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God: The Problem-Solver

At vespers tonight, I shared with some friends how thankful I was that God answered a prayer.  C had texted me earlier needing to print a few pages for a Bible study that she would be giving during an evangelistic outing that afternoon.  It was a last-minute notice—she would be covering for someone who suddenly couldn’t go.  I didn’t have a printer.  She could go to the library or to one of the academic buildings, but there must have been a reason she didn’t go there.  I could think of only one friend who has a printer and called her.  I relayed the message back to C: The printer hasn’t been working for about two weeks, but she’ll try anyways.  E-mail it to her.  Then I prayed that the Lord bless the printer now for C so she could do His work and that the blessing continue for A for being willing to try.  I saw C’s response: “Oooh perfect! By the grace of God, it will work, thank you… I’m sending it already :D.”  I put the phone down and got back to work.

I was so engrossed with the work that I forgot about the situation until someone else texted me.  I remembered to ask C what had happened.  She said it printed, that she just needed to pick it up, but didn’t know where A lived.  I picked it up for her so she could have time to finish getting ready.  K received me at A’s door, and as she led me to A’s room, I said, “God answers prayer.” K replied, “He sure does, because A was praying before she tried it, and it worked.”  I realized at least two of us had prayed.  I’m sure C had prayed at some point, but by the time we let her know A would try, she already knew it would work out.  Now at my place, two minutes before the time she had to leave, C ran into my apartment, gave me a tight hug, grabbed the sermon, and ran off.

As I shared this answer to prayer, I couldn’t remember what had impacted me so much about it.  This wasn’t the first “little” prayer I’ve witnessed Him answering.  But yes, it’s a beautiful reminder that God cares about the little things.  C’s faith that God would print her sermon is humbling and inspiring.  But it wasn’t until an hour or so after vespers that I remembered why I felt God speaking to me through this experience.  As I considered C’s options and thought about the library and academic buildings, I dismissed the thought because she asked me instead of going there.  I thought it was for the sake of time, so I didn’t want to suggest she go.  I thought, I could borrow A’s car and go to my department’s office and print the sermon for C.  But I decided to try calling A first.  After I heard the printer hadn’t been working, I was conscious that the office could be a back-up.  But I chose to pray that God would make A’s printer work instead of relying on my human solution.

I’m not trying to toot my own horn here.  My intention is to gently rebuke myself because lately, my first reactions have not been to pray.  They have been to figure out every possible alternative and try them first—to “do my part”—before asking God.  Other times, I may pray, but I think, If this doesn’t work out, I guess this plan B will do.  No! Why not believe with all my heart that God can and will move mountains for those who trust Him?

Why was this time different for me?  I’m not sure—I know I don’t naturally have it in me to make the best decisions.  The only answer I can come up with is, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).  Sure, if the printer hadn’t worked, the office would have been a resource to which God had also provided access.  But what a blessing to have asked Him first and to have received something better—a better solution that cost less time, travel, and energy and that teaches His children an important lesson about trusting Him.

God is a much better problem-solver than I’ll ever be.

A good name

Proverbs 22:1: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold.”

This is absolutely true.  I believe it: It is the word of God.  But I do know, from experience, that at times we believe this to be true to such an extent that we seek a  good name and esteem from our own strength instead of pursuing the One whose name the Christian should desire to have.

I came across this verse this morning during Sabbath School, while I was supposed to be paying attention to the lesson.  But I couldn’t focus on it because my heart was heavy.  I had just come inside from talking to my mother.  While still at home this morning, I had behaved in a way that offended and deeply hurt her.  We were almost leaving for church.  I knew what I had done immediately after it happened and was sorry.  When I got to church, heart heavy, I knelt in the sanctuary and asked for forgiveness, humility, and meekness.  I knew why I had acted the way I did—it was a combination of some hurt related to my mom (over something kind of trivial but that is important to me) and stress over things completely unrelated to my mom.  I woke up this morning knowing I was off and asking God to put His joy in me and help me start the day right, but I failed.

