Friday, September 27, 2013

The Essence of Prophecy

Originally published on Friday, June 23, 2006

The Essence of Prophecy

Victoria went to the store to buy cologne.  She was looking for a specific brand.  It was a very exclusive perfume, very hard to find.  The clerk gave her the news, “The good news is there is one bottle left.  The next news may be good or bad, it depends on you.  We only have the extract.”  Victoria asked the clerk, “Excuse my ignorance, but what is the extract?”  The clerk replied, “The extract is the most concentrated form of perfume sold.  Because it is more concentrated the scent is more intense and lasts longer.”  Victoria’s curiosity was piqued, “You mean to tell me that perfume is eluted?  The clerk graciously replied, “Well yes.  The essence of the scent is eluted in ethanol and water.  The more concentrated it is the better and of course the more expensive.  That is why they say the best perfume comes in smaller bottles.  They are more concentrated.  Which also means you can put on less amount, and still smell as well as when you put a lot of cologne, which is the more diluted.”  Victoria than asked the clerk, “So it is like concentrated juice or something similar?  The clerk laughed at her ingenuity, but realized she got the picture, and then said, “Yes.  The concentrated juice would be the essence that we dissolve in water.”

Besides perfume, many of the things we buy or eat have essential ingredients.  For example: bread has flour, omelets’ have eggs, and prescriptions normally have an active ingredient.  The word essence comes from Latin word that means “To be.”  Essence may be defined as the intrinsic or indispensable properties that serve to characterize or identify something; the most important ingredient; the crucial element; an extract that has the fundamental properties of a substance in concentrated form (An extract in a solution of alcohol, such as perfume or scent); or something that exists, especially a spiritual or incorporeal entity.  Without the essential extract perfume is nothing but alcohol.

With this in mind let us read Revelation 19:10,

Revelation 19:10 “And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

What does essence have to do with this verse?  It is interesting that in the Biblical Greek the word “spirit” used in this verse can be translated as essence.  Prophecy is an utterance said by a person who is inspired by the Holy Spirit to reveal to us our Sin and God’s solution for Sin in the person of Jesus.  The essence of prophecy according to Revelation 19:10 is the Testimony of Jesus.  All prophecy that comes from God is essentially giving a witness of Jesus as the Savior of the world.

This has an interesting connotation for those chosen at the end to be the recipients of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as the latter rain.  Revelation 19:10 and 12:17 says that they have the Testimony of Jesus.  They will be entrusted with the Loud Cry of Revelation 18.  This outpouring of power will come with prophetic gifts as we read in Joel 2: 28, 29:

Joel 2: 28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
Joel 2: 29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.

This special group -that Revelation calls the 144,000 - will all be prophets, just as Elijah (Malachi 4:5).  However, just as Elijah, their main mission will not be the destruction and slaughter of Baal worshipers.  No, it will be to “turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:6).  This will only happen if those who hear this loud cry message: listen and heed the message to turn their hearts to God.

Ellen White says that we should all strive to be a part of this special group.  However, many of us will not be part of this group.  We will sleep before the latter rain is poured.  But, just as David was not given the privilege of building the Temple, and was however, given the privilege of training the one who would, we too are given the privilege of training - in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6) - those who will receive this special and powerful outpouring of the Spirit.  We are to make sure they receive the former rain, which will prepare them to grow to the fullness, stature and perfection of Christ.  When they forsake all Sin and reflect the perfect character of Christ’s righteousness than the latter rain will be poured on them.  This will enable this group to finish the work of spreading the loud cry – the Gospel - to all parts of the World.  It will also prepare them for the special privilege of seeing Christ return, and to be translated to Heaven as described in (1 Corinthians 15: 51 – 55).

