Friday, January 19, 2007

The Prodigal: An Extravagant Waster

In the book the "Millionaire Next Door," the author expounds what he discovered in his research about who is the average millionaire in the USA. His findings surprise you, the average millionaire are in their 50's, married, with no more than 3 children, runs a small business, dresses casually, and drives a pickup truck. In his next book, "The Millionaire Mind," the same author, uncovers what happens with the fortune the millionaire amasses for up to three generations. The first generation accumulates wealth; his children become highly paid professionals, used to a high maintenance lifestyle. They are used to having and not having to struggle for it, they become prodigal children. They can be wasteful and extravagant. The third generation usually squanders what is left of the fortune, which leaves them with nothing.

As you may have noticed above, I defined prodigal as wasteful or extravagant. This is the dictionary definition. The term prodigal is used in the Bible to name one of the two children of the landowner of the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. The wayward one takes all the money and wastes it in an extravagant lifestyle. He apparently fits the findings of the above mentioned book; and, so does Solomon. If we remember, David prepared everything so that Solomon's tenure as King would be with as little problem as possible. David prepared materials for the temple and gave Solomon some heartfelt advice before death (1 Chronicles 17, 1 King 2:1-9). Solomon enjoyed what his father worked hard to accumulate.

Yes, Solomon seems to speak this in a very ironic tone. We read in Ecclesiastes 2:17-19,

17Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
18Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me.
19And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity.

Perhaps, Solomon forgot or maybe he wanted others to be warned of the danger of taking for granted what others leave us as an inheritance.

We are also prodigal children, as Solomon was. We waste and squander what God has given us. Talents, and gifts and blessings come to mind, however there is something more precious that we throw away. We sell and throw away our birth right in Christ. We throw away our Salvation, purchased by the blood of Christ, when we waste this life in extravagant pursuits of sinfulness and self gratification. With it we throw away His Righteousness, His love, and His sanctification. This in turn makes us throw away eternal life.

Oh, that God may give us an opportunity to see our sinfulness, and that we may heed to Him. That we may buy from Him eye salve to see ourselves as we truly are, "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked". Furthermore, that we may buy from Him "white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear." Finally, that we may buy from Him, "gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich" (Revelation 3: 17:18).
Raul Diaz

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Doubters Choose To Doubt

The verb to doubt can be defined as either to tend to disbelieve, distrust, or to regard as unlikely. Doubting implies challenging some notion of reality in effect, and may involve hesitating to take a relevant action due to concern that one might be mistaken or at fault. So a doubter can be someone who disbelieves, distrusts, or regards certain things as unlikely. They may doubt for several reasons, which could be: a challenge of something they are certain about or hold dear, and or they do not want to look bad in front of others.

For example, evolutionists and atheists doubt that 1. There is a God, 2. Creation can be immediate and out of things that did not exist before. Why? Because, they believe that only what they can feel and perceive is true. They also believe that things are created out things that existed before. They cannot see God and they cannot fathom the way in which God says He creates. Faith in God and His work challenges their belief. Since many consider God and His Word a myth they would look as fools in front of others if they chose to believe in God and His word. So, they choose to doubt, instead of heeding to their convictions.

Among those who profess to believe there are different kinds of doubters. There are those who doubt that God speaks to man. At any word from anyone that God has spoken to them they one of two responses: 1. squirm and look with suspicion, or 2. laugh deridingly. The first are as the Jews who considered the cross a scandal, the latter as the pagans who considered the cross foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:23). They accuse those who claim to receive God's word as being crazy.

Another type of doubter is the one who believes God speaks to man, but just not to you. Their favorite inquiry is, "How do you know it was God? Could it not be that you something and attributed it to God?" In most cases, they do not think God would choose someone with the weaknesses and infirmities you have. They accuse you of hearing your obsession, not necessarily His impression.

There is a subtle difference between the Solomon that prays in the Temple and the Solomon that writes Ecclesiastes. Both Solomon's are totally committed to God. However, the Solomon that writes Ecclesiastes is a man defeated by Sin, through his own bad choices. As he describes himself in this book, he searched for wisdom in all the wrong places, finding only sorrow and sadness (Ecclesiastes 1:13, 18). Why would God choose Solomon – an adulterer and idolater - to write a treatise that would be included in His official correspondence to mankind? Was not Solomon at this point a man of many weaknesses and infirmities? And yet, who are we to question God? Does He not know all things? Are we not merely finite creatures that see through a dark glass? Who are we to judge Solomon's speck in the eye, when we ourselves have a tree log lodge in our eye socket?

