Thursday, July 28, 2005

Once Words Leave…

John had been going through a big crisis. An untrue rumor had been spread about him, which put him in a very delicate position with many in his company. He had been accused of “befriending” female clients. This was against company policy. Although John denied the rumor, no one believed him. Just prior to going to lunch, John had been meeting with the review board. They indicated that they would be deciding his case that afternoon. Weary, and in despair, John walked through the main door of the building. He was going to lunch, where he could quietly mull over his anger and despair. Steve, a colleague, saw John as he was leaving. Upon approaching him, Steve said, "John, I want to talk to you."

Unfortunately, John was so sure that he would be fired when he returned from lunch, that he didn't want to talk with anyone, and said so. "Steve, if you want to reassure me, please don't; I just want to be alone." But Steve insisted by saying, "hey buddy, it is very important that I talk with you; there's something I think you should know." With that, John quit protesting Steve's company. Walking silently to a nearby restaurant, both men went in and sat down. Once seated, Steve told John, “this morning I talked to the boss, and asked him to consider your case in view of some pertinent information I think he lacked.” Surprised, John looked up at Steve and asked, “Why would you do that? And, what's this information you know about?” Sheepishly Steve turned to face the window and said, "I know you did not have an affair with your client.” Puzzled at Steve's definitive knowledge, John looked at him, and waited for him to continue. Steve, whose face was turned toward the window, said nothing. Sighing, John said, “Steve I get the distinct feeling that there's more to this than you're telling me." Nodding, Steve said, “I know you're gonna wanna kill me when you hear this, but I need to tell you anyway.” Taking a deep breath, Steve continued, “I know the rumor isn't true and that you didn't have an affair with your client because I'm the one who started the rumor.” Stunned, John silently looked at Steve in disbelief. "You started the rumor -- why, and just what did you tell the boss? Guiltily, Steve answered quietly, “I told him what I've just told you.”

After what seemed an eternity, Steve said tearfully, “John, what I did was stupid; I have been envious of you and so I said what I did, but I didn't expect it to go this far." "I didn't think the board would get involved and try to fire you, and yes, I did tell the boss, and he's going to tell the board." "I know there will be negative repercussions for me, but well, I know I have it coming." "I mean, I not only hurt your reputation, but your client's too-- I'm really sorry man.” After pondering the information just relayed by Steve, John looked at him again, and said simply, "Steve, the rumor you started was hurtful, and I have been feeling bad about being fired, but I'm glad you told me -- I know it was hard for you to tell me this, but, if there is just one thing you hear from me this afternoon, I just want you to know that I forgive you." After a moment of thoughtful silence, John added, "hey Steve, If you're willing, maybe we can get together with our boss and brainstorm a way to come up with something to protect the client -- I don't know what that is yet, but I'm sure we can rectify this if we try -- together."

It would be really difficult to be as forgiving as John was to Steve wouldn't it? Its hard to be wronged by someone and then forgive and forget what they've said or done. According to the scripture, our words and actions are to be seasoned with the salt of the unconditional love of God. Yet, how many times do we allow pride, envy or jealousy to erupt from within. By not abiding with the Saviour --not keeping in union with Him, busy-ness or preoccupation take over, and when we least expect it, whatever is within comes out--and we are embarrassed and feel guilty. Christ has said that it is not what is external that defiles a human being, but that which comes from within (Matt. 15:11). For from out of the abundance of the heart do we speak, and from within come slanders, evil speaking, evil surmising, bitterness, rage and the like (paraphrased from Matt. 12:34; Eph. 4:25, 29, 31).

You know, even psychoanalyst, Freud, agreed with this biblical principle, for he has said, there are no accidents; for out of our subconscious mind, we do and say the things we intend to. Here's a little illustration: At a recent social gathering, a young woman, not having seen a friend for some time greeted him thusly, "how horrible to see you." The friend, being gracious and understanding said, "*Lisa (not her real name), why are you angry with me?" To which Lisa stated, "Oh, I'm not angry with you-- how silly; I really meant to say 'how nice to see you -- I don't know why I said what I did.'" According to Lisa, upon private reflection at a later date, "I realized that I was indeed angry with my friend." How many times have you or I said or done something which would be called a "Freudian slip," and never stopped to ponder what prompted our words or actions. Well friends, the Holy Spirit is in the process of revealing all kinds of little (and not so little) nasty things about us that are hidden from view. Christ wants us to see how we really are, so that we may gratefully receive His gift of repentance and be free. He wants to blot out all of our sin (self-love), and not merely the symptoms of sin.