Raul Diaz

Friday, September 20, 2013

Stewards of Reconciliation

Stewards of Reconciliation

In 2003, a film was released about South-Africa entitled, "In my Country." Based on a auto-biographical book written by journalist Antjie Krogg entitled, "Country of My Skull," the film fleshes out the White South-Afrikaner author's personal experience with the vestiges of Apartheid. Accordingly, the film depicts the author as a journalist assigned to report on cases brought before the "Truth and Reconciliation Commission," or TRC, which was established by the government. The film, which could be described as somewhat of a docudrama, tells not only the story of the journalist's struggle with her White South-Afrikaner family as she provides news coverage of the controversial commission, but the story of an African-American journalist who is struggles with his own anger, and skepticism regarding this new form of justice. While the TRC's appointment and task was documented in newspapers around the world, it seems that not many outside of Africa followed the trials. The commission's principle method for bringing about peace and harmony between Black and White South-Africans was reconciliation. Hearing each case before a room full of Black South-Africans and reporters, the commission asked each Black South-African to sit in front of the room facing the panel with a counselor by his or her side, and describe how the victimization took place. As the victim spoke, the audience listened intently but did not cry, although they groaned audibly. Occasionally the victim cried out in pain as the offending police officer or guard recounted his story of torture and death. You see, in order to receive amnesty, the guilty White South-Afrikaner officer must tell the absolute truth. He and his partner -- if there was one, must describe how the torture, abuse, or murder was perpetrated. Furthermore, the perpetrator was expected to disclose all participants involved in the crime, and to name the authority figures ordered the work done. If it was determined by the TRC that the crime was not politically motivated, the guilty parties were forced to stand trial for their crimes.

One particularly moving story which the film highlighted, occurred when an 8 year old boy walked into his parents' bedroom one night. As he entered the room, he witnessed 2 police officers murder both of his parents, while he stood still, speechless. The TRC counselor had to tell the boy's story for him, for he had not spoken since. There he sat, wide-eyed and tear-less as his story was told. Listening with hushed and bated breath, the audience awaited the officers' story -- and told it they did (the story is too graphic to recount). At the end of his story, the first officer requested amnesty, as if he felt it was his right, as if he deserved it because he had now cooperated with the commission. The second officer however was clearly of a different mindset. As he told his participation in the crime, he added that he was to have shot the boy, but that he could not. "I aimed my gun, but he just stood there calmly looking at me, silent, and I could not." "I disobeyed a direct order in not shooting him, but I just could not." Jumping up from his seat, this police officer said, "at night I see his face, looking at me -- saying nothing." "I can't sleep, I can't eat." At this admission, the officer approached the area where the boy was seated facing him and said, " I would do anything to take back what I have done -- I'll pay in anyway I can -- I'll send him to school and pay his fees, I'll even pay for him to go all the way to college -- I am sorry, so sorry." With that the officer began to sob, as the audience was silent, waiting. The little 8 year old boy who had been listening, stood up and approached the kneeling officer, and after looking at him for a moment, threw his arms around him, hugging him. The audience and panel seemingly through their tears, approves. Although the means of forgiveness and amnesty have been provided through the TRC by the government, it is really the 8 year old boy who is the steward of forgiveness, and reconciliation that day.

How many of us consider ourselves stewards of reconciliation? Unfortunately, not many of us. The sad truth is that only a few of us would choose to forgive a wrong of such magnitude as has been experienced by the Black South-African victims. Yes, as Christians we've professed Christ, but we still but seem to have difficulty forgiving even minute injustices. Yet Christ wants us to be ambassadors or stewards for Him. In 2 Cor. 5 20, the scripture actually calls us "ambassadors for Christ," and "ministers of reconciliation" (see verse 18). It seems that just as Christ has been an ambassador or steward on behalf of the Father to us, that He wants us to follow in His footsteps. This concept is of such importance, that we should take a look at it in 2 Corinthians 5. It reads as follows:

2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

2 Cor. 5:18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;

2 Cor. 5:19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.


Friends, although forgiving and reconciling seems impossibly difficult to us -- our natures finding it extremely distasteful -- yet "Christ died for us while we were yet sinners" ( Rom. 5:8). So, if we are "in Christ," He works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure, and His commands are not grievous (Phil. 2:13, I John 5:3. What is God's command? That we dispense His grace, and tell the world that Christ has already reconciled them to Himself at His death on Calvary.

As Christians, one of the first things that we learned is that God created the world, so it all belongs to Him, and that He is the rightful owner. We also learned that since He bought us back (redeemed us), we are to be His stewards or managers, and this is where the concept of tithe and offering comes in. But, how about thinking about stewardship in a new manner. How about considering ourselves not only as stewards of the material or tangible goods, such as land, money, and talents that He's given us, but as stewards of the fruit of the gospel. What is the fruit of the gospel you say? Why -- its reconciliation and forgiveness.

God has said though the Apostle James, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights... (James 1:17 NKJV). He is offering you and me the work of perhaps a higher order than we've previously thought -- stewardship at a higher level than we've yet known. I don't know about you, but I think the offer is worth the risks. So, how about you, will you take it?