I understood the extent and impact of my failure when we got to church and, instead of sitting in either of the empty chairs on either side of me, my mom walked past me to the end of the row and sat down, several seats away.  Ouch.

The song leader started a hymn, “Tu nombre es dulce, buen Jesus” (Your name is sweet, good Jesus).  I tried to sing, then mouth the words—pretend to sing—but my mouth would barely move and my eyes glazed over.  What kept coming into my mind was the principle in Matthew 5:23-24: “ Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”  How could I offer this song of praise knowing that my heart wasn’t right and that my words and actions were the reason (or one reason, at least) that another worshiper’s heart wasn’t right?

I knew that getting up in the middle of song service, tapping on my mom’s shoulder, and motioning her to follow me, then walking out, having to greet some church members with the expression that was on my face, would look—well—not right.  Like there was something wrong.  Like—gasp!—there was a problem between us.  And to make matters worse, when she finally decided to come out, I reached for her arm, which she kept stiff, and led her outside for a private conversation.  Oh, what would people think?  They barely know me.  The question did cross my mind.  But which was more important?  Saving face, or heeding the Holy Spirit’s conviction that we needed clean hearts and a right spirit?

My whole life, I have been viewed as someone who “is good” and “does what is right.” Not a bad thing, right?  In reality, I’ve been raised in such a way that I want to be good, and I want to do what is right.  And I thank God for that.  Along with this, however, has been the recognition that the better I am, and the better I do, the more I please people and improve their image of me; and the more this happens, the higher I set the standards for myself (which were already high).  Unfortunately, I sought to reach these standards for the wrong reasons.  So it goes with many of us, if not all of us, in our social circles, including the church.  We want to be viewed as good, as doing good, as on the right path, and we try to reach the right standards in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons.  We value that good name so much that we try to hide the reality that we are broken, imperfect people who make mistakes and need Jesus.

There may be some who have had the opposite experience—viewed differently than how I’ve been viewed, and who, whether for their own reasons or as a reaction to people’s judgment of them, have acted differently.  (Maybe they’re not pursuing a good name for that reason.) Although it may appear like a different situation, I think we have the same problem at the root: a problem of the heart.  (What am I trying to say?)  We become prisoners of others’ opinions and expectations, and especially in moments of conflict, or when the time comes to lay our souls bare to God, the hardness of our hearts prevents us from taking the steps that allow us to be in the right state with the One whose opinion is ultimately the one that matters.  By surrendering to the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus granted us, we allow Jesus to live His life in us and give us His good name, the name above all names, and the only name by which we must and can be saved.  Oh, that we would allow Jesus to soften and change our hearts, to be like His!

I asked my mom for forgiveness, explained what I understood to be the reason for my behavior (which I did not justify; it wasn’t right, no matter how hurt or stressed I was), and asked her to pray for me.  Now, I don’t mean to “call out” my mother.  I have a very good, loving relationship with her.  She is a sweet, gentle woman who loves God and serves Him as best she knows.  But she, too, is human, and struggles with her own world of difficulties that Jesus knows about.  As we spoke, she didn’t look me in the eyes.  She forgave me, hugged and kissed me, but didn’t want to pray for me at that moment, when I asked her to.  She finally did after I insisted two or three times, and her prayer began, “Heavenly Father, I’m not worthy to pray now.  And I don’t want to, because I don’t feel it.” She asked for forgiveness for herself and for me.  The prayer was rough around the edges.  No frilly words, no extras.  But it was—I believe, anyways—a sincere, beautiful prayer.

After staying behind to wipe my tears and wash my face, I tried to avoid eye contact with people—sin is shameful—and sat down to write.  As I think about it, yes, sin is shameful, but Christ has promised His forgiveness if I confess my sins, and He has promised to be the lifter up of my head.  It’s time to accept the truth of His promise.  I can look others in the eye and let them see the pain in my eyes.  I can allow myself to be vulnerable in that way, because I am a broken, imperfect human being who makes mistakes and needs Jesus.  My jaws felt stiff and reluctant to sing.  I still felt unworthy, but my conscience was clear.  Praising God at that time was not a part of the routine, just to participate in the church service.  It was an act of faith. And, praise God, I sang.

