Friday, January 27, 2012

Commentary: Wearing the Right Spiritual Glasses

Wearing the Right Spiritual Glasses


Manuel went to a clothing store to buy a black suit.  He found one that pleased him, so he bought it.  The suit still needed some alterations, so he left it in the store for a few says.  Although, Manuel was pleased with his purchase there was uneasiness lingering.  He did not like the lighting of the store.  And, for some reason he had a thought ringing in his mind that the suit was not really black.  Manuel went back to the store to pick up the suit.  He tried on the suit for one last fitting before leaving the store.  It fit well and he intently looked at the color of the suit and it looked black.  He did not, however, ask anyone in the store.  Manuel went home with his suit and hung it in the closet still in the garment bag.  The day Manuel was going to finally wear the suit, he pulled the garment bag out of the closet.  He unzipped the garment bag, only to discover the suit was navy blue. 


Manuel went back to the store with the suit.  He explained to the sales person that he wanted black suit, but the suit was navy blue.  The sales person unzipped the bag and the suit looked black.  He looked at Manuel puzzled.  Manuel asked him if it were possible to take the suit outside.  The sales person agreed, and as soon as the suit was outside it looked navy blue.  "How can this be?" they asked.  The only explanation was the light of the store.  The light made the color look differently. 


If you think about it, the only reason you see color is because of light.  The light that reflects from the object into our eyes gives the object its color.  A different color light may actually reflect a different color off the object.  The same thing happens when we use sunglasses or shades of different colors.  The light that enters our eyes is now filtered and modified by the color of the glass.  It reminds me of an old Puerto Rican saying that says, "Everything is according to the color of the glass you are looking through."  This has implications beyond an object's color.  In life each person can explain the same event differently.  What may seem to you like someone running ahead of their pet dogs is actually someone running away from those dogs.


The word for judgment can be interpreted in different ways.  How we view judgment depends on what color lenses are we looking through.   Likewise how we view judgment in the Bible depends on the color of the spiritual glasses we are looking through.  This is also tied to your view of God.  If your view of God is of a tyrannical arbitrary despotic king, then you will see judgment as the result of the breaking of an imposed Law; therefore you must be punished.  But, if your view of God is one of a tender loving father doing all in His power to heal broken children, you will see judgment as the result of breaking of a natural law; therefore you must be healed or made whole. 


In each respective case the judge serves a different role.  In the former, the judge sits up high and distant, emotionally detached weighing the evidence to find where you went wrong so you can be punished accordingly.  In the latter the judge is close, emotionally involved, - as a medical doctor - weighing the evidence to show you what is wrong, so he can correct it.  Which judge would you prefer?


Let's face it, whether we admit it or not, we all know that we cannot undergo any kind of scrutiny and not be found with any faults.  The thought of this terrifies us.  Furthermore, many of those faults we did not choose, and have no control over them.  Should we be held accountable for them?  And, if we are held accountable why should we pay burning in a lake of fire for an eternity?  It does not make any sense to have a God that stands by and lets violence and cruelty happen.  In the meantime, He chooses some to punish and some to reward. 


This concept of God has led many into atheism, eastern mysticism, new age, and lately, liberal expressions of Christianity.  No God at all or a softer permissive God appeases the terrified hearts and minds of masses which live in fear of a tyrant punitive God, that requires appeasing.  In the case of the liberal Christians that choose a softer permissive God they have gone from one extreme of man appeasing God to God appeasing man.  There are two opposite ditches of the same road.  Two sets of color glasses that end up with a distortion of reality.


What if God as judge is different than our judges?  What if Biblical judgment is different than ours?  What if God is not trying to find out what is wrong with us to condemn us?  What if what God is trying to do is more like a recall?  "I know there is something wrong, I know what it is, and I can fix it if you let me.  This is what will happen if you do, this is what will happen if you don't."  Will you put on these glasses and see if you like the view? 


Scriptural evidence shows that the Father does not condemn us.  He is as interested in us being saved as the Son. One example is Romans 8:5, "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us"


Christ didn't die in order to create love in God's heart for us. No, Jesus insists that the Father's love is the source, not the consequence, of the atonement (John 3:16, 17). God doesn't love us because Christ died for us; Christ died for us because God loved us. It was The Father who sent Jesus.  The atonement of Christ was not offered to persuade the Father to love those whom He otherwise hated. The death of Christ did not bring forth a love that was not already in existence. Rather, it was a manifestation of the love that was eternally in God's heart. Jesus never had to persuade the Father to love us.  Notice how He insists on this truth on John 16:26, 27.


