Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Kingdom of God - the Pearl

By Hayley Boud
In Mathew 13:45, the Kingdom of God is referred to as a precious pearl which the merchant was prepared to sell everything he had in order to purchase it. 
Does anyone have any ideas about this?  Why does the Bible refer to the Kingdom of God as a pearl?
Some think of the pearl as representing Jesus Christ and how precious He is and how precious salvation and the Kingdom of God is.  Others think of the pearl as representing us and how precious we are that God would send His only Son to die for us so that we might enter the Kingdom of God. 
Where is the Kingdom of God?  Wherever God’s throne is, that is where He reigns.  If He reigns in you…then you have the Kingdom of God inside of you.
What is a pearl?  A pearl is created by a foreign body irritating the shellfish to coat the annoyance with “nacre”. Layer upon layer of nacre creates a beautiful pearl.  The foreign body can no longer be seen, it has been transformed.  This is like the Kingdom of God; the difficulties we face create a beautiful pearl inside us. 
It is also interesting that the shellfish that creates the pearl is made of soft tissue and also interesting that the shellfish is alive.  We have to be made alive spiritually before we can create something spiritually beautiful in us.  Without the Holy Spirit we can do nothing and it requires God working in us to create the kingdom of God, a beautiful pearl in us.  It also requires us to be soft, not hard.  When we face difficult people or hard situations we have to remain soft and not allow the problems to make us become hardened like Pharaoh who hardened his heart.
Also, the thinner and more numerous the layers of nacre, the better looking the pearl, the shinier it will be so the more problems we face, the shinier we become.  The more difficulties we overcome, the more likely people will see the beauty of the kingdom of God in us and the more our light will shine.  Therefore, when we are tested we can praise God because He is creating the Kingdom of God in us which is so precious that the merchant would sell everything he had to buy it.
We don’t appreciate the value of the pearl today because we can culture them but when that scripture was written, the people of that time would have understood it more clearly.  To find a naturally growing pearl inside an oyster is so rare that the pearl in those times was the most valuable gem.  It’s pretty much invaluable = you can’t really put a price on it.  Of course someone can put a price on it by saying, “I’d pay this much for it” but would the owner be ready to sell it?  It’s so amazing to find a naturally occurring pearl that you wouldn’t want to part with it.
That is the same with the Kingdom of God, once you have found such a gift, you will do anything to keep it.  You won’t sell it because it is too valuable and no one can put a price on it.
The more reflective the pearl, the greater it’s worth.  When choosing a pearl, you try to find the one that reflects your image, like a mirror.  We know that the mirror we have as Christians is the Word of God and we have to look at the mirror to see our own reflection and ask ourselves, does it match up.  When I look in the mirror, I raise my hand and the reflection follows.  When I read the Bible, do I follow it?  Do I mirror the Word of God?  If we don’t reflect the Kingdom of God in our way of living, no one will be attracted to the Kingdom of God. 
Also, our lives should be lived in such a way that people will be able to see their own reflection in us.  They will look at us and compare themselves and know if they have the Kingdom of God or not.  If we are living a fuzzy life, they won’t be able to see themselves clearly in the same way a fuzzy pearl won’t show your true reflection.  If we are living one foot in the world and one foot in the Kingdom of God, those around us won’t be able to see themselves clearly and they won’t know if they are not saved.  They might think they are safe and going to heaven because Hayley is a Christian and she goes to night clubs, or Hayley smokes, or Hayley drinks etc.  We need to be a good example for those around us and reflect the image of Christ. 
It is easy to tell the difference between a fake pearl and a real pearl and this is also true of fake/genuine Christians.  Non-christians can tell the difference.  I can remember one time mum saying to dad, “She shouldn’t behave like that if she is a Christian” and dad said, “Yeah, but she’s not a Christian like Hayley’s a Christian”.  Meaning that dad could tell that the person mum was talking about was a fake Christian even though he wasn’t an expert in the matter.
Pearls are extremely hard and cannot be easily destroyed.  The only thing that can destroy them is vinegar.  Vinegar will dissolve a pearl and I thought vinegar could represent bitterness.  Remember it is the softness of a person which creates the beauty of the Kingdom of God in us but if we allow problems we face to create bitterness in us, to make us sour, the pearl will be dissolved and no one will see that beauty anymore…just an ugly mess.  When we become bitter, the Kingdom of God cannot be seen, the only thing seen is an ugly person and no one is attracted to a bitter, sour person.
Rev 21:21, the 12 gates of New Jerusalem are made of a single pearl.  This reminds us of the suffering that Christ had to endure in order for us to enter the Kingdom of God in the same way an oyster suffers in order to produce the pearl…Christ had to suffer to produce the Kingdom of God filled with Christian believers.
Mathew 7:6, “Do not throw your pearls to the pigs”






Monday, December 2, 2013

What is in your house

By Odon Bulamba

As a child my parents helped me to learn how to speak and they taught me how to be a nice person and how to do everything in my life. For example, if I wanted to touch this piece of paper and mum/dad says no, I knew if I touched it another time I  will be in trouble.

