Jesus' Footprints

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And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’?  But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’?  Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do” (Luke 17:7-10).

stdas0089-3333333333333333333Yesterday morning while I was fixing my husband’s lunch, our seven year old son thought that if he did his work, he would get to play Super Mario.  In other words, he thought that because he did all of his school work he would get a reward.  He and I had a conversation earlier and I told him that he shouldn’t do things in order to be rewarded.  His father later said the same thing.  We wanted him to do his work for the right reasons.  We told him that he had done what was expected of him so don’t expect to be rewarded for it.  If we rewarded him for doing what he was told to do, he would expect this every time.  And he would not be doing his work because he wanted to but in order to get a treat.

When Jesus spoke to the disciples about faith and duty, He told them that a servant shouldn’t expect to get any special treatment or privileges from his master because he did what was expected of him.  And the same principle applied to the disciples.  Instead of expecting rewards or recognition or perks, they should just acknowledge that they had done their duty.

When we serve God, we do it out of love for Him and for others, not to get something out of it for ourselves.  In everything we do, we do it for God’s glory not for our gain.

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“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19, 20).

person-listening-300x200James is saying that sometimes we need to listen more and speak less or say nothing.  King Solomon says in Proverbs 10:19, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise.”

There are times when we speak instead of listening and later regret it because our words lead to bitter quarrels and fights.  Feelings can get hurt and relationships can be jeopardized or destroyed because of words spoken in a fit of anger.  There are times when we ought to just listen and other times when we ought to speak.  We have to have the wisdom to know when to do which.

Problems arise when we stop listening to God and to each other.  Whether in the home, at work, or in the church, arguments ensue when listening stops.  When that happens, talking begins to accelerate and anger builds.  This slippery slope of sinful communication, like the uncontrolled inward desires of James 1:14, 15, can never produce the righteousness of God.  That is why James juxtaposes God’s righteousness with human wrath.  As long as we rely on what bubbles up naturally from our sinful nature, the creative power of God’s Word is blocked, and our own unhelpful or even hurtful words arise instead (The Book of James Sabbath School Quarterly, p. 26)

Notice James advises us to be “swift to hear”.  We must be quick to hear what the other person has to say first before we have our say.  In doing so, we might learn something and diffuse an otherwise volatile situation.   How many times have we been quick to speak and slow to listen and gotten ourselves in trouble?  It takes wisdom to hold our tongue.  It takes maturity to listen. 

We have to be careful of what we say.  If we have nothing good or helpful to say in a situation , it is best to keep quiet.

Proverbs 15:1 says, “a soft answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.  When we respond to something someone says in a quiet, non-combative way, it will diffuse the situation or prevent it from getting worse.  Once when my husband, Dave made a request, he didn’t like the tone of his co-worker’s reply but he responded in an agreeable manner.  The co-worker, initially surprised, responded positively.  Dave chose a gentle answer instead of a harsh one and turned what could have led to a bad situation into a peaceful resolution.  Both men benefitted from Dave’s wise handling of the problem.

The prophet Isaiah tells us that we should know how to speak and when to speak (Isaiah 50:4).  Paul encourages us to speak only words that will encourage and benefit others.  Our words must not be corrupt or harmful (Ephesians 4:29).  Our words should not be filthy, foolish or coarse.  They should be fitting and full of thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:4).  Our words should always be filled with grace, seasoned with salt so that we know how to answer people appropriately (Colossians 4:6). 

Be a good listener.  Hear what the other person has to say.  The same rule applies to God.  Too often when we spend time with Him, we have our say but don’t wait to hear what He has to say.  Be still and listen for that small, still voice.

He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction (Proverbs 13:3)

 

 

 

RH-EveTemptation“You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” – Genesis 3:4, 5

Eve, the first woman God created was not with her husband Adam when she was deceived by the serpent. At the time the serpent was the most cunning of the species. It was not surprising that Satan used it as his medium. How did the serpent deceive Eve?

