Friday, April 27, 2012

Commentary: A Light That Shines

A Light That Shines


There was man that lived in the mountains that would look every late afternoon across the valley unto the mountain on the other side.  Why?  He would look, because there was what seemed to be gold shining off the sunlight.  He found it beautiful.  He dreamed of one day going to this other mountain to take a closer look to what he thought was shining gold. 


The day came when his dream came true.  He prepared provisions for the journey, since it could be a more than a day trail.  Going down his mountain was quite easy; walking across the valley not so much.   There was very little shade and the sun felt like fire on his back.  But, the thought and hope of seeing this shining gold kept him going.  When He reached the mountain it was dark, so he decided to rest until the morning.  Besides, he had no energy to climb up the mountain.  Early the next morning he continued his trek, full of energy and joy.  A few hours later, still morning, he reached a village, where he thought the shining gold should be.  Not knowing where to find it, he asked a villager where he could find the shining gold.  The villager looked puzzled, and replied, "There is no shining gold in this village."  The man told the villager, "But I see it from my house on the mountain across the valley."  The villager replied, "Well, Sir there is no shining gold here, but if it's true that you came from that mountain then you must know of the shining gold in your mountain.  You see the splendor every morning around this time."  The man looked back toward his mountain, and sure enough, there where his village should be was a beautiful splendor as if "shining gold." 


The original moral to the story is that looks can be deceiving.  It is kind of a "the grass seems greener on the other side" moral.  He leaves where he lives to find something he had were he lived.  Of course, he lacked the perspective to see it.  In the end, there was no gold in the surface on the either mountains.  But, there was something in these villages that when the sunlight hit it, it reflected the light in a splendorous manner.  So, there is another moral we can learn from this.  It was the light that created the shining reflection.  When the sun was in the opposite direction the sun rays were stronger, thus intensifying the shining effect. 


There is a spiritual lesson in this.  The only way we can reflect God's glory – which is His character (Exodus 33 and 34) - is for His light to shine on us, and we reflect it.  Put differently, our life should be a direct reflection of the Light, which is Jesus (John 8:2).  Jesus adds that "he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."  So much will they have this light that they will be Lights themselves, put up high for everyone to see (Matthew 5:14).  They will be as cities set on a hill.  Now, in the Greek rendering of Matthew 5:14 the pronoun you is plural, but the noun Light is singular.  It is clear that all believers share the one Light.  So, what others will see in us, if we are believers is Christ in us.  According to Paul, this is the mystery hidden through the ages and now revealed; it is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:26 – 27).  In Galatians 2:20 Paul rewords this precious truth referring to Himself,


Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.


This is very simple: what people read about Christ in the Bible they will see in you.  They will say about you what the Jews said about the disciples, that they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).  Jesus advised His listeners, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). The Works are the products or fruit of abiding in the Light and the Light in you (John 15: 1 – 5).  The works are the fruit of the Spirit: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance" (Matthew 5: 22 – 23).  These traits are what glorify the Father.  These traits' when seen in the believer will convince others that God is worth following.  Ellen White says,


Character is power. The silent witness of a true, unselfish, godly life carries an almost irresistible influence.  By revealing in our own life the character of Christ we co-operate with Him in the work of saving souls. It is only by revealing in our life His character that we can co-operate with Him. And the wider the sphere of our influence, the more good we may do. When those who profess to serve God follow Christ's example, practicing the principles of the law in their daily life; when every act bears witness that they love God supremely and their neighbor as themselves, then will the church have power to move the world. {COL 340.2}


Is it not about time that we let Christ shine through us?

Raul Diaz

Friday, April 20, 2012

Spiritual Gifts for Evangelism and Witnessing

Spiritual Gifts for Evangelism and Witnessing


Due to extenuating circumstances there will be no commentary this week.  So, instead, I leave with you a few notes.


