Thursday, December 30, 2010

Someone is watching

Someone is watching

There is an advertisement on TV in which one person decides to perform an act of kindness toward someone else.  Unbeknownst to him, a woman observes him and is inspired to eventually perform an act of kindness herself.  Someone observed this woman and the cycle continues.  The message is clear: you never know who is looking and how you impact them. 

An older man approached a young man, asking "Are you a Seventh Day Adventist?  It is very nice to see young men going to church."  Now this happened on a weekday.  The young man was puzzled.  He asked the old man, "Sir, with all due respect, how do you know I go to church. I don't know you and never seen you before. And how do you suppose I am a Seventh Day Adventist? " The old man laughed and said, "As I sit by my wiondow every Saturday morning, I have seen you dressed up in your suit with your Bible in hand.  I figure if he goes to church on Saturdays he must be a Seventh Day Adventist."  The young man had walk pass this old man's house without even knowing someone was watching.

It seems this was the case of the man in Mark 10 who came running to Jesus.    Jesus had been blessing the children and their mothers in Mark 10: 13 - 16

Mark 10:13 And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.
Mark 10:14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
Mark 10:15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.
Mark 10:16 And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

Then we read in verse 17, 

Mark 10:17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

Most of us know the unfortunate ending to the story.  What we do not know is what Ellen White says inspired this man to run to Jesus, kneel down and ask Jesus the question. 

At first the rich young ruler was just observing the scene of the disciples, mothers, and children. But the tenderness Jesus showed with the children and mothers touched his heart. "He saw the love that Christ manifested toward the children brought to Him; he saw how tenderly He received them, and took them up in His arms, and his heart kindled with love for the Saviour. He felt a desire to be His disciple. He was so deeply moved that as Christ was going on His way, he ran after Him."—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 518.

Note the young ruler's response when His emotions were touched; he ran, and, the important man that he was, he knelt, asking what he needed to do to inherit eternal life.  

There is another story in which Jesus was the one observing: the widow with her two mites.  We read her story in Luke 21:  2 – 4,

Luke21:2 And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.
Luke21:3 And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all:
Luke21:4 For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.

Little did she know that someone had been observing her and her story would be recorded and two thousand years later people would talk about her?  How many may have been inspired to give what ever little they had to the Lord's cause.  Is someone watching you?  Will they be inspired to follow Jesus?

Raul Diaz

Friday, December 24, 2010

Commentary: Earthen vessels

Earthen vessels

When we talk about Containers we may refer to Items used to contain, store, protect, preserve and transport products.  Some obvious examples are: Cartons, Bottles, Cans, etc.  Some containers are used for Shipping; they include (among others): Crates, Wooden boxes, and corrugated boxes made of corrugated fiberboard.  Perhaps one of the most popular containers in the USA is the Food storage container. 

Bags are also containers.  There some are made for many applications and made put of many materials.  And, such is also the case with the above mentioned boxes. 

The vase is an open container, often used to hold cut flowers. It can be made from a number of materials including ceramics and glass. The vase is often decorated and thus used to extend the beauty of its contents.  Some vases look like what would have been in the past an earthen vessel.  Now, a vessel is a hollow or concave utensil, as a cup, bowl, pitcher, or vase, used for holding liquids or other contents.    The term earthen refers to what they are made of: compressed earth (as in some dams), or baked or fired clay.  So, an earthen vessel is a cask or utensil proper for holding liquors and other things, as a tun, a pipe, a puncheon, a hogshead, a barrel, a firkin, a bottle, a kettle, a cup, a dish, etc.

In Jeremiah 32, we find a mention of earthen vessels.  God tells Jeremiah to buy a lot of land, and register the purchase.   Let us read the passage,

Jeremiah 32: 10 And I subscribed the evidence, and sealed it, and took witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances.

Jeremiah 32: 11 So I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open:

Jeremiah 32: 12 And I gave the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, in the sight of Hanameel mine uncle's son, and in the presence of the witnesses that subscribed the book of the purchase, before all the Jews that sat in the court of the prison.

Jeremiah 32: 13 And I charged Baruch before them, saying,

Jeremiah 32: 14 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Take these evidences, this evidence of the purchase, both which is sealed, and this evidence which is open; and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days.

