Friday, October 28, 2016

Johnny Lingo and the Ten Cow Wife

In Job 7 we find Job crying out:
Job 7:17–21
17    "What is man, that You should exalt him,
That You should set Your heart on him,
18    That You should visit him every morning,
And test him every moment?

The Psalmist must have borrowed from Job when He sang in Psalm 8
Psalm 8:4–6,
4    What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
5    For You have made him a little lower than 4the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
6    You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,

We also read in PSALM 144: 3 - 4,
3    Lord, what is man, that You take knowledge of him?
Or the son of man, that You are mindful of him?
4    Man is like a breath;
His days are like a passing shadow.

The following commentary tries to answer that question.  Let us read on.

Johnny Lingo and the Ten Cow Wife

Johnny Lingo wanted to get married.  So, he went to his native Island of Kiniwata to find a wife.  Now, the custom of his people was to trade in cows (a precious commodity there) for the bride.  Typically two or three cows would buy a fair-to-middling wife, four or five a highly satisfactory one. Johnny Lingo traded ten for his (some renditions of the story say eight cows).   Everyone thought Johnny Lingo was crazy.   In the eyes of Kiniwatans, Sarita – Johnny's bride - was barely worth one cow.  A local man described her in these words, 

"It would be kindness to call her plain. She was little and skinny with no--ah--endowments. She walked with her shoulders hunched and her head ducked, as if she was trying to hide behind herself. Her cheeks had no color, her eyes never opened beyond a slit and her hair was a tangled mop half over her face. She was scared of her own shadow, frightened by her own voice. She was afraid to laugh in public. She never romped with the girls, so how could she attract the boys?"
No one knew of Johnny and Sarita since the nuptials.  A young man, who was also interested in getting married, was told the story.  Intrigued by the story and with time in his hands, he decided to find out by himself.  He sailed to Narabundi where Johnny and Sarita lived.  He found Johnny and related to Johnny the reason for his visit.  Johnny confirmed the story.  As they talked one of the most beautiful and elegant women, he had ever seen walked into the room with flowers.  He described her with the following words,
"And then I saw her. Through the glass-beaded portieres that simmered in the archway, I watched her enter the adjoining room to place a bowl of blossoms on the dining table. She stood still a moment to smile with sweet gravity at the young man beside me. Then she went swiftly out again. She was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Not with the beauty of the girl who carries fruit. That now seemed cheap, common, earthbound. This girl had an ethereal loveliness that was at the same time from the heart of nature. The dew-fresh flowers with which she'd pinned back her lustrous black hair accented the glow of her cheeks. The lift of her shoulders, the tilt of her chin, the sparkle of her eyes all spelled a dignity to which no one could deny her the right. And as she turned to leave she moved with the grace that made her look like a queen who might, with enchantment, turn into a kitten."

Before the man could say anything, Johnny said "This is my Sarita.  My ten cow wife.  She has changed a lot.  Part of which is the result of knowing she is a ten cow wife.  She has no need to worry when other women compare themselves by how much they cost.  She cost more than any of them.  To many she was not worth one cow and she believed that also.  But, I loved her and not any other.  I wanted to marry her.  You see, I always wanted a ten cow wife." 

The issue was not whether Sarita was intrinsically worth the ten cows; the issue was that Sarita was worth ten cows to Johnny.  Christ's church is His bride.  Paul says that "…ye are bought with a price…" (1Corinthians 6:20).  Is she intrinsically worth the price Christ paid for her?  Not really.  Revelation 3: 15 – 17 tells us our true condition, 

Revelation 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
Revelation 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Revelation 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

The Psalmist says "For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust" (Psalm 103:14). 

There is nothing in us worth pursuing.  But, Christ sought us. Why? God loves us.  God's special love, agape, is not created by the value of its object. Since God is love, God loved His creation, and in love created value in it. Humans pervert God's love because we are born self-centered. We have trouble loving ugly or disagreeable people. We call them "unlovely."  But, we are all unlovely.  And, in spite of that God loves us.  How much did God love? We see in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  

How did Christ pay for His bride?  Peter gives us the answer, 

1Peter 1:18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
1Peter 1:19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

 The verb to redeem means to buy or pay off; clear by payment, to buy back.  Christ bought us with the price of His blood.  Sarita seemed grateful to Johnny, and it showed.  Are we grateful to God for the price He paid for us?

