Friday, July 31, 2015

Keeping It Real

Originally Published on Thursday, October 21, 2004

Keeping It Real

Daniel 4 is a chapter not often mentioned. Not even in the Daniel and Revelation Seminars is it talked about. A lot of the focus is in the miracles, dreams and prophecy. However, Daniel 4 is a powerful chapter. Daniel 4 is the gospel in verity. Daniel 4 shows us that we are sinners in need of a Savior, what we become when we are proud and rebellious, and what we can become if we just listen and submit to God by faith. Like Nebuchadnezzar, we would be not afraid to worship God and tell others about it if we tasted and saw how good He is. 

You see, outside of Christ we are all Nebuchadnezzars. In our sinful nature, we are all proud and rebellious. Pride and arrogance are usually combined in the Old Testament, and sometimes used intermittently. These terms mean presumption, swelling, exaltation, and puffed up; thinking yourself more important and better than you really are. Pride is a delusion that comes from our human sinful condition, and rebellion follows in its trail. Rebellion is unwillingness to yield to the authority of the ruler or government to which one owes obedience. Now, if obedience as per the Old Testament, means to listen attentively, to hear-- with a willingness to do, then rebellion is obviously disobedience whether felt or expressed verbally or behaviorally. Sinfulness is the path of wanting to do your own thing, your own way, and in your own timing. It is self-righteousness, and nothing less. As has been so aptly stated by Pastor Sequeira, "All of this world's systems- nationalism, commerce, education, politics, recreation, sports clubs, are based on Satan's principle of self-love." Self-centeredness, and selfishness underlie all of these systems, because they were constructed by sinful human beings, for whom self seeking is the norm. According to I Cor. 13, love seeks not her own, is not puffed up, is not boastful, rejoices in the right... you get the picture. So none of the systems devised by the world (human beings) are based on true love. Instead ethics and morals, and policies have been used to replace God's indwelling Spirit. But,they are all vanity and futile (Ecclesiastes 2:11) and will fade away like a leaf. In reality, when we put our trust in these systems, and their outcome to "have the good life," we fail of reaching the mark of God's character He has set before us, and we sin--"for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." (Romans 14:23.) 

We can understand why God sends us His messengers, trials and judgments, if we want to. He wants to restore us to what we would have been had we never sinned. Sin is deceptive, and we have a bent to it, a tendency to lean into crookedness. We can never be with them (the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) while we have the attributes of His mortal enemy. Thus the messengers, trials and judgments are to allow us to see how we really are, and who He really is in relation to us. God want us to get a reality check. In a sense God wants for us 
to keep it real. This is an _expression now used to mean: do not forget where you come from, and the ones who love you. God is trying to remind us that we belong to Him and no one can ever love – agape - us like He does. God is reminding us that we need to totally depend on Him, if we are to be good and righteous. "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:" (Rom. 3:10.) and, "there is none good but one, that is, God." (Mark 10:18.) 

Like with Nebuchadnezzar, sometimes His judgments seem harsh. But, are they really? Someone determined that between Daniel 1 and Daniel 4 was at least 25 years. In twenty-five years he still did not get it. You may also notice in Daniel 4, and throughout the Scriptures, that God always sent warnings prior to sentencing the guilty parties and executing the sentence upon them. There was ample time and opportunity for Nebuchadnezzar to repent from his proud and rebellious ways. I would argue that God revealed his character to Nebuchadnezzar and those surrounding him, through 
the Hebrew captives who served him. He is not a God who hides His true nature. To save the king, God allowed him to become outwardly, what he was inwardly: a beast without consciousness or dignity. God did say He would humble the proud. He humbled King Nebuchadnezzar, and He will humble all of us-- to save us from ultimate destruction-- if it is necessary. Talk about keeping it real. Daniel 4 says, 

Dan. 4:34 And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes 
unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and 
I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: 
Dan. 4:35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and 
he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the 
inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? 
Dan. 4:37 Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of 
heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase. 