We learn that in chapter 2 of Genesis, God gave Adam this commandment, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16, 17). Adam and Eve were allowed to eat freely from all the trees except one. That was not unreasonable. God explained why they could not eat from that particular tree. He said, “…in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” He didn’t say, “you may die” or “it may kill you.” He used the word surely. It is a certainty. If Adam or Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they will die. The word used is muwth which means to die, kill, have one executed. For them death will be their penalty for eating from this tree after God expressly commanded them not to. There is no question as to what would happen to them if they disobeyed His command. Death would be the result.

“Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” it asked her. This is what the enemy does. He questions or puts doubts in our minds about God’s word. The serpent was really asking Eve, “Did God really say that you can’t eat from every tree of the garden? Are you sure He said that? Notice the way he twisted God’s word. He said that God said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden.” God said, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat.” And the enemy left out the rest of what God said about the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Satan likes to quote God’s word but always out of context or omitting the parts of scriptures that wouldn’t serve his purpose.

Eve’s response is interesting. Here is what she said. “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Now, God did not say anything about touching the tree. Eve added to what God said. We must never to do that. Eve said too much. Proverbs 10:19 says, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips [is] wise.” As one Bible commentator puts it, “Much speech involves risk of sin; hence the wisdom of restraining the tongue”. Eve would have been better off not saying anything. She misquoted God and she referred to the tree as the “tree in the midst”.

One Bible commentary states that, “Some Jewish writers . . . state that as soon as the woman had asserted this, the serpent pushed her against the tree and said, ‘See, you have touched it, and are still alive; you may therefore safely eat of the fruit, for surely you shall not die.’” This is why it was dangerous for her to add to God’s words. Another thing to note is that she quoted God as saying, “lest you die” when in fact, He had said, “you shall surely die”.

The serpent then proceeded to say to her, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” He attacks God’s word. He opposes what God said. He contradicted Him. It is the same thing he did when Jesus told the disciples that He would suffer at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Peter rebuked him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” And Jesus turned and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:21-23). Again we see Satan speaking through Peter and contradicting the Lord’s words. Jesus saw right through that and rebuked him.

The enemy gave Eve the impression that God was being selfish in keeping her and Adam from the tree by telling them that they would die because He didn’t want them to be like Him, knowing good and evil. This was a terrible lie. God’s reason for commanding Adam and Eve from eating from the tree was to protect them. He had provided for them. He had made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food (Genesis 2:9). They could have eaten freely from all the trees in the garden except one. God gives us so much but the enemy tempts us into wanting more. Here Eve was tempted into taking fruit from the tree with the attractive offer that she would be just like God.

The serpent was right. Her eyes would be opened and with the knowledge of good and evil will come devastating results. Eve, believing the serpent, looked at the tree, saw that the fruit looked good, she wanted it and she took it. Then she gave some to Adam. As soon as she gave the fruit to him, both of their eyes were opened. They were aware of their nakedness and when they heard God coming into the garden, they hid. They experienced emotions that were once alien to them–shame, guilt, fear. Their relationship with God and each other was never the same. So, the serpent was right about their eyes being opened but they realized too late the horrible consequences of disobeying God.

The first lie, “you shall not surely die,” is what give way to the erroneous teaching of the immortality of man. Many Christians believe that people either go to heaven or hell when they die. But what does the Bible say? Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24). Adam and Eve did not become immortal because of their disobedience. They would return to the dust from where they came (verse 19).

Paul teaches us that it is when Jesus comes the second time that the righteous dead and living will become immortal. ‘Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory”‘ (1 Corinthians 15:51-54). The bodies we have now are not the bodies we will have when we are taken to heaven. We will be changed like Jesus was before He ascended to heaven. Until then the dead will be resting in their graves and the living will be watching and waiting as they continue to serve the Lord.

