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August 2011

 
 

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August 2011

August 7

When talking about the end times, the bible gives us the example of Noah: “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:26-27) The following example offered by the bible is that of Lot, during his generation, people were quickly departing from God and losing interest in family life: “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.” (Luke 17:28-30) The Scriptures continue to warn us: “Remember Lot’s wife!” (Luke 17:32) Why should we remember her? Why is the point of remembering her? We need to remember that as a result of her disobedience, she lost her life and family.

How did she lose her life and family? Along with her husband Lot, they chose to live in a broken city- Sodom- that was filled with immorality. Even though they were less influenced by the culture, their children were compromised both spiritually and morally. People in Sodom were preoccupied with their rejection of God, partaking in sins that were blasphemous in the name of our Creator. God’s angels came to punish the people of Sodom and Gomorrah and to save Lot and his family, as an answer to Abraham’s prayer, who was God’s faithful servant. Lot, his wife, and his two daughters were taken by the angels from the burning city. Both of his son-in-laws were left behind to burn in the tarnished city. What a tragedy!

The angels quickly laid out God’s plan and conditions:

1. “Don’t look back.”

2. “Don’t stop anywhere in the plain”

3. “Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!” (Gen 19:17)

The fields and the city were where Lot and his family had their entire life’s work, and now they were told to leave with an empty hand?! To not even look back at the things for which that they had sacrificed their spiritual relation with God?! At the things that separated them from Abraham, who tried to do good by them?! In Sodom they had left in laws, their daughters’ husbands; because they did not want leave the fallen city? Not to stop in the fields, which were the center of the market and growing commerce of that time?! To go to the mountains, alone, where there were no possibilities for a future?!

But still, surely life was more precious than anything of materiel worth that was gathered in the city surrounded by fire. Guided by the angels, they left the city. The message was “Don’t look back”. But still, behind them lay everything, in front…nothing. Lot’s wife, guided by these unsure thoughts and remembering the past in Sodom, looked back; anyways she was used to ignoring the Creator’s rules. Suddenly, Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt, remaining there because of her disobedience. What a paradox to die on the road to salvation! The Scripture says: “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32).

1. Remember that by choosing to live a sinful life, you will lose your life and your family.

2. Remember that how we live our life influences our children, trapping them.

3. Remember that when you live in sin it is a slow process, but sure, and even in the neighboring city, where Lot arrives, with time, it will arrive to the center of the city.

4. Remember that normally our children are a part of the culture in which they live, picking up their morals and values, rather than those of the parents.

5. Remember that for every man there exists “a final chance” and after that we will face consequence.

“It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.” (Luke 17:28-30) What surroundings are you living in? What are your children’s surroundings? Look at the disobedience with which “our city” faces God and understands his message of deliberation: “Don’t look back, don’t stop in the plains, flee to the mountains! (Gen. 19:17) Leave now, right now.

August 14

The miracle of the healing of the 38 year old man at the pool of Bethesda is very well known by readers of the bible. The miracle brings to light one of the greatest realities of history:

1. The faithlessness of humans in the face of tragedy

2. The divine offering of solutions for the restoration of mankind

These realities are seen throughout the history of mankind, as well as through the personal experience of each individual, and with the lame man that was abandoned in the “hospital” of Bethesda.

1. THE FAITHLESSNESS OF THE SICK MAN

The disaster of this man’s life was provoked and amplified due to several factors:

1. Disease- “disease for 38 years” (John 5:3). This man was paralyzed and most likely was born this way. A 38 year old man who was dependent on somebody’s help for even the smallest need!

2. 2. Loneliness- “I don’t have anybody” (verse 7a). Loneliness, although a reality, is perceived differently based on a person’s temperament. People with the Choleric and Sanguine temperaments have a more accented reaction to loneliness, as opposed to those who are Melancholic and Phlegmatic, because of their extroverted and sociable nature.

3. Inferiority- “While I am trying to get there, someone else always gets in ahead of me” (verse 7b). This sick and abandoned man was used to coming in second place; he lost life’s battles time and time again.