Nebuchadnezzar's words-- his ultimate praise of God's sovereignty and power, can be ours if we only learn his lesson. Sister White says, 

The lesson that the Lord would have all humanity learn from the experience of the king of Babylon is that all who walk in pride He is able to abase. By stern discipline Nebuchadnezzar had to learn the lesson that God, not man, is Ruler, that His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. So men today must learn that God is supreme. When men gain success in the work of the Lord, it is because God 
has given them this success, not for their own glory, but for God's glory. He who seeks to steal a ray of light from the glory of the Lord will find that he will be punished for his presumption. (E. G. White Notes, p. 26) 

Christ says in Revelation 3:20-- " Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if 
any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will 
sup with him, and he with Me." How will we answer Him? 
Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes 

Raul Diaz

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Man That Came From God

 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?



Raul Diaz


Friday, July 17, 2015

Fwd: The Unlikely Missionary

Ellen White says of the incident of Naaman the leper,

"In accordance with the custom of the times, Naaman now asked Elisha to accept a costly present. But the prophet refused. It was not for him to take payment for a blessing that God had in mercy bestowed. "As the Lord liveth," he said, "I will receive none." The Syrian "urged him to take it; but he refused.

"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)

Gehazi forgot that since God gives freely, we receive freely, therefore we should freely give.


Freely Receive, Freely Give

A young woman had just given birth to a baby. After the required 6 week waiting period, she again attended church, this time with her baby. In between the lesson study and the 11 o'clock hour, there was an opportunity for the congregation to meet and greet each other. The members were so pleased to see the mother and her baby, that they flocked to her side. All too soon, the call to be seated for the 11 o'clock hour was given, and the service began. But within just a few minutes, the once contented baby began to cry. His mother, however, was not alarmed, for this was the baby's scheduled meal time. Pulling his blanket out of the diaper bag, she carefully placed it over her shoulder, arm, and baby. With her free hand, she cautiously and discreetly prepared herself to feed him. In just a few minutes, the baby was fed, burped and placed in his seat. Pulling out a notepad, and pen, the mother began to write as she glanced at her watch. "How curious," thought the pastor, as he observed her unusual behavior. Not wanting to be distracted, he did not continue to look in
her direction. 

At the end of the service, the pastor, as was his custom, positioned himself by the main door to greet the departing congregation. Seeing the young mother approach, the pastor hoped he'd be able to discretely ask what she been writing. Quietly, he asked her how she and the baby were doing. Not quite satisfied with her answer, the pastor then queried her as to her note taking in church. "Oh," she responded, "I'm keeping an account as to how much milk the baby drinks and how long he feeds." "What
ever for?" questioned the pastor now thoroughly intrigued. "Well," she answered, "I intend to bill him when he grows up." Thinking that she was joking, the pastor laughed. She however remained serious, and added, "I have worked out a formula whereby I can calculate how much he will owe me for the next few years of breast feeding, as well as wear and tear." "At the rate he's going, he already owes me a few thousand dollars." "I'm actually planning to add interest, but since he's my son, I want to keep the rate low, so I haven't decided how much, but I do know that it will be compounded, after all, I think it's only fair, don't you?" Speechless, the pastor stood there in amazement, his mouth open. The young mother, taking that as her opportunity said, "goodbye, I'll be back next week." And with that she left.

"Preposterous!" you say. "How can a mother be so ridiculous as to bill her baby for services of love that should be free?" "How could she even think to charge him interest, after all he didn't ask to be born." Say this, and you'd be right. That young woman's actions should be considered outrageous. And if she actually goes through with her plan, it would be scandalous. How, we wonder, could anyone be so foolish as to think that it is good to sell something as a commodity which was received freely. It may be profitable, yes, but good? No way.