This seemed like an exercise in futility being that the land would be conquered, destroyed and uninhabited shortly thereafter.  But, it was a way of God letting the Jews knows that, "Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land" (Jeremiah 32: 15).  So, the evidence of the purchase was put in an earthen vessel to preserve it. 

 This act was symbolic of the Gospel.  In the Bible the term vessel can refer to people.  Some examples are terms such as: Vessels of wrath, Vessels of mercy, and Chosen vessels.  The term earthen can refer to us also, since we are made out of the earth. 

Just as Jeremiah purchased the land, Christ bought us with His blood (Revelation 5:9).  Jeremiah sealed the scrolls that were evidence of the transaction.  Paul states in 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 that He has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.   He follows in Ephesians 1:13-15, "… you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory."

So, we - the purchased earthen vessels - contain the sealed evidence – the invoice and the deed - of Christ purchase for us.  Vessels can't do anything; it can however receive what is put into it and it is this that it can dispense; however the work is done by the One using the vessel.  Let us then allow Christ to use us as His vessels. Let us receive what he puts in us – His Holy Spirit (His Word) - so that we may dispense that to others. 





Friday, December 17, 2010

Commentary: Christ our Pivot

Christ our Pivot

This week we will study what balance is and how it is achieved.  Following are the definitions of balance: stability produced by even distribution of weight on each side of the vertical axis.  As a noun it means, a state of equilibrium or equipoise; equal distribution of weight, amount, etc. As a verb (used with object) it means to bring to or hold in equilibrium; poise. And, as a verb (used without object) it means to have an equality or equivalence in weight, parts, etc.; be in equilibrium. 

The key to create balance is to find the objects center of gravity (CG).   This is the place form where if the object is suspended or supported then its weight will be evenly distributed so it will not tilt and fall.  Because, the uneven object will weigh more on one side than the other, the side that weighs more will be affected more by gravity's pull and fall.  For An object with uniform weight distribution the center of gravity is in the center or middle.  But, if an object does not have a uniform weight distribution then the center of gravity will be closer to where most of the weight is located.  For example, the center of gravity for a hammer is located close to the head.  If we are talking about a person, the center of gravity may or may not be the waist area. 

You can find the center of gravity of an object by suspending the object or supporting it.  When you support the object the center of gravity also has to be your pivotal point.   An object will balance on a pivot point when the CG is exactly above or below that pivot point.  If the pivot is below the CG then the balance is unstable; any slight rotation causes the object to tip and fall off the pivot.  If the pivot is above the CG then the balance is stable and a slight rotation makes the object just swing back and forth. 

There is an implication that has not been mentioned: whatever is holding the object in place (the pivot) is bearing all the weight.  This has implications not only for objects but for dancers, gymnasts, tumblers, etc.  Dancer one must hold dancers two's body in the right spot.  Dancer one must be able to bear dancer two's weight, even when dancer 1 is holding dancer two in a small area of the body. 

Does this have spiritual implications?  Yes, it does.  If we are to find balance in life, we must let Christ be our pivot.  This means we must let him hold us from our spiritual center of gravity.  Where He holds us, now becomes our new pivotal point.  This may not feel comfortable to us. In fact this point may not be by our spiritual waist.  You need to trust that wherever He holds you, is your center of gravity.  But, in time we will be amazed of how much freedom it gives us.  We can "rotate" or "rock side to side or back and forth" without falling.  Yes, you are limited in a sense: you have this freedom – and graceful movements - as long as you remain supported by Christ.  No other pivot support can give you that grace and freedom.  All of this means, of course, that Christ bears all our spiritual weight. 

How does this tie in to our lesson?  In Thursday lesson the author pointed out and asked, "We need to recount and remember God's dealing with us in the past. But at the same time, we need to be careful about dwelling on what happened in the past, at the expense of living correctly in the present. How do we strike a right balance here? How can dwelling too much on the past negatively influence our walk with the Lord today?"  Similar questions have been asked about faith and works: how do we balance them.  The answer to both questions is the same.  You put all your spiritual weight on Christ and allow Him to support you by your spiritual center of gravity.   Then you will discover the perfect balance between faith and works (that in fact faith yields works) and you will discover the perfect balance between "the need to recount and remember God's dealing with us in the past" without having to worry about being stuck in the past and not living the present. 

