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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Love Thinks No Evil

1 Corinthians 13:5b
GrudgesHow do you deal with people who hurt you?  Do you talk to them about it or do you keep quiet but hold a grudge against them?  Do you think of ways to get back at them?

God is clear about how we should act when someone hurts us.  We don’t keep rehashing what happened. We don’t wish that person harm.  Instead, we put away the bitterness, anger and unforgiveness.  We give them to God.  We let go of the negative thoughts and ill feelings.  We ask God to help us to forgive the person and then move on.

Of course, this is easier said than done.  We need the help of the Holy Spirit to help us.  It is not in our nature to show love when we are hurting.  We prefer to lick our wounds and have a pity party.  We feel better when we imagine how that person would feel if we were to do the same thing to him or her.  How does this make us any different from those who are not of the faith?  How could we say that we belong to Christ or that we are God’s children if we can’t find it in our hearts to forgive the wrongs that has been done to us?

What if Joseph had spent all of his time hating Potiphar’s wife for what she had done to him?  Would God have prospered him, promoting him to be in charge of the jail or becoming second only to Pharaoh? What about Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego?  Did they harbor any bitterness toward King Nebuchadnezzar for throwing them into the fiery furnace?

Instead of thinking evil, in love we pray for those who have wronged us.  We pray that God will touch their hearts.  Jesus prayed for His enemies when He was hanging on the cross.  Stephen prayed for the men who were stoning him before he died.

The next time someone hurts you, what will you do?  Perhaps like Joseph you ask this question, “am I in the place of God?”  While Joseph forgave his brothers he left them to God’s mercy.  Romans 12:19 says, “Never take vengeance into your own hands, my dear friends: stand back and let God punish if he will. For it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine. I will repay’” (J.B. Phillips).  Don’t take the place of God.  God sees and knows all.  He will deal with the person who has wronged you as He sees fit.  Don’t repay evil with evil.

 

Doing God’s Word

Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd. And it was told Him by some, who said, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.”

But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:19-21).

Basically, you are a member of God’s family when you live in obedience to His Word.  It makes sense that if you want to be a child of God or if you already are, you would do what it says in His Word.  God has spelled out clearly what He requires of us.  Just look at Jesus’ teachings.  They are filled with how God wants us to live our lives.

We are told to forgive others if we expect God to forgive us.  Jesus told a wonderful story about a king who showed mercy to a servant who could not repay his debt and begged the king not to sell him.  The king forgave the servant his debt but that same servant refused to release another servant from the debt he owed him although it was far less than the debt the first servant owed the king.  Of course, the king was upset and that servant received a just punishment for his unforgiving attitude toward the other servant. 

joesph-and-his-brothersJoseph is a perfect example of someone who forgave his brothers although he could have easily justified holding on to his anger and bitterness.  After all they had planned to kill him and then decided that they would sell him instead.  He never saw his mother again and years passed before he was reunited with his father who thought he was dead.  He was falsely accused of and thrown into prison for attempted rape.  He spent years in prison before he was released.  In spite of all of these things, Joseph chose to forgive.  And he even saw the good which God achieved from the bad things that happened to him (Genesis 50:19-21).

We are told to love our enemies.  This is a tough one but Jesus said that we are to be like our Heavenly Father who “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust”.  We are to be different from the rest of the world who loves those who love them and hate those who hate them.  We are called to love those who hate, spitefully use and persecute us.  

We are told not to judge.  Jesus used the example of a person looking at the speck in his brother’s eye when he has a plank in his own.  How could he possibly see that speck when he has a plank in his eye?  Why is it that we look at the sin of others and ignore the sin in our own lives?  Let us deal with our own sin problem.  It’s like the religious leaders.  They were judging the tax collectors and other people they considered outcasts when they were far from being righteous themselves.  They were envious, unmerciful, judgmental, self-righteous and hypocrites.  Are we guilty of judging others because they don’t measure up to our standards?  Do we think we are better than non-Christians?  We should always bear in mind the words of Paul, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  We cannot judge people.  Only God can.  He knows the heart.

We are told to be persistent in prayer.  God is just waiting to give good things to those who ask Him.  All we have to do is ask, seek and knock.  We ask as often as it takes.  We ask in faith, never wavering.  And if it is God’s will, what we ask for we will receive.

We are told to enter the narrow way.  Don’t do what is popular or easier or less resistant.  Don’t follow the crowd if it is contrary to the Word or will of God.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego did not go along with the rest of the society in worshiping the idol image of Nebuchadnezzar even if it meant their deaths.  They stood apart from the crowd and make a strong stand for their faith in the one true God.  We are to enter the narrow way which leads to everlasting life and not the broad way which leads to destruction.