4. The formality of religion- “You can’t work on the Sabbath! It’s illegal to carry that sleeping mat!” (Verse 10) The Pharisees that criticized the man for accepting the healing probably knew the lame man. Who did not know the lame man? He was dependent on the mercy of his peers at 38 years of age. Now it was his turn to be healed, according to God’s agenda, and the Pharisees contested this matter. Ironically, it was the day in which God apparently did not have the authority to heal anybody. The Jews had 1521 regulations that allowed them to follow the 10 commandments that were given by God, especially the 39 laws that were put in place to maintain the holiness of the Sabbath.

5. Ignorance- “The man didn’t know (who had healed him)” (verse 13). Because he was always alone, he was not current on worldly events, and he had not heard about the Nazarene carpenter’s son, who otherwise was very popular in Israel.

II. THE DIVINE GREATNESS

In contrast to the despair and limits of mankind, divine greatness and almightiness shines through. Through divine mercy, man is separated, isolated, from personal sin. The solution is salvation. Salvation is the only way to make amends with God; it is the method through which our sins are saved. The man abandoned in the pool of Bethesda had part of divine greatness:

1. Mercy- “Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches” (verse 1-2). A great celebration in the Jewish capitol and the Savior was also on his way to Jerusalem. Only through His mercy, Jesus does not go to the celebration but instead goes to the “hospital”. He goes to the pool of Bethesda where “crowds of sick people- blind, lame, or paralyzed- lay on the porches” (verse 3). Through His mercy, God will be beside the sick man, any day, and in any place.

2. Selection- “When Jesus saw him and knew how long he had been ill, he asked him…” (verse 6a). There were very many sick people, but God selected him. The Savior was fully aware of the intense suffering of every man. In His agenda, it is a moment of healing. It was the time of the lame man who had waited 38 years. What greatness!

3. Teaching- “Would you like to get well?” (verse 6b). He was in that place because he had the hope that he would be healed. God’s question had the scope of teaching the man a lesson- the lesson that God works hand in hand with man when it is a problem of salvation and healing. Man wants, desires, seeks…and God, because of man’s faith, forgives him, heals him. When man wants, God can. Because of this God “cannot” forgive millions of people in the world- because they do not want it. Some falsely believe that God does everything; some falsely believe that man does everything. The Savior taught the sick man that God works hand in hand with man.

God is waiting for you TO WANT to be saved. Tell Him, ask Him with faith today.

August 21

2,000 years ago, in a time when the Savior was on earth in His physical body Jerusalem was the center of the Hebrew spirituality. There was the Temple, the priests and Levites; the national holidays were celebrated there, that is were the major theological seminaries were held and the representatives of the great schools of thought which influence society were there. Jerusalem was Israel’s best asset at that time. This assessment is supported by historical, biblical, religious, logical arguments.

Jesus our Savior has a different point of view. He came from Galilee and was headed to Jerusalem. Most of His earthly mission took place in Galilee. In the homeland of fishermen and farmers, between simple and unsophisticated men, He preached the gospel freely and did many miracles. He was now returning from Galilee and was headed to Jerusalem. He will spend the last week of His human life there. No one laid a hand on him in Galilee but in Jerusalem He was heated, beaten, accused and judged unjustly sentenced to death and crucified between two thieves.

As He was approaching Jerusalem, the Savior makes a prophetic statement for Israel and a teaching one for the Church. This statement became history for Israel and a challenge for the Church: “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:42-44). The Lord’s message cramped in this statement is, in fact, their history, soaked with disobedience, idolatry, formalism, pride and hypocrisy.

1. The Jews missed the past and present, because they did not recognize God’s works. “If you, even you, had only known on this day the things...” To them, their laws and traditions were more important than God's Word. They despised the prophets that God spoke through, placing their trust in their own self, in the temple and Abraham’s line of descent. They were religious and formalist, but ignorant of God’s things. God’s words in the gospel first inform the mind: “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ”, and secondly they form the character: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

2. Peace and blessings come only by knowing the things of God,”... things that could give you peace.” God’s things always lead to peace, love and forgiveness, but they were torn by envy, malice, hatred, envy and hypocrisy.

3. For each person, family, nation, there is limited time for when God is dealing with them. 'but now they are hidden from your eyes ... Because you did not recognize the time of God’s visitation.” There is a limited time for when God exposes the man directly to the Gospel, despite the fact that in general anyone can repent at any time during their life. God's grace is free, but is not cheap.

4. Indifference to God’s visitation leads to destruction” “days will come when the enemies ... will make one with the earth, you and the children in your midst ...” Disobedience in general and particularly disobedience of God has dramatic consequences.

The time came when God pulled back His protection and blessing over this disobedient and proud nation and the armies of Titus, Vespasian's son,”... made them and the children amongst them one with the earth.”

The history of the Jews is marked with blood and has a teaching meaning for the Church. God has not changed, His holy existence couldn’t be replaced nor by the legalism of the Jews and will not be replaced by the libertinism of the Church. The message is simple, clear, but extremely harsh: “Who knows the things of God today has peace and will be protected from enemies. Him who knows the time of visitation today, God will save his life and children.

August 28

Very often we hear the phrase: “We are very committed and dedicated to our partners, just as we are dedicated and committed to God.” But is this really true? What are your arguments? If this statement is true in your life, than the quality of your spiritual and personal relationship with God becomes a guarantee of a quality family life. If this affirmation is correct, that means that the fidelity you have towards your partner is in great measure the result of your fidelity towards God. Similarities exist between our life with God and our life with our partner:

1. Separation: “you will leave your father and your mother”

True faith means to regret certain deeds, actions, our past, to admit them and then to separate yourself from them. The same thing should happen in the life of a couple. Our parental home and family members remain in the past, friends, the way we spent our time and money, our priorities and values in life…everything changes. “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24) Everything in our partner’s past life needs to be put aside in the couple’s personal relationship, otherwise it can become a possible problem within the family. Man cannot be aligned with both the physical world and Christ. Just the same, man cannot be aligned with the world and their marital partner.

2. Dedication: “ is united to his wife”

A man who experiences repentance from sin is than filled with a flame of passion for God. This state, that liberates us from the past, predisposes the individual to a profound dedication, requiring a responsible commitment to God. A faithful person will not be able to dedicate their life to God, if their heart was not released from past convictions. Only a complete separation in the face of worldly pleasures will allow for the possibility of a true identification with Christ. All the same, this will happen in the life of a couple. When a person, through marriage, enters into the dimension of family life, they become liberated of all past responsibilities, dedicating themselves body and mind to their partner. Nothing will be “mine”, but rather “ours”. A person that does not parish their past will not be able to commit themselves to the future. Otherwise, the partner will enter into a competition with the individual’s family members, friends, and other past commitments. They go on vacation with their friends, not their partner; they eat dinner with their friends, not their partner; spare time is spent with friends, not their partner. The lack of dedication to their partner shows a lack of separation from personal things from the past, which then forces the partner to compete for attention. Prolonged loneliness forces the individual to also find other things to fill their spare time. The bible says first: “man leaves his father and mother”, than “is united to his wife.” The man that is united to his wife will leave behind all other individuals. The quality of a man’s dedication to his wife is directly proportional with the quality of a man’s willingness to leave behind all other individuals. Man cannot be dedicated to the world and at the same time be dedicated to Christ. Just the same, man cannot be dedicated to the world and at the same time be dedicated to his partner.

3. Becoming united

Becoming united with Christ in our spiritual life is similar to becoming united with our partner in our family life. Becoming united with Christ is possible when a man leaves behind their past life, dedicating their lives wholly to God in the present. Perishing the world and a dedication for God will create a profound identity with divinity. The same thing will happen in the life of a couple. Becoming united at the emotional level, intellectual level, spiritual level, and physical level, will be possible if there is a separation at the emotional level, intellectual level, spiritual level, and physical level with the world. The bible presents becoming united as the effect to the cause of: “they will become one flesh.” When? When “you will leave your mother and your father” and, as well when he “is united to his wife”. Do you want a spiritual relationship with God in order to have your soul saved? Leave the world and sin, dedicate yourself with responsibility to God and pay the price of becoming united with the creator. Do you want a solid relationship within your family life in order to be happy? Than leave your past life, dedicate yourself with responsibility to your partner and family life and you will pay the price of becoming united as one.