Friday, July 31, 2020

Light Bulbs

Light Bulbs

The Light bulb is nothing without electricity. It was designed for illumination, but cannot, without energy, displace darkness. The Light from a Light bulb is a combination of three things: an incandescent filament that is part of an unbroken and uninterrupted electric circuit and electricity. Several simple things must occur To ignite the Light bulb. The bulb must be appropriately connected to an electrical source (thus closing the circuit). The power switch must be turned on. And the filaments within the incandescent bulb or the gases within the fluorescent tube must be intact. Similarly, whenever Christians shine forth, there must be spiritual equivalents to the Light bulb and spiritual equivalents to what makes the bulb work. 

Our spiritual filaments are broken beyond repair. The Holy Spirit brings a new filament to each believer and then also makes new electrical wiring and connections within them; our old circuitry is inadequate for His electrical system and, therefore, needs replacing. Once the new equipment is in place, and the Holy Spirit properly connects the Christian to the spiritual energy source (God), he or she shines.

We can see it may take the Holy Spirit some time to set everything in place. In reality, we limit how He can work through how much space we give Him. Once all is in place, it should work continually, unless we find ways to interrupt it. Interruptions (for example, switches) can stop the electric flow. When we turn the switch off, we disrupt the flow of the hearing of faith and the believing of the Word. The smallest cracks in the fluorescent tube or the tiniest breaks of an incandescent filament can destroy the bulb's lighting capacity. So can a break in the wiring. We should clarify that unlike our earthly electrical sources, The Holy Spirit never has an outage. Therefore, when our spiritual bulb ceases to shine, it is not His fault, it is ours. 

In principle, this metaphor is very similar to the one Jesus used in John 15. Which we refer to as the Parable of the Vine and the Branches. Christ told His disciples,

"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love."

What is the fruit? We find it in Galatians 5:22 – 23,

 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law."

In the same chapter, Paul contrasted the fruit of the Spirit with the works of the flesh. These works of the flesh are the fruit that those refusing to abide in Christ - be connected to the Holy Spirit - will produce. Let us read what they are from verses 19-21,

"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."

If we were to see this passage in the Light of the Parable of the vine and branches, these branches produce no spiritual fruit, and the works of the flesh are evident. The Father, who is the husbandman, cuts these branches away to make sure the vine or tree does not waste resources that the good branches could be using (John 15:1). These "fruitless" branches refer to those of which Christ says, "depart from me you workers of iniquity, I know you not" (Matthew 7: 23); Christ is speaking here to professed believers. They attended church; they participated in church activities and programs, they sang hymns, taught Sabbath School, returned tithes, even did evangelism. These professed believers were Sabbath School leaders, elders, deacons, etc. Christ says to them, "I do not know you. Go away." They did not allow the Holy Spirit's daily indwelling to enable them to live a God-honoring life. Only the infusion to the vine allows the Holy Spirit to produce fruit in them. Only being supernaturally wired to the "electric circuit" enables the Spirit to shine the Light. How do we stay fused so the Holy Spirit can work through us? Through the hearing of faith (Galatians 3:1). 

~Raul Diaz

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Discipleship and Prayer

Discipleship and Prayer

The following commentary was published originally to link discipleship with Prayer. It clearly explains Prayer, I believe. 

Discipleship and Prayer

John 17:20-21

20 "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 

21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

In the last lesson, we defined disciples in the light of scripture. We read in Luke 14,

Luke 14:27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

Luk 14:33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

The implication here is that to be Christ disciples, you bear your cross and forsake all and follow Him. In John 15, discipleship is explained in the context of farming. We read in John 15,

Joh 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

Joh 15:8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

These two descriptions of discipleship are complementary. If I remain in A, I cannot stay in B; thus, I forsake B. The bearing of fruit reveals that we are good soil in which the good seed sown and eventually germinated (Luke 8: 4 – 18). The root found living nutrients and water. Ellen White sums it up beautifully,

As a flower of the field has its root in the soil, receives air, dew, showers, and sunshine, so must we receive from God that which ministers to the life of the soul.

God guarantees His presence to His Christian followers. "As long as the members of the church shall through faith draw sap and nourishment from Jesus Christ, and not from man's opinions and devisings, and methods; if having a conviction of the nearness of God in Christ, they put their entire trust in Him, they will have a vital connection with Christ as the branch has connection with the parent stock" (Our Father Cares; 21 – 22).

How, then, does Prayer relate to this? No one will deny the need for Prayer. In the words of Ellen White,

"Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him."—Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 93.

"Pray much. Much Prayer is necessary to successful effort. Prayer brings strength. Prayer has "subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, turned to flight the armies of aliens." {SW, February 23, 1904 par. 6} 

Notice how she ties faith (Hebrews 11: 33 - 34) with Prayer. Now, since we describe discipleship in the context of farming, can we explain Prayer in the same way – or at least using biological imagery? Ellen White does just this. Let us read a passage where she does this,

"Prayer is the breath of the soul. It is the secret of spiritual power. No other means of grace can be substituted and the health of the soul be preserved. Prayer brings the heart into immediate contact with the Wellspring of life, and strengthens the sinew and muscle of the religious experience. Neglect the exercise of Prayer, or engage in Prayer spasmodically, now and then, as seems convenient, and you lose your hold on God. The spiritual faculties lose their vitality, the religious experience lacks health and vigor" (Messages to Young People, 249, 250.)

When we breathe, our body inhales oxygenated air and exhales air with Carbon Dioxide. Our blood carries oxygen throughout the body. The blood returns to the lungs depleted of oxygen to fill itself with oxygen again; this is an automatic process. Unless there are problems, no one chooses to breathe; you just do. What happens if we decide not to breathe? Most folk cannot hold their breath for more than three to five minutes without fainting.