Maria Greaves-Barnes

Originally published on Friday, August 19, 2005
Raul Diaz

Friday, September 13, 2013

Remaking the Pot

Remaking the Pot

The Word reformation means to be formed again.  This implies that what was previously formed was found defective or deficient and now has to be done again.  This is a point that comes out in a parable that the Lord had Jeremiah experience.  In Jeremiah 18, the Lord tells Jeremiah to "arise and go down to the potter's house . . . to hear [the Lord's] words" (Jeremiah. 18:2).  Let us read the rest of the story.

Jeremiah 18:3 Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.
Jeremiah 18:4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.
Jeremiah 18:5 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
Jeremiah 18:6 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.

In case we miss it Isaiah tells us who the potter and the pot represents, "But now, O LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand" (Isaiah 64:8).   So, it is God who does the reforming.

We learn from this parable that we are a "vessel" the Lord has been forming on the potter's wheel. He has a happy purpose for you to be useful in His great work of lighting the earth with the glory of His "everlasting gospel" message.  But, no matter who you are, as a vessel you have in some way been "marred," because "all" of us "have sinned, and [do] come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). The only "vessel" the Potter has succeeded in turning on His wheel that has turned out perfect is Jesus Christ Himself.  His experience on the "wheel" is illustrated in Isaiah 50:4, 5, where the Father awakened Jesus "morning by morning . . . to hear as the learned." The Father taught Him during those early hours. He constantly resisted our temptation to be "rebellious" and "turn away back."

The Potter Himself has become clay; the Son of God Himself has emptied Himself in those seven steps of condescension in Philippians 2:5-8, "even [to] the death of the cross" which involved enduring being "made" the "curse of God" (cf. Gal. 3:13). Tried and tempted, feeling "forsaken" by God, He has known to the full what no other human being in history has known to the full—what it feels like for the Potter to throw someone into the trash. He "took" upon His sinless nature our "sinful flesh" that He might "in every way be tempted that we are, but did not sin" (Heb 4:15). Then He died the world's "second death" for every man (2:9), so that no one of us might have to feel what it's like to be thrown in the eternal trash heap (cf. Rev. 20:15).  Being that Christ is the perfect vessel, God wants to reform us into the likeness of Christ. 

In His mercy the Divine Savior-Potter never throws any marred vessel (us) in the trash, no matter how lowly it may have become in its being "marred." There's always a useful purpose left that you and I can serve. There is the "good news" encouragement. So, the Potter always takes the marred vessel to "[makes] it again into another vessel, as it seem[s] good to the Potter to make" (v. 4). This is redemption in action.

What is reformation in Spiritual terms?  The following excerpted quote is how Ellen White defines it,
“… reformation must take place under the ministration of the Holy Spirit…  Reformation signifies a reorganization, a change in ideas and theories, habits and practices. Reformation will not bring forth the good fruit of righteousness unless it is connected with the revival of the Spirit.”—Ellen G. White, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Feb. 25, 1902.

As we read above it occurs in the mind.  After we allow the Holy Spirit to reawaken us to Spiritual things, then He begins to reform our mind into the likeness of the mind of Christ.  What is the mind of Christ?   We refer again to Philippians 2: 5 – 8.  It is a mind of humility, lowliness of heart, meekness, self-denial, other centeredness, and esteeming “other better than themselves” (Philippians 2: 3).  It is a mind that lays down its life for the brethren, as Christ lay down His life for us (1 John 3: 16).  Let the Potter put you together again.  Let Him transform you by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12: 2).  

Friday, September 06, 2013

Commentary: Giving All for the Sheep

Giving All for the Sheep

A Brazilian evangelist, Pastor Veloso, was in the middle of what could
have been his most successful evangelistic series. It was in a
stadium and thousands were attending. Hundreds had already made
decisions to get baptized. And, they expected hundreds more to do so,
possibly topping the thousand mark. This man had had an incredible
track record. Thousands had come to the church due to his preaching.
But, it had come at a cost.
The news came to him in the morning. His son, Chico, had been picked
up by government authorities. Chico was hospitalized, and found with
high levels of heroin in his system. To make matters worse, Chico
also had a couple of grams of heroin in his pant pockets. The plans
were to clean Chico up and send him to jail. But, out of courtesy for
Pastor Veloso, they delayed making a decision, until contacting him.
The authorities had high regards for Pastor Veloso.

