Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Bryan Gallant at Vernon Memorial on May 30

Just wanted to let you know that Bryan Gallant will be preaching at Vernon Memorial Church this Sabbath.  We are at 6200 Vollmer Rd, Matteson, IL.  He has been working as a missionary for years.   And, has been blessed with a testimony that will help and inspire all those who have suffered loss.   Come hear how God has brought healing and restoration to Bryan and his family.   For more on Bryan and his ministry see the information below.   We will have an afternoon session serve lunch following lunch.  
Raul Diaz
> Blessings!
From Bryan Gallant:
> "God allows us to be broken, re-formed, pushed, so our lives will reveal the fragrance and unseen beauty we were created to share with a world of wounded people."
> If you know someone who has been hurt, lost a loved one, or is struggling under a load in life, read Undeniable: An Epic Journey Through Pain 
> or

Friday, May 22, 2015

Commentary: God always takes the initiative

God always takes the initiative

Memory Text: The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost(Luke 19:10, NKJV).

If we were to write a mission statement for Jesus, we could not do any better than to repeat His own words: To seek and to save that which was lost.

While all religions portray the human being in search for God, Christianity presents God as the seeker: Adam, where are you (Gen. 3:9)? Cain, where is your brother (Gen. 4:9)? Elijah, what are you doing here (1 Kings 19:9)? Zacchaeus, come down (Luke 19:5). What was lost? It was humanity itself, which was alienated from God, subject to death, and filled with fear, disappointment, and despair. However, thanks to Jesus we all have great reasons to be hopeful.  If nothing were done in our behalf, all would be lost.

"In the apostasy, man alienated himself from God; earth was cut off from heaven. Across the gulf that lay between, there could be no communion. But through Christ, earth is again linked with heaven. With His own merits, Christ has bridged the gulf which sin had made. .. Christ connects fallen man in his weakness and helplessness with the Source of infinite power." - Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 20.

God always takes the initiative to look for us because it is not in our nature to look for Him. This is why Paul writes in Romans 5: 8, "…that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

God set up a plan from the beginning of the world to save us if we sinned. John says that "…the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8). The plan was put in effect when Adam fell. Adam did not ask for it. But, at finding out about it Adam responded with gratitude.  From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is a story of God seeking after lost humanity. Luke illustrates this truth by using three important parables: the lost sheep (Luke 15:4-7), the lost coin (vss. 8-10), and the lost son (vss. 11-32).

In the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15: 4 – 7), the sheep is lost, knows that is lost, but does not the way back, and does not know how to find it. It may wander in the wilderness until it dies trying to get back or just gives up. The sheep need the shepherd to look for it and bring it back. The shepherd takes the initiative to find it. But, to make sure the sheep does not wander again the shepherd may need to resort to extreme measures like breaking its legs. The shepherd brought the sheep back, and with joy restored it to the fold, as if the sheep had never wandered away. 

In the parable of the lost coin (Like 15: 8 – 10), the coin was lost in its own house. The coin, of course, did not know it. Therefore, it had no clue about its need to be rescued. The woman takes the initiative to find the coin and does everything in her power to do so. The woman in the parable cleans the entire house just to find the one coin, even when she still had more. The woman rejoiced as she restored the coin to its proper place as if the coin had never been misplaced.

Last is the parable of prodigal son. After wasting a fortune reluctantly given to him by his father he ended up working at a pigsty feeding the pigs. This was something not only humiliating to a person of means but also an abomination for any Jew. This is an example of how low Sin takes us. But, the prodigal son remembered his former life in his home, and how good even the servants had it. The prodigal son remembered his way back home. He needed no outside rescue. However, his father was watching and waiting for him by the entrance of the home. He received his son with open arms and restored to his former position as if the son had never left. (In real life, when the "prodigal sons' remember their way it is the Holy Spirit reminding them.)

These parables not only show how we are lost, they also show God's grace and mercy. God does whatever is in His power to save us. We see that in the parables. And, He receives us with His unconditional love. All the process of Salvation is always God's initiative. We just respond, hopefully with gratitude – heartfelt appreciation – for what he has done for us. As He works in us He awaits for that response to restore us to the position we had before the fall.  Ellen White says about this.

"Whatever may have been your past experience, however discouraging your present circumstances, if you will come to Jesus just as you are, weak, helpless, and despairing, our compassionate Saviour will meet you a great way off, and will throw about you His arms of love and His robe of righteousness."—Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 9.