We read in Luke 18:1: "And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint." If we stop breathing, we faint; likewise, if we cease to pray, it will not be long before we find ourselves fainting before the trials that inevitably come our way. It is through Prayer that we are braced for difficulties and trials that require strength far beyond our natural human capacity.

Through the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, "Christ has urged that His people pray without ceasing. This does not mean that we should always be upon our knees, but that Prayer is to be as the breath of the soul. Our silent requests, wherever we may be, are to be ascending unto God, and Jesus our Advocate pleads in our behalf, bearing up with the incense of His righteousness our requests to the Father" (TMK 78.3). 

The statement above described how Jesus lived "… Jesus lived in dependence upon God and communion with him. To the secret place of the Most High, under the shadow of the Almighty, men now and then repair; they abide for a season, and the result is manifest in noble deeds: then their faith fails, the communion is interrupted, and the life-work marred. But the life of Jesus was a life of constant trust, sustained by a continual communion: and his service for heaven and earth was without failure or faltering. {SW, February 23, 1904 par. 7} 

Just like our whole body benefits from breathing, the body of Christ is to benefit from Prayer. Real Prayer is, by definition, intercessory. Prayer – in its real sense - links us to God and others. Ellen White says,

"What does intercession comprehend? It is the golden chain which binds finite man to the throne of the infinite God. The human agent whom Christ has died to save importunes the throne of God, and his petition is taken up by Jesus, who has purchased him with His own blood. Our great High Priest places His righteousness on the side of the sincere suppliant, and the Prayer of Christ blends with that of the human petitioner" (TMK 78)

When we pray for others, we become vessels, conduits, or channels to distribute God's blessings. We become fountains springing God's living water so others can quench their thirst for righteousness (John 7: 38). 

Friday, July 17, 2020

"In Spirit and in Truth"

Originally published on September 4 - 10, 2011

"To be filled, you must be emptied" - this may sound like a contradiction, but it is true. The opposite is also true. To be emptied, you must be filled. Even when a bottle is emptied of liquid, it is still full of air. If I fill a jug with water and close the lid tight, it stays in, and the air stays out. The moment I open the top, the water can flow out, but only as long as air can flow in the jug. Air must displace the water for the water to move out of the opening.

Let us say that, for some reason, I want to fill the jug with air. I must open the lid to let the water out, or the air cannot come in. This concept applies in other contexts as well. For example, to fill a truck with boxes and furniture, the truck must first be emptied of its previous load. Your stomach needs time to digest one meal before you fill it with another. The concept then is that you cannot fill something that is already full. So it is in the spiritual realm.

St. Augustine once said, "We must be emptied of that which fills us, so that we may be filled with that of which we are empty." Many pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit. For God to answer this prayer, we must be emptied of self. But, we cannot do the job ourselves.

"No man can empty himself of self. We can only consent for Christ to accomplish the work. The language of the soul will be, Lord, take my heart; for I cannot give it. It is Thy property. Keep it pure, for I cannot keep it for Thee. Save me in spite of myself, my weak, unchristlike self. Mold me, fashion me, raise me into a pure and holy atmosphere, where the rich current of Thy love can flow through my soul. It is not only at the beginning of the Christian life that this renunciation of self is to be made. At every advance step heavenward it is to be renewed" (Ellen White, Christ's Object Lessons, page 159, 160).

The story of the Samaritan woman can illustrate this idea of being emptied to be filled.  In John 4, Jesus met her at the well and asked her for a drink of water. Surprised by a Jew who would ask a favor of a Samaritan, and a woman at that, she questioned Him. In response, Jesus introduced Himself and His mission by using water as a metaphor for what He had to offer. Failing to understand, she questioned Him again. His response is in verses 13 and 14 --

"Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."

This woman was all too aware of the moral indiscretions of her past life. She was empty, and she knew it. When she believed Christ's revelation of Himself, the Samaritan woman's heart was warmed and filled. What she thirsted for was not merely water, but a reservoir of spiritual water springing up into everlasting life. This flowing, filling water, which represents the Holy Spirit, displaces all the ugliness of self. Holy Spirit inspired Truth, believed and received into the heart, dislodges self from its throne. We want to worship God in a way that pleases Him. To do this, we must worship in the Holy Spirit. We want to be filled by Him and emptied of self. In His dialogue with the Samaritan woman, Jesus says that genuine believers worship the Father in both Spirit and in Truth. Are the two things different?

Jesus states in John 14, verses 6 and 17 that both He and the Holy Spirit are Truth. In verse 17, Jesus elaborates further by saying that "the world cannot receive Him (the Spirit of Truth) because the world doesn't see or know Him." Then Christ says that "we know Him, for He dwells with and in us." It is in this manner that Jesus equates the Holy Spirit's character and essence with His own.

Jesus was also called Emmanuel, God with us. John 1:14 states that the Word (Jesus) was made flesh, and dwelt among us. The Truth – the Word of God – Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, displaces the lies of self.

Jesus not only reassured the Samaritan woman that He was the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah, but He implanted the seed of Truth and love in her heart. This seed would later be watered by His blood and would bear fruit in righteousness. He made it clear that the Father wants worshippers who will worship by accepting and receiving the Holy Spirit and believing the Truth. He was reassuring her and the whole Samaritan nation that the Father would receive them as His children. After seeing and understanding Christ's death on the cross for them, the believers among them would receive the Holy Spirit as a guide to lead them into all Truth, thus displacing the corrupt self.