Can Christ support us?  Can He bear all our spiritual weight?  The Bible says so.  We read in Isaiah that God has laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53: 6).   Just a few verses down Isaiah wrote that Christ will justify many, "for he shall bear their iniquities" (Isaiah 53: 11).   It is no wonder that Christ called Himself, quoting David, the "chief cornerstone" (Psalms 118: 22-23; Matthew 21: 42 – 43).  Isaiah and Paul also call Christ by this name (Isaiah 28:16; Ephesians 2:20). 

In ancient times the cornerstone was the stone at the corner of two walls that united them. The Cornerstone was the place where the building was joined and also the place where it rested.  It was the visible corner of the foundation of the building and the starting point of all future building above the foundation. It was the most costly stone because of its beauty and strength. It was also the largest, most solid and carefully constructed stone.  To cast aside the cornerstone would be to resist any future building on that foundation. 

To cast aside Jesus as your chief cornerstone or spiritual weight bearer (pivot) means not having balance.  You carry the weight yourself and add even more to your burden.  Which also means you find no rest (Matthew 11: 28 -30).  The final question is: will you trust the Lord to be you pivot?  To bear your spiritual weight? 



Friday, December 10, 2010

Commentary: The Chosen Ones

The Chosen Ones

The story of Zarepath is interesting because it contains an ironic twist of providence. The Lord often does things in an unexpected way, and chooses those whom we would never consider.  What are His reasons for choosing?  Are those He chooses more holy or sincere than others? Let us see.  In I Kings 17 1-9, we have God reminding the Israelites not to mix with pagans nor adopt their practices.  But of course they are stubborn and go their own way.  So the Lord reprimands them through the prophet Elijah, by pronouncing a 3 year famine on the land. To preserve Elijah's life, the Lord sends him to the land of Zarepath in Sidon, to a widow.  Talk about irony.  Why was the Sidonite chosen for this task? Why not an Israelite widow?  Why does God choose those whom He does?   Follwing we will see a story of another unlikely choice: the shepherds at Jesus birth. 

One year during mid December, a national Christian radio network changed all of its normal programming to Christmas music.  Alongside the Christmas songs played, were vignettes focusing on the meaning of Christmas from a Christian perspective. After one of the vignettes, the announcers and studio audience were reminiscing about their past Christmases each recounting their favorite memories, when someone mentioned watching the animated Christmas TV special of the Peanut cartoon, in which one of the characters asked the question, "What is the meaning of Christmas?" For an animated cartoon, the character's response was enlightening; stepping forward, he, Linus, responded with a recitation of the Angel's dialogue with the shepherds in Luke 2:10-14 -- 

Luke 2:10 … behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2:12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Luke 2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

If you recall, Luke said that the shepherds had been "… in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid" (Luke 2:8 – 9).  The Shepherds were chosen to witness the birth of the Messiah so they could be the bearer's of Good tidings to those in their country (Luke 2:17).  And they were chosen because, as Ellen G. White says, through the silent hours of the night the shepherds kept their watch as they talked together of the promised Saviour and prayed for the coming of the King to David's throne (The Desire of Ages, p. 47). In other words they were considering, talking about and praying for God's promised Messiah. (Italics were added by authors.)

Both the scripture and Ellen White indicate that the shepherds were actively expecting the Messiah, while most others were distracted and unconcerned about spiritual things.  Unbeknownst to them, their hearts were hardened by traditions, formalism and legalism.    

A similar reason is given for the choosing of the Widow of Zarepath as a refuge for the Prophet Elijah.  Christ says in Luke 4:23–27 that Elijah was without honor in Israel .  The Lord sent Elijah away from Israel to a pagan land to find safety there. 

Ellen G. White says the prophets or servants whom God had chosen for a special work, "were not allowed to labor for a hardhearted and unbelieving people. But those with hearts to feel and faith to believe were especially favored with evidences of His power…. In the days of Elijah, Israel had departed from God, clinging to their sins, they rejected the Holy Spirit's warnings through His messengers. Thus they cut themselves off from the channel by which God's blessing could come to them.  This is why the Lord passed by the homes of Israel , and found a refuge for His servant in a heathen land, with a woman who did not belong to the chosen people. But this woman was favored because she had followed the light she had received, and her heart was open to the greater light that God sent her through His prophet" (The Desire of Ages, p. 238).

We can conclude, thus, that in each case the chosen are those who are eagerly and humbly listening to the Lord, and who are willing to follow what He says.  They may not be the ones we would expect; however, they are the most willing.  Are you willing?  Are you listening?  

