Jesus' Footprints

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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

 

 

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

“Why was this fragrant oil wasted? – Mark 14:4

she-anointed-his-head-matt-26-7Before the Passover, Jesus and His disciples were at the home of Simon, the leper.  As they sat around the table, a woman whom John later identified as Mary, Lazarus’s sister, came with an alabaster jar filled with expensive oil.

As the others watched, she broke the jar and poured the oil on Jesus’ head.  It amazes me how some of them reacted.  They were moved with great indignation.  “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor,” they demanded.  Didn’t they think that Jesus was worthy of being anointed with costly oil?  He was the Messiah.  He was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.  He was their Teacher who came to share the Good News of salvation.  Didn’t He deserve this honor?  Mark went on to say that they criticized Mary sharply.

Jesus defended Mary.   “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial.  Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”  This is true.  Sermons have been preached about the alabaster jar of oil and there are songs about it.  Mary had done a marvelous thing.  She had shown that Jesus was to be the Passover Lamb and that’s why she anointed Him. 

The disciples failed to see the significance of her actions.  They were more concerned with the things of this world.  John tells us that Judas Iscariot was those who objected to what Mary did and spoke about giving the money to the poor but he didn’t care about the poor.  The poor would not have seen any of that money because Judas was a thief and was stealing from the moneybox (John 12:6).   And Jesus made a very good point.  The poor would always be around but He wouldn’t be.  Mary always seem to know how precious little time she had with the Savior and always made the most of it.   She had given Him her best.  This was her way of doing something for Jesus–giving Him something that was valuable in gratitude for what He had done for her.  While her sister Martha was preoccupied with serving, Mary’s focus was on Jesus.

Before this time Jesus had told His disciples that He would die and be raised up on the third day.  Mary knew that Jesus was going to die and she came prepared.  She brought oil to anoint Him for His burial.  She accepted what the disciples couldn’t bring themselves to acknowledge–the Lord was going to die.  The disciples didn’t want to think about this.  Mark mentioned that they were afraid to ask Him what He meant (Mark 9:31, 32).  It didn’t fit in with their idea of Jesus and His kingdom.  They, like many others, believed that Jesus would overthrow the Romans and set up His kingdom.  They believed that Jesus’ kingdom was of this world.  Some people tried to force the issue (John 6:15).  When He was before Pilate, Jesus made it clear, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36). 

The disciples still didn’t get it.  In Acts 1:6, they asked Him just before He ascended to Heaven, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” They were still expecting Him to set up an earthly kingdom before He left them.  It was perhaps in this kingdom which they argued about who would be the greatest (Mark 9:33, 34).  Yet in the kingdom in heaven which Jesus came to set up, greatness has to do with service to others.  It is the humble who are exalted, not the great or the proud.  Mary is not remembered for any greatness but for a simple yet profound act of love.

Matthew tells us that when Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day, Peter took Him aside and rebuked Him (Matthew 16:21, 22). Peter and the other disciples didn’t want to hear about their Lord, the Son of the living God being killed.  On the flip side, Mary who had heard the teachings of Jesus did not recoil in fear of His impending suffering and death.  Instead she prepared herself and Him for that moment.  And Jesus commended her for her “good work”.

Mary showed such love and devotion to Jesus that it’s a shame she was criticized for it.  It occurred to me that some of the people were acting self-righteously.  It was as if they were saying, “How could she waste money on expensive oil?  I would never do that.  I would use the money to help the poor.”  Are we the same way?  Would we have said to ourselves, “I wouldn’t have done what she did.  I would have given that money to help our church to spread the Gospel or to a charity.”

Do we find ourselves criticizing those who, through their actions show their faithfulness and devotion to Christ in ways we might not have thought of?  When at church do we find fault with other believers?  What should we do instead?  What can we learn from this story?

  • Always put Jesus first.  He is more important than anyone or anything else, even the poor
  • Give your best to the Lord
  • Expense or cost doesn’t matter when it comes to expressing love for Jesus
  • Don’t let criticism discourage you
  • Don’t defend yourself.  Let the Lord do that
  • Love in action
  • Don’t be critical of others
  • Don’t be self-righteous

Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard – Matthew 27:65, 66

Jesus Empty TombWorried that the disciples would steal Jesus’ body and then claim that He had risen from the dead, the chief priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate to request that a guard be posted at the tomb.  Pilate granted them their request and they went away and secured the tomb.

Early Sunday morning when the women went to the tomb, an angel appeared and rolled back the stone from the opening.  The guards who were present were so terrified of him that they became like dead men.  The angel told the women that Jesus was not there.  He said, “…He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” Overjoyed, the women raced away to tell the disciples to good news.

