Saturday, January 12, 2019

Spiritual Wicks

Spiritual Wicks

For the most part, much of matter exists in three phases: solid, liquid, and gas (vapor).  On which phase does the matter exist depends mainly on the property of the material and temperature to which it is exposed. So, for example, in warm to cool weather water is liquid.  In very hot weather water is gas or vapor.  On the other extreme, in very cold weather, water is solid – what we call ice.  

There are terms for the temperature at which matter changes from one phase to another.  For example, there is the melting point, the temperature at which a solid becomes liquid.  These vary depending on the material's property.  So, it is that a material with a low melting point will be liquid where one with a high melting point will be still solid. Another example of these terms is flashpoints: This is defined as the temperature at which a particular organic compound gives off sufficient vapor to ignite in air when exposed to flame. If you have two different substances with two different flashpoints, the one with the lower flash point will burn before the one with the highest flash point. An excellent example of this is the wick of an oil lamp.  Let us learn more about these lamps to illustrate this point.  

In the past lamps where very simple utensils: it was nothing more than a small reservoir filled with oil and a wick coming out of the reservoir saturated with the oil from the reservoir.  Through capillary action, the taper would draw the oil up. If you looked closely, you would notice a charred bit along the top, and sometimes it gets hard and crusty, this is like lacquer from the oils and should be trimmed up from time to time.  When you light the candle wick, the small burnt bit of wick heats the oil traveling up, and the vapor ignites. The oil vapors have a lower flash point than the cotton, so they ignite before the wick does.  Kerosene, for example, has an autoignition temperature of about 220 °F with a flash point of 33-36 °F and Cotton needs about 630 °F to flash.   If you look closely on a candle, the wax does the same thing, you will see a space between the flame and the wick, and it is not the wax but rather the vaporized wax that is burning.  To reiterate, this means the vapors – which only need 33 °F heat to ignite with a flame source - burn before the cotton can burn. So you see, as long as there is oil to burn, the cloth just acts as a wick!  The wick will burn when the oil is gone, and the flame is still does burning; the cotton becomes the fuel.

We will see that there is a spiritual application to this when we study the vision in Zechariah 4. This vision is full of imagery, symbols, and meaning.  Let us read it,

Zechariah 4:1 And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep.
Zechariah 4:2 And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof:
Zechariah 4:3 And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.
Zechariah 4:4 So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord?
Zechariah 4:5 Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
Zechariah 4:6 Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.
Zechariah 4:12 And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves?
Zechariah 4:14 Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the LORD of the whole earth.

This vision is an obvious reference to the lamps in the sanctuary.  According to Leviticus 24:2, the Lord said to Moses to "Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually."  We read from Ellen White writings that by the lamps is represented the word of God. The psalmist says, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Psalm 119:105. The oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.  [We see this as we read the narration as to how the Spirit is represented in the prophecy of Zechariah.]  (PK 594.1; COL 408.1)  

In this vision, the two olive trees which stand before God are represented as emptying the golden oil out of themselves through golden tubes into the bowl of the candlestick.  From this, the lamps of the sanctuary are fed, that they may give a bright, continuous light. So, from the holy ones that stand in God's presence, His Spirit is imparted to the human instrumentalities who are consecrated to His service.  (PK 594.1: COL 408.1)  Then the heavenly fire, when applied, makes them burning and shining lights. Our hearts cannot reflect light until there is a vital connection with heaven; this connection is established when the Holy Spirit dwells in us. This alone can make them burn steadily with holy, unselfish love for Jesus, and for all who are the purchase of His blood. And, unless we are regularly replenished with the golden oil, the flame will die out.  (TDG 98.3)  If the fire of the Spirit is not burning, we then become "spiritual fuel.  Ellen White explains why,

The prophet Isaiah had declared that the Lord would cleanse His people from their iniquities "by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning." The word of the Lord to Israel was, "I will turn My hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin." Isaiah 4:4; 1:25. To sin, wherever found, "our God is a consuming fire." Hebrews 12:29.  In all who submit to His power, the Spirit of God will consume sin. But if men cling to sin, they become identified with it. Then the glory of God, which destroys sin, must destroy them.  (DA 107)

As we can see we are the wicks, and without the Holy Spirit oil we burn out.  The Holy Spirit is thus a preserving agent.  It is He that burns, and as long as He is present, He will burn but not us.  So, spiritually we are to be "human torches" "… letting our light so shine before men, that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).  

Friday, December 28, 2018

Christ 2nd Coming

Originally Posted on Friday, September 26, 2014 for a lesson on:

Christ 2nd Coming

 

Our lesson (when this was published) seemed to emphasize Christ's second return with the resurrection of the dead.  No mention, or very little mention, is given to Paul's words that say that not all will die.  Some will be translated as Enoch and Elijah.  Being that they represent us, it would behoove us to learn about these men.  Following are a few quotes from Ellen White that speak about these two men and how they are related to us. 

 

3 Selected Messages

Character Perfected by Enoch and Elijah-- 1874.--Some few in every generation from Adam resisted his every artifice and stood forth as noble representatives of what it was in the power of man to do and to be--Christ working with human efforts, helping man in overcoming the power of Satan. Enoch and Elijah are the correct representatives of what the race might be through faith in Jesus Christ if they chose to be. Satan was greatly disturbed because these noble, holy men stood untainted amid the moral pollution surrounding them, perfected righteous characters, and were accounted worthy for translation to heaven. As they had stood forth in moral power in noble uprightness, overcoming Satan's temptations, he could not bring them under the dominion of death. He triumphed that he had power to overcome Moses with his temptations, and that he could mar his illustrious character and lead him to the sin of taking glory to himself before the people which belonged to God.--The Review and Herald, March 3, 1874.  {3SM 146.5} 

 

Sermons and Talks v. 2

Our faith must reach within the veil, whither our Forerunner has for us entered. It is possible for us to take hold by faith of the eternal promises of God, but to do this we must have a faith that will not be denied, a steadfast, immovable faith, that will take hold of the realities of the unseen world.  {2SAT 5.4} 

     It is our privilege to stand with the light of heaven upon us. It was thus that Enoch walked with God. It was no easier for Enoch to live a righteous life in his day than it is for us at the present time. The world in Enoch's time was no more favorable to a growth in grace and holiness than it is now, but Enoch devoted time to prayer and communion with God, and this enabled him to escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. It is his devotion to God that fitted him for translation.  {2SAT 5.5} 

 

Patriarchs and Prophets

By the translation of Enoch the Lord designed to teach an important lesson. There was danger that men would yield to discouragement, because of the fearful results of Adam's sin. Many were ready to exclaim, "What profit is it that we have feared the Lord and have kept His ordinances, since a heavy curse is resting upon the race, and death is the portion of us all?" But the instructions which God gave to Adam, and which were repeated by Seth, and exemplified by Enoch, swept away the gloom and darkness, and gave hope to man, that as through Adam came death, so through the promised Redeemer would come life and immortality. Satan was urging upon men the belief that there was no reward for the righteous or punishment for the wicked, and that it was impossible for men to obey the divine statutes. But in the case of Enoch, God declares "that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." Hebrews 11:6. He shows what He will do for those who keep His commandments. Men were taught that it is possible to obey the law of God; that even while living in the midst of the sinful and corrupt, they were able, by the grace of God, to resist temptation, and become pure and holy. They saw in his example the blessedness of such a life; and his translation was an evidence of the truth of his prophecy concerning the hereafter, with its award of joy and glory and immortal life to the obedient, and of condemnation, woe, and death to the transgressor.  {PP 88.2}

     By faith Enoch "was translated that he should not see death; . . . for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." Hebrews 11:5. In the midst of a world by its iniquity doomed to destruction, Enoch lived a life of such close communion with God that he was not permitted to fall under the power of death. The godly character of this prophet represents the state of holiness which must be attained by those who shall be "redeemed from the earth" (Revelation 14:3) at the time of Christ's second advent. Then, as in the world before the Flood, iniquity will prevail. Following the promptings of their corrupt hearts and the teachings of a deceptive philosophy, men will rebel against the authority of Heaven. But like Enoch, God's people will seek for purity of heart and conformity to His will, until they shall reflect the likeness of Christ. Like Enoch, they will warn the world of the Lord's second coming and of the judgments to be visited upon transgression, and by their holy conversation and example they will condemn the sins of the ungodly. As Enoch was translated to heaven before the destruction of the world by water, so the living righteous will be translated from the earth before its destruction by fire. Says the apostle: "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump." "For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God;" "the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." "The dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.  {PP 88.3}

 

God is waiting for His people to be like Enoch and Elijah.  Then the end will come.  Consider the following quotes from Ellen White,

 

"The long night of gloom is trying, but the morning is deferred in mercy, because if the Master should come so many would be found unready.  –2T 194 [1868].

