Friday, August 17, 2018

Remission

Remission

Throughout my life, I have met several individuals who have had cancer. Some of them had surgery, chemo and radiation, while others utilized natural methods or treatments to get rid of the cancerous tissue. On more than one occasion, the cocktailing of treatments was successful. Despite this however, the physician never stated that the patient was cured. Instead, the pronouncement was that the patient was in remission. Upon hearing this medical phrase, I was initially quite puzzled, and wondered what it meant. What I later discovered was that this idea of remission from disease could give us a window into how God deals with Sin. Let us talk briefly about cancer and remission in its medical context, and afterward, we will make the parallels between Sin, cancer, being in remission and its spiritual application.

Cancer refers to a class of diseases. Therefore, it is unlikely that there will ever be a single "cure for cancer" any more than there will be a single treatment for all infectious diseases. Treatments for cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and monoclonal antibody therapy. There are also natural homeopathic methods as well. The choice of treatment depends upon the location and grade of the tumor, the stage of the disease, as well as the general state of the patient (performance status). There are challenges inherent in some of the treatments that can limit their effectiveness. For example, the effectiveness of chemotherapy is often limited by toxicity to other tissues in the body. Radiation can also damage healthy tissue which can cause other medical issues. Simply stated, complete removal of the cancer without damage to the rest of the body is the goal of treatment. Sometimes this can be accomplished by surgery, but the propensity of tumors to invade adjacent tissues or to spread to distant sites by microscopic metastasis often limits its effectiveness.

This is why physicians say that cancer is in remission and not that a patient no longer has cancer. Remission is a temporary end to the medical signs in all tests, scans, physical exams, and symptoms of an incurable disease. It is the state of absence of disease activity although cancer still may be in the body and may manifest again in the future.

Sin, this side of eternity, is like cancer in that it can be treated, but it does not disappear. As long as we live on this earth, those who live by faith can stop committing Sin; however, their sinful nature is still alive. As long as we live on this Earth, Sin is always a threat. Just as cancer can show its ugly face when and where you least expect it, so can Sin when not held in check. It is always present and always fighting for the mastery. However, as long as we subject ourselves to the treatment of Jesus by His Holy Spirit, Sin will be in remission. This 'remission' is what Peter spoke of in Acts 10:43,

"To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of Sins."

 There is a similar expression in John 3:16, "…that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." The tense of the verb 'believeth' in the Greek is in the continual present tense. Consequently, the passage should read as such, "whosoever continually believes in Him.…" The Greek word here for 'believe' is the same as 'faith'. Thus, the meaning is rendered, "whosoever continually has faith – believes, trusts, and has confidence in…" Therefore, we can see that the remission of Sin comes through believing as does righteousness. Genesis 15:6 has this to say of righteousness and faith in regards to Abraham,

"And he believed in the LORD; and He counted it to him for righteousness."

Furthermore, the Spirit of Prophecy says that "The law demands righteousness, and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering it. The only way in which he can attain righteousness is through faith" (Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, Book 1, p. 367). So, now we see that there is a relationship between remission of Sin, "not perishing, having everlasting life," and being righteous. Believing causes all three. This simply means that those who are righteous by continually believing, experience remission of Sin, and eventually receive incorrupt and immortal bodies (1 Corinthians 15:53).

In addition, the word righteous is a synonym for just. Therefore, the expression justification by faith means made righteous by continually believing. Paul reminded the Galatians,

"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Galatians 2:16).

Genuine justification by faith always produces law keeping Christians. Since the law is summed up by, and (fulfilled) in Agape-Love (Romans 10:13), justification by faith always produces people that love God above all things and their neighbor as themselves (Galatians 5:14).

The Lord longs to have a people who completely reflect His character. He has been waiting so long for us. Let's not prolong His agony. Now is the time, today is the day to allow His treatment for Sin to be effective in each of us and let Sin be declared 'in remission'. This will prove our Lord to be good, merciful, just, and victorious.

