Friday, January 30, 2009

What is the prophet’s work?

What is the prophet’s work?

Andrea had a disturbing dream about Julia. They were friends for many years. Julia was married and wanted children. Andrea thought it was a good idea at first, but after she had her dream, she changed her mind. She prayed to find out more, to make sure this was from God. The more she prayed she realized that it was not God’s will that Julia should have any children. Andrea approached Julia with the news. Julia got angry, and said to her, “How do you know this is from God. For all I know you could just be telling me this because you are jealous of me, you always have. Besides, why did God choose you to tell me this? He can tell me also. And, why would he choose you, period? With all that stuff you have done. I know, because we did a lot of those things together. I am having a child, and that is the end of it. You are not going to take my joy away. And, I know God certainly wants me to be joyful.”

Andrea and Julia did not speak for years. Andrea did not stop praying for her. And, often hoped they still would speak. Julia had her child. She was born with a rare genetic defect that led to mental retardation, seizures, and other symptoms. Julia was now spending most of her time taking the child to doctors and hospitals. This was also putting a strain in her marriage. Tom - her husband - understood the child’s need for care, but he still felt that she was not caring for him enough. And, to make matters worse, she would not let him be involved as much, saying he did not know what to do. Later she complained that since he was not involved, the entire burden fell on her. This drove him to say, “I cannot take it any more.”

Andrea ran into Julia once. Andrea approached her to talk. Julia received her a little cold at first, giving her the usual response, “everything is fine.’ Andrea prayed and pressed further, Julia opened up slowly. And, finally she cried. “Why would God do this to me?” She said out loud. With tenderness Andrea embraced Julia. Julia cried more. Finally, Andrea told her, “Remember I told you about that dream I had, and I told you I that it was not God’s will that you have any children. God loves you and wanted to spare you from all of this” “O, Julia, I should have listened to you. I feel so bad. I love Tom and I love my child. What do I do now?” Andrea had had another dream, and she knew she had to tell Julia. In this case Andrea was a prophet, and this is what prophets do.

In Hebrews 1:1 it says that God … “at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets.” In 2 Peters 1:21 Peter said that “… prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Prophets, in other words, were God’s spokesperson. A spokesperson is a man or woman who speaks as the representative of other or others. The prophet speaks as the representative of God.

Most of the time, the prophets’ work is revealing Sin. The Bible is full of instances in which God called on these men or women to reveal the Sin of others. However, it is not to keep you from “having fun,” advancing in life, control you or to humiliate you, it is because of Love. By Love we mean agape – God’s unconditional love.

God wants to spare you from earthly consequences for you and others, and also from eternal death. As it says in 2 Timothy 3:16,

2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

John puts it very simply in Revelation 3:19, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.”

But, just as many misrepresent God and misinterpret His intentions, they also do His prophets. In order not to feel the guilt and feel good about themselves they reject the prophet. In many instances they will say, “That is your opinion.” Sister White addresses this issue in the next quote.

Yet now when I send you a testimony of warning and reproof, many of you declare it to be merely the opinion of Sister White. You have thereby insulted the Spirit of God. You know how the Lord has manifested Himself through the Spirit of prophecy. Past, present, and future have passed before me. I have been shown faces that I had never seen, and years afterward I knew them when I saw them. I have been aroused from my sleep with a vivid sense of subjects previously presented to my mind and I have written, at midnight, letters that have gone across the continent, and arriving at a crisis, have saved great disaster to the cause of God. This has been my work for many years. A power has impelled me to reprove and rebuke wrongs that I had not thought of. Is this work of the last thirty-six years from above or from beneath? . . .
. . . In these letters which I write, in the testimonies I bear, I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me. I do not write one article in the paper, expressing merely my own ideas. They are what God has opened before me in vision—the precious rays of light shining from the throne.”—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 27.

This is what prophets do: Spread God’s words of love (Agape). The question is, will we heed them and their message?

Friday, January 23, 2009

What happens when we reject the Lord’s messenger?

What happens when we reject the Lord’s messenger?

