Friday, May 29, 2009

The Reason to Praise

We read in Mark 4: 6, 7 some very harsh words from Jesus referring to the Pharisees and Scribes.

Mark 7:6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

Mark 7:7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

We learn in this passage that the Pharisees and scribes had ceremonies to cleanse pretty much everything they touched. There hope was to not be contaminated so they could be pleasing to God. They thought they were worshiping God which such a practice as this one – there was also fasting, public prayer, and giving, among others. But, Christ saw through their dry ceremonies and dead ways of formalism. There forefathers had a similar attitude. Through Micah God said to them,

Micah 6:6 Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?

Micah 6:7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

Micah 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

They thought that the sacrifices pleased and praised God. But, God was looking for something else that would please Him and bring praise to Him: a contrite heart that would yield justice, mercy, and humility. God was looking for hearts that were willing to serve Him. This pleases Him and gives Him glory. This is more than giving up makeup and meat. This is deeper than praise and worship songs. God does not want our Sin polluted and self centered praise. To Him it is a filthy rag, because it comes from those who “are all as an unclean thing,” therefore “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). God is looking for a heart that is pleased in doing His will out of gratitude for what His Son has done on the cross for us. If the cross does not break your heart, if it does not bring you to repentance then nothing will. God is only pleased when our praises come from a repentant heart. Praise and worship does not change your heart, the Cross of Christ does. Singing praise and worship songs, without a changed heart, is honoring God with our lips, but our hearts are far away from Him.

The lesson asks the question, what will be a dominant aspect of eternal life? We read in Romans 14:11, 1 Timothy 1:17, and Revelation 5:13 an example,

Romans 14:11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

1 Timothy 1:17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Revelation 5:13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

Yes, eternal life will be spent in much part singing eternal praises and worshiping the King. Sister White explains why, “That the Maker of all worlds, the Arbiter of all destinies, should lay aside His glory and humiliate Himself from love to man will ever excite the wonder and adoration of the universe. As the nations of the saved look upon their Redeemer and behold the eternal glory of the Father shining in His countenance; as they behold His throne, which is from everlasting to everlasting, and know that His kingdom is to have no end, they break forth in rapturous song: ‘Worthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His own most precious blood!’ ” —Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, pp. 651, 652. We will sing praises because we are pleased with the Lamb and grateful to Him. This singing will in turn please the Father. But, the only way to do it in Heaven is to start doing it here. Andm the only way to do it here is by beholding the cross. Let it fill you and change you.

Friday, May 22, 2009




I have a friend who owns a home near the country.  When you wake up birds are chirping for all there worth.  When you look outside the window, you see these birds flying around building there nests.  At one point, my friend and I were both outside looking at a small pond – of sorts – where he has fish.  The fish, as the birds were doing what they do.  They swam around the water.  It occurred to me that these birds and fish were unconcerned with the problems of the world.  They were not worried about where their next meal would come from.  Or where would they live.  The fish survived the winter.  The birds flew back north and somehow built there homes, to prepare for new offspring.  They were not concerned how these baby birds would be fed.  I remembered the sermon of the Mount – Matthew 6: 25 -26, 28, 30-32, 34 - when Christ said to the people,


Matthew 6:25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Matthew 6:26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

Matthew 6:28 … Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

Matthew 6:30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Matthew 6:31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

Matthew thew 6:32 … for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

Matthew 6:34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil


It is when we live this way that we find true rest.  This is rest that comes from Jesus Himself.  Only unto those who come unto Him, He will give rest (Matthew 11:28).  Only when we believe that Christ is the creator and sustainer of all things, including us, will we find true rest.  Only when we leave all of our anxieties with Him – the One who rested when He finished His work – will we receive that peace, which comes from resting in Him.


This is something that Mary Magdalene understood, but not Martha, we read their story in Luke 10: 38 - 42,


Luke 10:38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.

Luke 10:39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.

Luke 10:40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

Luke 10:41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

Luke 10:42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.


This is something that the Israelites of old never understood.  Paul tells us in Hebrews 4: 6 – 10,


Heb4:6 Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief:

Heb4:7 Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Heb4:8 For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.

