Friday, December 28, 2012
By Odon Bulamba
People from overseas love wine from NZ – not only because NZ has the best grapes but God gave NZers the best brain for invention, for example NZers were the first to fly an aeroplane (although America believe they were). People from overseas have given respect to NZers and it’s a blessing.
“And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” Mark 2:22
New wine into an old container will result in both the wine and the container being lost. When making wine it requires fermentation – the juice becomes angry and changes shape and smell. Yesterday it tasted sweet and tomorrow it tastes sour. The wine continues to change and can be kept on shelves for many years and can still be drunk if it has been kept in the bottle – but not if it is kept in a wineskin.
We NZers are like wine – God has given them an intelligence that is growing bigger. It used to be China but everyone is heading to NZ (e.g. Weta productions - the Hobbit) and there is a secret behind this: what does God want for NZ?
A new wine in an old container results in the loss of both the container and the wine. We as Christians don’t have anything to lose – we are only here to gain. God gives us the best position to be successful in everything and to enjoy whatever God has given us. If I have zero money, I’m successful. If I have more money, I’m successful. If I’m hungry, I’m successful.
We Christians think that success is when we find what satisfies our desires and this is what happens when you put the new wine in the old container: lose everything. For example, if I give you $5 million, you won’t sleep, you will lose control and be afraid of murderers and thieves. If someone gives you a Bible which is eternal life, you won’t even care if someone steals it, yet if you want to be successful for God, you need the Bible.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ Mathew 22:37
God has given the church a mind (head) which is the most important part of life because the body follows the head. It has eyes and the body understands what it sees. You can think, smell, hear and the mind controls all of that. If your mind is the centre and that is why God wants you to love Him with all your mind. My heart brings ideas but my mind decides.
Our best weapon as Christians is our mind and it is written 92 x in the Bible. If you have intelligence, everything that surrounds you will run away. Solomon asked for intelligence and wisdom, not material things. He was the best king ever on the earth and he had everything. Your mind can make you foolish or wise.
We were given authority to cast out evil while satan doesn’t have any power to cast us out. That power comes from God and when satan tells you to steal, your mind can say no. God helps us to think before any situation. The baby comes out head first and we place crowns on a person’s head meaning the head is important and we have to know how to use it.
There is a season to make wine where you work hard taking care of what you have planted. Even after harvest, the workers continue to work hard to produce wine. On the wine bottle, the workers don’t write their own name but they write, “made in NZ”. But for us Christians, whenever God blesses us with something small we have to take the glory. For example, if I pray for healing for someone and they are healed, I will testify how I prayed and forget to mention Jesus.
The first commandment in the Bible is to glorify God only. If you leave your Bible behind, your mind will tell you. God has given you enough intelligence for every situation. Israel was given enough manna for each day and the Israelites didn’t have to store any. We are very intelligent in material things but not in spiritual things.
Our life is short. The farmer knows the harvest season will end soon and he works hard so he doesn’t lose the grapes. NZers have a natural ability to work for a short amount of time and produce something great in that time.
Mathew 16:23, “Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
We should have the things of God in mind. We have to ask ourselves if our decision is a good one or a bad one. Some people are pioneers of satan and they push people to sin or push people to lose their joy. Christians are children of God, new creatures and if we sit somewhere without moving we will ferment like old wine and whoever tastes us will find us bitter. This is when people can’t even tell you are a Christian.
The manna means that God’s grace is enough. We don’t have to say we are hungry spiritually because God has given us His manna and we don’t have to tell people we forgot to read the Bible or to pray or tell God we are weak because His grace is enough. Be careful not seek your own glory. Act as a Christian, love God and yourself and share what you have with others. Before to pray for yourself, pray for others.
My mind is a weapon...do I know how to use it? Have I trained my mind to be ready for attack? When satan comes do I surrender or do I fight?
“So I turned my mind to understand, to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things and to understand the stupidity of wickedness and the madness of folly.” Ecclesiastes 7:25
If you want to use your mind as a Christian, you have to seek knowledge and know what is good and what is bad, who is God and what you should or shouldn’t do and ask questions like, ‘what will I gain if I do this? What is God’s glory in this?’ We have to remember we are here today but tomorrow we will stand in front of God. We have to use our mind properly to feed others and to pray for others and to lead our actions correctly.
