Friday, August 26, 2011

Commentary: Correlation



Correlation is defined as a degree to which two or more attributes or measurements on the same group of elements show a tendency to vary together.  There is a mutual relationship or parallelism.  In correlation one attribute does not cause the other.  But, they vary together.   A simple example would be, as we grow our hand our feet grow, too.  Our hands do not make our feet grow; neither do our feet make our hand grow.   What causes one to grow makes the other one grow also. 


In most large cities the amount of crime increases in the summer.  So, do the amount of ice-cream sales.  One could deduce that ice-cream causes crime to increase, or vice versa.  However, we know that is not true.   Hot weather encourages people to come outside.  This would mean that would be perpetrators and assailants and their victims, would all be out.  Making it easier to find a target and or become one.  Ice cream is refreshing in the summer heat. 


When we read the Bible we see God rebuking the Israelites for idolatry and for immoral and unethical behavior.  We could easily assume that either idolatry causes this ungodly behavior or vice versa.   But, in reality, these two practices are correlated.  When you see the one you will see the other.  And, both are caused by a common factor:  turning our hearts from God.   We see this in Micah 6. 


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?


The Lord tells them what He does not want and what He wants.  The people had yet to get it, by the time of the prophet Isaiah and Jeremiah.  Similar warning and rebukes are found in Isaiah 1: 11 – 15; 58: 4-7; Jeremiah 7: 3 – 10.   Again, where there was idol worship, there was oppression and abuse of the fellow countrymen.  If you identify the one, the other one is present.  They are correlated.  They are caused by the same factor.  Ellen White says about this,


In Isaiah's day the spiritual understanding of mankind was dark through misapprehension of God. Long had Satan sought to lead men to look upon their Creator as the author of sin and suffering and death. Those, whom he had thus deceived, imagined that God was hard and exacting. They regarded Him as watching to denounce and condemn, unwilling to receive the sinner so long as there was a legal excuse for not helping him. The law of love by which heaven is ruled had been misrepresented by the archdeceiver as a restriction upon men's happiness, a burdensome yoke from which they should be glad to escape. He declared that its precepts could not be obeyed and that the penalties of transgression were bestowed arbitrarily. 

In losing sight of the true character of Jehovah, the Israelites were without excuse. Often had God revealed Himself to them as one "full of compassion, and gracious, long-suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth." Psalm 86:15. "When Israel was a child," He testified, "then I loved him, and called My son out of Egypt." Hosea 11:1. (PK 311 – 312)


Now, if both are caused by the same factor, then the cure is the same: turning our hearts toward God.  God wanted them to believe that He was indeed a loving God who had their best interest at heart.  He wanted them to believe that He indeed wanted their fellowship.  He tells them through the prophet Isaiah,


Isaiah 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.


God's intention with them was for good, not evil.  He wanted to take all iniquity from them.  He said through Ezekiel,

Ezekiel 36:25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.

Ezekiel 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.


When there is oppression and abuse among us there is also idolatry.  When there is immorality and unethical behavior among us there is also idolatry.  Many think that as long as you are "nice," it does not matter who and how you worship.  Others think that as long as you worship the right being in the right way, it does not matter how you behave.  But, God is saying that both issues are a problem.  And, where one is the other will be also.  Both issues will always be present.  Both issues have the same cause.  Therefore, both issues have the same cure.  What worked for the Israelites will also work for us.  Will we answer his call, and take the cure from Him?

Raul Diaz

Friday, August 19, 2011

Commentary: A Degree Off the Path

A Degree Off the Path


If you are 1 degree off the route to your intended destination how far off would you be if the destination is 1000 miles away?  For a precise answer, it would have to be worked out mathematically, but a rough rule of thumb is "the rule of 1 in 60" which says that each degree of variance in heading will result in being one mile off for each 60 miles out.  That would be about 92 feet for every mile.  Which is not a lot considering.  However, the farther you go the distance off your destination is greater. 


For instance, if you were 2 degrees off heading (assuming no wind conditions), you would be 2 miles off at 60 miles out, or 4 miles off at 120 miles out, and so forth.  For the question above, if you divide 1000 by 60, you find that you would be 16.7 miles off at 1000 miles out for each degree you were off heading.


For a more accurate result, simply use the formula for the circumference of a circle (Pi times the diameter). So, if your "circle" has a radius of 1000 miles, it has a diameter of 2000 miles. Multiply that by 3.14 and divide the result (6280) by 360 degrees and you find that each degree at that distance would equal approximately 17.4 miles off.  Our "rule of 1 in 60" gave us 16.7, so that's pretty close for our rule of thumb.  However, there is a difference between 92 feet for a mile and 17 miles for 1,000 miles.


