and gave them? While the Seventh Day Adventist Church is not Babylon,
sometimes its citizens refuse to live as free citizens of the new kingdom.

After years of warnings to the people of Judah, God finally allowed “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and (he) besieged it” (Daniel 1:1). The Lord used the Babylonians to correct Judah, because the inhabitants had transgressed and sinned, 'till as a nation, their iniquity was worse than that of the pagan nations which surrounded them. Some individuals in Judah were taken captive to Babylon, and out of these came a remnant, who were to turn back to Judah after so many years. Not all in Judah were part of this group.
But spiritually, they could have been, had they chosen to be. Daniel and his three friends, by their fidelity to God, were a part of this group. God intended that although youthful captives, they would be witnesses to the
leaders of His character, in Babylon. No sooner had these captives arrived in the palace, they started stirring things up by refusing to eat the King’s food (Daniel 1:8). According to Sister White, the parents of these four young men taught them that strict adherence to the principles of temperance is a part of true religion. So although they were held captive in a powerful nation which was seemingly hostile to God, they were by faith, able to resist the
temptation to succumb to the pressure of conformity. They asked instead for healthy and wholesome foods. In answer to their request of faith, and their adherence to His principles concerning appetite, God blessed the four youth with physical, intellectual, and spiritual gifts.

You know, when foods are bad for our health and we don't like them, its easy to resist them. After all we don't like them. Where is the temptation in that? Its probable that Babylon’s menu was full of unclean meats, and clean meats prepared improperly. Its also likely that all of the food was offered to idols as well. Yet, to someone taught from childhood that such fare is bad for you, resisting is not difficult. The greater difficulty would be resisting the pressure to conform to the customs, traditions and expectations of Babylon under the threat of death. How many of us are threatened to eat the way we do? More often than not, if we were taught better, our poor eating habits were formed through some sort of pressure. Either we experienced that pressure through curiosity fueled by the desire to conform, directly from peer pressure or from anxiety regarding some deadline we have to meet. The bottom line is we usually eat the way we were taught to, in some cases, its what we've conscientiously chosen to do, and typically it meets some felt and unfelt needs.

As Seventh-Day Adventists, we understand that our denomination represents the remnant church, and the remnant people. We have been taught that God gave us a message about health, and that it is tied to the Three Angel's Message. We understand that we are God's conduit to take this message to the world. And yet what do we as individuals, part of the remnant, eat? We often go against prophetic counsel which reminds us that we are to eat and drink in a wholesome and healthy way. We even go against scripture, because "I can't see the harm in it, and besides, studies say... ." We choose to partake of and even enjoy Babylon’s menu--and the results speak for themselves.

The Loma Linda Health Study, recently conducted, reveals that "two-thirds of Seventh Day Adventists are overweight." Wow, isn't that astonishing? We have been given a message to promote health, and prevent just such physical, emotional, financial and spiritual trap. Christ even fasted 40 days and nights to overcome in this area on our behalf, so it wouldn't be a trap. But, just visit the various churches and look at those luscious and lavish meals prepared for potlucks. Its so tempting to eat everything, which of course means our stomachs will be over working. "And look, did you see the meat dishes, and the table laden with deserts???" The sad part is that we take pride in this. We feel that there's nothing like a good program, and a good fellowship meal to bond
together. Yet, we're ignoring the fact that the foods we eat, and the poor habits we establish, negatively affect our relationship with God. It becomes almost impossible to hear Him -- He speaks so softly. How it must disappoint
Him to see us burdened down with sinful habits and diseases that could have been prevented, had we listened to Him. Unfortunately, these habits, customs traditions and beliefs, unless left on the burning altar of sacrifice, will keep us
from entering our beautiful city to be with our king.

So, how do we leave Babylon? the first thing to do is to admit that we have been Babylonians. God will forgive us. 1 John 1:8 – 9 says,

1 John 1: 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Let us believe and accept His forgiveness. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all
should come to repentance.” These are gifts from God. If we accept them and invite the Comforter to help us, He will. As the song says, "It is not in trying, but in trusting, its not in running, but in resting, its not in wondering but in praying, that we find the strength of the Lord." God will give you the strength -- the power--to overcome if you but ask. "Ask and receive, that your joy may be full."

Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

The Special Insights web page resides at:

Thursday, September 23, 2004

The world: Hate it or love it?

Commentary on the Sabbath School Lesson

Words and their various meanings are very interesting to me. I have always been intrigued by them and take pleasure in tracing their usage in diverse languages. Its amazing how words mean something to one group of people and something else entirely to other group. We receive a very different perspective on a word when we discover its original meaning, as well as the ways in which that meaning has changed. The same goes for translating words or phrases from one language to another. Mono-linguistic persons often express surprise when a word in English sounds like a foreign word, but has a completely different meaning. Words and phrases in one language may not translate into another language readily, so a new word must be coined. Its so easy to think we understand a word in our own language, after all, we use it frequently. And yet, if we become just a little curious, work backward, and trace the word to its original language, we may discover a deeper meaning which heretofore eluded us. That’s why I am so thankful for dictionaries, and am particularly thankful to God for the Hebrew and Greek dictionaries. Without them, I would be lost. These dictionaries shed light on a totally different picture of God's requirements for us. Take the word obedience, for example. In the English language we translate it, “do as you are told.” In the Hebrew the word we translated to obedience means, “Listening closely and attentively-- to hear, with a willingness to do.” In other words, God does not just want us to take action, He wants us to know Him, know His voice, and in the process, understand what He wants us to accomplish in His power.

This week’s lesson presents a similar situation with the word: World. At first glance, it seems that the Bible contradicts itself. In 1 John and in Romans, it seems that we are being told to hate the world (1 John 2:15; Rom.12:2). Yet later on we're told that God loved the world (John 3:16; 2 Cor. 5:18,19) and that's why He sent His son . What an apparent contradiction! In Matthew 28, we are told that God even commissions us to go out to the world. What are we to believe? Some say that John 17:14 - 18 explains the paradox, but to someone not versed in scripture, this text just seems to provide more confusion. Let's take a look at John 17:14-18:

John 17:14 I have given them Thy Word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
John 17:15 I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that
Thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
John 17:16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
John 17:17 Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth.
John 17:18 As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them
into the world.

This scripture gives the impression that we are to be in the World but not of the World. To someone new to the Christian life, comes the question, "how can I be in something, but not be part of it? "After all, if you're in something, doesn't it stick on you? So, how could I be in-- it but not?" "I'm either in something, or I'm not -- right?" The New Testament was written in Greek, so let's look up the word -- "world," in a concordance. Upon examination, the word -- "Kosmos," from which we get the word "cosmos," has several meanings, and is revealed as the word we're looking for. To determine which meaning is correct for the passage in question, we must 1st determine the context of that passage.

To the Hebrew mind, the word Kosmos can mean several things, a few of which are: the inhabitants of the earth, men, the human family; the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ. It could also mean: worldly affairs, the aggregate of things earthly; the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments, riches, advantages, pleasures, and the like, which although hollow, frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ; any aggregate or general collection
of particulars of any sort. In summary, the word-- "world," can refer to Sin or the Sinner. Perhaps Sister White sheds a little more light:

The Followers of Christ are to be separate form the world in principles and interests, but they are not to isolate themselves from the World (E. G. White Notes, page 92).

Wow, at least for those who've been baffled, we got that cleared up. The "world," used in this context of scripture is referring to the customs, traditions and expectations of sinful humanity. The apostles, through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, are telling us that we are not to be like the sinful inhabitants of the world, worrying, fretting, and concerned with the cares of this life, for they root out the Word (Matt. 6:25-33; Matt. 13:3, 22, 23). If these counsels seem an impossible feat, remember that Christ only asked us to listen closely, with a willingness to hear, and a willingness to do. When we are in Christ, nothing shall be impossible, for all things are possible to him who believes, and abides (Mark 10:27; John 1:3-5; Phil. 4:13).

It is said that God hates the Sin, but loves the Sinner. When we are in Christ we too will bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and will- agape - love the Sinner unconditionally and hate the Sin. You cannot admire both, the Sinner and the Sin, and possess the love of God. When there is no love or burden for the sinner's ultimate eternal destination, there is unquestionably, love for Sin. But,
when God places in our hearts, His love, and passionate burden for the salvation of the Sinner --- we will hate Sin; and -- we will love our brother unto the death. For Christ's sake, let's be willing to allow God to do this work in us.

Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

The Special Insights web page resides at:

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Treating the Leaders

Ever since I joined the church 24 years ago I have heard of people dissatisfied with the leadership of the Church. You can imagine that during these years, I have also heard my share of scandals. The examples are many: adultery, homosexuality, fornication, embezzlement, and apostasy. All this combined with poor decisions on the part of leadership, can make anyone distrustful, angry and cynical . The fact that church leadership experiences collective negative thinking like this is sad, unfortunate, and disturbing. Doesn't God say that He appoints the leaders? Has He made poor choices throughout history? One thing is for certain, the church’s leaders are not perfect. They often fail. This shines the light on what the Bible says about our human nature, which is, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:” Rom 3:10.

Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that in my 24 years in the church,
the times when someone suggested praying for our leadership as we “discuss” their problems has been far and in between. (I have to confess it was not I making the suggestion.) When the suggestion came, we sheepishly agreed that it would be the right thing to do. However, not one of us offered to do it right then. We shamefully enjoyed gossiping about the various leaders throughout the world-wide church. We did it in anger and contempt. In fact, we bore false witness of our brethren. In letting our anger loose through gossip, in slandering others, we murder them in our hearts. Often, gossiping is a form of revenge. So of course it means we are being unforgiving of our "neighbor's" failings. By gossiping we smear others' characters, destroy their reputations, and generally, behave as if ours was above reproach. Forgetting that, “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” Matthew 7:2.

The Bible is clear that we are to trust the leaders, submit to them, as well as support and encourage them -- so far as they follow God’s will. If they sin, we are to prayerfully bring the issue to their attention. If that fails, we are to go with 2 or more witnesses to engage in resolving the conflict as described in Matthew 18. If all else fails, we are reminded to keep the leader in prayer. Paul makes this request in 2 Thessalonians 3:1, “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you.” His request reminds us that praying for them, is something we should have been doing all along. Had we been interceding on their behalf, perhaps they would not have failed in serving. Sister White has this to say about praying for others: those whom we pray for can reject our counsel, and our actions of love may fail to reach them, but not so our prayers. Our prayers can reach their heart even if they do not know we are praying for them.

In human terms David had reasons to kill King Saul. After all, Saul attempted to take his life. Thus David could have retaliated, and It would have been considered self-defense. Yet, David never raised his hand to kill Saul. During one opportunity when the King slept in a cave in the wilderness of Engedi, David actually spared his life. At sunrise David yelled to him from a distance,

1 Sam. 24:10 Behold, this day thine eyes have seen how that the LORD had delivered thee to day into mine hand in the cave: and bade me kill thee: but mine eye spared thee; and I said, I will not put forth mine hand against my lord; for he is the LORD's anointed.
1 Sam. 24:11 Moreover, my father, see, yea, see the skirt of thy robe in my hand: for in that I cut off the skirt of thy robe, and killed thee not,know thou and see that there is neither evil nor transgression in mine hand, and I have not sinned against thee; yet thou huntest my soul to take it.
1 Sam. 24:12 The LORD judge between me and thee, and the LORD avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.

David was aware of Saul’s flaws. David felt sorrowful regarding Saul's decisions,
knowing that it would lead him to eternal condemnation. We too can be sorrowful for the course the church’s leadership is taking, the decisions that are made, as well as for the leadership itself. Yes, they are faulty. But, they are God’s appointed leaders, whether we like it or not. God has a purpose and a plan for these brothers and sisters in the positions they hold, and it is not likely we know what that is. What we can do for them is to pray. Intercessory prayer will change our attitudes, and perhaps even their actions.

Sure, this goes against our sinful nature. Sure we'd still like to gossip about them, but let's let the love of God constrain us; for in God, all things are possible. Through His indwelling Holy Spirit, God has convicted us of our sin of murmuring against His leaders. He will enable us to confess, and will give
us the gift of repentance for our sinful attitudes and behavior. God will forgive us if we but ask. Then He will empower us, to forgive the Church’s leadership and to pray for them. Will you accept God’s invitation?

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