Although we can and should ask for forgiveness for mean and thoughtless comments that we make, asking forgiveness is not enough. You're not sure what I mean? Let's look at the story above, and see if there is something which will help us on this point. In our story, Steve apologized for making untrue statements which hurt both John and the client's reputation, right? Now, do you think that apology alone will stop Steve from making other hurtful comments? Say no, and you'd be right. Why?Because the problem isn't just that Steve is making hurtful comments, but that he is thinking thoughts and feeling sentiments which allow him to try to hurt others. He needs to be changed from the inside out.

Some folks say, "well, I'm careful and I try not to hurt others like Steve did." But how many of us inadvertently hurt others by the snide or sarcastic comments we make? Then we say, "I was only joking, can't you take a joke?" Friends, not only do words hurt (unlike that adage that says, 'words can't hurt me like sticks and stones can), but they may cause damage which can never be undone. As a matter of fact, our words will go before us, and greet us in the judgment -- "... for by our words we will be justified or condemned (Matt. 12:37).

So far we've been talking about hurtful words, but what about flattery? Where does this fit into our picture? Are flattering words all right for Christ's followers to speak? Well, this is what Psalms chapter 12 and verses 3 and 4 have to say, "The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things: Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is Lord over us?" According to Sister White, many a soul is caught in the snare of flattery which satan has set (through a well-meaning brother or sister --parenthetical comments are those of the authors').

Once words leave our mouths, they are no longer ours, for they have a life of their own, and go where they will. They are like ripples upon the water, or birds in flight. Following is a little known poem penned by an unknown author which illustrates the power of words, it is entitled "Flying Words".

"Flying Words"

Boys flying kites haul in their white-winged birds.
You can't do that when you're flying words.
'Careful with fire' is good advice, we know;
'Careful with words' is ten times doubly so.
Thoughts unexpressed, may sometimes fall back dead;
But God, Himself can't kill them when they're said.

Friends let us be prayerful about our words. Scripture has within it many wonderful prayers, but here is one that is especially powerful, it says, "Create in me a clean heart, and renew the Holy Spirit within me; and Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord my Strength and my Redeemer." (Psalms 51:10 & 19:14). Let's ask the Lord daily to fulfill this promise in us and then let's watch Him work. I think we'll be more than satisfied, and so will He.
Maria Greaves-Barnes &
Raul Diaz

The Special Insights web page resides at:

Friday, July 22, 2005

Our Greatest Desire

A young man, on hearing a wise old philosopher speak, became impressed by his words and demeanor. Captivated by the clear, plain and simple reasoning of the philosopher, the young man thought, "It is a pleasure to hear him." Following the philosopher as he travelled about the land, the young man asked at the first opportunity, “What can I do to be like you? Will you teach me?” Saying nothing, the philosopher kept walking. Thinking that he had not been heard, the young man repeated himself, “I want to be wise like you, will you teach me?” Again the philosopher remained silent, continuing to walk. Puzzled, the young man asked himself, “Why isn't he answering me? Perhaps he is testing me. Maybe he wants to see if I'll persevere -- I'll ask him again." "Wise old philosopher," the young man stated, “why won't you not answer me? I am simply asking you to teach me to be like you." "Please let me know, will you teach me?” The old philosopher, still silent, continued on the path towards the riverside. The young man was still trailing behind him when he stopped just at the water's edge. " I have two questions for you young man," stated the philosopher -- “Is this what you truly desire? and “How badly do you want it?” “Yes, this is what I really want, and I want it badly enough to follow you around and do as you say” responded the young man. Looking down at the water, the philosopher shook his head, looked into the young man’s eyes, and held his gaze. Once more the philosopher asked, “How much do you really want this?” "With grief, the young man replied, “I want this more than anything else in my life!” Gazing in the young man’s eyes, the philosopher said sadly, “You are not ready!” Frustrated now, the young man then yelled, “Yes, I am!” Grabbing the young man by his robe, the philosopher threw him in the water and held him down. Struggling, and sputtering water, the young man could not release himself. He felt he was drowning. Desperately he continued his struggle for life, but to no avail. Just when he felt his last breath giving way, the philosopher pulled him out of the water. Coughing, sputtering, and gasping for air, the young man lay wet and spent on the shore. When at last he quieted, the philosopher said simply, “when you desire what I have as
greatly as you desired to live in the moment when you thought you were drowning, then you will be ready."