We can experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit's power as long as we allow Jesus Christ, the Fountain of Life, to be the One who indwells us through that Spirit. God has promised us an abundance of Spiritual water – His Truth. We may believe His promise, ask for His gift, receive and "drink" the refreshing water of life which we find in His Word. His life then becomes our own.

In the book Desire of Ages, on page 671, Ellen White writes some powerful good news about this topic:

"The Holy Spirit was the highest of all gifts that He could solicit from His Father for the exaltation of His people. The Spirit was to be given as a regenerating agent, and without this the sacrifice of Christ would have been of no avail. The power of evil had been strengthening for centuries, and the submission of men to this satanic captivity was amazing. Sin could be resisted and overcome only through the mighty agency of the Third Person of the Godhead, who would come with no modified energy, but in the fullness of divine power. It is the Spirit that makes effectual what has been wrought out by the world's Redeemer. It is by the Spirit that the heart is made pure. Through the Spirit the believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature. Christ has given His Spirit as a divine power to overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil, and to impress His own character upon His church."

Let us not reject the highest gift of living water that the Father could bestow through Christ. The very quenching of our thirst depends on it.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Giving All for the Sheep

Giving All for the Sheep

A Brazilian evangelist, Pastor Veloso, was in the middle of what could have been his most successful evangelistic series. It was in a stadium, and thousands were attending. Hundreds had already made decisions to get baptized. And, they expected hundreds more to do so, possibly topping the thousand mark. This man had had an incredible track record. Thousands had come to the church due to his preaching.

But, it had come at a cost. The news came to Pastor Veloso in the morning. His son, Chico, had been picked up by government authorities. Chico was hospitalized and found with high levels of heroin in his system. To make matters worse, Chico also had a couple of grams of heroin in his pant pockets. The plans were to clean Chico up and send him to jail. But, out of courtesy for Pastor Veloso, they delayed deciding until contacting him. The authorities had high regard for Pastor Veloso.

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

A young pastor opened up his Bible and read from Luke 15: 4 – 24. This passage tells the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. These are very familiar parables. They describe how something that was lost was found and recovered; spiritually, how God found and recovered each one of us.

After the young Pastor finished reading, he then asked Pastor Veloso, "The people you preach to, what are they: lost sheep, the lost coins, or the prodigal children? How about your son?" Pastor Veloso started to cry. All the men in the room were dumbfounded, then they looked at
the young Pastor and yelled at him, "Look at what you've done."

Pastor Veloso then said with a loud voice, "Let him be. He's right. If I went to reach lost sheep, I did not secure the one I had to find the others. If I went to find lost coins, I have been cleaning everybody else's home, but mine. Now, if my son is a prodigal son, he needs to know that I am waiting for him, and I need to wait for him." Pastor Veloso resigned that same day, to save his son.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are not to think of yourself as an outsider, says Paul. Because of Christ's sacrifice, you are now "in the family," adopted (Eph. 1:5), loved all the while as the prodigal son was loved. But you didn't know it; you felt ostracized, estranged, alienated, lost, rejected, but God did not regard you as estranged or alienated. He reconciled you to Himself "in Christ." Now, says Paul, "be ye reconciled to God." The proof that He has reconciled you? Gal. 3:6, "God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your heart, crying, Abba, Father." What a beautiful, powerful, illustration of Good News "in Christ," and now you can see it for yourself because your human heart is crying "Father... !"

The prodigal son's expression to his Father: "I have sinned against you," lets you know that the prodigal son finally understood the grief he caused to his Father. The greatest motivation to make changes in our lives is the desire to no longer break the heart of the one who
loves us so much. When the boy was wallowing around in the mud with the pigs, the Father suffered more than his son. Revival occurs when God's love breaks our hearts. Reformation occurs when we choose to
respond to a love that will not let us go. It happens when we no longer want to do anything to break God's heart. It takes place when we make the difficult choices to give up those attitudes, habits, thoughts, and feelings that separate us from Him and hence, break His heart.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

In The End, Faith Is What Matters

In The End, Faith Is What Matters

In the Movie "Secret Garden," a boy is kept hidden because he is allegedly very sick. The Doctors say his legs are too weak to walk. The boy believes the Doctors. A girl visiting finds him. She challenges the boy by telling him, "You do look sick, but it is nothing a little sunshine, and good food will not help. And your legs could walk if you exercised them." The boy refuses to listen to the girl. However, the girl eventually convinces him to try to walk. The boy, of course, struggles to walk a few steps, assuring the boy that he could walk. The girl saw beyond what the Doctor saw. She followed her conviction that the boy's body atrophied because of disuse. She saw a body that worked fine, but that the owner had refused to make work. However, in the end, it boiled down to the boy believing that he could walk. The girl could have given him evidence and proof that he could indeed walk, but unless the boy thought he could, he would have never walked.

Faith is, at times, defined as belief. All the proof and evidence in the world – whether internal or external - cannot replace faith. It is by faith that the just lives (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11). It is by faith that we are saved (Ephesians 2:8). Hebrews 11:6 says that, "… without faith it is impossible to please him." In John 14:8, 9 Phillip asked Jesus for evidence, Jesus in essence answered "I am your evidence." In Matthew 12:38-40 some Scribes asked Jesus for a sign, Jesus replied similarly. Jesus did not believe that evidence would be useful in making people believe unless they chose to exercise the faith given to them.

Let us consider what it says in Hebrews 11:1- 3,

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.

