Friday, January 29, 2010

Commentary: The Trials of Daniel and his friends

Daniel and his friends


How do we develop the enduring kind of patience?  Our lesson quotes James 1: 2 – 4 to give us the answer, 


"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and com­plete, lacking nothing" (James 1:2–4, NKJV).


The word patience here is from the Greek hupomone, which means, endurance, steadfastness, and fortitude of every affliction that one confronts on one's spiri­tual journey.  The word Paul uses in Galatians 5:22 is macrothumia – translated as longsuffering - which essentially means "long tempered" as opposed to short tempered. 

Although, hupomone is not part of the fruit of the Spirit, it is nevertheless very important in our walk of Faith.  According to James, it is through trials that we develop the endurance to continually overcome unbelief and remain faithful to God.  Our lesson states about this,


'The Greek word for "trials," sometimes translated "temptations," is the word peirazo, which has the broader significance of "proving" or "testing." The devil tries us or tempts us to do evil. The tests and trials that God allows to come into our lives are for the purpose of developing our characters.'   Ellen G. White talks about this,


"The trials of life are God's workmen, to remove the impurities and roughness from our character. Their hewing, squaring, and chiseling, their burnishing and polishing, is a painful process; it is hard to be pressed down to the grinding wheel. But the stone is brought forth prepared to fill its place in the heavenly temple. Upon no useless material does the Master bestow such careful, thorough work. Only His precious stones are polished after the similitude of a palace."—Ellen G. White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 10.


This doesn't mean, however, that every trial is in God's providence. Often we bring suffering upon ourselves through disobedience; often, too, trials and suffering are just the results of what it means to live in a fallen, sinful world where we have an enemy who hates us (1 Pet. 5:8). What this does mean, however, is that through a complete sur­render of ourselves to the Lord, to grasping hold of Him in faith and obedience, no matter what we go through, we can come out better or more refined if we allow God to work in us. No one said it will be fun. Life here often isn't fun, but we are given this wonderful promise: "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6).


One good example of how trials help develop endurance is Daniel and his friends.  It was through trials that they develop the enduring patience that gave them the victory.  Now, when we think of Daniel and his friends going through trials we probably immediately think of the fiery furnace and the Lion's den.  And, this was indeed, moments in their respective lives when their faith was tested and they were victorious by the grace of God.  But, this trial was not there first one.  The first trial was actually while still in Jerusalem. In Jeremiah 38: 17 – 21 Jeremiah tells the King of Judah to surrender to the King of Babylon and "it shall be well unto thee, and thy soul shall live" (Jeremiah 38: 20).  Those who did as God asked, to surrender to the Babylonian king, it went well with them.  Those that did not were either injured or killed.  Daniel and his friends surrendered to the King of Babylon. 


You could argue that the second trial was prophesied by Isaiah.  This was after Hezekiah failed to give God glory for his miraculous healing, and instead took the glory for himself and showed the Babylonians all that was in the house.  Isaiah predicted in 2 King 20:17 – 18,


 2Ki20:17 Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD.

2Ki20:18 And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.


Put bluntly, Daniel and his friends were castrated.  Daniel then narrates how he and his friends refused to eat out the King's table.  The foods were rich and sacrificed to idols.  They did not want their appetite to lead them astray.  In chapter two Daniel and his friends are facing death, unless they can retell the King his dream and interpret it.  Their faithfulness pays out.  They prayed and fast for God to deliver them out of that situation.  Again, they remained faithful through that trial.  Chapter 3 brings the climax for Daniel's friends.  All Babylon was ordered to bow down to the statue of Nebuchadnezzar.  All, but Daniel's friends bowed down.  For their faithfulness they were put in the fiery furnace.  But, Christ delivered them out of it, without even a burnt hair. 


