Friday, January 28, 2011

Commentary: Guilt



Guilt has two definitions.  One is the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law; culpability.  The other is a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.  A sense of guilt is one of the most painful and incapacitating emotional experiences. It may cause shame, fear, sorrow, anger, distress, and even physical illness.   Sometimes it makes us act irrationally.  We find an example in our quarterly. 


Our quarterly states that Madame Mao, the wife of the former leader of Communist China, Mao Tse-Tung, lived in constant fear and guilt, all because of many of the bad things she had done. She was so paranoid, in fact, so full of guilt, that any sudden noises, any unexpected sounds, would send her into cold sweats or into a fury. It got so bad that she demanded that her staff keep birds away from her compound so she didn't have to hear them singing.  Can you imagine: not wanting to hear birds sing?  Though an extreme case, what does this tell us about the power of guilt to ruin our lives?  


You can see something similar in Adam and Eve.  After they fell, God came looking for them.  He already warned them of the consequences of eating the forbidden fruit, "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" (Genesis 2:17).  Imagine yourself in their situation: you did exactly what your father told you not to do, less you die.  What would you think he is going to do to you when he discovers what you did?  He is going to kill you.  Let us read to what happened to Adam and Eve when they sinned.

Genesis 3:7 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.

Genesis 3:8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.


Ellen White tells us how the erring couple felt everything changed,

The air, which had hitherto been of a mild and uniform temperature, seemed to chill the guilty pair. The love and peace which had been theirs was gone, and in its place they felt a sense of sin, a dread of the future, a nakedness of soul. The robe of light which had enshrouded them, now disappeared, and to supply its place they endeavored to fashion for themselves a covering; for they could not, while unclothed, meet the eye of God and holy angels (Patriarchs and Prophets (PP), page 57).


The made a mess, they realized it and they tried to fix it themselves.  The sad part is that before the fall, in their innocence and holiness, when the divine presence was manifested in the garden they had joyfully welcomed the approach of their Creator; but now they fled in terror, and sought to hide in the deepest recesses of the garden (PP 57).  What used to be a pleasure now was the source of fear.   When they heard the Lord's voice they ran away from Him and found a place to hide; they probably thought, "Our executioner is coming."   Did the Lord come to kill them?  His actions prove otherwise.  He came to make mend what was broken.  He came to heal what was injured.  He even covered their nakedness. 


How do we feel when we hear birds singing?  Do we find pleasure in their singing?  Do we hear them as if Christ is trying to get our attention through them?  How do we feel when we hear the Lord calling?  Do we find pleasure in it?  Or do we run and hide from Him?

Raul Diaz

Friday, January 21, 2011

Commentary: Forgiveness, Love and Gratitude

Forgiveness, Love and Gratitude

Matthew, Luke and John tell the story of the anointing of Jesus.
Apparently, a Pharisee called Simon wanted Jesus to have dinner at his
house. Jesus obliged him and went with His disciples. Jesus had
healed this Pharisee of leprosy. So, the dinner was a token of
gratitude. A woman if ill repute - whose name was Mary - walks in the
house uninvited. She brought with her an alabaster box filled with
spikenard ointment. She broke the box and poured the ointment over
Jesus. As she was crying, her tears fell on Jesus' feet, she in turn
dried his feet with her hair. Jesus had healed this woman of demon
possession seven times. This was a demonstration of heartfelt
appreciation. This incident was considered scandalous by most in the
house, including the host. With disdain and indignation Simon thought
to himself, "This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and
what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner"
(Luke 7:39). By the way, Sister White says it was Simon who drew this
woman - his niece- to sin. Luke then relates how Jesus responded to
Simon. Let us read from Luke 7:40 - 47,

Luke7:40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to
say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.
Luke7:41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one
owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
Luke7:42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them
both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
Luke7:43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he
forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
Luke7:44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou
this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my
feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the
hairs of her head.
Luke7:45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came
in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
Luke7:46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath
anointed my feet with ointment.
Luke7:47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are
forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same
loveth little.

The word translated from the Greek as forgiveness in verses 42 and 43
is charizomai. It is the same word used in verse 21 referring to the
fact that Christ gave (charizomai) sight to the blind. The word can
be defined as to extend favor, to give a gift, to pardon, to restore.
The debt of the debtors had been canceled. The creditor took a loss
to do this. It was a gift. And, giving always comes at a loss to the
giver. The point Jesus was making to Simon is that the one that whose
debt was greater received the larger gift, therefore was more grateful
than the other. Did Jesus really forgive Simon more than Mary? Was
Simon's sin greater than Mary's? Was the gift to Simon really larger?
They were both sinners in need of a Savior. Both received grace from
God. Therefore, Simon should have been more grateful than he showed
to be.

