Friday, July 26, 2013

Commentary: The Flow of Water

The Flow of Water

"To be filled you must be emptied" - this may sound like a contradiction but it is true. The opposite is also true. To be emptied you must be filled. Even when a bottle is emptied of liquid, it is still full of air. If I fill a jug with water, and close the lid tight, the water stays in and the air stays out. The moment the lid is opened, the water can flow out, but only as long as air can flow in. Air must displace the water in order for the water to move out through the opening.

Let us say that, for some reason, I want to fill the jug with air. The lid must be opened to let the water out, or the air cannot come in. This concept applies in other contexts as well. For example, to fill a truck with boxes and furniture, the truck must first be emptied of its previous load. Your stomach needs time to digest one meal before you fill it with another. The concept, then, is that you cannot fill something that is already full.  This is also true in the spiritual realm.

St. Augustine once said "We must be emptied of that which fills us, so that we may be filled with that of which we are empty." Many pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit. In order for God to answer this prayer, we must be emptied of self. But, we cannot do the job ourselves.

"No man can empty himself of self. We can only consent for Christ to accomplish the work. The language of the soul will be, Lord, take my heart; for I cannot give it. It is Thy property. Keep it pure, for I cannot keep it for Thee. Save me in spite of myself, my weak, unchristlike self. Mold me, fashion me, raise me into a pure and holy atmosphere, where the rich current of Thy love can flow through my soul. It is not only at the beginning of the Christian life that this renunciation of self is to be made. At every advance step heavenward it is to be renewed" (Ellen White, Christ's Object Lessons, page 159, 160).

This idea of being emptied to be filled can be illustrated by the story of the Samaritan woman. In John 4, Jesus meets her at the well, and asks her for a drink of water. Surprised by a Jew who would ask a favor of a Samaritan, and a woman at that, she questions Him. In response, Jesus introduces Himself and His mission by using water as a metaphor for what He has to offer. Failing to understand, she questions Him again. His response is in verses 13 and 14 --

"Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."

These are words that Jesus echoes in John 7: 37 – 39,


John 7:37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

John 7:38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

John 7:39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

This woman was all too aware of the moral indiscretions of her past life. She was full of guilt and sorrow; however, empty of love and joy, empty - and she knew it. When she believed Christ's revelation of Himself, the Samaritan woman's heart was warmed and filled with the love she much longed for. What she thirsted for was not merely water, but a reservoir of spiritual water springing up into everlasting life. This flowing, filling water which represents the Holy Spirit displaces all the ugliness of self.  Holy Spirit inspired truth, believed and received into the heart, dislodges self from its throne.  Once filled with the Holy Spirit, love for others also filled her heart.  Self no longer lodged in the Samaritan woman's heart she left to tell those she had previously avoided what she found. 


John 4:28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,

John 4:29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?

There was no need to tell her to witness.  She needed no training.  She was revived and now she could speak.  Witness was a natural outgrowth of her reception of the Holy Spirit.  Her whole village was converted as a result.  They believed whom they formerly knew as the adulterous woman.  The walls of separation - that self had erected in their hearts - were brought down. 

A wise author wrote that, "All self-exaltation and self-admiration are the result of ignorance of God and of Jesus Christ, whom He has sent. How quickly will self-esteem die, and pride be humbled in the dust, when we view the matchless charms of the character of Christ" (4BC 1178).

In genuine revival, our own hearts are wakened to God's goodness, compassion, forgiveness, and power. We are so charmed by His love and transformed by His grace that we cannot be silent.  Genuine revival never leads to self-centeredness or, especially, to self-sufficiency or self-exaltation. Instead, it always leads to a selfless concern for others. When our hearts are renewed by God's grace, we long to bless and serve those who are in need.  The purpose of revival is hearts filled with such a love for Jesus that we long to share this love with every person possible in any way possible.  

Raul Diaz

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Foundation

The Foundation

The contractor hired a few young men to help building a small house in a low-budget residential area.  It was a low budget project.  So, the contractor hired these inexperienced young men – to whom the contractor would pay small wages - to dig the footings rather than renting the power equipment to do the job.  So, on the first day on the job their soft hands were digging a ditch between the yellow nylon twine in the hard red day with a pick ax and a shovel.  Hour after hour as the sun beat down, blisters developed, grew, broke, and grew again as this young men dug this trench, a foot and an half wide with straight sides and a flat bottom. When the foreman returned hours later to inspect and help with his finishing touches and grade stakes, in came a concrete truck to fill in the hard-won space.