2 kings 4:1 – 7, “The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.” Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.” Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. 6 When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.” But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”

There is a time to learn.  From childhood until the day you die, you must keep learning.  God created us so we can learn and understand who He is, what He wants and what to touch and not to touch.  The purpose of a parent to have a child is to teach the child everything they need to learn and to represent the parent so wherever child goes, people will know that this child belongs to this one because they will have the same last name as the parent. 

Because you are here today you have to be proud of your parents. Many people today reject their parents, they won’t introduce their parents to others if they that parent is sick or has problems because they fear what people will say.  I have a friend whose mother has a problem with her leg and we were supposed to pray for her mother and we suggested to go and see the mother but after three years we have not seen her because the daughter is ashamed of her mother’s problems. 

How often are we ashamed of God or reluctant to tell people we belong to God?   Do we represent Him wherever we go?  We take our family name wherever we go, we know we belong in our family tree and even if that family tree that holds you as a branch doesn’t hold good fruit,  if you hold good fruit as one of the branches, people will come looking for you to find something good to eat.

At Michelle’s parents’ house there was a tree that grew fruit.  One of the branches of the tree grew over the fence onto Michelle’s house and I could take the fruit from her side of the fence.  Through you, how many people get fed? To feed people you don’t have to be a son of a pastor, being a child of God is enough.

When Elisha visited this lady, instead of being welcomed with joy, the woman was crying because her husband was one of those learning to be a prophet and now he is dead.  She continued, my two sons who are here, they have to be taken as slaves because my creditor wants them to work for them because I can’t pay what I borrowed.  She didn’t stop to say, hello or how are you, she didn’t greet the man first but instead went straight into her problems.

If someone tells you that, how will you feel?  Maybe you will tell them, “this is not my problem, when you took the money, did you ask me?  That is your business.”  We often don’t think about others or care about their problems.  Yet, how often do you tell God about your problems and how often does God tell you that He doesn’t care or, “stop it’s enough now, I’ve had enough of you”.

The woman didn’t know where or who to go to in her grief but the creditor didn’t care, he only needed what she owed him.  If someone tells you that they reach the stage now to give their children, it means they have tried every other option. How much are you loved by God?  How much do you love your children, how much do your parents love you?  Who would be ready to give your child as slave? Many parents would rather die or become a slave themselves than allow their child to become a slave.

Elisha didn’t answer her problem but instead said, “what shall I do for you?”  The woman probably knew that Elisha couldn’t pay back the creditor but after telling him her problem, she probably was expecting an answer of some sort, not to be asked “what shall I do for you?” because she has already told him her problem .  If you know of someone’s problem you should know how to help.  How can I help you is a slogan around the world and when people tell me that, I tell them the best way to help me is to give your soul to JESUS. 

Elisha continued, “tell me what do you have in the house?”  What do you have in your house?  If you don’t believe that God helps you or you don’t feel the help He gives to you when you cry to Him, God is saying, turn the page, “what do you have in your house?”  This seems like an irrelevant question because it doesn’t match what you are telling God.  You are telling God about your problems but He asks you about your house.  Normally people have chairs, beds, floor in their house but we pass them without thinking about them and they are normal and we give them less value because they are normal.  When you buy a new car you want to drive it around but after 20 years you don’t feel like driving it anymore because it is now old. 

What is in your house?  This lady gave a good answer.  She said, “your servant has nothing in this house, only a jar of oil”.  That is all.  She could talk about her bed, clothes but only a jar of oil which was very small.  The prophet didn’t ask her what type of oil, or do you have any food.  When God asks you, what do you have in you?  I’ll tell God, “I have a lot” and sometimes I won’t be sure what I have in me because God knows better but God insists that I tell Him what I have inside me.

Some houses have stuff that they shouldn’t, clothes that have been there for 40 years and there is a mess in the house, order doesn’t exist and when you ask them what do you have?  They don’t even know what they have.  There is a program on tv about hoarders; they can’t even step in their house because it is full of stuff. Other people come from outside and tell them we have to throw away these things but the hoarders fight back and they don’t even know what they have.  Haven’t you forgotten what God has given you?  The preachings, the songs, the prayers are stocking up without using them.

Many people will say, “today is the cleaning day and give all this stuff to Salvation Army to have a clear space” but us Christians today we don’t even know what is there inside of us.  You might say, “oh, yes, I think I’ve heard that message before” but what did you do with it?  When you pray, what do you do with your prayers?  Maybe you only pray for yourself. 