Hebrews 11:3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

This statement was true in Paul's day, is true in our day, and before the Bible text was first written. Verse 3 says that our understanding of the world we live in comes through faith, not just evidence from history, archeology, social or physical sciences. Trying to prove that the written narrative of the Bible is reliable has its place. However, how do you explain that from fallen Adam to the writing of the Pentateuch? Those who believed in this era did so without a written narrative of the history of redemption. This is not to say that the Bible is not necessary. It is, however, important to say that the Bible is an instrument in God and men's hand to lead men closer to God. The Bible informs us of how we are saved in Jesus, the Word of God incarnate. 

In the end, you must believe that what the written Word says is true. Romans 10:17 says it clearly, " So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." The Bible is perhaps the most important way to hear the Word of God. However, without faith, the Bible is nothing more than a collection of exciting stories that paint a historical picture of how things were more than 2000 years ago. Let us read Hebrews 11:4:

Hebrews 11:4 By faith [and without the benefit of a Bible] Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.

The same is the case of Noah, Abraham, Sara, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses (Hebrews 11: 7-11, 22-24.) This is the case of those mentioned in Hebrews 11: 32. They had the benefit of Written Scripture. Were these latter ones better off because of the Written Scripture? They believed by faith that what we know today as the Bible is the Written Word of God, without the internal or external proofs we have today. It is by faith that they pleased God and were saved. The same is true for us. Nothing can replace faith effectively.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Foundation

The Foundation

The contractor hired a few young men to help build a small house in a low-budget residential area. It was a small budget project. So, the contractor hired these inexperienced young men – to whom the contractor would pay low wages - to dig the footings rather than renting the power equipment to do the job. On the first day, they began digging a ditch with a pickax and a shovel. Hour after hour as the sun beat down, blisters developed, grew, broke, and grew again as these young men dug this trench, a foot and a half wide with straight sides and a flat bottom. When the foreman returned hours later to inspect and help with his finishing touches and grade stakes, in came a concrete truck to fill in the hard-won space.

What they were working on was called the foundation. A foundation is an underlying base or support; in other words, a body or ground upon overlays a built structure. It is the lowest load-bearing part of a building, typically below ground level. This foundation is to be sound. It should rest on firm undisturbed soil or bedrock so that it can provide reliable support for the structure. The type and quality of the foundation required will, of course, depend on many factors.  Some factors include the size and weight of the structure to be built.  Other factors are the kind and stability of the soil. Foundations for homes are usually no more than one or two feet deep. But if you build a skyscraper, tower, or massive bridge, the foundation will need to be much more substantial. For example, the twin Petronas Towers soaring above Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was situated on soil that couldn't support the weight of the 1,500-foot skyscrapers. Hence, the foundation had to rest on solid bedrock. Imagine how deep the massive hole for the 394-foot-deep concrete and steel foundation, to date, this is the deepest foundation for any building. For comparison, in January 2010, the world's tallest building, rising 2,717 feet above the desert of Dubai and known as Burj Khalifa, has a nearly half-million-ton concrete and steel foundation that extends down only 164 feet. While the foundations may vary, they still need to have the capacity to bear the structure's weight, and keep it standing; this implies that the foundation precedes the building.

The Bible speaks of a "rock" that served as a foundation for the temple of Solomon. Christ identified with this rock. Ellen White tells the story,

"In quoting the prophecy of the rejected stone, Christ referred to an actual occurrence in the history of Israel. The incident was connected with the building of the first temple. While it had a special application at the time of Christ's first advent, and should have appealed with special force to the Jews, it has also a lesson for us. When the temple of Solomon was erected, the immense stones for the walls and the foundation were entirely prepared at the quarry; after they were brought to the place of building, not an instrument was to be used upon them; the workmen had only to place them in position. For use in the foundation, one stone of unusual size and peculiar shape had been brought; but the workmen could find no place for it, and would not accept it. It was an annoyance to them, as it lay unused in their way. Long it remained a rejected stone. But when the builders came to the laying of the corner, they searched for a long time to find a stone of sufficient size and strength, and of the proper shape, to take that particular place, and bear the great weight which would rest upon it. Should they make an unwise choice for this important place, the safety of the entire building would be endangered? They must find a stone capable of resisting the influence of the sun, of frost, and of tempest. Several stones had at different times been chosen, but under the pressure of immense weights they had crumbled to pieces. Others could not bear the test of the sudden atmospheric changes. But at last, attention was called to the stone so long rejected. It had been exposed to the air, to sun and storm, without revealing the slightest crack. The builders examined this stone. It had borne every test but one. If it could bear the test of severe pressure, they decided to accept it for the cornerstone. The trial was made. The stone was accepted, brought to its assigned position, and found to be an exact fit. In prophetic vision, Isaiah was shown that this stone was a symbol of Christ. He says:

"Sanctify the Lord of hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread. And He shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken."

The prophet is carried down in prophetic vision to the first advent,  and shown that Christ is to bear trials and tests of which the treatment of the chief cornerstone in the temple of Solomon was symbolic. The prophet declares: "Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste." Isaiah 8:13-15; 28:16."

So, Christ told the Jews that they were treating Him as others treated this stone. He says to them in Mat 21:42, "Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?"

Paul picks up on this theme in Ephesians 2. He calls us the building and Christ the foundation. Let us read,

Eph 2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
Eph 2:21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:

The above quote gives us two implications. On the one hand, if Jesus is the foundation, then not one of us is as important as Jesus (and we do not have to dig the footings). The only reason we can stand is because He bears our weight and holds us. On the other hand, we need not worry about how we can stand and not fall. Jesus carries and keeps us all; if only we let Him. Both extremes are dangerous. They are both treating Him as the "stone that the builders rejected." It is letting the stone fall on you. By, faith bring forth the fruit of landing on the stone and being broken (Matthew 21: 44 - 45).