Our desire to be with Jesus should be just as intense as the young man’s desire was to live. Its amazing how things are put into perspective when you think you are about to die, isn't it. If you've never experienced the feeling that you were about to die, ask someone who has. Its quite likely he or she will confirm that priorities change in a instant. Many people make promises to God because they feel they are about to die, and they are afraid of being lost forever. This is not the motivation for the intensity of desire for union with Christ that is referred to. Instead, it is the desire for oneness with Him, because of the great and awesome love He has, and is, lavishing on us. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends... " (John 15: 13, 14). Christ should not be just one more desire among many, but our reigning and burning desire.

In the gospels, Jesus has said that He desires that men might have Life, and have it more abundantly (than they have previously had it since the fall of Adam in Eden). He also says that He is the Light of the world which lightens the darkness, He is the Good Shepherd, the Truth, the Way and the Life, and that He is the bread and water of life. He desires us to know this, that we might believe in Him and be sustained by Him through faith, wrought by a heart appreciation of His self-denying, unconditional love for us. Nothing satisfies our deepest desires like Jesus, and nothing ever will.

Many of us desire a spouse, or children, others of us desire a better job, a better car, a bigger home, (and perhaps better neighbors). We even desire nicer clothes, more respect and or love. Indeed, our lives here on earth are filled with desires, many of them legitimate. But Jesus-- our Saviour and Lord-- has said, "seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all of these things will be added unto you ... for I know you have need of these things" (Matt. 6:33, 32).

Our desires are not necessarily what get us into trouble, it is our fulfillment of those desires by ourselves. Oh, many of you no doubt will disagree, stating, "what about the desires that pedophiles or alcoholics or drug addicts have? Certainly these desires are the problem." And you'd be right, partially. Yes, the desires mentioned are problematic for those who have them, and their fulfillment is absolutely detrimental to society. But, most of our desires go much deeper than we can acknowledge. Sometimes we have no words for them, but the Holy Spirit reinterprets our desires with groanings that cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26-28). Perhaps the true irony is not that we groan (or desire) but that we do not groan to the right person. For clearer insight, let's look at Luke chapter 11.

Luke 11:9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
Luke 11:10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and He that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Luke 11:11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
Luke 11:12
Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
Luke 11:13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?

When we don't ask God to fulfill our deepest desires, are we silently accusing Him of giving poor or even bad gifts? Do we think He lacks taste? And furthermore, do we think that we can better fulfill our desires --- that our taste is superior to His? Truly, this isn't meant to be amusing, it is meant to be thought provoking. If we honestly believe that God loves us and wants the best for us, how on earth could we not take our desires to Him and ask that He fulfill them? Perhaps there is the issue of delay -- we don't like God's timing because He makes us wait, and we want our desires fulfilled now! "After all," we acknowledge, "they are clamoring for attention now, not later."

So for many of us, the issue is not our desires, or even our belief that God will fulfill them. No it is His making us wait that we don't like. Well, to put things in perspective, how long would you say this world has been around -- about 6 thousand years or so? Isn't that about accurate? Well, say so and you'd be correct. Keep this in mind and you listen to the deep longing and anguish in the following.

"Christ is waiting with longing desire for the complete reproduction of His character in the people who love Him (His bride). When this happens, then He will come to take (us) home" (COL 69).

How's that for unrequited love? How's that for passionate longing? Christ is waiting, He has been waiting and is still waiting. Not impatiently, as we tend to understand impatience (i.e. "why don't they hurry up and get it together, it isn't My fault, its theirs"), but with longing desire. How long have you desired something? Sometimes it can be heartbreaking while you wait. By our unwillingness to trust Him, we delay His joy. How painful that must be. In choosing to fulfill our individual desires in our own way, you and I deprive Him of demonstrating His awesome love for us in a tangible way. How sad must be the heart of our Redeemer. How He longs to be intimate with us, but He needs oour willingness. Let's not keep our heavenly bridegroom waiting forever.

Revelation (and Song of Songs) have said, " Behold I stand at the door and knock, if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come into him, and will dine with him, and he with Me" (Rev. 3:20; S. of S. 5:2).