I wrote all this hoping not to put myself down or lift myself up, but hoping instead to lift up Jesus Christ, who promises me peace and abundant life in this world and in the world to come.  I also write to protest that mentality that leads us to wear masks and try to hide our problems and defects, even (especially) in church.  We can’t hide from God, and we both deceive ourselves and do ourselves a disservice by not dealing with our baggage if and when we know how to do it in a healthy way. (I say if and when because, in all fairness, not everyone knows how.  And I’m not trying to say, either, that we need to publicize or constantly talk about all our problems, either.  But how terrible is it to try worshiping God when there are fresh or latent tensions and hard feelings between brethren?)

Today’s sermon highlighted, in part, the question posed in Revelation 6:17, when the day of God’s wrath arrives: “who shall be able to stand?”  The answer is found in Revelation 7:9, and the same group of people is referenced in Revelation 14:1-5.  They stood before the throne and in the presence of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and having palm leaves in their hands (Rev. 7:9); they stood with the Lamb, and had His good name and the good name of the Father written in their foreheads (Rev. 14:1).  The names weren’t literally written there: the character of Father and Son had been stamped upon their character, transforming them by the power of the Holy Spirit.  That good name—Christ’s perfect character—is the one we must seek with our whole heart.  It’s a search God is pleased to honor with success.

One Day

By J. Wilbur Chapman

 

1 One day when heaven was filled with His praises,

One day when sin was as black as could be,

Jesus came forth to be born of a virgin,

Dwelt among men, my example is He!

 

Refrain: Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me;

Buried, He carried my sins far away;

Rising, He justified freely for ever:

One day He’s coming—oh, glorious day!

 

2 One day they led Him up Calvary’s mountain,

One day they nailed Him to die on the tree;

Suffering anguish, despised and rejected:

Bearing our sins, my Redeemer is He! (Refrain)

 

3 One day they left Him alone in the garden,

One day He rested, from suffering free;

Angels came down o’er His tomb to keep vigil;

Hope of the hopeless, my Saviour is He! (Refrain)

 

4 One day the grave could conceal Him no longer,

One day the stone rolled away from the door;

Then He arose, over death He has conquered;

Now is ascended, my Lord evermore! (Refrain)

 

5 One day the trumpet will sound for His coming,

One day the skies with His glories will shine;

Wonderful day, my beloved ones bringing;

Glorious Saviour, this Jesus is mine! (Refrain)

Apuntes de La venida del Consolador por Le Roy E. Froom

  • El prometido advenimiento del Espíritu Santo
    • “Así como la misión de Cristo debía realizarse en un marco de tiempo definido, la del Espíritu Santo también tendría límites específicos: del Pentecostés a la Segunda Venida.” (p. 24)
    • “Nos hallamos bajo la tutela personal y directa de la tercera Persona de la Deidad tan ciertamente como los discípulos lo estuvieron bajo la dirección de la segunda.” (p. 24)
    • El Espíritu se menciona 88 veces en 22 de los 39 libros del Antiguo Testamento.
      • Presente en la creación
      • Antes del Pentecostés vino a la tierra más como visitante pasajero, con el fin de capacitar a ciertos hombres para la realización de tareas especiales y no para actuar constantemente entre ellos.
        • Luchó con los hombres (Gen 6:3)
        • Concedió pericia a Bezaleel (Exo 31:3-5)
        • Dio fuerzas a Sansón (Juec 14:6)
        • Hizo a los hombres sus instrumentos en el cumplimiento de tareas o la transmisión de mensajes (Núm 27:18; Juec 6:34; 1 Sam 10:10; 1 Sam 16:13)
      • “Jesús nació y murió por nosotros; se levantó de la tumba y ascendió a los cielos. Y cuando Cristo completó su obra terrenal y ascendió con su humanidad glorificada para tomar un lugar en los atrios celestiales, entonces se cumplieron las condiciones para que el Espíritu Santo descendiera como representante oficial y sucesor de Cristo, haciendo eficaz su obra redentora para cada individuo. De modo que vino trascendentalmente como el Espíritu de Jesús.” (p. 26)
    • El Espíritu se menciona 262 veces en los 27 libros del Nuevo Testamento
      • “En el Antiguo Testamento actuó sobre los hombres más de afuera hacia dentro, pero no moró permanentemente en ellos. Se les apareció y los revistió de poder, y en algunos casos hizo a menudo su morada en ellos. Pero desde el Pentecostés en adelante se efectuó un tremendo cambio. A partir de ese momento la suya es una obra especial, diferente de la realizada en épocas pasadas. Se hizo provisión para que en adelante el Espíritu entrase y viviese en todos los creyentes cristianos, y para que su obra se realizase de adentro hacia fuera, llenándolo todo y empapándolo todo.” (p. 27)
      • “La provisión del Antiguo Testamento había sido promesa y preparación; la del Nuevo, cumplimiento y posesión. La diferencia yace simplemente entre el significado de una obra hecha desde afuera y el de morar en lo íntimo del ser. Y este morar en lo íntimo del ser es una posesión permanente, puesto que el Espíritu viviría con nosotros perpetuamente.” (p. 27)

Apuntes de La venida del Consolador por Le Roy E. Froom

Jesús presenta a Su Sucesor

  • Consolador: “ayuda en tiempo de necesidad” (p. 22)
  • “…Jesús era el primer Consolador.” (p. 22)
  • Jesús presentó “la venida del Espíritu Santo como la culminación de su obra terrenal en favor de sus discípulos y la continuación de su tarea.” (p. 22)
  • “La recepción del Espíritu Santo constituía el privilegio supremo que podían tener, como también hoy lo tiene cada discípulo que espera el regreso corporal y visible de su Señor para llevarlo a las mansiones celestiales.” (p. 23)
  • “El Espíritu Santo es el representante de Cristo, pero despojado de la personalidad humana e independiente de ella. Estorbado por la humanidad, Cristo no podía estar en todo lugar personalmente. Por lo tanto, convenía a sus discípulos que fuese al Padre y enviase el Espíritu como su sucesor en la tierra. Nadie podría entonces tener ventaja por su situación o su contacto personal con Cristo. Por el Espíritu, el Salvador sería accesible a todos. En este sentido, estaría más cerca de ellos que si no hubiese ascendido a lo alto.” {DTG 622.4}
  • “Antes de esto, el Espíritu había estado en el mundo; desde el mismo principio de la obra de redención había estado moviendo los corazones humanos. Pero mientras Cristo estaba en la tierra, los discípulos no habían deseado otro ayudador. Y antes de verse privados de su presencia no sentirían su necesidad del Espíritu, pero entonces vendría.” {DTG 622.3}
  • Tres verdades que Jesús reveló en Juan 14 y 16:
    • El prometido advenimiento del Espíritu Santo
    • El carácter y la personalidad del Espíritu Santo
    • La misión u obra del Espíritu Santo

Puesto que éste es el medio por el cual hemos de recibir poder, ¿por qué no tener más hambre y sed del don del Espíritu? ¿Por qué no hablamos de él, oramos por él y predicamos respecto a él? El Señor está más dispuesto a dar el Espíritu Santo a los que le sirven, que los padres a dar buenas dádivas a sus hijos. Cada obrero debiera elevar su petición a Dios por el bautismo diario del Espíritu. Debieran reunirse grupos de obreros cristianos para solicitar ayuda especial y sabiduría celestial para hacer planes y ejecutarlos sabiamente. Debieran orar especialmente porque Dios bautice a sus embajadores escogidos en los campos misioneros con una rica medida de su Espíritu. La presencia del Espíritu en los obreros de Dios dará a la proclamación de la verdad un poder que todo el honor y la gloria del mundo no podrían conferirle.