Friday, October 21, 2016

Faith versus money

Faith versus money

The word was out. A particular prison was highly successful in bringing inmates to Christ. An investigation was made, to find which prison ministry was responsible. After months of inquiry, they found out the prison ministry itself was wondering what was happening. At the end of the investigation, they discovered that it was the warden who was responsible for turning the prisoners around. The warden was a man who feared God. He shared the gospel with his inmates and even prayed for them and with them.

Immediately, a Christian radio station arranged for an interview. The man shared his testimony giving Christ the glory for his success in turning these inmates around. When asked about a budget and planning, the warden almost exploded, "What are you talking about, Budget? Planning? Do you realize that budget is the biggest excuse people give not to do the work of whichGod is convicting them? Budgets are also the excuse to do work we have no business doing. We do not have a budget. We have the word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit." Speechless, the interviewer, sheepishly went to a break.

What does God's work need to move forward: money or the Holy Spirit? In today's world, all things require money. Even, church activities and programs run because there is money; hence, the need to always ask for money in our services. The dependence on money has replaced our reliance on the Holy Spirit. Time spent praying is now spent developing ways to acquire funds and planning activities and programs.  Doubt or presumption have taken the place of Faith.

There is no wonder the author of the lesson asks the questions, "How should we understand this saying? ("Sell what you have and give it to the poor" Luke 18:22.) Was Jesus advocating a redistribution of wealth for all Christians in all times and places? What practical problems would arise if we carried out His injunction? Take any given community, in which all Christians have sold all their property and given the proceeds to the poor, what now is the economic status of those Christians? How do they support themselves and their families? And how,  for example, do they now get the means to carry forward the rest of Jesus' mission to take the Gospel to new frontiers?

The answer to that clearly is that if we live by faith as those in apostolic times did, we would not worry about money. As Christ told the disciples in Matthew 6:31-34,

Matthew 6: 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
Matthew 6: 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
Matthew 6: 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
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 thereof.

In their case, God provided through others. They learned to live by faith. God spoke; they listened and believed His promises. They trusted that God would provide. They lived by the definition of faith that says, "Faith is the expecting the Word of God to do what it says and the waiting and depending on that word to do what it says."

On some occasions living by faith meant for the brother or sister to work for money. Notice Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla. They were tentmakers (Acts 18:3). Paul was very candid about why he worked. He did not want to burden the brethren. Selling what you have and giving it to others does not preclude working. If indeed, it is what God wants you to do. In other words, running a business or having a job may require as much faith as not working and depending financially on others. Working or running a business may expose you to others who need to hear the gospel.

David concluded in Psalms 20 that "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God." (Psalm 20:7 NIV). Zechariah reached a similar conclusion, "So he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty" (Zechariah 4:6). Many men trust in things this they have or have acquired. But, those who "truly" love God will trust Him.
Raul Diaz