Friends, let's open the door to our beloved, for He is beautifully fragrant with love, and will more than satisfy our desires.
Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

The Special Insights web page resides at:

Friday, July 15, 2005

Nothing's Original

In the 1980’s an extremely popular singer was invited to dinner at the home of a truly prominent record producer. The producer owned a beautiful mansion located on a beach in Southern California. Although impressed by the producer, as well as his home, the singer spoke mostly of himself. On and on he bragged about how original, unique and great he was. Familiar with young singers who have large egos, the producer did not address the singer's comments, but remained patient and composed. At the close of the evening's festivities, the singer spotted a photograph of a man in repose, in the hallway by the door, and stopped to have a good look. As he gazed upon the photo, he commented, "hey, who’s the dude who stole my hair style?” Amused, the producer smiled, took a deep breath, and responded, “the dude you are
referring to is my father, and this picture was taken 50 years ago. So if the hair style was stolen, then my friend, it was stolen by you.” Needless to say, the young singer left the producer's home humbly and quietly.

This story merely serves as a reminder that "there is nothing is new under the sun." The things we think are new and all the rage, are things that have been around before. Maybe not in the same way, perhaps something cosmetic has changed, but for the most part, whatever it is, has been conceived of, said or done before. Pretty much all things are recycled -- for nothing is really original. Indeed, King Solomon said it best in Ecclesiastes:

Ecclesiastes 1:9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
Ecclesiastes 1:10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.

This truth also applies to our thoughts, for not one of our thoughts is ours, at least originally. This is especially true of our so called "good thoughts." Sister White says, “Right thoughts, pure and holy purposes, do not come to us naturally (Counsels on Healing, 291). She says elsewhere, “Christ alone can direct the thoughts aright. He alone can give noble aspirations and fashion the character after the divine similitude” (Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 324). In summary, we do not think one noble thought that does not come from Him (E. G. White Notes, 23).

The same, however, does not hold true concerning evil thoughts, because of our nature which is bent to sin. Evil thoughts and imaginings spring from within, and are also prompted from without. While the Holy Spirit and heavenly angels suggest noble thoughts, Satan and his demons suggest the opposite to spread woe upon their bearer and as many others as possible for a lifetime. To choose heavenly thoughts, we must choose to be receptive to the Holy Spirit; for not to choose Him, is to choose evil.

Christ's life illustrates the mode of thought He wishes us to have. And just in case we're not sure what the current of our thoughts should be, He has provided us an example in the scripture. Philippians chapter 4 states:

Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Unfortunately, if we were to ask many Christians the question, "how do we make Philippians 4:8 a reality in our lives," their response would be, "Guard your thoughts, watch what you say, and if you find yourself thinking something that's not nice, focus on something nice instead." I say to those of you would answer this way, if we are bent to sin, and the tenor of our thoughts and imaginings is only evil, and we are susceptible to evil thoughts and ways as presented by the evil one, how can we of ourselves think right thoughts? We cannot. Remember, sin is the principle of self. So in other words, we are bent to self. Therefore, if we are not born again of the Spirit, and find that we are thinking thoughts such as those exemplified by Philippians chapter 4 verse 8, it is only because someone is praying for us, and the Lord is intervening. He has said, "... the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much" (James 5:16), and He is faithful in keeping His Word.

Concerning the role that we play in thinking right thoughts, Sister White says,

It is for you to yield up your will to the will of Jesus Christ; and as you do this, God will immediately take possession and work in you to will and to do of His good pleasure. Your whole nature will then be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ, and even your thoughts will be subject to Him. You cannot control your impulses, your emotions, as you may desire; but you can control the will, and you can make an entire change in your life. By yielding up your will to Christ, your life will be hid with Christ in God and allied to the power which is above all principalities and powers. You will have strength from God that will hold you fast to His strength; and a new life, even the life of living faith, will be possible to you. But your will must co-operate with God's will, not with the will of associates through whom Satan is constantly working to ensnare and destroy you (Testimonies, Volume 5, 513).

Brothers and sisters, I often wondered what Sister White meant by controlling the will. It was much later that I understood this, to control the will, is to choose. It is really all we that we have command of. So, to control the will, is to choose Christ, for not to choose Him, is to choose Satan. Outside of Christ, we are all slaves to sin and bent to do the bidding of evil. Without a Saviour (and Lord), there is nothing any human being will not do. Through His agonizing death on the cross, Christ has bought us back (redeemed us) that He may spend time with us for eternity. What an awesome demonstration of self-denying unconditional love His cross has provided us. How much better a place this world would be if each one of us would choose to give our will to Him. All of heaven would rejoice in happiness, and we would too.