~Raul Diaz


Friday, August 10, 2018

A Lesson Learned From A Foreigner

A Lesson Learned From A Foreigner

In Matthew 15:21 - 28 a story is told of a Syro-Phoenician woman who pleads to Jesus for a miracle. The story reads as follows,

Matthew 15:21 Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.
Matthew 15:22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
Matthew 15:23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.
Matthew 15:24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Matthew 15:25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
Matthew 15:26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.
Matthew 15:27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.
Matthew 15:28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

When we look at this account closely, this is what we see. Jesus initial silent treatment to this Canaanite woman was intentional. It was not to mistreat the woman, but, to teach the disciples and us a few lessons. It seemed the Disciples response was one of disdain. It was pretty much like, "get rid of her." After the disciples speak out to Christ, Jesus speaks to the woman. His answer to the woman can seem very rude. However, it was in line with His intention of teaching the lesson to His disciples. What things did this event show us all?

1. Jesus' love crossed gender lines. The disciples needed to learn that God did not see females as inferior to males. God created them and in Jesus God was redeeming them also. He listened to the woman and answered her prayer.

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

2. Jesus' love crossed ethnic/racial/national lines. Again, the disciples needed to learn that God does not favor one group over the other. If the disciples were to go out into the world with the gospel, they had to leave their bigotry, nationalism, prejudices and discriminative attitudes behind. Only Jesus can do this. Tolerating is not enough, you must agape others.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Colossians 3:10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
Colossians 3:11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

3. Faith can be found in anyone who believes regardless of their background. 

Romans 10:11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
Romans 10:12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

4. God will test your Faith. It will seem to you that He is ignoring you. He will seem to pay no heed to your petition. However, those who have faith will keep asking, until God replies. That is what Paul did about his infirmity.

2 Corinthians 12:8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

5. The Canaanite woman admitted to submitting herself to Christ as a puppy to its master. Dogs have two distinct qualities about them that most owners like. They are loyal to and dependent on their master. Are we loyal to God and dependent on Him? Puppies follow their master everywhere, as sheep follow their shepherd. 

John 10:3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
John 10:4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

This passage perhaps gives us the perfect image of discipleship. A disciple is as a puppy sitting at his Master's feet and feeding off the crumbs that fall from the Master's table.

Friday, August 3, 2018

"THE CONVERSION OF PAUL"

"THE CONVERSION OF PAUL"

 

 

Paul Means the Little One

 

Luke 9:48 "…for he who is least among you all -- he shall be great."

 

The verse quoted above seems contradictory. However, such are things in the Kingdom of God.  A pearl is highly valued and desired. However, its origins are very humble. Something insignificantly small – and undesirable to the clam - causes a lesion within it. The clam, to self-protect, creates a substance with which it covers and isolates the irritant. The final result of this process is a precious pearl. It is in this light that we look at Paul's conversion.

 

What do we know of Paul before His conversion? We know that he was an old covenant believer of God, filled with religious bigotry, status and pride. Paul says of himself in Acts 22:3, "I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day." He proceeds in Philippians 3:5, I was, "Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee." He was born a Roman citizen according to Acts 22:25 – 28. According to Galatians 1:14, He "…profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers." He was present at Stephen's death and consenting of it according to Acts 7:58 and 8:1. After this, He persecuted the church as we read in Acts 8:3 and 22:4, 5:

 

Act 8:3 "As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison."

 

Act 22:4, 5 "And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished."

 

Paul's original name was Saul (Acts 13:9). His parents gave him this name because they hoped he would be as great as King Saul (Saul means desired). It seemed Saul did not disappoint his parents. That was until his conversion, when he became a New Covenant believer. After Paul's conversion (Acts 9) Saul changed his name to Paul, which means little one; this was to contrast his name in his life without Christ. After conversion, he no longer pursued greatness but was content to consider Christ as the great and desirable One and he, Paul, was a small one. Indeed, he called himself the least of the Apostles and all saints (1Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8), the chief of sinners (1Timothy 1:15), and a wretched man (Romans 7:24).

 

Paul's view of himself is very paradoxical, as the things of God often are. From our human perspective, we consider the little one and least of all of the Apostles as the greatest apostle of all. He was the preeminent evangelist, highly successful at church planting, and the most prolific letter writer. Paul agreed that it looked as though he was great, but then he clarified in 1 Corinthians 15:9-11. Let us read in I Corinthians 15:9, 10 (ESV),

 

"For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me."

