Friday, February 26, 2016

The Gospel of Nitrogen

The Gospel of Nitrogen

Molecules of different sizes and levels of complexity compose Everything.   Proteins are enormous and complex molecules.  Amino Acids - a smaller molecule -  are the building blocks of Proteins.  Nitrogen is an essential part of all amino acids.  However, nitrogen as a part of an amino acid is an atom.  Atoms compose All molecules.   All nucleic acids are molecules that contain nitrogen (which provide energy and genetic information), and most plant pigments involved in photosynthesis; which implies that plants need lots of nitrogen.    The most common component of plant fertilizers is, in fact, one of two forms of nitrogen - nitrate (NO3-) or ammonium (NH4+) ions—both usable forms of nitrogen for plants.

With a concentration of about 78 percent, nitrogen gas comprises the largest component of earth's atmosphere. It has, at least, a million times more nitrogen than found in all living systems combined.  The bad news is that all of this atmospheric nitrogen consists of molecules of N2 — that is, two atoms of nitrogen bound tightly together by, what chemists call, three strong covalent bonds.  Unfortunately, it takes lots of energy to break the triple bond.  Because plants can't use molecular nitrogen (N2), it has to be transformed into one of the two absorbable ions.  When you break the bonds between the molecular nitrogen, each nitrogen ion is open to attract and attach other ions and form other molecules.  So, before the nitrogen can bond with other elements like oxygen or hydrogen it has to become an ion itself.  Let us try to reiterate: the two nitrogen atoms are attracted to each other, very strongly.  Once bonded the nitrogen atoms cannot bond with anything else.  Once bonds are broken, the nitrogen will have open spaces to bond with other ions.  

It requires a lot of energy to break nitrogen's triple bond.  In His wisdom, the Creator provided several ways to convert atmospheric molecular nitrogen into usable forms that will dissolve in water so that plant roots can absorb it. The immense energy of lightning quickly breaks nitrogen triple bond, turning it into nitrates and washing it down in the rain of a thunderstorm. Have you noticed how green your lawn is after a storm fall?  Even more important, many types of bacteria convert nitrogen from one form to another. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria convert atmospheric nitrogen to the more plant-friendly ammonium ion (though it is toxic in large concentrations).  Other bacteria also create the ammonium ion, but they do it by decomposition of plant and animal matter. (Check out the smell of your compost pile. It reeks of ammonia.)  Fortunately, another family of bacteria transforms the ammonium ion to the safer nitrates.  (As you might guess, the cycles are actually more complicated than what I am describing.) 

It is not uncommon for atoms in a molecule to behave differently than when they were a mono-atom molecule.  For example, water is not flammable.  But, the two elements that compose water – hydrogen and oxygen - on their own are very flammable. As previously mentioned, molecules of compounds have strong bonds.  The atoms that form the molecules now yield to one another.  They work as one.  Whether, in ammonium or nitrate, nitrogen no longer behaves as nitrogen.  

The previous statement has a spiritual application.  Let us break this down.  Before conversion, the disciples could not bond.  Before the crucifixion, they were fighting for supremacy.  That ceased after the ten days in the upper chamber.   Luke described what happened then, "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place" (Acts 2: 1).  Ellen White describes the events in the following quote,

"After Christ's ascension, His disciples--men of varied talents and capabilities--assembled in an upper chamber to pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit. In this room 'all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication.' They made thorough work of repentance by confessing their own sins. Upon them was laid no burden to confess one another's sins. Settling all differences and alienations, they were of one accord, and prayed with unity of purpose for ten days, at the end of which time 'they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.'  {7MR 94.4} 

There was a definite change in them.  This change was reflected in all their followers:  "Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all" (Acts 4:32, 33, NKJV). 

What happened?  When the Holy Spirit began working in them, their bond to Sin or self is broken.  It takes the powerful grace of God to do this.  Now, they have open space to bond with Christ and with each other.  Christ could not use the disciples in their natural state.  They had to become spiritual "ions" to be able to bond with other spiritual "ions."

So, the disciples laid aside all their personal ambitions.  Now instead of fighting, they were convicted by the Holy Spirit to die to self.  The words of Paul became a reality in them: "…be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind," and to not think more highly than he ought to think of himself (Romans 12: 2 – 3).  God is waiting for us to let the Holy Spirit do the same work inside of us.

Raul Diaz

Endnote: Portions of this commentary were taken from David A. Steen's book "God of Wonders" page 235.

Saturday, February 13, 2016


I have a friend who owns a home near the country.  When you wake up, birds are chirping for all their worth.  When you look outside the window, you see these birds flying around building their nests.  At one point, my friend and I were both outside looking at a small pond – of sorts – where he has fish.  The fish, as the birds were doing what they do.  They swam in the water.  It occurred to me that these birds and fish were unconcerned with the problems of the world.  They were not worried about from where their next meal would come Or, where would they live.  The fish survived the winter.  The birds flew back and forth and somehow built their homes, to prepare for new offspring.  They were not concerned how to feed these baby birds.  I remembered the sermon on the Mount – Matthew 6: 25 -26, 28, 30-32, 34 - when Christ said to the people,

 Matthew 6:25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
Matthew 6:26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
Matthew 6:28 … Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
Matthew 6:30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Matthew 6:31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
Matthew thew 6:32 … for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
Matthew 6:34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil

 It is when we live this way that we find real rest.  This rest comes from Jesus Himself.  Only unto those who come unto Him, He will give rest (Matthew 11:28).  Only when we believe that Christ is the Creator and Sustainer of all things, including us, will we find this rest.  Only when we leave all of our anxieties with Him – the One who rested when He finished His work – will we receive that peace, which comes from resting in Him. Mary Magdalene understood this, but not Martha; we read their story in Luke 10: 38 - 42,

 Luke 10:38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
Luke 10:39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.
Luke 10:40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
Luke 10:41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
Luke 10:42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

The Israelites of old never understood.  Paul tells us in Hebrews 4: 6 – 10,

Heb4:6 Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief:
Heb4:7 Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Heb4:8 For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.
Heb4:9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.
Heb4:10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

 Sabbath keeping without coming in the rest that Christ gives is nothing more than taking a break or a nap.  Only to those who enter Christ's rest is the Sabbath truly "a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you" (Exodus 31:12-13).  Are we like Mary or are we like Martha and the Israelites of Old?

 Raul Diaz

Friday, February 5, 2016

Immanuel-- God with us (The Trajectory of Intimacy)

Immanuel-- God with us (The Trajectory of Intimacy)
In Daniel chapter 2, we find King Nebuchadnezzar troubled with a dream. Part of what troubled him was that he could not remember it. He asked his 'wise men' to recall the dream and interpret it. But his wise men answered by saying what the King was asking for, only God could give, and that He (God) does not dwell among men. Therefore, they inferred, King Nebuchadnezzar's request could not be granted even by God Himself. It is here they laid down the gauntlet to God. What a challenge! God heard, and demonstrated that the belief held by these men was both correct and incorrect. Truth and error were mixed together. The 'wise men' rightly understood that only God could reveal the dream and give the interpretation. But they lacked knowledge and awareness – indeed they did not know that God longs to dwell with men.

Through this strange set of events, God used Daniel to show that only He could reveal both the dream, and its interpretation. Surprisingly, God also used this situation to bring to light one of the fallacies of unbelievers: that God does not dwell with mankind. Through Daniel God proved that He indeed dwells among men.
In fact, His name is Immanuel – God with Us. God has always made it His business to dwell among men. Even when the children of Israel were in the wilderness, He wanted to dwell among them. That was one of His reasons for the earthly Sanctuary. The Lord said to Moses, "… let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them" (Ex. 25:8). 

To demonstrate His presence in the sanctuary, God gave His Shekinah glory to shine right above the mercy seat, which covered the Ten Commandments in the most Holy Place of the tabernacle or 'Tent of Meeting.' Ellen White says, "In the holy of holies the great I AM took up His abode…. There, above the mercy seat, overshadowed by the wings of the cherubim, dwelt the Shekinah of His glory, the perpetual token of His presence" (That I May Know Him p. 95).
Furthermore, God was with them day and night, leading them, as seen in Exodus 12:21, 22--
"And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people."
Not only was God with the Hebrews as they wandered in the wilderness, but God dwelt among them after they became established as a nation in the Promised Land. Just read 1st and 2nd Kings, as well as 1st and 2nd Chronicles for evidence of that fact. But this 'closeness' through dwelling among the people was still too far away. From the foundation of the world, God purposed to come even closer still, and close the gap of intimacy. In the book of Isaiah we find this prophecy:
"Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Isa 7:14. He did not want us to miss it, so He said, "I'll give you a sign." "This is how you'll know it's Me…" So although He was initially Spirit, He became flesh and blood, born of a woman, born under the law, like all of the sons of Adam, to be with us. (Gal. 4:4; Rom. 8:3)
We know that Jesus' birth was the fulfillment of this prophecy, because we read in the Gospel of Matthew:
"But while he (Joseph) thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." (Matt 1:20-23).

Jesus left the royal courts of heaven, and laid aside His (Shekinah) glory, and clothed His divinity with humanity that He might come into close connection with humanity, and by precept and example uplift and ennoble humanity, and restore in the human soul the lost image of God. (Temperance p. 40)
Immanuel is God manifested in the flesh, partaking of our nature for the sole purpose of our redemption and restoration in this divine rescue operation.  Ellen White elaborates,
"Emmanuel, God with us," this means everything to us. What a broad foundation does it lay for our faith? What a hope big with immortality does it place before the believing soul. God with us, in Christ Jesus, accompany us every step of the journey to heaven." (ML 290.2)
But not only did He want to be with us, one of us, but His intention from the beginning was to become one with us. "I in them, and Thou in Me, that we may be one" (John 17:21, 23).

The Holy Spirit was sent to be the means to fulfill this prophecy. Immanuel gave Him to us, as can be seen in John 14:16-- "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever." And in 1 Corinthians 3:16 it says, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?"
Furthermore, the Holy Spirit is … "a guide in our perplexities, to soothe our sorrows, and shield us in temptation." O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!" (ML 290.2)
God with us means such closeness, "that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the Agape- love of God [and Apostle John has said, "God is Agape-love"-- 1 John 4:8] which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8:38-39). So we are in Him, and He is in us.

When we receive and understand this concept, then like David we can say, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me" Psalm 23:4. There is no need to live in fear and be overcome by Sin. God with us means that whatever difficulties we experience, He will love us still and neither leave nor forsake us! Oh may we remember this beautiful truth. Amen.