Friday, February 25, 2011

Commentary: Johnny Lingo and the Ten Cow Wife

Johnny Lingo and the Ten Cow Wife

Johnny Lingo wanted to get married.  So, he went to the his native Island of Kiniwata to find a wife.  Now, the custom of his people was to trade in cows (a precious commodity there) for the bride.  Typically two or three cows would buy a fair-to-middling wife, four or five a highly satisfactory one. Johnny Lingo traded ten for his (some renditions of the story say eight cows).   Everyone thought Johnny Lingo was crazy.   In the eyes of Kiniwatans, Sarita – Johnny's bride - was barely worth one cow.  A local man described her in these words,

"It would be kindness to call her plain. She was little and skinny with no--ah--endowments. She walked with her shoulders hunched and her head ducked, as if she was trying to hide behind herself. Her cheeks had no color, her eyes never opened beyond a slit and her hair was a tangled mop half over her face. She was scared of her own shadow, frightened by her own voice. She was afraid to laugh in public. She never romped with the girls, so how could she attract the boys?"


No one knew of Johnny and Sarita since the nuptials.  A young man, who was also interested in getting married, was told the story.  Intrigued by the story and with time in his hands he decided to find out by himself.  He sailed to Narabundi where Johnny and Sarita lived.  He found Johnny and related to Johnny the reason for his visit.  Johnny confirmed the story.  As they talked one of the most beautiful and elegant women he had ever seen walked in the room with flowers.  He described her with the following words,


"And then I saw her. Through the glass-beaded portieres that simmered in the archway, I watched her enter the adjoining room to place a bowl of blossoms on the dining table. She stood still a moment to smile with sweet gravity at the young man beside me. Then she went swiftly out again. She was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Not with the beauty of the girl who carries fruit. That now seemed cheap, common, earthbound. This girl had an ethereal loveliness that was at the same time from the heart of nature. The dew-fresh flowers with which she'd pinned back her lustrous black hair accented the glow of her cheeks. The lift of her shoulders, the tilt of her chin, the sparkle of her eyes all spelled a dignity to which no one could deny her the right. And as she turned to leave she moved with the grace that made her look like a queen who might, with enchantment, turn into a kitten."

Before the man could say anything, Johnny said "This is my Sarita.  My ten cow wife.  She has changed a lot.  Part of which is the result of knowing she is a ten cow wife.  She has no need to worry when other women compare themselves by how much they cost.  She cost more than any of them.  To many she was not worth one cow and she believed that also.  But, I loved her and not any other.  I wanted to marry her.  You see, I always wanted a ten cow wife." 

The issue was not whether Sarita was intrinsically worth the ten cows; the issue was that Sarita was worth ten cows to Johnny.  Christ's church is His bride.  Paul says that "…ye are bought with a price…" (1Corinthians 6:20).  Is she intrinsically worth the price Christ paid for her?  Not really.  Revelation 3: 15 – 17 tells us our true condition,

Revelation 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

Revelation 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Revelation 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

The Psalmist says "For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust" (Psalm 103:14). 

There is nothing in us worth pursuing.  But, Christ pursued us anyway. Why? God loves us.  God's special love, agape, is not created by the value of its object. Since God is love, God loved His creation, and in love created value in it. Humans pervert God's love because we are born self-centered. We generally have trouble loving ugly or disagreeable people. We call them "unlovely."  But, we are all unlovely.  God loves us anyway.  How much did God love? We see in John 3:16, "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." 

How did Christ pay for His bride?  Peter gives us the answer,

1Peter 1:18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;

1Peter 1:19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

 The verb to redeem means to buy or pay off; clear by payment, to buy back.  Christ bought us with the price of His blood.  Sarita seemed grateful to Johnny and it showed.  Are we grateful to God for the price He paid for us? 

Raul Diaz

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Resilience of a Sponge

The Resilience of a Sponge

The definition of resilience is the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress.  In other words, the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched.  Elasticity and buoyancy are synonyms to resilience.  Resilience originates from the Latin word resilire which means to jump back, recoil.  This word derived from the word re-salire which means:  to come out again. 

Sponges are great examples of resilience.  A sponge after being squeezed (compressed), twisted, and tortured returns to its original state. While there is a definite limit to the abuse it can take, the sponge is resilient and "Bounces Back" to its initial form. We can learn much from the sponge both in its natural state in the ocean and its commercial state with which we are more familiar.  The living sponge we find in the ocean regenerates itself when cut from its base for commercial use. The treated sponge we buy in the store is remarkable in its ability to store water and to return to its original state (Bounce Back) after being used and abused.