"Christ is waiting with longing desire for the complete reproduction of His character (mind, purposes, aspirations and motives) in the people who love Him, and then will the end come." Let's not frustrate His purposes by resisting His wooing. He deserves better.

The Special Insights web page resides at:

Thursday, July 07, 2005

First Things First

A time management guru speaking to an audience in Utah, asked if all of the items that were on the table could fit into the gallon sized jar on the table in front of him. At first, the audience looked skeptical, and some even said "no." At their response, the speaker, who had previously performed this feat, stated "let's see," and began to fill the jar with the large rocks that were on the table. When it appeared that there was no more space in the jar, he asked the audience, "is the jar full?" Amused, the audience responded, "yes." "Well, let's see," replied the speaker. He then pulled a large bowl of gravel from under the table, and proceeded to pour the gravel into the jar. Naturally, the gravel fit into the spaces between the rocks, and the jar appeared full. Looking at the audience, the speaker again queried, "is the jar full?" Wary now, the audience responded, "probably not," and waited in anticipation for his next move. Reaching for a bowl filled with sand, he poured it into the jar. Of course the sand filled the spaces not filled by the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked, "is the jar full?" "No," shouted the audience. "Well, is there anything else the jar can hold?" asked the speaker. No one said a word, although you could see that they were thinking. "Let's see," replied the speaker, as he reached for a pitcher of water and poured the water into the jar. It ran down to the bottom of the jar, and filled in the crevices left by the space between the large rocks, gravel and sand. In fact, the sand actually began to absorb the water, and at last the jar was full. Looking at the audience intently, the speaker asked, "What is the point of this illustration?" Cautiously one man replied, "That no matter how full your schedule is, you can always cram one more thing into it?" "That's what most people think," responded the speaker, but the real thrust of this illustration is that if you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all!" And so it is with life, if we don't schedule the important things first, then we'll never get to them, and our life will be filled with things of secondary value. Simply said, the moral is, "make first things first."

So, what is your priority? Well, you say, "I can't answer that question like that -- I have several priorities." Hmm, interesting. You know, its only recently that the concept of priorities has come into vogue. It used to be that the "main thing" was well you know, the "main thing." But now, we're moving so fast, that we have no time, and there is no "main thing," only lots of " main things." Despite this, if we look up the actual meaning of the word priority, we find that it means status established in order of importance (or urgency). The root of priority is prior, which means: a) Preceding in time or order or b)) Preceding in importance or value.

This definition indicates that a priority is something that should planned for, around and completed first, precisely because it is the most important thing. This could be thought of as the "big rock or rocks" which are illustrated by our story. Some say that these big rocks are determined by our values, but in reality they are better dictated by the principles we hold dear. In Matthew chapter 6 Christ indicated to His disciples that which should be first on their lives:

Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

While reading this verse, I became curious as to the biblical meaning of the word "seek." Looking it up, I found that in the Greek, "seek" refers to a desire to search for something which is hidden. Remember the parable of the hidden treasure? Its the one where treasure is hidden in a field, and a man searching, finds it (Matthew 13:44). The man was searching the land because he believed it contained treasure, and he desired to possess it. In this parable, as in many others, when Christ speaks of the "Kingdom of God," He is referring to the foundation of His power or realm. This is where the vastness of His glory is concealed; and in scripture, when His glory is spoken of, it is typically referring to His character. The character of God exudes Righteousness, for this is His essence, His nature. So to seek God, means to seek His righteousness-- and yet we know that it is not we who initiate the search, but God Himself. He is seeking us, and we are responding. Therefore the admonishment to "seek Him" could be better understood as to look for Him earnestly with the mind and heart. In finding Him, we have merely removed our natural sinful resistance to His presence. Funny how beholding (or looking for and at Him earnestly) removes self-will without our even trying to remove it.