NZ is blessed because NZers have a big heart and they give and God gives back. NZers are completely humble and everybody lives a simple life. They respect authority and God but NZ need spiritual light. How do we Christians help NZers spiritually? What do we do with our minds to help NZ? God fulfils dreams so tell God what your dreams are for yourself and the nation of NZ and your dreams to help others and to glorify God.
Thursday, December 27, 2012
By Colleen Podmore
Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet? What are you going to do differently in 2013? Be more patient, less angry, more forgiving. Make a new friend?
In Phil 3:12, Paul says, “but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
Paul has been saved from the penalty of sin, that was finished at the cross and now he is talking about what comes after that, in terms of his spiritual life. He doesn’t sit back and ride out the storms, waiting to go to heaven. He doesn’t just ‘cruise’ through life, one year following the next. He ‘takes hold’, he makes plans, he decides, he has a strategy, he follows through. These are action words, doing words..... Paul presses on to ‘take hold’, he is not going to let slip what he has. He is not going to loose his gifts through lack of effort. He is not going to neglect his devotion to God.
Matt 13 is the beginning of the parables. Parables are stories that compare and illustrate a spiritual or moral truth indirectly through comparing the truth to everyday events. There are about 30 parables in Matthew, Mark and Luke, but none in John, This is how Jesus taught the crowds of people that came to him.
Why did Jesus speak in parables? (Matt 13:10). People were following Jesus, but they weren’t seeking God, they just wanted the thrill of seeing the miracles. Nothing was changing in their lives. While the parables were easy to see on the surface, because they easily related to everyday life, they tested the sincerity of the hearers, who had to ask for further clarification. So it was a very effective way of teaching crowds of people truths that Jesus without playing into the hands of those who opposed him.
Matt 13:13 “This is why I speak to them in parables...Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand’ It seems a bit harsh – how can you blame people if they can’t understand. I think the point being made here is that they don’t want to see or hear the truth. Another way of reading this verse is, “though even though they see (seeing), they do not want to see, though even though they hear (hearing), they do not want to hear” The crowds followed Jesus, but only a few listened and changed their lives.
Jesus said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.” Matt 13:11. There was a clear separation of people in the crowds. Not all were there to find God. Be careful of crowds.
I’m sure we are all familiar with the parable of the Sower (Matt 13:1-23). The seed is the message of God. The path, the rocky soil, the thorns, the good soil represents our lives - people’s lives; believers, and unbelievers, everyone. Often this parable is used to illustrate what happens in an unbeliever’s heart which could well be true, but what about us, believers in Christ, could it also apply to us?
Let’s take the situation of the seed that falls on the path, which the birds come and snatch away. How many times have I heard a message from a servant of God and thought that’s really great and then a day later it’s gone and nothing has changed in my life? How can we ‘take hold’ of the messages we get? We could take notes, ask other’s who were there, speak with the messenger, asking for clarification. Ask for notes. Look at the website. Try and find just one thing for our lives.
Mark Hall from Casting Crowns suggests we ask ourselves these questions when reading the Bible and perhaps these are good questions to ask ourselves when we are listening to a message.
“What are You showing me about You? What are you showing me about me? Is there anything to take out/add in? A promise? What characters am I like?” Remember the word of God is like a mirror (James 1:23), also we need to be like the Bereans! (Acts 17:11)
This verse in Deuteronomy is a promise that God made to the Israelites, but could also apply to us today “If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow –to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to hold fast to him –then the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and stronger than you.” Dt 11:22,23
Do we want to be victorious? We must take hold of what we have been given and secondly we must hold fast to what we have been given.
If we look at the parable of the Sower again we can see in the second example that a person can quickly fall away if they don’t have a good theology about suffering. Because we will all suffer, the question is what will our response be? At our last Sunday service, Robbie spoke to us about what we can expect to experience as Christians. How at times God can seem quite distant. He also gave a little handout. Have you read it? I thought it was so valuable, that I’ve stapled it in my notebook, along with the main points of his message. When we suffer, do we fall into despair or depression because we don’t have a deep enough theology to cope with the situation? Here are 6 reasons why we suffer (see The Distant God) and what our response could be. Let us hold fast to God!
