Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Best Thing That Happened

When asked, "what's the best thing that ever happened to you?" how would you respond? After pondering for a time, some of you may answer, when I got this job", or when I got together with my new boyfriend (or girlfriend)." Others of you reading this might answer, "when I got married", "had my baby", or even "when I went on this fabulous trip." Answers that sound negative such as "when I had this accident", or "when I went through this particular trial" aren't going to be too forthcoming are they? Although you may recognize that a period of trial facilitated the greatest period of growth in your life, it is unlikely that you would characterize that experience as "the best thing" that ever happened to you. Let's say that retrospectively you're aware that what was intended for evil ended up being for good in your life, and perhaps you've even observed that it boded well for the lives of others. Still, even then, it can be difficult to accept that negative trial (or trials) as the best thing that could have happened to you. You might see it as beneficial-- yes, but as good--no way. Are you then likely to see it as the best thing that could have happened? Sadly, its unlikely. Why? Its our human nature to see things as they are temporally, not as what they are spiritually.

Here's an example for you. Recently I was diagnosed with diabetes, and it was a blow to me. I knew that friends and family were praying for me regarding my poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyle which resulted in obesity. But what I could not have
known is how the Lord would answer their prayers by allowing me to become diabetic.
It was the diagnosis of diabetes and not its simple physical complications such as intense thirst, skin rashes, and hypo-glycemia that caused me to yield my will to Christ regarding my poor health habits. Once my doctor placed that sticker labeling me diabetic on my chart, I knew it was all over. What was over you say? My struggling to do it on my own, that's what. No more eating whatever pleased me in
whatever proportions I desired at the time. No more late night eating, and snacking.
More importantly, no more sedentary lifestyle. Since that diagnosis eighteen months ago, by God's grace and power, I have lost more than one hundred pounds, and now wear clothing 3 sizes smaller than I used to. My blood sugar levels and other bio-chemicals are back to normal, I'm still losing weight, and feeling great! I say all of this to give God praise, and to use my story as an example. What satan meant for evil -- my cultivated and inherited tendency to poor health choices and thus slow death, God turned around for good. Thus what was meant to be a negative event or trial in my life is indeed one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

For the disciples, the worst thing that could ever happen was that Jesus would be put to death by the ruling powers. His impending death was unfathomable to them. The
subject was so frightening, that whenever Jesus spoke concerning it, they quarreled with each other about who would be the greatest in His (temporal) kingdom. Their sizeable fears were activated at the prospect that never would their fondest dreams or goals for themselves or their nation be reached. Ultimately, Christ's death engaged
even their doubts about His messiahship. Christ had said to them to prepare them,
"its good for you that I go away, so you may receive the comforter (John 16:7)." Can you imagine being told that what you least want is best for you? Can you imagine
what the disciples must have thought of Him? Yet it was good that Christ die, good that He go away. Sometimes the thing that we think is the worst thing that could happen, is the best that could happen.

The disciples did not understand that Christ's death "as the lamb slain" had been determined "from the foundation of the world." They did not understand the will of the Father, the scope and nature of sin, nor its cure. Without the death of Jesus we would neither have communion with the Father and the Spirit, nor Salvation, nor the hope of the resurrection and life anew. In I Cor. 15:14-22, Paul elaborates on the concept of the validity of the resurrection, and what would occur if it were untrue.

I Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
I Corinthians 15:15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we
have testified of God that He raised up Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.
I Corinthians 15:16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
I Corinthians 15:17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
I Corinthians 15:18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
I Corinthians 15:19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
I Corinthians 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
I Corinthians 15:21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
I Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Here Paul is saying that if Christ did not rise, our faith, preaching, testimony of Him, and hope of life in Christ is futile. Worst of all, we are still in our sins and all we have to look forward to is the second death which is the wage of sin. But thanks be to God who gave us the victory in our Lord Jesus Christ (II Cor. 15:54). As sister White says, “Christ has conquered death, and led captivity captive. Men had looked upon death as a terrible thing; they had looked to the future with foreboding; but the resurrection of Christ from the dead changed the aspect of death” (E. G. White Notes, page 66). Friends, since Christ died and was resurrected our hope is real. Not only can we rise to life anew, but so can those whom we love who have died or will die in the Lord.

