Friday, February 22, 2013

God and His Machine

God and His Machine

A machine is defined as a device that simply transforms the direction or magnitude of a force, in so doing it uses energy of that force to achieve a particular goal.   Simply put, machines are tools that help the user to achieve a process that otherwise would be very hard or impossible to do.  Typically they consist consists of one or more parts: some moving and some static.  Machines are usually powered by mechanical, chemical, thermal, or electrical means, and are frequently motorized.  A large number of machines exist; some examples include vehicles, electronic systems, molecular machines, computers, television, and radio.
We mentioned that machines are typically motorized.  A motor or engine is a machine designed to convert energy into useful mechanical motion. Following we are several examples.  Heat engines, including internal combustion engines and external combustion engines (such as steam engines) burn a fuel to create heat, which is then used to create motion. Electric motors convert electrical energy into mechanical motion, pneumatic motors use compressed air and others, such as wind-up toys use elastic energy.

Being that machines are made to accomplish a process, they must be designed to do what they do.  Once manufactured, machines have to be powered to do it; and someone has to start them.  Some think that machines work by themselves, but that is not completely true.  Machines have to be supervised, maintained and occasionally repaired.  Many have to be operated.  Parts get old, deteriorate, and brake.  So, we have people to service the machines.  Perhaps the easiest example is the automobile or similar machines, i.e. buses, trucks, tractors, etc.  The car must be operated in order to accomplish what it was designed and built to do:  Move from point a to point b.  Most of them need fuel to move.  A human being supplies the fuel.  They must be powered on, a human being does that.  Also, there is periodic checking, exchanging and refilling of other oils and liquids: i.e. oil, transmission liquid, windshield fluid, coolant or antifreeze, and brake fluid.  There is also a periodic checking and exchanging of parts: i.e. tires, breaks, motor filter, air filter, wipers, etc.    So, there is a constant overseeing of the machine. 

The human body works like a machine.  It works on fuel: food, air, water, and sunlight.  It has moving parts which sole purpose is to achieve a process or goal.  The body must be taken care of: it needs activity, rest, washing, etc.  You could argue that a machine, as well our our body is in fact a system of interconnected machines, working together operated by our brain. 
Some say creation is not like a machine.  But, they have a misunderstanding of machines.  It seems that many who use the machine metaphor believe that machines are left to work on their own.  But, as we have established, that is a misrepresentation of machines.  Machines need constant observation and intervention.  Just as God constantly observes and intervenes in His creation.  He is constantly involved in sustaining what He has created.  Nothing in the universe exists independently of the Lord. He created everything that was created. “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3, NIV). Not only that, but He is the One who sustains it all. Even more astonishing, the One who created and sustains it all was the One who was crucified for us.
“The apostle Paul, writing by the Holy Spirit, declares of Christ that ‘all things have been created through Him, and unto Him; and He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.’ Colossians 1:16, 17, R.V., margin. The hand that sustains the worlds in space, the hand that holds in their orderly arrangement and tireless activity all things throughout the universe of God, is the hand that was nailed to the cross for us.”-Ellen G. White, Education, p. 132.
God is your designer, builder and sustainer.  He is your operator.  He is your service man.  Let Him work on you.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Commentary: Through A Glass, Darkly

Through A Glass, Darkly

 Last week's lesson was about the fall, this week is about the consequences.  Let's briefly recap last week.  Eve goes out through the garden and encounters the Tree of knowledge og good and evil, with a serpent on it.  What attracted eve to this tree this time?  Ellen White says in patriarchs and prophets pages 53 through 56 that serpent ate fruit like a man – it plucked the fruit of the tree and took it to its mouth to bite - and that it ate of the fruit this tree.  Although not clearly said it is very possible that Eve saw the serpent eating of the fruit.  She saw that the serpent did not die, and furthermore it spoke.  Eve thought that the serpent spoke because of eating the fruit (1 Spirit of Prophecy, p. 337).  She told the serpent that God said not to touch nor eat the fruit.  Ellen White says that the serpent put the fruit in her hand, implying that the fruit did not kill her by touch, and that it would be safe, even beneficial, to eat. 

 Eve had heard the Word of God.  In that moment she had to choose between trusting what she heard or saw.  As Paul said, 'So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God' (Romans 10:17).   Hence, Paul's statement that "we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7).   Eve chose to trust what she saw.   So, based on this story can we trust what we see?  Eve, in her perfection, did not see everything, how much we in our sinful state? 