 

How did Paul do it?  We could argue that it was Paul's energetic personality, along with his educational attainments and excellent training that produced such a worker for Christ. But these things merely enhanced the tool that he was. Sister White has said it is not the abilities which the man possesses or will ever possess that give him success in the work, it is the mighty outworking of the Holy Spirit on the heart through the one who is surrendered. But naturally a man who is well prepared and pays attention to the little things can have a wider sphere of work, than one whose energies and talents are divided, undisciplined or untrained. (See COL, Chapter 25 on Talents). It was the Holy Spirit through Paul that accomplished all these things. Paul completely gave himself to the Holy Spirit's control, and trusted in God's promises and provisions. He was a man of prayer. There are approximately 32 references on prayer in Paul's epistles. These indicate that not only was he a man of prayer, but that he was filled with, and followed the directions of the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:9; Acts 16:6). Paul, who said he was the least of all the apostles, did not disappoint the Lord. Could the same be said of us?

 

~Raul Diaz


Friday, July 27, 2018

To Whose Voice Are You Listening

To Whose Voice Are You Listening?

Remember the story of Peter Rabbit? You know, the one where Mother
Rabbit encourages Peter and his siblings to go out, but cautions
against two things: losing or destroying their clothes, and entering
into Mr. McGregor's garden. Mother Rabbit had her reasons for warning
against entering Mr. McGregor's garden, as Mr. McGregor had killed
Father Rabbit in that very garden years before. (Father Rabbit had
gone there to eat some of Mr. McGregor's vegetables). So, off Peter
Rabbit and siblings went with Mother's warning ringing in their ears.
Most of Peter's siblings were determined to follow Mother's warning,
but, Peter didn't. He decided to go into the garden anyway. And at
first, all was well as he feasted on all sorts of fresh produce such
as carrots, lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, and the like. Munching
happily away, Peter sniffed the cucumbers, and boy did they smell
good. Allured, he hopped over to the cucumber patch, when suddenly he
and Mr. McGregor came face to face. Surprised and irritated, Mr.
McGregor immediately picked up his rake and pursued Peter round and
round through the cucumbers, the tomatoes, radishes, lettuce and the
carrots. What mayhem they caused in the process. But try as he might,
Peter could not find the entrance into the garden, nor a place to hide
from Mr. McGregor. Frantic now, Peter kept looking, when up ahead he
saw a light. At last, Peter found the garden entrance. Hopping as fast
as he could, Peter squeezed through the small opening and at last was
free. Momentarily relieved, Peter sat down to catch his breath, and
that's when he noticed that he had lost his clothes hopping madly
through the garden. "Now, I'm in big trouble," he thought, "mother is
going to be so mad at me." "Why didn't I listen?" he asked himself.

In this version of the story, isn't it interesting that Peter Rabbit
asked himself, "why didn't I listen?" and not "why didn't I obey?" To
young children, the Peter Rabbit tale is just a fun story, but older
children and adults perceive that the story is really about obedience.
In the English language (and in many others), the word obey means "to
do what you're told." Therefore by our definition, Peter Rabbit was
disobedient the moment he did not do what his mother told him to do.
But is this getting at the heart of obedience? At its core, obedience
is about hearing the right thing to do, whether it be an inward,
silent, persistent thought, or an audible external voice, and then
choosing it. A wise man has said, " First there is the mental
creation, then the action is taken." So obedience involves not only
our outward actions, but our motives and attitudes before the doing. A
literal translation of the word "obey" in the Hebrew, is to listen
willingly, eagerly, attentively (sitting or standing on the edge,
straining to catch the slightest nuance) of the one who is speaking.
Its opposite meaning would be, hearing while preoccupied, resisting
the one who is talking, reluctantly paying attention, and finally,
listening to find the disagreeable.

In most biblical passages where the author (through Christ) is
encouraging the reader to hear, he is saying: ponder these words,
consider their meaning and importance deeply, then choose to give your
will to the Master on this matter, that He may DO it in and through
you. Christ Himself has said, that of Himself He could do nothing, and
that without abiding in Him (the Word) we can do nothing. To more
effectively illustrate the concept of obedience as listening and
hearing willingly and attentively, let's review the story of Saul of
Tarsus / Paul. In Acts chapter 6 verses 1, through Acts chapter 8
verses 1-3, the text records Stephen's sermon and his stoning in which
Saul consented. Of this, Sister White says:

"The Saviour had spoken to Saul through Stephen, whose clear reasoning
could not be refuted. The learned Jew had seen the face of the martyr
reflecting the light of Christ's glory--appearing as if "it had been
the face of an angel." Acts 6:15. He had witnessed Stephen's
forbearance toward his enemies and his forgiveness of them. He had
also seen the fortitude and cheerful resignation of many whom he had
caused to be tormented and afflicted. He had seen some yield up even
their lives with rejoicing for the sake of their faith. All these
things had appealed loudly to Saul and at times had thrust upon his
mind an almost overwhelming conviction that Jesus was the promised
Messiah. At such times he had struggled for entire nights against this
conviction, and always he had ended the matter by avowing his belief
that Jesus was not the Messiah and that His followers were deluded
fanatics" (Acts of the Apostles, 116).