The gravel in our story represents something that of secondary nature and
importance. Typically, if we do the first thing first, it will naturally lead or flow into the thing of secondary value. Christ said in Matthew chapter 22 and in John 13: 34, 35, that the Law and the prophets hung on two commandments: “… Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind … And the second is like unto it,... Thou shalt love one another as I have loved you.” Loving others, according to Christ, is the way in which all men will know we are His disciples. Who is our neighbor? Christ has defined this as anyone who is in need. This includes more than just those who are living in the proximity of our home. He really means anyone who is in need. To determine just what value Christ places on this principle, remember that in conversation to His disciples He said, that in the final judgment, those who will be accepted into heaven are those who understood and acted upon the principle of self-denying love that says, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).

The sand represents things that are tertiary in importance. Such a list would include: our jobs, church, homes, educational endeavors, achievements, charities, pets, cars and the like. While we value these things as critical to our well being (both financial and emotional), they often substitute for things that are of greater value, such as determine our eternal destiny. Christ did not fall pray to this temptation, as daily He subordinated Himself and totally depended on His Father by faith. In the constant moment by moment yielding of His will, He was strengthened to allow His Father to fill the jar of His life. As a result, He was not involved with things of tertiary importance, and thus stayed the course of His mission. A couple of examples where Christ reminded others of first things first, would be a) His reminder to Martha that Mary had chosen the best; (In Mary's focusing her attention on the Words of Jesus, she was "seeking" God) and b)) His reminder to a follower regarding his father's death and burial, “Let the dead bury the dead.” (In other words, focus on My Word and example now while I Am here, for in a short time I will not be with you ...).

Lastly, in our analogy, the water represents the trivial things. Things which are ' "time wasters, energy drainers, or dream busters.' " These are things which we use to help us escape the doldrums or the pressures of life. But in reality, they usually only succeed in helping us procrastinate with the tasks which must be done. Yes, I know many of you will say, "but I work better under pressure." But if you had learned to focus your attention from early on, imagine the quality of work you could actually accomplish. Unfortunately, trivial things actually prevent us from engaging in recreation-- something which would refresh and renew us in such a way that we actually would perceive our dilemmas differently. Its difficult to fight the battle with self and allow Christ to reorder our priorities, but the benefits so outweigh the disadvantages. You know, Christ was refreshed from the time He spent in prayer with His Father. Are we? It was the prayerful yielding to His Father's will that protected Him from the "tyranny of the urgent." I bet if we took stock of our lives, we'd discover that we're escaping into trivia because we're emotionally and maybe even physically overtired from the constant output of energy into the urgent.

Christ wants us to live lives that are balanced. He greatly desires us to come to Him so that we might rest. The seeking of His kingdom leads to the ultimate rest from the burden of sin. The name of the city to which we are going (Jerusalem) means peace. The rest He longs to give us comes through the seeking after His righteousness. This is a heart issue -- and so is yielding up the will to Him. So to conclude, the moral of the story is clear, seeking first things first, is putting the "big rocks" in first-- and believing Christ's Word, that -- "all these (other) things will be added unto you... for He knows you have need of these things."
Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

The Special Insights web page resides at:

Friday, July 01, 2005

To Whose Voice are You Listening?

Remember the story of Peter Rabbit? You know, the one where Mother Rabbit encourages Peter and his siblings to go out, but cautions against two things: losing or destroying their clothes, and entering into Mr. McGregor's garden. Mother Rabbit had her reasons for warning against entering Mr. McGregor’s garden, as Mr. McGregor had killed Father Rabbit in that very garden years before. (Father Rabbit had gone there
to eat some of Mr. McGregor’s vegetables). So, off Peter Rabbit and siblings went with Mother's warning ringing in their ears. Most of Peter's siblings were determined to follow Mother's admonition, but, Peter didn't. He decided to go into the garden anyway. And at first, all was well as he feasted on all sorts of fresh produce such as carrots, lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, and the like. Munching happily away, Peter sniffed the cucumbers, and boy did they smell good. Allured, he hopped over to the cucumber patch, when suddenly he and Mr. McGregor came face to face. Surprised and irritated, Mr. McGregor immediately picked up his rake and pursued Peter round and round through the cucumbers, the tomatoes, radishes, lettuce and the carrots. What mayhem they caused in the process. But try as he might, Peter could not find the entrance into the garden, nor a place to hide from Mr. McGregor. Frantic now, Peter kept looking, when up ahead he saw a light. At last he'd found the garden entrance. Hopping as fast as he could, Peter squeezed through the small opening and at last was free. Momentarily relieved, Peter sat down to catch his breath, and that's when he noticed that he had lost his clothes hopping madly through the garden. "Now, I'm in big trouble," he thought, "mother is going to be so mad at me." "Why didn't I listen?" he asked himself.