The Bible says that David, the man after God’s own heart is not in heaven (Acts 13:22). “Men [and] brethren, let [me] speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day” (Acts 2:29). Only God is immortal (1 Timothy 1:17).

The idea that people will burn in hell for eternity is the doctrine of demons. This is an attack on a loving and just God. How could we believe that God would have the devil in charge of a place where he is burning people? Does this sound like the same God described in Ezekiel 18:23? “Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord GOD, “[and] not that he should turn from his ways and live? And in order for these people to burn for eternity, it would mean that the devil would have to be immortal too, right? Well, what does the Bible say? “And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:9, 10).

Jesus also mentioned that there an everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). Please note that forever and ever does not mean that they will be burning for eternity. Jude said, “as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” Are those cities still burning? “…and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly” (2 Peter 2:6). The fire which destroyed the two cities may have burned for a while but it went out. It’s the same with the fire that will destroy the devil, his angels and the wicked. It will burn for a while and then it will go out. All that will remain are ashes. Eternal fire means that its results are eternal. What is destroyed in the fire is gone forever.

Satan lied when he said that man would not die even though man disobeyed God–broke His law and brought sin into the world. He knowingly deceived Eve into thinking that nothing would happen to her if she ate from the tree and this is why Jesus called him a murderer (John 8). Thankfully, the devil did not get away with it. 1 John 3:8 states, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” Jesus swallowed up death, our enemy. And one day, sin, death, the grave, the devil, his angels, the wicked, pain, suffering, sorrow will be no more.

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away – 1 Corinthians 13:8

god_is_with_you__by_1illustratinglady-d4wedzmGod’s love never fails.  You can always count on it to see you through any trials or tribulations.  When Joseph was falsely accused of attempted rape and thrown into jail. God was with him.  He granted Joseph favor with the chief jailer.  Not long after Joseph was put in charge of all the other prisoners and everything that concerned the prison.  The Lord was with him, making everything run smoothly and successfully.

Leah was married to Jacob but he loved her younger sister, Rachel and because Leah was unloved, God allowed her to have children while Rachel was barren.  Leah named her firstborn son, Reuben because “The Lord has surely looked on my affliction. Now therefore, my husband will love me” (Genesis 29:31, 32).

God’s love is unfailing .  It is what sustains us when we are hurting, wronged or disappointed.  It is what brings us hope in the midst of despair and joy during sad times.  We will always have God’s love.  It is everlasting.

 

When King Herod heard about Jesus he thought it was John the Baptist come back to life.  Then we learn how John died and why.  First, he was arrested and then thrown into prison because he dared to speak out against Herod’s unlawful relationship with his sister-in-law, Herodias.  She was still his brother’s Philip’s wife.  Theirs was an adulterous relationship.

Herodias wanted John dead because of what he was saying about her and Herod.  All John was doing was speaking the truth.  He was a man (prophet) of God and his duty was to speak out agains iniquity.  Adultery was a sin.  It had to be addressed and that was what John the Baptist was doing.  He could not look the other way.  This was the same man who called for people to repent.  He had to confront Herod about his sin.  He told him plainly, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”  For this Herod wanted to put John to death but feared the people.

Herodias was determined to have her way.  She played on her husband’s weakness.  She used her daughter to get what she wanted on Herod’s birthday.  John 14:6,7 state that the daughter of Herodias danced before Herod and the guests and pleased the king so much that he foolishly promised with an oath to give the girl whatever she asked for.  She asked, at her mother’s bidding, for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

Herod realized too late that he had been set up.  Obviously this request had Herodias’ name written all over it. She stood to gain a lot from John’s death.  Mark wrote in his Gospel that she held what John had said about her against him and wanted to kill him, but she could not;  for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.  Herodias had to scheme and plot to get what she wanted.

Herod couldn’t go back on his word.  He had no choice but to do as the girl asked.  John was beheaded and when his head was brought on a platter to the girl, she took it to her mother.  I could just imagine the smug look on Herodias’ face.  She had gotten rid of the baptist.  She had succeeded in silencing his voice.  Now she was free to live as she pleased.

