Jesus' Footprints

Posts Tagged ‘joy

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.

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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.

 

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence [is] fulness of joy; at thy right hand [there are] pleasures for evermore” – Psalm 16:11

Once we are aware of how faithful God is, then we could achieve what He calls us to do with confidence and trust.  He promised Moses that He would be with him throughout his mission to deliver the Israelites from Pharaoh and to the Promised Land and He kept His promise.  He promised Gideon that He would defeat the Midianites with just a few Israelites and He did.  He promised Abraham that He would give him a son and He did.  He promised David that he would establish his throne forever and He did.  He promised He would send us a saviour and He did.  Throughout the Bible, God made promises and He kept them.  He was faithful to the faithless.  He was the stronghold for the weak and the downtrodden. He remembered Hannah and opened her womb.

God doesn’t ask us to do His work and not give any guidance.  He said to Joshua who had to take over when Moses died, “as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.  I will not leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5)  He was with Paul during his ministry and He was with His son during His.  When we pray to Him, we should believe that what we ask for, we will receive.  David prayed to the Lord daily because he knew that only He could help him and deliver him from his enemies.  When David was in the wilderness, Saul sought him everyday but God did not deliver David into his hand.  God took care of David while he was hiding in the wilderness from Saul. 

Peter trusted Jesus when he walked on the water towards Him but, the minute he became afraid because of the wind, he began to sink.  He cried out to Jesus to save him and Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him.  Jesus said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got back into the boat, the wind stopped. (Matthew 14:28-32)  Peter feared the wind and started to sink. 

For us, that wind is failure.  We fear that we will fail God and we sink into doubt and hopelessness but, if we cry out to God before we allow ourselves to drown in these feelings of self-defeat, He will stretch out His hand and catch us.  God would not call us to do something He does not think we are capable of doing with His help.  But, if He could turn an unbeliever like Paul into a believer, what can’t He do with us who are already believers?  God never fails and neither will we once we let Him guide us through whatever it is that He calls us to do. God is our lifesaver and as long as we hold onto Him we will never sink.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” – Mathew 6:33

Jesus was tempted when He was in the wilderness for forty days.  He was able to counteract the devil’s claims with the truth—the scriptures.  The devil tried to use His hunger to tempt Him but, Jesus said, “It is written:  Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4) God’s word is food for the soul.  The devil tried to tempt Jesus with worldly possessions if He would worship him.  Jesus’ reply was, “Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.”

When we worship God, we have no need for worldly things.  When a person dies these possessions are left behind.  The riches we receive from God when we follow Him surpass any riches of this world.  God’s riches are for the spirit—joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  These things we can take with us to Heaven.  These are what Paul called the “fruit of the spirit” and once we have these things we would no longer look to the world we live in for sustenance.  Material things or worldly pleasures don’t bring us lasting joy.  They only drive us further away from God.  Solomon’s love for foreign women and worship of their gods led him astray.  He realised this when he wrote the book of Proverbs, “There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing.  And one makes himself poor, yet has great riches.” (Proverbs 13:7)

By humility and the fear of the Lord are the riches and honour and life.” (Proverbs 22:4)

Spirit vs. Flesh.  Throughout the Bible we see people who live by the spirit and people who live by the flesh and what the outcome is.  Noah was a righteous man who believed in God and obeyed Him.  When he was asked to build and ark, he did as he was told and he and his family were protected from the flood.  Abraham was a man of strong faith.  He trusted God and obeyed Him when God called him out of his home country to settle in a strange land.  He was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac when God asked Him to.  His was a steadfast faith.  The men were surrounded by corruption and sin yet they remained faithful to God.  Abraham was not interested in worldly things (Genesis 14:22-24).  God took care of his needs.  What God had to offer him was worth much more than possessions.  God offered him a son and land.  God made covenants with Noah and Abraham.  He blessed them both.  He set a rainbow, as a sign of the covenant He made that a flood will never destroy life again. (Genesis 9:12-17)  God’s covenant with Abraham was land for his descendants.  These two men did not allow themselves to be touched by the immorality and corruption of the world around them.  They walked with God.

In the beginning Solomon walked in the ways of the Lord.  He asked God for wisdom so that he could govern the people well. (Kings 3:7-9)  He built the temple for God.  He got daily provisions from the different countries and the people ate, drank and were happy.  There was peace on all sides.

