Friday, June 29, 2012

Caring for Others

Caring for Others
Ecology is a field of science I enjoyed studying in school. It is defined as a branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environments, and/or the totality or pattern of relations between organisms and their environment. It studies Ecosystems which is the complex of a community of organisms and its environment functioning as an ecological unit.

The principle behind this is that nature organisms and elements coexist interdependently. Patterns and cycles have been identified which keep nature in balance. Anything that obstructs these cycles and patterns can have devastating consequences eventually. As long as these cycles are not interrupted they continue “perpetually” and all parties involved benefit. We understand perpetual to mean continuing forever or occurring continually; also always existent or present. If what has always been existent or present ceases to be all else surrounding will also cease to be. This is perhaps what is behind the “green” or eco-friendly movement. It is the thought that we need to protect and maintain nature in order for nature to sustain us.

Our memory text reveals this principle. Notice, that a man sows a mustard seed in his garden. Eventually the yields a tree, which man and other parts of nature benefit. We know that the seeds of the tree can be used as condiment, and its leaves serve as highly nutritious food. Furthermore, the tree contributes to the air cycle of exchanging Oxygen for Carbon dioxide. The tree will also give shade to any one placed underneath it. Lastly, birds can use the tree as their dwelling place. Yes, the tree does uses resources of nature, but is does not hoard these, it returns other resources to nature. Why should we know this?

According to Ellen White this system is God ordained. Consider the following quote,

The law of God is as sacred as God Himself. It is a revelation of His will, a transcript of His character, the expression of divine love and wisdom. The harmony of creation depends upon the perfect conformity of all beings, of everything, animate and inanimate, to the law of the Creator. God has ordained laws for the government, not only of living beings, but of all the operations of nature. Everything is under fixed laws, which cannot be disregarded…everything in nature is governed by natural laws…{PP 52.3}

God cares about nature. He gave it to man to be its steward. Man has abused nature. God does not take that lightly. When Christ returns, then He will destroy those who destroy the earth (Revelation 11:18). Recall the Lord’s rebuke of Jonah for caring for himself more than the people of Nineveh and their cattle (Jonah 4: 10 – 11). God finds the destruction of earth morally reprehensive. To God is to be in non-compliance with His laws. To God acting with fellow humans in an abusive or non-caring fashion it is as if we are doing it to Him (Matthew 25: 31 – 46). James says to those who profess to live by Faith but have no works to prove it,

James 2:15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

James 2:16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

It is evident that interdependence among men is God’s desire. So, how can we humans become truly interdependent? How can we minister or serve one another? The only way is by being wholly dependent on God. Only then we give to others what we receive from Him. What do we receive from Him? The Holy Spirit, which is to us an ever flowing spring of living water fills us with His presence. His presence overflows – it grows into a fountain or stream of water that flows toward everyone else (John 7: 37 – 39). Ellen White says,

We are to be channels through which the Lord can send light and grace to the world… Floods of spiritual power are to be poured forth upon those prepared to receive it. {8T 46}

How we treat others and nature will reveal whether the Holy Spirit dwells in you or not. Without Him dwelling in us we will abuse ourselves and all else around us.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Commentary: One Man Band

One Man Band

A one-man band is a musician who plays a number of musical instruments simultaneously using their hands, feet, limbs, and various mechanical contraptions. The simplest type of "one-man band" — a singer accompanying themselves on acoustic guitar and harmonica mounted in a metal "harp rack" below the mouth. More complicated setups may include wind instruments strapped around the neck, a large bass drum mounted on the musician's back with a beater which is connected to a foot pedal, cymbals strapped between the knees or triggered by a pedal mechanism, tambourines and maracas tied to the limbs, and a stringed instrument strapped over the shoulders (e.g., a banjo, ukulele or guitar). Since the development of Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) in the 1980s, musicians have also incorporated chest-mounted MIDI drum pads, foot-mounted electronic drum triggers, and electronic pedal keyboards into their set-ups.


The term is also used in a general sense to refer to a person who runs a business alone, particularly if the operation requires that person to assume multiple different roles, in a manner akin to the way a musical "one man band" performer plays different instruments at the same time. Another way to put this is that one person runs the whole operation.  He makes decisions and acts on them.  He fixes and maintains everything. On the one hand it makes life simpler.  You have no bureaucracy and no one to neither get in your way nor delay you.   However, one-person bands have the potential to burn out because they have no physical or emotional team support. 


