Friday Morning Manna
January 3, 2020
By Nathaniel Fajardo
Only New Hearts and Renewed Minds Can Make A Year New
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Jer. 17: 9. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”Ps. 51: 10.
It is a new year, again. Thank God for gently yet protectively shepherding us through tumultuous 2019 and step into the new year alive, still rational and relatively physically healthy to still afford us the precious jewel of a rational and discerning mind.
For thousands around our world, last year, barely three days ago, was their last. For us still alive, we will, and must hope, pray, watch, and work to have a better year than the past. “Happy New Year.” These greetings have already been expressed and celebrated in countless creative or destructive, class or crass ways, truth-preserving or truth-perverting ways. Our recording angels have already written all of them in the books of heaven where there are no false, inaccurate or deficient entries.
God’s messenger for last days, Ellen G. White, my all-time favorite author after the Author and writers of the Authorized Bible, opens up this year for us with this message. I hope you take it to heart:
“Another year opens its fair unwritten pages before you. The recording angel stands ready to write. Your course of action will determine what shall be traced by him. You may make your future life good or evil; and this will determine for you whether the year upon which you have entered will be to you a happy new year. It is in your power to make it such for yourself and those around you.
“Let patience, long-suffering, kindness and love become a part of your very being; then whatsoever things are pure and lovely and of a good report will mature in your experience.
“Angels of God are waiting to show you the path of life . . . Decide now, at the commencement of the new year, that you will choose the path of righteousness, that you will be earnest and true-hearted, and that life with you shall not prove a mistake. God forward, guided by the holy angels; be courageous, be enterprising; let your light shine; and may the words of inspiration be applicable to you—‘I write unto you, young men [and women], because you are strong and have overcome the wicked one.’[1 John 2: 13]
“If you have given yourself to Christ, you are a member of the family of God, and everything in the Father’s house is for you [John 14: 1-3]. All the treasures of God are open to you, both the world that now is and that which is to come. The ministry of His angels, the gift of His Holy Spirit, the labors of His servants—all are for you. The world, with everything in it, is yours, so far as it can do you good. Even the enmity of the wicked will prove a blessing, by disciplining you for heaven. If ‘ye are Christ’s’ ‘all things are yours.’” – My Life Today, p. 5.
But as far as the “new” in the year already started is concerned, there is a cracked ring to it, already. And I’m just being truthful and candid. If there was a time when the basic virtues of unvarnished truth, honesty, transparency and moral integrity were desperately needed by the churches, the nation and the world, it is undoubtedly right now! These great wants alone, not even considering the other necessary factors that make up the great whole, make it a stretch to even imagine in the most accommodating sense, how one can expect, even as we hope, true happiness, one that will last to the end of this first month of 2020 and on through the end of the year—unless it is based on and obtained from another source Higher Source of infinite resources!
That’s why I’m not being negative, sarcastic or lack “the spirit of the season.” The fact is, I have been seriously thinking about “the spirit” displayed in all these holiday seasons for a long while now, assessing what they really mean and how they have affected and influenced my mind all through these years till recently, in sharper focus, under the eye-opening lights of the series we are currently running on the nature of Christ and the incarnation!
So, this comes as an epiphany of sorts. I’ll explain why and it may sound familiar to you. First, on December 26, 2019, the day after Christmas, I read an ABC 7 Chicago WLS on-line news titled (emphasis mine): “Refunds & Exchanges are a Privilege and Not a Right: What You Need to Know About Handling Unwanted Items. This is what caught my eye: “The post-Christmas shopping rush is on. . . . Americans are expected to return nearly $95 billion worth of gifts over the holidays.”
The pre-Christmas shopping rush flips over to the post-Christmas shopping rush! Have, we, in any sense or way, which we may not yet be aware of until “our eyes are opened to see wondrous things out His law” (Ps. 119: 18), professed to “have received Christ as the greatest gift of the Father and Christ’s sacrifice as His greatest gift to us—only to “return” these as “unwanted items”—even during these very holiday seasons?
Did Christ, spoken of as “the Reason of the Season” enter our minds and hearts but disappeared as quickly as the Christmas decors and trees went up and down, and the holidays that began with Thanksgiving quickly gave way to New Year, and now even that is already a week-old old! One may ask, How do we “return as unwanted” the gift of the Father and Christ? In many ways! If we truly understand what Their gifts were, from the Incarnation to the Crucifixion to the Resurrection, Ascension to His Intercession, one of the biggest reasons for “returning this Gift” are expressed in these two:
See John chapter 6. When Jesus drew the line and told His multitudes of followers, “You seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” Verses 26, 27. When told them, “I am the Bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead . . .I am the Living Bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats this Bread he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give [as a gift] for the life of the world.” Verse 51. Then He told them, and all today, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” Verse 53. “Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand it’? When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples murmured about this, He said to them, Does this offend you? Verses 60, 61. “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the Twelve, Do you also want to go away? Then Simon Peter answered Him, Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Verse 66-68. To eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ simply means “to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” and to follow His life of self-denial and self-sacrifice, the individual Christian’s cross to bear. (Matt. 4: 4; Luke 9: 27).
Only “twelve” out of the “many” remained true disciples—who “did not return the gift of Christ! You see, dear friend! “The offence of the cross” of self-denial and self-sacrifice “has obviously not ceased.” Man will eagerly “sayers” but not “doers” of the Word! Only “twelve” of the “many” remained as true disciples!
Second, I remember greeting several strangers right before, during and after these Thanksgiving, Christmas day and the New Year’s rush. “Hi, how are you? or “How is it going?” One replied, “Better now;” another said, “Hoping for the best;” still another said, “Trying to keep up with the shopping rush and the traffic,” etc. But most replied matter-of-factly, “Same old, same old.” I nodded and smiled back, assuming everything then must be OK, whatever OK means. It’s a pretty standard reply now and I am not going to overthink that. The Jesus, supposedly “the Reason of the Season” said: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” Matt. 12: 34. So is it really okay when there’s double jeopardy right there? You get nothing new for it is the “same old.” And when you get anything at all, don’t expect it to be new, much less brand new. So how fun is that?
Our only grandson who just turned three-years old, does not speak our language. When told he is getting a gift and needs to “close his eyes for the surprise,” he replies, as he did from the very beginning when he learned to talk, “brand new”? If you don’t reply quick enough, he will promptly repeat, “brand new?” Because he can’t quite yet pronounce “r,” it sounds more like “ban you.” But we get it. Now we have to speak his language telling him he just received a gift that needs to be unwrapped, with the introduction, “This is brand new.” Only then will he even consider to check it out.
The Bible says, “and a little child shall lead them” and “even a little child is known is known by his doings” (Isa. 11: 6; Prov. 20: 11). “Brand new.” “Grandpa’s boy” already had a leg up his doting grandpa! He made me pause and think. He expects more than just “new;” he wants it brand new. And you know? He is right! Ever heard the line, “the light is on but nobody’s home?” He made me reconsider whether my sense of values and expectations from life and God’s Word have changed any as I aged. “Aging gracefully” is even more true and real in the life of Christian who is daily overcoming by God’s empowering grace. Grace from start to finish is the secret and drive of the race of life for the goal of eternal life in Christ.
Have I carelessly let my guards down? What will be my reply when that soul-searching call sounds, “Watchman, what of the night?” (Isa. 21: 11). Lest we forget, all who accept Christ as their Commander-in-Chief, the Lord of hosts, are also tasked with being watchmen in the Lord’s Army “to fight the battles of the Lord where champions are few.” That’s the reason why He commissioned and issued for immediate duty the “whole armor of God” (Eph. 6: 10-18). Do you know how, and, have you put it on? Have I? More importantly for this new year, have we kept it on, ready to take on full-force all the “fiery darts” of the enemies of truth and righteousness?
Have I unconsciously learned to accept things lesser than their true value and consider them, as they were claimed to be and sold as such, and not for what their real value was and is—particularly the “unmovable pillars of the faith” that makes the remnant truly faithful, “peculiar and a holy nation” (Titus 2: 14; 1 Pet. 2: 9). If I have, do I still have the spiritual discernment and enough humility to accept such failure and determine what caused it in order to avoid repeating it later. That would be digression, not progression, leaving me behind as the “wise virgins” move on without me! Did it involve compromising principles I once held as sacrosanct? Was it done to only accommodate and please someone—maybe even me, which is self-justification?
When Jesus gave the first Twelve their working orders, He included the caution to be “wise as serpents yet harmless as doves” because they would be as “lambs in the midst of wolves.” How wise? The original Greek for serpent here is ophis, “through the idea of sharpness of vision,” and only then, figuratively, a snake.” So how much wiser? How much sharper the vision? the spiritual discernment? (see Heb. 5: 12-14)
It is a paradoxical Biblical truth that “the moment we are born we begin to die.” But while this yet-mortal “body of sin” is irreversibly aging from day of birth, inexorably headed earthwards towards death and the grave, the moral character of the “new man” or “new creature in Christ”– if he has been genuinely “born again” through the twin “baptisms of water and the Holy Spirit, with fire” (Matt. 3: 1-12)—should, Biblically and factually, be going and growing in the exact opposite upward direction–Heavenward.
This is what the Divine Sower expects when He sowed the good seed into the furrows of our hearts and minds and nurtured it till our individual harvesttime has come. Have we disappointed Him by resisting His divine efforts and works, thereby not “being fruitful” in “increasing” and producing the nine “fruits of the Spirit” listed in Gal. 5: 22, 23 and the “peaceable fruits of righteousness” (Phil. 1: 11; James 3: 18), more like ten kinds of spiritual fruits ? Let us remember that “character is the harvest of life.”
To the Christian, in his own periodic “Pilgrim’s Progress” assessment, his New Year is his birthday; he has 12 months to look back and see how God has led. Did he learn anything new and progressive in the spiritual sense? Did he walk any closer and any faster “by faith that works by love” (Gal. 5:6) with Christ–as did Enoch, Moses, Abraham, Elijah, Paul, and the “Hall of Faithers” of Hebrews chapter 11, and the “commandment-keeping saints of Revelation 14: 12?
(To be continued next week as second part of the New Year’s Message)