You know, Christ's death and resurrection gave us so much more than can be imagined. First, we are able to receive the Holy Spirit who will tell us of the future, guide us, teach and remind us of all things, convict us of sin, righteousness and of judgment (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7, 8, 13). Second, according to Hebrews 4:14 -16, we have intercession through Christ's mediation in the heavenly Sanctuary by Christ Himself who has been tempted in all points as we are yet did not sin. Third, we have a home in a heavenly mansion with the Godhead, the heavenly host, and the 24 elders (John 14:1-3). And last but not least we don't have to live a life of sin. Sin does not have to have power over us, for Objectively, our human nature was corporately in Christ and when He died to sin, so did we. Subjectively, when we are baptized into Jesus Christ, we are baptized into His death to sin. Subsequently, we are raised to life from the dead (dead in trespasses and sins-- Eph. 2:1, 5) like as Christ was raised up from the dead. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from (the power, presence and condemnation of) sin. For the wages of Sin
is death, but the Gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:3-7, 23). Thank God for such a wonderful Saviour.

Yes, sometimes the worst thing that could ever happen ends up being our choicest blessing. The Lord has said through His servant Paul in Romans 8:28, and Isaiah in Isaiah 29:11 respectively, " For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" , "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." Friends, many good promises and experiences in righteousness have come to us through Christ's death, should we trample under foot this beautiful gift He's given us?

Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

The Special Insights web page resides at:

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Vehicle Not Needed

One of the definitions of a vehicle is: A medium through which something is transmitted, expressed, or accomplished. A vehicle helps us get to our destination, assists us in sending something, helps us say something. It may even help us accomplish something. While a vehicle takes us from point a to point b, once we reach our destination we no longer need it, for it has done its job. Naturally,
the only exception is, of course, if we have not reached the end of our journey. In such a case, we do not dispose of the vehicle, we merely park it as we may need it to continue on. A car is the perfect example of such a vehicle. Although we often use a car to symbolize our status, it still remains a vehicle to assist us in reaching a chosen destination. Whether the destination is our home, school, workplace or any of the myriad of places we may desire to go, once we're there, the car is useless. Oh,
I know many of you will disagree and say the car still remains of value because you can use it again, and again-- and you're right. But, the main point is that as long as you're shopping at the store, or taking a test at school, or working, the value of the car is negligible. It truly becomes of value or use again when you want to drive home. You get the picture-- I hope.

The Hebrew sacrificial system was a vehicle. It was a medium through which God transmitted or expressed the Gospel message to humanity. It foreshadowed the death of Christ, and was a living parable of what His death would do for the World. The sacrifices of birds and animals made by the people and the priests, symbolized Christ. Thus, Christ became the antitype. While we say that the sacrifices were symbolic, in no way does that lessen the enormity of the penalty for the lack of corporate and individual participation. There is danger in merely viewing the sacrifices as symbolic, for the guilt and punishment of those who did not participate was real-- they were cut off. You see, the sacrifices in themselves meant nothing, unless there was true sorrow and turning toward Christ, the Saviour. The genuineness of repentance and conversion was demonstrated by penitent sinners' participatation in the sacrificial system. God required this so all could truly understand the depravity of Sin, and the depths to which it would take its victims. He further desired the Israelites to discern that "the wages of Sin is death, but the GIFT of God is eternal life ..." (Romans 6:23). This is what the the earthly sacrificial system vehicle was to teach the people.

When Christ died on the hill of Golgotha, the sanctuary vehicle used to teach the Israelites had come to rest. It was no longer needed, for type had met antitype. The whole world had reached the destination intended by the creator-- that of being justified by the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (Romans 5:18,
Revelation 13:8). The books of the gospel record the crucifixion, and the ripping apart of the old vehicle to make way for the new. Let us look at Matthew 27, which reads:

Matthew 27:45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land
unto the ninth hour.
Matthew 27:50 Jesus, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up
the ghost.
Matthew 27:51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to
the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;

In another Gospel Jesus is recorded saying, “It is Finished.” As John the Baptist had stated, The “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” had been sacrificed for Humanity’s sake. It was a complete and sufficient sacrifice, which rendered the human race reconciled with God (Romans 5:10, Ephesians 2:16). The old had gone, and the new had come. Sister White writes of the death of Christ, the ripping apart of the veil, and the new vehicle of intimacy with God in this way:

The darkness still hung like a pall over Jerusalem. At the moment in which Christ died, there were priests ministering in the temple before the vail which separated the holy from the most holy place. Suddenly they felt the earth tremble beneath them, and the veil of the temple, a strong, rich drapery that had been renewed yearly, was rent in twain from top to bottom by the same bloodless hand that wrote the words of doom upon the walls of Belshazzar's palace. The most holy place, that had been entered by human feet only once a year, was revealed to the common gaze. God had even before protected His temple in a wonderful manner; but now its sacred mysteries were exposed to curious eyes. No longer would the presence of God overshadow the earthly mercy-seat. No longer would the light of His glory flash forth upon, or the cloud of His disapproval shadow, the precious stones in the breastplate of the high priest … When Christ died upon the cross of Calvary, a new and living way was opened to both Jew and Gentile. The Saviour was henceforth to officiate as Priest and Advocate in the heaven of heavens. Henceforth the blood of beasts offered for sin was valueless; for the Lamb of God had died for the sins of the world. (E. G. White Notes, page 58)

Prior to Christ dying, He initiated another symbol to serve as a vehicle foreshadowing the type of intimacy He wished us to have with one another, and with the Godhead. That intimacy is symbolized in the Service of Humility and in Holy Communion (Luke 22:19). With the foot washing, we become humble in mind and in attitude. We are reminded that all our righteousness is as a filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), and that the washing and purifying of the Word, cleanses us. In the eating and drinking of unleavened bred and wine, we partake further of the mind of Christ, and are fed with the Words or scenes of His life, death and resurrection. Accepting God and others above ourselves, we become one with God, and leave self behind. The symbol of foot washing and communion is in and of itself meaningless, unless the heart is repentant. But a repentant heart often comes from or through the vehicle of participation, by the Holy Spirit. While non-participation may not harden our hearts, by the same token, it does not allow the Holy Spirit to soften our hearts either. Ultimately, if we choose not to participate in an ongoing manner in the Service of Humility & Communion, if we choose not to take the new vehicle, we probably will not arrive at our new destination. Unfortunately, that means we'll probably miss out on
that great event to which we've all been personally invited, the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb. What a disappointment that will be to Jesus, and to all who love us and are there. Those who are willing, and take the vehicle to our new destination, will find when they arrive that the vehicle is no longer necessary, for it has delivered us safely. I'm looking forward to that day, how about you?
Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

The Special Insights web page resides at:

Friday, February 11, 2005

The Superhero and the Wimp

The Superhero and the Wimp

As a child I loved to watch cartoons. I had many favorites, but the superheroes had a special place in my heart. There was just something about them. As superheroes, they were always on time, knew how to take care of the situation, and they always beat the bad guy. I liked that the superhero always got the bad guy, and that I got to see it happen-- the bad guy get what he deserved. As I grew older, I watched fewer and fewer cartoons. Instead, I became attracted to TV and movie action heroes, and looked forward to watching them as often as I could. One thing that differed between the simple cartoon plots that I watched earlier and the TV plots, is that latter's storyline was more complex. Now there was no longer just the villain, and the hero-- no, now there was also the wimp. The wimp is the character who is always getting in trouble, talks too much, gives out too much information, and normally ends up dead. In the more complex plot, the hero was contrasted not only with the villain, but also with the wimp. While the wimp is, well --- wimpy, the action hero is quiet and detached, a man of action with a cool head, not given to purposeless expression of emotion. He is also observant. Long before the conflict or crisis arises, he has
assessed the situation, come up with a plan of action, and therefore is prepared to respond with minimal casualties.

This contrast of the superhero, the wimp and the villain, is partly similar to that of Jesus, the disciples, Pharisees, chief priests and satan. Jesus can be viewed as the superhero, because just like the heroes, although He is human, He has abilities and powers that are super in strength. The disciples can be categorized as wimpy (with Peter as the particular wimp of the story) because they allow their emotions to dictate their behavior, they are ill-prepared for conflict, and generally lack courage and fortitude. Judas- the betrayer, the Pharisees and chief priests as co-conspirators and satan-- the accuser, are the villains. Let's look at John chapter 18, for the setting--

John 18:2 And Judas also, which betrayed Him, knew the place: for Jesus
ofttimes resorted thither with His disciples.
John 18:3 Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the
chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and
John 18:4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon Him,
went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?
John 18:5 They answered Him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I
am He. And Judas also, which betrayed Him, stood with them.
John 18:6 As soon then as He had said unto them, I am He, they went
backward, and fell to the ground.
John 18:7 Then asked He them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of
John 18:8 Jesus answered, I have told you that I am He: if therefore ye
seek Me, let these go their way:
John 18:9 That the saying might be fulfilled, which He spake, Of them
which thou gavest Me have I lost none.
John 18:10 Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high
priest's servant, and cut off His right ear. The servant's name was
John 18:11 Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath:
the cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?
John 18:12 Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took
Jesus, and bound Him.

Upon seeing the mob lying prostrate on the ground, the disciples mistakenly thought that Jesus would deliver Himself as He had done in the past, and thus end the controversy. Miraculous deliverance is the action they associated with a hero, a saviour --not surrender. Sister White says of the occasion,

When the disciples saw that Jesus did not deliver Himself from His enemies, but permitted Himself to be taken and bound, they were offended that He should suffer this humiliation to Himself and them. They had just witnessed an exhibition of His power in prostrating to the ground those who came to take Him, and in healing the servant's ear which Peter had cut off, and they knew that if He chose He could deliver Himself from that murderous throng. They blamed Him for not doing so, and, mortified and terror-stricken by His unaccountable conduct, they forsook Him and fled. Alone, in the hands of the hooting mob, the Saviour was hurried from the garden (E.G. White Notes, p. 48).

Jesus had predicted that the disciples would be offended because of the inexplicability of His actions which were unlike those of a superhero. According to Matthew 26:31,

“Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of Me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.” As Christ was smitten and taken, the sheep-- His disciples and other followers-- were scattered.

So, Christ, the superhero allowed Himself to be bound and taken captive. The disciples, not having prayed with Him in the garden, and up until now covetously arguing about who would be the greatest in His Kingdom, were unprepared for the conflict, and like fearful wimps fled. As we read this, let us be careful upon this point fellow believers, isn't that just how we'd behave too if we weren't filled with the Spirit-- receiving His Words? Don't we behave similarly today when something the Lord wants us to do goes against our long held expectations and wishes? Don't we flee His presence, and that of the thing we fear or dread?

Against the backdrop of the collective wimps (i.e. the disciples) who forsook Christ
and fled, we see Christ staying yielding Himself, and being taken by the villains. What a contrast to the behavior of the disciples. Of course the villains are gleeful, for they have accomplished what they wanted-- the capture of Christ-- the superhero who does what they can't; He heals the sick, brings the dead to life, gives sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and multiplies the lunch. Yes, they are certain their diabolical plans will now be successful.

Contrasted with the behavior of the superhero, the villains and the collective wimps, is that of a particular wimp-- Peter. According to the scripture, Peter was asked who he was in relation to Jesus, three times. Each of these times, he vehemently denied
having anything to do with Jesus. On the contrary, Jesus was questioned at least three times as to who He was, and to the scope of His mission. Without hesitation,
knowing that His response would cause His death on the cross, Christ answered, "You say that I Am." Jesus answered with the Truth. Similar to the action hero, Jesus remained calm, cool and level headed, no purposeless emotion portrayed. Self-sufficient Peter, on the other hand, was confused, bewildered and most of all afraid. His emotions did find expression, in the denial of Christ.

So, what made the difference between Jesus as a type of superhero, and the wimpy character of Peter? Was it that Christ was superhuman? Many of us are tempted to think so. However, the Word tells a different story. Christ had no power that we may not avail ourselves of. He took on Human nature after 4000 years of degradation, sin and depravity, and hid His divine nature within it. He had no will of His own, for He said His will was to do the will of His Father, and to finish the work. The subjection of His will was displayed not only throughout His life, but all the way up through the garden of Gethsemane, Calvary and onto Golgotha. So it was not that He was superhuman, it was that He was tapped into the Source of Power.

In contrast, Peter believed that not only would he never leave his Lord, but that he would die for Him if necessary. What made Peter wimpy, was that he disbelieved the assessment of himself, made by his Father through Christ. Feeling self-confident, over time, he had been moving away from dependence on God, to dependence on self. Isn't that just how the principle of self works? It blinds us to the true picture of ourselves, and thus to the need for a remedy. Peter, like the rest of the disciples, thought that Christ's kingdom was temporal and it was their goal to secure a place of importance and prominence in it. The power of self-love did not allow Peter (or the disciples) to see self as the Father saw it--wimpy, and in need of mighty strength. Thus separated from the Source of Power, Peter was unable to withstand temptation and fell. How about us? Are we connected to the Source of Power? Are we moving through the Power of the Spirit from the shadows of dark self-dependency into the bright light of the revelation of Christ's self-surrendering love and power? Through Prayerful study of the Word, and yielding of self-will, Christ was connected to the Source of Power. This enabled Him to be what we call superhuman. We have a choice, we too can be connected to the Power of the Holy Spirit, and through yielding
become superheroes of the gospel-- or, we can choose to be wimpy. I don't want to be a villain, or a wimp, how about you?