Meanwhile the guards went into the city to break the news to the chief priests.  The chief priests met with the elders to figure out what their next move was going to be.  They decided that the best thing to do in this situation was to bribe the soldiers and encouraged them to lie about what happened.  “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.”  The soldiers took the money and did as they were told.  Many of the Jews believed this lie but many believed that Jesus rose from the dead just as He said He would.

In spite of the schemes of some, on that third day, Jesus conquered death.  He is the resurrection and the life.  He is our risen Lord and Savior.  The empty tomb proves this.

2 Corinthians 10:12-18

boast-in-the-lord

Too often Christians boast about all the wonderful things they are doing.  This was happening in the church in Corinth and that is why the apostle Paul addressed it in his second letter to the church leaders.  He wrote, “Oh, don’t worry; I wouldn’t dare say that I am as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, and measuring themselves by themselves. What foolishness!  But we will not boast of authority we do not have. Our goal is to stay within the boundaries of God’s plan for us, and this plan includes our working there with you. We are not going too far when we claim authority over you, for we were the first to travel all the way to you with the Good News of Christ. Nor do we claim credit for the work someone else has done. Instead, we hope that your faith will grow and that our work among you will be greatly enlarged. Then we will be able to go and preach the Good News in other places that are far beyond you, where no one else is working. Then there will be no question about being in someone else’s territory. As the Scriptures say, “The person who wishes to boast should boast only of what the Lord has done.  When people boast about themselves, it doesn’t count for much. But when the Lord commends someone, that’s different!”

Paul is right.  When we boast we should boast about God.  We should be saying, “This is what God has done” or “God is a great God.  He has done this or that.”  We should always give credit where credit is due.  If God has done something wonderful, boast about it.  David in his psalms was always encouraging us to sing about the wonderful things God has done, to declare His wonderful works or to tell others how great He is.  We are to exalt God.  We are to brag about Him not ourselves and our accomplishments.  Without God we are hopeless—nothing.  We are great only in our eyes and maybe in the eyes of others.  But what good does that do us.  The Bible says we should be humble. Jesus never boasted and He had every reason too.  He was humility in the flesh.  God doesn’t like boastful people.  Humility is a quality He prefers and encourages.  Satan is boastful.  He thought he was great, so great that he wanted to be like God.  That led to his downfall.  Pride goes before a fall.  When we do great things, give God all the praise.

It is better to have God commend us.  He commended Job.  He commended Moses.  Instead of boasting and comparing your accomplishments with others’ boast about God.  People admired famous people like Princess Di and Mother Theresa because although they were wealthy, they were humble.  They helped others.  God is not impressed with people who have the most degrees or plaques hanging in their offices, the most possessions, the most talents or anything like that.  He is impressed with those who put others first and go out of their way to help people and not make a show of it.  Be the kind of person God wants you to be.  Humble.

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)

What a blessing it is to help people who are in need.  That is what Jesus did when He was here on earth.  He helped the sick, the poor, the oppressed and the persecuted.  To the crowd gathered in the synagogue, Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has appointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to announce that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed” (Isaiah 61:1). 

Jesus came to counsel, teach, heal.  He came to help people to turn their lives around.  He gave many a new lease on life.  He healed lepers, making it possible for them to return to society.  They were no longer outcasts.  He helped the adulteress to clean up her life.  He helped the Samaritan woman to see that her current living arrangement was not right.  He helped Nicodemus, the Pharisee to understand what it means to be born again.  It took a while to explain it but Jesus was patient.  Jesus helped many people. 

Paul encourages us to help one another.  “Dear brothers and sisters, if another Christian is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.  Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ.  If you think you are too important to help someone in need, you are only fooling yourself. You are really a nobody.  Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters” (Galatians 6:1-3, 10). 

Jesus’ message to His disciples also applies to us.  “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:34, 35).

God wants us to help everyone–not just our families or other Christians.  We are to be kind and helpful to strangers too.  Jesus taught that the way we treat people personally affects Him.  “’For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.  I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ “ When the people asked Him when was He in these situations and His reply was, `I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’  What affects us affects Him (Matthew 25:35-45). 

So, the next time you see a homeless person cold and hungry or an elderly person trying to cross the street or someone unable to open to open the door because they are carrying a lot of groceries, help that person.  You will be helping Jesus.  You are His hands and His feet.  Remember every time you help someone, you will be demonstrating love and proving to the world that you are His disciple.



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