In this version of the story, isn't it interesting that Peter Rabbit asked himself, "why didn't I listen?" and not "why didn't I obey?" To young children, the Peter Rabbit tale is just a fun story, but older children and adults perceive that the story is really about obedience. In the English language (and in many others), the word obey means "to do what you're told." Therefore by our definition, Peter Rabbit was disobedient the moment he did not do what his mother told him to do. But is this really getting at the heart of obedience? At its core, obedience is about hearing the right thing to do, whether it be an inward, silent persistent thought, or an audible external voice, and then choosing it. A wise man has said, " First there is the mental creation, then the action is taken." So obedience involves not only our outward actions, but our motives and attitudes prior to the doing. A literal translation of the word "obey" in the Hebrew, is to listen willingly, eagerly, attentively (sitting or standing on the edge, straining to catch the slightest nuance) of the one who is speaking. Its opposite meaning would be, hearing while preoccupied, resisting the one who is speaking, reluctantly paying attention, and finally, listening to find the disagreeable.

In most biblical passages where the author (through Christ) is encouraging the reader to hear, he is actually saying: ponder these words, consider deeply their meaning and import, and then choose to give your will to the Master on this matter, that He may DO it in / through you. Christ Himself has said, that of Himself He could do nothing, and that without abiding in Him (the Word) we can do nothing. To more effectively illustrate the concept of obedience as listening and hearing willingly and attentively, let's review the story of Saul of Tarsus / Paul. In Acts chapter 6 verses 1, through Acts chapter 8 verses 1-3, the text records Stephen's sermon, and his stoning in which Saul consented. Of this, Sister White says:

The Saviour had spoken to Saul through Stephen, whose clear reasoning could not be controverted. The learned Jew had seen the face of the martyr reflecting the light of Christ's glory--appearing as if "it had been the face of an angel." Acts 6:15. He had witnessed Stephen's forbearance toward his enemies and his forgiveness of them. He had also witnessed the fortitude and cheerful resignation of many whom he had caused to be tormented and afflicted. He had seen some yield up even their lives with rejoicing for the sake of their faith. All these things had appealed loudly to Saul and at times had thrust upon his mind an almost overwhelming conviction that Jesus was the promised Messiah. At such times he had struggled for entire nights against this conviction, and always he had ended the matter by avowing his belief that Jesus was not the Messiah and that His followers were deluded fanatics (Acts of the Apostles, 116).

Sister White further states (on page 113), Saul's mind had been deeply disturbed
by striking evidences of God's presence with Stephen. And, this led him to doubt
the righteousness of the cause he espoused with the followers of Jesus. Perplexed,
he appealed to those in whose wisdom, and judgment he had full confidence. The
priests' and rulers' arguments finally convinced him that Stephen and Christ's followers were blasphemers and Christ an imposter. But not without severe trial did Saul come to this conclusion.

The reason Saul was able to stifle the conviction of the Holy Spirit's voice to him, was because a voice louder, and more insistent filled his thoughts. He chose to heed
and believe that voice of prejudice, pride and Pharisaical teaching. Therefore whenever the Holy Spirit spoke, Saul hardened his heart, and refused to pay attention for he did not want to hear. As we can see from Acts 9:3-6, it was not until Saul was halted by the revelation and words of Christ Himself, that he relented of his stubbornness. In relenting, he became willing -- to listen attentively, for there was no competing voice, and eager to hear, for the words of his Lord and Saviour brought light.

How many of us are walking around in darkness, frustrated with life. We're pursuing what we think is right, but we're uneasy, as if something is not quite, well -- right. Perhaps its that in our choosing, we've listened to the wrong voices and are merely reaping the consequences of uneasiness to call us to repentance. Its possible to repent you know, just as Saul did. We don't have to continue on running round and round in the proverbial garden of temptation, as did our little Peter Rabbit. Yes, there are so many voices which compete for our attention and resources, and sometimes
we don't know which one to listen to -- yet, "in the stillness of the soul, the voice of the Saviour is heard speaking."