Sister White further states (on page 113), Saul's mind had been deeply
disturbed by striking evidence of God's presence with Stephen. And,
this led him to doubt the righteousness of the cause he espoused with
the followers of Jesus. Perplexed, he appealed to those in whose
wisdom, and judgment he had full confidence. The priests' and rulers'
arguments finally convinced him that Stephen and Christ's followers
were blasphemers and Christ, an imposter. But not without severe trial
did Saul come to this conclusion.

The reason Saul was able to stifle the conviction of the Holy Spirit's
voice to him, was because a voice louder, and more insistent filled
his thoughts. He chose to heed and believe that voice of prejudice,
pride and Pharisaical teaching. Therefore whenever the Holy Spirit
spoke, Saul hardened his heart, and refused to pay attention for he
did not want to hear. As we can see from Acts 9:3-6, it was not until
Christ halted Saul with the revelation and words of Christ Himself,
that he let go of his stubbornness. In relenting, he became willing --
to listen attentively, for there was no competing voice, and eager to
hear, for the words of his Lord and Saviour brought light.

How many of us are walking around in the dark, frustrated with life?
We're pursuing what we think is right, but we're uneasy, as if
something is not quite, well -- right. Perhaps its that in our
choosing, we've listened to the wrong voices and are merely reaping
the consequences of uneasiness to call us to repentance. Its possible
to repent you know, just as Saul did. We don't have to continue
running round and round in the proverbial garden of temptation, as did
our little Peter Rabbit. Yes, there are so many voices which compete
for our attention and resources, and sometimes we don't know which one
to listen to -- yet, "in the stillness of the soul, the voice of the
Saviour is heard speaking."

So the question comes to us today while we are multitasking, "who are
you listening to?" In the case of Peter Rabbit, he chose to listen to
the clamor of his appetite. In the case of Saul before conversion, he
chose to listen to the various members of the Sanhedrin, as well as
his education and pride. Mark 4:24 states: "Take heed how (what) you
hear ... and unto you that hear shall more be given." So, how will
answer the question, "which voice are you listening to?"

Friday, July 20, 2018

1888 Message Study : Life in the Early Church

THIRD QUARTER 2018

SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #3

JULY 21, 2018

"LIFE IN THE EARLY CHURCH"

 

As we look back at the early church, there are many valuable lessons for God's last day church today as we look forward to Christ's second coming.

First, we need to recall that, following Christ's death on the cross, the disciples were in hiding, afraid for their lives and in despair because their Saviour had been put to death.  Despite 3½ years with Jesus, they had not understood His mission on earth or His plan of salvation for mankind.  Jesus had to come back following His resurrection and spend 40 days with them to show them from the Scriptures why He had come, and the depth of God's infinite love and sacrifice as embodied in His birth, life, death on the cross, and resurrection fulfilling God's plan of salvation for the human race.  With this true everlasting gospel in their hearts and minds, they were changed men with a burning desire to share this gospel message to the world.  They were on fire for Christ and through His strength, filled with the Holy Spirit, they were fearless and unstoppable in their mission.

Only then, were the disciples able to fulfil the commission Jesus gave them (Mark 16:15): "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."

As God's last day church, this responsibility continues today for as Matthew 24:14 states: "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations: and then shall the end come."

But God saw that His remnant church needed to see His complete gospel message in order to share it with the world and so in 1888:

"The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.  It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus.  They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family.  All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure."

With this true everlasting gospel in our hearts and minds, God's last day church will also be changed and will also have the same burning desire as the disciples and the early church had to share this gospel message to the world. With our focus on Christ and Him crucified, relying on His strength, and filled with the Holy Spirit, it will indeed be time for Christ to take us home.

Let's now take a look at some of the characteristics of the early church, as guidelines for God's remnant church in these final days of earth's history.