How much have we been forgiven? Because of the fall, we are all
deserving of death. But, John 3:16 says that,

John3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten
Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have
everlasting life.

Because God loves us, instead of what we deserve God gives us a gift:
His Son. The cost of the gift is too immense to put in numbers. God
paid for it. Because of this gift of His Son we can now be called His
children. Jiohn says in 1 John 3:1,

1 John 3:1 "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed
upon us, that we should be called the sons of God ..."

This verse stresses that in Jesus we are already God's children. God
has taken the initiative to do this for us. The new birth is His work,
not ours. We can bring about neither our own birth nor our adoption as
God's children. Given the size of the universe in contrast to our
planet, much less to each of us individually, how can we not be
astonished that the God who created all this loves us and has made us
His children? What a wonderful perspective this should give us on what
our lives mean! What hope, what assurance, what confidence we should
have for the future, regardless of whatever difficult circumstances we
now face? God, the Creator of all that is, loves us, cares for us, and
calls us His children. Dwell on the implications of the notion that
not only does God exist but He loves us, cares for us, and even died
for us. How should this reality impact how we live?

If we are like Simon, we will host a little get together pot-lock to
honor Jesus. One dinner should be sufficient to thank he who loves us
so much He died the death we deserved. If, in contrast, we are like
Mary we will give everything we have in order to continually thank
Him. Our gratitude shows how much we love, which in turn shows how
much we believe to be forgiven. Do we live grateful lives? How
grateful are we that God has in Jesus restored us as His children?
Will we gratefully let Him - through the work of His indwelling Spirit
- transform us into the likeness of His Son?
Raul Diaz

Friday, January 14, 2011

Commentary: Stress and Sin

Stress and Sin


Although stress touches everyone, Stress is something that most know what it is, but cannot define.  It is something most experience but cannot put into words.  When talking about stress it is assumed that the other person understands.  Especially, if we believe that the person's circumstance is similar to ours. 


The word Stress has different meanings.  In linguistics it basically means emphasis.  In Physics it means: 1. an applied force or system of forces that tends to strain or deform a body; 2. the internal resistance of a body to such an applied force or system of forces.  This last definition has been appropriated how humans feel about the toils and burdens of life.  It is defined as: 1. a mentally or emotionally disruptive or upsetting condition occurring in response to adverse external influences and capable of affecting physical health, usually characterized by increased heart rate, a rise in blood pressure, muscular tension, irritability, and depression; 2. a stimulus or circumstance causing such a condition.    

For most of us, however, it is not one adverse circumstance, but the summation of all of life's demands.  What causes stress is the long to do list and our attempt to do it all by ourselves.    Demands at work, family crises, guilt, uncertainty about the future, dissatisfaction with the past—these all are hard enough. All this, along with the general events of life, can put enough pressure on people that it affects their physical and mental health. Researchers Thomas H. Holmes and Richard H. Rahe developed the social readjustment rating scale, which lists life events with corresponding stress values for each: the death of spouse—100; personal injury or illness—53; change in residence—20; etc. A person accumulating 200 or more points at any given time runs a 50 percent chance of becoming ill; someone accruing 300 or more will reach a point of crisis. Moderate amounts of stress are necessary to increase performance, but beyond a point stress becomes a health hazard.  You can see how if you have so much going on in your life that regular events in life add up to close to two hundred, the death of your spouse can drive you over the crisis edge.  Even a 20 point event can make you vulnerable to diseases. 


Most of us know this, and if not it makes sense when you first hear it.  But, what most of us fail to see is that unhealthy amounts of stress is Sin.  It is hard for us to make the connection. 


In Matthew 6: 25 - 34 Christ told His listeners that the pursuit of acquiring money should not be their priority.  "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 shall ye put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment" (Matthew 6: 25)?"  In the Greek the word for thought is merimnao.  This is the same word Jesus used to rebuke Martha in Luke 10:41,


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


Peter used merimna in 1 Peter 5:7,


1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.