 Unless our eyes are unveiled, our view does not go beyond our presently physical realm.  We are like Elisha's servant.  When Elisha and he were compassed by an army, the servant was afraid.  We read the story in 2 Kings 6: 15 – 17,

 2Ki 6:15 And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?

2Ki 6:16 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

2Ki 6:17 And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

 Hence, the importance of hearing; Paul emphasizes this to the Galatians 3.  It is by the hearing of faith that we receive the Holy Spirit.  It is by the hearing of faith that miracles are performed and the Sprit is ministered (Galatians 3: 2, 5).   Jesus also emphasized hearing.  We see this, for example in the parable of the wise and foolish builders (Matthew 7: 24 – 26) and in the parable of the Sower and the seed (Matthew 13: 1 – 8; 18 – 23).  Another example is,

 John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

 It is through the hearing of faith that we discern spiritual things; which is why Paul said that we see through a glass darkly.  Spiritual things are spiritually discerned, the apostle says.  Now, our inability to discern spiritual things is compounded by the fact that creation does not reflect the glory of God as it used to.

Although in previous lessons we have proved that all over creation we see evidence of God's handiwork, the evidence is not as it used to be.  Sin has greatly influenced and degraded God's creation, and the themes of death and decay are everywhere.  The earth bears evidence of the curse from sin, from decay and death, conflict, warfare, immorality, selfishness, and many other aspects of this troubled world, yet God maintains this world, continues to "rain on the just and unjust", and provides for basic human needs.  We see the work of righteousness and love as well as sin all around us.  The themes of resurrection and restoration are also seen in the cycle of life, in the birth of new creatures, in the miracle of the seed, and the scientific properties that keep seas in their boundaries, etc. we see the miracle of the Hand of God. 


The evidences of the warfare in the Great Controversy between Christ and Satan are ever before us.  The effects of sin are on the psyche of every human being, and the world is broken, groaning, and slowly dying, waiting for the day that God will remake the heavens and the earth in holiness.  Satan does have the ability to cause great destruction and suffering.  We must be careful in the conclusions we draw about God and His creation, but there is evidence of the laws of nature, the healing power inherent in the human body, the resilience of nature, the miraculous properties we find in the processes of biology and other sciences, and many other miracles of the power of God.  The creation truly speaks of God's care, and the concept that an intelligent being could oversee this vast expanse of the universe speaks of a love and intelligence that is totally beyond our comprehension.  Yet, this testimony and witness is incomplete, and we will someday see God and comprehend Him in a way we are not fully capable of now.  "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known" (1 Corinthians 13:12).  This is our hope.

Raul Diaz

Friday, February 08, 2013

The Slippery Slope

The Slippery Slope

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness godliness faith, love endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  I Tim. 6:11, 12. NIV.

Have you ever watched an insect scurrying around on a pitcher plant?  Hundreds of species of pitcher plants belong to a half dozen different families all over the world. All of them have some part of the plant formed into a rain catcher to make a pool of water in which they can trap and drown insects for food. The plants attract insects to the water with lures of nectar and bright markings pointing the way. In its explorations for some tasty morsel, the insect encounters stiff hairs that point downward toward the good stuff.  The slope gets steeper, so the insect naturally turns around to go up to higher ground to get a better look at the situation, but it’s too late. Loose waxy scales that make for a very slippery footing cover the slope. Trying to scramble uphill on the loose scree simply doesn't work.  Imagine yourself trying to climb up a very steep slope with nothing solid to stand on. All you have underfoot are loose waxy plates. And thousands of sharp spears all pointed down slope block your way. No wonder the insect suddenly loses its footing and falls into the trap. Before it even stops struggling, other denizens of the dark watery pit start chewing on and burrowing into the insect's body. Plant enzymes begin digesting the plant s victim.  Bacteria break down high-energy insect chemicals for use by the plant.  For an insect the only hope is to flee at once. Exploration is certain doom. The trap of the pitcher plant is that good.  (From God of Wonders by David A. Steen)

Eve went down a slippery slope.  From what we read in Genesis 3 we see that subtly and gradually the devil lured her into coming into coming closer and closer, making the nectar of Sin very attractive, appetizing, and promising great rewards if partaken.  Little did she know that by the time it was over she would be the one figuratively eaten up.  He appealed to her human needs.  As with the insects exploration was certain doom.  The devil’s trap was that good. 

We read in Matthew 4 that the devil tried to do the same with Jesus.  The devil appealed to Jesus human needs.  But, Jesus refused to go down.  Immediately, Christ quoted from scripture.  No need to explore that scene.  Christ figuratively flew away at once.  When food did not work as it did with Eve, then the devil tried to appeal to other human needs.  But, Christ again quoted scripture.  He kept Himself figuratively flying from the trap. 