Let's look at EGW's description of the disciples and the early church following Christ's sharing with them from the Scriptures concerning Himself and His mission:

"Under the training of Christ the disciples had been led to feel their need of the Spirit.  Under the Spirit's teaching they received the final qualification, and went forth to their lifework.  No longer were they ignorant and uncultured.  No longer were they a collection of independent units or discordant, conflicting elements.  No longer were their hopes set on worldly greatness.  They were of "one accord", "of one heart and soul." Acts 2:46; 4:32. Christ filled their thoughts; the advancement of His kingdom was their aim.  In mind and character, they had become like their Master, and men "took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." Acts 4:13." (AA pg. 45).

AT Jones addresses this same issue of being "of one mind" and its importance for God's last day church as well in the following comments:

"LET this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." In the verses previous to this Paul exhorts us to likemindedness. It is not in this epistle alone, but in several others that he presents this subject. Indeed, it is the chief duty of Christians to be of one mind. In 1 Cor. 1:10 it is written: "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." In Rom. 15:5, 6 we read: "Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus; that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." And in Phil. 2:2 Paul says: "Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. . . . Let each esteem others better than themselves." {April 23, 1885 ATJ, SITI 262.1}

In that last prayer of Jesus, before he went over the brook Cedron into Gethsemane, this was His one great request, "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in Me, and I in thee, that they also may be one, even as We are one; I in them and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me." John 17:21-23. Here three times in quick succession the prayer is that all who believe on Him may be one; and twice is expressed the consequence of such unity, "That the world may believe" that He is the Son of God. The great heart of Him who gave his life for the world, yearns for the belief of those for whom He died. A few then believed in Him, and through these is He to be made known to the world, and that the world may believe their testimony they must be united. Burdened with this great argument, He prays with an earnestness only second to that in Gethsemane, that all His followers may be one, that so the world may believe that He was sent of God, and so believing be saved. {April 23, 1885 ATJ, SITI 262.2}

Christ not only prayed thus but He made ample provision for the fulfillment of His prayer. "I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one." "If ye love Ne, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth; Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." "If a man love Me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and We will come unto Him, and make our abode with Him." John 14:15-17, 23. Thus "our fellowship is "formed "with the Father, and with His son Jesus Christ." And this is the only possible way in which we can have true fellowship one with another. For if this man has, by the Holy Spirit, fellowship with the Father and with the Son; and if that man has, by the Holy Spirit, fellowship with the Father and with the Son, they must have fellowship one with another, for the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one; and those who have fellowship with these must be one likewise. {April 23, 1885 ATJ, SITI 262.3}

Similarly, EJ Waggoner in the following quote, stresses the importance of God's true church being of one mind, as well as being humble and loyal to the word of God. Once again, the power source is Christ and Him crucified:

The true church is the body of Christ, "the fullness of Him that filleth all in all." Eph. 1:22, 23. Therefore we find this exhortation: "If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye My joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant." Phil. ii. 2-7. {December 14, 1893 EJW, PTUK 579.11}

It was the mind that Christ had when He was in heaven, that led Him to do that. In heaven He had the spirit to serve, and it only needed that He should take the form of a servant, for men could not look upon Him in His glory. In Him we see in what His church must be. He "went about doing good," living among men as one that served. So, it is said to us, "By love serve one another." Gal. 5:13. This mind can be in men only as they yield themselves to the Word of God, for the word is spirit and life. The prophecy concerning Christ was, "I will put My words in His mouth; and He shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him." Deut. 18:18. And when He came, He took as the rule of His life, "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Accordingly, we find that the characteristics of the church at the time when the Spirit of God dwelt in it were humility and loyalty to the word of God. "They were all with one accord in one place." Acts 2:1. "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul." Acts 4:32. Their prayer was that with boldness they might speak the word. Verse 29. When they were dispersed from Jerusalem, they "went everywhere preaching the word.' Acts 8:4. {December 14, 1893 EJW, PTUK 579.12}

As we look at the deteriorating situation in the world around us, these are indeed perilous times for God's last day church but we can derive encouragement from the experience of the early church and their source of strength, Jesus Christ, as we can see in this quote from AT Jones:

"Jesus is as willing to impart courage and grace to His followers today as He was to the disciples of the early church…..

