Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Essence of Prophecy

The Essence of Prophecy

Victoria went to the store to buy cologne.  She was looking for a specific brand.  It was a very exclusive perfume, tough to find.  The clerk gave her the news, "The good news is there is one bottle left.  The next news may be good or bad; it depends on you.  We only have the extract."  Victoria asked the clerk, "Excuse my ignorance, but what is the extract?"  The clerk replied, "The extract is the most concentrated form of perfume sold.  Because it is more concentrated, the scent is more intense and lasts longer."  Victoria's curiosity was piqued, "You mean to tell me that perfume is eluted?  The clerk graciously replied, "Well, yes.  The essence of the scent is eluted in ethanol and water.  The more concentrated it is, the better and of course, the more expensive.  That is why they say the best perfume comes in smaller bottles.  They are more concentrated.  Which also means you can put on less amount, and still smell as well as when you put a lot of cologne, which is more diluted."  Victoria then asked the clerk, "So it is like concentrated juice or something similar?  The clerk laughed at her ingenuity but realized she got the picture, and then said, "Yes.  The concentrated juice would be the essence that we dissolve in water."

Besides perfume, many of the things we buy or eat have essential ingredients.  For example, bread has flour, omelets' have eggs, and prescriptions usually have an active ingredient.  The word essence comes from the Latin word that means "To be."  Essence may be defined as the intrinsic or indispensable properties that serve to characterize or identify something; the most important ingredient; the crucial element; an extract that has the fundamental properties of a substance in concentrated form (An extract in a solution of alcohol, such as perfume or scent); or something that exists, especially a spiritual or incorporeal entity.  Without the essential extract, perfume is nothing but alcohol.

With this in mind let us read Revelation 19:10,

Revelation 19:10, "And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy."

What does essence have to do with this verse?  It is interesting that in the Biblical Greek, the word "spirit" used in this verse can be translated as essence.  Prophecy is an utterance said by a person who is inspired by the Holy Spirit to reveal to us our Sin and God's solution for Sin in the person of Jesus.  The essence of prophecy, according to Revelation 19:10, is the Testimony of Jesus.  All prophecy that comes from God is essentially giving a witness of Jesus as the Savior of the World.

The idea mentioned above has an interesting connotation for those chosen at the end to be the recipients of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as the latter rain.  Revelation 19:10 and 12:17 says that they have the Testimony of Jesus.  The Lord will entrust them with the Loud Cry of Revelation 18.  This outpouring of power will come with prophetic gifts as we read in Joel 2: 28, 29:

Joel 2: 28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
Joel 2: 29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit.

This select group -that Revelation calls the 144,000 - will all be prophets, just as Elijah (Malachi 4:5).  However, just as Elijah, their primary mission will not be the destruction and slaughter of Baal worshipers.  No, it will be to "turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (Malachi 4:6).  What the verse describes will only happen if those who hear this loud cry message: listen and heed the message to turn their hearts to God.

Ellen White says that we should all strive to be a part of this select group.  However, many of us will not be part of this group.  We will sleep before the Lord pours the latter rain.  But, just as David was not given the privilege of building the Temple, and was, however, given the opportunity of training the one who would, we too are given the privilege of training - in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6) - those who will receive this unique and powerful outpouring of the Spirit.  We are to make sure they receive the former rain, which will prepare them to grow to the fullness, stature, and perfection of Christ.  When they forsake all Sin and reflect the perfect character of Christ's righteousness, then the latter rain will be poured on them.  The pouring of the latter rain will enable this group to finish the work of spreading the loud cry – the Gospel - to all parts of the World.  It will also prepare them for the unique privilege of seeing Christ return, and to be translated to Heaven as described in (1 Corinthians 15: 51 – 55).

Friday, June 21, 2019

Interrelationship in History

Interrelationship in History

 The reputation of Professor Menas preceded him.  If you came into the classroom when he was closing his roll book, he would not reopen it to mark you as "present."  The other thing he did was that only the highest score had an A, all others had B and the rest.  But he was a great teacher.  He made History interesting.  When he got excited about what he was teaching us, Professor Menas dramatized what he was narrating.  As when it came to describing wars, he stood up from his desk made bomb noises and air boxed.  More importantly, perhaps, to Professor Menas history was not just a collection of names, dates, and events, but a series of interrelated events.  Each meaningful event in History was a reaction or response to a previous one.  