What they were working on was called the foundation.  A foundation is an underlying base or support; in other words a body or ground upon which something is built up or overlaid.  It is the lowest load-bearing part of a building, typically below ground level.   This foundation is to be sound, it should rest on firm undisturbed soil or bedrock so that it can provide reliable support for the structure, the type and quality of the foundation required will of course depend on many factors, including the size and weight of the structure to be built as well as the kind and stability of the soil.  Foundations for homes are usually no more than one or two feet deep. But if you build a skyscraper, tower, or massive bridge, the foundation will need to be much more substantial. For example, the twin Petronas Towers soaring above Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, were sited on soil that couldn't support the weight of die 1,500-foot skyscrapers, so the foundation had to rest on solid bedrock. Imagine the massive hole that had to be dug for the 394-foot-deep concrete and steel foundation, to date, this is the deepest foundation for any building. For comparison, in January 2010 the world's tallest building, rising 2,717 feet above die desert of Dubai and known as Burj Khalifa, has a nearly half-million-ton concrete and steel foundation that extends down only 164 feet.  While the foundations may vary, they still need to have the capacity to bear the structures weight, and keep it standing.  This implies that the foundation precedes the building. 

The Bible speaks of a rock that would serve as a foundation for the temple of Solomon.  Christ identifies with this rock.  Ellen White tells the story,

"In quoting the prophecy of the rejected stone, Christ referred to an actual occurrence in the history of Israel. The incident was connected with the building of the first temple. While it had a special application at the time of Christ's first advent, and should have appealed with special force to the Jews, it has also a lesson for us. When the temple of Solomon was erected, the immense stones for the walls and the foundation were entirely prepared at the quarry; after they were brought to the place of building, not an instrument was to be used upon them; the workmen had only to place them in position. For use in the foundation, one stone of unusual size and peculiar shape had been brought; but the workmen could find no place for it, and would not accept it. It was an annoyance to them, as it lay unused in their way. Long it remained a rejected stone. But when the builders came to the laying of the corner, they searched for a long time to find a stone of sufficient size and strength, and of the proper shape, to take that particular place, and bear the great weight which would rest upon it. Should they make an unwise choice for this important place, the safety of the entire building would be endangered. They must find a stone capable of resisting the influence of the sun, of frost, and of tempest. Several stones had at different times been chosen, but under the pressure of immense weights they had crumbled to pieces. Others could not bear the test of the sudden atmospheric changes. But at last attention was called to the stone so long rejected. It had been exposed to the air, to sun and storm, without revealing the slightest crack. The builders examined this stone. It had borne every test but one. If it could bear the test of severe pressure, they decided to accept it for the cornerstone. The trial was made. The stone was accepted, brought to its assigned position, and found to be an exact fit. In prophetic vision, Isaiah was shown that this stone was a symbol of Christ. He says:

"Sanctify the Lord of hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread. And He shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken." Carried down in prophetic vision to the first advent, the prophet is shown that Christ is to bear trials and tests of which the treatment of the chief cornerstone in the temple of Solomon was symbolic. "Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste." Isaiah 8:13-15; 28:16."

So, Christ told the Jews that they were treating Him as this stone was treated.  He says to them in Mat 21:42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?

Paul picks up on this theme in Ephesians 2.  He calls us the building and Christ the foundation.  Let us read,

Eph 2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

Eph 2:21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:

Paul repeats this concept in 1 Corinthians 3: 9 – 11; Peter echoes Paul in 2 Peter 2: 5 – 10.  This has two implications. On the one hand, if Jesus is the foundation, then not one of us is as important as Jesus (and we do not have to dig the footings).  The only reason we can stand is because He bears our weight and keeps us standing.  On the other hand, we need not worry about how we can stand and not fall.  Jesus bears and holds us all; if only we let Him.  Both extremes are dangerous.  They are both treating Him as the "stone that the builders rejected."  It is letting the stone fall on you. By, faith bring forth the fruit of falling on the stone and being broken (Matthew 21: 44 - 45).

Raul Diaz

Friday, July 12, 2013

“The Promise of Prayer”

 “The Promise of Prayer”
Originally published the week of  March 4 - 10, 2012

In the Morning
 “Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice” (Psalm  55:17).

     In the morning, when I rise,
     In the morning when I rise,
     In the morning, when I rise,
     Give me Jesus.
     Give me Jesus,
     Give me Jesus,
     You can have all this world,
     Give me Jesus.