The prophet wanted to know what the woman had in her house and she knew that he was asking because she would have to give it away so she said oil rather than her family.  What gift will you give a prophet or the Queen of England if they came to your house and asked for something?  You will look for something special. 

Elisha told the lady, go outside and collect the vessels from your neighbors, as many as you can.  Everybody knew this woman had the creditors coming every day.  Who is that neighbor who will lend their vessel?  They will know that the creditors might take it.  This lady didn’t have a good reputation because of all her debt.  Would you offer someone who had a lot of debt something of value to you?  You might not because you will be afraid you won’t get it back.  Even finance companies check your credit before to lend money and they will check regardless of whether you have a job or you are rich.

The lady collected as many vessels as she could outside her home.  God will tell you, the little time that you have given me on Sunday, I want you to go outside and talk to your neighbors and ask for empty containers (our body which was empty until God breathed on it and gave us life).  The word of God is a container and the power behind it is the content.  Someone can have a head which is empty – no brain.  It is the content that matters.  The church today is working like an empty vessel with no content, there are a lot of people but the content is empty.  They tell you they love God, but why do you love God? 

Bring the empty vessel, that is the first step and they have to come from the outside of your home.  How often do you go to your neighbor and tell them about God?  Just next door, not 6km where they don’t know you.  Tell them how great God is for the sun in NZ.  Neighbors in NZ are kind, they talk to you even if you don’t want to talk, they try to provoke communication. 

We have a neighbor who knows everything on our street.  When you pass, she runs to you even though she has a sore leg, ‘hey do you know’ and she tells you everything about the neighbors.  Look how courageous that lady is to come up to us and tell stories.  This is gossip but if you are gossiping for Jesus, then go for it.  Most often we gossip for the things that are not important and put the essential aside.

On Friday I went around this area here giving notices door by door.  One lady said, “this is the first time for me to see a black person as Christian”.  There are many people in our neighborhood who don’t know who you are.  Are you recognized as a Christian in your neighborhood?  My name is Odon but my surname is the name of my Father. 

They collected the containers and Elisha said, ‘once you have the vessels, lock the door behind you and do what you should do”.  After you bring those neighbors in your life, after you have a good relationship built on the Word of God, share the Word of God with them, assist them, support them while the door is locked so they can’t go out into the world again.  Once you close the door, you are inside, what is outside cannot easily go inside and disturb you.  Whoever is outside will have to knock and push in order to come in.  Bless those who bring others to Christ.  Bless those who sacrifice their time in order for empty vessels to be used.  We were empty yesterday and someone told us about the love of God and today people can eat the fruit from our trees.

One person said to me, “I want so much to see God’s glory in my life but I don’t know why God didn’t have a big shop where we can go to buy glory and faith and understanding of the Word of God.  It would be easier to pay at cashier”.  If God could have that shop, we would never work because our money would be enough but you can’t buy grace or the HOLY SPIRIT or even your life, you are called to work.

Adam was told to work and Eve will give birth with pain.  A baby is in the womb for 9 months and sometimes longer.  Look how God is so mysterious and you carry the baby wherever you go and the baby gets all the food and medical attention it needs from inside of you.  If you eat wrongly, you affect the baby.  God has given you a big spiritual pregnancy; you have a big neighborhood inside of you and one day God will ask you what you did with them?  There are many non-Christians, everywhere.  In one day I can talk to up to 100 people just by going to Water World.

The next step was to pick up the oil and fill the empty containers.  Pick up the small anointment you have, if you’re good at singing, sing, if you are good at preaching, preach and those empty containers will fill up.  A small jug filled barrels.  Your little faith can change those who you think would never accept Jesus.  Your little oil will fill up the big container, don’t’ worry about your quantity of oil or knowledge just do what you can where you are.

When there were no containers left, the oil stopped.  How many vessels have you filled up?  In your family, work place?  Maybe zero.  Time is precious. 

A plant is created only once but in that plant there is a power of multiplication through seeds.  You also have a lot of seeds that need to be planted and He has given you the land and the opportunities.  What justification will you give God for your reason for not really doing His work while people are crying to you that their children are becoming slaves: druggies etc.  Children are dying not only physically but spiritually.  Do we ask them what do they have in their house, do we care?  Jesus needs us to talk to them and invite them into his Kingdom.

We will all pray and tell God what you need in your house, in the house of your family, in your nation.




Saturday, November 30, 2013

Guard Your Heart

By Colleen Podmore

There are many things we can learn about our spiritual lives as we daily live our lives. These lessons can help us understand what is important and how to live wisely. Last weekend I was out tramping on Mount Pirongia. As part of my study this year I have to find a specific native shrub that unfortunately only grows at high altitudes. This reminds me a lot of our Christian walk – in a spiritual sense we also are seeking a rare plant –Jesus is described as the Rose of Sharon, a lily of the valley a very rare and beautiful flower in the desert (SS2:1).

