Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Prince of Peace

Comments On 2nd Quarter Lessons 2004: #5

Isaiah presents the many names of Jesus. Each of these names has a meaning that sheds light on the many great attributes of Christ’s character. There was a time when naming someone was a solemn event, because the name carries the definition of your character. Such was the case of Jacob, which means supplanter. The name may announce an event to come. Such is the case of Isaiah’s two kids. The name may be a witness about an attribute of God. Such was the case of Isaiah, which means Jehovah is Salvation. In the book of Isaiah we find among many naming expressions the term: Prince of Peace.

We read in Isaiah 9:6

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

This same verse we sing in Handel’s Messiah every Christmas season. The late Rich Mullins also used it in his song Peace:

“Hold me Jesus, ‘cause I’m shaking like a leaf, You have been King of my glory, won’t You be my Prince of Peace.”

Somehow the image of Christ holding our trembling bodies in the midst of a treacherous event is very comforting. Could this be the secret of experiencing peace?

What is Peace? There is a story of an art contest, where the theme was peace. All artists were asked to submit paintings with their rendition of what peace meant to them. The third prize went to an artist whose painting depicted a city destroyed by war, after the conflict was over. The second prize went to an artist whose painting depicted a beautiful sunny day at a prairie. The artist's work placed emphasis on the blades of grass bent in. The first prize went to an artist whose painting depicted the violent white waves of the sea hitting against the rocks, where a serene pigeon looked on without concern of what would happen. We always define peace as the absence of conflict. But while the first two paintings depicted just that, in a human being there may still be that inner restlessness. Most people who know me describe me as calm and reserved. Yet, many do not know that I have an type A personality. All my restlessness is inside. I have a long way to go to be like that pigeon sitting by the rocks. The pigeon is like Christ: in that it did not matter what was happening on the outside, Jesus remained for the most part calm, unless the moment required some exertion. Peace is a state of mind that comes from knowing that God has all under control, even every detail of our life. We have this knowledge by believing through faith in Christ as our Savior. You are in agreement with God.

I guess the biggest question is: where can we find peace? My answer is in the Light. (Jesus says in John 9:5 … I am the light of the world.) John also says He is the Word made flesh. In Psalms 119:105 it says:

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Light, like truth, exposes everything. It shows us where we stand. It shows the road where we should head. We first have to accept where Christ is showing us that we stand. Then He will show us where to go. Light always makes darkness disappear. There is no peace in darkness. But, we love darkness, and run away from the light. Therefore we never have peace: Also in John:

John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
John 3:20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
John 3:21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

Now, to love darkness and evil, not only means to get involved in the occult or pagan worship… but, those who believe in evolution and existentialism (or any of its derivatives) also live in darkness, and have no Peace. There are those who think they can bridge the gap between the Light and darkness, for example those who believe that science has more authority than the Bible. They live in a delusion. They too are in darkness. They have no peace. To have peace you must love its source and must partake of it. That source is Jesus Christ, our Prince of Peace.

Those who live in Peace become like Christ. They become Peace Makers. This is not the same as Peace Keepers. Peace Keepers believe in peace at any cost. Their goal is to avoid conflict, to stay in the darkness. They will, if necessary, give up their integrity or moral authority. Peace Makers want peace even if it means their life. But, under no circumstance, will they bend their standard of moral integrity. There is no shortcut or compromise for Peace Makers. For Peace Keepers, compromise is the best tool. Peace Makers realize that to be at Peace with God means to be at war with the World. Peace Keepers want to avoid any type of conflict now so they choose war with God, later. Now it’s up to you, choose then whom you will serve: The Prince of Peace or the Prince of Darkness.

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Thursday, April 22, 2004

Choices and Consequences: Cause and Effect

Comments On 2nd Quarter Lessons 2004: #3

Most of us are familiar with the terms cause and effect. We learn them early on in our science classes. If I want water to flow out of the faucet – effect – I must turn on the faucet – cause. Consequences work the same way. If I want a certain outcome – effect – I must make the correct choice – cause. Unfortunately, very seldom do we really think through the consequences of our thoughts or actions. Conveniently forgetting that all choices have consequences, we sometimes choose what we want, and let the chips fall where they may.

