Division and conflicts are problems that oftentimes happen in a team. It weakens the strength of the team and its movement in unison and performance is always troubled. It is ugly and destructive. A Greek storyteller Aesop, penned; “United we stand Divided we fall” has been handed by oral tradition through storytelling since 6th century BC (http://quotes.yourdictionary.com/art).
The Bible vehemently spoke against division for our Lord wants us, followers of God, to work in partnership and be in unity. There are strength and peace in unity and it is wonderful to see God’s children in unity. The Old Testament says in Psalms 133:1; “…How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”
Unity starts in the family. A family who seeks harmony and peace are the ones happy and united. A family that does not find peace and harmony will most likely fail, troubled and disband in the end. The same concept is being sought in the “Family of God.” Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:10 saying; “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.” Then he warned, “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned and turn away from them” (Romans 16:17). He also said in another letter to the brethren in Philippi “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things” (Philippians 3:18-19)
We have to heed God’s will to be united or else “our belly is our god.” We should all be united according to the teachings of Christ – not united against His teaching or united in distorting our Lord’s teaching. Let us go back to the Bible and follow the Biblical pattern- to be of the same mind as we press toward the prize of the high calling of God. (Philippians 3:14-15). How wonderful are we followers of Christ when we dwell in UNITY and in following our Lord’s instruction.
The ugly death of our Lord Jesus on the cross, burial, and resurrection made all of us Christians more than conquerors. Imagine this, Jesus took our shame, suffered for us and redeemed us to have the hope of eternal life. In this way, He showed that He was victorious over death. Death and evil have not stopped Jesus to prove He was Great God and above all of these. The hope given to all Christians coming from His resurrection shows how we can be worthy to be called God’s children. Our sincere obedience and strong faith in God makes us more than conquerors and death, pain and suffering cannot stop us like our Lord Jesus Christ. James 1:2-4 says; “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (NKJV). Our world’s trouble and pains are nothing to bother and hinder us dedicated followers of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Apostle Paul said in Romans 8:31; “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Our God is on our side and no one can destroy us. What a comforting word that no one can go against us if we are with God. Verse 38-39 “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (NKJV). This tells us that no one can separate us from our God when we always cling on to Him. His providential care will always be upon His children given with a promise to be in Heaven eternally.
Are you a conqueror? If not, follow and obey our Lord’s call for salvation and enjoy peace, love, and hope that one day we will be with Him in Heaven forever.
Please remember Steve Higginbotham , of the Karns Church of Christ, in your prayers. He has been diagnosed with melanoma on his foot and is scheduled to have skin graft surgery tomorrow ( 29th December,2017) .Pray that the procedure is successful. Additionally, pray that the melanoma has not spread, but if it has,that he can walk that road in faith.
Have you seen suffering people have joy in their hearts? It would be so ironic that at the same time suffering people possess joy. Truly, we know people who are suffering do not show any signs of joy. They either regret the suffering or could only murmur to relieve them mentally of their pains or situation they are in. Suffering can either be mental/psychological or physical. People tend to get away when harm is affecting them. In the psychological sense, resisting it and setting one’s mind is the only solution.
Christians are unique and different from the world’s mentality. Christianity is not a life filled with happiness and enjoyment in the way the world sees it. It is not “bed of roses.” Our example, the founder of Christian faith, our Savior and Redeemer did not live a life of ease. He was the Son of God from heaven, powerful and all-knowing showed a life to live and overcome all sufferings he experiences here on earth. He was despised and rejected, shamed and hurt and only very few believed Him. Yet He said; “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (Matthew 5:11 NIV).
Children of God see something the world cannot see. Christians are to set their minds. The joy a Christian possesses is different from the joy the world is offering. The world’s joy is just temporary and the Lord’s offer is “forever joy in heaven.” The joy that we Christians should possess should be like those early Christians who were admonished to look forward by Apostle Paul saying; “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13 NASB). Then we will hear the Lord saying “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34 NIV).
This joy we find in the Bible is “joyous Victory.” Nothing can beat that as it is eternal salvation. Apostle Paul says; “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21) because he was expecting that crown of righteousness that the righteous judge shall give him on that day (2 Timothy 4:8).