What happens when we reject, ignore or misinterpret the message from the Lord? Consider Sarah and Abraham? Ishmael is the answer. Consider Lot’s wife – a pillar a salt is the answer. Consider Jonah – He did not heed in the beginning. He suffered through a terrible storm, thrown in the sea, and swallowed by a big fish. What if the word comes from a prophet? Is there any difference? Consider Jezebel and Ahab. He repented so he did not die the horrible death predicted he would die. Jezebel did not repent, she died as was predicted. What happens when we listen and heed? The people Jonah spoke to repented and they were spared from earthly destruction and possibly eternal death.

What happens when we emphasize part of a prophecy and not the other? We do that with the first ‘leg’ of the 1st Angel’s Message. Apostle John tells us about the first Angel,

Revelation 14:6And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,
Revelation 14:7Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

When talking about what the angel has to say, many focus on verse 7. Thus, they emphasize the judgment and the law – specifically the Sabbath. But, they ignore verse six. What does verse six say? It says that the angel has the everlasting Gospel to preach to the entire world. The Gospel is the good news of Salvation. This is the news that salvation is by faith through grace. This is the news that the righteousness of Christ save us, not our own. In other words, it is the good works of that Christ save us, not our own faulty works. This is why Sister White says that 3rd Angels Message is Righteousness by Faith in verity. Let us read the quote,

Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel's message, and I have answered, "It is the third angel's message, in verity." The Review and Herald, April 1, 1890. {1SM 372.2}

Many claim that the message of Justification by faith makes the law void. However, Sister White has this to say,

Some of our brethren have expressed fears that we shall dwell too much upon the subject of justification by faith, but I hope and pray that none will be needlessly alarmed; for there is no danger in presenting this doctrine as it is set forth in the Scriptures. If there had not been a remissness in the past to properly instruct the people of God, there would not now be a necessity of calling a special attention to it.... The exceeding great and precious promises given us in the Holy Scriptures have been lost sight of to a great extent, just as the enemy of all righteousness designed that they should be. He has cast his own dark shadow between us and our God, that we may not see the true character of God. The Lord has proclaimed Himself to be "merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth." {1SM 372.1}

She echoes the Apostle Paul. In Romans 3: 19 – 31 Paul expounds on this topic. Let us read the passage,

Romans 3: 19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
Romans 3: 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
Romans 3: 21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
Romans 3: 22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
Romans 3: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Romans 3: 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
Romans 3: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
Romans 3: 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Romans 3: 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
Romans 3: 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Romans 3: 29 Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
Romans 3: 30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
Romans 3: 31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

So it is the good news of salvation by grace through faith on the Righteousness of Christ that the 1st Angel preaches unto the whole world. The keeping of the law and the knowledge of the judgment will come as a result of that faith. As we live by faith, the Holy Spirit will renew our minds into the likeness, perfection, maturity and stature of Christ. Trying to live by the law so we can stand the judgment will not help us. We will be found wanting. By letting the Spirit fill us with the fullness of Christ that will transform us into holy and selfless beings, we will meet God’s and the Law’s approval. Will you let the Spirit do this work in you?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Spiritual, Natural and Acquired Gifts

Spiritual, Natural and Acquired Gifts

People often ask, “Can anyone have spiritual gifts?” What they are really asking is, “can an unbeliever or unconverted person have spiritual gifts?” Before we answer that question we have to be aware that there are different kinds of gifts: natural, acquired, and spiritual. All come from God, but there are differences between them.

What Are the differences between Spiritual, Natural and acquired gifts? Natural Gifts are given by God at conception, there are part of our nature (our makeup, if you will), gifts at birth that are relatively easily developed. Acquired Gifts would come through diligent study or practice, and the blessing of God. Spiritual Gifts are specially given by the Holy Spirit at any time after our conversion. Spiritual gifts are miracles.

