Friday, May 25, 2012

A Daily Dose of Grace

A Daily Dose of Grace

In the United States, many of the States - if not all – have programs to screen newborns for some metabolic and genetic diseases.  Those that show possible presence of a disease are referred to specialists for further testing and treatment, should they be diagnosed.  This is important because once the symptoms for these diseases appear they cannot be reversed.  For some of the most popular diseases part of the treatment is avoiding certain kinds of foods or lifestyle practices.  For example, for PKU, a disease in which the baby cannot metabolize phenylalanine; they lack the enzyme to process it, so they avoid phenyalanins.  Ever seen can with artificial sweetener with a warning, “Phenylketonuerics: this product contains phenylalanine.”  In another popular disease, Galactosemia, the baby lacks the enzyme to metabolize the lactose in diary products.  The treatment for the most part is to avoid milk produced by animals, diary products, and other foods with lactose.

One disease, Biotinadase Disease, is different.  While the main reason for its existence is also the lack of an enzyme – Biotinadase, the issue is not that the baby cannot metabolize biotin, but that the baby cannot metabolize foods that will supply biotin to the body.  The body needs biotin to in turn metabolize lipids and other fats.  The lack of biotin can produce developmental issues (even death in rare cases).  So, if the issue of this disease is not the inability to metabolize foods to more basic and healthy components, what is the treatment?  The body needs biotin, and when it cannot produce it you need to supply it yourself.  The treatment is an intake of a daily dose of biotin (typically shots).  It should be enough biotin so that the body can function normally as if it had no lack.  This daily dose will help the patient live a pretty normal life.  To equip means to supply.  By supplying biotin the patient is equipped to digest food properly.  And, in so doing, the patients can live normal lives. 

So, imagine someone with Biotinadase disease that will not take the biotin shots.  They will develop symptoms.  They will try alleviating or ridding themselves of the symptoms.  In the beginning some relief may be found, but in the long run it will be no avail.  The symptoms will fully develop.  Now, imagine a Biotinadase disease patient that believes that his or her problem is another disease, such as Galactosemia.  He or she avoids foods with lactose, but the body still needs biotin.  Others may believe they have PKU, so they avoid anything with phenylalanine, but the body still needs biotin.  Maybe they were misdiagnosed, were not diagnosed at all, or were told a lie about it.  They will still suffer from Biotinadase disease.  They lack biotin.  The disease will progress and the symptoms develop, unless the biotin is supplied to the body. 

In principle our Sin problem is similar to Biotinadase disease.  We all have it.  Paul says in Romans,

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.

We do not have ways of producing inside of us what we need to rid ourselves of Sin.  So, the cure must be supplied.   We need a daily dose of God’s grace.  This is what Christ has done.  We read in Romans,

Romans 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

So, only Jesus can supply it.  And He has supplied grace to every man, “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7).  (A measure of faith is also given to every man – Romans 12:3).  And, it is by faith that we accept it (Romans 5:2).  You can try to ignore the problem or even misdiagnose it; you are still a sinner in need of grace. 

Remember, we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8).  So, what is grace?  The dictionary defines it as: a. the free and unmerited favour of God shown towards man, and b. the divine assistance and power given to man in spiritual rebirth and sanctification.  Strong’s concordance defines it as: the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.  Both definitions agree that beyond just unmerited favor, or undeserved mercy – which implies that it is a gift - grace is a power or influence from God given to man to transform man into His likeness.  Paul elaborates on this concept in Ephesians 2: 1 – 5 and 8,

Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
Ephesians 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Ephesians 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Ephesians 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

It is grace that provides the right “spiritual nutrients” to rid us of Sin and fill us with the Love of God.  Ellen White says,

“We are naturally inclined to desire our own way and will, but when the transforming grace of Christ takes hold upon our hearts the inquiry of our souls is, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" When the Spirit of God works within us, we are led to will and to do of the Lord's good pleasure, and there is obedience in heart and action....” (That I May Know Him, p. 150).

The question is: will we by faith accept the grace of God?  

Friday, May 18, 2012

Commentary: Incorporation



The word incorporation is used to define corporate; the main term in our quarterly this week.  The word corporate here is used to distinguish between parts and the whole.  The parts are the individual members of the church; the whole would be the members together.  The root of the word corporate means body.  So, it is no surprise that the meaning of the word corporate always refers to body.  For example, corporate can mean combined into one body or belonging to an incorporated body.  To incorporate can mean to unite closely or so as to form one body. 


As we see, the word corporate is more then just talking about the whole as opposed to the parts.  For, example, we can talk about the Congress or the Senate (in other countries they have parliaments) as a whole, but they are not as one body.  Any legislation approved was voted on by a majority.  Even the USA's Supreme Court works this way.  Although all 9 judges make the one body, they vote on their cases and the majority wins.  So, technically speaking neither corporate entity is really one.  They are not really incorporated.  However, a symphony orchestra is incorporated for they all play as one.  What brings a musical group together is the fact that they all play the same musical piece.  All musicians play different parts of the same musical piece, and yes, under the direction of a conductor.  Although, all the musicians play from the same music sheet, many details in that sheet can be left for interpretation.  So, it is the job of the Conductor to interpret that which is not clear.  So, when we talk about an orchestra in a corporate sense we are talking about the orchestra and its conductor.  If the orchestra was a body, then the conductor would be the head and musicians the rest of the body. 


