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April 2017

 
 

paSTOR`S PAGE

April 2017

 

April 2    

   

Every mortal is a candidate for happiness, even though happiness is hard to define, difficult to realize and almost impossible to keep. What does it mean to be happy? To be rich, healthy, young and strong? This would mean that the poor, sick, old and anonymous cannot be happy; however, reality proves the contrary. 

What is happiness?
The psychologist Martin Seligman said that happiness is composed of three elements: pleasure, integration, and significance. Pleasure refers to the positive sentiments that man has. Integration refers to the capacity of a man to interact with those around him according to his wishes. Significance is man’s ability to give meaning and value to his actions. The psychologist Sonja Lyubomirky proposed another explanation in regards to happiness: happiness depends 50% on our genes, 10% on the circumstances of life, and 40% on our own actions. The philosopher Plato believed that happiness is composed of five parts:
1. Making good decisions
2. Having common sense and bodily health
3. Having success in everything a man undertakes
4. Having a good reputation among others
5. Having material assets useful for life
The dictionary says that happiness is “the state of complete contentment, mainly due to the fulfillment of longings”.
What does the Bible say about happiness?
Psalm 128 presents happiness as the result of a certain way of life that every man has access to: character, work, and family. Respect toward God in personal life, performance in the professional/material life and the fulfillment of a family life in which the spouse and children have priority.
I. Happiness is defined as the personal knowledge of God: “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to Him” (Psalm 128:1). The best evidence that a man fears the Lord is the fact that he walks in His paths. Whoever respects God will listen to Him joyfully. Character, integrity, equilibrium, discernment and self-control lead to happiness. A man’s personal rapport with respect to God will determine how happy he will be in his human life.
II. Happiness is defined as material stability: “You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours” (verse 2). A home to live in, a place to work, and a family’s material needs met offers stability and assurance to the members of the family. Hard work, perseverance, initiative, sacrifice and dedication demonstrate that happiness is more than simply a wish.
III. Happiness is defined by gaining a family: “your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table” (verse 3). The personal, spiritual relationship with God forms and develops the character of a man. Work gives him satisfaction, comfort, and joy. Family motivates him, gives him value and significance.
There are people that draw near to God, but neglect the material aspect of their lives or fail their families. There are others that have healthy families, they have material blessings, but they are strangers toward God and heaven. Trust in God, hard work, and investing in a quality family brings happiness to man. Equilibrium between God, hard work, and family is the Bible’s recipe for happiness.

 

 

 April 9

  

   The Passion or Holy week was a much more difficult week for the Savior than His entire human life, and Friday was very likely more difficult than the entire week. Holy week in general, and Friday especially remains witnesses to what God offered to man and what man offered God. God offered everything, His only Son Jesus Christ, this sacrifice remaining the witness of God’s love for every human. The Savior’s suffering from Good Friday goes beyond man’s understanding, but what we do understand should motivate us to repentance. On the other hand, man offered the betrayal of Judas, Peter’s denial, the infidelity of a crowd led by slogans, the hypocrisy of Ana and Caiaphas, the injustice of Pilate and Herod, the animality of the soldiers, the cowardice of the disciples with the exception of John, the mockery of the passersby, the lies of the priests… and many others that remain markers of the “morality” of the human race.
   Holy Week is framed by the entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem and Passover Sunday. Jesus returns from Galilee to Jerusalem and because the people greeted Him with palm leaves, the celebration is called Palm Sunday. It had been three years since He had begun the mission, three years of travel between Galilee and Judea, three years of preaching, prayer, discipleship of the twelve, three years of signs and wonders, three years of God’s Kingdom on earth. Still, the last week of the Lord’s human life demasks the true identity of people. Adoration was transformed into hatred, joy into mockery, flowers into thorns, palms into nails and a hammer, the donkey that carried Him into the cross that He carried, the clothes laid out on the road for Him into the cloth for which lots were cast five days later… How fickle man is, how unfaithful emotions and promises are!
    Palm Sunday is the day of joyful appearances; Easter Sunday is the day of real suffering. While he descends the hill, Jesus weeps. What a paradox! He was just as modest – riding on the back of a donkey, he goes among people and goes to the Temple. Why not to a palace? Because His miracles had to do with the Temple – He was there when He was twelve years old and any time He had the opportunity. Palm Sunday is the moment when God offers – He offers His own Son in the person of the Lord Jesus, He offers heaven, He offers everything. Thursday and Friday are two days during which man offers; he offers a petty judgment, perfidious intrigues, and interests, nails, a hammer, a spear, and thorns. How generous is God’s offer, how dirty is the offer of man! It was normal for Jesus to weep on Palm Sunday, knowing what the week ahead would hold, not only for Himself but also for them and for their eternal future. He knew that the flowers, the well-wishes, the palms, and the joy were not genuine and stable, but changing. He knew that man’s interest is more powerful than his fidelity and justice, life on earth more important than life in heaven. He knew all these things, and so he wept. After 1500 years of history with God, after three and a half years of history with Jesus, Jerusalem should have looked different. God invested in this city and now it was the time for reaping. Unfortunately for them, the harvest was flowers, praises, palms, appearances. True reality was different; the curtain would fall five days later. Five days is the distance between fidelity and betrayal, between love and hate, between flowers to nails.
    Two thousand years have passed since then - new things have been discovered, technology has advanced, all things have changed, but man has remained the same, just as sinful. There is one more chance, today. The day that you can change everything; God is waiting for you, God loves you, God is calling you.