He said a prayer of dedication to God, acknowledging that God keeps His covenant with those who continue wholeheartedly in His way, that He kept His promise to David.  Solomon asked God to hear His people’s prayers and pleas when they have sinned against him.  Solomon acknowledged that there was no one who does not sin.  It is a fact that no one was free of sin—not even a wise king.  Jesus was the only One who was without sin until He took on ours.  Solomon was admired for his wisdom and he was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth.  The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart. (1 Kings 10:6-10, 23-25)

Then, Solomon’s fleshly desires took over—his weakness for foreign women turned his heart after their gods so that he was not fully devoted to God anymore.  He intermarried with the very people God had told the Israelites not to intermarry because they would turn their hearts to other gods.  Solomon built a high place for these gods, burnt incense and offered sacrifices.  Solomon had been forbidden to follow other gods but he wilfully disobeyed the Lord’s command.  As a result, there were rebellions against Solomon and all the kingdoms except one,Jerusalem, were taken away from him.  It was because of God’s promise to David who never turned away from Him to worship other gods, that Solomon remained ruler all the days of his life and he was able to keep one tribe.

If Solomon had followed this advice, things would have turned out very differently, “Do not be wise in your own eyes.  Fear the Lord and depart from evil.  It will be health to your flesh and strength to your bones.  My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction, For whom he Lord loves He corrects just as a father the son in whom he delights”  (Proverbs 3:7-8, 11-12).

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.  Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.  If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.  By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

First, what does abide mean?  According to Strong’s Concordance, it means not to depart; to be held, kept, continually.  Jesus tells us that if we abide in Him and His words abide in us, then whatever we ask it shall be done.  We cannot depart from Jesus or His words.  He mentioned earlier that He was the Vine and that we are the branches.  Without Him we cannot bear fruit.  We have to remain connected to Him and His word in order to bear fruit. This is the same as building our foundation.  We cannot build on anything else but Jesus.  He is the Rock.  When we abide in His word it is the same as the man who built his house on the rock instead of the sand so that when the rains came, his house stood.

If we want to continue to be fruitful we must continue to have a connection (relationship) with Jesus.  He sustains us.  We draw our sustenance from Him.

So, Jesus is the Vine.  God is the Vinedresser.  And we are the branches.  God casts away the branches that are bearing no fruit because they were not properly abiding in the Vine.  This reminds me of the seed that fell by the wayside; on the stony places; among the thorns.  The seed is the word of God and those who hear it but have the word taken out of their hearts lest they should believe and be saved or those who believe for a while but fall away when faced with trials and temptations because they have no root or those who allow the cares of the world to get the better of them will not bear no fruit.  These are the branches that God will take away.  The branches which bear fruit are like the good soil on which the seed fell and yielded a good crop.  These are people who hear the word of God and  with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience (Luke 8:15).

Jesus wants us to be doers of the word not just hearers.  None of us want to hear Him say to us, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?”  It is the same as those who claim to do all sorts of things in His name but He told them that He never knew them because they did not do the will of the Father.  Not everyone who calls Him Lord will inherit the kingdom.  These are they who are not abiding in Jesus.  In order to abide in Jesus you have to do the will of the Father.  We have to bear good fruit.  Jesus said, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor [can] a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  “Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:18-20).  The branches that don’t bear good fruit will be cast into the fire (John 15:6).

Those who abide in Jesus and in His word will bear nothing but good fruit.  What fruit?  The fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23).  When we abide in Jesus, whatever we ask we will receive because we ask is in accordance with His will.  And when we bear good fruit, we bring glory and honor to God.  Jesus made it clear that our good works are for the purpose of glorifying God, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

And when we bear good fruits we show that we are Jesus’ disciples.  Our fruits show that we  enjoy a close and loving relationship with Jesus.  Our fruits are evidence that we follow the teachings of Jesus–we are hearers and doers of His sayings.  When people look at us they should see Christ reflected in us.  It is like when Jesus was here on earth.  When people saw Him, they saw the Father.  When people look at us they ought to see Christ in us.  If Jesus abides in us and we in Him and His word, our actions (lives) will reflect this.  We will have no trouble bearing good fruit or shining our light so that our Father in heaven will be glorified.