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Testing the Prophecy

Testing the Prophecy

There once was a shepherd boy who was bored as he sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. To amuse himself, he took a great breath and sang out, "Wolf! Wolf! The wolf is chasing the sheep!" The villagers came running up the hill to help the boy drive the wolf away. But when they arrived at the top of the hill, they found no wolf. The boy laughed at the sight of their angry faces. "Don't cry 'wolf,' shepherd boy," said the villagers, "When there's no wolf!" They went grumbling back down the hill. Later, the boy sang out again, "Wolf! Wolf! The wolf is chasing the sheep!" To his naughty delight, he watched the villagers run up the hill to help him drive the wolf away. When the villagers saw no wolf they sternly said, "Save your frightened song for when there is really something wrong! Don't cry 'wolf' when there is NO wolf!" But the boy just grinned and watched them go grumbling down the hill once more. Later, he saw a REAL wolf prowling about his flock. Alarmed, he leaped to his feet and sang out as loudly as he could, "Wolf! Wolf!" But the villagers thought he was trying to fool them again, and so they didn't come.

At sunset, everyone wondered why the shepherd boy hadn't returned to the village with their sheep. They went up the hill to find the boy. They found him weeping. "There was a wolf here! The flock has scattered! I cried out, "Wolf!" Why didn't you come?" An old man tried to comfort the boy as they walked back to the village. "We'll help you look for the lost sheep in the morning," he said, putting his arm around the youth, "Nobody believes a liar...even when he is telling the truth!"  From the story, we can imply that liars can tell the truth. So there is a danger in judging what is said by the person who says it. Perhaps we should spend more effort testing what is said instead of testing who says it.

This seems to be the emphasis of 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 NKJV,

20 Do not despise prophecies.
21 Test all things; hold fast what is good.

It does not say test the prophets but test the prophecies. This also seems to be what on Isaiah 8:20 NKJV stresses,

20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

The emphasis here is on what they say, if it does not agree with "the law and the testimony," then there is no light in them. (This text also tells what the criteria are for testing the prophecy.)

Someone gave a prominent Rabbi a copy of Patriarchs and Prophets by Ellen G. White to read. He knew nothing of the author, but after reading the book, something about the book convinced the Rabbi that God inspired Ellen White. He believed that Sister White had to be led by God to write this book because she wrote the book in an ancient style that was unknown in her time and only discovered years after her death. For this Rabbi, only God could do something like that. This Rabbi knew the "law and the testimony." He tested Sister White's writings against this standard. He found that it was good – therefore of God, so he held fast to it.

As with this Rabbi, many recipients of prophecy in the Bible did not know the prophet and heeded his message believing it was the Word of God. (Consider the Ninevites with Jonah). Others who knew the prophets all along rejected the message. As Jesus said in Matthew 13:57, "… A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house." So, as we can see in the end is not about the prophet, but about who sent the prophet. It is not about the life of the prophet, but about the death of Christ.

In the end, no matter who God sends the issue is, do we believe the message? Do we have the faith, belief, and trust in God as the Ninevites had? They knew nothing of Jonah, but they did not despise the prophecy, they tested it, found it good, and held fast to it and repented. Are we?

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Law and the Gospel

The following commentary was published a few years back for another subject. However, I think it applies to this week's lesson. Let us read.

The Law and the Gospel
 Memory Text: "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:3, 4, NKJV).

This verse presents a dilemma because depending on how you read it, the emphasis could be on knowing Christ- (which would make keeping the Law a fruit of knowing Him) or on obeying the Law (which would make knowing Him a consequence of keeping the Law). Which one is it?

We could try looking at the verse closer and see where it leads us. Let us start within the expression, "that we know Him."  In John 17:3, Christ stated that knowing Him (and His Father) is eternal life. In John 6, Christ says that eating His flesh and drinking His blood gives life. When we eat and drink, we assimilate the food and drink - it becomes part of us. So, although we do not think about it in this manner, there is an intimate relation between food and us. What we eat and how we eat will eventually be revealed: this is akin to knowing someone, the more time you spend with them, the more the two assimilate each other. It will be evident that the two spent much time together. To those around Peter, it became apparent that Peter was with Jesus; Peter now spoke like a Galilean (Matthew 26:73). Peter, in many ways, acted like Jesus. So, Peter's speech was evidence that he was with Jesus. Peter did not go around speaking like Jesus to prove that he was one of them. It just came out. When the disciples preached, many said that it was evident that they had been with Jesus. There was a transformation.

The following expression is "Keeping the commandments." Who are these that keep them? Paul identifies "the just" as those who keep the commandments (Romans 2: 13). The words just and righteous are the same word in Greek. Abraham was just. How was Abraham just? He believed God's words, and Abraham's belief was counted to him for righteousness (Romans 4:3). Now, if Abraham's faith made him just, and the just keep the commandments, it follows that only those who hear God's words and believe them (since faith comes through Hearing and hearing through the word) keep the commandments (Romans 10:17). The best way to know someone is to listen to what they say and seek to understand them.

What are the commandments? We could argue that they are the Ten Commandments. We typically also call it the Law. The Ten Commandments speak of things we would do for others, not ourselves. None of the commandments say anything about how you are to treat yourself.  On the contrary, they speak about how you are to treat God and others. Christ stated in Matthew 22: 37 - 40,

Mat 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
Mat 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.
Mat 22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
Mat 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets.

The passage just quoted is a summary of the commandments. It says, in essence, put God and others first. This is what Jesus did; he put His Father and others first; so much that He went to die on the cross so others may live. That is why the Father sent Him (Romans 5:8). So, John put it this way,

1Jo 3:16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

In the Gospel according to John 15: 10 – 17, Jesus is quoted saying that this is the commandment He gives to us,

Joh 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love…
Joh 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
Joh 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Joh 15:17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.

And we see in this passage how laying down your life is related to abiding in Christ's love. So, is love related to the commandments? Paul answered,

Romans 13:10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the Law.

How do we relate faith to all of these? Sin is the transgression of the Law (1 John 3:4). Anything outside of faith is Sin (Romans 14:23). So, anything outside of faith transgresses the Law. We have concluded that the Law, in essence, says to love God and others above yourself, So, not loving God and others above yourself or loving yourself above others – is transgressing the Law, and it is not of faith. Therefore it is a Sin. So, if love fulfills the Law and does not transgress the Law, love is not Sin. Thus love is of faith; this means that since loving God and others above yourself is laying down your life; then it follows that only those who lay down their life for others, as Christ laid His life down for us, are just or righteous; they keep the Law. So, how do we know you know Christ? Because you willingly lay down your life for others as He laid His down for you.

So, the question remains, why was the Law given?  Romans says it was given to make Sin, sinful, so that Sin may abound (Romans 5: 20). Galatians says that it was given because of transgression (Galatians 3:19).  To what transgression is it referring? Based on this verse in Galatians and what Paul says in Hebrews, the transgression was the unbelief of the Israelites in the wilderness (Hebrews 3). What Paul is saying is that the Law was written on tablets because the Israelites refused to let God write the Law in their hearts. So, the inscribed tablets would be a reminder to the Israelites of what is righteousness, and in contrast, what is Sin. Paul says in 1 Tim 1: 8,

1Ti 1:8 But we know that the Law is good, if a man use it lawfully;
1Ti 1:9 Knowing this, that the Law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,
1Ti 1:10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for men stealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;
1Ti 1:11 According to the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.

So, for who is the written Law, or moral Law, or 10 Commandments? It is for the wicked, the sinner, the trespasser. Why? For who is the MRI? Is it not for those who are sick? Why? It is to diagnose; for what purpose? To condemn so, we can punish? No. It is to convict so the person will go to the doctor for healing.

The commandments were given to expose Sin and lead us to a Savior, to convince us of how terrible our condition is, and how we can do nothing to fix it ourselves, so we will stop trying and surrender to the one who has the remedy! The Lord gave The commandments to make Sin unattractive and grace attractive. Had man been obedient, there would have been no need for the Law to be given. Ellen White says,

If man had kept the Law of God, as given to Adam after his fall, preserved by Noah, and observed by Abraham, there would have been no necessity for the ordinance of circumcision. And if the descendants of Abraham had kept the covenant, of which circumcision was a sign, they would never have been seduced into idolatry, nor would it have been necessary for them to suffer a life of bondage in Egypt; they would have kept God's Law in mind, and there would have been no necessity for it to be proclaimed from Sinai or engraved upon the tables of stone. And had the people practiced the principles of the Ten Commandments, there would have been no need of the additional directions given to Moses. {PP 364.2}

Thus, we can define the Gospel as the good news that through Jesus, the Law can be written in our hearts and mind if only we allow the indwelling Spirit of God to do it. This is God's desire. Nothing will please Him more. Will we let Him?

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Ask The One Who Wrote It

Ask The One Who Wrote It

A man wrote a note expressing his views on a particular subject. He sent this note to some of the people he knew to get their opinion. The people that received it read the note, and afterward, they started to discuss its content. They were many opinions about what they believed the note said. It continued like this for days, and no one got back to the author. Finally, they gave the note to a man known for his practical wisdom. He read it as the people waited. The reader nodded when he finished reading. The people asked him, "Well, what do you think?" The reader said, "I think this is worth pondering. It could be interpreted in many ways. So I do not know…" They all waited to see if he said something else. Then suddenly, the man spoke, "Well, you all know me to be very practical. And I think this needs a practical solution." "And that is?" asked the impatient crowd. The man said very matter-of-factly, "Well, I am going to find the person who wrote this note and ask him personally what he meant by this." The man left the premises to find the author of the note.

Meanwhile, the crowd stood in place quietly, mumbling, "Why did we not think of that?" I believe the Bible presents a similar situation. When we read it, we do not readily understand it. So, we discuss and philosophize amongst ourselves what we think God meant. But, we do not ask God Himself what He meant in His Word.

This week's scripture reading makes a bold statement: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God" 2 Timothy 3:16. In Biblical Greek, the word inspired is translated from the word "theopnuestos." This term means, "God breathed out..." In other words, God exhaled the writings of the Bible on the authors. God did this, not by giving the authors of the Biblical books inspired words, but by inspiring the writers. One of my favorite writers elaborates on this,

The Bible is written by inspired men, but it is not God's mode of thought and expression. It is that of humanity. God, as a writer, is not represented. Men will often say such an expression is not like God. But God has not put Himself in words, in logic, in rhetoric, on trial in the Bible. The writers of the Bible were God's penmen, not His pen. Look at the different writers. It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man's words or his expressions but on the man himself, who, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, is imbued with thoughts. But the words receive the impress of the individual mind. The divine mind is diffused. The divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will; thus the utterances of the man are the word of God. (Selected Messages, book 1, p. 21)

So when God exhaled to these Holy men, they "spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" 2 Peter 1: 21. The power that God used to give life to Adam when God "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Genesis 2:7), is the same power God used to inspire the authors of the Bible. This power gave life to man, and also gives life to the Words written in the Holy Writ.