Merimna is the same word Christ used in the parable of the sower in Matthew 13: 22 to describe those receive the seed among the thorns.  Among other things, the cares of the world choke the Word away.  The stress or worry about providing the basic things of life keep us, according to Christ, from seeking "… first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness."  The whole point of Christ's discourse in Matthew 6 is to assure His listener that as the Father provides for lesser creatures much more He will provide for us. Hence, the promise: "… and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).  Can we trust Christ?  Peter says we can.  He says that Christ cares for us.  Worry and stress come when we doubt The Lord's Word.  Ellen White says that "To worry is to doubt; but we would impress upon all the necessity of going to God for help, whatever may be your afflictions and troubles" (E. G. White, Signs of the Times, Aug. 28, 1893). And we are warned to "refuse to worry about what you cannot help" (the Upward Look, p. 142). We can conclude that Doubt and worry do not come from faith and whatever is not of faith is sin.


One wise writer wrote about this,


"Christ exhorts us not to be anxious in regard to what we shall eat, drink, and wear, significantly adding, 'For your heavenly Father knows that he had need of these things.' So long as he remembers it, what need have we to fear? Then the Lord says: 'But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you' (Matt. 6:30-33). In the face of this promise, whoever spends time worrying or fretting shows his disbelief in God" ("The Honor Due to God No. 6," Signs of the Times, Sept. 6, 1883).


Disbelief in God is sin, and does not spring from faith. "For whatever is not from faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23). Does this mean we need to repent when worrying and entertaining stress? Yes, absolutely. Faith has nothing in common with either of them.  The good thing is that Christ is willing to give us rest from stress and worrying.  He invites us all to "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28, NIV).  Let us accept His invitation. 


Raul Diaz

Friday, January 07, 2011

Commentary: Trust versus Confidence

Trust versus Confidence


According to the dictionary the word trust is defined as: reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence; Confident expectation of something; hope.  The following words are synonyms of trust:  certainty, belief, faith, Trust, assurance, confidence.  All these words imply a feeling of security. However, trust implies instinctive unquestioning belief in and reliance upon something.  Assurance implies absolute confidence and certainty.  Confidence implies conscious trust because of good reasons, definite evidence, or past. 


Which of the three does God wants from us?  Does God want from us an unquestioning, blind, implicit trust?  This would make us virtual robots and, God made us to use reason and discernment.  Does God want us to have a trust that it's based on evidence and experience?  


Confidence is generally described as a state of being certain either that a hypothesis or prediction is correct or that a chosen course of action is the best or most effective.  This would imply reproducibility and repeatability.  For example, I am certain because time and time again I have had the same outcome. 


Now, certainty can be defined as either (a) perfect knowledge that has total security from error, or (b) the mental state of being without doubt; something that is certain; the quality or state of being certain especially on the basis of evidence; assured in mind or action.  Objectively defined, certainty is total continuity and validity of all foundational inquiry, to the highest degree of precision. Something is certain only if no skepticism can occur.  Certainty comes from Vulgar Latin certanus, which in turn comes from certus, the past participle of cernere, which means to sift, discern, and decide; akin to Greek krinein to separate, decide, judge.  (Cernere is the same word from which we get the verb to discern.)  So, you study the evidence and separate what is good from what is bad.


In terms of our relationship with God and based on the above definition confidence is a better word than trust.  Has God given us enough evidence for us to have confidence in Him?  Has He given us proof that beyond a shadow of a doubt that we can believe His Word?  And, if this is true then what is the implication?  In other words, what does it mean to and for us?  How will our belief that God has given us enough evidence that He is good and loving be displayed in our life? 

We see one example is John 14: 1,


John14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.


In the Greek the word believe as used in this text is pisteuĊ.  This word not only means to be or to think to be true, or place confidence in, but also to be persuaded of.  To be persuaded means to make somebody believe something, especially by giving good reasons for doing so.  There is a change of mind because the evidence presented is certain beyond the shadow of a doubt.  And, since it is certain, then we can have confidence that it will produce that which it promised it would, hence we can wait for it to be fulfilled.  Hence, we have no need of worrying or being troubled.  Can we say this of God?  If the answer is yes, then we have no need of being troubled because God has provided, is providing and will provide for us.  God is taking care of us. 


As we get to know God we realize what He says in Isaiah 41:10 is true.  Let us read the text,


Isaiah 41:10 "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."


Jesus said to the disciples to consider the evidence in nature.  Let us read Matthew 6:26 – 30,


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 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

Matthew 6:29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

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?


So we can be confident that God will take care of us no matter what the circumstance we are in.  Therefore there is no need to be troubled, anxious or worried.  As the Hymn says, "Be not dismayed whate'er betide, God will take care of you."

Raul Diaz