John 16:27 For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.

John 16:28 I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.


Ellen White says that for the Father, "Christ was the medium through which He could pour out His infinite love upon a fallen world. 'God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself' (2 Cor. 5:19)" (Steps to Christ, p. 13).  Do you like those spiritual glasses better?

Raul Diaz

Friday, January 20, 2012

Commentary: Blood


Blood is a constantly circulating fluid providing the body with nutrition, oxygen, and waste removal. Blood is mostly liquid, with numerous cells and proteins suspended in it, making blood "thicker" than pure water. The average person has about 5 liters (more than a gallon) of blood.

A liquid called plasma makes up about half of the content of blood. Plasma contains proteins that help blood to clot, transport substances through the blood, and perform other functions. Blood plasma also contains glucose and other dissolved nutrients.  About half of blood volume is composed of blood cells:

• Red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues
• White blood cells, which fight infections
• Platelets, smaller cells that help blood to clot

Blood is conducted through blood vessels (arteries and veins). Blood is prevented from clotting in the blood vessels by their smoothness, and the finely tuned balance of clotting factors

Humans can't live without blood. Without blood, the body's organs couldn't get the oxygen and nutrients they need to survive; we couldn't keep warm or cool off, fight infections, or get rid of our own waste products. Without enough blood, we'd weaken and die.

Christ says that we should drink His blood and eat His flesh,

John 6:53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
John 6:54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
John 6:55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
John 6:56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.

Is He calling us to cannibalism?  Is He not contradicting His own word?  In the Old Testament it says clearly to not ingest blood, for in it is life (Genesis 9; 4 -5; Leviticus 17: 11, 14; Deuteronomy 12:23).  Furthermore, Peter and Paul say that the blood of Jesus redeems us and brings us nearer to God.  Let us read the verses,

Peter 1:18, 19 “You were not redeemed with corruptible things . . . but with the precious blood of Christ".
Ephesians 2:13  "You who once w ere far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ."

So we are redeemed by blood and brought near to God by blood.  How does blood redeem, or how does blood bring us near to God? Physically, Christ's blood was no different than any of ours. It was composed of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma.

If Jesus had died by a bloodless method such as poisoning, or hanging by His neck, would we still be "redeemed" and "brought near" to God? Is there some magical or mystical power to Christ's literal blood – the fluid running through His veins – that enables us to be redeemed or get close to God? As we approach God, if we have a vial of Christ's blood to show to God, does that deflect any potential objections that God may have to our sinful condition, and thereby grant us redemption – a pass into heaven?  It is, rather, that Christ's "blood" is a representation of the giving of His life.  Now the verses from the Old Testament that say that the life is in the blood make sense. 

But, now we have another dilemma?  How is it that Jesus giving His life redeems us and brings us closer to God?  Does this mean that unless Christ died the Father would not accept us?  Does this means that Christ death was to change the Father’s mind?  Is "blood" necessary, because God requires it before He is able or willing to forgive and accept us? Is "blood" necessary, before can God relate to us with favor and acceptance? Does God stay, to some degree withdrawn and distant in His attitude towards us until we have "blood" to present before Him?

· Does blood move God towards us?
· Or, does blood move us towards God?
· Is God the one who requires blood before He will accept us?
· Or, are we the ones who require blood before we will accept and receive Him?
· Did God need to see a death, or did we need to see a death?

The truth is that as we perceive and understand Christ’s life and death (which redeems us), and inculcate the principles of that life into our experience, we are transformed to the point that we want to be near to God.  We are the ones estranged from God.  Notice in Ephesians 2:13 above: Who was brought near to whom by the blood of Christ? The blood (life & death) of Christ did not bring God near to us, but we who were "afar off" have been "brought near." The alienation, distance, fear, and even animosity were in our hearts towards God, but never in His heart towards us!! We were the ones who needed to be moved, to be brought near, because we were "afar off" from God in our hearts and minds and affections.  According to Paul in Corinthians the Father was in Christ reconciling us to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).  In this passage we are told that Christ died not to appease God and make Him love us, but the Godhead agreed to the plan of redemption because of their great love for us.  Without the blood of Christ we would weaken and die.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Creation versus Evolution

