Sunday, February 22, 2015

Warfare



By Colleen Podmore

Are there different sorts of warfare? What sorts of warfare are there?  Is there such a thing as a Holy war or a moral war? Is war ever justified?

The books of Deuteronomy. Numbers and Joshua describe the Israelites going to war and some of the passages describe brutal events.

Deuteronomy 3:3b ‘we struck them down, leaving no survivors’

Deuteronomy 3:6 ‘we completely destroyed them…men, women and children’

How do you feel about these passages? Do they seem wrong compared to our Christian principles that we should love our enemies and pray for those who hate us (Matt 5:44). Jesus said that if someone strikes you on the right cheek, offer him the other also (Matt5:39).

Some people consider these passages as pre-Christian or sub-Christian, that mankind was evolving into a kind of more civilized people and therefore today there is no justification for war (NIV study Bible). However as we think about this subject we need to consider the following:

God was adamant that the nations living in Canaan, known as the ‘Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites’……were to be completely destroyed.

The reason they were to be cut off was to prevent Israel and the rest of the world from being corrupted by their practices (Deut. 20:16-18). They were detestable in the eyes of God and they would influence the Israelites to sin

This is a Holy war they are fighting because it is God’s war and as far as I can see – it is the only Holy war in history. The Israelites were given the land of Canaan to establish Yahweh’s kingdom. They did not then go on to conquer neighbouring kingdoms and so create a world-wide kingdom. The land had specific boundaries that they were to conquer and then to settle down and live peacefully. This is quite unique amongst the Nations when you consider the neighbouring kingdoms which later came like the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Greeks and the Romans. Israel had no expansion plan. This marks it as a Holy war and not a Human war.

“The war is about how God, who owns the whole earth re-conquered a portion of it through Israel. A kind of partial redemption. How the land was taken out of the hands of the Canaanites who had turned away from God and were fully under the control of evil. They were an idolatrous and dissolute people (NIV Study Bible)

(Dt 9:5, it is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going to take possession of their land but on account of their wickedness…)

God cared nothing for the land but he wanted a people to live there, a righteous people who were true to Him and upheld his honour and glory.

 

How wicked were the Canaanites? What about the ‘innocent children’? The Canaanites were set in their ways and they were not prepared to change. They had heard about the Israelites and how God was leading them. They had heard of the miraculous signs and wonders that had occurred in Egypt. They heard of the power of God through the plagues and the escape through the sea. Rahab testifies to that  (Josh 2:9-11), Moses tried to reason with the Amorite kings Og and Bashan to the east of the river Jordan, to allow them to pass through the land and in the end they had no choice but to fight (Numbers 21:23; Dt 2:26;3:1). The Israelites honored their treaty with the Gibeonites (Josh 10:7), even though they had been tricked into it (Josh 9:4).

Warfare was inevitable but they were not a people focused on war. Anybody anywhere who repented would be saved.

The people of Canaan were utterly corrupted by their beliefs and practices. They were polytheistic –they worshipped many gods. They were idolaters, they worshipped carved images and statues, they sacrificed their children by burning them (Lev 18:21).  They practiced all kinds of immorality, drunkenness and perversions (Lev 18:23, 24, 20:3). In a similar way that God cleansed the earth of the corruption of evil with the flood, He was now cleansing the land, this tiny corner in the world to demonstrate his rule and His kingdom.

Finally, these events recorded in the Bible also serve as a warning to all generations in all nations that God will judge wickedness and there will be a future time of judgement. That God although He is compassionate is also Judge.

These things have been written down to teach us and as warnings  (1Cor 10:6;11), and therefore we should set ourselves the task of understanding.

The Bible shows us who God is as He interacts with the Nation of Israel. We see in this directive His uncompromising holiness and we need a correct interpretation of who God is.

·         He is the Creator of heaven and earth and we have no rights before him except what He allows.

·         We are familiar with the book of Job and God’s response to him when Job demanded an explanation. Basically God told Job he was nothing and Job had no right to question God (Job 38-40).

·         Scripture says we should not fear those who can kill the body but fear Him who can destroy body and soul ( Luke 12:4-5, Matt 10:28 )

What is wisdom? It is fear of God that is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10) Teach our children to fear God through our examples, our lives.

These passages of the judgement of God on the Cananites remind me that God will ultimately judge everybody who chooses to live apart from Him.

Fear Him means to respect His authority, stand in awe of His majesty and trust Him and obey him.