The Jewish priests in Jesus time were selling to the people, that which should have been given to them free of charge. This was especially true of the animals slated for the sanctuary service. Why? Because, the animal sacrifices and the gift of salvation had literally been given to them of God by grace. Sister White says,

What was it that He saw as He looked upon that temple court converted into a place of merchandise? They were selling oxen and sheep and doves to those who would offer a sacrifice to God for their sins. There were many poor among the multitude, and they had been taught that in order to have their sins forgiven, they must have an offering and a sacrifice to present to God. Christ saw the poor, and the distressed, and the afflicted, in trouble and dismay, because they had not sufficient to purchase even a dove for an offering. The blind, the lame, the deaf, the afflicted, longed to present an offering for their sins, but the prices were so exorbitant they could not compass it. It seemed that there was no chance for them to have their sins pardoned. They knew that they were sinners, and needed an offering, but how could they obtain it? (E. G. white Notes, page 59).

The Sadducees controlled the temple business and they profited immensely. They had money- changers exchanging the Roman coin for the temple coin, this exchange was done at a profit to the Sadducees. When the people were to buy an animal for the sacrifice, it was sold at an exorbitant price so that only the wealthy could afford the purchase. This kept the poor believing, as is said above, that they could not ask for forgiveness and that therefore God did not favor them. The pain and misery of the poor, along with the greed and malice of the wealthy, broke Christ's heart and angered Him. Forgiveness of sins, iniquities and transgressions was to occur through the living sanctuary parable. It was the only place where sinners could find refuge, peace and rest. The Sadducees, through their avarice, effectively closed the door of hope to poor. This is why Mark 11:15-19 states,

Mark 11:15 And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and
began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and 
overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that 
sold doves;

Mark 11:16 And would not suffer that any man should carry [any] vessel 
through the temple.
Mark 11:17 And He taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house
shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it 
a den of thieves.
Mark 11:18 And the scribes and chief priests heard [it], and sought how they might destroy Him: for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His doctrine.
Mark 11:19 And when even was come, He went out of the city.

"Outrageous! Scandalous!" you say. "You wouldn't see that happening now." You are right, not in the same manner. We can all go to the temple, but how about the education centers. Many families cannot afford to have their children attend, so they find other options. They either send their children to the local public school or if they can afford it, they find a parochial school of another denomination and send their child there. What happens to the children of parents who fall behind in their school payments? The children are asked not to return, and depending on how old the child is, he or she may be sued. (This happened to someone I know personally but goes against what Christ teaches in the scripture through the Apostle Paul). 

"Outrageous! Scandalous!" you say. But by assimilating to the world's standards and practices regarding education and the accumulation of possessions, we have driven up the prices of our own literature, speakers, singers, vegetarian products and acute health care, till it is barely affordable. 

Christ says in Matthew 10:8, "freely ye have received, freely give." This is merely another portal through which to view the gospel, which is "love to God supremely-- with your whole heart, soul, body, strength and mind, and your neighbor as I have loved you." But, many of us don't want to practice this, because we want to profit as did Elisha's assistant, Gehazi. Just as he converted God's blessing (the healing of Naaman's leprosy) into his personal financial commodity, we too as a group, do the same. We've unwittingly adopted the belief system of the world regarding our commodities, " Whoever can afford what we are selling, and will pay for it, can have it." How pitiful. The poor brother who truly needs the blessing is often kept in the dark, and on the fringes, because he cannot afford the repackaged blessing. Yes, you may say that many who are employed by the denomination are not wealthy. But as an institution, the Church is rich. It believes it is in need of nothing, for it has this message and that message, and this program, and that evangelistic thrust. "The world church is growing, can't you see?" Yet, while we as a group are pleased with our condition, Christ is not. We have yet to have the soul temple cleansed again, and its sins blotted out for the time of the refreshing. Christ has given us, freely, the gift of repentance and forgiveness. He has simply asked us to believe and receive it, that the blessing may rebound to others. Freely He has given! Freely are we to receive and give again-- that our collective joy may be full!

Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes


Friday, July 10, 2015

Abraham: the First Misssionary

This commentary on Abraham was first published on Friday, October 18, 2013.  The idea is to point out that to be a missionary one must witness.  But, to witness one must experience something first.  

Commentary: Sacrifice


A seminary professor tells the experience of when she reluctantly accompanied her husband through the conflict-torn region of the Holy Land to the top of Mount Gerizim at Passover time. Here, the few surviving Samaritans on earth still sacrifice Passover lambs. As the lambs were led to the slaughter, she averted her eyes. But at the last minute, she looked. How utterly awful their deaths were. As she beheld the innocent creatures struggling against the knife, her soul revolted against the callousness of the priest, who was offering the sacrifice. But even more, she found revolting the whole idea of the sacrificial system. Why did innocent animals have to die to point forward to the death of Jesus? On the way back that night, in the light of the full Passover moon, she poured out her bitterness against God for the awfulness of the animal sacrifices until suddenly "light" from heaven penetrated her darkened mind. She finally began to understand the point: sin is so awful that it cost the life of the innocent Lamb of God. This Sacrifice was the only way that God could get people with their hardened human hearts to see how terrible sin was, how costly our salvation is. 

The sacrifices also teach us by which means God has removed what has estranged us from Him: our distrust of Him due to Sin.  It reveals to what extent God is willing to go, to bring us back into an intimate relationship with Him.  Christ was that Lamb slain from the foundation of the world to take away the Sin of the world (John 1: 29; Revelation 13: 8).  The cross was the instrument to slay the Lamb. 

However, it is unfortunate that "With most of the people in the days of Christ, the observance of this feast had degenerated into formalism. {DA 77.2}  Too often through human history God gives teaching tools to teach a greater reality and people mistakenly think the teaching tool is the reality. Thus, the sacrifices, which were only to teach the way back into close relationship with God, became misunderstood as the means to a close relationship with God. And people have taken the teaching tool and extrapolated false ideas about God and the heavenly sanctuary.  Christ is the means, the way, the truth and the life.  It is through Christ that we enter into close relationship with God.

But what was its significance to the Son of God? Ellen White tells us Gives us a glimpse,

For the first time the child Jesus looked upon the temple. He saw the white-robed priests performing their solemn ministry. He beheld the bleeding victim upon the altar of sacrifice. With the worshipers He bowed in prayer, while the cloud of incense ascended before God. He witnessed the impressive rites of the paschal service. Day by day He saw their meaning more clearly. Every act seemed to be bound up with His own life. New impulses were awakening within Him. Silent and absorbed, He seemed to be studying out a great problem. The mystery of His mission was opening to the Saviour.    Rapt in the contemplation of these scenes, He did not remain beside His parents. He sought to be alone. When the paschal services were ended, He still lingered in the temple courts; and when the worshipers departed from Jerusalem, He was left behind.  {DA 78.2}"

Abraham had a similar experience in Mount Moriah.  We know the story.  God asked Abraham to go to Mount Moriah to sacrifice Isaac, his beloved child of promise.  There was something different about God's approach to Abraham.  The patriarch's life with God had always been accompanied by divine promises: the promise of land, of descendants, and of blessings; the promise of a son; and the promise that God would take care of Ishmael.  Abraham sacrificed, but it was always as a response and in the light of some promise. However, in the situation described in Genesis 22, Abraham did not get any divine promise; instead, he was told to sacrifice the living promise, his son.  Abraham was posed with a dilemma.  He had to choose between God and Isaac.  Following through on God's command, Abraham showed that God was more important to him than anything else.  That animal, which God provided, prefigures the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, on whom "the Lord has laid . . . the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6, 7; Acts 8:32, NKJV).

What was God's purpose in this incredible challenge to Abraham's faith?  Ellen White tells us what God wanted to accomplish. 

