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

 

 

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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?

Appearances

Mark 11:12-14

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples – John 15:8

downloadI am sure a lot of us know Christians who go to church every week, know their Bibles inside out and say “Amen” and “Hallelujah” or “Praise the Lord” a lot during the sermons and can sing the hymns without looking at the open hymnals in their hands. Yet, how many of us would be surprised that these same Christians are like the fig tree that Jesus curses because it bore no fruit? They look good, sound good but that is all.

As the story goes, Jesus was hungry. He saw a fig tree afar and it had leaves. So, He went to see if He could find fruit on it. He found nothing but leaves. It was not the season for figs but the tree gave the impression that it had figs. The leaves of the fig tree promised fruit. Apparently the figs come before the leaves. But for this particular tree, there were leaves but no figs. If it were not the season for figs, why then did it have leaves?

This fig tree is like the religious leaders that had the promise of fruit, the leaves (the outward appearance) but produced no fruit. They were the ones having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:5).  Outwardly they appeared righteous but inside they were filled with hypocrisy.  They honoured God with their lips but not with their hearts (Matthew 15:8).

For all their rituals, Sabbath-keeping, knowledge of the scriptures, traditions, they were spiritually barren. Much like some Christians today. For all their perfect church attendance, knowledge of scriptures and church doctrines, Sabbath-keeping, they are spiritually barren. They are of no use to God. They are not producing any fruit.

If Jesus were to come to your church, what will He find? People having the appearance of fruitful Christians or Christians actually bearing fruit? Will He find only leaves or leaves and fruit? As the body of Christ, we are not to be ornaments and bench warmers but active in our communities, families, workplaces or wherever the harvest is. No more keeping up appearances. We may fool some people and ourselves but we can’t fool the Lord. We must be out in the field, bearing good fruit for the kingdom.

What can you do today to make sure you are bearing fruit for Jesus? You want that on closer inspection, He will see your fruit and reward you. Don’t be like those who are good for nothing and useless like salt which has lost its flavour. Barren trees and flavourless salt will be thrown out. Be fruitful so that when people see your fruit, they will glorify your Father in Heaven.

When Jesus comes looking for fruit, make sure He finds some.

The Humility of Jesus

Let this mjesus-crossind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,  who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,  but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:5-8).

When I read this the other day, it hit home that Jesus didn’t think anything of leaving the glory of Heaven and coming to earth to live among His creation.   He had no problem setting aside His nature which made Him equal with the Father and taking on the form of sinful man.  Why did He do this?  1 John 3:8 tells us why.  “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”  Jesus came to undo the work of the devil which he started in the Garden of Eden when he tempted Eve and succeeded.

Jesus wanted to defeat sin in the flesh because it was through the flesh that sin entered the world. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—” (Romans 5:12).   Sin is like an epidemic, a cancer and Jesus is the only One who could completely destroy it.  So, He came into the world as an infant, born to a virgin.  He lived a simple life, worked as a carpenter before He began His ministry.  Throughout His life here on earth, Jesus lived in total obedience to the Father and humbly.

In His humility He defeated the devil in the wilderness, using, not His divine power, but the Word of God to counter each temptation until the enemy had no other choice but to go away.  In humility, Jesus allowed the religious leaders and the roman soldiers to mock, spit, strike and humiliate Him.  Not once did He complain or call down the angels to help Him.  In humility, He carried the cross to the place where they would crucify Him.  On the way, women bewailed and lamented Him but He didn’t think about Himself.  He foresaw what would befall them and warned them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.  For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’ Then they will begin ‘to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”’ For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?”

I always wondered what Jesus meant by “green wood and dry” and today I learnt that green wood is not used as fuel for fire, whereas, dry wood is perfect for that.  And Jesus is represented by the green wood, as the One undeserving of the cruel treatment He was receiving from the people.  And the people who were fanning the flames, pushing for Jesus’ crucifixion, after requesting that, Barabbas, a criminal be released, were the dry wood.  They were deserving of the Divine judgement that they would one day face.  Jesus was telling the women to cry for these people.  The people who continually reject Christ and His work on the cross are the ones we ought to mourn for the time will come when they will be judged and will be cast into the lake of fire.

In humility, as He hung on the cross, He asked God to forgive the very people who wanted Him dead.  He was dying for them too.  The cross is where we ought to go when we find it hard to forgive those who hurt and humiliate and mistreat us.  In humility we realize that Jesus hanging on the cross in our place is what made it possible for God to forgive us too.  We too are responsible for Jesus becoming a curse for us. Humility is about acknowledging that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory and that we have a Saviour who thought nothing of emptying Himself.