 

People fighting wars today claim that their wars are holy and justified, but all I see are fanatics wanting to conquer and rule and subjugate and destroy – sounds more like the thief that Jesus described in John 10:10.

Often warfare within countries starts with a legitimate protest against some injustice and then escalates to violence and other more militant factions get involved with their own agendas.

·         eg in Syria in March 2011, there was non-violent ‘Arab spring’ uprisings and Al Qaeda became involved and the govt retaliated with armed troupes and then the peaceful protesters were armed and became more militant as atrocities were multiplied.

·         A similar scenario in the Ukraine saw the country divided and the threat of Russia invading which seems to have been sorted out now.

·         In the continent of Africa, many wars are being fought for control and possession of rich minerals and resources.

God is neither for them nor against them. But ‘blessed are the peacemankers’ (Matt 5:9). Both sides can justify their actions but at the end of the day both sides are guilty. God can even allow these wars and to bring good from them. For example, the early Christians suffered terribly under the tyranny of Rome – but this caused the spread of the gospel. What should we do? Pray for persecution?  No but pray for those who are suffering persecution to hold onto their faith and hope.

To sum up there are three sorts of warfare: Holy warfare, human warfare and spiritual warfare.

What about spiritual warfare?

When the Israelites were rescued from slavery in Egypt, we say that is like when we become Christians. Pharaoh or satan had power over us but God rescued us. When we believe that Jesus died on the cross and paid the price for our sins and we call Him our Lord and Saviour we are redeemed from the power of satan. It’s like God parts the sea and brings us from death to life! Salvation.

We then go to Mt Horeb and learn about Him and learn to worship Him (Exodus).

The children of Israel, stayed at Mt Horeb for two years and then Moses organized them into a military camp to go in and conquer the land, but as we know fear and doubt stopped them and they wandered in the desert for 40 years until that generation died out, then under Joshua, they went in and conquered the land.

They took possession of it and settled in it.

If the Exodus is a picture of salvation, what part of our Christian lives would conquering the land represent?

In one sense, the land is our own lives. When we begin to understand who we are, we want to change. We want to stop doing some things and start doing other things. We want to conquer our flesh and our enemies and be in control of our lives, being victorious over whatever stumbles us in our Christian lives.

Who or what are our enemies? Fear, doubt, laziness, sickness, poverty, loneliness, unforgiveness, resentment bitterness etc

Sometimes these enemies are not completely destroyed and they come back to defeat us again, but during that process we become stronger as we learn how to live victoriously!

Judges 3:2, he left some of the Canaanites to teach warfare to the Israelites

 

In another sense the land might represent out gifts, talents and ministries. Where in the kingdom of God do I preach the word of God? Perhaps it is at the Little Bethlehem Church as an administrator, an encourager and a helper. Perhaps it’s as a prayer warrior or an evangelist or a pastor. Maybe I have a gift of faith to believe the impossible, to cast out demons and set captives free. What is the land that we are fighting to possess?

The land is our lives, our families lives, our communities and our nation and to the ends of the earth. We battle for the hearts and minds of those enslaved by satan and to make disciples and to build the church. God said to Joshua and he says to us today, ‘Be strong – be courageous, I will never leave you nor forsake you (Joshua1:5). Let us put on the full armor of God and fight with spiritual weapons (Ephesians 6) – faith hope and love, calling on the name of the Lord as Joshua did and praying without ceasing (1Thess 5:12-22).

 

References – some websites and other sources of information used in this study

1.      NIV Study Bible (Zondervan)

2.      Quartz Hill School of Theology  http://www.theology.edu/canaan.htm

3.      Christian Research Institute  http://www.equip.org/article/say-want-revolution/

4.      http://followtherabbi.com/guide/detail/fertility-cults-of-canaan

 

 

 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Communion

By Odon Bulamba
(Summarised from notes taken by Colleen Podmore)

Amongst Christians, focus is often lacking. For example we can come to church and take communion as   if we were performing in a drama or production. We put on our special clothes, arrange our thoughts and attitudes, smile and act pleasantly, eat the bread and drink the wine according to Mark 14:12-26 and then go on with our normal lives.

At Easter, we commemorate the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. In many churches it is like a time of mourning as we remember the cost of our sins, the price that had to be paid and while this is true, wouldn’t it be better to remember that once we were slaves to sin but now have been set free and therefore Easter should be a time of celebration, of rejoicing!

We know how to celebrate on other occasions – for example the Independence of the Democratic Republic of Congo was on the 30th June 1960. This is a time when all Congolese celebrate, even if they live in New Zealand, this time is a time of celebration. When our birthdays come we know how to celebrate!