There are situations where there are one-person bands where there are more that could contribute; such as churches.  The one person does most of the work while the others sit and watch.  This many end up with the same result: The one person burning out because of the lack of support.  Often, in this situation, the one person band sometimes complains about the lack of church support.  However, while it is often the case that the congregation has probably not been asked to be involved in any way other than financially, most likely it is that the congregation just does not want to be more involved than they already.  


This is not a new phenomenon.   Ellen White once stated that the cause of their husbands early demise was that the brethren were not doing there part, so James felt as if he had to do more to make up for what lacked in others.  James White became pretty much a one-person band. 


There is another use for the one-man band metaphor.  The basis for this is that Paul says that we are all part of the body of Christ.  He says in 1 Corinthians 12:12 – 14 and 27,


1 Corinthians 12:12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:14 For the body is not one member, but many.

1 Corinthians 12:27 Now ye are the body of Christ …


So, Christ is one body, of which we are the members.    He says in Romans 12: 4 – 5,

Romans 12:4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:

Romans 12:5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.


So, this means that if are indeed abiding in Christ, then all we do, is Christ doing; for we are but, His members.  So, just as when my hand does something it is my body doing it, when we do something it is Christ doing it.  So, Christ - One Person - does it all. So, He is a One-Man Band. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Minority Report

The Minority Report


In the movie, "Minority Report," a system is developed to catch criminals before they commit crime.  The system is controversial because it arrests the criminal even if the criminal had changed his/her mind about it.  The basis of the system is three psychic siblings connected to a super computer.  The computer is able to transform the premonitions into a visual data.  The police are dispatch only when two or all three have the same premonition.  Occasionally one of the siblings has a different premonition, but because it cannot be confirmed by the other two siblings it is often ignored.  The video, however, is saved in a directory called: minority report. This premonition often has information that would further clarify the one premonition confirmed.  In fact, it could reverse an arrest made based on the majority report.  It is not that the files here are not often true; it is that the majority report is trusted more than the minority report.  Needless to say, the consequences can be devastating.


A minority report was also ignored in Kadesh.  And, the consequences were devastating.  If you recall, the Israelites had reached the borders of the Promised Land: Canaan.  They sent spies to scope the land and bring a report. The spies came back with fantastic report of the land.  The spies brought specimens of the fruit, showing the fertility of the soil. It was in the time of ripe grapes, and they brought a cluster of grapes so large that it was carried between two men. They also brought of the figs and pomegranates which grew there in abundance.  The people rejoiced that they were to come into possession of so goodly a land, and they listened intently as the report was brought to Moses, that not a word should escape them. "We came unto the land whither thou sentest us," the spies began, "and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it." The people were enthusiastic; they would eagerly obey the voice of the Lord, and go up at once to possess the land. But, after describing the beauty and fertility of the land, all but two of the spies enlarged upon the difficulties and dangers that lay before the Israelites should they undertake the conquest of Canaan (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 387) 


Now the scene changed. Hope and courage gave place to cowardly despair, as the spies uttered the sentiments of their unbelieving hearts, which were filled with discouragement prompted by Satan. Their unbelief cast a gloomy shadow over the congregation, and the mighty power of God, so often manifested in behalf of the chosen nation, was forgotten. The people did not wait to reflect; they did not reason that He who had brought them thus far would certainly give them the land; they did not call to mind how wonderfully God had delivered them from their oppressors, cutting a path through the sea and destroying the pursuing hosts of Pharaoh. They left God out of the question, and acted as though they must depend solely on the power of arms.  In their unbelief they limited the power of God and distrusted the hand that had hitherto safely guided them. And they repeated their former error of murmuring against Moses and Aaron. "This, then, is the end of our high hopes," they said. "This is the land we have traveled all the way from Egypt to possess." They accused their leaders of deceiving the people and bringing trouble upon Israel.  (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 388) 


At this site Moses and Aaron fell on their faces.  The two other spies, Joshua and Caleb, discerning the severity of the situation, tried to reason with the people.  We read in Numbers 14,


Num 14:6 And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes:

Num 14:7 And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land.

Num 14:8 If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.

Num 14:9 Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not.

Num 14:10 But all the congregation bade stone them with stones.


The Lord intervened by appearing as light in the tabernacle.  Everyone hushed.  But, their fate was set.  In their rebellion the people had exclaimed, "Would God we had died in this wilderness!" Now this prayer was to be granted. The Lord declared: "As ye have spoken in Mine ears, so will I do to you: your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness, and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward. . . . But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised." (PP 388).  By not hearing the minority report it delayed the fulfilling of the promise 40 years.  And most of them would not see it fulfilled. 