We are to bear good fruit.  As Christians we are exhorted to bear good fruit.  Good fruit means we act in accordance to God’s word and will.  We bear fruit worthy of repentant and changed lives.  This means we are no longer living as we did before we came to Christ.  We practice what we preach.  We are Christians in deed and not in name only.  We follow Christ’s example and bear the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23).  This goes back to what Jesus said about not acting as the heathen do.  We love those who hate us; have joy even during tough times; experience the peace of Christ during the storms; are patient even when it’s hard; are kind and good to others whether or not they deserve it; stay faithful to God even when it seems like our prayers are not being answered; show gentleness even when people are unkind or inconsiderate toward us; we exercise self-control no matter what kind of situation we are dealing with.  Bearing the fruit of the Spirit is not easy as we know that the flesh and the Spirit are always warring against each other but those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh.  Christ living inside you enables you to walk in the Spirit.

We are to do the will of the Father.  None of us wants to hear Jesus say, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’  Why would He say that?  There are professing Christians out there who believe that they will be saved because they have prophesied, cast out demons and done many wonders in Jesus’ name but Jesus will declare that He doesn’t know them.  These are Christians who, although they did all these things in His name, they did not do the will of the Father.  Only those who practice the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus said that not everyone who calls Him “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom.  If Jesus were truly Lord of their lives, they would not be practicing lawlessness.  They would be doing the Father’s will.  Their lives would bear fruit worthy of entering the kingdom.  Obviously, it is not enough to be active in church ministry, going to church, distributing tracts or feeding the poor.  If you are not doing something that God has revealed to you–that you need to change or renounce, you will not be among those of whom He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” 

We are to build on the Rock.  What is your foundation?  Is it tradition or the teaching of the church?  In Jesus day, the religious leaders seemed to place the traditions and teachings of men above the commandments of God.  Jesus made it clear that our foundation should be on His word.  When we hear His teachings and we apply them to our lives, we will be like the wise man who built his house on the rock and when the rain, floods and wind threatened to sweep it away, it stood.  It did not fall.  It’s the same with us.  Once we are anchored in the Word of Jesus and we do what it says, when the enemy comes and tries to topple us over with temptations, opposition, persecution, etc. we will stand because we have built our lives on the Rock.

Jesus taught many other things that would help us in our Christian walk.  All we have to do is to decide today to be doers and not just hearers of His Word.

Love Never Fails

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.

 

Love Your Neighbor

‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” – Matthew 19:19accuser-of-the-brethren8

Like a certain lawyer we need to ask ourselves, “Who is my neighbor?”  Jesus told him the story of a good Samaritan who helped a man lying on the road after he was robbed.  He tended to his wounds and took him to an innkeeper.  He offered to repay whatever was spent to care for the hurt stranger.  This story made the lawyer realize that a neighbor is one who shows mercy.

Neighbor in this context goes beyond the person living nearby.  It is the homeless person you give a warm blanket to or buy a cup of hot tea or chocolate and a sandwich.  It is the troubled teen you help.  It is the elderly person you give your seat to or the blind person you offer your arm to.

Paul wrote in Romans 13:8-10:  “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

It makes sense that if you love others as you ought, you would not do anything to hurt them.  It would never occur to you to cross that line and have an affair with your boss’s wife or your sister’s husband.  You would never dream of taking another’s life.  You wouldn’t take what does not belong to you or tell lies about someone else.  You wouldn’t want what someone else has.  You would not gossip or tell lies about people.  When you choose love over envy, lust, dishonesty, etc, you would be fulfilling God’s law which Jesus summed up in two commandments–love God and love your neighbor.

If you love others like you love yourself, you would not do them any harm.  You would treat them as you want to be treated.  Always put yourself in the other person’s shoes.  And always think of God and what His word says.  Joseph was not willing to hurt Potiphar by sleeping with his wife or to sin against God by breaking His law which prohibits adultery.  Bottom line:  We treat our neighbors as we would like to be treated.

Love Does Not Envy

12798570.cmsJoseph’s father loved him more than all of his children because he was the son of his old age.  He made him a multicolored coat.  His brothers envied him.  Their love turned to hatred and they could not speak peaceably to him.  They plotted to kill him but Reuben, the oldest brother prevented them from doing that.  He told them to put him in the pit, planning to return Joseph safely to their father.  But while he was gone the other brothers decided that they would sell Joseph instead of killing him, “for he is our brother and our flesh”.  They didn’t spare his life out of brotherly love but for profit.  They sold him for twenty pieces of silver.

The chief priests envied Jesus.  They were jealous because He was popular with the people.  They plotted to kill Him.  There was no love in them.  They were filled with envy.  Envy consumed and they pushed for Jesus’ crucifixion.  Envy consumed Joseph’s brothers and they got rid of him.