–Hechos de los apóstoles, p. 41-42

Psalm 1:1

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful” (Psalm 1:1).

” ‘ción Mami, ‘ción Papi.”  La bendición, Mami, la bendición, Papi, that is.    Children in my Dominican family are raised to ask for a blessing from adults with authority (or family position) over us when we see them or speak to them on the phone.  It’s the first thing (or one of the first things) we say to them– parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles– and they respond, “Dios te bendiga.”  It’s interesting because if the younger person forgets to ask for the blessing, the older person will sometimes remind them that they haven’t asked for the blessing.  Not everyone does that, though– sometimes they just say “Dios te bendiga” without waiting for the request.  But it’s funny because it seems so necessary to ask for it.  There are times when my parents or my great-aunt will say “Dios te bendiga” before I get a chance to ask for the blessing, even though I didn’t forget, but I still say it because it seems wrong or disrespectful not to say it.

I’m not sure where or how the custom originated or how widespread (international) it is.  One thing I do know is that, like many repeated practices, it becomes a habit.  And many times, habitual practices may not have lost meaning in themselves, but their meaning is lost to the doer because the doer doesn’t need to think about the meaning in order to perform the practice.  Then again, the question remains: Were the children taught the meaning from the beginning, or were they just taught to say “La bendición” for the sake of upholding the custom?  Although I don’t remember at what age I had this epiphany (though I wasn’t super young, probably in my teens), but I remember thinking about what ” ‘ción” means, realizing it was actually a short version of “la bendición,” and then realizing that I was asking adults in my life to grant me a blessing from God.  I always knew that they were granting me that blessing, but I didn’t realize until then that I was asking for it.  I don’t remember how my parents taught my siblings and me.  Did they teach us to say “La bendición” or the shortened version of “ción”?  At some point they must have told us that it’s “la bendición,” but that part of it, and the full understanding of what was coming out of my mouth, escaped me.  The content of the phrases exchanged show that the custom has (or should have) principally a spiritual significance.  But because so many of us don’t really think about what it means, its sociological significance, as a way to teach children who to respect in their families and how to respect them, may take the lead.

Anyways, the point of all of this is to say that Dominican kids may not realize it until they’re older, but it’s so good to receive a blessing upon first meeting.  The book of Psalms opens with a blessing in disguise.  It doesn’t overtly say, “The Lord bless you and keep you,” or “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,” like Paul tends to do.  Instead, Psalm 1 begins with a description of the righteous and the source and nature of their blessing; but implied in the description is an invitation to the reader to join in the blessing of the righteous by avoiding evil and taking pleasure in the ways of God.

Verse 1 tells us to avoid the ungodly’s advice, the paths that sinners travel, and the places where the scornful meet. I appreciate the progression from walking, to standing, to sitting and from thoughts to action, to (as the commentators of the Andrews Study Bible suggest) identity.  Proverbs 7 gives a good illustration of what it means to follow an ungodly path and to suffer its consequences. The young man there goes where he doesn’t need to be and allows himself to get carried away, and things end badly for him.  Psalm 1 doesn’t suggest that following ungodly ways always leads to immediate destruction, but it points to eternal consequences of sin later in the chapter (verse 5).

What do we make of another well-known Bible character who found Himself in the path of sinners?

15 Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. 16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”

— Mark 2:15-16 (NKJV)

We know of Jesus sitting to eat with tax collectors and sinners, this unholy group of people who took advantage of the disadvantaged and enticed people to take part in deviant activities.  There is no contradiction between Jesus’ actions and the advice in Psalm 1; these are not parallel situations.  Jesus may have been among sinners, and He may have sat among scornful people, but that first element is missing: He did not walk in the counsel of the ungodly.  He did not allow ungodly advice or practices to enter His mind to the extent that they influenced His desires or actions in that direction.  On the contrary, the law of God was in His heart, and because of that, He delighted to do God’s will, which was”to seek and save the lost.”  The blessing of Psalm 1, found in verse 3, was His.