Pastor Veloso called for an emergency meeting with his staff and
organizers. They all agreed that a scandal like this could hinder his
ministry. How should they handle it? Some suggested asking the
authorities to quietly put Junior in a rehab center, citing that God's
work must go on. Others, suggested, to hold a press conference, come
out in the open, that way the scandal is minimized, and the ministry
is hindered less.

A young pastor opened up his Bible and read from Luke 15: 4 – 24.
This is the passage that talks about the parable of the lost sheep,
the parable of the lost coin and the parable of the prodigal son.
These are very familiar parables. They describe how something that
was lost was found and recovered. Spiritually, how each one of us was
found by God and recovered.
After finishing reading, the young Pastor then asked Pastor Veloso,
"The people you preach to, what are they: lost sheep, the lost coins,
or the prodigal children? How about your son?" Pastor Veloso started
to cry. All the men in then room were dumfounded, then they looked at
the young pastor and yelled at him, "Look at what you've done."
Pastor Veloso then said with a loud voice, "Let him be. He's right.
If I went to reach lost sheep, I did not secure the one I had to find
the others. If I went to find lost coins, I have been cleaning
everybody else's home, but mine. Now, if my son is a prodigal son, he
needs to know that I am waiting for him, and I need to actually wait
for him." Pastor Veloso resigned that same day, to save his son.

Pastor Veloso's son eventually cleaned up, gave up drugs and gave his
life to Christ. He said, "My Dad gave up everything for me, just as
Christ gave up everything for us. Just the thought of that and that
heaven rejoiced when I gave myself to Christ makes me rejoice. I
wonder if heaven rejoiced also when my Dad chose to give up all for

The Bible revelation of the character of God is: Jesus says, "The Son
of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost" (Luke 19:10).
The story of the prodigal son emphasizes the seeking love of the
father—the lost boy would never have said, "I will arise and go to my
father" unless the seeking love of the father had drawn him ( John
12:32, 33).

Our children and youth must not be given the idea that God is like a
doctor deep in his inner office, hard to find! The seeking love of the
Father and the self-emptying love of Christ must be made plain early
and through their teen years. An outward profession based on fear is
empty; it's the heart that must be won by the truth of His love.

Our current "offer" view of God's forgiveness forces us to see the
prodigal son differently. If he is "under condemnation" until he takes
the initiative to come home, he cannot be a family member, a son; he
is a stranger. But the biblical view sees the prodigal as still being
a son even while he was rioting and then in the pigsty—a son, indeed,
although a lost one. Did the father "make" him a son only when he came

The Bible view tells the prodigal, You are a child of God "in Christ"
by virtue of His sacrifice as the second Adam, and He has elected you
since He gave Himself for you on His cross. But you have wandered away
and sold your birthright. Now, realize and appreciate your true status
in Him. Let His love draw you home where you belong, by virtue of His
already adopting you "in Christ."

God does not regard unconverted people as wolves to be shot down as
soon as possible; no, but He regards them as sheep, not in the fold,
to be sure, but still sheep— lost sheep. They need to be converted, to
be born again, yes; but all the while God considers them to be heirs
to His estate because He sent forth His Son to be "made of a woman" as
we are all "made of a woman." He has adopted the human race "in

You are not to think of yourself as an outsider, says Paul. Because of
Christ's sacrifice, you are now "in the family," adopted (Eph. 1:5),
loved all the while as the prodigal son was loved. But you didn't know
it; you felt ostracized, estranged, alienated, lost, rejected; but God
did not regard you as estranged or alienated. He reconciled you to
Himself "in Christ." Now, says Paul, "be ye reconciled to God." The
proof that He has reconciled you? Gal. 3:6, "God has sent forth the
Spirit of His Son into your heart, crying, Abba, Father." What a
beautiful, yes and powerful, illustration of Good News "in Christ,"
and now you can see it for yourself, because your human heart is
crying "Father... !"
The expression from the prodigal to his father: "I have sinned against
you," lets you know that the prodigal finally understood the grief he
caused to his father. The greatest motivation to make changes in
our lives is the desire to no longer break the heart of the One who
loves us so much. When the boy was wallowing around in the mud with
the pigs, the father suffered more than his son. Revival occurs when
God's love breaks our hearts. Reformation occurs when we choose to
respond to a love that will not let us go. It occurs when we no longer
want to do anything to break God's heart. It takes place when we make
the difficult choices to give up those attitudes, habits, thoughts,
and feelings that separate us from Him and hence, break His heart.

Raul Diaz