How about us?  Where are we now?  Are we wandering in the dessert until our rebellious generation dies off?  If so, what majority report have we heard, and what minority report have we ignored?  Ellen White continually said that Christ could have come in her time.  She says,


"Had Adventists, after the great disappointment in 1844, held fast their faith, and followed on unitedly in the opening providence of God, receiving the message of the third angel and in the power of the Holy Spirit proclaiming it to the world, they would have seen the salvation of God, the Lord would have wrought mightily with their efforts, the work would have been completed, and Christ would have come ere this to receive His people to their reward…For forty years did unbelief, murmuring, and rebellion shut out ancient Israel from the land of Canaan. The same sins have delayed the entrance of modern Israel into the heavenly Canaan. In neither case were the promises of God at fault. It is the unbelief, the worldliness, unconsecration, and strife among the Lord's professed people that have kept us in this world of sin and sorrow so many years" (Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 67-69).


I ask again, have we chosen to ignore a minority report also?  How long will we be wandering in this spiritual wilderness?  It seems clear that the only way to prevent more delay is to turn to God in repentance for "the unbelief, the worldliness, unconsecration, and strife among the Lord's professed people."  How long will it take for us to do just that?

Raul Diaz

Friday, June 08, 2012

Pendulum Swing

Pendulum Swing


On the wall there was an old pendulum clock that was not working.  No one touched it.  Somehow it was related to the memory of my late grandfather.  It had chimes, but of course no one heard them since the clock did not work.  One of my cousins convinced my grandmother to fix it.  My cousin had found someone that could do it.  A few weeks later the refurbished clock appeared.  We had to turn some nobs with a key, then hold the pendulum on one side and release it.  As the pendulum swung the hands of the clock moved.  You could hear the clicks.  Every hour it chimed.  No batteries were needed nor alternate current were needed.  As long as the pendulum swung the clock clicked and chimed at every hour.


A pendulum is a weight suspended from a pivot so that it can swing freely.  This swinging is called oscillation.  The pendulum oscillates trying to find its equilibrium.  However, it is as if it never finds it, because it keeps going side to side never stopping at the middle of its path.  This movement not only makes the clock work, but many find it to be illustrations to many events in life. 


Many compare some dynamics of society with a pendulum.  Society, in some issues, swings from one extreme to the other.  Society can move from very conservative to very liberal, but never quite finding that point where there is balance or equilibrium between the two.  It goes from one opposite side to the other; each generation choosing to be in one side.  What is wrong with one generation the next one over corrects.  And the cycle continues. 


When people ask why there is so much liberalism going on in our denomination, I answer that it is a backlash against all the legalism.  Legalism is a trap.  It is a description of the attitude if those who believe that their obedience to God will somehow cause Him to justify them in His sight.  It comes from a belief that unless you do well the Father will punish you.  A legalistic religion causes the individual to focus upon personal performance (and often the performance of others) rather than on the Gospel (namely the Cross).  Legalistic attitudes can lead to pride and arrogance on the part of those who are so blind that they actually deem themselves holy enough to be saved (at least more holy than those considered heathens).  Or just as bad, legalistic attitudes can lead to discouragement and despair for those who realize just how far they are from the divine standard.  This has been the unfortunate truth about our denomination for most of its history.  The focus has been keeping the law, especially the Sabbath – those who do not keep the Sabbath are not good Christians.  To that we need to add the health message. We they become vegetarians and tell meet eaters that they will not be saved.  Of course there were other requirements: no makeup, no earrings, skirts under the knees, etc.  Being a Christian became a drudge. 


The newer generations have grown tired of this attitude, and with the help of some converts from liberal churches have rebelled against legalism.  "God is love," they say.  He says, "Come as you are."  So, instead of making sure everyone in Church behaved in a certain way, they accept them as they are and let them be.  There are basically no standards.  "Who are we to judge?" They no longer sing hymns, they are boring, and no one can understand the words.  So, they have praise teams singing praise songs, and praise dancers on stage.  It is OK to make noise and move.  Sin and repentance are forbidden words. You see how this liberal outlook is nothing more than trying to be different from the legalists.  To coin another phrase, it is the other side of the spectrum. 


However, when we look deeper, these two approaches have a lot in common.  First, both are based on what and what not to do.  The focus is performance and behavior.  2nd, there is no change of heart in neither of them.  By, this I mean there is no real conviction of Sin and repentance.  3rd, church attendance is key for both views.  4th, both claim to have the Holy Spirit. 