Herod had been tricked into killing a just and holy man.  This reminds me of King Darius who had been tricked into signing a decree that would sentence the prophet Daniel to death.  He could not revoke it.  It also reminds me of the story in Judges 11 of Jephthah, the foolish father who made a vow he could not take back.

What can we learn from this horrible and tragic story of John the Baptist?  We shouldn’t make vows or promises we will later regret.   And if someone we know is doing something wrong, we should say something.  Just today I heard a story of someone was behaving inappropriately at his workplace so his co-workers they confronted him about it.  They warned him to stop what he was doing or risk losing his job.  It was then up to that individual to either smarten up and heed his co-workers’ warnings or continue doing what he was doing and get fired.  As Christians, we could only bring the truth to people–what they decide to do with it is up to them.  At least they can’t plead ignorance.

I think that as a holy and just man, John the Baptist had to do what was required of him which is found in Ezekiel 3:18, 19.  He was to warn King Herod of his sinful way and if the king did not turn from his wicked way, he will die in his iniquity.

When God sends someone to call us out for a sin we are committing, we should not want to shut the person up.  This is God’s way of reaching out to us and calling us to turn away from our sin and to turn to Him instead.  In other words, don’t shoot the messenger but be thankful that the One who sent him or her loves you so much that He is willing to wash you thoroughly from your iniquity, and cleanse you from your sin (Psalm 51:2).

The other day when we were in the gas station, my four year old and I were sitting in the car while my husband was filling the tank.  I was thirsty so I went into my handbag to get some change.  As my husband passed to pay for the gas, I called out to him but he didn’t hear me.  Disappointed, I put the coins back into my wallet.

A few minutes passed and then I heard a tap on the window beside me.  I turned to see a woman standing beside the car looking at me.  I hesitated.  I couldn’t roll down the window because the car engine was off.  I wasn’t sure that it was a good idea to open the door.  However, I did.  I had to in order to find out what she wanted.

She told me that she needed change for the bus.  I hesitated and then I took out my wallet.  My fingers closed over the same coins I was going to give my husband to buy me water and I gave them to her.  An expression of gratitude came over her face and she took the coins.  She reached out to shake my hand.  I stared at her hand.  I don’t normally shake hands with perfect strangers.  Not wanting to hurt her feelings, I held her fingers in a feeble handshake.  And she said, “God bless you.”  Of course, I felt badly that I didn’t give her a nice, warm handshake.

Any way when my husband returned, we talked about it.  He had seen what happened and he was happy that I helped the woman out.  He believed that God sent her to me for the bus money.

This evening as I was reading the story of the Sheep or Goats found in Matthew 25 to my four year old, I thought of the woman at the gas station.

Jesus spoke of a king who will separate two groups in the last day just as a shepherd separates the sheep in his flock from the goats.  One group of people will be on the king’s right and the other on his left.  The ones on the right will be those who will share in His kingdom because they helped those who were in need while the ones on the left did not.  The words that struck me were, “Every time you saw one of my followers–however unimportant–and refused to help him in his need, you were refusing to help me.”  Had I refused to help that woman, it would have been the same as refusing to help Jesus.  She was a follower of His and she was in need.  She needed money in order to get to where she needed to go and I had the money.  Yes, I was thirsty but her need was greater.  I didn’t need the water and she needed the change I was going to use for that water.  God had other plans for that money.  He saw a greater need for it and prevented me from wasting it.

I am very thankful now that God used me to help someone in need.  I am grateful that helped someone who needed it.  I hope and pray that the next time God gives me an opportunity to help someone in need, I will not hesitate.

When God’s judgement day comes, which group will you belong to–the sheep or the goats–the ones who will live with the King forever or the ones who will be banished from His presence forever?  I pray that you will be among the sheep.



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