So the question comes to us today while we are multitasking, "who are you listening to?" In the case of Peter Rabbit, he chose to listen to the clamor of his appetite. In the case of Saul before conversion, he chose to listen to the various members of the Sanhedrin, as well as his education and pride. Mark 4:24 states: "Take heed how (what) you hear ... and unto you that hear shall more be given." Do tell friend, which voice are you listening to?
Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

The Special Insights web page resides at:

His Seekers

“The early bird gets the worm,” says the refrain. It is a saying that is meant to teach us the value of early rising, hard word and diligence. But sometimes when we look around, we see late birds feasting on worms. Perhaps its then that we ask, “what’s the use of getting up early?” We wonder if the bird really gets the worms because he gets up early? I think it is a little more complex than that. I think that the bird gets the worm because he is searching for worms, and that he probably knows where to look to find them. This "searching and knowing where to look", is an important detail. Getting up early will not get us the worm unless we are looking for it in the right place.

All during the Sabbath, Jesus' body lay in the tomb -- resting. After the Sabbath had passed, the women decided to go to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. The book of Mark tells us the story.

Mark 16:1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary -- the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body.
Mark 16:2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise,
they were on their way to the tomb

Mark 16:3 and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from
the entrance of the tomb?"
Mark 16:4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.
Mark 16:5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
Mark 16:6 "Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.
Mark 16:7 But go, tell His disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.' "
Mark 16:8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

The reason the women heard the news of Jesus' resurrection before others did, was not so much because they rose early. But because, as the angel said in verse 6, they were “looking for Jesus the Nazarene.” Unlike the disciples, who were hiding, fearing for their lives, the women were courageously venturing the early morning darkness to search for Jesus. Upon approaching the tomb, their love and courage were rewarded. They were the first to receive the news of Jesus resurrection, just as the shepherds in the field were the first to receive the heavenly announcement of Jesus’ birth.

Mark 16 continues, and in verse 9 we read --

Mark 16:9 When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had driven seven demons.
Mark 16:10 She went and told those who had been with Him and who were
mourning and weeping.

Mark 16:11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen
Him, they did not believe it.

Mark 16:12 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country.
Mark 16:13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.

Not only were the disciples afraid, but also in their fear they stopped seeking Jesus, and they disbelieved the reports of the others. Jesus rebuked them for this behavior. According to Romans 10:16 and 17, “... who hath believed our report" and …faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” The 6th Volume of the SDA Bible Commentary says of these verses, that based on the original Greek, a better translation would be “Who has believed what he has heard from us?" For faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the power of Christ, through His messengers. The disciples refused to hear the message concerning Christ. Perhaps their minds and hearts were more focused on their grief and pain. However, their refusal to hear, (which is the real definition of obedience) caused their disbelief to grow stronger -- so much so, that when Christ finally appeared to them, He rebuked their (collective) attitude.

How about us, where is our attention focused? Are we seeking Jesus? Have we heard the message Jesus has for us? "Which one you say?" Well, you know, the one about His nature being bent towards Sin, but that He neither missed the mark nor transgressed the Law. Say now, what about His justifying all human beings -- have you heard that message? I'm sure you must have. But in case you didn't, its part of the one above which says with a loud cry, that Christ justified the human race through His sacrifice as the second Adam, and that therefore He did not just save believers on His cross, but the whole world!. "What?" you say, "the Second Adam -- saved the whole world...??" Well, yes, haven't you heard that as our second Adam, Christ rewrote our human history? So now, instead of our descending from Adam the first (who represents the law of sin), we descend from Christ (the second Adam, who represents the law of heaven -- self-sacrificing love)? Haven't you heard this?

My, my -- well, in other words, Christ our Sin Bearer took our Sin, and us upon Himself. And, as our Second Adam, when He died, we died, and when He was resurrected, we were resurrected and reconciled. He gave us His Righteousness for the Sin Adam bequeathed us. And naturally, all of this becomes effective individually, as we receive the gift of His righteousness (which is personal or subjective justification). So the question remains, "Are we paying attention -- are we hearing the Word? How else can we have the saving faith of Jesus if we aren't? How else can we have a 'faith that works by love, purifies the soul,'and produces works of Righteousness if we don't? Brothers and sisters, the righteousness is not ours, it is the Righteousness of Jesus. How can we learn to depend on Christ, allowing His Holy Spirit to renew our Hearts by cleansing from Sin, and giving us the gift of repentance, if we are not hearing? If anyone of us is not, then perhaps we should follow the women’s example -- and earnestly seek Him.

Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes
The Special Insights web page resides at: