Friday, July 31, 2015
Saturday, July 25, 2015
Credibility is the quality of being trusted and believed in, or — in other words — the quality of being convincing or believable. Many will not listen unless in their perception you have that quality. God may allow circumstances to occur to insure that his messengers have credibility. I was told a story of a missionary who went to the mission field with books, could not sell one. While in that country he felt ill . He was taken to the hospital. While in the hospital he prayed to God for understanding, the man had not sold a book, and had not had an opportunity to speak to anyone. That night the patient beside him, needed to visit the bathroom. Not one nurse answer the call. This missionary took it upon himself to lift this man from bed, take him to the bathroom, sit him on the toilet, clean him, and carry him back to bed. The next morning there was a line of people — staff, doctors and other patients — waiting in line to buy the books. The missionary asked what made the difference. They answered, "what you did with your roommate." We will see how God used unusual circumstances with one Pastor Wilkerson, Jonah, and even Jesus. Implying that He also does it with us. The following commentary originally published Friday, May 10, 2013, highlights this theme.
The Man That Came From God
In 1958, a small town Pennsylvania church pastor – David Wilkerson - was emotionally moved as he read a copy of LIFE magazine that featured details of the upcoming trial of 7 teenaged members from the Coney Island (New York) based 'Egyptian Dragons' street gang. The 7 boys had brutally attacked and murdered an innocent 15 year old polio victim named Michael Farmer in Highbridge Park, leading to one of the most publicized gang murder trials of 1950's New York. He later wrote that as he felt the Holy Spirit move him with compassion, he was drawn to go to New York in February 1958 in order to preach to them. After being unable to secure visitation rights to visit the 'Dragon' gang members in jail, Wilkerson was detained while attempting to rush past security and police to gain an audience with the judge on the case. The press photographed the skinny preacher being physically detained by court officers, and by the next day the picture would make the front page of more than one New York daily.
After this much publicized incident the young Pastor thought he had blown away his chances. But, the Lord had other plans. When Pastor Wilkerson returns to New York his face is recognized everywhere. God used this unusual circumstance to open the doors. As a result of this incident Pastor David Wilkerson became accepted by New York's toughest and most blood thirsty street gangs as the preacher who was arrested for trying to help other gang members. You could argue that he was accepted as the man God sent to help them.
Jonah is also called by God to go to Nineveh. We know the story. He tried to escape. But, God, in His providence, ordained circumstances to get Jonah back on track. We know that a big fish swallowed Jonah and took Jonah to the shores of Nineveh, where the fish regurgitated Jonah out into dry land (Jonah 2: 10). Any preacher would say, "Who would listen to a man that has spent three days in the stomach of a big fish." Imagine how Jonah looked. Seaweed all around him. He was probably pail and discolored from exposure to the acid in the fish's stomach. He probably smelled like fish. We will read Ellen White's narration of the events:
Once more the servant of God was entrusted with the commission to warn Nineveh. "The word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee." This time he did not stop to question or doubt, but obeyed unhesitatingly. He "arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord." Jonah 3:1-3.
As Jonah entered the great city, he began at once to "cry against" it as he had been bidden. Lifting up his voice in warning, he declared, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown." From street to street he went, all the while sounding this terrible note of warning.
God's message was not given in vain. The warning rang through the streets of the godless city, and was passed from lip to lip, until all the inhabitants had heard the startling pronouncement. The Spirit of God pressed the message home to the heart, and caused multitudes to tremble because of their sins, and to repent in great humiliation.
"The people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything: let them not feed, nor drink water: but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?" Jonah 3:5-9.
As kings and nobles, with the common people, the high and the low, "repented at the preaching of Jonas" (Matthew 12:41), and united in crying to the God of heaven, his mercy was granted them. He "saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not." Their doom was averted, the God of Israel was exalted and honored throughout the heathen world, and his law was revered."
God used the beliefs of the Ninevites to reach them. One of the gods worshiped by Nineveh was the fish god Dagon. When Jonah was disgorged on the coast of Phoenicia in the sight of the local fisherman on the shore it must have been a most startling sight. These fisherman would convey what they saw to the people of Nineveh. No wonder Nineveh responded as it did, here was a messenger who was seen coming out of the mouth of a fish, one of their false gods. Here was instant validity.