Sometimes we repeatedly make the same decisions, choosing the same things, while expecting different consequences. That is insanity. Someone once defined insanity as repeating the same process and expecting different results. In essence, sinners are insane. They expect good things, but in the end all they get is trouble followed by death. That is not to say that those who choose to follow God will not suffer or be persecuted. But in the end, victorious, they will receive eternal life. The things they suffered prepared them.

Sometimes we forget what Paul calls the “Mystery of Iniquity.” We look at other sinners with their apparent happiness and success and think, “I’ll do what they are doing.” Then, comes the trouble. Then, we blame God. But, God tried to warn us. We chose not to listen and heed His warning. We either chose to go our own way, men’s way, the world’s way, or the Devil’s way. In the end it is all the Devil’s way. For those who are not for God are against Him. There is no middle ground.

But you say, “how can we tell which is God’s way and which is not?” Isaiah 8:20 answers the question. To the law and to the testimony: If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. But what is the law and what is the testimony?

The law is the essence of how God thinks, personified in the 10 commandments, and evidenced in the life (and Word) of Christ. When Christ was tempted, He responded, “it is written.” The Word and the Spirit and the water, these three in one are the life giving force. As the Holy Spirit brings life to our innermost soul through the memorized Word, the Law and the testimony of Jesus (the spirit of prophecy) our character, and therefore our thoughts, motivations and decisions are purified, and interwoven with His.

How do we know when we stop observing His law? It is when we find ourselves thinking as did the arrogant rich young ruler, “ All these I have observed (or kept) since childhood?” We may be sure we’ve stopped observing His law, when we accept and follow the world’s advice and methods instead of God’s to advance our careers, choose a school, find a mate, or locate a suitable home. We stop observing God’s law of love when we make alliances with partners who do not partner with Him. Their success in business or marriage ventures is insufficient criteria to pattern after them. Despite the apparent relative success of worldly standards or methods to establish or accomplish goals, when we use them, we fall short of the mark. To negate praying and waiting on God to perform His will, we stop observing His law.

The lesson talks about not following other gods (idolatry), practicing witchcraft, and implies that engaging in spiritualism or New Age religion is wrong. For many of us, this is not the issue, rebellion is. Choosing our own way is about rebellion. We read in I Sam. 15:23: For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the Word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being King.

And, It is because of rebellion that God will reject us. He will allow us to suffer the consequences of our own sinful choices. And in the end, we will taste His consuming wrath. But, if we accept His loving warnings and repent of our sinful ways, He will preserve us as His beloved remnant, and bring us to our Promised Land to live with Him eternally. Which Consequence do you prefer? Choose accordingly.

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Friday, April 16, 2004

Immanuel – God With Us, not distant or far off

Comments On 2nd Quarter Lessons 2004: #2

In Daniel 2 we find Nebuchadnezzer troubled with a dream. Part of what’s troubling him is that he cannot remember it. He asks his ‘wise men’ to recall the dream and interpret it. His wise men answer that what he’s asking for only God can give and He does not dwell among men. Maybe their God did not dwell among men, but mine does. In fact that is His name: Immanuel – God With Us. God has always made it His business to dwell among men. Even when the children of Israel were in the wilderness He wanted to dwell among them. That was His reason for the earthly Sanctuary.

Exo 25:8 And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.

Furthermore, He was with them day and night, leading them -

Exo 13:21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:
Exo 13:22 He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

He also dwelt in the sanctuary itself. His Shekinah glory shone right above the mercy seat, which covered the 10 commandments in the most Holy Place.

Ellen White says, “In the holy of holies the great I AM took up His abode. . . . There, above the mercy seat, overshadowed by the wings of the cherubim, dwelt the Shekinah of His glory, the perpetual token of His presence,” That I May Know Him p. 95

From the above evidence we are able to discern that God was with the Hebrews as they wandered in the wilderness, but what about after they became a nation? A reading of 1st, 2nd Kings and 1st, 2nd Chronicles will answer that question in a mighty way. Furthermore, the book of Isaiah presents a precious prophecy:

Isa 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

We know that Christ fulfilled this prophecy. We read in the Gospel of Matthew:

Mat 1:20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
Mat 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Mat 1:22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
Mat 1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Jesus left the royal courts of heaven, and laid aside His own glory, and clothed His divinity with humanity, that He might come into close connection with humanity, and by precept and example uplift and ennoble humanity, and restore in the human soul the lost image of God. (Temperance p. 40) Immanuel is God manifested in the flesh, partaking of our nature for the sole purpose of our redemption and restoration.

Ellen White says: "Emmanuel, God with us," this means everything to us. What a broad foundation does it lay for our faith. What a hope big with immortality does it place before the believing soul. God with us in Christ Jesus to accompany us every step of the journey to heaven.” (ML 290.2)

This prophecy was fulfilled through the Holy Spirit. He was given to us from Jesus, Immanuel, himself.

Joh 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

Ellen White says: “The Holy Spirit with us as a comforter, a guide in our perplexities, to soothe our sorrows, and shield us in temptation. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!" (ML 290.2)

Through the Holy Spirit God is still with us. He is still Immanuel. But, now God is not only with us, He is in us. So he works His work of sanctification in us. He transforms our characters from bent towards evil to a character that glorifies God. He transforms our heart from enmity with God to a heart that loves God. He transforms us from men that are “lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Tim. 2: 3-5) to men that bear the fruit of the Spirit:

Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Gal 5:23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

He transforms us from men that live their lives with fear - placing their despair and distrust in a shaky foundation, which is anything that is not Godly, man’s way, or common sense - to men that live by Faith placing their hope and trust on a firm foundation, which is God’s way. Lastly,
God With Us means that God may not take the trial away, but He will go through it with us. David says in Psalm 23:4:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.

God With Us means “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39)

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Friday, April 09, 2004

The World's Great Crisis: A Lack of Yielded Servants

Comments On 2nd Quarter Lessons 2004: #1

Chapter six of Isaiah begins with the death of King Uzziah. 2 Chronicles 26 describes him as a man who brought honor to God until his old age, when he became proud. Walking into the temple, he intended to burn incense. These activities were off limits to all but the officiating priest. Seeing his intent, the priests ran after the king and were able to prevent him from carrying out his lawlessness. In his arrogance, the king became infuriated and in response, the Lord struck him with leprosy. He died never recovering from the stigmatizing disease. Because of his position, King Uzziah presumed he could cross the line God had set to divide the offices between the political and the spiritual. He probably felt that his exalted position entitled him to act, as he felt best. In presuming to disobey God's explicit commands, he demonstrated a rebellious and disobedient heart. Unfortunately for Uzziah, he thought he could serve God in a ministry for which he had neither calling nor commission.

Transported in vision to the Heavenly Sanctuary, prophet Isaiah is allowed to view God in His holiness, perfection and beauty. Hearing the angels sing "Holy, Holy, Holy!" as they praise God, he realizes how inadequate and feeble are his praises. The veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place is pulled aside, and Isaiah is permitted to view God's character in His entire glorious splendor. (His character, nature and being are all one--there is no division). In comparison to God, Isaiah knew he was not pure or holy, and feeling doomed, he proclaims, "I am a man of unclean lips, and live among an unclean people." With such mercy and tenderness, God commissions an angel to fly to Isaiah with a lit coal from the altar. The continuous burning, living coal is placed on his lips, purging him, and God pronounces him holy and pure. It is after this living experience that Isaiah answers the call to be God's special messenger for his generation.