The word resilience has been appropriated to talk about human experience.  We can talk about resilience in terms of physical health.  In this case it would be the ability to recover readily from illness, adversity (as injuries), or the like.  Some recover faster than others.   Furthermore, some recover better than others.  There may be many variables to compromise our health and physical resilience.  Pretty much what ever compromises our health can also affect our resilience.  Another factor can be age. 

Resilience is most commonly used in psychological terms.  "Resilience" in psychology is the ability to recover readily from depression, adversity, or the like.   It is the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.  It is the positive capacity of people to cope with stress and adversity.  This recovering, adjusting or coping may result in the individual "bouncing back" to a previous state of normal functioning, or using the experience of exposure to adversity to produce a "steeling effect" (becoming like steel) and function better than expected (much like an inoculation gives one the capacity to cope well with future exposure to disease).

Our lesson says that the story of Job offers a supreme example of resilience. Earlier in his life, Job had understood that God is merciful and righteous. He did not understand the reasons for his suffering: his children were killed and property destroyed, and he did not find support from his wife; and then he contracted a horrible disease. (The loss of ten children in one day was enough to break the spirit of most mortals.)  And yet, somehow amid it all, he never lost his faith in God and endured until the tragedy ended.  What we learn from Job is that his resilience came from his belief about God, which was based on how much and well He knew God.  Job knew that God would in the end vindicate him.  That is why Job was able to say: "Though He slay me yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:15).  We learn from Job, and it should be comforting to us, that even when every human soul has forsaken us and we are tempted to believe our case is hopeless, God understands what we are going through and He stands by our side.  He weeps with those who weep and rejoices with those who rejoice.

Returning to our sponge example, Job was squeezed (compressed), twisted and abused.  However, by the grace of God, Job was able to "bounce back" to his former state.  We can bounce back too if we allow the Holy Spirit to give us that capacity.  Ellen White says, "In these dreadful hours we must learn to trust, to depend solely upon the merits of the atonement, and in all our helpless unworthiness cast ourselves upon the merits of the crucified and risen Saviour" (Ellen White, God's Amazing Grace, p. 114).  This is the secret of resilience.

Raul Diaz

Friday, February 11, 2011

Spiritual Transceivers

Spiritual Transceivers

A transceiver is a device that has both a transmitter and receivers which are combined and share common circuitry or a single housing.  If no circuitry is common between transmit and receive functions, the device is a transmitter-receiver.   For years the majority of our electronic devices were either receivers or transmitters.  Radio and TV, the most used devices were receivers.  The signals they received were sent by transmitters. Maybe the only device that was close to a transceiver was the phone.  Both persons could talk at the same time and still hear each other.  CBs and "walkie talkies" are transceivers. 

GPS are transceivers.  The GPS transmits its location to the satellite.  The satellite in turn transmits the location information to the GPS.  We connect to the internet with transceivers.  We receive information from the internet.  That is how the internet knows what to transmit.  However, cable TV and satellite TV and radio are not transceivers.  Smart phones are transceivers.  In fact they have multiple transceivers: the phone, the internet, and the GPS all require transceivers.  (Bluetooth headsets are transceivers). Funny thing is that just because one of those transceivers is working does not guarantee the others are. 

I have wondered why sometimes I cannot get on the internet with my smart phone while I am speaking.  I say to myself, "I have a signal."  Well the cell phone part of it has a signal for phone calls, but not for the internet.   The internet has a different signal; very likely also a different chip.  So, I discovered there different requirements for these devices to work properly.

1.      1. They must be powered on
2.      2. They must be functional.
3.3   3.Must be tuned to the frequency/wavelength of the signal. 
4.      4. The settings of the device must be correct.
5.      5. They must be placed in a place where they can send and receive a signal to the signal tower or satellite.  

The same requirements would apply to the satellite and tower signal.  Years ago one of satellite of the cell phone providers malfunctioned.  This meant that although the phones were powered up, functional, and all else was in place, they could not receive anything because nothing was being transmitted.  If you work in a basement you are likely to not have a very weak signal or none.  In this case the satellite and the phone are both powered up and functional but the signal is being blocked. 