The thing is I can’t sit at home and find it – I have to get out there. I have to have the faith that it is where others have said it is and to start looking for it myself.  Similarly the Bible says we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses (Hebrews12:1 , Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnessess),  eyewitness accounts of the majesty and God says that he will be found by those that seek Him, especially when they seek him with their whole heart!  (Matt 6:33 But seek first His Kingdom). This is our journey – to know Him, to be like Him and to be with him forever. Amen!

Other thoughts I had as I walked along were how grateful I was for the path that someone before me had made. Imagine if I had to make my own path through the bush. No signs on the way, no steps to help in the difficult areas.  In a spiritual sense, we need each other  – people have gone before us showing the way - the church is a like a light shining on a hill (Matt5:14 You are the light of the world...), the word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, it says in Psalm 119:105. All through the ages there have been people, martyrs who have stood for righteousness, not denying the faith, showing us how to live in the darkness.

As I walked steadily up the track I was glad I had dressed appropriately, I had good strong shoes on my feet, a pack with drink and food, comfortable clothes, a hat. I was prepared for the journey. Do we go out in the morning without our spiritual clothes? Ephesians 6 talks about putting on the armor of God – spiritual armor, know your enemy-protect yourself. How foolish to go out in the bush in jandels, shorts and t-shirts. How foolish to go out in the world without the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteous, the belt of truth, feet fitted with the gospel, the shield of faith and the sword of the spirit.

Finally after one hour I reached the top of the first hill –I looked back and saw how far I had come. The views were amazing.  Sometimes in our spiritual journey we need to take time out, look back to see the faithfulness of God, look out to see His marvelous works and worship and thank and praise Him.

But I couldn’t stay there, I found my rare plants but I wanted to continue on the journey, so I struck out again for the summit. The path became narrower, I had to climb up steep banks, and once again someone had been before me and placed a secure chain that I could pull myself up with. Finally I reached a place where my heart faltered. I saw a glimpse of the path ahead and nearly gave up because it looked impossible – too hard for me.

Have you reached a point like that in your spiritual journey? It all seems beyond you? The Bible talks about this point as being a good place to be because we can learn a lot about our motivations.  Are our lives like the seed that fell in shallow soil – the plant sprung up but it had no root and when the sun came out, it died (Matt 13:5) we like the when we see what is in our hearts. Will we give up or will we go on, drawing on all the resources of God and experiencing His presence with us. Praise God for the tough times that we will prove thast our lives are like the good soil and we will bear much fruit!  Romans 5:3,…but we rejoice in our suffering because we know that suffering produces perseverance and perseverance character and character, hope.  James 1:3, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance

After walking for another 2 hours, I had to re-assess my situation.  It was about 12.30pm and I had just eaten my sandwich and it started to rain and I began to feel afraid. I felt very vulnerable and isolated and a long way from home. It would take me at least three hours to walk back to my car. Was it wise to keep going at this stage or should I turn back. I had achieved my goal for the day and perhaps I was now being stubborn and walking into danger. You seen not all fear is bad, it’s true fear can stop us doing things we have to do, but it can also stop us getting into trouble as well. It’s not the fear that is the problem it’s the voice we listen to.  So I assessed my situation and I knew I needed to turn back and make my way down the mountain again.

Sometimes in life we may be on a wrong track, don’t be afraid to turn back. The summit will be there another day. I gained a lot of experience and knowledge through that journey.

King Solomon also had experience and knowledge that he has shared with us from his life and the gift of wisdom that God gave him. Let us listen to what he has to say about what is important.

Proverbs 4:20-27
The passage starts out with a strong warning about listening to the words he is saying  (vs 20-22) an exhortation to follow  the good advice he is giving. But in vs 23 he gives the most important advice of all and that is...’ above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life’. Guard your heart or some would translate this word soul, guard it, for it is where life comes from. In other words make sure you live a righteous life. No-one will drink from a polluted stream – so with the heart – no one listens to a polluted life.

How can we do this? – Solomon goes on to out-line four ways (vs 24-27)

Firstly, watch your speech.  Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far away from your lips. But not just what we say, what we put into our minds, what we look at, the decisions we make and our devotions – who or what we are devoted to.  Eventually if we make friends with the world we will begin to sound like them and our hearts will become polluted.

The other day I was next to some guys who were talking amongst themselves and I was sort of eavesdropping. I was shocked with the way they spoke even though they knew I could hear what they were saying they did not refrain from bad language.  It’s amazing how some words can become ‘normal’ after a while and be part of everyday speech but we Christians should not use the language of our culture or our hearts will become polluted. Love is not rude (1Cor 13:5)

Secondly, don’t be too curious, vs25, Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.