The Devil sets trap for us just as He did for Eve and Jesus.    Ellen White comments on this,

Satan is watching his chance. He will come to men in human form, and will speak to them most entrancing words. He will bring against them the same temptations that he brought against Christ. Unless their minds and hearts are filled with the pure, unselfish, sanctified love that Christ revealed, they will fall under Satan's power, and will do and say and write strange things, to deceive, if it were possible, the very elect. . . .  {UL 295.7}  … . But none who wish to know the truth need be deceived. God has promised to give to his people the Spirit of truth, to guide them into all truth.  {RH, November 5, 1889 par. 9} 

In and of ourselves we have no power to overcome the trap.  But, through the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us we shall have the victory. 

Friday, February 01, 2013

With Love There Is No Need For Rights

With Love There Is No Need For Rights

Anytime you study morality, you end up talking about what is wrong and right.  However, our lesson begins with this quote: 

“People love to talk about “human rights.” From the Magna Carta (1215) to the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789) to various United Nations declarations, the idea is promoted that human beings possess certain “inalienable rights,” rights that no one can rightfully take away from us. They are ours by virtue of being human (at least that’s how the theory goes).
The questions remain: What are these rights? How are we to determine what they are? Can these rights change, and if so, how so? Why should we, as humans, have these rights, anyway? 
In some countries, for instance, women were not given the “right” to vote until the twentieth century (some nations still deny it). How, though, can a government grant to people something that is their “unalienable right” to begin with?
Hard questions, and their answers are inseparably linked to the question of human origins, the study for this week’s lesson.”

I believe the premise here is that if I am moral I will do what is right; therefore I will respect other people’s rights.  Conversely, if I am immoral, then I will do what is wrong; therefore I will infringe on someone’s right.  The appearance of this concept of having rights came to be in order to prevent abuses.  Indeed, this concept of human rights appeared when it was common for only royalty, nobility and clergy to have rights.  Everyone else was at the mercy of the royalty, nobility and clergy.  These believed that it was a God given right to be above everyone else.  So, they ruled every aspect of lower classes lives.  So, the most heinous abuses were committed under this ruling system. 

The solution to this was to create these documents with edicts to be followed by all regarding how others should be treated.  This curtailed the far reach of influence over the people’s lives by the ruling classes.  Everyone was free to make their own choices according to their own conscience.  Among others, Freedom of religion, of thought, of expression were guaranteed by these documents.  So, laws are created to protect those rights.  Which means that we have also a list of duties to make sure others rights are not violated.  These laws may not guarantee your rights immediately, but it can guarantee that the one whose rights have been violated can be heard and awarded reparations for the damage done by the violators.  These laws that protect are externally imposed.  And, when anyone breaks them they are penalized.

However, there are three issues laws cannot deal with.  One, the law cannot heal the pain.  When the rights of someone are infringed it comes as a result of some kind of abuse.  The victim’s 1st concern is the pain caused by the abuse not the infringed right.  While man’s law can punish the victimizer, it cannot heal the pain.  That only happens through grieving.  Also, the law cannot cause reconciliation.  Lastly, more often than not when the right infringer is punished he is not really sorry for what he did.  He is sorry that he was caught and angry to pay the punishment.  His heart is not changed.  And, for reconciliation to happen you need two things: a person that has repented and asks for forgiveness, and a person that forgives.  Both victim and victimizer need a change of heart. 

The Bible talks about a change of heart; God’s law and scripture written in our hearts and minds (Romans 12: 2; Jeremiah 31: 33).  So, what man’s law seeks to impose becomes natural to man.  I will not abuse my fellow human being because God’s love permeates my heart.  It is not because my fellow human being has rights, but because God’s love moves me to put others first and have mercy and compassion on them.  When I act with mercy and compassion the rights of others do not matter, I will treat them right regardless.  My rights will not matter either.  To put others first I give up my right. 

That is what Christ did.  As Paul exhorts us to follow Christ’s example he describes how Jesus gave up every right, without denying any good to anyone.  We read in Philippians 2: 3 - 8,

Phi 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
Phi 2:4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Phi 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Phi 2:6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
Phi 2:7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
Phi 2:8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Jesus did nothing on His own, only what the Father ordained (John 5: 30; 6: 38).  And, at times when He could have asked the Father to rescue Him, Jesus held His peace.  Consider what Christ told Peter after Peter cut a young man’s ear, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).  For Christ, others came first.  Not because they had rights, but because He loved them.