Creation versus Evolution


Recently I was listening to a prominent Adventist Speaker talk about the importance of knowing the History of Christianity.  He said that we also need to know Christian History in the light of the fulfillment of prophecy.  He went to revelation 11, and identified the beast that comes out of the pit, as France during the French revolution.  What was happening then?  The French rejected anything that had to do with God in reaction to thousands of years of Catholic oppression.  The concept of God that the Roman Catholic had presented through all those years was untenable to the French intellectual elite.  How can God be a God of love, justice and peace, and stand by observing all the suffering, injustice, and violence in the world?  Furthermore, how can God be a God of grace and forgiveness and yet be so cruel to punish sinners for an eternity?  How can God say He is the God of the poor, while the wealthy nobility claimed to be favored by Him even when they were abusive and despotic toward their fellow men?  The despotic punitive picture of God did not make sense to the French, so they rejected God all together.  As we can see modern atheism is not born about of scientific research and advancements, but out of theological concerns. 


This rejection of God and the Bible then posed a challenge to explain the origins of our planet and humanity.  However, the most popular theory did not emerge out of a concern to give a scientific alternative to the question of origins, but as a necessity to understand creation from a point of view of a picture of God that was untenable to Charles Darwin.


Contrary to popular conceptions, Charles Darwin worked on his theory of evolution from a theological premise. He expressed it like this: "There seems to me," wrote Darwin, "too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the [parasitic wasp] with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of cater­pillars, or that the cat should play with mice."


Of course a "benefi­cent and omnipotent God" did no such thing.   But, Darwin did not conceive that maybe there was a beneficent and omnipotent God that would allow Sin to run its course to run for His purposes.  This proved that Darwin – and the French before him – had no clue about the great Controversy. 


So Darwin reasoned just as the French some half a century before him:  God cannot exist. Therefore, thought Darwin, without a God that speaks things into existence, things must have evolved.   And the way they must have evolved is by natural selection and survival of the fittest (mostly adaptability, not necessarily strength). 


This posed a challenge for many Christian thinkers who thought that what Ellen White calls science so called, had valid points in Evolution, so they merged the both methods into Theistic Evolution.  This theory says that God used evolution to create the world.  Meaning, the 7 day creation story is nothing but a metaphor to describe what God did through millions of years.  In essence, they propose that God created the world or the universe, left it on its own to develop for a given period of time, and reappeared to bestow a "soul" on the hominids who had evolved while He was away.


This view poses other problems.  Among other things, it negates the origin of Sin and the need for redemption.  It also converts the gospels into fairy tales.  If God did not speak and it was done (Psalm 33: 9), then Christ could have not done it either. If there were no miracles, then there is no resurrection, and therefore any hope; for as Paul says, without resurrection we work in vain (1 Corinthians 15: 14). 


The Bible is clear about the literality and legitimacy of the Creation story.  Take for example Hebrews 11: 3, 


Hebrews 11:3  Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.


Paul here is clear that things did not evolve; they did not appear out of things that existed before.  God's Word made them appear.  God spoke and it was done (Psalm 33: 9).  The following verses insist that the Genesis narrative was real,


Colossians 1:16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether [they be] thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 

Colossians 1:17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 

John 1:2 The same was in the beginning with God. 

John 1:3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 

Romans 1:20   For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 


The following quotes show that throughout all her ministry, Ellen G. White was un-compromising in her rejection of the theory of evolution. She wrote,


"It is the worst kind of infidelity; for with many who profess to believe the record of creation, it is infidelity in disguise."—The Signs of the Times, March 20, 1879.

"[S]hall we, for the privilege of tracing our descent from germs and mollusks and apes, consent to cast away that statement of Holy Writ, so grand in its simplicity, 'God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him'? Genesis 1:27."—Education, p. 130.

"When the Lord declares that He made the world in six days and rested on the seventh day, He means the day of twenty-four hours, which He has marked off by the rising and setting of the sun."—Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 136.


You can see that to a believer Creation should not be a theory, but a fact.  And, just as Creation is a fact, so is the Cross, since they are intimately related.  God's love is displayed on both events.  You cannot believe in one and reject the other.  That would be stupidity.

Raul Diaz

Friday, January 06, 2012

Interdependence among the Godhead

Interdependence among the Godhead


Let us talk about trees.  A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 9 feet (3 m) to 18 feet (6 m); some authors set a minimum of 4 inches (10 cm) trunk diameter.