It is true.  Whoever abides in Jesus and Jesus in that person, he or she will bear much fruit. Look at the great things the disciples did after Jesus returned to His Father.  They preached the Gospel boldly in the face of persecution, imprisonment and death.  On the day Peter preached after receiving the Holy Spirit, those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.  God added to the church as they continued daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,  praising God and having favor with all the people (Acts 2:47).  Churches were planted in different parts of the world.  Gentiles received Christ and were baptized into the faith.  Paul who once persecuted the followers of Christ, became a champion of the faith.  Once he abided in Christ and Christ abided in him, he became the bearer of good fruit.  And that is why he was able to say with faith and conviction, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7, 8).

Today, make it your purpose to abide in Jesus.  Continue in His word.  Act upon His teachings.  Follow His example.  Allow the Holy Spirit to work through you.  Allow God to trim away the areas in your life that are preventing you from bearing more fruit to His glory.  Cling to the Vine because without Him you can do nothing.

It never ceases to amaze me the lengths God went to demonstrate His love for us. His loving and generous heart would not permit Him to simply stand by and watch His beloved creation sink deeper and deeper in sin. He had to do something. He came in person. He became one of us in order to save us. He was really God with us.

He was with us in every sense. He was with His people in their suffering, their persecution, and their physical and spiritual blindness. He was joyful when they were. He was sorrowful when they were. He identified with them, letting them know that they were not alone. He came to give them life, truth, hope, love, joy, peace, healing, understanding, deliverance, strength, courage, guidance, encouragement and most importantly, Himself.

He came to undo all that Satan had done. He came to remove the yoke of sin from about our necks. I love the account of the crippled woman He helped. One Sabbath day as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, he saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are healed of your sickness!” Then he touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised and thanked God! (Luke 13:10-13)

Like this woman, Jesus wants the rest of us to walk upright, to be free from the burden of sin, which Satan has placed on us. He said, Jesus replied, “I assure you that everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free.” (John 8:34-36) What a mighty God we serve.

Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath,  Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time.  So when he found out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph.  Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.  And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed where He was laid (Mark 15:42-47).

Now Jesus is in resting in the tomb.  He lay there while others prepared for the Sabbath.  The temple was destroyed (He was crucified) but on the third day, He will be raised up.

This makes me think of all those who have died and will die in Christ.  Their temples will be destroyed (death and decay) but on that day they will be resurrected incorruptible.  Right now they are resting before their resurrection.  The next sound they will hear is the voice of the One who was pierced.

When Jesus was on the cross, He said, “It is finished.”  He had spent three and a half years doing the work His Father had sent Him to do.   He went about preaching and teaching, performing miracles, casting out demons, healing the sick.  He was alone in His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He was betrayed and deserted.  He was arrested like a common criminal and brought before the council at night.   He was mistreated by the Jewish leaders and the Gentiles.

The members of the Sanhedrin who liked to think they were better than the Gentiles behaved no differently from the soldiers who mocked Him.  The chief priests, elders and scribes condemned Him to be worthy of death; spat on Him, blindfolded Him; beat Him and said to Him, “Prophesy!”  The soldiers who were present joined in–they struck Him with the palms of their hands (Mark 14:63-65).  Isaiah 50:6 says:  I gave My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard;  I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.  He was given thirty lashes (the same number of coins Judas was paid for his betrayal) and then handed over to be crucified.

As He hung on the cross, He was mocked,  “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself!  If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 26:40).

Jesus suffered for our sake as the prophet Isaiah prophesied.  “Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken,Smitten by God, and afflicted.   But He was wounded for our transgressions,  He was bruised for our iniquities;  The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,  And by His stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;  He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.  And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief (Isaiah 53:4-10).

Jesus went through a great deal for us and it must have pained Him to see the people pointing and laughing at Him and to hear their jeers yet, He asked His Father to forgive them.  It must have been horrible to feel the Father’s presence which He had known since the beginning of time leave Him.  You could almost hear the despair in His voice when He cried out,  “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34).  Afterwards He cried out in a loud voice and then took His last breath.

Now He is resting in the tomb.  His disciples and those who love Him are mourning.  The bridegroom is no longer with them.  Now they are fasting.  But in a little while, their mourning will turn to laughter and their sorrow to joy.  Let us remember and take comfort in these words, “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy” (John 16:20).



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