These lyrics from a beautiful Spiritual (#305 Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal), echo both Psalms 55 verse 17, and Psalms 5, verses 1-3.  Psalms 5: 1-3 says, “Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my meditation. Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.”
King David’s words could have easily been penned by the prophet and statesman Daniel. Clearly he was a man who lifted his voice to the Lord throughout the day, for in Daniel 6:10, it says “…. Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed (the written legislation forbidding prayer to any god but the king, upon pain of death), he went into his house; and his windows being open (he was getting fresh air while he interceded to the God of heaven) in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.”
Many of us who profess to love the Lord, and who have time consuming responsibilities, often feel that we are too busy to pray, and that God ‘knows our hearts’.  But here is busy statesman Daniel, a man hunted and pursued because of envy by his colleagues and neighbors, kneeling to pray, three times daily, in the relative privacy of his room – with his windows open.  I would be remiss not to add that Daniel was, by faith even then, engaging in the principles of healthy living, for his windows were open, and we know in his early life that he championed the eating of a simple, uncomplicated diet.  Obviously Daniel was a man of faith and prayer.
For Daniel to exercise the faith that he did, he must also have been a man of the word, for ‘faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 5:17).  How did Daniel, a captive of a conquered people, living in a political environment hostile to the true worship of God, have access to the Word?  While we may not know for sure what physical access he had to the written word, we do know that prior to being taken captive to Babylon, he had been trained by his godly parents to know and love God, and to respect and depend on His word.  Thus Daniel like David, could say, “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee” (Psalms 119:11).
 Mary the mother of Jesus was also a follower of God who hid the word in her heart, for in Luke 2:19, the scripture says that Mary kept all these things (the things prophesied to her) and pondered (or considered) them in her heart.” When we Know the word, and keep it in our hearts throughout the day as Mary, Daniel and David did, when we consider and ponder its past meaning and context, it informs our ongoing prayers.  Praying the word is conversing with God.  This is the means of keeping the promises of God fresh in our minds.  This is living by faith—which is to say, living by every word that proceeds out of His mouth, for food, for clothing, for friendships, for love, for work (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4).
 “It is a wonder we pray so little! (When) God is so ready and willing to hear the sincere prayer of the humblest of His children… there is much manifest reluctance on our part to make known our wants to God.  What can the angels of heaven think when (we) humans are so poor and helpless and subject to temptation? God’s infinitely loving heart yearns toward us, ready to give us more than we can ask or think, yet we pray so little and have so little faith.  The Angels love to bow before God; they love to be near Him.  They regard communion with God as their highest joy; and yet (we) the children of earth, who need so much the help that only God can give, seem satisfied to walk without the light of His Spirit, the companionship of His presence” (Ellen White, Steps to Christ, p. 94 paraphrased).
The Psalmist has said, ‘My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord: in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up” (Psalms 5:3).  “Why the morning,” you may ask.  “What is so important about the morning?”  It is because in the morning our minds are usually more rested, calm and free of cares prior to getting going for the day.  The early morning hours are usually quieter, allowing us to hear what the Lord will say to us concerning our circumstances for the day or the time.  In the morning, His special promises to us come unbidden (by us), as we wait on Him in expectation for His answers to our concerns. 
But oh how we hate to wait!  We have things to do, places to go, and people to see.  We must get going now!  We are controlled by the “tyranny of the urgent.’  But stop, and imagine if you will, the Psalmist David seeking the Lord early in the morning before running off once again to hide from murderous King Saul.  Think about the fact that David, the divinely appointed heir to the throne was running for his life for thirteen years!  In this context, our excuses of busyness fall flat in regard to missing morning devotional time with our Lord.  We may feel that we are being pursued by various agendas, plans, and the ongoing pressing needs of children, spouses and work – even church work, surely we are not being physically pursued so that our life might be taken.
 Daniel knelt to pray three times a day under all circumstances.  In his chambers in his room, by his open window (not hidden away) he prayed even then being pursued by murderous neighbors.  You may say, “Well, he was praying for deliverance, for his life.”  Do we not need deliverance?  Is Satan not ‘a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour’ (I Peter 5:8)? Our only means of deliverance is hearing the Lord through the word for ourselves, preferably, in the morning.
Let’s not fall into the same trap that the Israelites did at Mount Sinai.  They told Moses to hear the word for them, and tell them what God has said.  They said, “If we hear, then we will die” (Exodus 19 & 20).  In the morning, the Lord wants to increase our faith, which comes by hearing the Word of promise which the Lord will tell us.  He wants to renew the impress of the law on our hearts and minds; that we might be willing to eagerly listen attentively to His voice, as He unfolds the gospel -- willing to do, even before we know what He is even asking of us (Hebrew definition of Obey -- Shama). 
 There is a little known quote which seems appropriate to conclude our thoughts on prayer.  It is attributed to Ellen White in the Review and Herald, dated October 7, 1865.
 “Prayer is the answer to every problem in life.  It puts us in tune with divine wisdom which knows how to adjust everything perfectly.  So often we do not pray in certain situations because from our stand point the outlook is hopeless.  But nothing is impossible with God (Matthew 19:26).  Nothing is so entangled that it cannot be remedied.  No human relation is too strained for God to bring out reconciliation and understanding.  No habit is too deep-rooted that it cannot be overcome.  No one is so weak that he cannot be made strong.  No one is so ill that He cannot be healed.  No mind is so dull, that it cannot be made brilliant.  Whatever we need or desire, if we trust God, He will supply it.  If anything is causing worry and anxiety, let us stop rehearing the difficulty and trust God for healing, love, and power.”