Where were the other Jewish youngsters that came with Daniel and his friends?  They were probably bowing down to the statue.  Their unfaithfulness in appetite led them to deny God and instead worship a living idol.  They were probably just trying to fit in.  They were not patient as Daniel and his friends were.  They discovered that trusting God no matter what trial came their way is better than trying to please others.  Are we trusting God? 






Raul Diaz

Friday, January 22, 2010

Commentary: Peace with God.doc

Peace with God


In the Garden God instructed Adam what to eat.  We find this in Genesis 2: 16 - 17


Genesis 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

Genesis 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.


God was very concise and precise.  He told Adam, "When you eat of the forbidden tree you will die".  So, when God came to see Adam and Eve after they ate out of the forbidden tree they ran away.  Have you ever asked yourself why?  Could it be that they thought God was coming to kill them?  The spirit of self-preservation, which did not exist before the fall, now had risen.  They probably ran to save themselves from the punishment of their actions.  God, however, surprised them.  Yes, He was displeased with them.  Yes, they would suffer consequences for their actions.  But, God let them know He had no intentions of killing them.  Instead, He extended grace in the form of a promise (Genesis 3:15).  Should they believe the promise they would live eternally.  The promise involved the killing of the Son of God to pay for the wages of Sin (John 3:16; Romans 6:23).  Since the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 3:18), grace could be extended.  God showed to Adam and Eve that He was at peace with them, although not with Sin.


This same promise was to Abraham.  Paul explains this clearly in Romans 4.  "… Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness" (Romans 4:3).  Circumcision represented the removal of unrighteousness from Abraham's heart.  Before the actual circumcision, Abraham's heart had been circumcised because of his faith.  How much did Abraham believe?  Paul elaborates on this,


Romans 4:19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb:

Romans 4:20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;

Romans 4:21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

Romans 4:22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.


So God performed this great work in and through Abraham, because Abraham believed.  God proved that it was not His intention to destroy but to give life.  God was at peace with Abraham.  The issue was that Abraham believed it, so God worked mightily through him.  Paul then says, that this promise is to all of us,


Romans 4:23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;

Romans 4:24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;

Romans 4:25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.


Christ death makes it all possible.  It is in His death that the promise is fulfilled.  It is because of His death that God is at peace with us.  That is why Romans 5:1 starts with the word: therefore.  Chapter 5 of Romans is tied to Romans 4.  Let us read Romans 5: 1,


 Romans 5:1 NKJV 1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,


Once we were at war with God, but by His death on the cross, Jesus has made it possible for the hostilities to cease and for us to be God's friends and not His enemies.  This peace is not something we grow in, as in starting out with just a little bit of peace. Rather, we are reconciled to God, once and for all, by the Cross of Christ.  It is an accomplished historical fact.


When we continually believe that Christ's sacrifice, brought about our rec­onciliation with God we will be at peace with God, ourselves and those around us.  We're not at peace with ourselves or with others because we're not at peace with God.  The good news (or gospel) is that because of what happened 2,000 years, God has been, is, and will be at peace with us. All we need to do is recognize it and believe it.  It will then be imputed to us for righteousness.  

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"The Fruit of the Spirit is Peace"

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27. Having said this nearly 2000 years ago, I can only conclude that God has already given us His peace. We don’t have to look for it. We don’t have to manufacture it. When you consider that the word of Christ has inherent within it the power to create what it says (Genesis 1), God created peace in us simply by making the statement. So, let it happen, let not your heart be troubled. Let God’s strength and courage wash over you. Yield to the power of God. Back off and let Him have His way in your heart and life.

Have you ever thought about the things that bother us? Often, years after the fact, we may remember having a passionate discussion with someone, maybe with our spouse. We remember very well having the discussion, but when the question is asked about what the subject was, no one can remember! However, when a big issue arises, such as losing a job over Sabbath observance, for example, our hearts are at perfect peace. The reason for this dichotomy is our own selfishness, for when we go our own way we become de-fensive and are actually willing to defend to our spiritual death the most trivial of pursuits. On the other hand, when we are acting within God’s will, He gives us perfect peace, even during the storm. “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” Psalm 119:165. We need to let God choose our battles for us.