Imagine being with Jesus and seated at the table during His last supper. Suddenly Jesus says, ‘Someone amongst you will betray me!’ How shocking that would be? Are we distracted by other things rather than focusing on Jesus?

The gospel says that Jesus took up the bread…He did not take a piece of lamb which would have been more logical to represent His body but He took up the bread because the lamb had already been slain. He took up the bread without yeast, which meant that it was pure and He took up the cup …I wonder what we have on our plates? Are we focusing on the meat and veges, and we would prefer to eat this food rather than the bread? Sometimes our focus when we read the Bible can be on using Scripture to justify ourselves.

As we look at the bread and remember that this loaf represents the physical body of Christ and in the same way we are also parts of the spiritual body of Christ, the church, and so this loaf of bread also represents us. When the bread is broken, the Lord Jesus gave His life and was broken for us and in the same way our lives are also broken if we belong to Him.

We break this bread and share it amongst us and God breaks our lives and we share the word of God as it becomes alive to us. Jesus took the bread and blessed it and broke it (some versions say he broke the bread and then blessed it). Once we are broken, God gives our lives to others and we become a blessing if indeed we feed others through correctly sharing the word of God.

Be careful not to justify your own wrong behavior and use the word of God incorrectly. This is blasphemy. Be in unity with the church just as the loaf of bread is one unit. Your broken life has been given to be shared in the church, humble yourselves, accept this and God will lift you up!

Let us also focus on the wine and put aside our own agendas, our own meat and veges. Lord help us to stay on the right diet!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

"Me"


By Odon Bulamba
 
 
The word “me” is a powerful word.  Behind it is a power.  Very often there is something hidden under the word which is, “I”.  For example, you hear people say, “I decide this” or “I want this” or “I thought this” or “I told you” or “I’m planning”. 

 

In the Bible, Jesus asked His disciples, “who do you say I am?”  If God asks you that question, what will your answer be?  Who do you say Jesus is to you?

 

The disciples tried to say what they thought and finally Peter said, “You are Christ” which was the correct answer.  Peter didn’t say Emmanuel, or Son of Mary or Son of Joseph which is also correct but he understood that Jesus is Christ. 

 

What about ourselves.  Who am I?  Who are you?  I’m not Odon because that is just the name my parents gave me.  When asked, who you are, you can’t say your name…that is just a word, it doesn’t describe who you are.  To know who you are, you have to go back to the beginning when you were created, that is when your “me” was created.  God said, this is Odon before Odon was conceived. 

 

In Psalm 139:1, it says “oh God you searched me and you know me”.  God who created you and your father, knows you more than anyone or anything else.  He took you from somewhere and put you in your mother’s womb.  Nine months of pregnancy you were hidden and no one could describe what you would look like or your abilities and it was a perfect secret of God and finally God revealed it to the world. 

 

Very often the head comes first when you are born.  Why not the feet?  The importance of head in the bible is described in Ephesians 6:17 with the helmet of salvation to protect the head.  When the baby is born, nurses hold the head carefully.  The baby cries, me, me, me and all the nurses say, such a beautiful baby even if it’s ugly.  No matter what baby looks like or sounds like, the mother asks to see the “me” that is born (the mother is not the first one to see the baby).

 

When someone gives birth everyone will talk.  E.g. Ange has a new baby. Then there are questions, usually what is the sex and what is its name and how is the health of baby/mother?

 

No one can remember the day they were born, you can only know if someone tells you.  You can’t remember what you doing in your mother’s womb.  Before to know who you are, you have to confess that you don’t know who you are and the only one who knows you is God and so you have to come close to God and ask Him to tell you who you are.

 

The disciples of Jesus didn’t ask Jesus to tell them who they are.  This is a big mistake.  We should ask, “who am I?”  People can see you walking around the street and they say, this is Hayley but they are wrong because they don’t know the true you.

 

When I look at photos of myself from 10 years ago, I look different.  We change day after day and when we show photos of ourselves from many years ago, people can’t recognise us and so it tells us that the picture is not us – just a cover that God put over us so the world can recognise us.  What is inside you, is you.

 

There is two creations (1) physical and (2) spiritual.  The physical will stay on the world but the true “me” will go back to the father.  If Jesus asks you this morning, tell me who you are?  How are you going to identify yourself in front of God?  What will you answer?  Some will say I’m a father but that is a physical description.

 

God gives us the picture of baby being born.  First the head but some are born feet first.  Most Christians are born again head first but if you are born again feet first then you are born zeal first (Eph 7:15).