Heb4:9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.

Heb4:10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.


Sabbath keeping without entering the rest that Christ gives is nothing more than taking a break or a nap.  Only to those who enter Christ's rest is the Sabbath truly "a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you" (Exodus 31:12-13).  Are we like Mary or are we like Martha and the Israelites of Old?


Raul Diaz

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Grace of God Stands On the Edge of the Coin

The Grace of God Stands On the Edge of the Coin


Jargon is the vocabulary of a specialty.    It is the set of words that are used to talk about what they do within that field of specialty, also their tools, etc.  Take coin collector's for example, a person who studies and collects coins is a numismatist (do not ask me to pronounce it).  While we have never seen a tail on the back of a coin most coins actually do have a head. We call the head side of the coin the obverse. The other side, (the one without the tail) is the reverse.  Coins have also, among other things: rims, legends, fields, motto, mint mark, and edges.  The edge of the coin is the side edge. 


An old friend used a coin as an example to illustrate the great controversy.  He said, "The devil thought he had God on a 'Check mate' when he made man sin.  He thought, 'if God kills man – according to the requirement of the Law - then He is just but not loving.  If, on the contrary, God forgives man, than He does not follow His own Law.'  Let's say that on the obverse of the coin is love and mercy and on the reverse of the coin are the law and justice.  When man sins the coin is tossed in the air.  The Devil knew it had to be 'head or tail,' but to his surprise the coin fell on the edge.  And, the coin has remained standing on its edge ever since." 


From the beginning of the world God found a way to save man in case he sinned.  John the Revelator says that the Lamb was "slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8).  So, "As soon as there was sin, there was a Saviour. Christ knew that He would have to suffer, yet He became man's substitute. As soon as Adam sinned, the Son of God presented Himself as surety for the human race."  Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 1084. God, out of His great love for His creation, decided not to let man die even if it meant to die Himself.  So, in Christ, as the psalmist wrote, "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Psalm 85:10). 


The Father sent Christ to die for the World (John 3:16).  In this act He shows love for mankind while at the same time keeping the requirements of the law.  Romans 6:23 declares that the wages of sin is death, and Hebrews 9:22 tells us that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.  Christ fulfilled all of this.  All we need to be saved is fulfilled in Christ.  It is ours for the taking.  So now we are "…justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" Romans 3:24.  Paul adds in Romans 5,


Romans 5:14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

Romans 5:15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

Romans 5:16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.


We further know salvation is by grace, because "… God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" Romans 5:8 KJV.   Christ did not wait for us to make a decision toward Him to die for us.  While we were sinners in enmity toward Him, God poured out heaven to save us.  Now, as we look at the cross and know its meaning and cost, we make a decision.  How do we respond to God's grace?  Are we grateful or are we unmoved by it?  The coin is about to fall on the reverse (tail) where God's justice and law are.  But, do not let fear motivate you.  God's grace comes out of His perfect love.    "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18).  Let the cross fill you with God's perfect love, before it is too late.

Raul Diaz

Friday, May 08, 2009



The week this commentary was written the local Chicago newspaper reported the fidning of the body of a dead tenth grader. The youth had been beaten, killed, and burnt. This of course caused an outrage among the people in the city. “What have we come to,” some asked. Others asked very concerned, “where are we going?” As the author of the lesson says our world is not where many thought it should be. He quotes,

“The solid optimism of former generations, that everything in the world will get better and better no longer rings true today. Even after the cold war the world is far from a safe place. The threat of terrorism has made us all feel extremely vulnerable. Science, which was supposed to be the harbinger of a better world, now threatens to wreak havoc on that world. The common sources of energy are being depleted. The icecaps are melting. Crime is a sad fact of life everywhere. Human beings show little, if any, signs of moral improvement over past generations. The gap between rich and poor constantly is widening. Our daily installment of news almost invariably tells us about atrocities and moral decay. No wonder someone once said that the Christian teaching of human sinfulness is one teaching that is easily verifiable. That is, that's one doctrine we don't need to take on faith.”

We read in Genesis 3, how Sin came into this world.

