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Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit

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

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.

 

apostol-san-pedro-y-cornelio2I like the fact that Cornelius invited his family and close friends over to his house so that they too can hear what God commanded Peter to share with him. This says something about Cornelius. He wanted those who were dear to him to be a part of something very important–something that could change lives.
If the Lord were to ask us to invite a pastor over to tell us the things we need to know, how many people we would invite? What do we say to them to convince them to come over? Did Cornelius’ have to convince his relatives and friends to join him? I don’t think so. Based on the kind of man he was, they would have had no problem accepting his invitation. I’m sure they were happy they went. They got to hear a powerful sermon about Jesus. They learned that God doesn’t play favorites and everyone who fears Him and do what is right and pleasing in His sight are accepted by Him. They heard about the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. They had the assurance that whoever believes in Jesus will receive remission of sins.
While Peter was still speaking the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius and those who were with him. They began to speak in tongues and glorify God. Right away Peter made arrangements for them to be baptized. What an incredible experience this must have been for Cornelius and his household. They received Jesus and were baptized with the Holy Spirit. God demonstrated here that His grace is for everyone.

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?

When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” – Matthew 15:10, 11

IMG_0412Growing up, we were encouraged to wash our hands before we eat because we were taught that “cleanliness is next to godliness”. The Pharisees and scribes had a problem with Jesus’ disciples eating with first washing their hands. In their eyes this was unthinkable because it was breaking their tradition.

In response to their complaint, Jesus pointed out that they were breaking God’s law for the sake of their tradition by letting people think that it was okay for them to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ They were basically saying that the people they don’t need to honor their parents. They were placing their tradition above God’s commandment. Jesus called them on their hypocrisy. There they were criticizing the disciples for eating food without washing their hands and yet they were encouraging people to dishonor their parents, worshipping God in vain and teaching as doctrine the commandments of men. These were the same people who bore malice toward Jesus and plotted to destroy Him when He healed a man on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:14).

Jesus made it clear to the crowd that it is not eating food with unwashed hands that makes defiles a person it is what is inside the person that defiles the person. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” Ironically, these people thought that ceremonial washing of the hands before eating make them clean but inside they were defiled–unclean. They were filled with evil thoughts and intentions toward Jesus, they committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit by attributing His power to Satan (Matthew 12:24-32). They had murder in their hearts. These things defiled them. They may have had clean hands but their hearts were far from clean. Eating food with unwashed did not defile the disciples.

This exchange between Jesus and the religious leaders had nothing to do with diet. Jesus wasn’t declaring that all foods are good to eat as some believe and teach. He was telling them that what comes out of them defiles them not what goes in. Clean hearts are more important than clean hands. Like David, we should pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10).

adam-eve_019Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness – Genesis 1:26

There are many people who deny that there are three Persons in the Godhead. They don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. What does the Word of God say?

In the first book of the Bible, God is speaking to others when He says, “Let Us make man in our image, according to Our likeness.” Who is He talking to? The angels? Psalm 104:4 says “Who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire.” Angels are created beings. Would God create us in the image of other created beings even though we were made lower than them (Psalm 8:5)? Remember what the angel said when the apostle John fell down at his feet in worship? “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God” (Revelation 22:9). Twice John fell at the angel’s feet to worship him and twice he told him not to do that. They were both servants. Only God is to be worshipped.

He was talking to the other members of the Godhead who were present at creation. The Son was present. The apostle John confirms this in the first chapter of his Gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1:1-5).

The Holy Spirit was present at creation. Genesis 1:2 states, And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. All were present at Jesus’ baptism. And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).

When Jesus gave the great commission to His disciples, He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen (Matthew 28:19, 20).

Though commonly known as the “Trinity”, the term “Godhead” is actually in the Bible. It is used by Paul in Romans 1:20 and in Colossians 2:9. He uses the Greek words theiotēs and theotēs. Both of which refer to the state of being God. The Godhead is one God, three persons. Paul refers to these three Persons in his letter to the Christians in Corinth. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14). The author of Hebrews writes, “how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14).

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4). Many use these words of Moses to dispute the teaching of the Godhead. What they need to remember is that the Israelites had come from Egypt which had many gods and the other nations at that time were also polytheistic. The golden calf Aaron made was the Egyptian god, Apis.

The Godhead is comprised of three Persons with different roles but one purpose much like a family with more than one member with different roles. “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one” (1 John 5:7, 8). Here the Spirit refers to the Father, the water to the Holy Spirit and the blood to Jesus. They are one. Together they created us and together they devised the plan of salvation when our first parents, Adam and Eve sinned. Together they are working in and through us so that one day we will spend eternity with them on the new earth.

One morning as I prayed, I reflected on the humility of Jesus.  He left the glory of Heaven where He was worshipped and praised, where He was with God, the Father.  Jesus, God the Son became the Son of God and the Son of man.  He humbled Himself when He came here on earth in that He came to serve and not to be served.  He came in the flesh as one of us.  There was humility in His birth.  He was born in a manger surrounded by animals and hay.

He was the Son of a carpenter and He too was a carpenter, which makes sense.  It ties in with His ministry here on earth.  A carpenter builds.  Jesus came here to build a relationship between God and us.  He came to build a relationship between Himself and us and with one another.  And when He was to return to His Father, He built a relationship between the Holy Spirit and us.  Jesus was humble in that everything He said and did was of the Father.  He was obedient to the Father in all things, following His will even onto death.  He placed the Father first and us second.

Jesus was humble in appearance and in behaviour.  He wanted to teach us that we should be humble.  God loves humility but resists pride.  Humility allows for God to be in our lives.  It allows us to love Him completely and to totally surrender to His will.  It allows us to recognize our need for Him.  It allows us to love others and each out to them.  Humility allows us to give of ourselves—to be selfless.  Humility is of the Spirit.  We should be humble in spirit.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of Heaven” and “Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth”.  Because of His humility and faithfulness, Jesus is now exalted and is sitting at the right hand of God.  He is now King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  His name is above all other names.

Jesus taught us that in being humble we allow God to us to fulfill His plans.  We open ourselves for His will to be done in us for His glory and for the benefit of others.  In doing everything the Father commanded Him to do, Jesus made it possible for us to receive the grace of God by which we are saved from the wages of sin.  Humility led to salvation and an inheritance of the kingdom of God.

Self-exaltation is a deterrent to God. It is what got Lucifer cast down from Heaven.  Psalm 138:6 says “Though the Lord be high, yet hath He respect unto the lowly:  but the proud He knoweth afar off”.  God has no regard for the proud, for those who like to puff themselves up and boast.  They put themselves before God and look down on others.  They are self-involved and do not keep the commandments of God.  They love themselves more than God and others.  Their self-importance blinds them to His will.

The Bible speaks clearly of God’s view of the proud.  We should be humble as our Lord Jesus was.  Pride leaves no room for God to work with us on in us.



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