In humility, Jesus thought nothing of the shame of the manner of His death, endured the cross, because of the joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2).  He wasn’t thinking about the shame but the salvation that would be offered to all those who accepted His ultimate sacrifice.  Through His death, many would receive life eternal.  And through His death and resurrection, many would have the same victory over sin and death.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for humbling Yourself and becoming one of us so that You could defeat sin and death.  Sin had separated us from our Father but Your death on the cross, reconciled us to Him.  We will never be able to repay the debt You paid with Your precious blood.  We can honour You by loving others and sharing the Good News about what You did for them on the cross.

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,  and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

Testimony of John the Baptist

BaptismOfJesusJohn the Baptist, when he saw Jesus, testified that He was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world.  He mentions that Jesus is the One whom he had spoken of before.  He knew Him not but that He should be revealed to Israel and that he, John, comes baptizing with water.  His baptisms are his way of preparing Israel for the Messiah who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.

Luke’s Gospel elaborates on John’s role.  He was to come before Jesus in the manner of an earlier prophet–Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the disobedient to wisdom of the just; to make people ready–to prepare them for the Lord.

John the Baptist was called the prophet of the Highest because he was to go before Jesus to prepare His way.  He was to let the people know about salvation by the remission of their sins.  John went about saying, “Repent you: for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”  He was fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah.  God revealed Jesus to John, for John testified that he had seen the Spirit descending from Heaven like a dove and settle on Him.  God had told John that the person he saw the Spirit descend and remain on was the One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.  John witnessed this phenomenon and testified that Jesus was the Son of God.

Like John the Baptist, Jesus is revealed to us and it is up to us to share this revelation with others.  We can declare to others that Jesus is the Son of God and through Him we receive the Holy Spirit.  After Jesus came, baptism was done in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  As in Jesus’ case, we too receive the Holy Spirit in baptism.

The King on a Cross

“He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God” – Luke 23:35

031211_0125_CITIZENSOFA14As Jesus hung on the cross, soldiers cast lots for His robe and the people passed by, blaspheming Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!” The chief priests and scribes jeered Him among themselves, “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” (Mark 15:29-32).  The soldiers mocked Him, saying that if He were the King of the Jews, He should save Himself.  One of the criminals blasphemed Him, telling Him that if He were the Christ, to save Himself and them.  As He hung there, Jesus asked His Father to forgive them (Luke 23:34-37).

None of those jeering at Him realized that He had fulfilled the purpose for which He came.  He was not going to save Himself.  He was there to save them and the world so that those who believed in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.  He became a curse for our sake.  Nicodemus must have reflected on these words as He witnessed the crucifixion,  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:14-17).

Jesus had to be lifted up so that all men would be drawn to Him.  Just as the Israelites looked upon the serpent in the wilderness and were saved so will those who look upon Him in faith.  The heavenly King to give His life a ransom for many.  The rulers seem to have forgotten Caiaphas’ prophetic words, “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” John wrote that the high priest prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad (John 11:49-52).  Thus Jesus would die not only for the Jews but also for the Gentiles.  And it was expedient that He should die.  There is no remission for sin unless blood is shed.  The blood of the Lamb of God had to be shed for the sins of the world.  Without His death there would be no reconciliation with God for sin had separated us from Him.

Ironically, the other thief on the cross, who was also cursed because he was hanging from a tree, he realized that Jesus was innocent and undeserving of such a humiliating death.  He acknowledged his own sinfulness in the face of our Lord and asked Jesus to “remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”  Jesus promised him that day that he would be among those who were resurrected on that glorious day when Jesus would come again to gather His people to Him and take them to Heaven.  That thief gave his life to the King of Kings and in return received the promise of eternal life. 

Thankfully, Jesus did not come down from the cross as He was goaded into doing.  Instead, He cried out, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit’” and died.  Even nature responded to the death of its Creator.  There was darkness over the earth and the sun was darkened.  The veil in the temple tore, signifying that the old sacrificial system was obselete now.  “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.  For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.  For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4).  Only the blood of Christ can take away our sins.  He offered Himself once and for all on the cross. 

Another important point that should be made is that the tearing of the veil also signified the tearing down of the partition which separated us from God.   We read in Hebrews 10:19, 20, that we can boldly enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus and by a new and living way which He consecrated for us through the veil which is His flesh.  So, thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we are now able to boldly approach the throne of grace.  In the old system, “when a sacrifice was offered for the sins of the entire congregation, the blood was taken by the priest, who represented Jesus (Hebrews 3:1), into the sanctuary and sprinkled before the veil which separated the two rooms. The presence of God dwelt on the other side of the veil” (God Drew the Plans, Amazing Facts.  In the tearing of the veil, we see Jesus in His roles as our sacrificial Lamb and our High Priest.  Through Him we can go directly to God and confess our sins.  We don’t need an earthly intercessor.  The Bible clearly teaches that there is one Mediator between God and us and that’s Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5).  He is the only way to the Father because of what He did on the cross.

