Friday, June 17, 2005

Perspective Gives Meaning

On a typical day, President Clinton spoke at a Press Conference at the White House and at its conclusion, hugged one of his interns. As usual, photographers were on hand to take pictures that fateful day. Most of the photographers had begun to use digitized cameras, however one had not. Whether he was reluctant to give up using film, or just unfamiliar with digitalized cameras, we don't know. All we do know is that on that day, he shot photos with film. Most of the photographers deleted the picture of President Clinton hugging the intern, because their digital cameras did not have sufficient storage space to save all of the digital pictures they had taken. The photographer who shot the photos in film, saved his negatives in a file cabinet. A short time later, President Clinton's scandalous affair with intern Monica Lewinski broke. The photographer who had shot in film was sure he had seen her before. Hiring a professional, they searched his archives, located the negative and developed it into the now famous picture of Clinton hugging Monica Lewinski. Initially, the negative was just part of a collection of shots taken that day; but what gave it meaning, is perspective. The photo became relevant through the perspective of the affair.

As the saying goes, "perspective is everything." As we view this lesson on the cross some ask, "is the cross still relevant today and if so why? Have I missed its true meaning?" The cross becomes relevant through the perspective of the love affair Christ has with us. To some of us the idea of God having a love affair with us is scandalous. But that is because we have humanity's understanding of love. The right perspective of the cross is a holy and loving spiritual perspective. And for this understanding, we need the enlightening of the Holy Spirit, for "Spiritual things are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:13-15). This is why Jesus promised His disciples to send the Comforter / Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 26). For it is He who would give them the understanding they needed, to unravel what truly happened at the Cross. Contrast the disciples' attitudes of unbelief and desire for the supremacy in the Gospels, with their ruling attitudes and desires after their reception of the early Pentecostal rain; what a transformed group of men they were. Before Pentecost they were hiding, fearful of being found, arrested and executed. After the Holy Spirit took over, they were no longer afraid and instead were found boldly preaching the Gospel (Acts 2) of God's self-denying love demonstrated at the cross.

What is it about the cross that could have made these men ready for the reception of the Holy Spirit? To the Jews who believed the message that they were made right with God through Christ's loving sacrifice on the cross, it was liberating. They found victory in it. On the contrary, to the unbelieving Jews, the cross was shameful and scandalous, a stone of stumbling -- an offence. To them, it represented God's total abandonment of the man who hung there; it was in effect his sentence to hell
(Deuteronomy 21:23). And the fact that Pilate linked it to their nation (through his proclamation of Jesus as the 'King of the Jews') made them abhor it and Jesus all the more. Jesus chose this painful public sentence to deliver you and me. He willingly
died on the cross accursed of God, "For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).

With out the perspective of the Holy Spirit, we are at a loss to understand or explain the cross. For many of us, only those things that we can perceive through our senses, have meaning and relevance. Unfortunately because of sin, we have limited perspective; perceiving inadequately, we find many things inexplicable, and therefore choose not to believe they exist. As a result, things that defy an explanation may be categorized by us as simple anomalies or as mere tricks of the mind. Yet, "faith is the substance of things unseen, the essence of things hoped for" (Hebrews 11:1). Human sight -- in essence, cannot perceive that which faith hopes for and believes in. Faith can only be obtained moment by moment as we yield our will to the Holy Spirit, and walk with Christ. If we, like the Pharisees and others, refuse to surrender to the conviction that the Holy Spirit is giving us, we will not have Faith to see the unseen and hope for that which is to come. The Pharisees, Sadducees and others, saw Jesus as a Sabbath Breaking, blasphemous, lunatic. After the cross, those who received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, saw Him as the Lamb of God, slain to take away the Sin of the World (John 1:29).

At present, the cross still causes confusion. Those who reject the Holy Spirit misconstrue it. Some see the cross as a lucky charm or magical amulet -- so that when you put it on, you are actually putting on Jesus. Others see it just as a piece of decorative jewelry. Still others put it in the midst of burning candles on an altar of sorts, then kiss and pray to it as if it were a divine being. Thank God that by His grace, we can see it for what it truly is -- the place where God poured out His magnificent self-sacrificing love upon us. Its the place where we died with Christ (Romans 6:8), and the place where He paid the wages of Sin -- by dying the second death (Romans 6:23). Brothers and sisters, we who believe are not scornful of the cross, and neither do we find it decorative or magical. Instead, we see Jesus, and we thank God for Him, who through the cross, has made our salvation possible. It is He who gives our lives meaning. There are many choices we will be called upon to make today, whatever they may be or have been, let's choose the perspective of the Holy Spirit and delight in the cross -- shall we?

Raúl Díaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Impetuous Living

The queen of England was scheduled to come to America for an official visit. As part of the royal trip, the queen was to visit a local resident'’s home. Her assistants thought that it would be good PR, and an African American woman of middle age was selected. Her name was Mrs. Bolton, and it was she who was to have the privilege of the Queen'’s visit. Mrs. Bolton was very excited just imagining the Queen's visit to her home. She had followed the Queen's life, and could remember her coronation, her wedding, and even when the queen and king had children. Now, the queen would be coming all the way from England to visit her. Of course the Queen should have the best she could offer. Being an excellent cook, Mrs. Bolton set out to create an appetizing meal. She prepared the best "‘soul food"’ she'd ever made. Even her neighbor'’s were saying that her food had never smelled that good.

On the day the queen was to arrive, Mrs. Bolton got ready early, and so did the press, the media, and security personnel. Unfortunately, no one remembered to teach Mrs. Bolton the protocol for receiving a dignitary in one'’s home. So, as you can imagine, disaster was in the making. Upon the queen's arrival at Mrs. Bolton's home, cameras flashed, videos and recorders rolled, and security was tight. The queen, stepping out of her vehicle, began the ascent up the pathway to Mrs. Bolton's home. Upon seeing the queen, Mrs. Bolton moved quickly through her front door, out onto the step, and down the path. In her exuberance, she both embraced and drug the Queen in her home. Reluctantly, the Queen obliged; yet anyone watching could see the discomfort on her face. The Queen's body guards became frantic. This had the unfortunate effect of scaring Mrs. Bolton, and making the Queen even more uncomfortable. Not one of the Queen's entourage was accustomed to a host or hostess behaving in such an impromptu, spontaneous, serendipitous, or impulsive manner. After explanations and apologies were made, calm was restored. Without further ado, the Queen departed from Mrs. BoltonÂ’s home. Mrs. Bolton, despite the faux pas, was excited that the Queen had spent a few minutes in her humble home. The British however, were loathe to let the matter go, and were indignant at the treatment received by their Queen. Accordingly, the Scandal sheets reported the details of the event for weeks.

The scandalous nature of the Queen's treatment sort of reminds me of the story about the woman who anointed Jesus. Her impetuous behaviour was no less a scandal in her day. Let's read the account in Mark chapter 14.

Mark 14:3 And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on His head.
Mark 14:4 And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?
Mark 14:5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.
Mark 14:6 And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on Me.
Mark 14:7 For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but Me ye have not always.
Mark 14:8 She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint My body to the burying.
Mark 14:9 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.

The heart of Mary of Bethany was a grateful one. She had truly grasped the Gospel as preached by Jesus, which is why she acted as she did. The Lesson calls her actions impetuous. In the Dictionary the word "impetuous" is defined as characterized by undue haste and lack of thought or deliberation. Mary'’s actions indeed may seem impetuous to some, and wasteful, or shameful to others. Yet, Jesus gives evidence that the Holy Spirit was moving her to do as she did. On the basis of Christ's description of her behaviour, its my guess that we can redefine impetuous as He does -- as an adjective describing how Christ loves us, and how we will love one another, as the Holy Spirit moves us. Moved by the Spirit, Mary Magdalene of Bethany gave
away her most precious and costly possession.

So, the question today, comes to us individually: is there room in your life for Spiritual impetuosity? Have you ever been spiritually impetuous? Have you ever been led by the Spirit to live your life not according to the dictates of others, but purely according to His Word, and His prompting? Many of you may say, " I can't do that, it wouldn't be me-- I don't act like that. But, to you I say, "Yes, it is possible to follow His leading and still be yourself." Try it sometime, you may find you like it. I remember a young man that came to a church I was attending. He said, "the Holy Spirit told me to come to your church and play the saxophone for special music today." Although we had seen this young man before, we did not know he played an instrument, so none of us invited him to return and play. Yet in his following the impromptu leading of the Holy Spirit, this young man inspired us to obey. Oh, and the music was wonderful that Sabbath day. In giving his will to the Holy Spirit, that young man gave away his most precious possession -- his ability to play the saxophone. Sometimes we think that the charge to give our all refers to giving up our material possessions. But our most precious possession can be something more abstract and ethereal such as: a special ability or gift, the way we look, our intelligence, our relationships, our influence, etc. In other words, it is something that in giving our hearts to Him, He uses to bless, restore or convert one in need. Its so easy to be impetuous about something we absolutely love. If we truly love Christ, lets allow Him to have His way with us. Who knows what that fragrance wafting on the air will do for another.
Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

The Special Insights web page resides at:

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Essence of Watching

Mrs. Madison answered the phone, and was pleased to hear her granddaughter, Lisa, on the other end. Lisa loved her Grammy, as she called her. “Grammy,” she said, “tomorrow we’ll be there, are you excited?” “Yes, I am excited!” answered Mrs. Madison. “Grammy,” asked Lisa, “will you watch for me?” Mrs. Madison thought this to be an unusual request, but decided to oblige her granddaughter. She did not want to disappoint her. The next day found Mrs. Madison preparing for her family's arrival. Both of Lisa’s parents and her siblings would also be coming, and she wanted to be ready. Time passed quickly as last minute details were taken care of -- Grammy wanted everything to be right. So, when she heard the doorbell ring, it caught her by surprise. "Who could that be," she wondered, as she stopped what she was doing and quickly, moved toward the door to open it. Imagine her surprise, as in walked Grammy's daughter, son-in-law and two of their children to greet her. Apparently, they had made good time on the road. Hugging each, Grammy asked, "and where is Lisa?"

Normally, Lisa was the first family member in the door. Yet, here she was lagging behind the others. It was obvious she was disappointed. Perplexed, Mrs. Madison wondered what was wrong with her little granddaughter. “Lisa, honey, what’s wrong? Aren't you happy to see me? ” Lisa looked down and did not respond. Her parents asked her, “What’s wrong honey?” Still, Lisa remained silent. Mrs. Madison knelt in front of her and reaching out, touched Lisa's face. At her touch, Lisa burst in tears. Embracing her, Grammy tried to comfort her. Every-one stood in silence not knowing what to do. It was then that Grammy asked her, “Lisa, did I do something to hurt you, Sweetie?” Struggling to answer, Lisa finally said, “You promised, Grammy. You promised.” “I promised what, Sweetie?” Grammy gently asked. Through her tears, Lisa finally answered, “You promised you’d watch for me.” Mrs. Madison felt her heart stop. She had indeed made such a promised to her granddaughter. Not wanting to disappoint her, yet wanting to be ready, Grammy had gotten caught up in the preparations and had forgotten to watch. Yes, she was waiting, but she wasn't watching as Lisa had requested her to do. Now terribly sorry and humbled, Grammy apologized to Lisa and promised her that the next time she came to visit, Grammy would not only be waiting, she would be watching too. And that's exactly what she did.

Grammy had another opportunity, and she made good use of it, but how us, will we have another opportunity if we are found merely waiting and not watching when He comes? As is obvious, there is a difference between waiting and watching. And in terms of our Christian walk, both are necessary. Yet, each fills a different function. According to the Dictionary, to wait means: To remain or stay in expectation of, and to remain or be in readiness. On the other hand, to watch means: The act or process of keeping awake or mentally alert, especially for the purpose of guarding. Waiting may or may not require my active involvement, but watching does. It requires me to be alert. After expounding on the dangers that we will face on earth just prior to His coming, Christ then tells us in the Gospel of Mark to be watchful. Mark chapter 13 reads:

Mark 13:33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.
Mark 13:34 For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his
house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work,
and commanded the porter to watch.
Mark 13:35 Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house
cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock crowing, or in the
Mark 13:36 Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.
Mark 13:37 And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.

In the scripture, the Greek word translated as "to watch", is “agrupneo”. It means to be sleepless, keep awake, and watch. It also means to be circumspect, attentive, and ready. What a lot of meanings wrapped up in that little word. So, how do we watch and not get distracted with the minor cares of life? What are we to do, so that ultimately, we will not be kept from enjoying eternal life? To answer such questions, Sister White says,

In (the) words of the Saviour is brought before our minds the importance of being always on guard. And when we take into consideration the value of these words, uttered by Him whom we expect soon to see coming in the clouds of heaven with power and with great glory, we should be vigilant, lest he come and find us sleeping; … There is no safety in a state of stupor or calm indifference. There is no safety in placing our affections upon the earth or earthly things. We want to work for our best interest, not only for time but for eternity. We should act like sensible men and women, working not from impulse, nor from passion, but from an exalted sense of duty. We do not want a sensational nor an emotional religion, but one that leads to the performance of sacred duties, and that brings us into daily communion with God,--a religion that enlists in his service all our powers and all that we possess; one that leads us to do his will, and not our own; to forsake our carnal inclinations, and be led by the divine mind. There is an important work for every one to do; and that work must be performed with reference to the decisions of the Judgment and the coming of the Son of man in the clouds of glory. Whatever else may take our attention in the common affairs of life, we want to constantly be mindful of our duty and obligation to God. The things of God must not be suffered to drop out of mind, though a thousand other things may press themselves upon our attention. Our great work here is to press the triumphs of the cross of Christ to the very gates of the enemy. Such a work requires untiring vigilance. And to do this, we must have a living connection with Jesus, the great conqueror. (E.G White Notes. Page 75.)

She adds concerning this passage in the Desire of Ages, that “those who are watching for the Lord are purifying their souls by obedience to the truth.” There are not living in expectation of some special season of excitement. They are yielding themselves to the control of the Holy Spirit “to do present duties, to give the bread of life, unadulterated with human opinions, to souls who are perishing for the truth.” (E.G. White Notes. Page 75.)

The next year as Lisa’s family came to visit, Grammy was waiting, and watching through the living room window. Thoroughly prepared, she was anxiously looking for the arrival of her family's car. Upon seeing it turn into the driveway, Grammy opened the door and stood on the front step with open arms to greet them. Seeing her grandmother waiting and watching for her, Lisa waived excitedly, and was the first person out of the car to greet her. Running into her arms, Lisa said with tears in her eyes, “Oh, Grammy you were watching and waiting for me, I'm so happy.” Will Jesus say the same of us?

Raul Diaz

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