Running or Standing?

What do we normally do when our world is turned upside down? Who do we question, God? In fact, the majority of us at some point or another during the tribulation we direct or indirect question God as to why those tumultuous moments. No one wants hard times, and if we had the chance; of which some do we get to run even though we would still not be able to escape. Luke tells us in Hebrews 12:8 that if we do not undergo hard times or discipline we cannot be his children; God’s children. We should not be too surprised when hard times come, I mean who isn’t, after all we are not all that different (1Pt4:12). When God wants to shake us up and call unto our attention he does so in many ways especially with tribulations and trials. Paul tells us that we should rejoice in trials, because they produce patience (Rom5:3-4). Hard moments come no matter what, and we cannot escape, but it is preferably that we stand.

Acts 8:1 On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.

Back in the times of the early church since a great growth out broke, many of the members we getting content and were not out reaching to neighboring communities. So, God allowed a critical persecution to erupt to the point that we noticed the death of Stephen and the rise of Paul the persecutor. The members of the church could not stand the persecution and so they fled preaching the gospel everywhere they went; except for the apostles. And, so I questioned why did the apostles not leave the city, were not they too persecuted? The apostles learned first hand not to run when they were persecuted for the cause of Christ. They saw when Jesus stood up face to face after healing a man who was invalid and laid near a pool to the religious and conquered (Jh5:16-18). The disciples also saw when the religious people confronted Jesus about he claiming that he was the bread of life and that they needed to eat it if they wanted to enter to the kingdom of God (Jh6:41-44). Jesus set an example of still standing after the persecution when he mentioned John the Baptist as a reed in the desert (Mat11:7-9). The promise that tribulation or hard times is secure (Jh16:33), but if we stand they will pass.

Hide and seek

When we were kids we used to play hide and seek at picnics and on the street where we used to live. Every kid in the block loved to play with hide and seek. We used to hide under cars, climb trees, slip into backyards, between houses; there was not a place we hid within our neighborhood. And, the last kid found in the game of hide and seek was the winner. There is something intriguing about secret things to man. We love to search out things that are not uncovered to us, that is why we have NASA. When God gave wisdom to Solomon the first thing that he did was search out matters about foolishness of the wicked (ecc7:25). The quest to find things is at the center of our hearts. So, when we are sick, because we do not know why we are sick we begin a quest to find out what we have and we do not stop until we find an answer. Take for instance the women with the issue of blood (Mt9:20), that she spent all of her money trying to find a cure and it wasn’t until she decided to touch the hem of Jesus’ clothes that she recovered.  God loves to hide things from us.

Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
    to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

Because God knows our every needs and that we love to search things out, he tends to make us search by hiding. It is to his glory to conceal a matter. Now, he knows how long we can endure searching and that is why he said that to him that seeks he will find (Mt7:8). The scriptures tells us that nothing hides from God, even those secret things we keep (Jer24:23); they belong to him (Deut29:29). Now, a component to helping us find out the secret things of God*(Mt6;6); say your healing, is prayer, Amos says that God reveals his secrets to his faithful (Am3:7).  When God conceals a matter it is only for us to recognize that he is in control and therefore, it is in his hands. 

Born again

Being apart of the Kingdom of God is essential especially since the promise for entering is eternal life with God. But, in order for one to really be apart of something complete knowledge of that thing is important. So, if you were asked how do you or anyone goes to heaven? What would you say? Many if asked what do you have to do to go to heaven, the answer they say is maybe be good, do good to others. But, in order for anyone to go to heaven they have to see what is it like and with many error religions out there, the taste for the kingdom; well, it’s just not there. “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” (ps.34:8), the bible tells us. How do we know the difference between the kingdom of God and all the other kingdom? There has to be an experience or an identifier or something that tells us this is it. Jesus told Nicodemus that no one can see the kingdom unless he is born again (Jhn3:3).

