Friday, March 16, 2018

Let Go Of The Nuts

Let Go Of The Nuts

People in India catch monkeys by taking a pot that has a narrow neck and burying it in the ground under a tree where monkeys are jumping and dancing in the treetops. They leave the mouth open, sticking out of the ground four or five inches. Then they put nuts in it. The monkey finds them, puts its hand in the jar, gets a big fist full of nuts, and then tries to pull it out. But the fist won't come out because it's full of nuts. The monkey would be sitting there all night long trying to pull his fist filled with nuts. In the morning the monkey catcher walks casually and putting a noose around the monkey's neck, taps on his hand and drags him away. The monkey, whose nature is to be completely free, to be playing on the treetops and walking around carefree, ends up in a cage, just because the monkey didn't let go. All the monkey had to do was, let go of those nuts.

You may find it easy to scoff at these creatures for not being wise enough to let go of what is entrapping them. Are we any different than they are? Are we allowing those things that we love trap us, and by doing so we not only lose our freedom but our lives and our salvation? Just as the monkeys, appetite is a big issue for us. 

Let's consider Esau. Let us read from Genesis 25: 29-34

Genesis 25: 29 And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint:
Genesis 25: 30 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.
Genesis 25: 31 And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.
Genesis 25: 32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?
Genesis 25: 33 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.
Genesis 25: 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.

To satisfy his hunger, Esau despised and sold to his cunning brother what could have been the source of a future filled with blessings and plenty. Instead, he chose to fill his belly at that moment. This type of action showed how Esau lacked principles and instead lived a life full indulging in whatever pleased him at that moment. We shall see that the "the fruit does not fall far from the tree." Esau probably learned this from his father, for you see, " Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison" (Genesis 25: 28).

So much he loved his favorite son's venison that he chose to rebel against God's word that Jacob should be the one to receive the birthright blessing (Genesis 25: 23). We read in Genesis 27: 1-4,

Genesis 27:1 And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his eldest son, and said unto him, My son: and he said unto him, Behold, here am I.
Genesis 27:2 And he said, Behold now, I am old, I know not the day of my death:
Genesis 27:3 Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison;
Genesis 27:4 And make me savoury meat, such as I love, and bring it to me, that I may eat; that my soul may bless thee before I die.

Isaac offered his blessing to his favored son in exchange for a venison stew; a blessing that Esau had despised earlier, when he sold his birthright to Jacob. Isaac was not as soon to die as he said. As we read further in Genesis, it must have been more than twenty years before his death. Thus, although we cannot prove it, we could conclude, that this was a ploy from Isaac to eat venison: this was a little indulgence that ends up going awry, since Isaac ate goat, not venison, and gave the blessing to Jacob. (This does not excuse Rebekah and Jacob's actions. Although they had good intentions – fulfilling God's will - they did it using their methods, instead of depending on God to do it.) Isaac's unwillingness to obey God's word ended in a disrupted family: two siblings separated by hatred and fear and a mother in sorrow for her son's departure. 

Indulgence in appetite was the first battle Jesus won against the Devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4: 1-4). By allowing the Holy Spirit to conquer His appetite, Jesus was able to live a life of discipline, principle and in line with the will of God; this is where Adam and Eve failed. On the contrary, this is where Daniel and his friends were victorious. Unlike the monkeys, Daniel, his friends, and Jesus did not go in the jar. Adam, Eve, Isaac and Esau did go in the pot, and would not let go of the nuts. You may be saying to yourself, "my hand is already in the jar, and as much as I would like to, I will not let go of the nuts, I do not want to." You have no power to do this on your own. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that you can let go of the nuts and release your hand from the jar. The question is: will you choose to let Him? 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Spiritual Metamorphosis

Spiritual Metamorphosis

Do you like butterflies? They are beautiful. However, I bet if you answered yes to the previous question you would respond, "no," to the next question, Who likes caterpillars? No one would believe that such a beautiful insect could come from that ugly looking leaf eater. But, upon carefully observing the life cycle of this insect, we realize that the creator formed the larva to enclose itself into a cocoon. There it metamorphoses or is transformed into a butterfly. Thus the reviled becomes something beautiful. 