The disciples and apostles of Christ had a deep sense of their own inefficiency, and with humiliation and prayer they joined their weakness to His strength, their ignorance to His wisdom, their unworthiness to His righteousness, their poverty to His inexhaustible wealth. Thus, strengthened and equipped, they hesitated not in the service of their Master." {February 6, 1893 ATJ, GCDB 166.15}

What an equipment that is, though! Think of that equipment! Strength, wisdom, righteousness, wealth! Those are the very things that we need in the face of the things that are against us, for we cannot make any calculations upon any power of earth nor reputation that men will give nor upon any wealth that this world might furnish or any considerations of it or of life. So here are almost the very things enumerated that we considered in a previous lesson. {February 6, 1893 ATJ, GCDB 166.16}

But how was it that they obtained strength? By acknowledging their weakness, confessing their weakness. How did they get wisdom? By confessing their ignorance. How did they get righteousness? By confessing their unworthiness. How did they get wealth, inexhaustible wealth? By confessing their poverty. {February 6, 1893 ATJ, GCDB 167.1}

Now then that is the situation in which we are to be: inefficient, ignorant, poor, unworthy, and blind. Is not that just what the Laodicean message tells us--that we are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked and do not know it? Someone was reading that the other day and he touched upon that word "blindness," and immediately my mind ran to the ninth chapter of John and the last verse. All turn to that, if you will. John 9:41. It is at the end of the account of that man's healing from the blindness and restoration of sight to the man that had been born blind. What does that verse say? {February 6, 1893 ATJ, GCDB 167.2}

"Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin; but now you say, We see. Therefore your sin remaineth." {February 6, 1893 ATJ, GCDB 167.3}

When Jesus tells you and me we are blind, the thing for us to do is to say, "Lord, we are blind." He told those folks they were blind and they were blind, but they said it was not so. It was so. If they had confessed their blindness they would have seen God in that man's healing from his blindness. Well, then, brethren, the thing for us to do is to come square up to that Laodicean message and say that every word He says is so. When He says you and I are wretched, tell Him, "It is so, I am wretched; miserable; it is so, I am miserable; poor, it is so; I am poor, a perfect beggar, I shall never be anything else in the world; blind, I am blind, and shall never be anything else; naked, that is so; and I do not know it; that is so, too. I do not know it at all, as I ought to know it." And then I will say to him every day and every hour, "Lord, that is all so. But, oh, instead of my wretchedness, give me thine own satisfaction. Instead of my misery, give me thine own comfort. Instead of my poverty, supply all thine own riches. Instead of my blindness, be thou my sight. Instead of my nakedness, oh, do thou clothe me with thine own righteousness. And what I know not, Lord, teach thou me." [Congregation: "Amen."] {February 6, 1893 ATJ, GCDB 167.4}

Brethren, when we come with one heart and one mind to that place, we shall have no difficulty at all in repenting. It will not be difficult to repent and there will be no lack of repentance. That next verse will be fulfilled: "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Be zealous therefore and repent." {February 6, 1893 ATJ, GCDB 167.5}

The difficulty about our not being able to repent is that we have not confessed that what the Lord has told us is the truth. When I know that I am wretched then I know that I need something that will satisfy me. And I know that nothing but the Lord can give that, and I depend upon nothing but Him to give it. And if I have not Him, why it is only wretchedness. Any moment that I have not Him it is only wretchedness, and any moment that I have not His comfort it is only misery. Any moment that I have not absolute dependence upon His unsearchable riches--the unsearchable riches of Christ--I am utterly poor, a complete beggar. And every moment that I do not see and confess that I am blind and have Him as my sight, I am in sin. He says so." {February 6, 1893 ATJ, GCDB 167.6}

So, we can see clearly from this statement that the early church had the solution for our Laodicean condition.  This is indeed good news for God's last day church. As EGW says in Acts of the Apostles (pg. 57):

"The disciples of Christ had a deep sense of their own inefficiency, and with humiliation and prayer they joined their weakness to His strength, their ignorance to His wisdom, their unworthiness to His righteousness, their poverty to His exhaustless wealth.  Thus, strengthened and equipped, they hesitated not to press forward in the service of the Master."