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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Are You Ready?

When my friend lived at home in the West Indies, he lived with his many siblings,
and with his aunt. Like most children, my friend Alford* ( *not his real name),
and his siblings were interested in playing. When Alford's aunt went to Town,
she would let the children know. Alford and his siblings gathered around their aunt,
begging her, "take us, take us too." All did this, but one, David*. When auntie would make the announcement, David would run to the bedroom and change his clothes.
When auntie was ready to leave, she always took David, because he was the only one
dressed and ready to go. You would think it would take the children no time at all
to figure this out but not so. It took Alford and his siblings a long time understand why Charles was chosen to go to town with auntie, time and time again. Friends, it was because David was ready at all times. He only had to go and put on the clothes he had already laid out in his mind. The advice of an old Pastor readily comes to my mind about preaching. He said, “One must always be ready.” I think there's even a scripture verse which says that we must always be ready to give an account of why we believe -- in season, and out of season (2 Tim. 4:2).

When it comes to life itself, are we ready? When temptation lurks, are you ready to fight back and win? Are you ready to overcome temptation? Or does temptation overcome you? If my Pastor’s advice holds true to preaching, how much more does it hold true for life? So the question is, how can we be ready at all times? Was Christ ready at all times? Was He ready for His trial? We know that He was, so how did He prepare? What did He do? His last visit to Gethsemane sheds light on His preparation. In Luke 22 we read:

Luke 22:39 And He came out, and went, as He was wont, to the mount of
Olives; and his disciples also followed him.
Luke 22:40 And when He was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye
enter not into temptation.
Luke 22:41 And He was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and
kneeled down, and prayed,
Luke 22:42 Saying, Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me:
nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done.
Luke 22:43 And there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening
Luke 22:44 And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat
was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Luke 22:45 And when He rose up from prayer, and was come to His disciples,
He found them sleeping for sorrow,
Luke 22:46 And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter
into temptation.

Jesus prayed. That was His secret. So important to the life of God's followers is this secret, that He shares it with His disciples throughout His 3 1/2 years with them, and reminds them again at the end. There were no positive motivational pep talks, such as we like to give. There were no mystical transcendental meditation processes such as becoming one with nature. There was only this the need of his followers to engage in simple honest heart wrenching prayer to the Father. Christ knew that His own strength, He could not bear the cup. He pleaded for a way out, or perhaps some middle ground alternative. But the Father required the standard to be upheld. The Law required death. The thought of the awaiting cross filled Jesus with horror and dread; yet for our sake (both singular and plural), knowing that His corporate sacrifice was our only hope, He chose to carry out the plan of merciful intervention for us. This was the plan that He and the Father had formed long before the need for it arose.

Gethsemane was a battle. A battle the disciples lost. But a battle we can win. According to Sister White:

When in the garden of Gethsemane, the cup of suffering was placed in the Saviour's hand, the thought came to Him, Should He drink it or should He leave the world to perish in sin? His suffering was too great for human comprehension. As the agony of soul came upon Him, "His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:44). The mysterious cup trembled in His hand. In this awful crisis, when everything was at stake, the mighty angel who stands in God's presence, came to the side of Christ, not to take the cup from His hand, but to strengthen Him to drink it, with the assurance of the Father's love … Christ drank of the cup, and this is the reason that sinners can come to God and find pardon and grace. But those who share in Christ's glory must share also in His suffering (E.G. White Notes, page 49).

She adds elsewhere that the temptation to let the human race bear the consequences of its own guilt was terrible, while He stood innocent before God. He hoped that if He could only know that His disciples understood and appreciated this, He would be strengthened. But the disciples slept. Needles to say, this experience of the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane contains a lesson for the Lord's people today. Many today are fast asleep, as were the disciples. They do not realize the necessity of watchfulness and earnest prayer in order to withstand temptation. They are not watching and praying lest they enter into temptation. Some trust to themselves like the disciples. They do not look to the Mighty Helper as Christ counsels us to do in this passage. So when others are in need of their sympathy and prayers – like Jesus was - they are found asleep, like the disciples (Collegiate Quarterly, page 46).

Those who share in Christ's glory – His character – must also share in His suffering. That is the prerequisite. So the question comes to you today--- "Are you ready?"
Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

The Special Insights web page resides at: