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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