Paul used a metaphor for the church as a body.  He identified the head as Christ, and the members are the rest of the body.  Of course, in this case the head is used as a way of talking about the brain.  Two lessons come out of this metaphor.  1. The body is joined together through the head – which is the brain.  2. The body works in harmony through the brain.


Regarding lesson number 1: Paul says in Ephesians 4: 15 – 16,


Ephesians 4: 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

Ephesians 4: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.


The words "From Whom" in the beginning of verse 16 refer to Jesus.  This means that the body is "…fitly joined together and compacted …," because and through the Head (brain) which is Jesus.  The brain is what keeps our body connected.  Paul is saying that it is Jesus which keeps the church united.  This is not something we can accomplish ourselves.  Someone once was a very good illustration of this principle by drawing a triangle, with the case on the bottom and the peak at the top.  The peak and the base are in opposite sides.  Of course the peak is very narrow, the base very wide.  Christ is at the top peak, but not in the base.  So, the closer we are to the base, the farther from Christ, and the less unity.  However, the closer we are to the top peak, the closer we are to Christ, the farther from the bottom, and the more unity.  Oneness with Christ brings oneness with each other.  Have you ever asked yourself why the church is so fragmented? 


Regarding lesson number two: the rest of verse 16 says that this oneness in the body allows the "… joints to supply effectual work which makes increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."  If it is the head that keeps the body together, then the work it produces must come through the head, also.  We know that most movements of our body makes would not happen unless the brain instructed the body part to move.  When we wink, one eyelid does not tell the other, "You stay open while I shut."  The brain does that.  If I grab something, the fingers do not tell the arm to extend nor does the arm tell the hand to open up.  No, the brain does that.  The Brain does not advice the members of the body, it commands them.  The members of the body submit to the brain.  There is oneness in work, because the brain orders and coordinates everything in the body.  So, there is constant communication between the members of the body and the brain.  So, should be with the Church. The members of the church submit to Christ.  Christ commands the members; He is not giving the members advice.  Yes, the church members can choose not to listen and go their own way, but not without consequences.  Christ orders and coordinates everything.  If the members consult, it should be to all consult Christ, not just each other.


Ironically, the only reason there is care and sympathy for one another is through Christ.  Paul illustrates this with the body again in 1 Corinthians 12: 25 – 26,


1 Corinthians 12: 25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.

1 Corinthians 12: 26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.


We know that we would not feel pain, unless the brain told the body part that it is in pain.  In fact, the brain lets the other parts of the body know that the one part is in pain.  That is how it can sympathize with each other.  Hit your toe.  Your leg will try to protect your foot.  Your hand wants to massage it.  The brain did all of that.   So, is with the Church.  It is only in connection with Christ that we can have sympathy for other members of the church or even all members of mankind; since, Christ died for all men (2 Corinthians 5:15).

Raul Diaz

Friday, May 11, 2012

Commentary: Potential



The word potential means, as an adjective: possible, as opposed to actual; capable of being or becoming. In other words, to use an example, we can talk about an athlete being a potential success, or a situation being potentially harmful.  As a noun, it also means possible, but we no longer use the word to describe.  Now we say instead that, "given the athlete's performance, he has potential." 


The word in English was derived from the French word, potencial, which in turn came from the Latin word, potentialis.  This is a compound word, of which the prefix, potent- is the stem of the word potÄ“ns, which is the present participle of the word: posse, which means to be able or have power.  So, this explains why something potent is something powerful; while, potential speaks to possibility.  Could there be a relationship? Meaning that potential - what you are able to do - is what you have the power to do.  In fact, we could go deeper: what you are able to do is based on what you were designed or built to do.  So, that your power or potential is limited by the design and manufacturing specifications.


For example, you average minivan will probable never go from 0 miles per hour to sixty miles per hour in just 20 seconds or less.  For those buying minivans that should not be an issue; that is not why they buy these vehicles.  For those buying an exotic and expensive sports coupe this may be a selling point.  This sports car, by the way, will never fit 7 persons comfortably.  Let us reiterate, inherent in the design and built is the objects' potential and power. 


Can this apply to living beings?  A quote from the German scientific genius Albert Einstein comes to mind, "everyone is a genius, but if you were to judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it would look pretty stupid."  Most cats are great tree climbers.  Most do not swim, and those that do, probably do not submerge.  We could safely say that this principle applies to us also.


How about spiritually?  Do we have potential to be righteous?  Sadly the answer is, "no."  "For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not" (Ecclesiastes 7:20).   Paul confirms 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.


This is why Jesus said in the sermon of the mountain,


Matthew 7:16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

Matthew 7:17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

Matthew 7:18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

Matthew 7:19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Matthew 7:20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.