The Spirit of God spoke to me the other day about this and I was convicted. At work we have a corridor around the building with doors into people’s offices. Normally I would walk down the corridor and peer into each office. As I was reading these verses, I was reminded of this habit and I felt I was not to do this anymore. Keep my gaze fixed ahead. And it’s the same with each other’s lives – do we ask all sorts of questions out of curiosity and expose the person’s life. Why do we do that when we don’t really care

Thirdly, make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. This speaks to me of decision making. Do I make decisions impulsively without regard for the consequences and end up in all kinds of trouble?

Fourthly, do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. Where do we spend most of our time.What do we look forward to the most. What are the gods we adore that distract us from our devotion to God?

Finally what are some things we can do to help ‘guard our hearts’

·         Spend the best part of your day with God – take time, don’t rush.

·         Keep a journal and write down verses to memorise, thoughts that you have, what you are going to do

·         Read through the Bible

·         Pray – talk to God, ask for others, yourself last

·         Don’t give up meeting together with other Christians, exhort and encourage each other as we look for the return of our Lord.
Above all else ‘guard your heart’
God bless you.


Friday, November 22, 2013

The Bride Adorned (to the Praise of His Glory)

By Graham Print

Deuteronomy 4
Deuteronomy means the second reading of the moral law. Moses is speaking in Moab, East of Jordan, going through God’s law the second time before going across the Jordan to conquer Canaan and to destroy the wicked tribes there.

Verse 5: “See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?”

Today’s message is focusing on the observations of the nations around Israel – what did the nations around the Israelites see? We the Church are the bride adorned so the world looks at us and observes. What do they see?

We lived in Rotorua for 13 years and our neighbors were an elderly couple which we had a marvelous relationship with. I’d sometimes sit and chat with the elderly man and on one occasion the door opened for me to share the gospel. I started but the man said, “No I’m not interested”. His reason was because when he was a teenager he lived in a small community and at that time there were about a dozen religious groups/churches. Each would have nothing to do with the other. They would backstab and talk negatively about the others. This closed the door for this man. These people who professed to know Jesus, did not possess what they professed and there was a lack of love among them. God intended for the Hebrew people (as written in Deut) and with His church today to be to the praise of his glory. 

In Deut 4:6& 7, it says the Hebrew people were a great people. In what way were they great?
Deut 7:6-8, For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”

God didn’t choose the Hebrew people because they were the largest in number. He didn’t call them great because they were great in number.

Deut 9:4-6, “After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

God did not call them great because of their righteousness. God says this three times which means He wanted to ensure people understood and this applies to us today. Our righteousness is like filthy rags in front of God but any righteousness we have has been imputed to us by faith – Jesus’ righteousness. We have no righteousness of our own, it must be the righteousness of Jesus. We are called to be to the praise of God’s glory, we are to be like light and salt that hasn’t lost its flavor.

St Francis of Assisi was born in 1181. One of his sayings was “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary use words”. We need to preach the gospel by our life, through our attitudes, actions and way of living. We should be able to impact the world by our lives even before opening the scriptures.

The church existed not only in the New Testament but also in the Old Testament. What is the church? How do you define it? It is an assembly of Gods’ people that He has called out. This applies in Old Testament and New Testament. The people of God in OT were the Hebrew people, one nation and were called out of Egypt by miracle. Egypt is a picture of the world in which we live today. The NT church, is not one nation. It is many nations but one people consisting of Jew and Gentile. In both NT and OT church we are people saved by grace through faith. Abraham is mentioned in NT as the father of the faithful and we are the faithful. In OT, the people were saved by the grace of God through faith. 

There are many differences between OT and NT which is obvious from reading the book of Hebrews. Hebrews reveals that the New Testament covenant is superior to the Old Testament Covenant. The sacrifices for sin were made complete in Jesus, He was the final perfect sacrifice for sin. God dwelt in the midst of His people in the OT church because God was between the cheribim on the Ark of the Covenant. The tabernacle was situated in the center of the Hebrew community. A better way has been ordained for the NT church because God dwells in each of His people by dwelling in your body when you receive the Lord Jesus. When we come together, Jesus is with us not because we are in a building but because he dwells in each individual.

Titus 1:5, 12-13; 2:9-10, “One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.”This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith… Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.”

This is a letter from Paul to this Gentile believer and an elder called Titus. He tells Titus to make the teachings of God “attractive” which means to adorn the doctrine or make it beautiful, to garnish it. Like going to a restaurant and the fancy meal is garnished with parsley in order to present the food attractively. We are to make the gospel attractive by our lives. Non-Christians know how Christians should live and they are watching and looking to see if we possess what we profess to be. If we trip up, they lose interest and call us hypocrites. 

Everyone to a lesser or greater extent is a hypocrite. This means that we act in a manner to gain acceptance by other people. We act according to what we think other people would be able to relate to.