Ge3:1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

Ge3:2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

Ge3:3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

Ge3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

Ge3:5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Ge3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

Ge3:7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

Why did the simple act of eating a piece of fruit bring such dire consequences to all humankind? How did such a small, trivial act constitute a great sin? After all, wasn’t Eve, in eating the fruit, giving nourishment to her brain and nerve cells? Wasn’t she making good blood? What made the vitamin C and the fiber in this fruit so lethal to body and soul? So we know the issue was not Adam and Eve literally eating the fruit, but following their will against God’s. They chose in essence not to trust God, and trust the serpent and themselves. We could say that in rejecting God they rejected the indwelling Spirit of God, and now Sin would dwell in them and in their subsequent generations.

Who would have thought that the sinful condition of our world today came from a simple action of eating a forbidden fruit? God foresaw that the problem would grow from a “little act of disobedience” into massacres, wars, and the killing of 16 year old youngsters. It all comes from the same attitude Adam and Eve had in the garden. We could argue that it is those little unchecked indulgences that that start us on that road that lead to a life of self-righteous living. Christ had to deal with the temptation of appetite. We read in Matthew 4: 1 – 4,

Mat4:1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

Mat4:2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.

Mat4:3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

Mat4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

By Christ conquering where eve and Adam failed in the beginning he set up a foundation to be faithful to God. We also read how Daniel and his friends refuse to eat of the Kings meal in Daniel 1:8,

Dan1:8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

We know now how Daniel’s friends were able to stand up for God even when they were thrown in the furnace (Daniel 3). We know now that Daniel was able to stand up for God when he was thrown in the Lion’s den (Daniel 6). Daniel and his friends – as well as Jesus - yielded to the Holy Spirit’s leading. The Holy Spirit gave to them the victory. Conquering the little Sin of appetite was the start of a successful yielded life to God. I pray that we allow the Holy Spirit to do the same with us.

Friday, May 01, 2009

God Speaks Through Our Conscience

God Speaks Through Our Conscience

"Conscience" is sometimes defined as the faculty, or inward principle, that helps us decide between right and wrong. It typically works through guilt. You here people say, “My conscience is bothering me” or “He has a guilty conscience.” Even those who do not believe in God usually possess some insight into what is morally acceptable and what must be rejected. As Paul says in Romans 2:14, 15,

Romans 2:14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:

Romans 2:15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

But, can we truly trust our conscience? Is our conscience the authority in moral issues? The teacher’s edition of the lesson asks the same question in the following manner, “What role do culture and upbringing have on the shaping of your conscience? In what ways has your culture influenced your concepts of right and wrong? How can you learn to transcend culture when you need to, that is, when your culture teaches something that is against the clear teaching of the Word of God?” Years ago I heard a story of an African woman, who no longer lived in Africa, feeling guilty about not mutilating her daughter’s clitoris according to her tribe’s tradition. So culture and tradition can form your conscience.

The Christian believes that God is the supreme Lawgiver and that He has placed in humanity a conscience, even though sin has blunted this God-given tool for moral decision-making. In most Bible translations we do not find the word conscience in the Old Testament, though it occurs numerous times in the New Testament. But whether or not the term is used, the concept is present throughout Scripture.

Important though our conscience is, it is not always totally trustworthy. We notice that people in good conscience often come to very diverse conclusions about what to do in particular circumstances. The apostle Paul was aware of this, as his remarkable statement in 1 Corinthians 4:4 shows: "My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me" (NIV). The same apostle also warns that we can resist the pull of our conscience. In fact, some people appear to have seared their consciences with a hot iron. We read that in 1 Timothy 4:2,

1Timothy 4:2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

Also we read in Titus 1:15

Titus 1:15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.

Some have corrupted their conscience. On the other hand, there are ways of sharpening one's conscience. We do this by allowing the Holy Spirit to sharpen it. By being in tune with God by a regular reading of His Word and by frequent communion with Him in prayer will make us more sensitive to the voice of the Spirit, who can speak to us through our conscience. In the end, our conscience may warn us that something is not right. We should then pray and see what God has to say. He is the final authority.