When there is a desire to come to Him – however faint – there is still a chance. This desire is wrought from God trying to woo you to Him. Are we responding to Him?


Friday, May 8, 2015

Insight: Mary’s Act of Love

Mary's Act of Love

When you are a student, it could be said you spend your life taking tests. Once, while, in college, I heard of a seminar on how to better take tests and instantly thought to myself, "Is this not a little late?"  In the end, I decided it would not hurt to go and, it was worth it. One thing that was clarified for me was the difference between comparing and contrasting an idea. Many essay tests require the test taker to either contrast or compare a particular concept. If you do not know the difference, your answers will be marked wrong. When a test asks to compare, it means to comment on the similarities between ideas and concepts. And when it states to contrast, you are to discuss dissimilar ideas or concepts. 

The Bible uses both concepts. It is noted in the New Testament that, comparatively speaking, all mankind are sinners in need of grace. But, there is also a contrast, or difference, between those who accept that grace and those who do not. This is the theme of many of the parables and is evident in the parable of the forgiven debtor of Luke 7:41-43-

"There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged." 

The parable reveals that our response to forgiveness makes public whether we have been forgiven much or rather, whether we perceive we have been forgiven much or whether we perceive we have been forgiven little. The implication is that those who believe they have not sinned much, believe they have not been forgiven much. While those who believe that they have sinned much will tend to believe they have been forgiven much. Quantitatively speaking, the love and appreciation demonstrated, will be in proportion to that perception.

This parable within the Mary Magdalene story was given to Simon – a Pharisee and former Leper. Christ had healed Simon. And because of this, Simon "threw" a party to thank Jesus. Jesus accepted and attended with His disciples, while Mary showed up at the event, uninvited. Bringing with her a very costly alabaster box filled with spikenard ointment, she broke it and poured the ointment onto Jesus' head. With this same ointment, mingled with her tears, she also bathed Jesus' feet, drying them with her hair.  This incident was considered scandalous by most of the house guests, which included Simon the host. With disdain and indignation, Simon thought to himself, "This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner" (Luke 7:39).  Let's look at verse 40 to read Jesus' response, "… Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And [Simon] saith, Master, say on" (Luke7: 40).  The "somewhat" was the parable.  Jesus further explained what He meant by it in verses 44 through 47,

"And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little."

 The lesson to Simon was made plain. Simon owed 500 pence, but, he showed appreciation for merely 50 pence. While, on the other hand, Mary, who owed only 50 pence, showed appreciation for 500 pence. The contrast is clear. While Christ loved and helped both, they did not perceive it the same way. Sadly, the disciples were no better than Simon.  Let us read of their reaction to Mary's gift in Matthew 26:8-13, 

"But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her."

 Here we find yet another contrast. The disciples chose the poor over the One who could feed the many from a few fish and some morsels of bread (Luke 9:16–17).  Mary, in contrast, chose Jesus – the better portion (Luke 10:42).   
 In her concern for Jesus, Mary relieved His suffering.  Ellen White elaborates in the following quotes,

"The fragrant gift which Mary had thought to lavish upon the dead body of the Saviour she poured upon His living form. At the burial its sweetness could only have pervaded the tomb; now it gladdened His heart with the assurance of her faith and love…And as He went down into the darkness of His great trial, He carried with Him the memory of that deed, an earnest of the love that would be His from His redeemed ones forever" (Conflict and Courage, p. 306).
"The desire that Mary had to do this service for her Lord was of more value to Christ than all the spikenard and precious ointment in the world, because it expressed her appreciation of the world's Redeemer. It was the love of Christ that constrained her. . . Mary, by the Holy Spirit's power, saw in Jesus One who had come to seek and to save the souls that were ready to perish. Every one of the disciples should have been inspired with a similar devotion" (Christ Triumphant p. 252, paragraph.4). 

Although, the disciples had privately received teachings regarding Jesus' approaching death, they were uncomfortable with the idea and resisted it, which later left them unprepared. Yet Mary, an untaught woman, not privy to the disciples' intimate knowledge of Jesus, was informed by the promptings of the Holy Spirit and believed. That kind of inspiration she received can only find an entrance in a broken and a contrite heart. Jesus commended Mary.  Will He commend us?

Friday, May 1, 2015

Commentary: Christ as the Lord of the Sabbath

Commentary: Christ as the Lord of the Sabbath
Sabbath: A Day of Love
The members of a church make a trip to the lake on the Sabbath day.  Everyone knows not to go in the water, and if they do, not to go beyond where the water is beyond your knees.  All of a sudden a deacon dives in the water and goes off swimming far into deeper waters.  Can you see the faces of disapproval?  Can you hear the murmuring?  The Elder – trying to assert authority – states categorically, "This is unacceptable.  What kind of testimony is he giving?  We will have to disfellowship him.  This kind of behavior should not be tolerated.  He has shown today what kind of Christian he is."  Everyone said, "Amen!"  
3 minutes later the deacon is seen swimming back to shore.  He is struggling.  He is dragging someone along.  Who could it be?  The elder's face fell and turned read when he realized that the deacon - the elder had just condemned - had saved his daughter.  No one, except the deacon, saw her drift away into the deeper waters of the lake - far beyond where the water hits the knee. Things are not always what they seem.  The intentions of the heart matter.  Needless to say, there was no mention of disfellowshipping the deacon after that.  Christ said, "It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath" (Mark 3: 4).
The Church in Christ day was no different. The Jews had made the Sabbath a burden with their strict rules and requirements.  They turned the Sabbath into a curse instead of a blessing.    In Desire of Ages - pages, 206 and 207 - Ellen White elaborated upon the difference between the Jewish Sabbath and Jesus' Sabbath says that Jesus had come to "magnify the law, and make it honorable." He was not to lessen its dignity, but to exalt it. The scripture says, "He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till He has set judgment in the earth" (Isaiah 42:21, 4).  He had come to free the Sabbath from those burdensome requirements that had made it a curse instead of a blessing.  
She adds, "…it was for this reason He had chosen the Sabbath upon which to perform the act of healing at Bethesda (John 5). He could have healed the sick man as well on any other day of the week, or He might simply have cured him, without bidding him bear away his bed. But this would not have given Him the opportunity He desired. A wise purpose underlay every act of Christ's life on earth. Everything He did was important in itself and in its teaching. Among the afflicted ones at the pool He selected the worst case upon whom to exercise His healing power and bade the man carry his bed through the city in order to publish the great work that had been wrought upon him. This would raise the question of what it was lawful to do on the Sabbath, and would open the way for Him to denounce the restrictions of the Jews in regard to the Lord's Day, and to declare their traditions void.
You would think that the healing of a fellow Jew would have made them rejoice, but the Jews were more interested in their rules than the well-being of their neighbor.  This hardness of the religious establishment could be seen in the healing of the man blind from birth (John 9). Verse 16 reveals how little mercy they had,
John 9:16, Therefore, said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.
Talk about law without love! 
Ellen White continues saying that Jesus stated to them that the work of relieving the afflicted was in harmony with the Sabbath law. God's angels are ever descending and ascending between heaven and earth to minister to suffering humanity. Jesus declared, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." All days are God's, in which to carry out His plans for the human race. If the Jews' interpretation of the law was correct, then Jehovah was at fault, whose work has quickened and upheld every living thing since first He laid the foundations of the earth; then He who pronounced His work good, and instituted the Sabbath to commemorate its completion, must put a period to His labor, and stop the never-ending routine of the universe.  Should God forbid nature from continuing it's never ending work from which all men benefit?  In such a case, men would faint and die.  
The demands upon God are even greater upon the Sabbath than upon other days. His people then leave their usual employment and spend the time in meditation and worship. They ask more favors of Him on the Sabbath than upon other days. They demand His special attention. They crave His choicest blessings. God does not wait for the Sabbath to pass before He grants these requests. Heaven's work never ceases, and men should never rest from doing good. The Sabbath is not intended to be a period of useless inactivity. The law forbids secular labor on the rest day of the Lord; the toil that gains a livelihood must cease; no labor for worldly pleasure or profit is lawful upon that day; but as God ceased His labor of creating, and rested upon the Sabbath and blessed it, so man is to leave the occupations of his daily life, and devote those sacred hours to healthful rest, to worship, and to holy deeds. The work of Christ in healing the sick was in perfect accord with the law. It honored the Sabbath.
And man also has a work to perform on this day. The necessities of life must be attended to, the sick must be cared for, and the wants of the needy must be supplied. He will not be held guiltless who neglects to relieve suffering on the Sabbath. God's holy rest day was made for man, and acts of mercy are in perfect harmony with its intent. God does not desire His creatures to suffer an hour's pain that may be relieved upon the Sabbath or any other day. 

Raul Diaz