A flight from Tokyo to Chicago is a 6, 313 miles.  Following the math if you're off 1 degree off the flight path, you would be off approximately 113 mile. That is you would probably end up in farther south in Illinois or in Wisconsin.  All this while still thinking you are headed to Chicago.  Of course the more degrees you're off the farther you are form the intended destination. 


This can be applied spiritually.  Very rarely those who apostatize reject God outright.  What they go through is a gradual process of syncretism.  They mix beliefs and practices of other religions with their own.  At first it is something subtle and seemingly innocent.  This opens the door to more heresy and falsehood.  It may take months or years to finally realize how far from the truth you are.  Ellen White speaks of this works, 


"What astonishing deception and fearful blindness had, like a dark cloud, covered Israel!  This blindness and apostasy had not closed about them suddenly; it had come upon them gradually as they had not heeded the word of reproof and warning which the Lord had sent to them because of their pride and their sins. " (Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pg. 280).


Israel had been blind to this perversion of truth, so compromise came easily. Content to allow an "alternative" worship style, Israel saw nothing wrong with the worship of God and the worship of Baal co-existing.  The people of Israel still thought they were worshipping God.  This would explain why Elijah asked the people,


1Ki18:21 And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.


The people could not discern the difference.  And, it took Elijah to point it out.  He came to weed out truth from error.  John the Baptist had a similar mission.  The spiritual darkness in Jesus time was intense.    People did not now truth from error, John the Baptist came to correct them.  Which is why Christ referred to John as the Elijah of His time (Matthew 17: 11 -13).  Christ was referring to Malachi's prophecy,


Mal4:5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:

Mal4:6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.


In our day we also suffer from the same maladies of the past.  Ellen White says,


"The apostasy prevailing today is similar to that which in the prophet's day overspread Israel" (Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 170). 

"Baal, Baal, is the choice. The religion of many among us will be the religion of apostate Israel, because they love their own way, and forsake the way of the Lord" (Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 467, 468).


Compromise is rampant.  Again, it starts subtly, with seemingly innocent things.  And, it is mostly attributed to styles of worship.  How many conservative churches now have praise teams?  How many conservative churches are removing their wooden lectern and replacing with the Plexiglas lecterns.  All these are subtle compromises, seemingly innocent.  But, they open the door to even more heresy.  While it is true that God may not have a preference for how many people lead in the singing, and whether the lectern is wood or Plexiglas (maybe we should the Lord in prayer what His preference is), He does try to warn us to prevent us from going in a direction that leads us far away from Him.  Discernment is much needed, for spiritual things are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14).  This is something the Spirit of Elijah will bring.  

Raul Diaz

Friday, August 12, 2011

Commentary: The law as an Instrument of Diagnosis

The law as an Instrument of Diagnosis

What can we define the word "law?'  It is a word often used and pretty much understood, but never defined.  When you look at a dictionary, you find that one word can be defined differently depending on the context it is used.  Law can be generally defined as the body of rules and principles governing the conduct of a system.  So, what is law in nature or the physical world?  It is a generalization based on a recurring fact or event.  This generalization is expressed in a statement that describes invariable relationships among phenomena under a specified set of conditions.  Another definition is: A statement describing a relationship observed to be invariable between or among phenomena for all cases in which the specified conditions are met: the law of gravity.   Gravity is a force that exists everywhere and always.  These nature laws are called laws because they have been observed to exist everywhere and at all times.  They are also laws because they cannot be broken without negative consequences. 

What we have discovered is that these properties and laws in some cases are described in the Bible.  For example, Psalms 19 says that the sun has a path.  This path is constant and predictable.  So much so, that every Sabbath sunset can be predicted way in advance.    Since we believe that God created nature, then we must believe that God created nature with the set of properties we observe.  We must conclude that God created nature to work in a similar that He works.  

God is giving and generous.  Plants give to animals and humans the oxygen they do not use; we in turn use the oxygen and give to the plants the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) we do not use.  So, there is a circle of beneficence in nature; indeed, interdependence.   The moment we do not have oxygen we die.  The moment plants do not have CO2 they die.  When you break the law, something negative happens.  

Same happens in the health field.  You transgress the law of health, you get sick.  You transgress any physical laws you get injured.  The laws of health were created to keep us healthy.  But, once you are sick or injured the laws of health cannot really get you well.  They will tell you are not well.  They are good for diagnosing.  (Other laws now must be practiced, the laws of healing and curing.) The laws of health when compared and contrasted with your symptoms tell us there is something wrong.   