The world does not have true peace. So how do we obtain such a precious commodity? How do we avoid letting our hearts be troubled? How can we obtain courage and free-dom from fear? Let’s let the 1888 messengers answer this, for they say it so very well:

"Grace to you and peace from God the Father" [Galtations 1:3]—this is the word of the Lord and therefore means more than man's word. The Lord does not deal in empty compliments. His word creates, and here we have the form of the creative word.
God said, "'Let there be light'; and there was light." So here, "Let there be grace and peace to you," and so it is. God has sent grace and peace, bringing righteousness and salvation to all men—even to you, whoever you are, and to me. When you read this third verse, do not read it as a sort of complimentary phrase or mere passing salutation, but as the creative word that brings to you personally all the blessings of the peace of God. It is to us the same word that Jesus spoke to the woman: "Your sins are forgiven." "Go in peace." Luke 7:48, 50.
This grace and peace come from Christ, "who gave Himself for our sins." "Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ." Ephesians 4:7, KJV. But this grace is "the grace that is in Christ Jesus." 2 Timothy 2:1. Therefore we know that Christ Himself is given to every one of us. The fact that men live is an evidence that Christ has been given to them, for Christ is the "life," and the "life" is "the light of men." This life-light "enlightens every man." John 14:6; 1:4, 9. In Christ "all things hold together." (Colossians 1:17), and thus it is that since God "did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all," He cannot do otherwise than with Him freely "give us all things." Romans 8:32. "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness." 2 Peter 1:3. E. J. Waggoner, Glad Tidings, p 10, 11

So, what do we have to worry about? Check out 2 Corinthians 5:19, “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (emphasis added) God has nothing against you. Might we have someting against Him?

What Is peace?—Most people have the idea that it is a sort of ecstatic feeling. They think that peace with God means an indescribable heavenly feeling; and so they always look for that imaginary feeling as evidence that they are accepted with God.
But peace with God means the same thing that it means with men: it means simply the absence of war. As sinners we are enemies of God. He is not our enemy, but we are his enemies. He is not fighting against us, but we are fighting against him. How then may we have peace with him? Simply by ceasing to fight, and laying down our arms. We may have peace whenever we are ready to stop fighting.
"Peace with God."—Note that when we have peace with God we are not simply at peace with him, but we have his peace. This peace has been left on the earth for men; for the Lord has said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you." John 14:27. He has given it to us. It is ours, therefore, already. It has always been ours. The only trouble has been that we have not believed it. As soon as we believe the words of Christ, then we have in very deed the peace which he has given. And it is peace with God, because we find the peace in Christ, and Christ dwells in the bosom of the Father. John 1:18.
Peace and Righteousness.—“Great peace have they which love thy law." Ps. 119:165. "O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea." Isa. 48:18. Righteousness is peace, because our warfare against God was our sins that we cherished. God's life is righteousness, and he is the God of peace....
Peace and Feeling.—The question is asked, "Can one have peace with God and not have a feeling of peace?" What says the Scripture? "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God." What brings the peace? The faith. But faith is not feeling. If it were necessarily the case that there must be a certain feeling with peace, then if we did not have that feeling we should know that we were not justified; and then justification would be a matter of feeling, and not of faith.... Peace that depends on feeling will depart as soon as we begin to feel tribulation. But nothing can make any difference with the peace that comes by faith. "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have over-come the world." John 16:33. E. J. Waggoner, Waggoner on Romans, p93, 94. (emphasis added)
— Craig Barnes

Friday, January 15, 2010

Commentary: Giving all for the sheep.doc

Giving all for the sheep

A Brazilian evangelist, Pastor Veloso, was in the middle of what could have been his most successful evangelistic series.  It was in a stadium and thousands were attending.  Hundreds had already made decisions to get baptized.  And, they expected hundreds more to do so, possibly topping the thousand mark.  This man had had an incredible track record.  Thousands had come to the church due to his preaching.  But, it had come at a cost. 

The news came to him in the morning.  His son, Chico, had been picked up by government authorities.  Chico was hospitalized, and found with high levels of heroin in his system.  To make matters worse, Chico also had a couple of grams of heroin in his pant pockets.  The plans were to clean Chico up and send him to jail.  But, out of courtesy for Pastor Veloso, they delayed making a decision, until contacting him.  The authorities had high regards for Pastor Veloso. 

Pastor Veloso called for an emergency meeting with his staff and organizers.  They all agreed that a scandal like this could hinder his ministry.  How should they handle it?  Some suggested asking the authorities to quietly put Junior in a rehab center, citing that God's work must go on.  Others, suggested, to hold a press conference, come out in the open, that way the scandal is minimized, and the ministry is hindered less. 

A young pastor opened up his Bible to Luke 15: 4 – 24 and read, 

Luke15:4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

Luke15:5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

Luke15:6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.

Luke15:7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

Luke15:8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?

Luke15:9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.

Luke15:10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

Luke15:11 And he said, A certain man had two sons:

Luke15:12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.

Luke15:13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

Luke15:14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.

Luke15:15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

Luke15:16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

Luke15:17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

Luke15:18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

Luke15:19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

Luke15:20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

Luke15:21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.

Luke15:22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:

Luke15:23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

Luke15:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

After finishing reading, the young Pastor then asked Pastor Veloso, "The people you preach to, what are they: lost sheep, the lost coins, or the prodigal children?  How about your son?"  Pastor Veloso started to cry.  All the men in then room were dumfounded, then they looked at the young pastor and yelled at him, "Look what you've done."  Pastor Veloso then said with a loud voice, "Let him be. He's right.  If I went to reach lost sheep, I did not secure the one I had to find the others.  If I went to find lost coins, I have been cleaning everybody else's home, but mine.  Now, if my son is a prodigal son, he needs to know that I am waiting for him, and I need to actually wait for him."  Pastor Veloso resigned that same day, to save his son. 

Pastor Veloso's son eventually cleaned up, gave up drugs and gave his life to Christ.  He said, "My Dad gave up everything for me, just as Christ gave up everything for us.  Just the thought of that and that heaven rejoiced when I gave myself to Christ makes me rejoice.  I wonder if heaven rejoiced also when my Dad chose to give up all for me." 

Raul Diaz

Friday, January 08, 2010

Commentary: For God all is possible.doc

For God all is possible


A child was told that if she jumped over the puddle she could have the lollypop.  In order to make it more appealing to her the lollipop was placed at the other end of the puddle.  It was a pretty big puddle, she was small.  She was told she could not walk in the puddle, she could not get wet.  She looked at the lollipop with longing.  But, when she looked at the puddle she thought it was an impossible feat. She looked down and tears came down her face. 


At that moment the person challenging her approached her and asked her, "What's wrong?" She could barely speak while crying, "You made it hard for me?"  "It's not hard for me, I can probably just walk over it," the person answered.  "But, you are big. It's not fair," the child answered.  "Well you are right, it is not fair.  How about I help you?"  Her face lit up and she cried out with excitement, "You can bring me the lollipop?"  The person replied, "No I cannot do that, that's breaking the rules.  But, How about I help you jump the puddle; if you want?"  The girl looked puzzled, "how can you do that?" she asked.  When you jump I will grab you and carry you through."  The girl lit up again, and then looked puzzled again.  "But, then you will get wet?" she asked.  "Well, yes, that is true.  But, the rule is for you not to get wet, not me."