The word rendered as gift in the Greek is charisma

1) a favor with which one receives without any merit of his own

2) the gift of divine grace

3) the gift of faith, knowledge, holiness, virtue

4) the economy of divine grace, by which the pardon of sin and eternal salvation is appointed to sinners in consideration of the merits of Christ laid hold of by faith

5) grace or gifts denoting extraordinary powers, distinguishing certain Christians and enabling them to serve the church of Christ, the reception of which is due to the power of divine grace operating on their souls by the Holy Spirit


This word charisma, like many other words, has evolved into a totally different meaning: a personal quality of leadership arousing popular loyalty or enthusiasm.  So, when we talk about a charismatic movement which definition are we using?  I believe it is the biblical.  Of course it really is a misuse of the word, since those that use really use it to refer to the use of glosolalia (speaking in tongues) and a more enthusiastic type of worship service.  In their mind this kind of worshiping is from the Holy Spirit.  However, as we can see charisma is more than just external displays of the presence of the Holy Spirit, it refers to the quality of the plan of salvation; which is a gift from God to man.  Jesus is a gift to man (John 3:16); so is the Holy Spirit (John 14:26).  The word is also used to refer to grace, faith, knowledge, virtue, pardon, etc.  All of these are gifts given to man.  It is a favor with which one receives without any merit of his own.  Somehow when we refer to 1 Peter 4:10 we tend to focus on the definition number 5. 


For the context of our study the word gift means something given.  This has implications. One is that a gift is generally given to someone that does not have from someone that does.  This implication leads to the next one: when one is given a gift, generally when has something he did not have before.  This applies to the Spiritual context.  Before experiencing Christ in us we had nothing of what God gives to us.  Just read Romans 5 to get an idea.  Death is our reward.  After Christ comes into our lives eternal life is the outcome if we receive Him. 


Now the one giving the gift gives because He wants to, the one receiving most choose to receive it.  Whether they receive it or not, it does not mean they were not given a gift.  It means that they did not receive the gift; it is still a gift.  The gift is given not because the recipient deserves it or not.  The gift is given because the giver wants to give it.


Since our lessons emphasis is what we call spiritual gifts.  What they are referring to is these special endowments or skills that the Holy Sprit gives to those in whom He dwells; in other words to those who are converted.  (The disciples did not receive their gift until after their true conversion in the Upper Chamber.)  These endowments are listed in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4.   The purpose for them is given in Ephesians 4: 12 – 13,


Ephesians 4:12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Ephesians 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:


These gifts are not just for witnessing and evangelism.  They are to help us become more like Christ and help others become more like Christ.  They are to be used to serve others.  How do we know we have them?  Well, if you are converted it will be revealed to you.  It is the Holy Spirit who brings about conversion in us, it is He who gives us a ministry, and it is He who gives us the gifts.  They are called spiritual for a reason.  Only those who are spiritual and not carnal have them. 


Can you choose your gift? No the Holy Spirit gives as He wills (1 Corinthians 12: 11).  How can you use them?  That is God's prerogative also.  Paul says in Ephesians 2:10,


Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. 


It is His work.  He is the boss.  So, whatever the church does, it must do under the authority and direction of the Holy Spirit. It is our privilege to seek the will of God and to work in harmony with that which the Spirit reveals. We must not fall into the trap of making plans and then seeking divine approval. Often we ask, "What can our church do for God?" We would do better to pray and let the Holy Spirit reveal to us what we shall do. 

Raul Diaz

Friday, April 13, 2012

How to Prepare to Work in the Field

How to Prepare to Work in the Field


Recently I was watching a documentary on the republic of China.  There was a part in the documentary that dealt with agriculture.  The first part of that section showed how they plowed and turned the soil to prepare it for sowing.  The next part showed dozens of laborers walking up and down the field planting seeds.  The next part showed how they irrigated the plantation.  Lastly, they showed how the laborers collected the harvest. 


As I watched this I asked myself where the seeds come from.  This question led to other questions which led me to realize that there is background information that is often taken for granted.  What happens before the season for planting is never showed.  Consider the following:  In order to plow the land you must have a way to plow the land.  In the case of this place in China, they still had a plow yoked to bulls.    This meant that prior to plowing the farmers need to own or have access to a bull and a plow.  The Bull has to be kept strong and healthy.  The plow needs to be maintained. 