So, the Bible belongs to the Spirit of God. The Bible is a Spiritual thing. And, Spiritual things are "spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14). Only those who have received that Spirit of God understand the things of the Spirit. Only those who receive the Spirit can discern spiritual things. To understand the Bible in its purest simplest form –as the Truth as it is in Jesus - we need the same breath that God gave to those who wrote it. If the Holy Spirit is the author, and He dwells in us, then He should be able to tell us exactly what He meant when then men He inspired wrote as moved by Him.

The Bible says that "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (James 1:5). Jesus Himself says to all,

Matthew 7:7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

Matthew 7:8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

To the above quote, the Apostle James may have added, "Ye have not, because ye ask not" James 4:2. Jesus also said that the Father is more than willing to give us the Holy Spirit if only we ask for Him (Luke 11:13). Will we continue to discuss amongst ourselves? Or, will we go back to the One that wrote it and let Him breathe His heavenly wisdom upon us?

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The Bible's Prevalent Motif

The Bible's Prevalent Motif

A motif is a recurrent thematic element in an artistic or literary work; topics and themes are synonyms. Although the Bible is much more than a literary work, it has identifiable motifs. Some motifs in the Bible are the Love of God and the shedding of blood as expiation for Sin. Another prevalent theme in the Bible is this: God always searches or reaches out to/for man; this is the case from the start. Let us read from Genesis 3: 8-11,

Genesis 3: 8And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.
Genesis 3: 9And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?
Genesis 3: 10And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.
Genesis 3: 11And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?

The incident narrated above sets a pattern for the rest of our history. For 6,000 years, there has been a dynamic of man choosing evil and afterward hiding when he believes he others caught him. In his guilt, he drives himself into more evil and hiding further, or he tries to find a way to appease God, whom man believes is against him because of the Sin committed. God looks at the hiding man and says to him, "What are you doing behind there? It is dark there. Come out so we can see each other and talk freely." The man replies, "I am hiding from you. I know you must be angry at me, for I have disobeyed you. You must want to kill me for what I did."

Afterward, God looks at the man looking to appease Him, and says to the man, "What are you doing there? Why are you so busy? Please, stop. Turn around to me. I want us to talk." The man responds, "I am trying to make restitution for the evil I have done. I know you must be angry at me, and probably want to kill me. So, I am doing my best to show that I can do better. Perhaps I will change your mind."

God looks at them with sadness. He says, "Do they not know? Are they not listening? If I wanted them dead, I would have killed them by now. Have they not read in my Word when My Son told Nicodemus, in John 3: 16 and 17, that I God have '…so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.' Because, 'There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one' (Romans 3:11,12). All 'like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6). "They reject My free gift to them, which has been so costly to Me. They reject My unconditional and eternal love. They reject my mercy and grace. They reject Me."

God's love for us and us rejecting it is the common thread in the Bible. God goes looking for the man. The man runs away from God. Man believes in his heart that God hates him. God wants to show man that that is not the case. So God goes after man again. But, man continues to reject God and delights further in the evil he does. So, God has no choice but to let man suffer the consequences of his decisions. The wages of Sin is death (Romans 6:23a). Those who choose Sin will die eternally.

Thankfully, not all men will die. Some have chosen the Light of God and come out of hiding in the dark. Some have chosen the gift of God, which is "eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23b). They have accepted by Faith the good works of Christ that grant Salvation and stop trying on their own through their actions. They have received God's love, mercy, and grace. They chose to let God reach out to them and allowed God to stay with them. Will you choose to be part of this group?

Friday, March 13, 2020

That Which Is Desirable

That Which Is Desirable

When was the last time you heard the words, "I love you?" In our society, we toss around these words so much they have lost their meaning. We read them in advertisements, hear them on the radio or view them on TV. However, many of us may have never heard these words addressed to us. Some may have only heard "I love you" in a romantic situation. How do you know someone loves you? Can you hear it in what they say, or see it in what they do? What is your love language?

How do you know God loves you? He called His Son beloved – agapetos (Matthew 3:17), and Daniel himself had the privilege of being told by an angel that he was greatly beloved (Daniel 9:23; 10:11,19). The Hebrew word for beloved is chemdah {khem-daw'}, and it is this word that we translate as "beloved." In Hebrew, Chemda means desire, that which is desirable, pleasant, and precious. And, this is how the angel addressed Daniel. This word Chemda is the same word that is Jews used to describe a precious jewel or fertile land. Friends, Daniel was being compared to a jewel or a productive land overflowing with cattle, and vegetation which produced delicious milk and sweet-tasting honey. Mmm-- imagine --the beautiful and delightful dishes the Jews could make from milk and honey. Just think of that which you desire, that which is precious to you, and pleasing to your senses-- maybe it is something that stimulates your palate, quenches your thirst, or satisfies your longing. Whatever it is that you've imagined (that is ethically acceptable), that feeling of pleasure you get, that joy, is a small fragment of the immense satisfaction that God felt about Daniel and feels toward us.