At the harvest the fruit gives witness to the kind of tree or plant it came from; it makes it obvious.  If we are to be witnesses for Christ our fruit must be Christ like.  The only way that can happen is for us to accept His invitation to abide in Him.  Let us read John 15: 4 - 8,


John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

John 15:6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

John 15:7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

John 15:8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.


When we do not abide in Christ our potential is to do Evil – self centered deeds.  However, when we abide in Christ, it is as if we are grafted in the Tree. So, now the fruit harvested is different.  When we are grafted we no longer do evil deeds, we do Christ's righteous deeds.  Paul explains why this is so in Romans 11: 17,


Romans 11: 17 …and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;


Paul says in verse 11 that "if the root is holy so are the branches."  When we are grafted in Christ we partake of His Holiness.  So, as long as we are abiding, we now have a potential for "good."  But, it is not our "good," it is Christ's good flowing through us.  So, it is His potential and His power, not ours.  It is only then that we can truly be witnesses for Christ.  

Raul Diaz

Friday, May 04, 2012

Commentary: Spiritual Grown Up Babies

Spiritual Grown Up Babies


When asked to describe a baby, positive things come out first: small, cuddly, innocent, cute.  When there are no more positive things to say, there is an awkward silence, which is broken by somebody suggesting that the cry a lot, they require too much attention.  They awake at inopportune times.  They require a lot of feeding, a lot of diapers, and cleaning after them.  In other words, babies are selfish, self centered and unconcerned for the needs and wants of others.  However, you would expect this of babies.


Evidently, we would expect an adult to be different.  You expect them to be concerned about others' concerns and needs, to an extent self sufficient, self-providing and able to communicate.  However how many grown ups do you actually know like this?  You can probably count them with you fingers.  These adults are in a figurative sense still drinking milk; because, in many they still acts like babies. 


The same happens on a Spiritual level.  Many wanted their physical needs met, but were not ready to receive more of what Christ taught.  The disciples that left in John 6: 54 - 66 were offended by Jesus language.  As it says in our quarterly,


Many who had witnessed, and benefited from, the feast on the mountainside the previous day followed Jesus in order to be fed again. As Jesus attempted to turn their minds to spiritual things by using the illustration of His body and blood, many turned away. It wasn't that they could not grasp the truth of salvation through Christ alone; it was that they refused to accept it. It was a testing time, and when their personal wants were not met, they chose to walk away.


To the 12 disciples Jesus said, "I have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear it" (John 16:12).  Paul went through the same experience with the Corinthians.  Paul told the Corinthians that, "I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it" (1 Corinthians 3:2, NKJV).  Ellen White says of these,


"…those addressed in these words had not been feeding on Christ, and there­fore they were not advanced in spiritual knowledge. Paul said, 'I have fed you with milk'—the plainest, most simple truths, suitable for converts young in the faith; 'not with meat'—the solid, nourishing, spiritual food suited to those who have made progress in a knowledge of divine things. They were living on a low level, dwelling on the surface truths which call for no thought, no deep research."—Ellen G. White, Manuscript 70, 1901.


We often think that Paul was referring to theological knowledge.  And, yes babies know nothing compared to a grown ups.  But, there is the other factor expressed above that is often ignored; which goes along with the comparison above.  Paul in essence was telling them, "You act like Spiritual babies.  It as if you think that salvation is about you: What you are spared from and what you rewarded if you join the church.    But, there is no concern or consideration for the One who saved you.  How do you feel about Him?  How does Christ feel about not yet receiving what He purchased with His precious blood?  Although He is in Heaven does He still feel compassion when we suffer?  Is He suffering now, when we go about our lives only concerned about us and not him and others?   Do you long to be with Him, whom gave His life so that you could be with Him forever?  Are you still a Spiritual Baby?"


Ellen White seems to confirm this line of thought,


 "Those who think of the result of hastening or hindering the gospel think of it in relation to themselves and to the world. Few think of its relation to God. Few give thought to the suffering that sin has caused our Creator. All heaven suffered in Christ's agony; but that suffering did not begin or end with His manifestation in humanity. The cross is a revelation to our dull senses of the pain that, from its very inception, sin has brought to the heart of God. Every departure from the right, every deed of cruelty, every failure of humanity to reach His ideal, brings grief to Him" (Education, 263).


Many act like the Shulamite Woman when her lover came to see her.  Let us read in Songs 5: 2 – 3,


Songs 5: 2 I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.

Songs 5: 3 I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?


Full of self-concern, her comfort and convenience were more important than her lover's need to be intimate with her.  He left disappointed.  She called Him lover.  But, she demonstrated that she did not love Him enough to open the door for Him.  This Shulamite woman represents us the Laodicean church.  The writer of Revelation says that we believe we are "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing" (Revelation 5: 17).  Christ in the meantime is standing at the door knocking. Crying out, "if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20).  Will we let Him in?  Or will we like the Shulamite woman send Him away because we do not want to inconvenience ourselves?  We have milk in the house, but he brings meat.  Which one do we want most?  

Raul Diaz