The word metamorphosis means: 
1. A marked change in appearance, character, condition, or function; also known as transformation. 
2. A change in the form and often the habits of an animal during normal development after the embryonic stage. Examples of Metamorphosis include the transformation of maggots into adult flies, caterpillars into butterflies and, the changing of tadpoles into frogs. 

Meta is a Greek prefix for beside or after. Morph is a suffix which means form, shape or structure. So, in essence, the word metamorphosis points toward the form an object will take after the transformation. The word trans is a prefix that means across, on the other side or beyond. It can also mean to go through a Change or make a transfer.  So, in the case of the caterpillar, it changes form and structure, so much so, that its appearance and function change beyond recognition; how like Christ when He assumed nature 4,000 years after the fall. 

Isaiah 53:2 says, "For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him." When Jesus became a man, it was a big change for Him, and perhaps for others who had seen Him before the incarnation. Whatever physical characteristics God has, Jesus no longer had. He was transformed into a human being, small and weak, in comparison to God. He had the same frailties, needs, and weaknesses we have. Accordingly, He covered His divinity with sinful humanity, yet did not sin, and according to Ellen White, "He was afflicted in all the afflictions of humanity." It is this combination of natures that qualifies Christ to be our Saviour. 

Furthermore, Ellen White says of Him: 

To save fallen humanity, the Son of God took humanity upon Himself, laying aside His kingly crown and royal robe. He became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. One with God, He alone was capable of accomplishing this work, and He consented to an actual union with man. In His sinlessness, He could bear every transgression ... Christ did in reality, unite the offending nature of man with His own sinless nature, because by this act of condescension, He would be enabled to pour out His blood in  behalf of the fallen race. (E. G. White Notes, page 29.) 

Christ assumed the human nature of sinful man.  Sin can be defined Sin as self-love. This human nature, united with His divine nature of selfless-love did not Sin in Word, thought or action. In Him, the battle was fought, and selfless love won out on the cross. In Himself, He redeemed the corporate life of humanity. What a wonderful Saviour, willing to condescend to the depths of degradation to save fallen human beings. 

In Philippians chapter 2, from the NASB we read: 

Phil. 2:5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 
Phil. 2:6 Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 
Phil. 2:7 But emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 
Phil. 2:8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 

So when Paul says, "Let this mind be in you" or as it is said in the NASB, "let this attitude be in you," He meant that we should we be willing to submit to the authority of God's indwelling Holy Spirit just as Jesus submitted to the Father.   As Christ submitted to His Father even unto the death, so should we die to the death of self. 

The mind of Christ or the attitude of Christ was that of self-denying love. The principles of God's kingdom are those of His nature and character: that of unconditional, self-denying love. This form of love (agape) is the only true love. With this love alone man would be willing to lay down his or her life for another.  It is the desire of the Father for us to have the mind of Christ, and He is more than willing to give it to us. Will we accept it?

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Sabbath School Insights: Walking with Gratitude

Walking with Gratitude


Matthew, Luke and John tell the story of the anointing of Jesus.  Apparently, a Pharisee called Simon wanted Jesus to have dinner at his house.  Jesus obliged him and went with His disciples.  Jesus had healed this Pharisee of leprosy.  So, the dinner was a token of gratitude.  A woman if ill repute – whose name was Mary - walks in the house uninvited.  She brought with her an alabaster box filled with spikenard ointment.  She broke the box and poured the ointment over Jesus.  She also washed Jesus' feet and dried them with her hair. Jesus had healed this woman of demon possession seven times.  This was a demonstration of heartfelt appreciation.  This incident was considered scandalous by most in the house, including the host.  With disdain and indignation he thought to himself, "This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner" (Luke 7:39).  By the way, Sister White says it was Simon who drew this woman – his niece- to sin.  Luke then relates how Jesus responded to Simon.  Let us read from Luke 7:40 – 47, 


Luke7:40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.

Luke7:41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.

Luke7:42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?

Luke7:43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.

Luke7:44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.

Luke7:45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.

Luke7:46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.

Luke7:47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.


Because of the fall, we are all deserving of death.  But, John 3:16 says that, 


John3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.


Because God loves us, instead of what we deserve God gives us a gift.  1 John 3:1 says that, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God …" The author of our lesson says that this verse stresses that in Jesus we are already God's children. God has taken the initiative to do this for us. The new birth is His work, not ours. We can bring about neither our own birth nor our adoption as God's children.  Given the size of the universe in contrast to our planet, much less to each of us individually, how can we not be astonished that the God who created all this loves us and has made us His children? What a wonderful perspective this should give us on what our lives mean! What hope, what assurance, what confidence we should have for the future, regardless of whatever difficult circumstances we now face? God, the Creator of all that is, loves us, cares for us, and calls us His children.  Have you ever dwelt on the implications of the notion that not only does Godexist but He loves us, cares for us, and even died for us. How should this reality impact how we live?


If we are like Simon, we will host a little get together pot-lock to honor Jesus.  We would do it after church.  One dinner should be sufficient to thank he who loves us so much He died the death we deserved.  If, in contrast, we are like Mary we will give everything we have in order to continually thank Him.  Our gratitude shows how much we love, which in turn shows how much we believe we are forgiven.  Do we live grateful lives?  How grateful are we that God has in Jesus restored us as His children?  Will we gratefully let Him - through the work of His indwelling Spirit - transform us into the likeness of His Son?

Friday, February 23, 2018

A Brand New Seed

A Brand New Seed

Some farmer's from the same area decided to have a business meeting. Of particular issue in the discussion, was a group of fruit trees which had failed to yield the expected crop. It wasn't that the trees produced pears or even apples instead of peaches. No, the trees yielded peaches alright, but they were consistently sour. Nope, nobody was happy, and everybody wanted something done -- right away. So, the farmers were all meeting this day, to decide the fate of their peach trees. You see, they were all concerned because collectively, year after year the farmers had attempted various things to remedy the problem with their trees but to no avail. Now, every farmer was fed up, and each came to one conclusion -- they had all purchased the seeds of sour peach from the same shop. 

A traveling consultant, having heard of the farmers' dilemma offered his services. He indicated that if allowed, he would study the situation and present his findings at the end of a specified time. Hopeful, all of the farmers agreed, and the consultant began his analysis. Today, however, was presentation day and the farmers were eagerly awaiting the results of the study. 

At the opening of the meeting, the consultant stood to speak and said, "after analyzing your situation I have determined that all of you have utilized sour seed." Irritated because they knew this, the farmers urged the consultant to tell them something they didn't know. Unfazed, the consultant continued, "there are a number of remedies available, and each is pricey." "One is to treat the trees with additives to increase the fruit size which will probably change its taste." "Another is to uproot the trees, and sow new seeds." At this point, one of the farmers asked, "If we go for the first solution, would we have to do this every year?" The consultant nodded and answered, "Yes, sir, you would." Looking at their copy of the report, the farmers silently estimated how much the intervention would cost them. Then another stated, "but, if we uproot the trees wouldn't that mean we would have to replant?" "And if we do that, there won't be a harvest for several years -- that doesn't sound good to me --you know what they say, 'no harvest, no produce, no produce, no money." Frustrated, the farmers began talking amongst themselves. After they quieted down, the consultant answered, "Yes, what you've said is true -- but.." Just then another farmer asked the question they had all been thinking. "What guarantee do we have that the new seeds will not be sour?" Simultaneously, all of the farmers started talking again. After they quieted down, the consultant responded, "unfortunately, there are no guarantees -- you know about that more than I do." "Apparently, not as much as we should," said another farmer joking. They all laughed. Suddenly one of the quietest farmers said softly, "I think what we need is brand new seed -- from another source." Slowly the laughter subsided, and all agreed, a brand new seed is just what was needed. 