What is the lesson? The lesson is that God is in control and His plans cannot be thwarted. Jonah was to preach to Gentiles and his first converts appeared to be the sailors on the boat he was on to flee from speaking to Gentiles. God provided a fish to capture him and place him on the shore in the presence of people who worshipped a fish.
Isaiah quotes God saying,
Isa 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
Isa 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
God's methods are different than ours; and more effective. Ellen White says,
Let me tell you that the Lord will work in this last work in a manner very much out of the common order of things, and in a way that will be contrary to any human planning. There will be those among us who will always want to control the work of God, to dictate even what movements shall be made when the work goes forward under the direction of the angel who joins the third angel in the message to be given to the world. God will use ways and means by which it will be seen that He is taking the reins in His own hands. The workers will be surprised by the simple means that He will use to bring about and perfect His work of righteousness.--Testimonies to Ministers, p. 300.
Will we let Christ take the reins or will we not let go?
Friday, July 17, 2015
"And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules' burden of earth? for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the Lord. In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing.
"And he said unto him, Go in peace. So he departed from him a little way."
Gehazi, Elisha's servant, had had opportunity during the years to develop the spirit of self-denial characterizing his master's lifework. It had been his privilege to become a noble standard-bearer in the army of the Lord. The best gifts of Heaven had long been within his reach; yet, turning from these, he had coveted instead the base alloy of worldly wealth. And now the hidden longings of his avaricious spirit led him to yield to an overmastering temptation. "Behold," he reasoned within himself, "my master hath spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but . . . I will run after him, and take somewhat of him." And thus it came about that in secrecy "Gehazi followed after Naaman."
When Naaman saw him running after him, he lighted down from the chariot to meet him, and said, Is all well? And he said, All is well." Then Gehazi uttered a deliberate lie. "My master," he said, "hath sent me, saying, Behold, even now there be come to me from Mount Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets: give them, I pray thee, a talent of silver, and two changes of garments." To the request Naaman gladly acceded, pressing upon Gehazi two talents of silver instead of one, "with two changes of garments," and commissioning servants to bear the treasure back.
As Gehazi neared Elisha's home, he dismissed the servants and placed the silver and the garments in hiding. This accomplished, "he went in, and stood before his master;" and, to shield himself from censure, he uttered a second lie. In response to the inquiry of the prophet, "Whence comest thou?" Gehazi answered, "Thy servant went no whither."
Then came the stern denunciation, showing that Elisha knew all. "Went not mine heart with thee," he asked, "when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and olive yards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants? The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed forever." Swift was the retribution that overtook the guilty man. He went out from Elisha's presence "a leper as white as snow."
Solemn are the lessons taught by this experience of one to whom had been given high and holy privileges. The course of Gehazi was such as to place a stumbling block in the pathway of Naaman, upon whose mind had broken a wonderful light, and who was favorably disposed toward the service of the living God. For the deception practiced by Gehazi there could be pleaded no excuse. To the day of his death he remained a leper, cursed of God and shunned by his fellow men." (PK 250 252)
Friday, July 10, 2015
Friday, July 3, 2015
This is the principle behind using salt to melt ice or salted water to make ice-cream. Let us begin with the melting of ice. Ice cubes melt faster in salinated water than non-salinated water. When the salt touches the ice, the salt is warmer than the ice, thereby causing it to melt. Once the ice melts, it mixes with the salt creating a saline solution, thus, lowering water's freezing point. Because the cold temperature is not cold enough to freeze the saline solution it remains a liquid.
When making ice cream, the ingredients are placed in a container which is then inserted into a larger reservoir filled with salt, water and ice. The salt lowers the temperature of the water thereby making the water colder and thus the ice takes longer to melt. In other words, to make ice cream, the temperature around the mixture needs to be lower than 32 F so it will freeze. Salt mixed with ice creates brine which has a temperature lower than 32 F, in fact, the temperature reaches approximately 0 F. The brine is so cold that it easily freezes the ice cream mixture.
Christ told the disciples - and us, that we are to be the salt of the world (Matthew 5:39). What exactly did He mean? Well, we know salt flavors, preserves and melts. What does this mean spiritually? Many articles have addressed the Christian's flavoring of the world, and their preserving of Christ's standards for all to see, but not much has been said of the melting properties of the salt on Christians.