When it comes to the planting itself, you must know the seasons for planting, that determines when you start working the land.  You must have the seed of that you which to reap.  What you wish to reap must be appropriate for the climate and soil of the land.  There are, for example, fruit that will not grow effectively in tropical places, but others that will.  So, you need to have the right seed, and the right amount.  This means that prior to the season you must secure the seeds from the last harvest or have a way of purchasing more, before the season starts.  None of this can be left for the last minute. 


Also, often taken for granted is man power.  Whether the farming will be done with machinery or with manual labor, you still need a workforce.  These laborers must be fit to do the work, be ready to do it, and be available.  And, one last thing, they must know what they are doing.  Else, you need a good trainer to train the rookies. 


This sounds like a lot, especially, since this is all after the harvest was collected and the new planting season begins.  There seems to be not much of a hiatus. 


With all the allusions of farming in the Bible I think it would behoove us to have a bigger picture of farming, not only the planting, watering and harvest.  We focus on what we see, not the invisible background work that enables the visible work.  Consider a musical performance or play.  There are hours of practicing and rehearsing that we are not privy to.  We focus on the visible, but not on the background work that enables the visible.  We focus on the results but not on what made the result possible.  So, it is no surprise that we focus on the planting, watering, and reaping.  Same goes for the Gospel work. 


There is a preparation prior to the Gospel worker going out to preach, teach or witness.  It is the same principles at work.  Obviously, any tools or utensils must be made available prior to the beginning of the work.  But there is a special preparation that the Gospel laborer must go through before going out to work the field.  We are not left in the dark regarding this; the Bible and the writing of Ellen White have plenty of examples in which this preparation is clearly revealed. 


Let us consider Moses.  If anyone was to be the deliverer of the Israelites it was Moses.  He had the education the training, the position, the influence to make it happen.  But, God had other plans.  For God's plans Moses was not ready.  What prevented God from using the best man for the job?  Moses heart and mind was puffed up with pride and man's wisdom.  God allowed circumstances to happen so Moses had to leave Egypt (Exodus 2: 11 – 15), and for the next 40 years Moses prepared for God's work.  It took 40 years for Moses to finally let go of trust and dependence on self, and live out of every word that comes out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).  We see this in Moses excuses of being ill prepared for the job (Exodus 3). 


You may say that you are not delivering a nation; neither were the Apostles but they had to go through the same preparation, and so did Paul.  A professed worker of Christ that still relies on self is a hindrance of the Gospel, for the smallest spot of self will nullify and word of truth we say.  Even if all his words are according the truth as it is in Jesus,   his reliance on self undoes his words.  Ellen White says,


It is not only by preaching the truth, not only by distributing literature, that we are to witness for God. Let us remember that a Christlike life is the most powerful argument that can be advanced in favor of Christianity, and that a cheap Christian character works more harm in the world than the character of a worldling. Not all the books written can serve the purpose of a holy life. Men will believe, not what the minister preaches, but what the church lives. Too often the influence of the sermon preached from the pulpit is counteracted by the sermon preached in the lives of those who claim to be advocates of truth.

It is the purpose of God to glorify Himself in His people before the world. He expects those who bear the name of Christ to represent Him in thought, word, and deed. Their thoughts are to be pure and their words noble and uplifting, drawing those around them nearer the Saviour. The religion of Christ is to be interwoven with all that they do and say. Their every business transaction is to be fragrant with the presence of God. {Testimonies to the Church, Vol. 9}


There is nothing you can do to prepare yourself to be a worker in God's field.  Fitness and ability for the job comes from the Lord Himself.   Allow Him to prepare you!

Raul Diaz

Friday, April 06, 2012

Commentary: Message and Method

Message and Method


A company that produces high end audio equipment is about to market their latest product: audiophile level speakers.  Needless to say these will be sold for a very high price.   There are, however several challenges, one of which is they have virtually no money for marketing.  Marketing is to let potential buyers know of the product.  Even with money it would have been a challenge, because this was an exclusive type of product for an exclusive clientele.  If no one knows, then no one buys, if no one buys then the money spent to produce this equipment will be lost. 