--Raul Diaz

Friday, July 05, 2013

Commentary: Spiritual Attrition

Spiritual Attrition

The word attrition is typically used to explain why certain programs start with a certain amount of participants and end with less.  Literally the attrition is the act of rubbing together (As in friction).  It is also used to name what the result of the things rubbing together or the act of wearing or grinding down by friction.  Think of a soul of a shoe: in time the sole loses thickness.  As you walk in the shoes the soles gradually wastes away and they rub against the ground.  Particles of the soul are left behind.  Again, you end with less than what you started. 

Although, not necessarily caused by friction, the same phenomenon of gradual decrease can be observed in the temperature of beverages.  On the one hand, there are those who like hot tea.  But in time the tea will cool down to room temperature.  The taste of cooled down tea to these is typically disgusting.  On the other hand, there are those who like iced tea.  In time the ice melts, not only lowering the temperature of the tea, but also diluting it.  The melted ice adds more water, making the tea less strong.  Needless to say, those who like ice tea find this disgusting.  How disgusting? In both cases do not be surprised if the drinkers spit it out.  In either case, lukewarm tea is revolting to the drinkers. 

We will find that this was a problem with the water of Laodicea.  (The name means "a people judged.")  Laodicea was located in an open valley in southwestern Turkey. It was an important financial capital, a fashion mecca, and an educational and medical center. Its inhabitants were independent, self-confident, and rich.  The Romans had a postal service.  Laodicea was the last city in that postal route.  Hence, it was used to represent the last day church.  The one vital natural resource that the city lacked, however, was water.  The water was piped in via Roman aqueducts from a spring that was five miles south of the city.  By the time water from the hot springs of Hieropolis, distributed through the Roman pipes made of terra cotta, came to Laodicea it was lukewarm and contained harmful bacteria. To drink this water would cause a person to gag and tended to make him sick. This illustrates vividly how Jesus feels about Laodicea's half-heartedness.  He uses the water's lukewarm state as a symbol to represent the condition of His last-day church, described as self-confident, complacent, apathetic, and spiritually indifferent.

How did Christ describe their lukewarm state?  Let us read from Revelation 3,

Revelation 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

Revelation 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Revelation 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:


The Lord is saying that in the first era of the church the water – if to drink - was cold and pure; it was refreshing, delightful and easy to swallow.  Let us read about the first church from revelation 2: .  Although with some faults, the following texts reveal how God was pleased with them. 

Rev 2:2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:

Rev 2:3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted


Just like the water gradually cooled off and became more impure, each of the churches also was less pleasing to God.  So, in the last era of the church the water is disgusting and very hard to swallow.  The translation "I will spit you out of my mouth" (Rev 3:16) is not an accurate translation of the text. The verb "will" is translated "about to" 22 times in the New Testament with 4 of them in the book of Revelation – 2:10; 8:13; 10:4; 10:7. The word translated "spit" should be "vomit," "throw up," or "be sick." A literal translation would be, "you make me so sick that I am about to throw up." This is the kind of reaction that occurred in the city of Laodicea of old.  Just because you feel like doing something, it does not mean you do it.  If, the Lord feels like vomiting Laodicea, it means Laodicea is in His mouth.  If the Lord feels like vomiting, it means He feels nauseated, and is probably gagging.  If you have ever seen someone vomiting or vomited yourself, you get the picture. 


But, Laodicea has a deeper problem.  Laodicea is so used to being lukewarm, that Laodicea thinks it is fine.  There is no need to change.  But, the Lord disagrees.  The Lord gives them a diagnosis – judges them; and, gives them a prescription. 


Revelation 3:18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.


There is a lot already said of the meaning of these things.  However, there is an implication seldom mentioned.  If I choose to buy from God, then I have believed His diagnosis.  I am accepting that I had been lying to myself.  I have accepted that I was lacking something that only the Lord can supply.  I have had a change of mind, in other words: I have repented.  And, this beloved, is our greatest need.  For although Ellen White does state that revival is our greatest need, she also says that repentance is the first step (Selected Messages, book 1, page 121; Conflict and Courage, p. 145).  

Raul Diaz