Can Spiritual gifts be misused? Spiritual gifts by definition cannot be misused. As the word says they are given for a purpose. We read in 1 Corinthians 12:7,

1 Corinthians 12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

Spiritual gifts are given to us so others may profit through us. So, who is the “all” Paul talks about? Paul answers that in Ephesians 4:12. Let us read,

Ephesians 4:12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Those who will profit from the Spiritual gifts are all that are in the church. However, only those in the Spirit get them. We know this based on the story of how the disciples received their spiritual gifts. In Luke 24 Christ explains the scriptures to the disciples. Giving instructions that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). And, further, that He would “send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” Luke24:49. This same advice is repeated in Acts 1: 4 and 5, specifying that the power from on High would be the “Holy Ghost” (Acts 1:5). In verse 8, the disciples are told that the power from on high would be for them to “be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

So the disciples tarried in Jerusalem and “continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” Acts 1:14. This prayer and supplication lead to confession of Sin and repentance. Their focus turned from themselves to Christ. And, in Acts 2 we find the rest of the story,

Acts 2:1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
Acts 2:2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
Acts 2:3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

They were in one accord because they were all in Jesus. Those who let the Spirit use them, as the disciples did, allow the Spirit to use the gifts through them. Anyone not doing things according to the Spirit, the Holy Spirit can and probably will take the gift away from them.

Natural and acquired gifts are given to all and they can be misused. Talking about how all gifts[1] that God give us should be surrendered to Him for His use, Sister White says about this the following,

"The special gifts of the Spirit are not the only talents represented in the parable. It includes all gifts and endowments, whether original or acquired, natural or spiritual. All are to be employed in Christ's service. In becoming His disciples, we surrender ourselves to Him with all that we are and have. These gifts He returns to us purified and ennobled, to be used for His glory in blessing our fellow men."—Ellen G. White, Christ's Object Lessons, p. 328.

Only those who yield to the Holy Spirit will give to Christ all that they have and are. In this we see true stewardship. Recognizing that all we are and have is from God and is to be surrendered to Him so that it used to glorify Him and bless others. But, who is willing to surrender all? Those who themselves yield completely to Him. Are you willing to yield completely to Him?

[1] Sister White’s definition of gifts may be different than mine. It seems that in her quote she uses two different classifications for gifts. One classification would be original or acquired. Original is what you are born with and acquired is what you are not born with. The other classification is natural or spiritual. Natural gifts may refer to the flesh and spiritual gifts, of course, to the Spirit. It is not clear whether these classifications are parallel. If they are, then by acquired gifts she would mean acquired from the Spirit.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Positive Difference

In the movie Casablanca there is a scene in which someone is killed and the authorities let main suspect go. In order to satisfy the demands of the law to have a suspect for the crime the police chief said to his officers, "Round up the usual suspects." These were people that everyone thought they could have committed a crime.

When we are asked a question like our lesson asks, “How can our church make a positive difference in people's lives?” We usually round up the “usual suspect” answers. Some examples are: a. Preach and evangelize more; b. we should have more Bible studies; c. Maybe we should have more community services; d. How about having a branch Sabbath School or small study group; e. Maybe we should have more seminars about health, marital, abstinence; or f. More vegetarian cooking work-shops. But, none of these seem to work so far. The results are typically not good.

However, I believe that before we answer the question we should clarify what we mean by positive. Again, we can 'round up our usual suspect' answers: less poverty, less injustice, more education, less violence, more equality, more tolerance, etc. These are nice things to strive for, however, we have been fighting for those for decades and they still have not achieved them. And, they will not be achieved as long as we live in this world of Sin. Christ says to the disciples, “For ye have the poor always with you" (Matthew 26:11). This means there will always be greed in this world. Now, greed could be defined as the love of money, which is the root of all evil (1Timothy 6:10). As long as there is evil in this world that can not be anything positive unless it comes from God.

What comes from God? Jesus (John 3:16; John5:36), The Holy Spirit (John14:16), His angels, His word, His promises, etc. So, this means that as Christians we believe that any positive difference has to do with God or anything He sent, especially Jesus or the Holy Spirit. So, anything that brings us to our knees in prayer is positive. Anything that brings to trust and depend on God more is positive. For only God is positive.