So the young girl jumped as high as she could, the person grabbed her, and walked her through the puddle, without her getting wet.  And, she was able to get her lollipop.  What was impossible for her, the bigger person made possible.  Can we love as God loves?  That is jumping the puddle for us.  And, we probably will not only get wet, we will drown trying. 


We cannot love like God because we are no longer like God, Paul says in Romans 3: 10 – 12,


Romans 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

Romans 3:11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

Romans 3:12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.


Paul says in Galatians 5:17 that our "… flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."  So, instead we do the works of the flesh (Galatians 5: 19 -21).  Which are the same kinds of things that 1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 8 say that love is not.  Things the Law condemns.  But, Paul says that there is hope for us.  He tells the Galatians, as well as us, "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16) and that "… if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law (Galatians 5:18).  Those in whom the Spirit dwells are led by the Spirit.  When the Spirit dwells in them, He brings with Him gifts and His fruit.  The first facet of His fruit is love (agape).  Against love, and all other facets of His fruit, there is no law. 


It is then the Spirit that helps us "jump the puddle" of impossibility.  Being that the Holy Spirit is God, what Christ told the disciples about God applies to Him, "… With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26).  On our own we cannot love as God loves.  But, Through Christ's strength we can do all things (Philippians 4:13).  Christ strength is ours through the indwelling Holy Spirit.  We can love as God loves through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Raul Diaz

Friday, January 01, 2010

Commentary: Fruit After Its Kind

Fruit After Its Kind


Our lesson tells this amusing story.  Two young boys were using a fruit tree to climb out of their second-story bedroom window and go to the swimming hole without their parents' permission. One day they heard their father say he was going to cut the tree down because it was dead. Fearing they would lose their escape route, they went to the store and bought artificial apples, which they tied to the branches of the dead tree. The next morning their father expressed amazement that apples seemed to have grown overnight, especially since the tree was a pear tree!

A tree, plant, vine or brush, can only yield fruit after its own kind.  This is the way God designed it.  We know this from Genesis 1:  11 – 13


Genesis 1

11And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

12And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

13And the evening and the morning were the third day.


This is also true within species.  A tree of one variation of the fruit will not yield another variation.  A Pastor was sent as a missionary to Africa.  The house he was assigned had a little bit of land.  On this land there was an orange tree.  The oranges looked good, but were very bitter of taste.  The Pastor thought that maybe the tree needed nurture, so he dunged (fertilized) the tree.  But, the next year's crop was as bitter as before.  His son thought that maybe the tree needed sugar, to sweeten the oranges.  So the Pastor put sugar in the soil.  The next year's crop was still very bitter.  No doubt the tree was a bitter orange tree.  This could not be changed.  It was the tree's nature.  As the Bible says, 'For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush' (Luke 6:43, 44, NKJV).


Our nature will be revealed by the fruit we yield.   We cannot escape that.  And, we cannot change our nature. That is the bad good.  The good news is that God can change our nature if only we let Him.  He can make "our apple tree" bear oranges.  And, He can make our "bitter oranges tree" yield sweet oranges.  We are by nature sinners, therefore we Sin.  But, God can transform us into righteous beings.  However, for this we must abide in Him.  This is what Christ is advising is in this parable in John 15: 1 - 10


John 15

 1I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

 2Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

 3Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

 4Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

 5I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

 6If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

 7If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

 8Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

 9As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.

 10If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.


Ellen White concludes in the following quote,


" 'By their fruits ye shall know them' (Matthew 7:20), the Saviour declared. All the true followers of Christ bear fruit to His glory. Their lives testify that a good work has been wrought in them by the Spirit of God, and their fruit is unto holiness. Their lives are elevated and pure. Right actions are the unmistakable fruit of true godliness, and those who bear no fruit of this kind reveal that they have no experience in the things of God. They are not in the Vine. Said Jesus, 'Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the Vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.'' John 15:4, 5."—Ellen G. White, Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p. 329.


My prayer is that we allow God to abide in us and that we continue abiding in Him. 

Raul Diaz