As we shall see this type of reasoning – God will not use people with weaknesses and infirmities is faulty. It is obvious that Solomon at this point is a man that has repented. God has given Solomon a new heart. Solomon is willing to listen to God at this point. God speaks to those who are willing to listen. Sister White says that "Christ is ever sending messages to those who listen for His voice" (Testimonies to the Church, Vol. 4, p. 542). She adds in Desire of Ages,

The Lord will teach us our duty just as willingly as He will teach somebody else. If we come to Him in faith, He will speak His mysteries to us personally. Our hearts will often burn within us as One draws nigh to commune with us as He did with Enoch. Those who decide to do nothing in any line that will displease God, will know, after presenting their case before Him, just what course to pursue. (The Desire of Ages, p. 668)

Solomon was chosen to write to write this book because he was willing to listen. He took the lessons God taught him, and shared them with all of us. God uses those who are willing to be used.

There is another type of doubter. The kind that thinks God will not speak to them. Are you one of them? Are you listening to God or are you resisting God's communication with you? Are you like Solomon in his apostasy or are you as Solomon after his repentance? He speaks through His word, through nature, and through each other. Do you doubt His words because you doubt His methods or messenger? How long will you kick against the pricks (Acts 9:5)? How long before you soften your heart and yield to your conviction of submitting to the Word of God? How long before you stop doubting? Why not choose today?

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Friday, January 05, 2007

The Real Preacher Teaches

The Real Preacher Teaches

A pastor decided he wanted to find out how effective his sermons were with his congregations (not a true story). So he called on a consultant to help him. The consultant sat with the congregation for a few weeks to get a feeling for what was going on during the service. There were a lot of preliminaries and announcements. There was a lot of singing. People would stand and raise their hands and shout in euphoric ways. During the sermon, the congregation would react to what the Pastor was saying. The Pastor was at times funny, at other times inspirational, and at other times provocative. The consultant was confused and uncomfortable at times, because he felt he was not at church, but at a political rally, a business convention, a concert or play, or at a comedy club. This feeling deeply disturbed him. After these few weeks the consultant started interviewing a representative sample of the congregation. As the consultant overheard the people talk about the sermon, many of them said that the words confirmed a blessing God had for them, but the consultant did not hear anyone talk about how the sermon led them to a deeper understanding of Scripture, to repent of Sin or to a deeper relationship with God. The brethren said about how much they enjoyed themselves, and it showed. The sermon aroused them. But the consultant felt that the message did not move them to open their hearts to God and His truths.

The purpose of modern preaching is to arouse. It is an oration to inspire, a monologue to make you laugh and or a pep talk to motivate you. It mostly appeals to your senses. It makes you feel good, inspired, or relieved. These sermons do not open or reveal the truth hidden in the word of God. After one of these sermon’s you do not feel you know God better, convicted of Sin, nor driven to repentance. On the contrary you feel that it is Ok to live in Sin, disobeying the Word of God and rebelling against His will. You can smoke, dance, overeat, drink, adulterate (fornicate), watch and listen to all sorts of garbage that he media offers. You can harbor ill feelings against your neighbor, envy them, and covet what they have, hold a grudge against them and even insult them in the name of frankness. “Not to worry, God will bless you with that job, promotion, spouse, material blessing, physical health you so much want. He wants you to be happy and prosperous.”

Ecclesiastes is the name of the book we are studying this quarter. Many do not know that Ecclesiastes means, “the preacher.” It stands in contrast with the popular sermons of the day. In this sermon Solomon teaches us that all the pursuits of this world are vanity. Indeed, the rewards of this world are also vanity. The style is simple and direct; no preacher-ese, or oration. The message is, “these are the mistakes I made, learn from me, for it is all vanity.” A repentant Solomon wants to spare us of the emptiness and suffering of choosing not to hear God. As is as he tells us why it is not good to not follow Jesus advice, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” Matthew 6:33. If we do this, God will provide for us all those things that become vain when we pursue them. But, when God provides them they are blessings to you and to those in your sphere of influence; you give to them of what God gives to you. In contrast, today’s popular sermons say that the blessings are for you alone. Furthermore, they say these blessings are for this life, in contrast the word of God says God gives us eternal life, which we can only receive through God. This will always elude us, if we try to seek it on our own.

This expression, of Matthew 6:33, Christ used in His own Sermon of the mount. Again, the style is simple and direct. Christ sits down to speak and teaches to all those who choose to hear His Words. Christ called Himself the Good Shepherd, a pastor is a shepherd. Christ taught when He preached. Since He is our example, we know that the job of the preacher is to teach the Gospel.

The Apostle Paul when writing to the Ephesians about Spiritual gifts says to them in Ephesians 4: 11

Ephesians 4: 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

Notice that although Paul distinguishes between each gift with a semi-colon and the words “and some,” there is no separation between pastor and teacher. This can only mean one thing: in the case of “Pastors and Teachers” it is one and the same gift. Many are not aware of this. Pray for them. Do not criticize, or gossip about them. This behavior only shows an attitude of resisting God. Interceding for them opens your heart to forgive them and moves God to woo them toward Him. Remember, this can only be done with the help of the Holy Spirit.

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