John 3:1-3

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.[

Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a member of one of the most religious sects in those times, and he had the earthly knowledge and expectation that the messiah was coming and that signs and wonders were to follow him. Christ’s testimony proceeded him; Jesus rose people from the dead, he healed the sick, and gave sight to the blind, so Nicodemus had all the evidence he needed to be convinced that he was who he was. But, he was intimidated by his religious sect so he came to Jesus by night, Nicodemus did not have the complete experience with Christ because he had not been born again. In order for one to be born again and be able to see the kingdom of God one needs to taste the word, the Psalmist said “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps119:103). Part of the problem with many Christians that come to church is that they have never been born again. God told Ezekiel to eat the scroll and when he ate it, it tasted like honey (Ez.3:3). Ezekiel needed the word in him in order to complete the mission he was called for. It is important that we are born again and that of the water and of the spirit (Jhn. 3:5-6) lest we fall back. Now, being born out of water is a symbolic sign of repentance and being born out of the spirit is more complicated. Being born out of the spirit, Jesus said produces the things which deal with the spirit not the things which pertain to the flesh. But, so many Christians today become engaged to the things of the flesh, and become entangled again with sin. So, Luke tells us that we need to not allow sin to entangle (Heb.12:1), because when we do the sacrifice of the cross becomes void (Heb. 6:3-6).

Listen and retaining

While the information age is well on its go and we are getting bombarded with it via various means like video, text and audio. Still retention is a problem in education and in everyday life with people of all ages. Forgetfulness, can come due to brain illness, or due to normal everyday problems. For example, transience where you forget things over time, or Absentmindedness when you do not pay close attention to what is being presented.  Then there is blocking where you have the answer in the tip of your tongue, but can’t articulated and Bias which because of your perception belief, experience and prior knowledge of something you have difficulties recalling something (Forgetfulness). Forgetfulness affects what God is going to do in our lives. David questions God’s wonders and righteousness on our memory as a place of forgetfulness (ps88:12). Luke reminds us that we should not be forgetful of doing good because that pleases God (Heb13:16). Jesus mentions the idea of a person who has ears to hear several times in the New Testament like in the parable of the sower Luke 8:8.

Luke 8:11-15
 11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

The parable of the sower is about listening to God’s word and things that affect its progress. Jesus speaks to the people most of the time in parables and was expecting his disciples to already be able to understand them; since they were most of the time with him.  Jesus explains the parable depicting four types of listeners. The first type of listener is similar to the seed that fell near the way side of which as soon as they hear the word the devil took it away;  Absentmindedness (v15). Now, how does the devil takes away the word from our minds? Distractions is one of the tools Satan uses to take way the word from our minds. Like it happened to Martha while she was distracted serving people forgot to take part of the most important thing which was the word that Jesus was sharing (Lk10:40). Those whom the word fell on like the rocky road received the word with gladness and lasted until they were tested, but because they are transience did not have any roots they fell away; we need to be rooted in Christ (Col2:7). The word that fell on thorns is compared to those who listen to the word, but because of their bias and cares of life allow it to be choked and do not grow. Last, the seed that landed on good ground they hear the word and no matter what they will make it grow.

Prayers and Alms

Prayer is a powerful resource for the believer. The bible tells us that we should pray all the time, that if we ask anything without doubting we should receive it. Prayer is practiced in mostly all religions in the world.  Prayer is recommended by many doctors as a means of releasing stress and help with some mental illnesses. Now, across the spectrum giving to the needed and making donations also is mentioned in the bible as important, it says that if anyone asks for your coat to give him the clothes off your back too. The bible also says that we should bring our tithes to store house and God will open the windows of heaven and pour blessing on the giver, that God blesses a cheerful giver. So, prayer and giving are of most essential to our relationship with God. Now, both prayer and giving are meant to compliment each other, doing one with out the other is a half way point, and so they should be done together. When prayer and giving are done together they complete the perfect remembrance sacrifice before God to move on our behalf.