There are other things they have in common.  Although there are differences on how they view the Holy Spirit - To the legalist the Holy Spirit is a school master keeping them in line by convicting them of Sin and to the liberal the Holy Spirit is master of emotions and feelings -  both negate the power and efficacy of the cross and the blood of Christ.  The transformation of character that only the Holy Spirit can bring is never the emphasis.  So, in the end both are proud of what and how they do things.  They are right and others are wrong, partially because they are not like the others.  Is there another option?  Is there are a way of having love and the Law?


Yes, there is what Jesus proposed to Nicodemus, "I say unto thee, except a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).  Being born again implies a new beginning; which means that something came to an end.  Paul explains in Romans 6, that when Christ was crucified and buried we die and were buried with Him.  But, since we die with Him we were also resurrected with Him.  There is nothing good in the old man, only iniquity.  So, in Christ our old man is dead, and the one that lives is Jesus in us.  Paul says in Galatians 2:20,


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.


By faith the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us and we no longer follow the flesh, but the Spirit (Romans 8:9).  And, since the law is Spiritual, as long as we are in the Spirit we are keeping the law (Romans 7:14).  What about love?  The Holy Spirit who dwells in us "sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts" (Romans 5:5).  Love after all is a fulfilling of the law.  In the flesh we can only have the law or love (in the end we have neither), but with the Spirit we have both.  Which option would you like?

Raul Diaz

Friday, June 01, 2012

Commentary: God Gives the Increase

God Gives the Increase


In many team sports the idea is for team A - to take the ball to the opposing team's side – team B - and score by having the ball go inside a basket, goal line or area.  Team B is supposed to prevent team A from scoring.  In this context team A is the offensive team, and team B the defensive team.  However, when team B takes possession of the ball it takes the ball to the opposite side to try to score.  Team A now tries to prevent team B from scoring.  Team B is now the offensive team, and team A becomes the defensive team.  And, they continue to alternate through out the game.  So, the same team will score and prevent the other team from scoring.  The team that scores most wins.  So, since the same players play defensively and offensively, the get to reap the reward of their efforts. 


American football is an exception to this.  Yes, the one team has to score on the opposite side with the opposing team preventing them from scoring.  But, they actually have an offensive lineup and a defensive line up.  The defensive lineup prevents the other teams' offensive lineup from scoring.  Once, the offensive team scores or the defensive team takes over the ball, the game pauses, so that the alternate lineups come in the field.  For example, team A is on the offensive, so their offensive lineup is on the field.  Team B is on the defensive, so their defensive lineup is on the field.  If team A either scores or loses the ball, then they pause the game, so that they leave the field and their counterparts come in.  They continue to alternate like this through out the game.  Like most other sports the team that scores more wins; but only the offensive lineup typically scores.  This implies that it will be very rare for the defensive team to score, and for the offensive team to prevent the other team from scoring.  Both sides are important parts of the game.  But, the one will not be part of the accomplishments of the other side.  So, only the offensive team gets to reap the result of the team's effort. 


Farming can have a similar pattern.  Those that till the soil, sow the seed, water the field, and harvest and gather the fruit need not to be the same people.  Very often they are, but they need not be.  They are all important.  They have different roles, therefore different contributions.  One team may or may not see what the other team does.  This is why Paul makes his comment to the Corinthians, "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase"1(Corinthians 3:6).  This implies that neither Paul nor Apollos may reap the harvest of their work.  This would mean that others would reap what Paul and Apollos worked on.  Neither Paul nor Apollos will baptize those with whom they work.    So, when one person says that they have baptized however many, they are reaping on the work others have made.  They cannot really take the credit.  Paul was clear that baptizing was not his mission, but preaching the Gospel (1 Corinthians 1: 17).  Besides as Paul says, "…God gave the increase".  It is not a result of man's effort that brings people to Christ, it is Christ in them.  When Paul spoke of how hard he worked preaching the Gospel, he added, "… yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (1Corinthians 15:10).  So, the laborers are really instruments.  Paul explains,


1Corinthains 3:7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

1Corinthians 3:8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.

1Corinthians 3:9 For we are labourers together with God:

Paul says that the laborers are nothing.  It is God doing the work through them.  Does this mean that the work of the planter or of the one that waters are in vain.  Do they simply work for others to reap the benefit?  Paul denied this.  He says that, "every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour."  The truth is they have already received their reward.  They have Jesus and live by the promise that Jesus would come back to take them with Him.  This is not the fullness of the reward.  But, it is enough to keep them going with the hope that one day, they will receive the reward in full (Hebrews 11: 13). 

Raul Diaz