 For example, there is a reason why Spanish royalty gave Columbus their support for the trip across the ocean, Spain was one the first monarchies with a united kingdom in Europe.  No longer concerned with inner-territorial issues, they decided to look outside of Spain.  No event is isolated from others.

This view of History also applies to the Biblical view of History; even when we factor in God's continual involvement in human History.  As our lesson states, God sometimes caused events to happen, and sometimes He allowed them to happen to achieve His purpose.

 We consider the Babylonian army's invasion of Judah.  This invasion was not an isolated incident without historical context.  The Babylonians wanted to invade Judah because Judah had precious objects they liked and wanted.  To understand this, we have to go back to Judah's History to the era of King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah.  When Hezekiah ruled, he purposed in his heart to reform Judah so that Judah would be in harmony with God's law.  In moments of crisis, he prayed to God and consulted with the prophets (Isaiah 37).  The King wanted to do God's will.  But, when he got sick in older age, God sent a message to King Hezekiah through the prophet Isaiah: "put your affairs in order" (Isaiah 38:1).  Hezekiah refused to do God's will this time (2 Chronicles 32:25).  He pleaded for healing and extra time to live.  King Hezekiah felt entitled because if his long years of faithfulness to God (Isaiah 38: 2 – 3).  The Lord granted Hezekiah's petition, and as a sign to Hezekiah, the Lord made the Sun turn one hour back. But, this unleashed a series of events that proved to be the beginning of the undoing of Hezekiah's reform.

Puzzled by the strange phenomena of the Sun going backward, the Babylonians studied this event wanting to know what happened.  They inquired and found out about Hezekiah's petition to God.  So, they set out to meet Hezekiah and really to find out what kind of God can control the Sun's movements.  When the Babylonians showed up, Hezekiah made no mention of God.  Instead, the King  "shewed them the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah shewed them not" (Isaiah 39: 2).  The Lord sent the prophet Isaiah to rebuke Hezekiah. We read in verses 3 through 7,

 Isaiah 39:3 Then came Isaiah the prophet unto King Hezekiah, and said unto him, What said these men? And from whence came they unto thee? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country unto me, even from Babylon.
Isaiah 39:4 Then said he, What have they seen in thine house? And Hezekiah answered, All that is in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shewed them.
Isaiah 39:5 Then said Isaiah to Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD of hosts:
Isaiah 39:6 Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD.
Isaiah 39:7 And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the King of Babylon.

 In taking all the glory to himself, Hezekiah had piqued the interest in the Babylonians for all they saw.  The Babylonians coveted what they saw.  The Babylonians set in the hearts to return one day and acquire them. We know they kept a record about what saw because when Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah, he not only brought captives from among the Jews to Babylon but also some of these sacred objects his predecessors had seen.  From among these objects were the ones that Belshazzar used that fateful night when the Medo-Persians invaded Babylon (Daniel 5:3).

 In the surface, we could say that what we learn from this story is to be careful who you let in your house, and once they are in, what you allow them to see.  On a deeper level, we learn that today's mishap has farther repercussion than just our immediate lives.  The adverse consequences will be felt generations after.  Just look at Adam and Eve.  We are still paying for their mishap.  Doing God's will and giving him the glory can save us from unnecessary suffering.  It will not spare from suffering altogether.  It will save us and others from the pain that could have been prevented. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Entertaining Versus Hospitality

Entertaining Versus Hospitality

Denise grew up in a very wealthy home. Her parents were both prominent and highly regarded businesspersons who hosted many affairs in their palatial home. Many were the evenings in which Denise dined sumptuously with her parent's guests, almost all of whom were individuals of social prominence. Guest lists often included celebrities who were involved in international business enterprises abroad and desired her parent's influence to secure a particular outcome. Denise's home was listed in several magazines not only due to its size and decor but also because of its spectacular and opulent gardens. To maintain and even upgrade their lavish lifestyle, Denise's parents spared no expense. Unfortunately, Denise had come to think of her way of life as typical. It was unthinkable to her that others did not live as she did.

As Denise grew older, she became dissatisfied with life, for it seemed to lack meaning. Oh, she continued to participate in the social round of lavish parties her parents and others threw as part of her social obligations, but something seemed to be missing. Sometime during this turbulent time in her life, Denise decided to take a solo trip to a small country in South-America to get away from the superficiality of her life. Out of curiosity, she decided she would visit a little village miles away from the central city, to see how the native people lived. Denise hoped the experience would help her change something about her life.  On her journey to the village, Denise marveled at the simple beauty of the land. The hills shimmered in the daylight as the countryside reflected the sun. No, it wasn't a glare, but a soft light seemed to bathe every tree and plant upon which she looked. Denise felt herself relaxing and thought that it was beautiful to be alive, a thought she hadn't had in a long time. Shortly after that, the bus -- if you could call it that -- pulled into town, and Denise got off. How simple and beautiful everything was.

Friendly and hospitable people were milling about everywhere, and most of them pleasantly smiled as they met Denise's glance. It was thrilling to arrive at the small village finally.  In just a few minutes, it seemed that all of the shops closed right before her eyes. Bewildered, Denise wondered what was going on, and where everyone was heading. At last, she found herself alone in the street, lost, confused, and unsure of what to do next. An older lady, passing by her living room window, saw Denise and bade her come to the door. Uncertain, Denise just stood in the street. Suddenly, a young boy came out of the house and said to her in broken English, "Will you join us for siesta?" Taking her hand, he led her into his home and to his grandmother. Once inside, Denise joined the simple family as they washed and sat down to eat. Curious about their new guest who did not speak Spanish well, they communicated their welcome with hand gestures. Soon, Denise realized that if her hosts spoke slowly, she could understand them. She hoped in turn that they might be able to understand her broken Spanish, and so she attempted to speak. As the siesta time came to a close that early evening, the oldest daughter stood up, and bundled some food for Denise to take with her. Grateful, Denise tried to offer her hostess money but was kindly rebuffed. Coming close to her, the young boy who took her hand and led her into his home whispered, "to give us money is insulting; we do this because you are our guest."

Humbled, Denise never forgot her experience of genuine hospitality in the small South-American village. And upon her return home, she spoke more often of that family's hospitable treatment than she did of her parent's lavish and sumptuous entertaining affairs. You see, Denise had come to realize that there is a difference between entertaining and being hospitable. Her parents entertained to impress and amuse their guests. Fully believing the adage that "one hand washes the other," they anticipated that at the appropriate time, they would receive something of value in return for their efforts.

In contrast, the South-American family expected nothing from Denise; they shared what they had. However,  Denise felt that her presence was desired and appreciated. Such a far cry from so many of the guests her parents had entertained because they had to make a good impression.

As Thursday's lesson so wisely says, there is a difference between hospitality and entertaining. In the Middle East, the concept of hospitality is taken very seriously, for, without it, many travelers would perish in that dry, hot, arid land. The taking into your home of strangers who are merely traveling by your dwelling has been replaced with the inviting of people you like, or want to impress into your home. Surprisingly, hospitality is about others, while entertaining is about you.

The Bible defines hospitality as "a tangible _expression of self-giving love ... [which] springs from the hearts of those who have been touched by God's love and want to express their love in words and actions (to others)." In simple terms, hospitality is offering and sharing with others what God has so graciously provided for you. What has God given you? Yes, you can look around at all your material possessions, and your degrees and your career accomplishments; you can even look back at the time God healed you of some terrible disease, or miraculously spared you from dying in that horrible accident. You can also look back at the child He gave you in answer to your prayers. But, have you not read 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." God gave to you His Son; He gave to you pardon and spared you from eternal death.

Additionally, God gave you the promise of eternal life. What else has God given you? He gave you His Holy Spirit to lead, guide, and direct you on your journey to the eternal kingdom. Furthermore, God has given you His agape-love. Have you by faith received these things, and made them yours? You cannot share what you do not have. You cannot give what is not yours.

Mary Magdalene gave to Jesus all that God through Christ had given her: the 300 hundred denarii's for the alabaster ensconced Spikenard, and His agape-love (Mark 14:3). This is perhaps the most famous example of hospitality in scripture. While Simon's guests condemned Mary for her real demonstration of hospitality, Jesus praised her. By Jesus response, Simon was rebuked for entertaining instead of being hospitable. In Luke 7:44-47 we read--

Luke 7:44 Then He turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give Me any water for My feet, but she wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
Luke 7:45 You did not give Me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing My feet.
Luke 7:46 You did not put oil on My head, but she has poured perfume on My feet.
Luke 7:47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."

The text establishes the contrast. Those who get a hold of God's agape-love are hospitable; while those who neither understand nor receive, choose to entertain. God wants to make us hospitable; let's allow Him to have His way, for the blessings we seek, are wrapped up in benevolence.