As we probably know, trees are an important component of the natural landscape because of their prevention of erosion and the provision of a weather-sheltered ecosystem in and under their foliage. They also play an important role in producing oxygen and reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as well as moderating ground temperatures. They are also elements in landscaping and agriculture, both for their aesthetic appeal and their orchard crops (such as apples). Wood from trees is a building material, as well as a primary energy source in many developing countries.


The roots of a tree are generally embedded in earth, providing anchorage for the above-ground biomass and absorbing water and nutrients from the soil. However, while ground nutrients are essential to a tree's growth the majority of its biomass – over 90 percent – comes from carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere.  This process is called photosynthesis.  Photosynthesis is a chemical process that converts carbon dioxide into organic compounds, especially sugars, using the energy from sunlight.  Above ground, the trunk gives height to the leaf-bearing branches, aiding in competition with other plant species for sunlight. In many trees, the arrangement of the branches optimizes exposure of the leaves to sunlight.


Each part of the tree is interdependent with the other.  The root collects water for the whole tree and anchors the whole tree.  The trunk not only serves to give height to the foliage, but to transports water and nutrients from the root to the foliage, and vice versa.  The foliage collects sunlight and also inhales carbon dioxide necessary for photosynthesis.  So, the food and energy needed by the tree is formed in the leaves of the branches.  Is one part of the tree more important than the other?  No, it is not.  Each part is equally important, yet distinct.  Each part of the tree submits to the other so all can survive.  They are interdependent.


What is interdependence? It is the interlocking of parts within a system. It is a reciprocal relation between people, animals, organizations or things depending on each another. Interdependence is a relation between its members such that each is mutually dependent on the others and mutually beneficial.  This concept differs from a simple dependence relation, which implies that one member of the relationship can't function or survive apart from the other(s).  In an interdependent relation all entities need each other to survive and even thrive.  It comes from an understanding that all parts benefit from yielding to each other. 


The Godhead is interdependent.  They are not three different divine roles displayed by one Person (that is modalism). Nor are there three gods in a cluster (that is tritheism or polytheism). The one God ("He") is also, and equally, "They," and "They" are always together, always closely cooperating. The Holy Spirit executes the will of both Father and Son, which is also His will. This is the truth that God reveals about Himself all throughout the Bible. A believer may think of God the Father, Jesus the Word, and the Holy Spirit as compared to a tree: it is one tree, with the root hidden from sight, and the trunk revealing the presence of the root, and the branch bearing the fruit.


Some people struggle with the divinity of Christ because of how, while here in the flesh, Jesus had subordinated Himself to the will of the Father. Many see this as "proof" that He was somehow less than the Father; In other words, less or not divine.  This reality, however, is not evidence that Christ is less than the Father.  It just shows how the oneness of the Godhead.  They are equally submitted to one another.  And, this mutual submission is reflected, in how the plan of salvation was to operate. Jesus was to come into humanity, becoming "obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Phil. 2:8, ESV). Also, "though He were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salva­tion unto all them that obey him" (Heb. 5:8, 9). These statements reveal that the subordinate role Jesus played while incarnated, was also necessary, in fact, crucial to the plan of salvation. It does not prove that He is anything other than fully divine and eternal, while fully man.


Ellen white says that " 'His name shall be called Immanuel, . . . God with us.' 'The light of the knowledge of the glory of God' is seen 'in the face of Jesus Christ.' From the days of eternity the Lord Jesus Christ was one with the Father; He was 'the image of God,' the image of His greatness and majesty, 'the outshining of His glory.' It was to manifest this glory that He came to our world."—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 19.


Here is another quote from Ellen White supporting the triune God: "The Father is all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, ... invisible to mortal sight. The Son is all the fullness of the Godhead manifested. ... 'the express image of His person.' ... The Comforter ... is the Spirit in all the fullness of the Godhead, making manifest the power of divine grace to all who receive and believe in Christ as a personal Saviour. There are three living persons of the heavenly trio; in the name of these three great powers--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit--those who receive Christ by living faith are baptized, and these powers will co-operate with the obedient subjects of heaven in their efforts to live the new life in Christ" (Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 7, pp. 62, 63 (1905); Evangelism, pp. 614, 615).  


Just as all parts of the tree are equally involved in the affairs of the tree all three persons of the Godhead are equally involved in the redemption of mankind.  

Raul Diaz