Acts 10

There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:

Now, Cornelius was not a Jew or part of God’s people back in those days, he was just a believer doing what he thought would please God. He spent lots of time praying and giving alms to the poor. Now, the giving of Alms in the NT incorporated three exercises almsgiving, prayer and fasting and Cornelius was doing just that. He spent time praying, giving to the poor and fasting, and Cornelius’ time to receive a blessing not expected. All of Cornelius prayers and alms finally came before God and God moved bring Peter with the word and pouring the Holy Spirit on him and all that believed in his family.

Both prayer and giving of alms come with rewards from God and from men. The rewards from men are temporary and can be taken away (Mt. 6:19-21) and can void the rewards from God (Mt. 6:1-4). God’s rewards are sure, they cannot be taken away or lost. God sent the angel to Cornelius and commissioned Peter on Cornelius behalf. Now, God can not be bought (Act 8:20), that is his gift, but he can be moved and with prayer and alms.  Many of want God to move on our behalf and give us what we are asking for, and God might not give us what we are asking but will give us the Spirit which will guide us to what we want.

Urgency gone out

Persecution comes to everyone, no matter what social class, creed, gender or color moments of despair brought out by someone else or some system will come. Now, persecution usually comes because of one’s belief and though it usually comes from another bodily person, it does also come from our enemy of the soul; a spirit. Persecution or pressure is also a tool that God uses to draw his people to closer to him and to do what he has already planned. There are those few of us that do not respond to well to persecution and will give in and submit, but there are those of us who will press even harder and will not give in. Persecution most of the time will come unexpected and most of the time when all things are fine and dandy. King Nebuchadnezzar was a mighty king of Babylon and had his kingdom running smooth as it could be, even the captives slaves from the Jews were fine. One night the king had a dream, but the dream in the morning when he woke up was completely forgotten. The impact of this dream was so powerful that the king woke up tormented, but the funny thing was that he forgot the entire dream. So, he called all the wise men from this kingdom and tasked them to tell him the dream and the interpretation; something that was absurd for no other king in the history of man asked such a thing. And, so the persecution began, the king ordered to execute all the wise men in his kingdom, for no one could give him the dream and its interpretation; that is until Daniel understood the demand.

Daniel 2:17-18

17 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions:

18 That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

Daniel and his Jewish friends were living calm life at Babylon until the reason for urgency came about. God put this urgent feeling in Daniel and his friends to seek him. It is such as the state of the church; living a complacent and calm life, that now a days God is putting an urgent feeling for what is to come in us. It was as such urgency with the people of Nineveh in the times of Jonah as Daniel, that it took the threat of being destroyed by God through the preaching of Jonah for them to urgently seek God (Jon3:8). The same happened in the book of Acts when the first church was established, that they were calm and complacent with no problems. That Saul (Paul) ordered the execution of Stephan, and such brought out the Christians who were living complacently to go and leave their homes and preach the gospel (Acts 11:19). Paul spoke of this urgency of the day of salvation to the church in Romans 13:11 “This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed”.  The purpose of the dream of king Nebuchadnezzar was to develop in him an urgency of the kingdom of God which was coming, like the day of Salvation mentioned by Paul, and it was not going to have an end like his kingdom would (Dan2:44) it will never die. The kingdom of God will never end, but the day of Salvation is really close to come, and so we need to be ready.

 

Honor, “the vertical and horizontal effects”

The quest for honor has been on a decline for years. People today do not really care of what other’s think about them. Honor begins with what others think about you, especially those around us. Honor is given in two fashions; vertical and horizontal . Vertical honor is given to someone as praise and esteem who is superior, where as horizontal is given to someone who is equal. An example of vertical is giving praise and honor unto Jesus by a certain centurion in Luke 7. His esteem was so that he did not count himself worthy to come before Jesus, and this centurion’s servant received healing for act of honor towards the Lord. A man whom Jesus healed along with nine other came and bowed down before him in honor and respect and praise Jesus for the miracle (Lk. 17:15-19).  What causes one not to be honored? Sometimes, the things we say, the way we conduct ourselves, or someone else; just because, cause dishonor to come (ecc. 10:1).