Raul Diaz

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Commentary: Are we affair proof?

The Commentary for this week was originally published Friday, September 28, 2007.  It was based on the events that led to the apostasy which "the man of God" rebuked.  The Priests fled from Israel to Judah, thus showing their commitment to God.   But, generations later they conspired to kill the Man in whose sanctuary they served.  The idea is that, unless prevented, we can allow our loyalty to switch from one object of affection to another swiftly and imperceptibly.  For the most part, only in the passing of time will it be obvious. 


Are we affair proof?


Jeroboam was the first king of Israel, after the nation divided in two kingdoms. Fearing the people of his new kingdom would ally themselves with Judah when they went to worship there, he decided to create a worship system just for his new kingdoms. As we read in 1 Kings 12: 28-30.

1 Kings 12: 28 Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
1 Kings 12: 29 And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan.
1 Kings 12: 30 And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.

He built two golden calves so people would worship them in Israel. He then proceeded to elect new priests for his new religion. This was a hindrance to Israel of course. In 2 Chronicles 11:13-16 we read what happened to the priests that lived in Israel.

2 Chronicles 11:13 And the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their coasts.
2 Chronicles 11:14 For the Levites left their suburbs and their possession, and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off from executing the priest's office unto the LORD:
2 Chronicles 11:15 And he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made.
2 Chronicles 11:16 And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the LORD God of their fathers.

Jerobaoam's choosing of new priests, meant that the Levitical priests of Israel in were virtually ostracized. Because of this they migrated to Judah, to worship Jehovah.

Hundreds of years later, the priests were far from there predecessors. While they continued to work in the temple services, their hearts were far from God. No longer tempted with pagan God's, they now worshiped money and reason. You see, a great number of them were Sadducees. They did not believe in resurrections or miracles, and probably did not believe that God speaks to man; hence, their skeptical stance toward Jesus - a miracle worker who preached resurrection and claimed that God spoke to Him (Desire of Ages 603-604). This would explain Zechariah's – John the Baptist's father – doubting the angel. Yes, he was a man that feared God; however it is possible that Zechariah had adopted some of the Sadducees' beliefs.

How could a group of people that were once so faithful to God, generations later, while still claiming to love God, kill his Son? The answer is that they switched their loyalty from God to self. While they did not play the harlot with pagan Gods, they played the harlot with gods of their own creation. They flirted with Greek philosophy and thinking. They found themselves liking the company of the Greek theories, and chose to spend more time with them than with God. The Greek system was more pleasing to their senses than was having faith in God. After a while, God's system of delayed gratification did not please the flesh as did the world's system of gratifying the flesh here and now. So much that eventually they started to believe it was impossible to deny the flesh its wants. In other words, they believed a life without Sin is impossible, and thus the sacrificial system was needed to cover for man's inability of keeping God's Law. While they were not as strict as the Pharisees, they created another form of legalism, albeit subtle. You were OK with God as long as you sacrificed an animal.

Jesus stood against all of the Sadducees beliefs. A Man in every way as they were that lived without sinning, and performing miracles they claimed could not happen (Hebrews 4:15; Desire of Ages, 537-538).

If this sounds vaguely familiar it is because it is very near to our modern belief. We do not sacrifice animals. But, we have created other requirements to support our theistic and almost existentialist form of Christianity. As the wise man said, "There is no new thing under the Sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Likewise Jesus still stands against us and our beliefs. A Man in every way as we are that lived without sinning, and performing miracles we claim cannot happen. We may not see Jesus in person, but we see how the hearts of men are miraculously transformed after they give their lives to Jesus. They are converted through the work of the Holy Spirit. From proud and arrogant, they become humble and sensitive. From uncouth they become refined. From selfish, braggarts, and self–centered they become God praising and generous.  In time there will be a contrast between those who converted and those not converted.  The Apostle Paul gives us this contrast in Galatians 5: 19 - 23, let us read,

Galatians 5: 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
Galatians 5: 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
Galatians 5: 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Galatians 5: 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

The Holy Spirit transforms you into a new creature, if you allow Him. This process, by the way, is what keeps you loyal to God.  It is the Holy Spirit that does this, if you let Him.  The moment you block His work in you is the moment you are disloyal. 

Raul Diaz