1 Peter 3:1-7, “Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers."

Before I became a Christian, I worked in Whakatane for a few years in a merchandise store. At the time there was a Christian co-worker going to the farmers with produce. His name was Ian. I was a pagan at the time and had very little thought about religion but I was observing Ian. He was a very pleasant 19 year old. He was different. For example, if Ian made a mistake or there was a problem at work and Ian was the one to blame, he would straight away confess. In other situations when someone else was at fault, the guilty one would try to pass the buck. That impacted my life. 

Another example that impacted my life was a day when some of the staff went to a seminar. During the lunch hour we went to the bar and we all ordered drinks. Ian ordered something non-alcoholic and engaged in the talk. When he finished his glass, someone came to top up the drinks but Ian put his hand over his glass and said “No thank you, I’m drinking something else”. 

Another example was during the break time in the work staff room there were sometimes dirty jokes told and Ian would just quietly get up and move out. All of this time I was observing him and his example was impacting my life. Another occasion Ian invited me to have lunch at his home. Before lunch he asked me, “Would you mind if I give thanks for this meal?” I thought that was awesome. It was his own home and he is free to do what he wanted but he asked if it would be acceptable to me. He was so sensitive and considerate of other people and their needs. I thank God for Ian because his life moved me toward repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

I go to Waikeria prison weekly. Three years ago there was a special event there and I was surprised that Ian was there. I hadn’t seen him for 45 years. I introduced myself and he didn’t know that I had become Christian. 

Let’s be like Ian, presenting a beautiful gospel. We can present ugliness of self or the beauty of Christ. We can adorn the gospel, or fail if we are not walking according to His will. His instructions on pure holy living are in the Word of God.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Collect the Leftovers

John 6:12

By Odon Bulamba, September 2013
How much did you pay to God for giving you the air that you breathe today?  Did you think about the fact that you are only alive because the air is given to you freely?  This air is extremely expensive and valuable but we have it for free.  It would be better to lose my sight than lose my ability to breathe.  For God, the way that we see things is not the way that He sees things.  God looks at those who are alive sometimes and sees them as dead which is why He had to send someone to save us. 
Jesus put on a body (this jacket = flesh) and was not born at the maternity at Waikato hospital with caring nurses and pretty atmosphere.  His mother at 9 months pregnant had to go on the back of the donkey; no ambulance for her.  How many women would accept that today?

Mary gave birth in a very poor condition; in a place where animals were sleeping.  Who would accept their child to be born where cows sleep? Jesus grew up poor in the poorest area.  Jesus never knew luxury on this earth and although he was God, he accepted to live in these conditions. 

Jesus wanted to become a simple man.  His father was a carpenter and He was not education at school.  At the age of 30 He started His ministry.  The Bible says, He came as God to John the Baptist who said, “I’m baptizing people but the one coming will use fire, I’m using water but He is bringing fire”.  It’s easy to touch water but you’ll think twice about fire.  Jesus coming to baptize with fire; who will accept that type of baptism?  If someone says to you, I’ll use fire to baptize you, you’ll not want it because fire is dangerous.  Fire brings persecution and torture and can easily be consumed by fire so we have a fear of fire.  If you want the baptism of God, you have to accept to be consumed and accept your life to be changed.

After Jesus was baptized, He selected his disciplesiples and went to Canaan where there was a wedding celebration.  The people celebrating needed wine so Jesus said, fill these with water and the water was turned to wine.  Jesus was going one step up at a time.  He was a poor person and no one wanted Him and then John talks about Him bringing the baptism of fire and now there is this miracle of water to wine so people are now talking about Him. 

Then Jesus moved to another step where he met with Nicodemusodemus.  It was night time and he came to Jesus in secret, “tell me” he had the knowledge and knew very well the Word of God.  He wanted to know more and Jesus said, “you must be born again”.  Nicodemusodemus thought he was clever asking how he can be born again and maybe it was a type of mockery, ‘what do you know you man from a poor nation, how can I go back into my mother’s womb?’  It was hard for Nicodemusodemus to understand because Jesus was talking about spiritual things.

Jesus wanted people to understand the spiritual life and turned water to wine for a spiritual teaching.  The next step in the life of Jesus is the Samaritan woman who was at the well around 12pm.  Usually Israelite women in that culture fetch water very early in morning so they can have a shower in the pure water from that river.  But Samaritan woman couldn’t come early in the morning because she was a prostitute and people would bully her if she came early so she went after everybody had gone.  How do you feel when people are aggressive towards you?  How uncomfortable do you feel when people abuse you?  How much peace do you feel when all your friends are against you?

Jesus said to the woman, “give me water and I’ll give you back water that is eternal life”. The woman said, “I can’t because I don’t belong to your tribe”.  He said, “if you knew her you were talking to”.  He answered this way because He wanted her to think about spiritual life.  Jesus wants us to think deeper about the spiritual life rather than physical life.

