OPPRESSING THE POOR LEADS TO LOSS
Proverbs 22:1-2, 7-9, 16“He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives his gifts to the rich—both come to poverty”. Proverbs 22:16, NIV For many years Hetty Green was called America’s greatest miser. When she died in 1915, she left an estate valued at $100 million. But she was so miserly that she ate cold oatmeal in order to save the expense of heating the water. When her son had a severe leg injury, she took so long trying to find a free clinic to treat him that his leg had to be amputated because of advanced infection. It has been said that she hastened her own death by bringing on a fit of apoplexy while arguing the merits of skimmed milk because it was cheaper than whole milk. The issue of wealth has always been an issue of great concern. Many people are willing to do anything just to get rich. When it comes to wealth some people neither have families nor friends. Today's passage is reminding us that wealth and riches will never last. What will last are the good deeds that can be attached to our names. We are also reminded that oppressing the poor to get rich will ultimately end in poverty. Wealth gotten through dishonest means will never last. We should always remember that the life of a man does not consist in the abundance of what he has.
- Birthday Blessing: “I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots.” Hosea 14:5.
THE FOLLY OF RICHES
Psalms 49:1-4, 16-20“A man who has riches without understanding is like the beast that perish.” Psalms 49:20, NIV In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus describes the condition of one of the soil (heart) as full of thorns which choke the seed from surviving. The thorns are later explained as “the worries of life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things” (Mark 4:19). These are what make the Word of God have no effect in the life of the person with such heart condition. Likewise today, the psalmist is sounding a warning to all that riches can be deceitful. Gold is good, but do not let it become your god. It is folly for anyone to make riches the source of his/her confidence and defence. Increase in riches, if not properly handled, can enslave the owner. Be wise, lest your wealth becomes your snare. When riches bring you splendour and people begin to praise you, understand that none of these—the riches, the splendour, and the praise of men—will follow you to the grave. No matter how much you try, you cannot carry anything with you to the grave because you brought nothing into this world. Learn to balance whatever God has given you with the proper understanding of His will for those things. Using everything we have to please God is the only way to fulfilment.
- Birthday Blessing: “So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:6.
TREAT YOUR PARENTS JUSTLY
Matthew 15:1-9“Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ Matthew 15:3-4, NIV The Pharisees were known for their strict observance of the law, although in reality, they only enforced the law on others while they put up an appearance of piousness. Most of the contentions Jesus had with them were based on their hypocrisy. They were demanding an explanation from Jesus on why He would allow His disciples eat without washing their hands thereby breaking the tradition of the elders. These same people will excuse themselves from their obligation towards their parents on the guise that they have pledged what they would have used to support their parents to God. Genuine and acceptable religion is responsible. Any religious practice that will not have human feeling is false. God has commanded that we should treat our parents well by honouring them and taking care of their needs. It is not how much of God’s law that we know that matters but how much of it that we keep. Like the Pharisees, we cannot be finding faults in others because they break human traditions while we are breaking God’s command of treating our parents justly. Treating your parent justly is an obligation towards them and a service towards God.
- Birthday Blessing: “See, I have placed before an open door that no one can shut.” Revelation 3:8.
WHAT DEFILES COMES FROM THE HEART
Mark 7:14-23“Again Jesus called the crowd to Him and said, “...Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’ ” Mark 7:14-15, NIV The background to this passage has to do with the charge the Pharisees and the Scribes laid against the disciples of Jesus for eating without washing their hands They claimed that what they did was contrary to the “tradition of the elders” (v. 3). The Pharisees are believed to be the custodian of the Law of Moses. They believe that every details of the law must be kept, especially when it comes to cleanliness. However, Jesus teaches that real uncleanness comes from the heart. Simply put, real defilement comes from the evil that is hidden in the heart and not from food that only goes into the stomach. Jesus’ response shows that one may be healthy in his body and be very sick in his soul. Outward conformity is not the same as inner transformation. A person cannot be said to be truly clean if he is not clean within. Can you do a proper check of your heart today? Can you submit yourself to the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit and pray David’s prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalms 139:23-24).
- Birthday Blessing: “…but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan.” Joshua 5:12.
CALL NO ONE PROFANE OR UNCLEAN
Acts 10:23-33“...But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean." Acts 10:28, NIV Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well confirmed the racial division between the Jews and the Samaritans (John 4:4-9). Beyond the Samaritans, Jews don't associate with the Gentiles too. Peter's noon trance of the large sheet containing all kinds of four-footed animals as well as reptiles and birds shows how the apostle struggled with God simply because of a tradition (Acts 10:10-16).Thrice, Peter was asked by the Lord to "Get up. Kill and Eat." Everything has been settled. The animals have been subdued. All that remains is for Peter to get up, kill and eat. No need for hunting. Thrice, his sad response was "Surely not, Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." He knew he was dealing with the Lord. Traditional most denied Cornelius' household the precious opportunity to know about Christ. All things that pertain to life and godliness have been given unto you (2 Peter 1:3). It is your attitude in life that will determine your altitude. Break away from all self-imposed limitations and embargoes. Quit complaining. Free yourself from procrastination. Just witness Christ. Don't be selective or judgmental. Christ died for all, even the worst sinner, so do not deny the people around you the privilege of hearing the message of salvation.