So, how can our church make a positive difference in people's lives? Doing what Jesus did. What did Jesus do? For starters He prayed. Sometimes He prayed early in the morning (mark 1:35). Sometimes He prayed all night (Luke 6:12). He prayed for Himself and others (John 15 – 17). He even prayed for Peter (Luke 22:32). We can follow Christ example. A favorite author is quoted saying "people can reject your care, people can reject you favors, even your love, but they cannot reject your prayers.' God can do things you cannot do. And, He will do them if we ask Him (Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24).

Christ loved the people unconditionally. We know that He taught, blessed and healed and even resurrected from the dead. He saw the people and was moved with compassion (Matthew 9: 36; 14:14; 15:32). So, He acted on His compassion. To have an impact in our community, we must also have the compassion that Christ had. This is a compassion that comes from loving others unconditionally. This is only God can give to you and you must accept it. An old cliché says, "People won't care until they know you care ... about them." You say, “This is selfish.” I say, “Yes. And, that’s just it.” They want to know that you are genuinely interested in them, before they will consider listening to you. They want to see that you are “living what you preach.” If Christ was selfish He would not have died for us (Romans 5:8). Christ said to His disciples, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John13:35). Those with unconditional love are willing to die for others.

These two things may not stop crime in your community, but it may bring people to a decision about Christ; which in the end is the real goal.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Sin Also Reached Nature

Sin Also Reached Nature

Did sin affect nature? If so, how has sin altered the nature? To answer this question two passages come to mind. One is found in Genesis 3 (verses 17, 18, 22, and 23). The other is by Sister White from Patriarchs and Prophets (Pages 59 and 60.) Let us read from Genesis 3 first,

Genesis 3: 17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
Genesis 3:18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
Genesis 3:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
Genesis 3:23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

Before the fall, man was fed from a garden planted by God Himself. Now man had to work to eat in an environment that is hostile toward him. While in the garden all things were subdued to him, now he must tame it. As the man worked the field, the ground responded with thorns and thistles. According to the author of the lesson, ‘Prior to the Fall, only beautiful or useful plants were found upon the earth. God "never made a thorn, a thistle, or a tare. These are Satan's work, the result of degeneration." Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 186.’
While Adam lived in the garden he could eat of any tree including the tree of life (excluding, of course, the tree of knowledge of good and evil). Now he could eat the fruit of any tree, except the tree of life - God guarded this tree from Adam. Now, instead of the tree of life man is to eat the herb of the field (Genesis 3: 18).

Now let us turn to Sister White in Patriarchs and Prophets,

“Under the curse of sin all nature was to witness to man of the character and results of rebellion against God. When God made man He made him rule over the earth and all living creatures. So long as Adam remained loyal to Heaven, all nature was in subjection to him. But when he rebelled against the divine law, the inferior creatures were in rebellion against his rule. Thus the Lord, in His great mercy, would show men the sacredness of His law, and lead them, by their own experience, to see the danger of setting it aside, even in the slightest degree” (Patriarchs and Prophets 59-60).

We have often seen paintings depicting Christ with children and no longer wild beasts grazing with them and sometimes with what in this world would be their prey. What a contrast. Now man must protect himself from the beasts that once were friendly toward him.

But, nature still had one more lesson for Adam and Eve. In deed, they were not ready for what would happen next. Sister White says that, “As they witnessed in drooping flower and falling leaf the first signs of decay, Adam and his companion mourned more deeply than men now mourn over their dead. The death of the frail, delicate flowers was indeed a cause of sorrow; but when the goodly trees cast off their leaves, the scene brought vividly to mind the stern fact that death is the portion of every living thing” (Patriarchs and Prophets 62).

No wonder Paul says in Romans 8: 22, "We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." Sin affected nature also, and is apparently crying out for an end to the problem. Nature cannot do anything about it, but we can. We can accept the salvation that is ours in Christ by grace through faith. In Christ we can look forward to the day when we live forever willingly submitted to Christ, and nature will never die and be submitted and friendly toward us.