Similarly, in Acts of the Apostles (pg.77), we read as follows: "It was the cross, that instrument of shame and torture, which brought hope and salvation to the world.  The disciples were but humble men, without wealth, and with no weapon but the word of God, yet in Christ's strength they went forth to tell the wonderful story of the manger and the cross, and to triumph over all opposition.  Without earthly honor or recognition, they were heroes of faith. From their lips came words of divine eloquence that shook the world."

And so, in closing, may it be our prayer, that through His strength, God may use us to share to the world this most precious message, His true everlasting gospel, that will once again shake the world so that Christ may soon come to claim His bride and take us home!

Blessings, John and Monica.


https://www.1888msc.org/resources/ssi/2018-q3/life-in-the-early-church

Zero-sum

Zero-sum

The concept of zero-sum is generally from game theory and economic theory. Zero-sum describes a situation in which a participant's gain or loss is precisely balanced by the losses or gains of the other participant(s). When we subtract the total profits of the participants from the total losses it will equal zero. A situation where the benefits and losses to all players sum to the same value of money (or utility) are zero-sum. In contrast, non-zero-sum describes a case in which the interacting parties' aggregate gains and losses are either less than or more than zero. Non-zero-sum is a Situation where participants can all gain or suffer together. An example of non-zero-sum will be when a country with an excess of bananas is trading with another country for their surplus of apples, since both benefit from the transaction, is in a non-zero-sum situation. An example of zero-sum is Cutting a cake. It is zero-sum because taking a larger piece reduces the amount of cake available for others.

In political terms, socialists consider national economies as a zero-sum game (if A grows $5,000 richer, it is because B is $5,000 poorer). Whereas, capitalists consider economies a non-zero-sum game (human enterprise creates new wealth far out of proportion to any transfers or resource depletion, and voluntary transactions address the preferential desires of both parties).

Considering our current economic woes, we need to rethink the capitalist premise. As wealth increases, inflation increases also driving the present value of money down. It ends up being mere perception. We have also seen that the wealth created is in the hands of fewer and fewer, and an increasing majority is falling below the poverty line. This fact leads us to understand that the wealth created is at the backs of those who are poor or become poor. We have seen this pattern happen throughout the six thousand years of earth history.

In the days before the flood, this kind of evil was rampant. Ellen White spoke of this. Let us read,

Instead of doing justice to their neighbors, they carried out their own unlawful wishes. They had a plurality of wives, which was contrary to God's wise arrangement. In the beginning, God gave to Adam one wife--showing to all who should live upon the earth, his order and law in that respect. The transgression and fall of Adam and Eve brought sin and wretchedness upon the human race, and man followed his own carnal desires, and changed God's order. The more men multiplied wives to themselves, the more they increased in wickedness and unhappiness. If anyone chose to take the wives, or cattle, or anything belonging to his neighbor, he did not regard justice or right, but if he could prevail over his neighbor by reason of strength, or by putting him to death, he did so and exulted in his deeds of violence. They loved to destroy the lives of animals. They used them for food, and this increased their ferocity and violence, and caused them to look upon the blood of human beings with astonishing indifference. (1 Spirit of Prophecy, page 68).

Many antediluvians in their greed took more than what they needed depriving others of their needs. They abused nature and people to get what they wanted. Could it be that what we witness today is a fulfillment of Christ's prediction, "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man" (Matthew 24:37)?

Doctor Luke writes about how it was among the church members in apostolic time. It is quite the contrast. He says in Acts 2: 44-45,

Acts2:44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
Acts2:45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.

The church members were together, having all things in common. No private property. Agape, selfless and other-interested love, was the motivator; not self-love. There was no "equal and fair" division. None took what they wanted, only what they needed. Those who needed less took less, and those who needed more took more. They all seem satisfied. Neither socialism nor capitalism could have worked it out. Only God's self-denying love can do that.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Gospel of Nitrogen

The Gospel of Nitrogen

Everything is made of molecules. Some are small and others bigger.
Some are simple and others complex. Proteins are very large and
complex molecules. Proteins are made out of smaller molecules called
amino acids, and Nitrogen is an essential part of all amino acids.
However, nitrogen as a part of an amino acid is an atom. All
molecules are made out of atoms. Other molecules that contain nitrogen
are all nucleic acids (which provide energy and genetic information),
and most plant pigments involved in photosynthesis. Which implies
that plants need lots of nitrogen. The most common component of
plant fertilizers is, in fact, one of two forms of nitrogen - nitrate
(NO3-) or ammonium (NH4+) ions—both usable forms of nitrogen for
plants.