The King of Kings stayed on the cross until He was able to say, “It is finished.”  He had accomplished what He came to do.  Hebrews 10:7 states that He came to do the Father’s will.  Isaiah 53:11, 12 explain what that will was:  By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.  And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors.”  It pleased God to give His beloved Son so that the world would be saved through Him.  And the Son was willing to lay down His life. 

When the centurion saw the veil tear in two from top to bottom, he declared, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).  Here we have a Gentile, a Roman soldier who acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God while many of the Jews rejected Him as their King and their Messiah.  This centurion declared that Jesus was a righteous Man and glorified God (Luke 23:47).  He believed that Jesus was the Son of God.  This was a confession of faith.  He was drawn to the King who was lifted up.  Jesus said of Himself, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

Today, reflect on the King as He hung on the cross, cursed for our sakes so that He could redeem us.  Thank God for loving you so much that He sacrificed His Son so that you could be reconciled to Him.  Thank Jesus for laying down His life for you.  And rejoice because the King is now in heaven sitting on the right hand of the Father.

The Anointing at Bethany

“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

Rahab

By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace – Hebrews 11:31.

016-joshua-rahab-spiesOne morning I was reading the story of Rahab to my five year old son. I didn’t mention of course that Rahab was a harlot. I made of point of telling him that she was the great-great-great grandmother of King David.  How did she earn this privilege? We find out in the book of Joshua. Joshua, who was now the leader of the people of Israel following Moses’ death sent two men to secretly spy out the land, especially Jericho. They went and came to the house of Rahab where they lodged. Somehow the king of Jericho found out that they were there and he sent a message to Rahab, telling her to bring the men.   However, Rahab hid the two spies and sent the king’s men on a wild
goose chase.

Why did she hide the men? She had heard about their God. “For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our
hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.”  She knew that God would give the Israelites possession of the land where Jericho was.   In return for her help, she wanted the two spies to spare her and her family when they went to take possession of the land. The spies agreed to save her provided that she didn’t betray their whereabouts and they told her to tie a red cord in the window through which she let them down so that she and her family would be safe. Rahab agreed and sent them away.

True to their promise when they went into the city of Jericho and utterly destroyed everything in it, Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the country, “Go into the harlot’s house, and from there bring out the woman and all that she has, as you swore to her.” She and her family stayed outside the camp of Israel while their city was burned. Joshua 6:25 states: And Joshua spared Rahab the harlot, her father’s household, and all that she had. So she dwells in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. Rahab married Salmon and gave birth to Boaz who married Ruth, the Moabitess and mother Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Rahab is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus and as one of the people of faith in chapter 11 of Hebrews and James wrote of her, “Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?” (James 2:25). In faith and at the risk of her own life she hid the spies in her home until it was safe for them to leave. And as a result she and her family did not perish with the rest of the inhabitants of Jericho.

The story of Rahab is one of hope and encouragement.  God can use anyone to help His people and to fulfill His purpose.  Once we fear God and put our faith and trust in Him, we will not perish but will receive His mercy and grace.

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven” – Matthew 5:3

humilityThe message seems to contradict itself but God’s way of living is usually at odds with the world’s.  His ways may seem strange to the world.  We must be poor in spirit which means to be humble.  Pride and self-importance have no place in God’s kingdom.  The Bible says, “God resists the proud but gives grace to humble.  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:5-6).

People don’t like to submit or be dependent on anyone.  They like to be self-sufficient, idependent.  Jesus is saying  blessed are those who humble themselves in the sight of the Lord.  As disciples of Jesus we must submit to God and resist the devil who offers us worldly things.  These traits are the ones Jesus is looking for in His followers.  God blesses those who live out these traits.

It is not easy to do what may seem strange and opposite to the societal norm.  How could a humble person inherit the kingdom of heaven?  The Lord Himself declares, “I will dwell in the high and holy place with him who has a contrite and humble spirit.  To revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15).

God dwells with the humble–the poor in spirit–those who for recognize their need for God.  They are lowly in spirit.  Paul describes this kind of attitude best.  “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3, 4).

Jesus was poor in spirit–He was humble and He came to serve, not to be served.  He always puts the needs of others before His own.  And the result is, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).  Jesus humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death.  As disciples of Christ we are to humble ourselves and be obedient to God in all things.

Like Jesus, our kingdom is not of this world and that is why the world does not know us just as it did not know Him.  We are God’s peculiar people.  Our way of life is at odds with the ways of the world.  Being poor in spirit brings us God’s riches which are eternal.

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