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.