“Where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and everything evil are there” (James 3:16).  Envy is a source of evil.  It was first manifested in Lucifer.  It led to his rebellion against God and to his expulsion from heaven.  God calls for us to abhor what is evil (Romans 12:9).  Abhor envy and do not be overcome by it.

Love rejoices with others when great things happen in their lives.  Love does not seek what belongs to someone else.  Love does not resent others’ success.  Love celebrates life and is content with what it has.

Forgiveness

If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” – Matthew 6:14

In order to give we have to forgive.  This is why Jesus stresses the importance of forgiving one another and of letting go of anger, resentment and hurt.  When we focus on what someone has done to us it takes away our attention from God.  God forgave the Israelites numerous times when they repented and cried out to Him just as He forgave the people in Nineveh.  Jesus forgave Peter for denying Him, the people for crucifying Him and Saul for persecuting Him.  Jesus instructs us to forgive someone seventy times seven and warns, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matthew 18:22, 35)

Joseph forgave his brothers who tried to kill him.  God forgave David who committed adultery and murder.  He forgave Jonah who disobeyed Him.  The prodigal son was forgiven.  In the Our Father prayer Jesus taught us, it says, “And forgive us our debts As we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12)

How can we ask for forgiveness when we ourselves don’t give it?  We should follow Jesus’ example.  He preached forgiveness, practiced it and died for it.  We have to show mercy to those who hurt us just as Jesus showed mercy to those who had Him crucified.  “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

In the parable about the king and his servant Jesus teaches us about forgiving and being forgiven.  The servant owed the king ten thousand talents and because he couldn’t pay, he and his family would have been sold but, because he begged, the king gave him time to pay it.  The king relented out of compassion.  This same servant who was shown mercy did not show the same to another servant who owed him a thousand pence.  The man begged him but he was unyielding in spirit and had him thrown in jail.  When the king found out, the unforgiving servant was deservedly punished.

This parable shows us how the servant who was forgiven for much more could not find it in his heart to forgive someone else for much less.  God forgave us for our sins—sins that had separated us from Him and which were forgiven when Jesus died on the cross.  God showed compassion toward people like those in Nineveh or the Israelites who rebelled against Him by worshipping other gods, why can’t we forgive a past hurt?  Holding on to anger and resentment sometimes hurts us more than it hurts the other person.  The unforgiving servant ended up worse than the other. (Matthew 18:34)

Trusting God No Matter What

“Trust in God at all times, my people” – Psalm 62:8

Several people in the Bible faced obstacles—seemingly impossible situations and we see that nothing or no obstacle is impossible or too great for God to handle. David faced Goliath with only a slingshot and did the impossible because he had faith and trust in God. “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:37). He believed that God would protect him, give him victory. Jesus was able to feed 5000 people, heal the sick and preach the gospel despite the plots to kill Him and the daily persecution he faced.

The parting of the Red Sea to escape the Egyptian army, manna from Heaven, water from the rock in the desert, Gideon’s army of 300 men against an impossibly large Midianite army, Joseph who was left to die in the pit, Daniel in the lion’s den (Daniel 6:21), Peter in prison (Acts 12:11), Paul who was arrested, beaten, faced trials but continued to spread the gospel without hindrance (Acts 28:30). All these people trusted in God and they did things that brought glory to God.

When David faced Goliath, he acknowledged that it was God’s battle that he was there in God’s name. The whole world would know that he was there in God’s name. The whole world would know that there was a God in Israel through that victory over Goliath. David was giving God the credit for what the outcome would be (1 Samuel 17:45-47). Jesus gave thanks before he distributed the bread and fish to the 5000 people. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he and his army would pursue the Israelites. God told Moses what to do and why. (Exodus 14:15-18) Moses trusted God and he urged the others to do the same. He realised that God would not bring them that far just to have them killed or recaptured. God wanted both the Israelites and the Egyptians to see His power. He wanted to gain His glory through this amazing act (The parting of the Red Sea).

When the people saw the great power of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, they feared the Lord and put their trust in him and Moses His servant. (Exodus 14:31) God was with Joseph and he prospered in Egypt. Joseph’s story is a perfect example of “all things work together for good to those who love God”. (Romans 8:28) His brothers meant him harm out of jealousy but God had a plan for him, which ultimately led Jacob to go to Egypt where He made him a great nation. It was time for Jacob and his descendants to leave Canaan and go to a new land.

Daniel trusted in God and believed that no harm would come to him when he was in the lion’s den. When he was lifted out, no wound was found on him. He testified to God’s glory and as a result the king wrote a decree that everyone in his kingdom must fear and revere God. (Daniel 6:25-27) Paul realised that in spite of all the obstacles all the hardships, pain, suffering, and persecution he had to endure that, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). He trusted God and glorified him by continuing to teach the gospel despite these adversities.

I once got an e-mail with a sentence that will encourage anyone facing adversity. It simply says, “If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.”

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