"It was to impress Abraham's mind with the reality of the gospel, as well as to test his faith, that God commanded him to slay his son. The agony which he endured during the dark days of that fearful trial was permitted that he might understand from his own experience something of the greatness of the sacrifice made by the infinite God for man's redemption. No other test could have caused Abraham such torture of soul as did the offering of his son. God gave His Son to a death of agony and shame."—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 154.

Concerning the sacrifice, Abraham understood that no one but God Himself can bring the true sacrifice and the means of salvation. It is the Lord who will, who must, provide. Abraham eternalizes this principle by naming the place "YHWH Jireh," which means "The-Lord-Will-Provide." 

As mentioned before, the narrative of Genesis 22 describes the divine test of Abraham in which God asks him to offer up his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. This test may be the very apex of Old Testament gospel prefigurations, revealing in advance how both the Father and Son were to be involved in the anguish of the atoning sacrifice. Jesus remarked that " 'Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad' " (John 8:56, NKJV).

When did Abraham see Jesus' day? The apostle Paul quotes from Genesis 22 (vs. 18) and specifically points out that Scripture "announced the gospel in advance to Abraham" (Gal. 3:8, NIV). In the Hebrew of Genesis 22:17, 18, as in Genesis 3:15, the word for "seed" (zera') first is used in a collective sense to refer to numerous descendants and then narrows to a singular meaning (marked by singular pronouns, although some modern translations do not show this) to focus on the one Messianic Seed in whom " 'all the nations of the earth shall be blessed' " (Gen. 22:18, NKJV). The experience of Isaac on Mount Moriah is thus explicitly linked to the sacrifice of the coming Messiah. Paul also points to the sacrificial spirit of the Father, who "did not spare [withhold] His own Son" (Rom. 8:32, NKJV), using the same language as God had twice used of Abraham on Mount Moriah (Gen. 22:12, 16). 

Abraham understood in Mount Moriah the meaning of the cross.  The sacrifice of Jesus for the eradication of sin, salvation of humanity, securing of the universe, is not The good news, it is the expression, outworking, effective action of the Good News of who God is! In other words, the good news is about God and His character which is fully expressed in the actions of Christ sacrificing Himself for our salvation. But the good news about God was true before He sacrificed Himself, it was just obscured by Satan's lies. Thus the good news is always about God!  The Good news is God is love - agape (1 John 4: 16).  And, the cross is the most complete and utter demonstration of agape that have ever been revealed to mankind.

Raul Diaz

Friday, July 3, 2015

Salt in Water

Recently, I came across the following nugget of information.  Unfortunately, I forgot where I found it.  Let us read it, 

"In Palestine salt was used for flavoring and preserving. It was gathered  frorn marshes along the seashore or from inland lakes. If left in contact with
the ground, or exposed to rain or sun, the soluble salt itself would wash away, leaving only insipid impurities. In other words, it lost its flavor!"

This week we will look deeper at being salt of the world.

Salt in Water
Growing up I remember seeing the men in my neighborhood work on their overheated cars. They would take a rag, remove the radiator cap, and release the steam which had been building. The men then poured water from a hose in the radiator to cool it down. Anyone hearing that now is likely to think that's crazy, as coolant, an antifreeze/water mixture, is what is currently in use.  Antifreeze was developed to overcome the shortcomings of water as a heat transfer fluid.   The same mixture works as both coolant and antifreeze.  With antifreeze a wide temperature range can be tolerated by the engine coolant, such as -34 °F (-37 °C) to +265 °F (129 °C); as compared to water which is 32 °F (0 °C) to +212 °F (100 °C).  With only water in the engine, the water will turn into steam before the engine can reach its maximum temperature and will freeze when the temperature falls below 32 °F causing damage to the engine.  The central idea here is that when water is mixed with another substance, the freezing point is lower than it would be with water alone, and conversely the boiling point is higher.

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.