Can we Christians today who are true followers of Christ possess that kind of mentality? Can we joyfully look forward and possess that joy despite all these trials we face along the way? Though we are mocked and insulted “Happy are ye!” Let us start our focus on Jesus and His offer and have that joy.
Mother is our number one fan. She often works hard only to know it was for her children’s cause. She not only worked hard to ensure that we had a good upbringing, but was also very strict and sometimes she punished us whenever we went wrong. Even though I did not like the punishment then, I now realize and look back that it was meant to lovingly correct me and help me to follow the right path when growing up. I can vividly remember my mother who used to take care of me when I was so ill. She spends the time to attend to me and brought me to a hospital. At one time, I was so ill in the hospital and was about to die and I can only hear her say “David, pray to God! He is our only refuge.”
Our mother was a good cook and even knew how to bake and prepare for family’s gathering. Just the memory of the foods excites and salivate me until now. She talked to me about what will happen when I grow up. She gave great bits of advice. I can proudly say to all that she grew up in a Christian family who also wants us to fear God.
Sometimes I hear children speak badly to their mother. I hear a teenager calling her mom “you Crazy!” and tell her mom to shut up because it is none of her business. A lady in her late 30s told her mom to just shut up and behave because she doesn’t know anything better anymore because she is already old. It pained me to see her mother hearing that. What a sad scenario. I saw and heard a young boy kicking the door of their house so furious when asked why he came home too late or was not given money to enjoy with her/his friends.
We, children, should honor our mothers with obedience. Doing some work for our parents like fixing and cleaning is a small but important sign of respect. “Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord” (Colossians 3:20). Children can show honor to their mother by returning home on time and can take her advice about having the right friends. As adults, we can show honor by keeping in touch with her, if you do not live close to her, call her and share some good news about your achievements or your children’s achievement. She will appreciate these small remembrances and expressions of gratitude. Don Wilton in his article “Honor your Father and Mother” says; “Provide for your parents’ basic needs. Make certain you are not feasting at the king’s table while your precious parents are living on cans of baked beans! And, by the way, make sure they are eating right.” (https://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/june-2013/honor-your-mother-and-your-father/).
Lastly, when our mothers grow old, we have an opportunity to return the care they gave us, by making sure their needs are being met and the proper care is being received. “Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old” (Proverbs 23:22). This may even include financial support: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).
All of us face all different pressures. It sometimes felt like we are living in a “pressure cooker.” We are all subject to social pressures. And it takes patience and strong faith to hurdle these pressures. If we are true to ourselves and to God, these pressures will not hinder us and we will be able to continue to withstand the strong pull of the crowd. On the other hand, many crave for acceptance by others. Many pursue popularity as a means of happiness and seek support from other’s opinions. These are the “crowd pleasers.”
The Bible spoke about the Pharisees to be known as “crowd pleasers.” They loved the crowd and loved the feeling of being applauded. Zac Poonen in his article “Marks of the Pharisees” says; “they glorified in their obedience to the Laws of God on the outside. The righteousness of the Pharisees was only external. They love positions and titles of honor. They imagine that they are better than others. They trust in their own righteousness and look down on others. They value their traditions more than God’s word and they justify themselves.(www.cfcindia.com/books/fifty-marks-of-pharisees). When someone seeks men’s honor Jesus said in Matthew 23:5,15 “But all their works they do to be seen of men: for they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments… woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!…”Jesus continued saying “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” John 12:43.
We have to remember that whatever we do- in word or indeed, we do it for the Lord. In another way of saying it is with everything we do, we have the motive to please God. Our faith and trust in God are tested on a daily basis. As we walk with God, constantly acknowledging and seeking Him, we are made more aware of His presence. This means He is the one we focus on at all times in tough or good times. We do not need the crowd to please God. We do not need the crowd to feel good. Apostle Paul said “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” Galatians 1:10 (NIV).
Many Christians are afraid to Grow Spiritually because they are afraid to fail. Growing entails a lot of effort and responsibility. Many are unwilling to run the risk and afraid to leave the comforts of life for the “rugged life of faith.” However, God’s highest purpose for us is to grow to maturity. It is anything that we have to aspire and is worth having it. People who desire and work for maturity are willing to pay its price.