The third example Jesus gives us in the parable, of what we can experience as Christians is to do with the cares of this world. Worry and anxiety can easily take away our peace and joy. Let us hold fast to God’s promises. Let us take hold of our situations and turn the situations around, putting our faith and trust in God who we can’t see but we know we can rely on. Do we recognise when worry and anxiety take hold? What are our strategies? What verses have we memorised? When in a fix remember Phil 4:6 and be thankful.
The reason we can be victorious is because He has taken hold of us. He came to earth to bring his kingdom, glory to his name, but he was rejected, abandoned by everyone, even his heavenly Father, and crucified on a cross so that we might be called Sons of the Living God! He took hold of our situation, He acted, He overcame!
Psalm 18:16, “He reached down from on high and took hold of me”
Psalm 73:23, “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand”
Don’t Hold back
Isaiah 54:2, “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back...”
So this coming year, let’s press on to take hold of what we have in Christ, holding fast to what we have because God has taken hold of us. Don’t hold back, we want our lives to represent the good soil in the parable of the Sower, people who hear the word of God and understand it, sharing it with others, letting it change us, growing in faith and knowledge, soaring on wings like eagles and producing a good crop/fruit – love joy peace patience kindness goodness faithfulness gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22), yielding a hundred, sixty, thirty times what was sown.
Monday, December 3, 2012
By Hayley Boud
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, By deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom…the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, Then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, Full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” James 3:13, 17
“Let him show”
The verse says that we should show our wisdom by the actions we do in “humility”. So we don’t have to tell people we are wise, they will discover it by themselves through our good actions. They will see by your wise decisions, by your transformed life, by the words you choose in everyday situations and they will discover you are wise without you having to tell them.
It’s not just the deeds we do that need to be good but our whole life: our character, our personality. A good life is someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit and this is proven by the good fruits they possess, “love, joy, peace, patience, self-control, goodness, gentleness and kindness Do my actions reflect wisdom or foolishness? Does my life reflect the fruit of the Holy Spirit?
What are our deeds or works? The bible says that faith without works is dead/useless (James 2:20,26). For example, if I’m the leader on Wednesday, I know that if I spend the time reading the Bible, meditating and reflecting on a particular verse and working out exactly what I will say, my works will prove how wise I am because I will lead with confidence and I’ll have something to say that has depth and meaning.
“Wisdom that comes from heaven”
So what is the wisdom that comes from heaven? It is “pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere”. This is the wisdom that comes from heaven.
According to the Greek dictionary pure means not selfish or proud, free from defilements or impurities. For example, pure gold is only gold, nothing else, no impurities. What can defile us or what are our impurities....sin....negative thoughts, judgements, selfishness, rudeness.
Mathew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure for they will see God”.
Wisdom that comes from heaven (not wisdom as the world thinks of wisdom) doesn’t have any impurities: it won’t have any selfish desires or biases and it won’t cause someone to stumble, it won’t be motivated by self-interest or pride, it is humble and clean of sin.
For example, my neighbour is having a party and playing loud music, so I go and ask him to turn down the music but am I thinking about myself or the neighbour? If I were going to see my neighbour because I care about him and I want help him in some way..good..but if my motivation is my own desires...not so good.
So if I believe I am wise because I am clever or people have told me I am wise....I have to ask myself, “is this wisdom from the world or from heaven?” and the only way to know that is to ask myself whether my decisions or my heart is pure.
Wisdom from heaven is “Peaceable” which means it brings about peace. Wisdom from man doesn’t always bring peace but sometimes causes fights or jealousy or complaints or anger or revenge. I hear people all the time thinking they are wise with their words of “wisdom” but their words only destroy, they don’t build at all. Most of the time these people create destruction with their words and have no idea what they have done because they are too proud to recognise it. They think they are so clever and they genuinely think they are helping but they are not bringing peace to the situation at all and most of the time they make a situation worse.
e.g. one time I told a friend in confidence about a situation that happened to me in a church prayer group I was going to. I confided in my friend believing it would be kept between me and her. In her ‘wisdom’ she went and talked to the prayer leaders to find out their position. This destroyed any chance of me being able to return to the prayer group as the leaders found I had no discretion and could not keep my mouth quiet and rightfully thought I should have talked to them without disclosing the fact to others. It also destroyed my trust in this friend and I never ever confided in her again. She believed she was wise because she thought she could get to the bottom of the issue and sort it out but she proved she was foolish because revealing someone’s secret is to bring war not peace. We have to ask ourselves in each situation...will my decision to do this help to bring peace or will it just cause more disharmony?