The same goes with the moral law: when broken negative consequences will happen.  (For Christians the Law is the body of principles or precepts held to express the divine will, especially as revealed in the Bible.)  Once broken, the law cannot do anything for us, but give us a diagnosis: "you are selfish, you are a sinner. "  Paul says that the Law told him he covets.  Let us read Romans 7:7

Rom7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

Paul adds in verse 8, "For without the law sin was dead."  In fact with the law, sin appears to be Sin and become exceedingly sinful (Romans 7:13).  "Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound: (Romans 5:20). The law is holy (Romans 7:17).  The law is a transcription of God's character – which is Love (1 John 4:8).  Just like we need physical healing when we are sick, we need spiritual healing when we are spiritually sick.  The sad news is that we all born "sick."   "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10).  So, we all need a remedy, less we die.  That remedy is given to us in Christ. 

The remedy is for Christ to dwell in us and to write His law in our hearts. 

Ezekiel 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.


When we allow Him to do this, the law cannot diagnose us as being sick.  We are healed in Christ.  

Raul Diaz

Friday, August 05, 2011

Commentary: David vs. Henry

David vs. Henry


At the Reformation the Western Church became divided between those who continued to accept Papal authority and the various Protestant churches that repudiated it.  The Church of England was among the churches that broke with Rome. The catalyst for this decision was the refusal of the Pope to annul the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. 


Henry VIII became king of England in 1509. In 1502 his older brother, Arthur, had died. Their father Henry VII decided that Henry should marry Arthur's widow, Catherine of Aragon.  Henry and others thought this was prohibited by Leviticus 18 and 20. But the Pope gave permission and they were married after Henry VIII became king. By 1514 he had produced no child, and he asked the Pope for an annulment. The Pope refused to annul the marriage.  Mary was born in 1516.  But by the mid 1520s he still had no son. He began to think God was judging him.


 Henry began to look for a way to end his marriage to Catherine. (He was already in love with Anne Boleyn.) He employed teams of scholars to find good biblical reasons why his marriage to Catherine should be ended.   One of the ideas the scholars had was that the King should be the supreme head of the Church in England and not the Pope.


 In 1533 Thomas Cranmer – one the scholars that was instrumental in developing the idea of the King being the head of the church - was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. That same year Parliament passed an Act that prevented English people from appealing to the Pope for a legal or church decision.  This was partly meant to stop Catherine of Aragon appealing against her divorce. In May the marriage was annulled by Archbishop Cranmer. The King had already married Anne Boleyn who was pregnant at the time.  She was crowned Queen at the end of May.  In 1534 Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy which declared that the King was the supreme head of the Church of England.  Thus, the Church of England – the Anglican Church – was born out of adultery. 


Imagine if David would have done as Henry V111.  To make legitimate his involvement with Bathsheba he would fire or kill the prophet and priest unless they went his way.  King David would establish that he would be the head of the established religious order.   Therefore his relationship with Bathsheba and subsequent killing of Uriah would be justified under the new religious regime.  


Thankfully, David admitted his wrong doing and repented.   In Psalms 32 David described how it felt to finally come clean with the Lord,


Psalms 32:1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

Psalms 32:2 Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.

Psalms 32:3 When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.

Psalms 32:4 For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.

Psalms 32:5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.


And the fact that it was a Psalm made David's repentance public.  Ellen White says,


"Thus in a sacred song to be sung in the public assemblies of his people, in the presence of the court—priests and judges, princes and men of war—and which would preserve to the latest generation the knowledge of his fall, the king of Israel recounted his sin, his repentance, and his hope of pardon through the mercy of God."—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 725.


Though David had initially tried to cover up his sin to the point of murder, once he was convicted, he sought to prevent others from falling into the same pit. He loathed the defilement caused by sin and longed for purity that only God could provide.  David recognized how far-reaching the loss of respect would be and how devastating now his influence for evil was among his people especially among his own sons. This broke his heart, and as his songs portray, he realized that his only hope was to cling to God and humbly accept the judgments that followed from God's loving but thoroughly just hand.

David should be an example to us.  

Raul Diaz

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Elder Robert J. Wieland Memorial Service:

A memorial service for Robert will be held on Saturday, August 13, 2011 at 4 p.m. in the Meadow Vista Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

"Worship and Song and Praise" (Also Pastor Penno's Notes)

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Lesson 6: "Worship and Song and Praise"