"Had the church of Christ done her appointed work as the Lord ordained, the whole world would before this have been warned and the Lord Jesus would have come to our earth in power and great glory. –DA 633, 4 [1898].

"Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church.  When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.  It is the privilege of every Christian, not only to look for, but to hasten the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Were all who profess His name bearing fruit to His glory, how quickly the whole world would be sown with the seed of the gospel.  Quickly the last great harvest would be ripened, and Christ would come to gather the precious grain. – COL 69 [1900]. 

 

The reason Christ has not come yet is because the above condition has not been met.  How long will we keep delaying our Lord's return?

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Stewards of Service

Stewards of Service

The Bible says that nature speaks of the Glory of God, which is His character. Sister 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 we exhale), water, and absorbs sunlight. In turn, we use the oxygen the tree releases, and we take advantage of its shade. Is this a fair exchange? Many trees yield fruit that when consumed, is not only tasteful to our palate, but it is good for our health. Trees cannot consume fruits, as can we. There are other parts of the tree, which we utilize as well, such as the leaves and the wood of the tree for papers as well as numerous other products. It seems that human beings benefit more from trees then the three do from us. So, all the resources that trees use end up being for our benefit. And, it seems that trees do this – that is: serve us – selflessly. Well, wouldn't you say, If trees were stewards they would manage God's entrusted resources to benefit us, mankind? 

Our analogy of the tree is really one of stewardship and serving others. When a steward is faithful to God, his service is selfless. But, in our natural sinful state, we are selfish. We think only of ourselves. When we give to others or do for them, it is because we expect the service to be of benefit to us. Often we hope a tangible return, such as money or other favors – tickets, meal, gift certificate, etc. Other times the benefit we derive from serving others is intangible. We want to be seen to gain favor. Frequently, we serve out of feelings of guilt, coercion, or fear. We hope to be relieved from doom. Thus we misuse God's resources for our own benefit, even though we claim we are using these resources to serve others.

A true Christian - at whatever level - is a faithful Steward. Just as a mature tree yields fruit, he or she will produce 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 out of guilt, coercion, or fear. The true Christian does not expect to gain absolution, freedom, or 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 really gratitude. A real 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. As a steward serves his Master by caring for his assets, he does as the Master wishes. What are the Master's wishes? "…but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:8). Perhaps the following text from Matthew 25 will illustrate what this means: 

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 unknowingly serve their Lord by helping those in need. Unfaithful stewards are the goats who served others but for personal gain. What is the difference between the two? It is Agape – God's unconditional love. The type of love that the Father is, which drove Him to give to all human beings "…His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." This love made Jesus weep because of the harm Sin had done to His humanity (John 11:35). This love can only be found in us when we permit the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. This love makes us faithful stewards who serve others, as they are needful, as we were serving Christ Himself. Will you let the Spirit transform you into a faithful steward serving others as the Lord wishes?

Friday, December 7, 2018

Stewards of Reconciliation

This insight we shared again because we think it is appropriate for this week.

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


Sent from my iPhone--

--

Friday, November 23, 2018

Faith is Finding Comfort in a Promise

Faith is Finding Comfort in a Promise

Miriam has been dating Rupert for quite a while.  She would like to marry him, but she is not sure he wants to marry her.  Miriam starts to get anxious about it; enough that others notice a change in her conduct – especially Rupert.  She looks as if she is carrying a burden.

Rupert wants to marry her.  But, he thinks he is not quite ready to make the commitment.  Rupert, however, wisely senses that her anxiety may be related to his delaying in proposing.  He seeks advice, and everyone says he should not waste more time.  Miriam's fear grows.  She looks like her burden is massive.  Rupert is afraid that asking her in the stage she is in might backfire.  But, everyone says " do not worry; it will work out."

Rupert plans a proposal event.  Miriam seems to suspect something which adds to her anxiety.  This makes Rupert more nervous, but he decides to go as planned.  At hearing the proposal, Miriam suddenly gets quiet, looks at Rupert right in his eyes.  Rupert thinks, "I messed up."  But, all of a sudden Miriam's semblance was transformed.  She yells out, "Yes, yes, I will marry you."  Then she embraces Rupert. 

When Rupert saw her face again, her semblance had changed.  She looked as if the burden disappeared.  Her face was radiant, her eyes twinkling.  The proposal – a promise to get married – was enough for Miriam to feel better, to have a hopeful outlook of the future. 