I am glad the author of the lesson offers the contrast between the King and the Prophet. There are so many lessons to learn from both of them. Uzziah's presumption occurred in his old age. Isaiah was called in his youth, and summoned to heaven in a vision. Uzziah came to the temple out of his own selfish desire, without God beckoning him. Had Uzziah succeeded he would have burned the incense with a coal from the earthly altar. Isaiah was purified and purged from sin with a living coal from the heavenly altar. In a sense Isaiah became the incense. He embodied the prayers for purity and forgiveness for himself, and as an intercessor, for the people. The fiery coal released heat, light, smoke and aroma--all biblical symbols representing the work of the Godhead in Christ.

Christ is the light of the world. Smoke represents the prayers of the saints ascending before and above the veil between the Holy and the Most Holy Place. All sacrifices that God accepts are pleasantly aromatic to Him. It's not that Isaiah became Christ, but in a sense he personified Him, as a prophet, High Priest, and suffering servant. Christ dwelt in Him. While King Uzziah presumed personal greatness, perhaps equaling himself to God, Isaiah humbled himself as a servant wanting only to serve His master.

The world needs more men (women and children) like Isaiah, individuals who wait for God to summon them: Individuals who tarry, praying, repenting, studying--actively awaiting the call and the rain from the Holy Spirit. It takes patience to be a servant. Those who, like Isaiah, are humble, wait until their Master says they are ready "in His power" to do the job. They are the ones who reply, "Send Me." Following God's instructions to a tee, they will not cross boundaries nor take shortcuts. The unconditional love gift from God pervades their hearts and spills over onto those to whom they are sent to preach. The world needs those who, like Isaiah, cross out their own agenda to follow God's plan. The world is in need of servants.

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Thursday, April 01, 2004

Getting to know Him

Comments On 2nd Quarter Lessons 2004: #1

King Salomon said in Ecclesiastes, “…there is nothing new under the sun.” Isaiah presents grievances against Judah that are not new, for their time nor ours. A quick reading of this first chapter will let us see into how far they were from God. It is amazing how much it sounds like our spiritual condition. There is evil and corruption everywhere. The fatherless and the widows are left neglected as they are abused with no one to intercede for them. The people in their guilt think that God can be manipulated by accepting sacrifices, burnt incense, rituals, and the observance of Sabbaths He never ordered. Sounds familiar? Our spiritual condition is no different. Paul predicts our condition in his letter to Timothy:

2Ti 3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
2Ti 3:2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
2Ti 3:3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
2Ti 3:4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
2Ti 3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

The Lord reveals to John in Revelation about our times:

Rev 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
Rev 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Rev 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:

You ask any Adventist about salvation and they will say, “It is by Faith.” And yet, as you observe them and hear them speak you will see and hear what they truly believe. I would dare say that many of us believe that as long as we do not work our job during the Sabbath hours, do not watch TV nor read the paper, we go to church Saturday morning, pay tithes, and spend the day with other Adventists we are OK. Of course, we will abstain from eating unclean meats. But, a little wine does not hurt. And, when it comes to dating and going to a club or theatre is fine, as long as we do not have sex. Where is God in this picture? Well, He should be happy we at least go to church. What else does He wants? Of course He wants more. He sends His prophets to let us know and reprove us. And we, like the Jews, reject them too. When we reject them we reject God and His invitation. Invitation?

Isa 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Isaiah accepted this invitation. He tasted the Lord and saw that it was good. And, he wanted his people to also accept God’s invitation. This is the same invitation that the Lord tells John to write for us in Revelation.

Rev 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.
Rev 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.
Rev 3:21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

Beyond, just doing as you are told, God wants you to get to know Him. Spend time with Him, share with Him, and fall in love with Him. You will not regret it. He will cleanse and transform you. Then you will know that you can trust Him. And, because you can trust Him you will believe Him when He says, “you will overcome and be victorious over Sin and death.” You will believe Him when He says “He will reward you with eternal life, in an incorrupt and immortal body, dwelling in a perfect dwelling with God’s throne at the public square.” You will love Him. This is what God wanted from the Jews. This is what God wants from us. It is what He’s always wanted.

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