The search has been on for the lost ark of the covenant ever since its disappearance around the time of the Babylonian captivity of ancient Israel. The list of "raiders" is too numerous to mention. Their motives are even more varied and questionable.
For centuries the ark of the covenant has been lost. Jesus' highly priestly ministry has been one of preparing a people to die. But ever since 1844 Jesus is preparing a people for translation in order to bring an end to sin and prepare them for His second coming. It is "the finishing of the mystery of God" (Rev. 10:7)--the gospel work of reconciling alienated hearts.
Suddenly appears the real "sanctuary" in heaven where Jesus Christ ministers as our High Priest, fighting His battle with Satan. The climax comes in Revelation 11:15-19 where the great "door" into the Most Holy Apartment is flung open and we can peer into "the ark of the covenant."
The restoration of "the ark of the covenant" is the foundation of all worship ("and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters" Rev. 14:7). The "ark" is the gospel and the law combined--cemented. The love for sinners that motivated Jesus to die is the heart-transforming dynamic which leads to repentance and conformity to the law of God. These are the foundation principles of God's government--God's self-denial and His character of love revealed in His law. The fear (love) of the Lord is the basis of worship.
Of all the kings of Israel David had an understanding of God's everlasting covenant promise as the foundation of worship. When he was finally brought to the throne and relative peace settled upon the land, his purpose was to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem and give it a permanent home. The ark was the symbol of God's presence with Israel and contained the founding principles not only of God's government but of the constitution of the nation itself. Being the central sacred piece of furniture in the ancient wilderness Tabernacle, it taught the principles of God's covenant promise of salvation in the coming Messiah and the glorious plan of salvation in harmony with God's ten commandments.
So the day that the symbol of God's presence went up to Jerusalem was made an occasion of grand celebration in which the whole nation might participate. The Levites as well as the worshipers and government officials and King were all involved in events of worship, singing, and prayer. Asaph, a gifted Levite, was placed in charge of the official ceremonies. David composed a thanksgiving song for the occasion (1 Chron. 16:7). The theme of God's covenant was central to the psalm. "Even of the covenant which he made with Abraham, and of his oath unto Isaac" (vs. 16).
The 1888 message was a restoration of the idea of the two covenants. God gave to E. J. Waggoner the true understanding of the third angel's message in the two covenants. "The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones"--"the priceless covenant blessings" (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92).
Here are the promises, seven of them, that God made to Abraham. By virtue of Christ's sacrifice, you have become a child of Abraham, so the same promises apply to you (they're in Gen 12:1-3): (1) "I will make of thee a great nation"--that is, an important, respected person. (2) "I will bless thee" (the word means make you happy). (3) "I will ... make thy name great," in other words, He will make you worthy of people's high respect. (4) "Thou shalt be a blessing," that is, you'll make other people happy. (5) "I will bless them that bless thee." God will honor you like someone special. (6) "I will ... curse him that curseth thee." Oh yes, you'll have enemies, probably plenty of them; but God will confound every one of them and will honor you. (7) "In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed [made happy forever]." A promise that Christ would come through Abraham's descendants, but a promise to you that you will share with Christ the joy of telling the world about Him.
How did Abraham, respond? Well, he stumbled and staggered for many years, unable to believe such fantastic Good News. But finally he broke through the clouds: "And Abraham believed in the Lord, and it was counted unto him for righteousness" (15:6).
God repeats the seven fantastic promises He had made to Abraham previously, renews them all to Outstanding Sinner Jacob, and doesn't ask Jacob to promise one blessed thing in return (Gen. 28:11-22). This is included in David's hymnology: "And hath confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant" (1 Chron. 16:17).
Of course the new covenant promise of the everlasting inheritance of a land grant was in righteousness, which was contained in the package. "Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance" (vs. 18). Only those clothed in righteousness may possess the land in perpetuity. "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5).
The concept of covenant is central to this psalm of David. The repeated references to "covenant" and the covenantal name of God ("LORD," references to the patriarchs, mention of the land promised in the Abrahamic covenant; and reminder of God's protection of His people, 1 Chron. 16:16-18, 21). The poet David's declaration, "Be ye mindful always of His covenant; the word which He commanded to a thousand generations" (v. 15), provides the theological foundation for the community's songs of joy, declarations of praise, and expressions of faith.
"The solemn ceremonies attending the removal of the ark had made a lasting impression upon the people of Israel, arousing a deeper interest in the sanctuary service and kindling anew their zeal for Jehovah. David endeavored by every means in his power to deepen these impressions. The service of song was made a regular part of religious worship, and David composed psalms, not only for the use of the priests in the sanctuary service. ... The influence thus exerted was far-reaching, and it resulted in freeing the nation from idolatry. Many of the surrounding peoples, beholding the prosperity of Israel, were led to think favorably of Israel's God, who had done such great things for His people" (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 711).
As in the day that the symbol of God's presence (the ark of the covenant) went up to Jerusalem was made an occasion of grand celebration in which the whole nation might participate, likewise in this our Day of Atonement may our worship reflect the solemnity of the principles of God's government which are the foundation of worship.
--Paul E. Penno.
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