One of the employees on the office said in a meeting, "If only we knew the people who would potentially buy these we could call them ourselves."  Another asked, "Who would know?"  After a few jokes were cracked, one of them said, "A high end car dealership."  All the faces lit up.  They came up with a plan to call dealerships to see which one would be interested in helping.  One of the dealership accepted, with one condition, they could market their own products.  The dealership would send invitations to an event to their former clients.  However, where do you hold the event?  Both parties came together and decided to find a high end restaurant with private event rooms.  After a few were restaurants contacted, one accepted under the same condition: they could do some marketing also. 


The plan was as follows: the dealer would pick those who accepted the invitation and give them a ride to the restaurant in a car they though that client would be interested.  Once, in the restaurant, they were escorted to the private room, where they were treated to samples of the food served in the restaurant, while the music played through the high end speakers.  After a few of the present people asked about the speakers, the marketers for the speakers gave a presentation.  In the end, cars and speakers were sold, and many of the guests present would return to the restaurant in the future.  All of this was done with not too much money spent.  They got the right people to hear the message with the right method.   The wrong method with the right message would have yielded poor results, and like wise the wrong message with the right method.  The two always go together.


The same is true for the Gospel.  For years we have been trying to use public evangelism methods that have failed miserably.  Dozens, sometimes hundreds, come to the meeting place and at the end of the effort very few are left, if at all.  Some try to conjecture why it is not working.  And, then suggest changes.  But, they are with no avail.  Is it the method or the message or both?  They have tried to use more personal methods like bible studies, but the students stop coming.  Then they suggested maybe if we have them by correspondence, or online.  But, very few results are seen.  Some are trying TV, radio, satellites, and internet; nothing seems to work.  Again, why is it not working?  It begs the question, is there a right method to spread the Gospel? 


Let us go to the Bible.  When the disciples received power from on high, they went out and spoke the truth as it is in Jesus (Acts 1:8; 2: 1 – 4).  Most people in Jerusalem knew who they were.  They perceived a difference.  For starters, they were speaking in languages that these simple peasants could not speak naturally (Acts 2:4).  From this time forth the language of the disciples was pure, simple, and accurate, whether they spoke in their native tongue or in a foreign language (AA 39).  Remember they were not trained speakers or experts in righting sermons.  Of Peter and John it was said, And, When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus (Act 4:13).  But, this power did not come from training, motivational speeches or self-help programs.  It was all from the Holy Spirit.  That was the difference. 


Notice also Peter's sermon (Acts 2: 14 – 38).  Peter did not refer to the teachings of Christ to prove his position, because he knew that the prejudice of his hearers was so great that his words on this subject would be of no effect. Instead, he spoke to them of David, who was regarded by the Jews as one of the patriarchs of their nation (AA 42).  Peter took the Old Testament, and framed it to testify of Jesus (John 5:39).  Our lesson states that The "Word of God" that was preached everywhere most cer­tainly included the messianic passages of the Old Testament. Those Scriptures that foretold the death and resurrection of the Savior, and His consequent forgiveness and justification of sinners, were pre­sented as being fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.


Those who heard were convicted.  Many were converted (Acts 2: 37 – 41).  Peter used the Word of God.  Peter did not push anyone.  He did not manipulate them nor instill fear or guilt on them.  Was it just the words or the ways they were said?  Was it that it was a public mass event versus a one-on-one approach?  In the New Testament most conversions came through one-on-one approaches.  It was personal.  Most importantly it was led by the Holy Spirit. 


The church grew without technological advances.  There was no need for creeds or emphasis on doctrine.  It was very simple.  Ellen White says that in the end we would "be surprised by the simple means" that God will employ to bring about and perfect His work of righteousness in the final proclamation of the third angel's message (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 300.).  Ellen White says about the simplicity in witnessing,


"Thousands can be reached in the most simple, humble way. The most intellectual, those who are looked upon as the world's most gifted men and women, are often refreshed by the simple words of one who loves God, and who can speak of that love as naturally as the worldling speaks of the things that interest him most deeply. Often the words well prepared and studied have but little influence. But the true, honest expression of a son or daughter of God, spoken in natural simplicity, has power to open the door to hearts that have long been closed against Christ and His love."—Ellen G. White, The Colporteur Ministry, p. 39.


God not only has a message but also a method.  Try to use the wrong method with the right message or the right method with the wrong message, and the result is failure.  Let God lead you with the use His method and His message, and then we will see results.  

Raul Diaz