In a sense, Habakkuk was in a similar position as Miriam.  He saw the spiritual condition of the Kingdom.  This was reflected in, among other things: the immorality, the abuse and, and the violence of his fellow countrymen toward other countrymen.  He wondered, "Will God do something about it?"  So, Habakkuk cried out to God, essentially asking God, "Do you not see what is going on?  How long will you allow this to continue? Are you not the all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful God?  Will you do something about it?"  God, in essence, answered, "I do see what is going on.  And, I am not pleased.  But, I am not uninvolved.  I am doing something, but the fruit will not be seen for years to come.  I will put a stop to this; but, in my own time and in my own way."

God's answer to Habakkuk was a promise, which Habakkuk may not see fulfilled.  But, somehow the promise is to comfort Habakkuk, as the promise of marriage comforts a young bride.   To know that God has a plan and He is executing it should suffice, just as it is sufficient for a bride – at least for a time – that her fiancĂ© has a plan and is implementing it.  To be satisfied with a promise requires faith. And, in fact, Habakkuk was told that the just lives by his faith (Habakkuk  2: 4).   The just or righteous would be those who, like Habakkuk, were crying out to God as they lived surrounded by unrighteousness. 

Faith is defined as trusting that the word will do that which it said it would and waiting for the word to do it.  (Rupert made a promise to Miriam, she had to trust that Rupert would fulfill it and wait for Rupert to do it.)  Habakkuk was to believe that God would fulfill His promise and was to wait for God to do it.  This implied that Habakkuk should not do something himself, outside of what God instructed.  Faith is also defined as a response of heartfelt appreciation for what God's work.  (Miriam was grateful.) Habakkuk was being asked to be thankful that God had answered his prayer and would one day do a work which "you would not believe, though it be told you" (Habakkuk 1: 5).  This means that Habakkuk was to be certain that what he hoped for would happen and what he did not see would be revealed (Hebrews 11: 1).  To Habakkuk God's promise is evidence of what is not seen – that God does see what is going on, He cares and is involved in a solution to the problem.  Like Abraham, Habakkuk believed what he heard from God, and it counted to him for righteousness (Genesis 15: 6).  The following quote gives us a deeper understanding, 

 "There is an answer to Habakkuk's question. It is an answer, not in terms of thought, but in terms of events. God's answer will happen, but it cannot be spelled out in words. The answer will surely come; 'if it seem[s] slow, wait for it.' True, the interim is hard to bear; the righteous one is horrified by what he sees. To this, the great answer is given: 'The righteous shall live by his faith.' It is an answer, again not in terms of thought, but in terms of existence. Prophetic faith is trust in Him, in Whose presence stillness is a form of understanding."—Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets, p. 143.

The judgment the Lord promised was dreadful.  But Habakkuk trusted the Lord.  Ellen White says,

Confident that even in this terrible judgment the purpose of God for His people would in some way be fulfilled, Habakkuk bowed in submission to the revealed will of Jehovah. "Art Thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One?" he exclaimed. And then, as his faith reached out beyond the grim prospect of the immediate future, and laid fast hold on the precious promises that reveal God's love for His trusting children, the prophet added, "We shall not die." (Habakkuk 1: 12). With this declaration of faith he rested his case, and that of every believing Israelite, in the hands of a compassionate God.  Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, pp. 386-389

Habakkuk is to be an example to us.  God is still at work in our life even if we do not see it.  We read from Ellen White,

The faith that strengthened Habakkuk and all the holy and the just in those days of deep trial was the same faith that sustains God's people today. In the darkest hours, under the circumstances, the most forbidding, the Christian believer may keep his soul stayed upon the source of all light and power. Day by day, through faith in God, his hope and courage may be renewed. "The just shall live by his faith... We must cherish and cultivate the faith of which prophets and apostles have testified—the faith that lays hold on the promises of God and waits for deliverance in His appointed time and way. The sure word of prophecy will meet its final fulfillment in the glorious advent of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as King of kings and Lord of lords. The time of waiting may seem long, the soul may be oppressed by discouraging circumstances, many in whom confidence has been placed may fall by the way; but with the prophet who endeavored to encourage Judah in a time of unparalleled apostasy, let … us ever hold in remembrance the cheering message, "The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end, it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry... The just shall live by his faith." Hebrews 2: 3, 4.  Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, pp. 386-389

Since "Faith comes through hearing and hearing by the word," then it is the Word of God that sustains those who listen and hearken until the end.  

Friday, November 9, 2018

“IMAGES OF UNITY”

"IMAGES OF UNITY"

 

 

Incorporation

 

The term to incorporate can mean to unite closely or so as to form one body. The word corporate is referring to the whole as opposed to the parts. For, example, we can talk about the Congress or the Senate as a whole, but they are not really one body. As a consequence of living in a sinful world, there is a need for checks and balances, and accountability, hence representative government/voting. Any legislation is typically voted on by all but is only won by the majority, signifying a lack of true oneness. The USA's Supreme Court also works this way. Although all 9 judges make a corporate body, they vote on their cases individually, and the majority vote wins. So, technically speaking neither system is really one in mind and purpose. They are not, by biblical definition, really incorporated.

 

However, a symphony orchestra can be considered incorporated, for they all play as one. What brings a musical group together is each musician in the orchestra plays a different part of the same musical composition, from the same sheet music and under the direction of a conductor. All musicians follow not only the sheet music but also the conductor's guidance as to how and when to play the piece. So, when we talk about an orchestra in a corporate sense, we are talking about the orchestra and its conductor. If the orchestra was a body, then the conductor would be the head and musicians, the remaining parts of the body.

 

Our bodies work similarly. Yes, the body parts are pretty much interconnected in many ways and seem to cooperate rather well with one another. However, upon closer inspection, it is apparent that they really work together only in cooperation with the brain. The brain is the headquarters, where each of the members sends its concerns. The mind is the one that gives instructions which, if carefully followed, alleviates the concerns. The hands do not talk to the eyes or legs. When the stomach is hungry, it signals the brain. The brain, in turn, tells the legs, "go to the refrigerator," and then tells the hands, "open the door," and so on. The stomach did not talk to the legs or any other part of the body. Not one member of the body consulted with another; instead, all concerns (and desires) go to the brain. The decision to eat is not a community decision; it is the brain's decision. The brain is the one that is in charge of the body's working system; the community (of bodily members) is not. This is the system that God has designed, and it works effectively and efficiently to carry out the tasks that He has designed.

 

This is something to consider when we use Paul's metaphor of the church as a body. Paul uses this metaphor a few times; some examples are in Romans 12:4 - 5; 1 Corinthians 10:16 - 17, 12:12 - 27; Ephesians 1:20 - 23, 4:4 – 12, 16, 5:30; Colossians 3:15. He says that just as the physical body has many members working together for the sake of the body so does the church have many members working together for the sake of the church.

 

In Ephesians 5:23, 24, Paul ties the body to the head (where the brain is),

 

…Christ is the head of the church: and He is the Saviour of the body. Therefore … the church is subject unto Christ,

 

Notice what Paul says: the head is Christ, and the rest of the body is the church. In verse 24, Paul adds that the church (the rest of the body) is subject unto the Christ (the head). In Colossians, Paul repeats that Christ is the head of the body (Colossians 1: 18). Paul adds in Colossians 2:19 that it is the Head "from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God." Christ sends His Spirit to our minds, and in conjunction with the Godhead, He controls the mind (if we allow Him to). As a consequence of receiving the indwelling Holy Spirit, we receive the attributes of "lowliness and meekness (humility), with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:2, 3). And the Holy Spirit gives to each of us, spiritual gifts according to His discernment. As Ephesians 4:11, 12 says:

 

And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

 

You see, as long as we remain united to the Head, the Spirit resides in us. As long as the Spirit remains in us, we have the attributes (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, humility, etc.) and the gifts. However, when we start consulting with one another as if we were a community, then we lose the attributes, which is what brings cohesion among us, and we lose (or misuse) the gifts. The qualities and the gifts come from the same source, and they are part of one package. You cannot have one without the other.

 

For the church to function as a body, we need to behave more like a body, by communicating with the Head (through prayer, devotions, and bible study). As long as the church acts as a community, it ignores the Head, works in its own strength, and loses the blessings of the attributes and the gifts, and therefore fails. For the church to be an effective body, it must stop behaving like a community, and it starts by allowing Christ - the Head - to conduct and orchestrate all things.

 

~Raul Diaz


Friday, November 2, 2018

The Gospel of Nitrogen

The previous quarterly dealt with the same incident this lesson is focusing on.  Here is the Insight posted back then.

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 

 RR
Raul Diaz