Our business according to John 6:12, is to “gather up the leftovers so nothing will be lost”.

Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, to a Samaritan woman and now it is our time for Him to talk to us.  After talking to the Samaritan woman, it was evening time and Jesus left with his disciples.  A crowd was following Him and He told the disciples tell them to sit on the grass. When you are following Jesus, He will ask you to sit and listen, not because you are tired but because if you are walking you might miss what He is trying to tell you.  Then Jesus started to preach and His preaching was going on and on and people were like, ‘oh, this man can talk, oh it’s too long, can you be quiet’ but no one said that out loud. 

To my surprise it was the disciples who stood up first and told Him, ‘master people are tired, they need food because it is getting late, shops will close, please allow them to get food’.  If you think deeply, the Bible doesn’t say the people sent the disciples to tell Jesus, but they did it on their own as if Jesus could forget something important.  How often when we need something we use other people’s names for example we might tell the boss, ‘people are saying’ when it is really  our intention.  Jesus wanted us to learn something.  When we need something, just come straight to God and tell Him your problem and what you need rather than going through other people. 

Jesus said, ‘what do you people have, feed them’.  Jesus was told, ‘we have nothing’.  When you tell God I’m hungry, my brothers and sisters need something and Jesus tells you, ‘give what you have’ and you say, ‘you see I have nothing but you are asking me to give it to someone else’. 

On this day, a little boy had five bread and two fish.  That is what he carried with him.  When you go to the meetings, what do you take with you? When you go to listen to the Bible, what do you take?  Some go empty so they can be filled but at some stage you start to feel hungry for something else and that is when you see people distracted, they are at church but thinking about the lunch afterwards, or thinking about their husband, or about their holiday.  They are in church but hungry for something else because they didn’t possess it.

Jesus said, ‘bring the child here’.  There were 5,000 men (not including children or women).  Someone who wasn’t even counted is the one holding the treasure. The child held the bread and fish that the entire community will benefit from, wasn’t even counted.  Don’t minimize yourself, for God the little that you hold is the most important, no matter what others say.

The disciples approached the boy and asked for the bread and fish.  Maybe he didn’t eat all day and now he is asked to share with others.  Imagine I (Odon) bringing Eden up front (a small toddler).  [Odon calls Eden to come up but she says no].  For a child it’s easy to say no and they won’t think about the consequences but this little boy offered what he had.

The Bible tells us that Jesus said to put the people into groups of 50.  They were sitting down and now forced to sit into groups of 50. Once sitting, Jesus picked up the bread from the child, blessed it, broke it, gave it to disciples and told them to distribute it.  This reminds us that the little that you have, the small message you have, the little knowledge of the Word of God, take it and use it for God.  Many Christians are afraid to share Word of God.

On Friday went into town and these pretty girls were on the street and I said, “honeys, let me talk to you” and they looked at me like I am an ugly old person.  They came up to me and I said, “tonight is a good night”.  I asked them what they will do and they said they would go dancing for fun.  I asked them if they wanted what I had, I told them I had something funny and I could share it with them.  I asked them to sit on the seat next to me so I can share with them.  I said, “Do you know that someone can take the breath from you and you can become a dead person?  You could die today and you have to tell God this is what I have been doing?  After this life is an eternal life.  I will tell you something, when I was young, I was extremely naughty.  I used to do things that you’d never believe.  When I became a scout and being trained as a soldier, I was taught to be very naughty.  I could take off your shoes without you knowing.  I was very acrobatic and could jump and roll out of windows.  This training is according to my country way, so I could kill people.  Someone can appear to be innocent and quiet but they can kill, destroy and harm.  One time my mum told me, do you know there is someone who can remove you from where you are and bring you down.  Regardless of my age, I was only 9 years old when I started to preach and I’d started to learn jujitsu because it was a prestige.” 

Then I asked one of the girls, ‘do you see what I mean?’  Then I took one of her clips from out of her hair without her knowing.  Satan can quickly come into your life and steal without you realizing it.  I’ll have just a sip of this wine and then it turns into 10 bottles or I’ll lie just a bit and tomorrow you will be called a liar.  All these 7 girls that I was talking to prayed and I told them, go home to sleep.

When Jesus broke the bread that is when the miracle started.  When those pieces of bread were there, no one could see the miracle.  How could this bread feed 5,000?  He broke off small pieces and kept breaking pieces over and over and then baskets started to fill up.  The disciples gave it to the people.  We are disciples of Jesus and He is giving us today a piece of bread and He asks us to give those people around us some food.  When was the last time you gave someone spiritual food?