Taking in consideration what we have learned as to why ice melts when in touch with salt, what is really happening is that there is a wider range of tolerance toward extreme conditions. Thus the person who possesses the salt of Christ will have a greater capacity to endure trials. What would harden someone's heart or cause a person to explode in anger will not harden or cause an explosion in a "salty" Christian.
One example is when Daniel's friends were thrown into the fiery furnace (Daniel chapter 3). "This incident revealed that the faith of these three Hebrew young men was as gold tried in the fire." (Our High Calling, 312). Those who threw the Worthies in the furnace were scorched to death because they had no salt or no member of the Godhead with them. While Daniel's friends walked around the furnace as if the furnace itself was not hot. Ellen White says, "The three worthies endured the fiery furnace, for Jesus walked with them in the fiery flame." (Testimony to the Church, Vol. 3, p. 47). In other words, they were preserved.
Through the presence of Christ, their tolerance for heat increased. In this story, there is a spiritual lesson. Not bowing to the image meant death. The King had no problem killing anyone that would not do as he said. But, yielding to the King in this case meant sinning against God. According to the record, only these three Hebrews remained faithful. All of the other subjects, nobles, and prisoners bowed down to the image (Daniel was not present). In the face of this imminent threat, the Hebrew worthies chose death over sin.
Seemingly, what brought the other Hebrews to forsake God was not enough for these three young men to Sin. They were able to endure where their countrymen and professed fellow believers failed. Was there anything these three did differently? In Daniel 1, we read that they refused to eat of the King's table. Ellen White says they would not dare to take a risk on, "the enervating effect of luxury and dissipation on physical, mental and spiritual development… they knew that their own physical and mental power would be injuriously affected by the use of wine... In reaching this decision, the Hebrew youth did not act presumptuously but in firm reliance upon God. They did not choose to be singular, but they would be so, rather than dishonor God. Should they compromise with wrong in this instance by yielding to the pressure of circumstances, their departure from principle would weaken their sense of right and their abhorrence of wrong. The first wrong step would lead to others, until, their connection with Heaven severed, they would be swept away by temptation." (A Call to Stand Apart, 54).
We can read in Ellen White's writings how important appetite is; let's continue reading: "To every soul Satan comes with temptation in many alluring forms on the point of indulgence of appetite. The body is a most important medium through which the mind and the soul are developed for the up building of character. Hence it is that the adversary of souls directs his temptations to the enfeebling and degrading of the physical powers. His success here often means the surrender of the whole being to evil." (A Call to Stand Apart, 56).
This passage reveals the importance of disciplining our body, "bringing it into subjection lest that by any means, when we've preached to others, we should be castaway" (1 Corinthians 9:27). The concept of disciplining our body, and bringing its appetites into subjection to Christ, is what is meant by having our mind – our understanding renewed so that our thinking and practices or habits are transformed (Romans 12: 2). The mind, residing within the brain, is an essential component of the body. A body given to indulgence will invariably affect the mind adversely and vice versa. Hence, Paul's preface from the previous verse, "that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world..." (Romans 12:1- 2). Sister White has this to say: "A sanctified life, like that of Daniel and his friends, will be evident in physical health practices."
Friends, a victorious Christian life is one in which the devil cannot have access to the mind and the soul by tempting the body with many alluring forms of temptations on the point of indulgence of appetite; Just as with Jesus, the devil had nothing on Daniel and his friends (John 14: 30). They were like those spoken of in Revelation 14:4, 5 and 12.
These are followers of God who in submission to Him go wherever He leads, are undefiled, guileless and pure; without fault before the throne of God, they are redeemed from among men, and will be the first fruits before His throne. These are they that treasure and cherish the commandments of God, and possess the faith of Jesus.
The faith of Christ is that which allowed Him to listen more attentively and eagerly until his listening culminated in His death on the cross as the ultimate demonstration of God's wooing love for mankind.
All the commandments hang on love --agape – to God supremely, with whole mind, body and spirit, and then to man. It is this love which melts or hardens hearts. May we, by grace through faith, be the salt of the world.