Wayne Jackson says; “the level of vileness on the part of some youths who profess a connection with Christianity is so dreadful, that my investigation of this matter has been one of the most heart-breaking experiences I have known in many years. Many of our churchgoing teens are marginal believers who profess religious ideas that represent an astonishing departure from historic Christianity”(www.christiancourier.com/articles/1126–shocking-new-christian-generation-the). They started to be stunted with their growth until they carry it with them when they are old. They carry with them the baggage supposedly left behind long time ago. The worst is they depart from the truth.
Apostle Paul constantly warned the danger of Christians not growing. In fact he feared that some Christians have no aims or direction. He compared Christianity to athletes in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (NASB).
Paul sounds so serious that Christians ought to take growth seriously. The sad reality is that many Christians do not want full growth and would never leave the “Kindergarten of spirituality.” They would rather remain in diapers and milk rather than geared toward to become mountain climbers in order to scale the heights of searching the scriptures daily. Apostle Paul added in Philippians 3:13-14 “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (NASB). Children cannot reach forward to what lies ahead. They easily pout and fall away. They are more fascinated with that which is new, playful, amusing, of no real purpose, loud and showy. Mature Christians understand life to have quality, purpose and value. Let me encourage you brethren, to grow and mature in our Lord with a goal and direction, willing to cooperate to the Christian demands and be optimistic of God’s promise.
We people practice some concepts adopted from the apostate church of Rome not knowing it is an abomination to God. Looking at the Bible, there is no excuse that our ignorance is used as justification. However, even with our ignorance, when told about it by God’s word, our attitude must be willing to change and follow what is right and do what is acceptable to God. Justifying their acts and practices even make God mad.
What is “Abomination?” The dictionary defines it as anything abominable; anything greatly disliked or abhorred. It also means an intense aversion or loathing; detestation; vile, shameful or detestable action (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/abomination). One that God does not like since the beginning is for a man to have any other gods before Him. Idolatrous attitudes and practices need not be explicitly religious in the sense of being directed toward a defined god. Anything that we love more than God Himself should be considered an idol. It does not necessarily mean a graven image made by hands. If we love our jobs more than God, our friends, family, culture, concept and other material things we possess is an idolatry.
We have to understand that in the New Testament the term idolatry is used to designate covetousness which says in Luke 16:13; “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” The point of our discussion is the love we should have to our God cannot be equally compared to anyone or anything. Idolatry can be more subtle according to Douglas Wilson. “It can be without images. The apostle Paul tells us in an aside that covetousness is idolatry (Col. 3:5). This means that the objects of a man’s covetous desire have come to occupy the place of devotion in his heart that only God should occupy. And given the nature of covetousness, we can see that idolatry can extend to anything — if your neighbor can have it instead of you, you can covet it (Ex. 20:17). And when you do, that’s idolatry.” (ttps://dougwils.com/s16-theology/four-kinds-of-idolatry.html)
In another instance, Jesus makes that point implicitly in Luke 14:26, when He rejects any who love their family members more than Him. Look at the Old Testament where God got mad as he said in 1Samuel 2:29; “Why do you kick at My sacrifice and at My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling, and honor your sons above Me, by making yourselves fat with the choicest of every offering of My people Israel?” Adam Clarke’s Commentary says; “they disdained to take the part allowed by law; and would take for themselves what part they are pleased, and as much as they are pleased, thus they kicked at the sacrifices (Vol 2. p.214). This could mean, “they kicked it without value” or “disregarded it without importance” that God got mad at them.
Apostle Paul identified some individuals whose god was “their belly” (Phil. 3:19). Their appetites were so consuming that the Apostle viewed them as worshipping their stomachs. He described the origin of idolatry in Romans 1:21-25: men forsook God and sank into ignorance and moral corruption. In Chapter 1:28, it says; “Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.”
Many times if not sometimes Christians are afraid of being ostracized for being different from the crowd. Truth has been kept and will never be revealed but rather we see Christians join the world and compromise the truth for fear of criticism or left alone. Others say, “we have already been this way and there is no way to undo it.” What is the truth? In John 18:37-38, when Jesus was put to trial, Pilate asked: “What is Truth?” Jesus answered, “For this reason I was born and have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to My voice.” King James translation says “everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice.”
Pilate did not realize that the answer to his question stood before him: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers say; “I am the way.–the pronoun is emphatic. “I, and none besides Me.” “The way” is again made prominent, reversing the order which Thomas had used. He and He only is the means through which men can approach to the Father.”( http://biblehub.com/john/14-6.htm)
Truth divides! Peace and serenity are oftentimes bothered when the truth prevails as it divides the followers of Jesus from the disobedient. It divides when the rejection of truth is made while it also unites when TRUTH is accepted. It divides the “truth-seekers” from the “blinds” who often times are the majority. It frees mankind from the darkness after knowing and following the truth. Matthew Henry Commentary says; “Christ has dealt fairly and faithfully with us, in telling us the worst we can meet with his service; and he would have us deal so with ourselves, in sitting down and counting the cost. Persecutors are worse than beasts, in that they prey upon those of their own kind. The strongest bonds of love and duty, have often been broken through from enmity against Christ. Sufferings from friends and relations are very grievous; nothing cuts more. It appears plainly, that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution; and we must expect to enter into the kingdom of God through many tribulations” (http://biblehub.com/matthew/10-34.htm)
Why will truth hurt? Is it not for Christians’ advantage to know the truth and be free from blindly following a wrong concept? Hebrews 4:12 says; “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”(NIV). One thing for sure that I can say; “Whenever the word of God is preached purely for a man to be guided well and avoid sin, it will always create division because there are those who believe and would not believe.” But one thing for sure, there is NO LIE in TRUTH!
Sometimes we have the problem dealing with people and we often fall into the trap if we do not know how to discern well. Remember, our Lord Jesus said; “They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” Matthew 7:15. To know them by their fruits means that you can recognize person’s real identity by looking at the evidence shown by that person’s life. You can tell what they are by what they do or in another way of saying it, one can detect them by the way they act. Other passage in Matthew clearly expresses the same concept in verse 12:33 which Jesus says; “”Make a tree good and its fruit will be good or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.”
Brian A. Yeager of “Words of Truth Weekly” said; “sometimes, we don’t want to see the wrong in people. Sometimes, we close our eyes to things we should be seeing. Sometimes it is our family members we cannot really see for who they are (cf. Matthew 12:46-50). Jacob certainly struggled with seeing what his children did with their brother Joseph though there had been jealousy for some time in the family (Genesis 37). Sometimes, we get caught in emotions and do not think clearly. For example, though Delilah had betrayed Samson, he did not heed the clear warning signs before him (Judges 16:6-20). Sometimes, it is someone who convinces us that they are on God’s side and because of this we cannot see the warning signs. The Old Prophet was able to deceive the younger prophet for this reason (I Kings 13:11ff).” (http://www.wordsoftruth.net/wotvol9/wotbulletin09062009.html). Christians should be aware that our enemy is deceptive. Satan plays like that and has been a liar from the beginning. He comes in disguise as a serpent that was proven in Genesis 3 as it says in verse 1 “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” This malevolent creature is so cunning and knows how to deceive God’s people if they are not strong.
Those whose fruits are not in accordance with God’s will or choose not to remain with Christ are to be “thrown away”. They are trash; unfit for further use. Christians have nothing to do with them. Wayne Jackson says; “six times in John 15:1-7 the Lord used the expression “in me.” The term is employed of those who are in “union” with Christ. It initially referred to those “disciples” to whom he was giving instruction on that occasion; later, though, the application would be to those who have become “disciples” in a more technical sense (Matthew 28:19), and thus have entered into the “in Christ” relationship by means of obedience to the gospel (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-27). These became known formally as “Christians” (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16).” (https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1074-allegory-of-the-vine-and-the-branches-the).Their fruits show they are true followers of Christ yet those who do not show any fruit and are dead branches will cut down and be thrown to the fire.