This has spiritual implications.  God's brain and ours works as transceivers.  God transmits to us and receives from us.  We receive from Him and transmit to Him.  Now, is there always a good connection, if at all?  No.  But, it is not because of God being powered off or any of the other conditions is not being met in Him.  Sometimes, it is because we place ourselves in a place where God's signal does not reach us.  Sometimes it is because our brain is malfunctioning or not powered up.  Sometimes is because the brain is no longer tuned up to receive and transmit to and from God. 

It is through prayer that we come in tune and paired with God.  Ellen White said of prayer in the book "Steps to Christ,"

Unceasing PRAYER is the unbroken union of the soul with God, so that life from God flows into our life; and from our life, purity and holiness flow back to God (Steps to Christ, p. 98).

No wonder Paul counseled to "Pray without ceasing" (1Thesalonians 5:17); which really means to incessantly pray or do not pause from praying.   We have an example in Jesus, sometimes He prayed all night long (Luke 6:12).   In prayer we open our heart to God and God opens His heart to us.  In Celebration of Discipline, author Richard Foster writes, "In prayer, real prayer, we begin to think God's thoughts after him: to desire the things he desires, to love the things he loves, to will the things he wills. Progressively, we are taught to see things from his point of view."— (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1998, pp. 33, 34).  Prayer is the most intimate means by which God shares Himself with humanity.  Through continual prayer we stay connected to God and God to us.  This is the gist of what Ellen White says in the following quote,

The summing up of the benefit of PRAYER is that devotion that leads to faith in God's promises. This faith is the key that opens the divine treasury, is the hand by which we appropriate to our use the richest gifts of God. The PRAYER of the contrite heart unlocks the treasure house of supplies, and lays hold of omnipotent power. This kind of PRAYER enables the suppliant to understand what it means to lay hold of the strength of God, and to make peace with him. This kind of PRAYER causes us to have an influence over those with whom we associate. The PRAYER of faith is not listless, dry, and uninteresting. It wells up from perfect trust and assurance, and by its fervor makes manifest to the world, to angels, and to men, that you do believe in God, and have made Christ your personal Saviour (The Signs of the Times, June 18, 1896).

Let us then keep our hearts open to God.  Let us pray without ceasing. 

For an audio review of the lesson click on the following link:

Raul Diaz

Friday, February 04, 2011

Commentary: Only What Is In Comes Out

Only What Is In Comes Out

Brushing your teeth is a common practice in many countries of the world.  So are the utensils for them: tooth brushes and tooth paste.  But, of course, there was a time when none of that existed.  Consider tooth paste.  The modern rendition is a relatively new invention; approximately 120 years.  The majority of us buy tooth paste in a tube that we squeeze to let the paste out.  Most of us do not even know what this tube is called, let alone its history.  (They are called collapsible tubes.)

Tooth paste did not always come in these tubes.  In fact the tubes were not originally used for tooth paste.  They were originally devised as reservoirs for oil paint.  This was to make it convenient for artists.  Eventually, the practice was adopted in some parts of Europe.  The son of an American dentist – who sold tooth paste in jars - saw how artists in France used these collapsible tubes.  When the young man returned to America, he suggested to his father to use these tubes for tooth paste.  The dentist heeded his son's advice and the new practice was an immediate success, till this day.  Of course there have been modifications since then:  what the tubes are made of and what they put in the tube.  But, pretty much the principle is the same.  A company fills out the tube with any paste, oil, lotion, cream or ointment.  The consumer opens the tube and squeezes the tube to let out what is in it. 

What most of us take for granted is that you can only squeeze out of the collapsible tube what is already inside.  In fact we expect that to be the case.  We expect, and take for granted, that what is on the label is what is inside, thus it will be what comes out. 

We are like collapsible tubes in a sense.  What is in us is what comes out.  This is what the following verses express from Matthew and Luke,

Mark7:21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,

Mark7:22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:

Mark7:23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

Luke6:45 … for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

When evil is inside of us we will yield evil speech and deeds.  That is the problem with the human race.  We all have evil inside.  Paul stated this 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.

And David stated in Psalm 51:5 that we are born and conceived this way,

Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

The key is to flush out the Sin and refill it with goodness.  This is what The Holy Spirit does.  He flushes the evil out and refills us with Christ righteousness.  To do this the Holy Spirit may have to open the Spiritual "crimped side of the tube."  But after He is done flushing out the evil and refilling with goodness, He will re-crimp us.  So, when we are squeezed only good will come out of us.  For this to happen we must allow the Holy Spirit to do this.

When others look at you what label will they read?  Can they safely assume that what is on your label is what is inside?  When they squeeze you what will come out? 

Raul Diaz