Solomon is a good example – he took the baby and said to the two mothers who were fighting over who the baby belonged to, “I’ll cut it in half so you can have half each”. When one woman said, “no, she can keep the baby, don’t cut it in half”, everybody knew the baby must belong to her as she spoke as a mother would. Everybody was happy with Solomon’s intervention and it brought peace on every side. That’s true wisdom, from God when we are able to bring peace into a situation.
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God” Mathew 5:9
We know that the gospel of peace in Ephesians 6:15 is referring to salvation because it brings reconciliation (peace) between us and God, and therefore peacemakers bring peace between God & those around us and between people and each other.
Other versions say “Peace loving”: some people are the opposite of peace loving. Some people love to disturb and bring annoyance wherever they go and they purposefully disturb the peace. I think of Paul Henry on tvnz who some people just hate because of that while others find it entertaining. Of course, it’s good tv but it’s not good in reality to be disturbed and annoyed. As Christians we should try our best not to annoy others and be sensitive to those around us and do our best to keep situations peaceful. If someone is easily annoyed, then don’t do the things that annoy them.
“Considerate” or “Gentle”
“But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” 1 Thessalonians 2:7
A mum will bathe her baby very gently, washing away the dirt very softly and kindly, she doesn’t scrub hard or the baby might get hurt and she holds the baby carefully in her arms and won’t let the baby fall or drown. That is what a wise person does for others. They hold people in their hands and care for their souls with great care and gentleness. When the person is in a mistake they find the right way to help them, gently and softly so they can be cleansed but not harmed. A wise person never points the finger, “you are this” but talks kindly and through conversation helps the person to discover for themselves.
Eg. a worship leader once told one of the back-up singers to smile more when she sings which went down like a lead balloon. The person felt very discouraged because it was like a finger being pointed at her and it was like she was being told she was not doing a good job. Immediately the back-up singer became defensive, “I did smile”, “no you didn’t”, “yes I did” and it became an argument and then the worship leader said, “even the pastor said you didn’t smile”. Now the pastor is involved...where is wisdom?
A better strategy would have been for the leader to say, “you look so stunning when you smile” and this would have encouraged the back-up singer to smile more. This is a good strategy because when we help someone without pointing the finger...they can much more easily accept and they are cleaned without scrubbing.
Anyway, is it a sin not to smile? Sometimes people pick the wrong battles. They focus on the unimportant and leave what’s really important. If not smiling isn’t a sin...then is it really worth destroying a person’s joy? That back-up singer left the worship team stating that she was too busy but I’m sure if the worship leader had been more wise, the back-up singer would not have left.
Sometimes a wise person doesn’t say anything at all, they might just observe and pray and the person might discover without having to be told. I have seen this happen so many times. I have seen a person in a mistake and I have decided to wait and I won’t say anything until I see them make the mistake more than three times. Usually they fix the problem themselves without me having to say anything.
Proverbs 15:1 (written by the wisest man ever), “A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger”.
I Corinthians 4:21, “what do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip or in love with a gentle spirit”.
What would you prefer? Therefore, whatever I would prefer...I should do for others. This takes time and effort because we must first pray and ask God for wisdom and then we have to seek a very good strategy and then we have to remember to take small steps, slowly, slowly lead people to righteousness...not to expect people to change everything all at once.
Being considerate means we shoe concern for others and genuinely care about them, putting ourselves in their shoes and thinking of them first. This is to show true wisdom. If I am not able to put myself in the shoes of others, then I don’t have true wisdom that comes from heaven and if I’m not able to find good strategies to help people to mature in Christ with kindness and gentleness then I don’t have wisdom from God.
Next time we will cover the rest of the verse, “submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere”. For now, just remember that we want wisdom from God which is first of all pure (without sin, pride and selfishness), it is peace-loving (bringing peace between people and God and people and others) & gentle/considerate (caring for other’s souls, cleaning them softly without harsh words or actions).