- Birthday Blessing: “...the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.” Psalms 32:10
THE SPIRIT GIVES LIFE
2 Corinthians 3:1-6“He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant - not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life”. 2 Corinthians 3:6, NIV The Christian life is an incomplete life until the coming of the fullness of the Holy Spirit. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost made a difference in the life of the disciples (Acts 2:1-4). It was the once timid Simon Peter who boldly addressed the crowd on Pentecost that the prophecy of Joel in the Scripture was being fulfilled before their eyes (Acts 2:14-21). He had earlier denied Christ before a maid who identified him as one of the disciples of Christ (Matt. 26:69-75). He even rained curses on himself in order to prove to the maid that he had never met Christ. Yet, after the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, about three thousand souls were added to the number of the disciples that day through his impromptu exhortation (Acts 2:40-41).Every child of God needs the ministry of the Holy Spirit in order to make a difference in this generation. Do you dread working for Christ in your fellowship or church? Do you run away or avoid arriving on time when it is your turn to lead a short devotion or exhortation? Do you desire to be a minister of the new covenant, a minister of life? Come to the living water, and drink until you are satisfied (Luke 24:49; John 7:37-39).
- Birthday Blessing: “But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of a unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.” Psalms 92:10
HONOUR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER
Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16“Honour your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you”. Exodus 20:12 Many people think that parenting is all about fathering a child or birthing a child. The truth is that parenting goes beyond what our eyes have seen. It involves several sacrifices that we will never be able to understand until we become parents. It is from our parent that we are given the privilege of life. From their lives we have the opportunity to also experience life. God is instructing us today to appreciate the lives we have received from our parents by honouring them. To honour our parents means to give them respect, admiration, regard, reverence and devotion or to esteem, exalt, and treat them with dignity. This instruction is attached to the promise of long life and prosperity. If we desire to live long and live well in this world, then we must learn how to honour our parents. We must give respect to our father and our mother, as well as everyone that is older than us. This instruction is not attached to how they have treated us. This means that it does not matter what you have gone through in the hands of your parents. Even if they have maltreated you, you can ask God for the grace to honour them so that you can partake of the blessings attached to this instruction.
- Birthday Blessing: “The Lord your God has increased your numbers so that today you are as many as the stars in the sky.” Deuteronomy 1:10
LET JUSTICE ROLL LIKE WATER
Amos 5:18-24“But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” Amos 5:24, NIV Righteousness and justice are hard to come by in today’s world. Those who are mighty use their position and wealth to oppress the weak. The sense of right and wrong is becoming blurred in this generation. Yet, believers are called to hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt. 5:6). God spoke through Amos to the children of Israel in our passage today. The people desire the day of the Lord even though their ways are not right with God. They sing songs to God and offer sacrifices but their hearts is far from Him. They have misplaced justice and have not treated the weak with fairness. The Church today is not immune to the sins of the Israelites. Justice has been misplaced even in the house of God. People now give honour and respect to those who can pay their way through life. Pastors feel comfortable to bless anyone who is able to give generously to his ministry, even if they don't have the fear of God. God is calling our attention to the fact that He values justice more than sacrifice. He wants believers to deliver justice to the oppressed and the weak in the society. We have been called to be the voice of God in a world filled with injustice.
- Birthday Blessing: “The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee.” Psalm 20:1
WASH AWAY YOUR EVIL WAYS
Isaiah 1:12-17“Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong”. Isaiah 1:16, NIV Many people desire to have a smooth relationship with God. Many of us look up to some powerful men of God and we wish to be like them. One major thing that hinders our fellowship with God is sin. Many lives and hearts have been stained by sin. Today's passage made it clear that anyone with a sinful heart cannot do anything to please God. When we live in sin, all our sacrifices and offerings can never be acceptable to God. Sin must be dealt with in our lives. We must purge ourselves and break our fallow ground. Minute issues of life and character must be addressed. Not everyone can ascend the hill of the Lord and dwell in His holy place. God requires clean hands and a pure heart. Purity of heart is a crucial pre-requisite for anyone to stand before God. Our hearts must be purged of self and impurities. The Scripture says in Matt. 5: 8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." If we desire to see God in any area of our lives, then we must be ready to turn away from everything that looks sinful and remove every wicked act far from us. Then we can sincerely seek the face of God and enjoy His presence.
- Birthday Blessing: “God will bless you with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3
JESUS EXPLAINS PARABLE OF THE WEEDS
Matthew 13:34-43“The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one”. Matthew 13:38, NIV The issue of weed is a common issue among the farmers. Every farmer fight weeds year after year, yet none can say he or she can completely eradicate the weeds from the seeds they have planted. In today's passage, Jesus explains the parable of weed to the disciples. Jesus likened His children to the good seed planted by God and the children of the devil to the weed that grows where they are not wanted. This implies that the world that we live in consists of both children of God and the children of the devil. As a believer, you belong to the kingdom of Light though you are surrounded by the gross darkness of this world. You are not competing with the sons of the evil one planted by the devil, the enemy of all righteousness, to distract believers and make them lose focus. However, many children of God are ignorant of the schemes of the wicked one. They allow the things of this world to take their attention away from God. God is reminding us today that He will put separation between the good seed and the weed. The weed will be burnt while the good seed will shine forth as the sun. Hold on to God and experience freedom from the wickedness of this world.
- Birthday Blessing: “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” Psalms 143:10