With a concentration of about 78 percent, nitrogen gas comprises the
largest component of earth's atmosphere. It has at least a million
times more nitrogen than found in all living systems combined. The bad
news is that all of this atmospheric nitrogen consists of molecules of
N2 — that is, two atoms of nitrogen bound tightly together by, what
chemists call, three strong covalent bonds. Unfortunately, it takes a
great deal of energy to break the triple bond. Because plants can't
use molecular nitrogen (N2), nitrogen has to transform into one of the
two absorbable ions. When you break the bonds between the molecular
nitrogen, each nitrogen ion is open to attract and attach other atoms
and form different molecules. So, before the nitrogen can bond with
other elements like oxygen or hydrogen it has to become an ion itself.
Let us try to reiterate: the two nitrogen atoms are attracted to each
other, very strongly. Once bonded the nitrogen atoms cannot bond with
anything else unless that bond is broken. When the bond is broken,
the nitrogen will have open spaces to bond with other ions. Now,
notice that the symbol for nitrate has a negative sign and the
ammonium has a positive sign, this is why they are called ions and not
molecules. Both nitrate and ammonium have open spaces to bond as
well.

Back to nitrogen: it requires a lot of energy to break nitrogen's
triple bond. In His wisdom, the Creator provided several ways to
convert atmospheric molecular nitrogen into usable forms that will
dissolve in water so that plant roots can absorb it. The immense
energy of lightning easily breaks triple nitrogen bond, turning it
into nitrates and washing it down in the rain of a good thunderstorm.
Have you noticed how green your lawn is after a lightning strikes?
Even more critical, many types of bacteria convert nitrogen from one
form to another. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria convert atmospheric nitrogen
to the more plant-friendly ammonium ion (though it is toxic in large
concentrations). Other bacteria, called ammonifying bacteria, also
create the ammonium ion, but they do it by decomposition of plant and
animal matter. Check out the smell of your compost pile. It reeks of
ammonia. Fortunately, another family of bacteria called nitrifying
bacteria transforms the ammonium ion to the safer nitrates. (As you
might guess, the cycles are more complicated than what I am
describing.)

It is not uncommon for atoms in a "multi-atom" molecule to behave
differently than when they were a mono-atom molecule. As previously
mentioned, the bonds in molecules of compounds are very strong. The
atoms that compose the molecules now yield to one another. They work
as one. Whether, in ammonium or nitrate, nitrogen no longer behaves
as nitrogen. For example, water is not flammable. But, the two
elements that compose water – hydrogen, and oxygen - on their own are
very flammable.

This has a spiritual application. Let us go step by step. Before
conversion, the disciples could not bond. Before the crucifixion,
they were fighting for supremacy. That ceased after the ten days in
the upper chamber. Luke described what happened then, "And when the
day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one
place" (acts 2: 1). Ellen White describes the events in the following
quote,
"After Christ's ascension, His disciples--men of varied talents and
capabilities--assembled in an upper chamber to pray for the gift of
the Holy Spirit. In this room 'all continued with one accord in prayer
and supplication.' They made thorough work of repentance by confessing
their own sins. Upon them was laid no burden to confess one another's
sins. Settling all differences and alienations, they were of one
accord, and prayed with unity of purpose for ten days, at the end of
which time 'they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to
speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.' {7MR
94.4}

There was a definite change in them. This change was reflected in all
their followers: "Now the multitude of those who believed were of one
heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he
possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with
great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord
Jesus. And great grace was upon them all" (Acts 4:32, 33, NKJV).

What happened? When the Holy Spirit began working in them, He broke
their bond to Sin or self. It takes the mighty grace of God to do
this. Now, they have open space to bond with Christ and with each
other. Christ could not use the disciples in their natural state.
They had to become spiritual ions to be able to bond with other
spiritual atoms.

So, the disciples laid aside all their ambitions. Now instead of
fighting, they were convicted by the Holy Spirit to die to self. The
words of Paul became a reality in them: "…be not conformed to this
world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind," and do not
think more highly than he ought to think of himself (Romans 12: 2 –
3). God is waiting for us to let the Holy Spirit do the same work in
us.

Raul Diaz


Endnote: Portions of this commentary were taken from David A. Steen's
book "God of Wonders" page 235.


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Raul Diaz
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