  April 16

 

Similar to the incarnation through the virgin, the resurrection of the Savior cannot be understood or explained fully, because these two events are not natural, usual occurrences. Rather, they are unexplainable, incredible, and impossible. The incarnation and resurrection are miracles; therefore we are not surprised that initially, the Lord’s parents did not believe in the incarnation and the disciples did not believe in the resurrection. The resurrection of the Lord demonstrates the power and sovereignty of God above death, the laws of nature, above the Roman soldiers and above the Devil. God sustains and controls history through the fact that all the prophecies about the birth, life, activity, death and the resurrection of the Savior were fulfilled exactly as foretold in the Old Testament, hundreds and even thousands of years before. Man’s solution for death is weeping, mourning, and burial; God’s solution for death is resurrection, both for the death of Jesus Christ as well as the death of believers. Death is the wage and consequence for man’s sin, but resurrection is the reward of trust in God. “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22). The resurrection of the Savior offers the entire universe a new perspective to life, because it restored the man and creation that was ruined. The Devil who rebelled in heaven, instigating a third of the angels, was transformed into Satan and thrown from heaven alongside the rebellious angels. After God made man and placed him in Eden, the Devil lured Adam and Eve and they sinned against God and His righteousness. God’s plan is diverted, and man and all of creation are compromised. The Creator then composed a plan for restoring man and all the things that were lost. This plan is fulfilled in Golgotha, when, for the entire fallen and guilty world, Jesus Christ pays the debt, dying on the cross. Three days later he is resurrected and the righteousness of the Creator is satisfied, man is justified and forgiven of his guilt and the Devil, disease, and death are defeated. Through His resurrection, the Savior offers righteous people a different perspective of the place awaiting them after death. It offers a different perspective of salvation, and also offers a different perspective on how to live a life of peace and righteousness. Then, His resurrection offers a new perspective of eternal life, through the fact that it promises resurrection into eternal life. Jesus promised that He would come to prepare and to offer through faith, salvation to all man. The Devil, the governors, and the priests could not stop Him. He promised that he would return for the redeemed and no one will be able to stop Him. Prepare to meet Him! Like His death, the Lord’s resurrection has witnesses. Both were public events: 1. Mary Magdalene saw Him in the garden tomb (John 20:11-18) 2. Two of the pious women saw Him (Matthew 28:9-10) 3. The apostle Peter saw Him (Luke 24:34) 4. Two of His disciples saw Him on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-35) 5. The disciples who were in hiding from the Jews in Jerusalem saw Him (Jn 20:19-23) 6. The apostles and Thomas saw Him eight days after the resurrection (Jn 20:26-29) 7. Seven of the apostles saw Him on the Tiberian shore (John 21:1-14) 8. The eleven apostles saw Him on a mount in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20) 9. All the apostles and disciples saw Him on the Ascension Day (Luke 24:44-53) Because Jesus was resurrected, we too will be resurrected. The power that raised Jesus from the dead will resurrect us too. If sin has brought us down to death, the resurrection will lift us up to eternal life. The guarantee of His resurrection is the empty tomb and 2000 years of Christian history. If you have sinned and must now die, repent so that you may live. Christ was resurrected and we too will be resurrected. Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!

 April 23

 

The Apostles Paul and Peter wrote about the family life, presenting God’s laws that lead to happiness in marriage. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul underlines the importance of the correct hierarchy in the relationship between God and family, saying:  God the father is the head of Christ; Christ is the head of the man; the man is the head of the wife… (v. 3, 7)  The Apostle Peter picks up this topic of the family life and in his first epistle in Chapter 3, he speaks of the responsibilities of spouses. Commenting on this subject, Peter establishes each of the spouses in a relationship of priority with their “head”: the wife in relation to her husband (v. 1-6), the husband in relation with God (v. 7). In verses 1- 2, Peter underlines the greater disposition of women towards spirituality, an advantage that can be used by God for the salvation of an unbelieving husband (v. 1-4), and also for a family life that is calm and happy (v. 5 – 6). The wife’s attitude of respect toward her husband and the modesty and seriousness with which she treats the spiritual life, become strong and efficient methods of evangelizing in the family. Sometimes, the constant holy testimony of the wife’s life is more efficient than speech for the husband (v. 1). Here, the wife is presented as a “suitable helper” that “contributes” to the salvation and the spiritual fulfillment of her husband, through her own attitude of submission and Christian decency.  In addition, Peter draws men’s attention to the risk they often take in being unwise, harsh, insensitive and inattentive, highlighting the equality of the husband and wife when it comes to spiritual things (v. 7). If the wife’s submission to her husband helps him in his relationship with God, then the husband’s relationship with God obligates him to have an attitude of care and attention toward his wife. The wife’s spiritual relationship with God, manifested through submission to the husband, helps the husband from the spiritual point of view. A husband’s unwise and violent attitude toward his wife will be amended by God through the fact that He will no longer listed to his prayers (v. 7). In other words, the wife’s attention to the husband must be in the perspective of knowing and serving God, while God’s attention toward the husband is conditional upon his attention to his wife. If the wife does not have a spiritual life, this negatively affects the husband, and if the husband is not careful and does not give his wife attention, this affects his spiritual life.  The family is God’s idea, but the family’s happiness depends on the maturity of the spouses and their obedience to the Creator. The wife’s submission is a spiritual investment in the husband’s life, while loving and caring for the wife is a husband’s investment in his relationship with God.

 April 30

    The Savior cursed a fig tree 2000 years ago and this remains for us a source of teaching. In order to correctly understand God’s message in what happened, we need to observe a few things:
    1. The Savior was at the end of His three and a half year mission; in other words, He was at the end of the time period when time and time again he taught the Jewish people, explaining the Scriptures to them.
    2. The incident takes place Monday, the second day of Holy Week. In this week, the Lord becomes extremely direct with the Pharisees and scholars and most of His dialogues were with them. He had spent Sunday night in the home of Lazar, Martha, and Mary of Bethany and Monday morning, he heads off to Jerusalem with his disciples, approximately 2 miles away. On the way to Jerusalem, the Savior, “becomes hungry” and finding a fig tree on the way, curses it because He does not find fruit. It is interesting that the Lord was so hungry that he was famished on the road, despite having just left the home of His friends. Why is it so? Could it not be in order to teach the disciples something about God’s grace wasted on the Jews without fruit?
    The fig tree is the first tree mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 3:7) and the Jews are the first people of God (Genesis 12:1 – 3). The fig tree and the fruit of the vine are two of the most profound symbols of the people of Israel. The fig tree is approximately 3 – 4 meters tall and it has the characteristic that the fruit appears before the leaves. In Israel, the fig tree bore fruit twice: the first harvest took place in March-April and the second in late fall (Hosea 9:10). Spring figs were small and not very tasty and fall figs were large and very tasty.
    On the road to Jerusalem, seeing a fig tree with leaves, even though it was not yet harvest season in October, the Lord expected it to have small figs on it, because it was the 30th of March, 33 A.D. Unable to find them, the Lord intentionally said, with a loud voice so that the disciples would hear “May no one ever eat fruit from you again” (Mark 11:14b).
    The cursing of the fig tree is the second time the Lord does something that brings God’s judgement, the first time being in Gadara, when he allows the demons to enter the pigs that threw themselves in the sea. Why does the Lord curse a fig that does not bear fruit if it was not harvest season? The fig tree was not cursed for lack of fruit, but for the leaves that promised early figs. The issue was not the large great harvest, but merely some early figs, green, small, and tasteless.
    What are we to understand from the incident? The temple, as well as the nation, was as the fig tree. Just like the fig tree with leaves that bring promise, so were the Jewish people, filled with religious appearances, that hid away the absence of spiritual fruit. The cursing of the fig tree was a prophecy of what would happen to the Jewish people 30 years later, when they were destroyed by the Romans for approximately 19 centuries. This nation trusted in itself, not in God. In this period of time, the branches of the Gentiles were grafted into the fig tree (Romans 11:11). The cursing of the fig tree takes place after the Lord tells them the parable of the fig tree, warned of its lack of fruit, and the gardener defends it yet again. But even after the requested period of time for the fig tree, it does not produce fruit, and so it was cut down. Neither the person of the Savior, nor the sermons and miracles of the Lord would help it bear fruit. Filled with leaves, but without fruit.
    This incident is not just for Israel, but it is in equal measure for the Church: “For if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you either” (Romans 11:21). The Lord is still looking for fruit in our lives!