Be Ready to Share Jesus

Acts 13:13-52

900165955_466ceaa8d7_mAt bedtime, I read to my son the scriptures where Paul and Barnabas visited the synagogue in Antioch and after the reading from the Law and the Prophets,  the rulers of the synagogue asked them if they had any words of encouragement for the people.  What struck me is when Paul stood up, he used this opportunity to preach about Jesus.

He didn’t start off talking about Jesus.  Instead, he gave a brief summary of Israel’s history beginning with when the Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years.  He spoke about how the Jewish people were ruled by judges until the prophet Samuel and how they wanted to be like the other nations who had kings ruling over them.  They wanted a king too even though God was their King.  They got their wish when Saul, the son of Kish was chosen to be their king.  However, God removed him because of his disobedience and chose David to be his successor.  Then, Paul introduced Jesus, saying,  “From this man’s descendants God has raised a Savior for Israel, Jesus, according to His promise.”

He spoke of the role the people had played in the arrest and death of Jesus. By doing these things they had fulfilled the Word of God.  The Good News, though was that God raised Jesus from the dead and through Him are the forgiveness of sins.  Paul made it clear that we are justified by faith in Jesus and not by the law.  His words encouraged the Gentiles who begged him to preach again to them the following Sabbath.

Has God given you an opportunity to share the Good News about Jesus with others as He did with Paul?  Would you do as Paul did and share your faith so that people will come to know the Savior who died for them as well?  You don’t have to give a history lesson like Paul did.  You can share your own testimony of how you came to know the Lord like the woman at the well.  She told her community that Jesus must be the Messiah that they had been waiting for because He knew everything about her.

What about the challenges you will face when you share the Gospel?  The following Sabbath when Paul and Barnabas returned to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, they were met with opposition from the Jews who were envious.  They contradicted what Paul said but he and Barnabas didn’t allow them to spoil things for them.  Instead, they boldly declared to them that since they rejected the Word of God which was supposed to be given to them first, it would be given instead to the Gentiles for the Lord commanded them, “‘I have established you to be a light of the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'”  Verse 48 says that when the Gentiles heard this, “they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And all who were ordained to eternal life believed.”

Don’t be discouraged when people oppose you and contradict what you say.  It’s Satan, your enemy at work, trying to prevent you from doing what God has called you to do.  Like Paul and Barnabas did, act boldly, knowing that the Lord is your side and He will not allow His work to be hindered.  Share the Gospel for the sake of those who will gladly receive it. Don’t let the Satan or anyone put out your light.  Keep it shining for those who will come to it and receive salvation through faith in Jesus.

Today, if God gives you an opportunity to encourage people with the Good News about Jesus, grab it.  And don’t worry about what to say.  The Holy Spirit has that covered.

 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. For it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek – Romans 1:16

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Indebted to Jesus

1 Timothy 1:12-17

Thank-you-Jesus-for-saving-my-life-1I was reading this passage and thinking of how we are all indebted to Jesus.  We have done terrible things in our lives but He showed us such love and grace that we could only respond in humility and gratitude.  There are times when my past comes back to haunt me but then I remember Jesus’ love and forgiveness.

Paul writes to Timothy about his past.  He shares how he was once an enemy of the church.  He blasphemed the Lord and persecuted His people but it was done in ignorance.  How many of us have not done things that we later regret out of ignorance?

Paul spoke of how Jesus poured out His grace on him.  “He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.”  How many of us are called into ministry after the Lord has shown us mercy?  I have heard of men who once on the wrong side of the law become pastors.  At a Women’s Ministry program, a speaker shared her testimony of how life was for her before she found Jesus.  She used to be a drug addict.  

It doesn’t matter where or how we encounter Jesus.  What matters is that once we surrender to Him, He can do remarkable things in our lives.  When people see how the Lord has transformed a person you never would imagine would become a Christian, they can’t help but be amazed and curious.  When Paul began preaching after his conversion, many people were amazed.  They couldn’t believe that it was the same person who used to a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man.  In his eyes, he was a chief sinner among the sinners whom Jesus came to save.  I can almost hear the regret in his words but he sees something positive in this.  As the worst sinner of them all, he can be used to demonstrate how patient Jesus is towards the worst of sinners.  He, Paul will serve as an example to all who in the future should trust Jesus for eternal life.

We, like Paul, are indebted to Jesus for His love, kindness, mercy, grace and patience.  He loved us even when we were rejecting Him.  All that time when Paul was persecuting the church, Jesus loved him.  He knew Paul’s heart.  He knew that Paul was acting out of ignorance and He knew that He could redirect that zeal.  This explains why Paul was so passionate in his work as a minister.  He testified, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).  It is as if he were working hard to show Jesus that His mercy toward him had not be in vain.

Let us show the Lord how much we appreciate His grace toward us.  Let us do this by the way we live, how we treat others and in whatever work He has called us to do.

Thank You, Jesus for saving us and using us to bring other lost souls to You.

God’s Mercy

Zechariah 3:1-4

filthy-garmentSatan accused Joshua, who here represents the nation of Israel.  The accusations were accurate.  Joshua stood in “filthy clothes” (sins) yet, God revealed His mercy, stating that He chose to save His people in spite of their sin.

God punished Judah through the fire of great trials but He rescued the nation before it was completely destroyed, like “a burning stick snatched from the fire”.

Zechariah’s vision shows how we receive God’s mercy.  We do nothing ourselves.  God removes our filthy clothes (sins), then provides us with new, clean, rich garments (His righteousness and holiness).  All we need to do is repent and ask God to forgive us.

Don’t let the Devil make you think it’s hopeless and that your sins cannot be forgiven.  Like Joshua stand before God, confess your sins and forsake them and you will receive forgiveness.  Let God take your filthy clothes and replace them with His clean robe.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Paul’s Testimony

Galatians 1:13-17

paul-king-agrippa_1219951_inlIn his letter to the Galatians, Paul shares how he became a Christian. It wasn’t something he ever dreamed would happen. He was a staunch believer in Judaism and its traditions. He was filled with a jealous zeal to protect his religion and was determined to stamp out any other religion he believed was contrary to God and His law. He was bent on destroying the church. He thought he was doing God a favor. In fact, I couldn’t help thinking of Paul when I read these words of Jesus, “They will put you out of the synagogues. Yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he is offering a service to God. They will do these things to you, because they have not known the Father nor Me.  I have told you these things, so that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you about them (John 16:2-4, MEV).

Paul was there when Stephen was stoned to death. He kept the clothes of those who stoned him. It was clear that he agreed with what was happening. The scripture stated, “And Saul was consenting to his death” (Acts 8:1). The stoning of Stephen seemed to add more fuel to his fight to destroy the church. It says that while devout men carried Stephen away to bury him and lamented over him, Saul ravaged the church, entering house by house and dragging out both men and women and committing them to prison (verses 2,3) .

Before his conversion, Paul was on fire. He was like a dragon, breathing out threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. He was determined to stamp out what he perceived to be heresy so he went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any there of the Way, either men or women, he might arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem (Acts 9:1, 2). This was an attack on religious freedom. People were being persecuted and imprisoned for their faith. Satan, through Paul was impeding the work of the saints and the Lord had to intervene. His people had to be free to carry out His commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19, 20).

So, on his way to Damascus, Saul encountered Jesus. This experience changed his life forever. Jesus got his attention in a big way. As Saul was nearing the city, a bright light shone from Heaven shone around him and he fell to the ground. Then, Jesus spoke to him. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” It doesn’t occur to people that when they persecute Christians, they are persecuting Jesus too. It’s the same as when we neglect to care for the needy. When we neglect doing good to others, it’s as if we are neglecting Jesus too. When the people rejected Jesus during His ministry, they were rejecting the Father who sent Him. When Saul asked Jesus who He was, Jesus said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” There was no room for doubt. Saul was persecuting Jesus when he persecuted the church, after all, Jesus is the Head of the church. Saul was attacking the body of Christ.

Can you imagine Saul, who a moment ago was breathing fire, ready to hunt down and throw Christians into prison or do worse, was now trembling like a leaf and in total shock? Probably sounding like a man who realized now that he was fighting a losing battle, he asked, “Lord, what will You have me do?” When Jesus points out something we are doing in our lives that needs to be changed, do we ask, “Lord, what will You have me do?”

Jesus said to him, “Rise up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” What a testimony of God’s grace and forgiveness. Saul had been wreaking so much havoc on His people yet Jesus did not condemn him. Instead, He reached out to him, opening his eyes to what he was doing—that instead of working for God, he was working against God. And Jesus was going to use him. The Lord always has use for us—He will by no means cast us aside once we humble ourselves before Him and are willing to do whatever He asks of us. Saul was willing to do whatever Jesus asked of him. So, now Jesus will find good use for him. We learn in Acts 26:16-18, that Jesus revealed His plan for Saul to him. “For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and a witness both of what you have seen and of what I will yet reveal to you.  I will deliver you from your people and from the Gentiles to whom I now send you,  to open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me’

All the time Saul was there on the road in the light, his eyes were closed but when he opened them, he couldn’t see anything. He was physically blind but could see spiritually. His sight was restored and he was baptized. And he began preaching. There was some skepticism of course as people remembered that this was the same man who had done many evil things to the believers at Jerusalem (verse 13). There are a lot of times when we are shocked to see certain people become Christians. We never saw that coming but we forget that with God all things are possible. If anyone could change people, He can and He does. Saul became Paul and his letters are what we have today to help us in our walk with the Lord. That day on the road to Damascus changed not only one life but many.

What is your testimony? How did Jesus reveal Himself to you? Are you willing to share your testimony with others as Paul did?

Sharing With Others

As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all [men], especially unto them who are of the household of faith” – Galatians 6:10.

Do we share what we have with others whether or not we think they deserve it?  We were sinners when Jesus came into the world and saved us.  We didn’t deserve His forgiveness but we got it anyway and now we can share the good news of Jesus with others.  Did Paul deserve to be saved after mercilessly persecuting Jesus’ followers?  Jesus saved him anyway and Paul became a crusader, spreading the gospel and encouraging other believers to be steadfast in their faith.  Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman about living water which if she drinks of it would never be thirty again.  The woman went and told the others in her village about Him.  And because of this woman, many Samaritans from that town believed in Him.  (John 4:1-39)

When Jesus healed the deaf and mute men, He commanded them not to say anything but the more He did, the more they kept talking about it.  What had happened was too exciting for them to keep to themselves.  (Mark 7:31-37) At the time that the transfiguration took place when Jesus was speaking with Moses and Elijah and John, James and Peter saw this and heard God’s voice, they said nothing of it because Jesus told them, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.” (Matthew 17:9)  But, later in one of his letters, Peter writes about it. (2 Peter 1:17-18) and it is written in Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels (Luke 9:28-36), (Matthew 17:2-9)

God blesses people with gifts that range from music, art, science, medicine, education, and religion to care giving and generosity.  We can share His love simply by smiling at someone, listening to someone’s troubles, lending a hand, giving them our time, encouragement, making a difference by donating to charities, running for the cure of cancer, signing a letter that could stop a young mother from being stoned to death in Nigeria, helping to stop violence against women, helping the poor, feeding the hungry, helping the homeless, protecting physically and sexually abused victims and simply being kind to people.  Let’s follow this advice, “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Hebrews 13:16)

Doing the Father’s Will

For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” – Mark 3:35

In John 14:15, Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” The operative word here is keep.  I checked the Thesaurus for the word keep and these words were listed:  continue, store, hang on to, protect, honour.  This is how we can apply each word to God’s commandments:

  • We continue to obey them.  God intends for us to always obey Him.
  • We have to store them because we will always need them.
  • We have to hang on to them because they are our insurance for good and productive lives.  They are the bane of our existence.  Without God’s guidelines, we are lost and have no direction in our lives.
  • We should protect these commandments because they are God’s and they are precious. 
  • We should honour them.  They are our lifesavers—they protect us from sinning against God.

As followers of Jesus, we should keep God’s commandments just as Jesus Himself kept them.  In John 14:31, He says, “but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.”  Jesus clearly demonstrates here that love and obedience are synonymous.  We obey God because we love Him and we keep His Word.  Jesus related everything His Father told Him to and He kept the word by setting a good example to His followers.  He didn’t just preach, He practiced what He preached.  He taught forgiveness and He showed it when He saved an adulteress from being stoned and said to her “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:11) He talked about mercy and He showed it to the multitudes because they were weary and scattered like sheep without a shepherd.  He ate with tax collectors and sinners because, “For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Matthew 9:13, 36)

A friend is someone who is always there when we need him; someone we can confide in, depend on, trust, be intimate with, share things with, seek advice from and have a close and loving relationship with.  Jesus is the embodiment of all these things.  He’s not just our Saviour.  He is our Friend.  And because He’s our Friend, we should show Him how much we care for Him and appreciate Him.  We should be willing to do anything for Him and not want to disappoint Him.  We should be worthy of His friendship.  “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.  No longer do I call you servants; for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:14-15) 

We are no longer strangers to the gospel or as Jesus puts it, servants who don’t know what the master is up to.  His commandment is for us to love one another as He loves us.  There is no greater love than for a person to lay down his life for his friends.  Jesus laid down His life for us. We are His friends and friends stick together.  So, out of friendship and love for Him, we keep His commandment.  Commandments are for our own good.  David couldn’t have said it better, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.  The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.  The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening to the eyes.” (Psalm 19:7a, 8) Just as we follow good advice when it is offered to us, we should follow God’s commandments given to us out of love.

Forgiveness

If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” – Matthew 6:14

In order to give we have to forgive.  This is why Jesus stresses the importance of forgiving one another and of letting go of anger, resentment and hurt.  When we focus on what someone has done to us it takes away our attention from God.  God forgave the Israelites numerous times when they repented and cried out to Him just as He forgave the people in Nineveh.  Jesus forgave Peter for denying Him, the people for crucifying Him and Saul for persecuting Him.  Jesus instructs us to forgive someone seventy times seven and warns, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matthew 18:22, 35)

Joseph forgave his brothers who tried to kill him.  God forgave David who committed adultery and murder.  He forgave Jonah who disobeyed Him.  The prodigal son was forgiven.  In the Our Father prayer Jesus taught us, it says, “And forgive us our debts As we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12)

How can we ask for forgiveness when we ourselves don’t give it?  We should follow Jesus’ example.  He preached forgiveness, practiced it and died for it.  We have to show mercy to those who hurt us just as Jesus showed mercy to those who had Him crucified.  “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

In the parable about the king and his servant Jesus teaches us about forgiving and being forgiven.  The servant owed the king ten thousand talents and because he couldn’t pay, he and his family would have been sold but, because he begged, the king gave him time to pay it.  The king relented out of compassion.  This same servant who was shown mercy did not show the same to another servant who owed him a thousand pence.  The man begged him but he was unyielding in spirit and had him thrown in jail.  When the king found out, the unforgiving servant was deservedly punished.

This parable shows us how the servant who was forgiven for much more could not find it in his heart to forgive someone else for much less.  God forgave us for our sins—sins that had separated us from Him and which were forgiven when Jesus died on the cross.  God showed compassion toward people like those in Nineveh or the Israelites who rebelled against Him by worshipping other gods, why can’t we forgive a past hurt?  Holding on to anger and resentment sometimes hurts us more than it hurts the other person.  The unforgiving servant ended up worse than the other. (Matthew 18:34)

Knowing God’s Voice

“To day if ye will hear his voice” – Psalm 95:7

God speaks to us but we must listen. We must be able to discern His voice like a child is able to discern his/her mother’s voice by listening for it. The child knows his/her mother’s voice. We, as children of God, our Heavenly Father, should know His voice. To do this, we should read about Him, learn more about His nature from the scriptures and spend more time with Him. It is like a person you develop a relationship with. The more time you spend with him or her, the more you learn about this person. You become close and you are able to tell when they are happy or when they are troubled.

God is the same way. The more we get to know Him the more we are able to tell the difference between Him and the intruder who enters the pen through another way instead of the gate. This is the devil who tries to draw us away from God through whatever means are at his disposal. He tries to tempt us, deceive us and distract us. But, if we keep our eyes on Jesus and listen for His voice we will not be led astray. He will protect us and provide for us. When we lean on him, trust Him, give our lives to Him, it will be easier to block out the temptations of the world and not be led astray by the intruder (the thief, robber) who tries to separate us from God and the truth.

Jesus is the means through which we are able to have a relationship with God. He is the gate through which we, the sheep, enter and God is the Shepherd. We have to go through Jesus to get to our Father. It is through Jesus that God expressed His love for His sheep. It is through Jesus that our sins were forgiven. It is through Jesus that we have the Holy Spirit, which dwells within us. It is through Jesus that God conforms us to Christ’s image and prepare us for His work. We are sanctified through Jesus.

It is through Jesus that we are able to resist temptation, follow His example, learn more about God, Heaven, forgiveness, love, trust, faith, tolerance, mercy, salvation, truth. Jesus is the gate. Whoever enters through Him will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture (John 10:9). This means that once we accept Christ, we are saved and have everlasting life. The pasture is the word of God. Once we feed on the word of God, we will not want of anything as pointed out in the 23rd Psalm. The pasture is God. Once we hunger for Him, we will not want of anything.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He knows His sheep and we know Him. He laid down His life for us. He protects us from the wolf (the devil). If one of us gets lost, He goes out of His way to find us and bring us back to Him—under His loving care and protection. He will not allow the wolf to scatter His beloved sheep.

The Cross

When I think of the Cross, I think of suffering.  Jesus suffered.  He was bloody, weak and thirsty.  He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.  He was mocked, jeered at, taunted.  He was humiliated.  Instead of being crowned in glory He was wearing a crown of thorns.  Instead of hearing “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord,” He heard, “We have no other king but Caesar.”

When I think of the Cross, I think of love.  It was His love for God and love for man that made Jesus succumb to the cruellest death imaginable.  Love is the greatest sacrifice ever.  “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

When I think of the Cross, I think of forgiveness.  In spite of the blinding pain in His body and the ache in His head, Jesus was able to forgive those who wanted Him dead.  He forgave them and asked God to forgive them.  In the face of hatred, love stood its ground.  Love rose above the evil that surrounded the Cross.  God’s goodness and mercy which endures forever were manifest in Christ’s words to His Father, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

When I think of the Cross, I think of God’s amazing grace and His mercy.  It was mercy for a dying, sinful world that prompted God to send His Son to rescue us from death.  It was His mercy that drove Him to send His Son to undo the work of Satan—to free us from the bondage of sin, to bind our wounds, heal us, mend our broken hearts and spirits and to lead us out of darkness and into His marvellous light.

When I think of the Cross I think of a place where I can come regularly and re-examine my life.  It is where I come when I question or doubt God’s love for me.  It is where I come when I need to be reminded of why I should witness to others.  It is where I come when I want to reflect on the love of Jesus for me and for the world.

It is where I come when I need to forgive someone or when I am impressed to help someone I don’t get along with or to love someone who is unlovable.  It is the place where I come when I have to die to self, when I need to crucify the flesh.  It is the place we all need to come to.

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