 

Elijah was supposed to be taken away and some people told Elisha that his master was going and God was taking him today.  The secret for Elisha to know when his master will be taken was that he had to be with Elijah every second, like a shadow which never leaves you.  Elisha become annoying for Elijah but when the time came, he saw the power coming from heaven and he panicked and screamed, my master where are you going?  Jesus also cried, my father on the cross.  Both Elisha and Jesus felt left behind and wanted him to be close to their master. 

 

Elijah took off his coat.  Those with zeal and courage to run after the gospel to study it and put it in practise, they can be very good Christians.

 

Those born head first remind us that we need the helmet to protect our head because it is the head that controls everything and so we need the helmet to protect our whole life.  We need to understand how our head works, our thoughts, our reactions, and our decisions.

 

If you want to see a soldier, you need to look at the helmet because it is difficult to identify the soldier while the face is hidden by the helmet.  God identifies you by your actions. To know who I am, I need to think about how my head functions.

 

Every item on the head means something spiritually (eyes, ears, nose etc which points to spiritual gifts).  The first point to identify you is your gifts.  Then you need to know how your gift functions.  To say I’m a pastor is not enough, I need to know how I function as a pastor.  To say I am a friend, or a mother is not enough, I have to know how I function as a friend or mother in Jesus.  I need to know how I function in Jesus wherever I go. 

 

Colleen who only weighs 67kg but she commands a horse that weighs 500 kg and the horse goes wherever she wants because she controls the head of the horse.  No matter how small your situation or friend is, if they have your head, they have your life and they can command you and push you to do things you don’t want to do.  Once someone controls your head, you are no longer you.

 

People have feelings verses the knowledge of the Word of God and those feelings control them.  Eg. I feel like eating sushi while I’m fasting today so I decide to eat the food and start fasting in 10 mins and it “feels” good.  God plan for you to give up the Word of God in order for me to fulfil the desire of my body.

 

Peter said, “You are the Christ”.  Christ means anointed one.  The Holy Spirit was on Jesus and He was doing things according the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is also upon on you.  You are anointed too but does your decisions reflect your anointment.

 

When I go to see the doctor and when I tell them there is pain, the doctor tries to analyse the pain and why I have it.  Today modern medicine can replace certain parts of your body but never your head.  You can replace your heart but if your head is gone, it won’t be able to support the new heart and the new heart can never support your head. 

 

When your gifts are dead, your good deeds are nothing.  For example, I offer you God $20 every Sunday, I pray every day, I read my bible every morning.  Are you trying to bribe God?  We should never tell God because I do this, I must be your child.  Your first role is to control your head, to make the right decisions.  Ask yourself, does this decision respond to the Word of God or not?

 

Last time I went to the movies was in 2001 and I asked myself, why am I here?  It’s not bad but what did I gain from watching Lord of the Rings?  I’ll be happy but then what? I can only watch TV or movies if I can find a good lesson from it.

 

Many of us don’t have good ears when God talks to us.  Many of us don’t want the Word of God.  Most of us here have gifts but we don’t use them because we are waiting for God to come down and push us.  We are waiting for signs.  I’m waiting for God’s time.  Did God tell you the time?  I think He gave you everything you need.  He is telling you to use it now but you must have the zeal to use it.

 

If you want to become Prime-minister of New Zealand, you have to go one step after another.  You can’t decide to go to hospital and say I want to be a nurse, they will tell me to go back to school.  We need to make one step after another with practice.  If you don’t want to make the first step and practise, then you can’t expect to suddenly be the Prime-minister. 

 

Do I reflect the image of being a son or daughter of God?  After 20 years you look at your picture, you will say, I was strong then to be able do the work of God but now I’m 90 I decide to do the work of God. 

 

Yesterday I went to K-mart and there was a crowd of teenagers and the police told them to be outside and they went in front of the entrance of the K-mart mall.  Boys started to shout, bro, and telling me jargons and dancing and I wondered how to treat them so I started to speak in my mother tongue and they asked me, “what does that mean?”  I told them in order to understand, you have to be quiet.  Many came close to find out.  I said, “Jesus loves you” and they all walked away believing it was for old people.  The older you get, the less time and desire you have to be someone.  God will never make you to go from zero to someone great, you have to follow the path and that path will help you to discover who you are.