Friday, October 7, 2016

The importance of context

The importance of context
A man dressed as a pilot and sporting dark sunglasses is seen leaving the airplane into the tarmac with a dog walking by his side.   Someone inside the terminal waiting to get on the same airplane sees this man with what seems to be a guiding dog and frantically yells out, "The Pilot is blind!"  In an instant, most of the crowd, also waiting for the same airplane went to the window, where they saw the man dressed as a pilot sporting dark sunglasses with a guide dog by his side.  Suddenly the eyes of the waiting crowd turned from the window to the airline employee; fearing for her safety she calls her superior, who immediately dispatches security and launches a frantic investigation. 
Security struggled to calm down the crowd, but it succeeded with minor difficulties.  As soon as the crowd was quiet, an airline employee showed up with the news.  "The man you saw is our pilot.  He is not blind.  The dog is not his.  The dog belongs to a blind passenger in our plane.  Our pilot offered to take the dog for a walk." 
When we do not have the complete and or correct information, we can reach the wrong conclusions which can lead to bad choices leading to severe consequences.  The same thing happens when we have incorrect and or incomplete information about God.
Let us use the story of Job as an example.  The author of the book of Job introduces Job in verses 1 through 5 of the first chapter,
 Job 1: 1There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.
 Job 1: 2And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.
 Job 1: 3His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.
Job 1: 4And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.
 Job 1: 5And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.
Job was a fortunate man, and he seemed to credit God for it.  He also constantly interceded with God for others.  Starting in verse 6 there is a switch in scenes where we are made privy to background information that neither Job nor anyone else in the story has.  The Devil attacks Job while God permits it and seemingly observes and waits.  The rest of the story shows us how this moment in Heaven plays out on earth, specifically in Job and his acquaintances. 
Without the context we have, Job struggled to understand why God would do this to him.  Job's friends, also lacking this background, reached the wrong conclusions about Job and accused Job of suffering the consequences of his iniquity.  Job defended himself while pleading to God for an answer.   But, at the end of the story, we find that because of this experience Job knew God better and trusted Him more. 
It would behoove us to remember this story and what we learn from it when we go through our struggles in life. 

What does James 1: 2 – 4 tell us about trials,

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and com­plete, lacking nothing" (James 1:2–4, NKJV).

'The Greek word for "trials," sometimes translated "temptations," is the word peirazo, which has the broader significance of "proving" or "testing." The devil tries us or tempts us to do evil. The tests and trials that God allows to come into our lives are for the purpose of developing our characters.'  Ellen G. White talks about this,

"The trials of life are God's workmen, to remove the impurities and roughness from our character. Their hewing, squaring, and chiseling, their burnishing and polishing, is a painful process; it is hard to be pressed down to the grinding wheel. But the stone is brought forth prepared to fill its place in the heavenly temple. Upon no useless material does the Master bestow such careful, thorough work. Only His precious stones are polished after the similitude of a palace."—Ellen G. White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 10.

However, not every trial is in God's providence. Often we bring suffering upon ourselves through disobedience; often, too, trials and suffering are just the results of what it means to live in a fallen, sinful world where we have an enemy who hates us (1 Pet. 5:8). What this does mean, however, is that through a complete surrender of ourselves to the Lord, to grasping hold of Him in faith and obedience, no matter what we go through, we can come out better or more refined if we allow God to work in us. No one said it would be fun. Life here often isn't fun, but Paul gives us this incredible promise: "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6).

Job never understood why he suffered. His cry to God was, "Why?" However, Job never stopped trusting God. In the middle of his crisis, Job cried out, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" Job13:15. 

The lesson is for us. Many Christians think that they will find in the Christian life freedom from all difficulty. But everyone who takes up the cross to follow Jesus comes to trial in his experience. Life is not all made up of pleasant pastures and cooling streams. Trial and disappointment overtake us; privation comes; these bring into trying places. Conscience-stricken, we reason that we must have walked far away from God, that if we had walked with him, we should not have suffered so. Doubt and despondency crowd into our hearts, and we say, The Lord has failed us, and we are ill-used. Why does he permit us to suffer thus? He cannot love us; if he did, he would remove the difficulties from our path. Is the Lord with us, or not? {RH, April 7, 1903, par. 2 - 3}

Perhaps this is why Peter admonishes us 1 Peter 1:6-7,

1 Peter 1:6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
1 Peter 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

This verse tells us that trials are neither random nor chaotic. Trials have a purpose. One of them is to produce genuine faith in those who will persevere through all kinds of tests. In other words, trials teach us to depend on God to overcome temptation and to endure the pain and suffering that Sin brings to us until we die (or are translated). We can trust that God's will fulfill His promises.  We may not see it now. Only in retrospect, God may allow us to see a glimpse of the purpose of trials. For many of us, it will be until we reach eternity before we see clearly God's purpose in letting us suffer. We will also see that God was in it with us all the way. We were not alone. And, in fact, our faith grew stronger, and our character became more Christ-like because of the suffering God put us through.

Raul Diaz