Mark 6:3-4

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.But Jesus, said unto them, A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.

Jesus came ready to show his marvelous earth wonders to his home town, probably excited to see his siblings, their friends and the family. As he begins to speak immediately the questioning of his deity surfaces. And, while his divine jargon is being acknowledge, yet he is dishonored. Jesus’ sisters are part of problem; they were with or in agreement with the crowd. It was so, that he could hardly do any wonders, just several healing by the laying of hands.  There was neither vertical nor horizontal honor displayed towards Jesus at his home town. As prophesied Isaiah “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not”(Is.53:3).  Jesus can do exceedingly beyond what we can think or imagine, but if we can not honor him horizontally and believe then he cannot do (eph. 3:20).  God is our provider. He has made it a point to satisfy you with every good thing, and, so therefore we need to honor him with our substances (prv. 3:9). God is the one who heals all our infirmities (Is. 53:4, 1Pt.2:24).   Honor the Lord.

 

The chokers “worries and wealth”

The word of God does not return void according to the scriptures (Is. 55:11), but when it deals with man and since we have freedom of choice we can allow it to not phase us. This is not to say that the word of God returns void to him, its power and efficacy is not to be compared to anything under heaven. In fact, during the creation period everything God said was done, the heavens, stars, planets, grass, every living creature; done! In our very lives, when we believe the word, it has some powerful effects. In fact, John says that if we continue in his word we can ask anything and he will give it to us (Jhn 15:7), Jesus said that we can experience true freedom (Jhn 8:31-32), and he said that we can find purpose in life through is word (Jhn 17:17-18). Through the word of God we can find growth; maturity, to make the correct decisions of life and even battle victoriously (Heb5:12-14). So, when we allow the seed of the word of God to be properly sown in our lives we will reap beneficially, but the effects of the word can get choked up and taken away easily.

Matthew 13:22

22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.

In the parable of the sower we find many factors that can detrimentally affect the effects of the seed of the word. But, one soil was good enough to resist anything that would hurt the seed. This word has been planted on an earthen vessel the scripture calls it (2Cor.4:6-7). The earthen vessel was a heat resistant vessel used to cook and or preserve ones home deed; that’s good ground.  There are two important factors that constitutes one in a thorny situation or life style, one the worries of life and two the deceitfulness of wealth.

Now, with all that is going on in today’s world; abductions, financial breakdown at wall street, food shortages, sickness, people are becoming worrisome; approximately 40 million Americans feel Anxiety disorder. Worrisome is a problem that more and more people are coming up with these days. The solution to being worried is found in the recipe of the bible, Paul tells us “Do not be anxious for anything…”(ph. 4:6-7), Peter tells “Cast your anxieties on him…” (1Pt. 5:7), and Solomon tells “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad” (prv. 12:25).

The bible tells us that the root of all evil is the love of money (1tim. 6:10). It is apparent that nowadays with the ease of quick rich possibilities more people are going for it. In 2013 the number of millionaires rose to 9.63 the highest number of rich people ever. The choking of the word is being seen with more people going after crimes such as bank robbers and gamblers. Rising gross income to the US from 2007 of 10.7 to 44 Billions in 2014 from gambling such as casinos. So, when you think about money and its effect on God’s word in our lives it is not good. People are becoming more daring to doing a bad thing and following after the evil of the heart just because of financial needs.

 

Strive not

Being in discord with someone is one of the hardest things to go through. We all go through some sort of discord throughout life. Arguments and disagreements make us or break us depending on how we deal with them. Either way, we are bound to encounter discord no matter how much we try to dodge them. But, what are so common methods to deal with discord? How do we normally work through those unwanted circumstances? Do we snap and begin swinging? Do we begin to raise our voices and shout to the top of our lungs? So, how do we deal with strive?What is strive? Strive; to contend in opposition, battle, or any conflict; compete, to struggle vigorously, as in opposition or resistance. How do we handle disagreement?

Everyone has a way to deal with disagreement. There are ethical ways to dealing with conflict to which can make matters subside with desired consequences. Some suggestions to dealing with conflicts are to focus on what you want for that relationship because you avoid negative feelings to build up, and sharing concerns as opinion and not as facts will dismay the idea of accusations.

Matthew 5:40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

On this sermon of the mount Jesus gives instructions for Christians to deal with conflict. Conflict is a part of every man and women of God, if you do not have any conflicts because you belong to the Lord something is missing. Jesus said in this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer I have overcome; he said. Jesus shared the secret towards overcoming conflict. The secret to overcoming conflict is to go the extra mile for the person in conflict, and try not to get into strive (Pr. 3:30). A running result for conflict resolution is to do good to them that offend you. One always ends up ahead in a victorious way when you pay evil with good; it does something to that individual (Ro. 12:20).  Kind David understood this idea of conflict resolution, he left it in God’s hands (Ps. 35:1); he told God to take care of those individuals who tried to stir his strive. And, God through the prophet Isaiah assure his people that he would avenge their oppressors or those strive makers (Is. 41:11). As God’s representatives we must not react like the unbelievers who pay evil for evil or a tooth for a tooth, Paul told Timothy that the servant of God must be gentle (2tim. 2:24); like the Son of man (Mt. 12:19) who did not raised his voice in the streets.  Many times we found ourselves in strive hurting and being hurt by someone, because we took the wrong measures, but we  have the tools to pacify unwanted situations in life and it is through God lead.

A commitment

Commitments are part of all our lives. There are many situations that require temporary commitments and some require life long. Depending on the situations or individuals involved the type of commitment varies. For example, in a relationship such as marriage the commitment is more serious then on a repair job on a vehicle or home. In a friendship the commitment is more serious then in an engagement to go shopping for clothing. Too often we find ourselves juggling between commitments and their priority. We find ourselves placing in higher priority things that do not merit such stature and lowering the things that are important. It was such in the times of Jesus and the religious individuals where they confessed to have high priority certain things but their actions said otherwise. The religious people in Jesus’ time found themselves swearing oaths towards commitments. Anytime we find ourselves swearing toward an engagement or a commitment the impression is that we normally do not keep our commitments.

Matthew 5:33

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Our word should be good enough; when we say that we are going to do something, simply saying yes should be enough. When someone has to ask you several times “are you sure that you are going to make it?” has two implications. First, that that person has been let down so many times that they need to be reassured.  This father had two sons and he asked both to go to the land to work one said yes and did not go and the other said no but he went (Mt. 21:8). Commitments require a positive reaction even when a negative response is present. This father knew his kids and probably was used to having one say yes and never go and having the other committed to his commitments. In the old times if someone brought an offering unto the Lord it became holy and was not to be changed (Le.27:9-10), a commitment should not be altered (Nu. 30:2). What causes us to break out commitments and become full of broken promises? Isn’t it others who have let us down with their broken promises.

The hardest thing is to keep a commitment even if it hurts. Have you ever found yourself in a jam with a commitment? A commitment that after you thought about it it was had to fulfill is the hardest to keep. David understood this concept of hard to keep commitments (Ps. 15:1-4). Hard to keep commitments relate to the principal of eternal life, in order to be accepted into the kingdom of heaven we need to practice integrity. As Stephen Covey points out, “honesty is making your words conform to reality. Integrity is making reality conform to your words.” All the things we work for become at risk when we are not to be committed, Solomon said “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity” (pr. 11:3).