Jesus' Footprints

1 Corinthians 13:5b
GrudgesHow do you deal with people who hurt you?  Do you talk to them about it or do you keep quiet but hold a grudge against them?  Do you think of ways to get back at them?

God is clear about how we should act when someone hurts us.  We don’t keep rehashing what happened. We don’t wish that person harm.  Instead, we put away the bitterness, anger and unforgiveness.  We give them to God.  We let go of the negative thoughts and ill feelings.  We ask God to help us to forgive the person and then move on.

Of course, this is easier said than done.  We need the help of the Holy Spirit to help us.  It is not in our nature to show love when we are hurting.  We prefer to lick our wounds and have a pity party.  We feel better when we imagine how that person would feel if we were to do the same thing to him or her.  How does this make us any different from those who are not of the faith?  How could we say that we belong to Christ or that we are God’s children if we can’t find it in our hearts to forgive the wrongs that has been done to us?

What if Joseph had spent all of his time hating Potiphar’s wife for what she had done to him?  Would God have prospered him, promoting him to be in charge of the jail or becoming second only to Pharaoh? What about Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego?  Did they harbor any bitterness toward King Nebuchadnezzar for throwing them into the fiery furnace?

Instead of thinking evil, in love we pray for those who have wronged us.  We pray that God will touch their hearts.  Jesus prayed for His enemies when He was hanging on the cross.  Stephen prayed for the men who were stoning him before he died.

The next time someone hurts you, what will you do?  Perhaps like Joseph you ask this question, “am I in the place of God?”  While Joseph forgave his brothers he left them to God’s mercy.  Romans 12:19 says, “Never take vengeance into your own hands, my dear friends: stand back and let God punish if he will. For it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine. I will repay’” (J.B. Phillips).  Don’t take the place of God.  God sees and knows all.  He will deal with the person who has wronged you as He sees fit.  Don’t repay evil with evil.

 

Advertisements

Acts 11:1-18

It’s interesting the reaction Peter got from his fellow believers when they learned that the Gentiles had received the Word of God. The Jewish believers contended with him, accusing him of associating with the uncircumcised.

I couldn’t help thinking of Jesus who thought nothing of going to the home of a centurion whose beloved servant was gravely ill to heal him. He went with the men the centurion sent to escort Him to his house. Jesus was not far away when the centurion sent other men to deter Him, saying that he was not worthy for Jesus to enter his home (Luke 7:2-10). No doubt the religious leaders would have had a problem with Him entering the home of a Gentile.

Peter had harbored the same prejudices as these believers but the Lord gave him a change of heart. He said to Cornelius, the Gentile whom Jesus had sent him to minister to, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28).

Jesus didn’t discriminate. He ate with Pharisees and He ate with publicans. He didn’t play favorites. He gave all people His time and care and attention. He came to minister to everyone and manifest the love of God who sent Him to save the lost.

Are we guilty of reacting like these brethren? Do we harbor prejudices? Are there certain people we won’t associate with? What if God were to call us to minister to these people as He called Peter to minister to the Gentiles? Let us pray to have the heart and mind of Jesus. That is the only way that we would be able to rejoice with the angels when one lost person is saved.

Starting from the beginning, Peter explained what happened.  He ended his narrative with this rhetorical question:  “If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”  The brethren couldn’t object to that.  In fact, they had nothing to say.  They became silent.  Then, they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”

We are to glorify God for His marvelous grace and remember that His salvation is for everyone.

Acts 23:12-22

105The Jews conspired to kill Paul and his nephew got wind of this.  He didn’t waste any time.  He went to the barracks and told Paul.  Paul called one of the centurions to him and said, “Take this young man to the commander, for he has something to tell him.”  So he took him and brought him to the commander and said, “Paul the prisoner called me to him and asked me to bring this young man to you. He has something to say to you.”  The commander seemed like a reasonable man.  He took Paul’s nephew by the hand and led him aside where they would have more privacy.  Paul’s nephew explained what the men were planning and warned the commander not to give into them.  The commander let the young man go, warning him not to let anyone know that he had revealed these things to him.

We see God’s hand in what happened here.  He protected Paul.  Prior to Paul finding out about this plot, Jesus assured him, “Take courage, Paul. For as you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify at Rome” (verse 11). Paul was to go to Rome to spread the Gospel.  So, it makes sense that God would intervene and protect him from the wicked plot.  God warns us through people of impending danger.  My husband’s co-worker, *Bill once said to him, “Be careful.  He doesn’t like you.” A little while later, when he asked Bill what he meant, Bill didn’t know what he was talking about.  He had no clue.  It was then that my husband realized that it was God who had warned him about his manager through Bill.  In Paul’s case, God used his nephew to warn him of the danger he was in.  It goes to show that with God there are no coincidences.  Paul’s nephew was in the right place at the right time.  It’s like Esther.  She was in the right place at the right time to expose Haman’s wicked plot.  Mordecai was in the right place at the right time when he overheard and exposed the plot against King Ahasuerus’ life.

There are times when God will put us in the right place at the right time to fulfill His plan.  Like Paul’s nephew, Esther and Mordecai we must have the courage to do what is right. It could save lives.

*Not his real name.

Jeremiah 11:18-23

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

God warned Jeremiah that there were men in his community who threatened to kill him if he didn’t stop prophesying against them.  It wasn’t because Jeremiah was a false prophet.  They knew that he was prophesying in the name of the Lord.  It was because they didn’t want to hear the truth.  And they didn’t want to hear it from one of their own.  Anathoth was Jeremiah’s hometown and just as the people of Nazareth rejected Jesus, the people were rejecting Jeremiah.  They didn’t like what he had to say and they didn’t appreciate it coming from a member of their community.