In this story human beings are the trees that produce sour fruit, having come from bad seed. The seed's name was Adam. When God created Adam, He created all of us in him. The Bible says in Genesis 2:7, "And the LORD God formed man of the
dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." In the original, the text says that God breathed the "breaths of life into man." Surprisingly, the plural form of the word is used, and not the singular. So, the text reads "breaths" and not "breath," as is written in most of our bibles. From this we can understand that God breathed into Adam the breath of lives -- all of mankind's lives. So the lives of the whole human race were created in one man: Adam. (Adam in Hebrew means mankind.) Acts 17:26 confirms this thought: "And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation." So it is no surprise that if God created all human beings out of one man when this man sinned, we all sinned. Romans 5:12 says, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:" This is the basis of the biblical principle of "Solidarity" or "corporate oneness."  The book of Hebrews illustrates this principle is when Paul speaks of Levi paying tithes to Melchizedek, despite the fact that Levi was not yet conceived (Hebrews 7:1-10.) How did unconceived Levi pay tithes to Melchizedek? Let's take a look at Hebrews 7:

Hebrews 7:9 And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, paid tithes to Abraham
Hebrews 7:10 For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedic met him.

How does this fit our situation today? How does the concept of "corporate oneness," or "solidarity" affect us? Well, although we were not yet conceived -- we were in the loins or in the body of Adam -- so when he (Adam) sinned, and his nature changed, all he could bequeath to us was his nature of sin. Therefore we created sinners. Because of this we suffer the consequences of Sin and must pay the penalty of the second or eternal death which as we know is not sleep. This death is eternal separation from God. 

Unlike the characters in our story, God is neither a farmer nor a consultant. He foresaw our Adam's sin and therefore ours, and before there was a need, he formulated a solution. We needed Brand New Seed in the form of Adam the 2nd. Among the many places in the Bible in which we find the answer to Sin, Romans 5:18 is one of them. It reads: "Therefore as by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." God solved the Sin problem by putting us, all human beings, in Christ. The whole of the human race, you and I and every human being from Adam to the last person, were put into Christ. Christ became the second or the last Adam. Just as we were in Adam, God by His act of incarnation through the Holy Spirit, put us into Christ so that we were corporately in Him. In bearing us -- our corporate human nature, He bore our Sin /s.

How does this help us? Since we are in Christ, all that He did we did. His life's history has become our history. So when He died the second death, we died with Him, and as He was resurrected on the third day, so were we. Christ has accomplished Salvation complete and final and has given it to us. This salvation is God's gift to Mankind. Why? So that none would perish. For in John 3:16 it says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." God the Father desires that none should be lost.  He has made Abundant provision, and if we at the end are lost, it will be because we have fully and finally rejected His gift of love. So yes, Christ objectively justified and saved the whole world, but only your and my full and personal acceptance His gift (subjective salvation) will allow us the reward of being the new fruit from the incorruptible seed. Receipt of this Truth (by faith) sanctifies us from Sin's consequences and fits us for Eternal Life. In the personal knowledge of truth is power, for "you shall know the truth, and it shall set you free." (John 8:32)

This expression of "In Christ," is used in Hebrews 1:3-14 approximately ten times. Let's read this passage: 

Hebrews 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 
Hebrews 1:4 According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: 
Hebrews 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 
Hebrews 1:6 To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved. 
Hebrews 1:7 In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace; 
Hebrews 1:8 Wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 
Hebrews 1:9 Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself: 
Hebrews 1:10 That in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him: 
Hebrews 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will: 
Hebrews 1:12 That we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ. 
Hebrews 1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, 
Hebrews 1:14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory. 

Based on this passage we can conclude that in Christ were are not: cursed, left to ourselves, to prove ourselves worthy, we are not lost and forlorn, hopeless, aimless, and excluded from God. On the contrary, we are in Christ: blessed, chosen, predestined to adoption, redeemed through His blood, forgiven of Sin, given wisdom and understanding, purposed to know the mystery of His will, first to hope, and included. Christ has justified all mankind and qualified us for eternal life. So, Jesus is near us -not only in proximity and in sympathy but - because He has chosen us in Himself. Now, He wants to be "in us," to make us fit for Heaven. If we decide to accept Him, one day we will be living with Him eternally.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Stewards of Service

Stewards of Service
The Bible says that nature speaks of the Glory of God, which is His character. Ellen White stresses the importance of this by telling us to study the lessons in nature. She says in Our High Calling, page 253: "Everything about us teaches us from day to day lessons of our Father's love and of His power, and of His laws that govern nature and that lie at the foundation of all government in heaven and in earth." Let's take a tree as an example. A mature tree uses precious earthly resources: it occupies space, utilizes air (Carbon dioxide which we exhale), water, and absorbs sunlight. In turn, we use the oxygen the tree exhales, and we take advantage of its shade. Is this a fair exchange? Many trees yield fruit that when consumed, are not only tasty, but are good for our health. While trees cannot consume their byproducts (fruit), we can. There are other parts of the tree, which we utilize as well, such as its leaves and its wood. It seems that human beings benefit more from trees then trees do from us. Apparently, all of the resources that trees use end up benefiting mankind as well as the animals.  Based on this observation we could say, that if trees were stewards, they would likely manage God's resources better than we.
Our analogy of the tree is really about stewardship and serving others. When a steward is filled with the faith of God, his service is selfless. But, in our natural sinful state, we are selfish. We think only of ourselves, our plans, our concerns. When we give to others or do for them, often it is because we expect the service to redound beneficially to us. Often, we anticipate a tangible return such as money or other favors - tickets, a meal, a gift certificate, etc. Other times we derive an intangible return, such as favorable appreciation by others. Not infrequently, we serve out of feelings of guilt, coercion, or fear; hoping to be relieved from condemnation. Thus, we misuse Gods resources for our benefit even though we claim using these to serve others. 
A true Christian at whatever level is a Steward who operates by faith. Just as a mature tree yields fruit, he or she will yield fruit (Galatians 5:22-25).  The Spirit of God that dwells in him springs forth this fruit because the fruit is the character of God Himself. 
Therefore, service is not proffered by guilt, coercion, or fear. The true Christian does not expect to gain absolution, freedom, or even peace. The service of a true Christian, in whom the Spirit dwells, is motivated by Agape - God's unconditional love - and the driving force is gratitude. A faithful follower of Christ gives and serves freely, for he has received freely (Matthew 10:8).
Typically, we do not equate stewardship with the selfless serving of others. But, a steward serves his Master by caring for his assets, identifying with the Master and doing as the Master wishes. What is it that the Master desires "But to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God" (Micah 6:8). Perhaps the parable of the sheep and goats from Matthew 25 will illustrate the meaning further. Although the passage is lengthy, reading will refresh our memory. Matthew 25: 31-46 reads--
Matthew 25:31 When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory:
Matthew 25:32 And before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
Matthew 25:33 And He shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Matthew 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
Matthew 25:35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in:
Matthew 25:36 Naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me.
Matthew 25:37 Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an hungred, and fed Thee? or thirsty, and gave Thee drink?
Matthew 25:38 When saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in? or naked, and clothed Thee?
Matthew 25:39 Or when saw we Thee sick, or in prison, and came unto Thee?
Matthew 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me.
Matthew 25:41 Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
Matthew 25:42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave Me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink:
Matthew 25:43 I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in: naked, and ye clothed Me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited Me not.
Matthew 25:44 Then shall they also answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto Thee?
Matthew 25:45 Then shall He answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me.
Matthew 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
Faithful stewards are sheep who identify with their Lord and unknowingly serve Him by helping those in need.   Unfaithful stewards are the goats who served others but for personal gain.  What is the motivating difference between the two? It is Agape – God's unconditional love. The sheep possess the type of love that the Father possesses.  This love which is His essence is that which led Him to give to all human beings "…His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). This love caused Jesus to weep because of the harm Sin had done to His creation (John 11:35). This is the same love that will be found in us as we permit the Holy Spirit to have His way with us (Romans 5:5). Christ Himself has said that by this all men will know that ye are my disciples (John 13: 34 – 35).  Today, while it's day, will you let the Spirit transform you into a faithful steward that you may serve others as He wishes?
~Raul Diaz