"I am no, Daniel," you may say, and of course, you are right. There was only one Daniel, and there is only one you, and one me. Let's agree on this, first; God loves each one of us because we are His, irrespective of our choices. He sent His Son to die for all who lived or would ever live-- that each might be saved (John 3:16) if he so desired. God sends His sunshine and rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45), and the beauty of nature is available to all mankind. As strange as it sounds, the act of destroying Sin and sinners is an act of love. Second, it is only by the Faith of Jesus that we please God-- not by our faith or belief, for even the devils believe and tremble. We are His beloveds when we yield to the bidding of His indwelling Spirit. We become His beloved when we allow Him to transform us into precious jewels, or soft fertile soil that bears fruit. It takes time to create a precious jewel. It takes heat and pressure to convert common mineral into a crystallized form. Then a jeweler works on the piece to mold and shape it into a beautiful piece of jewelry. The more delicate the work, the more the need for a master craftsman. This process is akin to God's work in us. He looks at us lovingly, determining by His skilled eye the nature of the work to be performed. We are His jewel, and He will (if we allow Him), not only remove the rough edges but will so cut our stony hearts with such precision, that the brilliance and clarity of the Son is apparent to all.

Just as it takes time and effort to dig the land for jewels, it takes time and effort to make it suitable for sowing. We have hearts of stone. To make them tender and fertile, God has to break the fallow ground and replace it with His perfect topsoil. It is He who must till the stony or thorny or wayside soil, and it is we who, if we choose, will be made willing (to do of His goodwill and pleasure -- Phil. 2:13). It may take years, but it doesn't have to. After the ground is tilled and fertilized, God sows the seed, then the soil is watered, and the ground weeded regularly. How patiently, the sower waits for the land to bear fruit. He must often wait at least three seasons. How he yearns for that crop to grow, and ripen that He may feed others; this is how Christ and the Father wait for us. It through the Holy Spirit working in us--tilling the soil with truth, softening it with the rain, and through the photosynthesis of the word, ripening the plant to produce copious delicious fruit. Allowing this kind of work to go on in us, we become that which the universe finds pleasant, precious, and desirable.

The process of making us precious jewels from rough crystal rocks, or fertile land from seemingly dry, rocky, thorny wayside soil, may seem harsh and unloving, but, well-- remember that desire we talked about earlier, that longing and yearning? Well, "Christ is waiting with longing desire for the complete reproduction

of His mind in the people who love Him-- then the end will come." What God puts us through is necessary for us to become genuinely loving people. All our selfishness and self-love must go. And God Himself is ready and willing to replace it with His selfless and unconditional, fertilized topsoil. It is His love that produces fruit, such as works of faith, that acceptable. It is His love with which we love our family members (and our neighbors), and all will know us by this love.

Brothers and sisters, let's allow God to call us His beloved, not because we try to be like Daniel, but because we allow Jesus -- to make us like Himself.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Forgiveness for Unknown Sin

Forgiveness for Unknown Sin

The police stopped a very famous film actor because of improper driving. The Police officer suspected that the driver was driving under the influence of alcohol. The officer approached the car window, and before he could ask the driver for his driver's license, he could smell the alcohol. He immediately asked the actor to leave the car. The actor gets annoyed by the request and starts insulting the officer. Recognizing the actor, the police officer asks the actor if he had been drinking and how much. The actor is now infuriated and tells him, "None of your business?" The police officer asks the actor one more time to get out of the car. The actor at that moment tells the officer some improprieties about the officer's apparent ethnic background. He then adds, "The reason why this world has problems is because of your people." The next day the incident was all over the press and the media. The actor released a statement of apology, saying in part, "It is a known fact that one effect of alcohol is losing your inhibition. You say things you would not say sober. However, I said what was inside my heart. I was not aware that I held such dark feelings about other ethnic groups. While the incident was indeed embarrassing, what it revealed in my heart is humiliating." Through this incident, the actor realized that we harbor Sin in our hearts and may not be aware of it.

In chapter 9, Daniel prayed for forgiveness. He prayed for forgiveness for him and his people. But, there is something unusual about his prayer. Daniel includes himself with his people. Let us read some instances from Daniel 9: 4 - 19, where Daniel includes himself with his people,

5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:
 6 Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets,
10 Neither have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.
 11 …because we have sinned against him.
 13 … all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth.
14 … for we obeyed not his voice.
 15 …we have sinned, we have done wickedly.
 16 … because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.
 18 …for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses,

As you can see, this prayer is not only intercessory but also corporate. Why does Daniel pray corporately? As far as we know, it was the iniquity of his people - not his own - that lead the Jews to the Babylonian captivity. Maybe Daniel knew the phrase, "there go I, but for the grace of God." Daniel perhaps understood that given the same set of opportunities and circumstances, he would have participated in the Sins of his people.  What separated Daniel from his counterparts? The grace of God, to which Daniel yielded, and his brethren did not.

We know that Daniel read Jeremiah. Daniel must have read Jeremiah 17:9 that says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Could it be that Daniel was confessing all Sin that his heart may harbor – even unknown Sin? However, any act or word we say comes out of the abundance of our heart (Luke 6: 45). All sinful actions that we commit, are committing, and will commit are borne in our hearts before we let them out. All these Sins need is the right opportunity. The problem is we cannot know what is in our hearts. However, God knows the secrets of our hearts (Psalms 44:21). Daniel, very likely, was aware of this truth. And, by including Daniel's prayer in this book of Daniel, sealed until our day, God was stressing the need to see this prayer as a model for us living in the last days.

God knowing how Sinful our hearts are, says through the prophet Ezekiel, that He wants to put in us, "A new heart … and [also] a new spirit … within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26).  Perhaps our prayer should also be "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer" (Psalm 19:4).    David understood this concept of unknown Sin. He probably never thought that he was capable of coveting his best friend's wife, committing adultery with her, and murdering his best friend; this is perhaps why David wrote, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalms 51:10).

What unknown Sins do we bear in our hearts? If only God knows what lays deep and secretly in our hearts, only He can take it out. But, we must let Him do it.