 

Very often we believe we are right and everyone else is wrong but Jesus says that when someone slaps your left cheek, then give your right side also which means we have to accept where we are wrong.  We love to accuse each other but how often do we accuse ourselves.  I try every time to find out who did it rather than to find a solution.  Engineers will say, what went wrong because they focus on the solution and make sure it doesn’t happen again in the future but many people just want to blame.

 

The role of satan is to kill, destroy and rob and I have never seen a thief come to steal from an empty house.  If satan is visitng you, it means there is something important in you and you have to protect it by using your brain and say, no I’m not doing this because I am a child of God.  Everybody can enjoy with BBQ, but if today is my day for prayer then I have to make a decision to pray rather than go to the BBQ.  It’s a tough decision but you have to remember you can’t BBQ with you when you die.

M is a letter in the alphabet and so is E at position four.  When you came to know God, your position was lower, it was at position four with first the Father, then the Son, then the Holy Spirit and then you at position four.  The Father, Son and Holy Spirit came to live in you.  No need for a bodyguard because if I know that Jesus is living in me, how shall I fear.  Also, how can I sin when I know that God is in me, I can’t hide it.  When we say, I will only do this today, God looks at you and asks if you forget where you rank in the Kingdom of God. 

 

If you want to be a manager of a company, you will have many problems, and challenges.  E.g. at the warehouse two days ago, two men were at the exit doors and were taking measurements of the doors and taking photos around 8:30pm.  When I came closer they left.  I went to see the manager with my phone where I took a photo.  The manager suggested to get the engineers because they should have put camera there which means he wanted to blame the engineers.  You are the manager of your life, which means you are also the manager of your children, the manager of your friends, of your work colleagues and it is not easy.  It is not enough to know the Bible, you have to face challenges and be the leader. 

 

We can’t be like Colleen’s horse being led by others.  Just like a horse, you are stronger and full of power and effective but you are operating ineffectively. If Colleen’s horse decided not to follow her orders, it would take Colleen wherever it wanted and Colleen couldn’t stop it.  You can beat the horse but it won’t change anything if the horse makes a decision not to listen.  You and I have the power and if we decide not to follow the instructions of those who are leading us in the wrong direction, those who have ours head, we have the power to resist.

 

My son’s (Lebon’s) girlfriend’s sister was having an engagement party.  At the party they were introducing family members during the speeches and people were cheering.  People clapped for Lebon’s girlfriend when they introduced Lebon.  They called the sister and her fiancĂ©.  They said, these two are getting married and now we are waiting for the marriage of Lebon in February.  Lebon panicked.  The family was clapping and they said, you can kiss now. 

 

Lebon had the courage to say, no we never thought about or planned getting married.  Even if the crowd is there, they should not influence you, you still have a decision to make.  Don’t tell God you know my weaknesses, God looks at your strengths.  You can say my leg hurts I can’t go to church but God says, you need challenges and if you go to church, he will give you good mark: 5/5. 

 

Some people God has decided to take their children or money because they loved them more than God.  Would you keep serving God?  Maybe we will blame God.  God wants you to open your eyes to see the future.  To die is gain but if you are asked to die, you will ask God to wait.  Why don’t we want to gain?  When the time arrives, it is like our monthly bills.  You can say no telecom but the bill will come and when it comes it will tell you the amount and the date to be paid and you can’t put it off.  One time I made a joke.  The power bill was over $600 and I got a letter stating I would be disconnected.  I complained.  The power company trusted the counter that measures power consumption more than people. 

 

God has a counter and he trusts it more than you.  The counter is our head and when we envy, steal etc, the counter ticks over.  Your conscience is there to tell you it is wrong but we tell it to be quiet and we say it is my time to do this.  God warns us that a bill is coming and you may not be able to pay it.  Your sin will cost you a lot but you get dragged by your friend like a horse.  Colleen doesn’t have the strength to pull a horse but by putting the bridle on, it follows her.  God created us servants of God, not slaves of the world – that is our true identity. 

 

It will be a shame if you fail and you try to blame others.  The only accuser we have is satan but today people like to accuse others.  If they are wrong, pray for them so God will be glorified.

 

The last words of Jesus on cross was “forgive them, they know not what they do”.  Many people don’t know what they are doing and they enjoy what they are doing just like those enjoying Jesus being crucified.  Your mission is to pray for those who don’t know what they are doing rather than following them and you will see the true picture of you.

 

When I say “me”, I look at all those aspects and I ask myself, “what do I do for myself?”  How do I take care of myself?  Never be the subject of starting trouble in other’s lives.  Avoid conflicts and problems, try your best to live at peace with everybody which starts with yourself first.