Friday, February 2, 2018

Stewards of Reconciliation

Stewards of Reconciliation

The year 2003 saw the release of a film about South-Africa entitled, "In my Country." Based on an autobiographical 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 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 struggles with his 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, 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 they committed the torture, abuse, or murder. 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 eight-year-old boy walked into his parents' bedroom one night. As he entered the room, he witnessed two 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 he heard the officer tell his story. 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.  He told of his participation in the crime and 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 sat 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 eight-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 approve. Although the means of forgiveness and amnesty have been provided through the TRC by the government, it is the eight-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. However, Christ wants us to be His ambassadors or stewards.  In 2 Cor. 5: 20, the scripture 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. Let us read what Paul says 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 impossible 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? He commands 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 paid for 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 gives us but as stewards of the fruit of the gospel. What is the fruit of the gospel you say?  It is reconciliation and forgiveness. 

God has said as our lesson quotes, "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

Friday, January 26, 2018

"Arming" for Victory

"Arming" for Victory

Let us start by reading Ephesians 6:13,

Ephesians 6:13 Therefore, take up the whole armor of God,  that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

What is Victory in Biblical terms?  Victory is the overcoming of an enemy or antagonist.  Who is our enemy? Some may say the Devil, and they are right.  Some may say death, and they are right also.  However, when Christ spoke about overcoming He mentioned the world.  Jesus told His disciples,

John 16: 33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

What does Jesus mean by the world?  How do we overcome it?  In a few verses above the verse quoted Christ gives us a hint,

John 16: 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
John 16: 8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
John 16: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me;

Christ said to the disciples that when the Holy Spirit comes, He will reprove the world of Sin, among other things.  Why Sin?  Because, the world – those who live in it – do not believe in Him.  Why does the world do not believe in Christ?  When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, He said that the condemnation of the world was "that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19).  So, the world is condemned because they have chosen not to believe in the "Light of the world."  The choice of not believing was the problem of Israel while in the wilderness.  Paul says in Hebrews that they did not enter the rest – of Christ – because of their unbelief (Hebrews 3:19; 4:6).  It was still a problem among Jews in Jesus' day (Matthew 13:58; Mark 6:6); so, as we see the word chosen for their condition is unbelief. 

Unbelief is used for two Greek terms: one of them meaning no faith, and the other one apathy.  But apathy is a compound word: a + pathy.   Pathy comes from pathos.  Pathos comes from peithos, of which the root word is pistis or faith.  Paul uses apathy to refer to the Israelites in the wilderness.  Now Paul refers to the apathy – lack of feeling or concern because of not believing – of the Israelites to warn the people of his day that they too could fall into the same trap (Hebrews 4:11).   Unbelief is an ongoing battle going on in our hearts and minds.  Ellen White also warns us about it.  Ellen White says,

"In every soul two powers are struggling earnestly for the victory. Unbelief marshals its forces, led by Satan, to cut us off from the Source of our strength. Faith marshals its forces, led by Christ, the author and finisher of our faith. Hour by hour, in the sight of the heavenly universe, the conflict goes forward. This is a hand-to-hand fight, and the great question is, Which shall obtain the mastery? This question each must decide for himself. In this warfare all must take a part, fighting on one side or the other. From the conflict there is no release. . . We are urged to prepare for this conflict. 'Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.' The warning is repeated, 'Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.'" -Ellen G. White, Sons and Daughters of God, p. 328.

So, the implication is that those who put on the armor will overcome the wiles of the devil, of which one of the most excellent weapons is unbelief.   We read in 1 John 5: 4 - 5,

1 John 5: 4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
1 John 5: 5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

So, to put on the armor then is to be born of God, because they are the ones who overcome the world.  And, they do so by faith – by hearing and believing the word of God.  So, there is no need for unbelief to be part of our lives.  Christ has given us His victory.