Last week I went to McDonald’s and asked for everything on the menu but the lady doubted and thought I was not serious and she wouldn’t serve me.  I had to ask the manager and he said, ‘this is impossible’.  I told Him, ‘I want to buy the food for you’ but the manager didn’t need McDonalds because he was surrounded by it and could make his own burger for less than what it would cost me to buy it.  Sometimes we have things we don’t need but others are dying for it.  How much spiritual food do you have in your store, how many preachings have you heard and how much Word of God have you read and listened to?  Why can’t you share it?  Many say, ‘I’m too shy’.

When I got my PhD I was the first black person in Canada who gained a PhD with high distinction and I was only 23 years at that time and forgot it all came from God.  I could sit my exams without study.  I could repeat word for word what the lecture would tell me.  I could sit a 2 hour exam in 1 hour and most of the time I would preach in churches and streets right before my exams.

Sometimes God gives us things and we think we are special, I’m an expert while you others are nothing.  Once I got that PhD I had an offer from 4 countries and people were after me.  When I put God aside from life, God said to me one morning while I was praying before going to work, ‘pick up your diploma’ and He asked me to destroy it.  It was very hard to destroy it.  I thought God was going to bless it but He asked me to destroy it.  I destroyed it but when I asked for another copy the University said it can’t be replaced, once it is gone, it is gone.  I used to speak 13 languages but suddenly they started to disappear.  God wanted me to wake up.

The people in the story of John ate the bread and fish and after eating Jesus said to collect the left overs.  The people were full and satisfied and He didn’t want to leave the leftovers for animals or birds.  In a restaurant here in hamilton, I went to see the leftover garbage and it was not attractive.  Imagine collecting everybody’s leftover food when you are at home and putting it all together on one plate.  It doesn’t look attractive: bones, potatoes, banana skins all together.

The disciples thought, ‘this is just rubbish, come on Jesus’.  Most people don’t like to come close to rubbish.  Yet, the chef cooked it, took time and effort for you to eat but the remaining is waste.  Jesus didn’t want to waste it.  Jesus made the food, He multiplied it.  When God blesses you, He gives you more than enough, He will multiply it only when you accept to feed others.  When you offer to God, you will see multiplication. 

Very often I live like a bird, I wake up and have no money but before it’s too late I’ll have money and even more.  Very often, wherever I go, people give to me.  Whatever I give, I don’t hesitate to give it away.  Whenever I need $5, I surrender the issue to God’s hand and ask Him to take care of it and then I get more than $5.

David said, my cup is full and overflowing.  Tell God, look at my job, it’s small but multiply it.  Tell God this is my situation, break it again and multiply it.  One time we went somewhere and met a lady who was 66 years old and her only purpose was to have a child.  She declared, ‘if God can give me a child then I will become a believer’.  According to science, once you reach an age, you can’t give birth and she asked us to pray for her, ‘If you want me to believe, do this’.  How can you sort this out? God this is just a small piece of bread back to you, to feed all those who will testify and once she gives back the story, it will bring more for you.

Why did Jesus ask them to collect the reminder and take them with you?  The disciples collected all of it.  They were to take the boat and He was to pray on mountain.  The disciples rowed the boat and somewhere in middle of sea, the waves came and Jesus started to walk towards the disciples on the water.  The disciples wandered who it was, they were afraid of a ghost on the water.  Even if you are a good swimmer, where will you go? 

One time we were camping and were told to kill the fire before going to bed but we thought ‘rubbish, that fire must be there all night’.  Rhinos and hippos always come towards the smell of fire.  Someone saw this big animal coming and screamed, ‘we are dying’ and I was like, ‘be quiet, let me sleep’.  But then I woke up and saw it was very close to me.  I froze in front of the animal and it came closer and I peed in my pants and was shaking and I thought I was dying and all my friends were in the trees looking at me.  I didn’t know what to do.  The animal sat down and I can tell you, those three minutes felt like 3 years.  The animal left, I ran straight into a tree and I realized I could easily lose my life if I don’t listen to the alarm in my life.

Tell God, this is dangerous, help.  Those who saw the ghost coming, they could see the waves coming, they recognized His voice.  Sometimes God will come to you through the waves and we think it is satan but it is God Himself.  When problems come, Jesus will be there to protect you.  If you want victory, victory comes from God.  We all want to be victorious.  Sometimes situations bring us down and things turn wrong and we need victory.  It’s between God’s hands and you only see it when you offer it to Jesus and ask for His solution.  If you don’t give it to God, you won’t get anything back.  If you do as Jesus asked you to do, then you will see the result.  You need to accept Him.  If you want yourself to change, ask God to break you.  God changed me completely after I asked to be broken.  I went to Sweden and was being translated wrongly.  God changed the situation and I started to speak the Swedish language.  It’s your turn today to speak another language and you’ll see God bringing solutions to your problems.

Pray for yourself and your children.