Jesus said, “A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house” (Matthew 13:57).  When the people heard what He had to say, they were filled with wrath, rose up and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff (Luke 4:16-30).  This was the Son of the carpenter, who was He to talk to them like this?  Same thing with Jeremiah.  Who was he to be telling the people these terrible things?

These people are much like some of us today.  We are doing things that are contrary to God’s Word and when God sends someone to point this out to us, we get upset.  We don’t like what they are saying.  It makes us uncomfortable.  It hits too close to home.  We would rather hear what we want to hear instead of what we need to hear.  We don’t want to hear the truth.  It hurts.  It cuts into us like a knife.  Some of us have cherished sins we don’t want to give up.

The men of Anathoth loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil (John 3:19).  In order to hold onto their sinful and corrupt desires, they were willing to go as far as killing God’s prophet.  However, God was not about to let them get away with anything.  He was going to punish them.  This teaches us that we are to obey God and leave the consequences to Him.  We are not to allow people to intimidate us into keeping quiet when we have a message to share or work to do for the Lord.  We do what we are called to do and let God take care of the rest.

Jeremiah spoke the truth no matter the cost.  We need to do the same.  When we see someone doing something wrong, we need to say something instead of keeping quiet because we don’t want to ruffle features or upset the person.  And when someone tells us the truth, we ought to swallow our pride and listen.  Remember this person might have been sent by God to straighten us out and if we reject what he or she is telling us, we are really rejecting Him.

Bottom line:  Don’t be afraid to speak the truth.  Don’t be afraid to hear the truth.

2 Corinthians 7:10

When I read this I remembered that Paul had written an earlier letter, rebuking the congregation for not sorrowacting in the case where a member was guilty of adultery. He had relations with his father’s wife, something that God had condemned. The other members had not dealt with matter. Apparently, they were proud of their church when they should have felt shame that this type of thing was in the church and root it out.

Paul called on them to do what needed to be done. He reminded them that they were not to keep company with such a person. His letter was very frank and it had the desired effect. The Corinthian believers repented. Their pride had turned to mourning and sorrow. Paul didn’t regret writing the letter because it produced godly sorrow.

Sometimes we have to do what is necessary what is best for others–no matter how hard or painful it may be. Paul revealed his motive for writing the first letter. It was not for the sake of the man who committed the wrong or his father whom he had wronged but for the sake of the church. He did it because he cared. Sometimes what we do might seem harsh to someone but we do it out of love. Tough love.

fc044ea390507df39b9bd57a16eabb2f

When I read this I couldn’t help but notice the irony. Herod took it upon himself to attack the church. He killed James and when he saw that this pleased the Jews, he had Peter arrested and thrown into prison. Herod clearly didn’t know that the powers of darkness would not prevail against the powers of light. When Peter was in jail, chained and secured between two guards, God sent an angel to set him free. At first Peter thought it was a vision but once he was outside he realized that this was really happening, he said, “Now I certainly know that the Lord has sent His angel and delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

While he had been in prison, the other believers came together and prayed for him. God answered their prayers. After Peter went to the brethren and told them how the Lord had led him out of the prison, he went to Caesarea where he stayed. As for Herod, he was struck down by the Lord because he did not give Him the glory. The wicked ruler was dead but God’s Word spread and increased. The Word of the Lord could not be chained. “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:8, 9).

Today, many are trying to suppress the Word of God in countries where Christians are persecuted but God declared, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11). Until Jesus comes, we are to preach the Gospel even unto death. The saving of souls makes it all worthwhile.

images (1)

When I read this I thought of heavenly wisdom as spiritual because it comes from God while earthly wisdom is carnal. The heavenly wisdom puts others first–before self while earthly wisdom is selfish. It’s all about self. What is best for us no matter what. It is the kind of wisdom that people use to live how they want, believing that they know best and doesn’t listen to wise counsel. They lean on their own understanding. They seek to please themselves. Take Eve for example. She wanted to be wise like God.

The wisdom she was seeking was not heavenly because it didn’t come from God. It was demonic. It was self-seeking. She was seeking it at the instigation of the Devil. The religious leaders thought they were wise in their own eyes because they didn’t allow themselves to be fooled by Jesus whom they felt was a false teacher. They rejected His teachings even though He taught with authority, something which they lacked. They thought themselves wise because they didn’t fall for His miracles and signs. They even attributed His miracles to the Devil. They envied Him and that envy led to murder plots.

Earthly wisdom leads to eternal separation from God. King Solomon, the wisest man in the world, wrote, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Eve didn’t see anything wrong with wanting to be wise like God but in her quest for godly wisdom, she had stepped outside of God’s will and smack right into the Devil’s trap. Her self-seeking led to spiritual and physical death. The kind of wisdom we should be seeking is the one that comes only from God.

James told us how we can acquire this. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). Solomon said that heavenly wisdom is more precious than gold, silver and above rubies. It is precious and it gives life to those who have it (Ecclesiastes 7:12).

This kind of wisdom has many benefits and James lists them in order: pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and hypocrisy. These attributes sound very much like those of love found in 1 Corinthians 13 and the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, 23).

Heavenly wisdom produces good fruits because it is not self-seeking. It puts God and others before self. It is quick to listen and slow to speak. It is the soft answer that turns away wrath. It is what Jesus used when dealing with the religious leaders when they confronted Him. He countered their envy, jealousy and hypocrisy with wisdom.

Heavenly wisdom surrenders to God. It humbles itself. It accepts godly counsel, reproof, discipline and instruction. And it leads to the correct way of thinking, feeling and acting. God’s wisdom is available to us. All we have to do is ask for it.

%d bloggers like this: