Appearances

“I’m not one to meddle in other people’s business but I just wanted to put you in the loop about what others are saying,” Mrs. Martin said to Jennifer.  They were sitting in Jennifer’s living-room.  Mrs. Martin had dropped by to drop off some books she had borrowed.  Jennifer had invited her to stay and have some tea.  Mrs. Martin declined but told Jennifer that she needed to have a word with her.  She seemed a bit concerned.

“Please tell me what you are talking about, Mrs. Martin,” she asked.

Mrs. Martin put her hand on Jennifer’s shoulder.  “I don’t know quite how to say this.”

“Just say it.”

“People are saying that you and Robert Foster are spending too much time together.  He’s married, you know.”

“I know he is, Mrs. Martin.  I serve on the church Finance Committee with her, remember?  What you have been hearing are nothing more than nasty rumors.  Pay no attention to them.”

“But someone said she saw you leaving his home one afternoon when his wife was out of town.”

“I was there to drop off some boxes of donations for Mr. Foster to take to the homeless shelter.  I couldn’t do it myself as I had another engagement and he offered to do it for me.  If you don’t believe me you can ask his son who was there.  That is the only time I went by the Fosters’ home when Susan wasn’t there.”

“Oh.”  Mrs. Martin looked embarrassed now.  “I’m sorry I troubled you with this.  I just thought you ought to know what people were saying.  I’d better leave now.”  She stood up and Jennifer walked with her to the door.

Jennifer felt sorry for her.  She knew she meant well.  “Thank you for letting me know,” she said.  “I will straighten the matter.  Good night, Mrs. Martin.”

“Good night, Jennifer.”

Jennifer closed the door quietly behind her and shook her head.  This was not the first time that people in the church gossiped about one of the members and sadly, it wouldn’t be the last.  The pastor needed to do something about it but he was more concerned about not ruffling feathers.  If nothing was done soon, he would have more to worry about than ruffling feathers.  Already people were leaving the church.  Many times she had considered leaving but she didn’t because she believed that God wanted her there.

 

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Night Visions

Now a word was secretly brought to me, And my ear received a whisper of it.   In disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night, When deep sleep falls on men, Fear came upon me, and trembling, Which made all my bones shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; The hair on my body stood up.   It stood still, But I could not discern its appearance.  A form was before my eyes (Job 4:12-16).

Sounds like something out of a horror movie, doesn’t it?   What an eerie feeling it is to sense that something is in the room with you while you are sleeping.  It makes the hairs on your body stand up, indeed.

This night vision is not a work of fiction.  It is real.  It happened to a man name Eliphaz.  He was one of Job’s friends.  When he and two other friends found out about the calamities Job had gone through–losing his livestock, possessions, children and finally, his health, they went to see him.  They were so stunned when they saw the condition he was in–probably disfigured from the boils covering his body, they wept, and threw dust over their heads in deep mourning.  They sat with him in silence for a while until each of them began to speak to Job, assuming that he had brought his suffering upon himself because of sin.

Eliphaz shared the night vision he had.  It was used to illustrate his point that no innocent person has ever perished or the upright ever cut off, implying that Job was neither innocent nor upright.  However, we have read stories of the innocent and the upright being persecuted, martyred.  It was not up to Eliphaz to determine whether or not Job brought this suffering on himself.  Job didn’t need to hear these hurtful words.  He needed a friend.

Job’s whole experience shows us that God doesn’t do bad things to people–He allows it sometimes.  And we are not to judge others.  We can’t assume that they are suffering because of something they did. And that bad things happen to good people too.  And in the case of Eliphaz, people misunderstand who God is.  He believed that God was punishing Job when it was Satan who was responsible for these calamities.

Eliphaz believed that Job must have done something wrong and that for him to say that he was innocent, was like saying he was more righteous and pure than God.  Job was not attacking God’s character but was maintaining his innocence.  He knew that he hadn’t done anything to deserve what had happened to him.  The devil wanted Job to believe that God was punishing him and was trying to get him to curse him.  The spirit was either Satan himself or an evil spirit sent by him to distort a true picture of God and to destroy Job’s faith in Him.

The Bible advises us, “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

Something else that stood out for me in the vision were the words, “Now a word was secretly brought to me, And my ear received a whisper of it.”  This took place at night and it was in secret.  God’s doesn’t operate like this.  His truth is light and it is not secret.  We have to be discerning and test whatever new “light” we receive and see if it is in harmony with the Word of God.  

blakejob_color9

 

Jesus is Coming Again

jesus_second_comingThe apostle, Peter wrote in his second letter, ‘First, I want to remind you that in the last days there will be scoffers who will laugh at the truth and do every evil thing they desire. This will be their argument: “Jesus promised to come back, did he? Then where is he? Why, as far back as anyone can remember, everything has remained exactly the same since the world was first created.”

“They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he brought the earth up from the water and surrounded it with water. Then he used the water to destroy the world with a mighty flood. And God has also commanded that the heavens and the earth will be consumed by fire on the Day of Judgment, when ungodly people will perish.

“But you must not forget, dear friends, that a day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent.” (2 Peter 3:3-9)

Make no mistake. Jesus is coming again.  The Lord does not make idle promises.  We do not know the hour but we can be certain that He is coming back.  The world has changed.  We are seeing evidence that it is soon coming to an end.  We serve a merciful God who desires that none should perish.  He is being patient for our sake.  He is giving people time to turn from their sins—to turn from their wicked ways and seek Him.

Don’t be discouraged. Be patient.  The Lord will come soon.  Prepare your hearts and lives for that glorious day when He will appear in the clouds with His angels.

Don’t doubt or despair because He hasn’t come as yet. Instead, remember this promise Jesus made: “Don’t be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” (John 14:1-3)

Advice

“Only the wise can give good advice; fools cannot do so” – Proverbs 15:7

31118_000_034_06At some point in our lives we seek advice from others.  Sometimes we get good advice and sometimes we get bad.  Some people mean well while others don’t.  It is up to us to decide which advice to follow.

After King Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became the ruler of Israel. When Jeroboam heard about Solomon’s death, he returned from Egypt where he fled to escape from the former king.  Jeroboam was summoned by the leaders of Israel and he and all of Israel went to speak to Rehoboam.  They said to him, “your father was a hard master.  Lighten the harsh labor demands and heavy taxes that your father imposed on us.  Then we will be your loyal subjects.”

Rehoboam told them to go back in three days for his answer. The people went away and the king went to discuss the matter with the older men who used to counsel his father, Solomon.  “What is your advice?” he asked.  “How should I answer these people?”

They replied, “If you are good to the people and show them kindness and do your best to please them, they will always be your loyal subjects” (2 Chronicles 10:1-7). Very sound advice.  But Rehoboam rejected it.  It wasn’t what he wanted to hear.  How many of us reject good advice because it doesn’t please us?

Rehoboam went to his friends and asked for their advice. They said to him, “This is what you should tell those complainers: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist—if you think he was hard on you, just wait and see what I’ll be like.  Yes, my father was harsh on you, but I’ll be even harsher.  My father used whips on you, but I’ll use scorpions” (verses 10, 11).  This was very foolish advice.  No one in their right mind would follow this.  But Rehoboam did.

When the people came to see him three days later he repeated the advice his friends gave him. As a result the people refused to be ruled by a descendant of David.  They shouted, “Down with David and his dynasty.”

In Rehoboam’s case, this turn of events was the will of God so that this prophecy would be fulfilled,But I will not take the entire kingdom from Solomon at this time. For the sake of my servant David, the one whom I chose and who obeyed my commands and laws, I will let Solomon reign for the rest of his life. But I will take the kingdom away from his son and give ten of the tribes to you.  His son will have one tribe so that the descendants of David my servant will continue to reign in Jerusalem, the city I have chosen to be the place for my name.  And I will place you on the throne of Israel, and you will rule over all that your heart desires” (1 Kings 11:34-37).

But when we make bad decisions based on bad advice we cannot blame the consequences on God or anyone else but ourselves. We are to be wise.  We are to seek godly counsel first and then it is up to God if He wants to help us through another person.  If Solomon had followed his father David’s advice and not worshipped other gods but remained faithful to God, his son Rehoboam would not have been influenced to make a bad decision which had long lasting effects.

We have to be careful whom we seek advice from. Proverbs 12:26 says, “The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray.”  Rehoboam’s friends did not give him good advice.  He was led astray and God allowed it to happen.  Sometimes bad things are allowed to happen to teach us a lesson.

Good News!

Luke 2:8-20

Angel&Shepherds

When was the last time you received good news? What did you do?  Did you keep it to yourself or did you share it with others?

Imagine you were one of those shepherds watching over your sheep.  It was a night like any other or so you thought…

Suddenly an angel appears out of nowhere and a bright light shines around you. You’re scared.  You wonder what is going on.  The angel assures you and the other shepherds that there is nothing to be afraid of.  He has come to share good news.  Then he makes the big announcement, “For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign to you: You will find the Baby wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

The Savior whom you and others have been waiting for is born.  He’s in Bethlehem in a manger.  While you are still trying to digest this incredible news, other angels join the first one and the air is filled with their glory as they raise their voices in a song of praise to God. What a glorious sight. You can hardly believe what you are seeing.  After the angelic host leaves, you and the other shepherds are filled with excitement.  You can’t wait to go and see the Child for yourselves. You are anxious to go and see what the Lord has made known to you. You hurry off to the manger where you see Mary, Joseph and the Child.

The shepherds “made widely known the word which was told them concerning this Child” and those who heard it couldn’t help but marvel but Mary kept these things in her heart and pondered over them.  I can’t imagine what must have been going through her mind.  First, an angel visited her and told her that she was going to have a Son who would be called Jesus and that He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest. Then, on the night after she gives birth, shepherds show up at the manger to see Him because they too were visited by an angel.  This is a lot to grasp.

The shepherds left the manger and returned to their sheep, praising and glorifying God for all the things they had heard and seen.  It was a night they would never forget.

What can we learn from this wonderful story?

  • After hearing about Jesus, seek Him out for yourself
  • After you have seen Jesus and have been in His presence, go and tell others
  • Glorify and praise God for sending His Son into the world so that through Him we can be saved

This Christmas, take time to reflect on God’s greatest Gift to mankind.  Celebrate Jesus and thank Him for leaving the glory of heaven to come to earth to dwell among us.  Thank Him for the gift of eternal life which we can receive only through Him.  Share the message of love and hope of the season with others.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and good will toward men – Luke 2:14

 

 

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

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.

Love Thinks No Evil

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.

 

Peter Defends God’s Grace

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.

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