Friday, August 18, 2006

Because God Said So

 Because God Said So


General Douglas MacArthur, on losing the Philippines in World War II, said to reporters,


The President of the United States ordered me to break through the Japanese lines and proceed from Corregidor to Australia for the purpose, as I understand it, of organizing the American offensive against Japan, a primary objective of which is the relief of the Philippines. I came through and I shall return.


These words were prophetic.  For two years he lead an armada of Allied warships and marines to attack the Japanese, which led to a US victory.  And of course, this implied that he liberated the Philippines from the Japanese.  The way it looks, we could have believed General MacArthur because he said the words.  However, MacArthur could have failed and his words would be considered a lie.  If this were the case, could he really be considered a liar?  Not really.  It seems he had all intentions in keeping his promise, and he was not intending to deceive anyone.  However, a failure would have certainly tarnished his reputation. 


Ever since the fall of humanity into Sin, God has promised a Messiah.  The Old Testament is full of promises of a Savior. 

Daniel 9: 25 –27 is just one example.  Let us read this passage,


Daniel 9: 25  Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.


Daniel 9: 26  And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.


Daniel 9: 27  And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.


This prophecy tells us when Christ’s ministry would start – 483 years after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem: specifically, in the year 27 AD.  The prophecy also refers to how his ministry would start, what it was about, and how it would end.  The prophecy tells us how and when his ministry would end.  Jesus Christ fits this prophecy perfectly.  But, do we believe Him because He did fulfill the prophecy or because He said it so?  Is there a difference?  Does it matter?  What did Moses have to go on when he accepted God’s call?  A burning and talking bush?  A few tricks with rod and arm?  Can a God that does this actually free a people from the most powerful nation of the world?  Is this all it took for Moses to believe? 


At one point Moses believed God because God said so.  Yes, Moses could look back in his life and refer to God’s wonders – hence the importance of learning our history (Deuteronomy 6:7).  He could say, "He was faithful before, therefore I can trust that he will still be faithful."  Why?  Because, God - unlike human beings -never changes and He is not a man that he should lie (Numbers 23:19).    How many of us have acquired impeccable track records only to throw it all away with a silly error?  God’s track record is impeccable, but we still need to trust that He will continue to keep His word.  Do you?


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Fw: Deja Vu: Where Have I Seen that Before?

Déjà Vu: Where Have I Seen that Before?
Walking down the street, Thomas and his wife Corrine saw a
girl looking in a storefront window.  Suddenly, the girl turned around and looked
at Thomas with a bright smile.  Before he could smile back, she stormed
away from them, turned the corner, and disappeared from sight.  Surprised, Thomas
stopped still in his tracks.  Corrine looked at him and asked,  "What's wrong?
What happened?"  Puzzled, Thomas looked at his wife and said, "I just have a
feeling that I have been here before, and I saw this happen already."  Corrine replied,
"Oh, you had a déjà vu!"  "A What?" Thomas replied. "You know, a feeling that you
have experienced something or been somewhere before," answered his wife. 
Relieved, Thomas now turned to his wife as he nodded his head, and said, "Yeah,
maybe it was a déjà vu."  
In Matthew 18:15 - 20, Jesus explains to the disciples how to handle a person
who has wronged them.  In essence, Jesus tells them to do everything in their
power to restore the relationship using trusted witnesses, and the congregation,
if needed.  He further states, that if the person who wronged you repents, good.
If he or she does not, then let him or her go, along with the matter of the offence.
This is an admonition not only for the offended, but for all the 'witnesses.'  In verse
21, Peter asks Jesus an interesting question the answer of which is perplexing.
Lets read,
Matthew 18: 21  Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my
                        brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Matthew 18: 22  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven
                        times: but, Until seventy times seven.
Hmm!  Seventy times seven?  Where have I heard that before?  Is it Déjà
vu?  Hardly.  Our chapter of study this week, Daniel 9: 24, refers to this
number.  Let us read
Daniel 9: 24  --
             Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and
             thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make
             an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity
             and to bring in everlasting righteousness and to seal
             up the vision and prophecy, and anoint the Most Holy.
Was it just coincidental?  I do not think so.  Was Jesus trying to tell us
something?  I think He was.  We know that in Christ the whole world is
forgiven.  However, we also know we can throw that forgiveness away.  God
has done all in His power to forgive us, to make known to us that we are
forgiven, and to ensure that we by faith accept His forgiveness (short of
forcing us).  He used the whole universe as witnesses.  They - and
those who by faith accept Gods forgiveness - will give testimony of God's
effort to save us.  Those who by faith accept God's forgiveness, and
continue to do so until the end, will overcome and be restored to the
fellowship of brethren that did not fall.   Those who do not repent, God
will let them and the matter go.
When the Jews told Pilate, …We have no king but Caesar, (John 19:5),
they in essence told God in front of witnesses (both earthly and heavenly),
"We have no part with You."  For three and a half years further, God pleaded
with them.  In essence, He was asking them, "Please reconsider."  At the
close of the three and a half years, the Jewish nation's rebellion towards God
culminated in the stoning of Stephen.  The seventy weeks seventy times seven
of the Jewish nation was up.  The fate they chose for themselves
was fulfilled sometime thereafter.  In the year 70 AD, Roman soldiers marched
into Judah and destroyed it.  The nation of Israel no longer retained the chosen
nation of God status, it once enjoyed.
Does this mean that God did not love the Jews?  Not so, for although Saul / Paul,
a Jew by birth-- was present when Stephen was stoned (Acts 22:20), his later
conversion after the rejection of the Jewish nation, proves that God will accept
any Jew who receives Jesus Christ as his or her personal Saviour.
What about us?  Are our seventy weeks up?  It may be that God is pleading
with us to turn around and respond in love to Him.  Is Christ still your king, or have you
chosen a Caesar of this world?    It's His desire that you turn around so that He doesn't
have to let you and your matter go.  It's not too late.
Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

Friday, August 04, 2006

Forgiveness for Unknown Sin

Forgiveness for Unknown Sin


A very famous film actor was stopped because of improper driving.  The Police officer suspected that the driver was DUI – driving under influence of alcohol.  The officer approaches the car window and before he could ask for the driver for his driver’s license, he could smell the alcohol.  He immediately asked the actor to leave the car.  The actor gets annoyed by the request, and starts insulting the officer.  Recognizing the actor, the police officer asks the actor, if he had been drinking and how much.  The actor is now infuriated, and tells him, "None of your business?"  The police officer asks the actor one more time, to get out of the car.  The actor at that moment tells the officer some improprieties about the officer's apparent ethnic background, and then adds, "The reason why this world has problems is because of your people."  The next day the incident was all over the press and the media.  The actor, released a statement of apology, saying in part, “It is a known fact that one effect of alcohol is losing your inhibition.  You say things you would not say sober.  However, I said what was inside my heart.  I was not aware that I held such dark feelings about other ethnic groups.  While the incident was indeed embarrassing, what it revealed in my heart is humiliating.”  Through this incident the actor realized that we harbor Sin in our hearts and may not be aware of it. 


In chapter 9, Daniel prays for forgiveness.  He prays for forgiveness for him and his people.  But, There is something unusual about his prayer.  Daniel includes himself with his people.  Let us read some instances from Daniel 9: 4 - 19, where Daniel includes himself with his people,


5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:

 6 Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets,

10 Neither have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.

 11 …because we have sinned against him.

 13 … all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth.

14  … for we obeyed not his voice.

 15  we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

 16 … because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.

 18 …for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses,


As you can see, this prayer is not only intercessory but also corporate in nature.  Why does Daniel pray corporately?  As far as we know, it was the iniquity of his people - not his own - that lead the Jews to Babylonian captivity.  Maybe Daniel knew the phrase, "there go I, but for the grace of God."  Daniel perhaps understood that given the same set of opportunities and circumstances he would have participated in the Sin's of his people.   What separated Daniel from his counterparts? The grace of God, to which Daniel yielded, and his brethren did not. 


We know that Daniel read Jeremiah.  He must have read Jeremiah 17:9 that says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"  Could it be that Daniel was confessing all Sin that his heart may harbor – even unknown Sin?  However, any act or word we say comes out of the abundance of our heart (Luke 6: 45).  All sinful actions that we commit, are committing, and will commit are borne in our hearts before we let them out.  All these Sins need is the right opportunity.  The problem is we cannot know what is in our hearts.  However, God knows the secrets of our hearts (Psalms 44:21).  Daniel, very likely, was aware of this truth.  And, by including Daniel's prayer in this book of Daniel, sealed until our day, God was stressing the need to see this prayer as a model for us living in the last days. 


God knowing how Sinful are hearts are, says through the prophet Ezekiel, that He wants to put in us, "A new heart … and [also] a new spirit … within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26).   Perhaps our prayer should also be "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer" (Psalm 19:4).     David understood this concept of unknown Sin.  He probably never thought that he was capable of coveting his best friend's wife, committing adultery with her, and murdering his best friend.  This is perhaps why David wrote, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalms 51:10). 


What unknown Sins do we bear in our hearts?  If only God knows what lays deep and secretly in our hearts, only He can take it out.  But, we must let Him do it.