Jesus' Footprints

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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 Timothy 1:12-17

Thank-you-Jesus-for-saving-my-life-1I was reading this passage and thinking of how we are all indebted to Jesus.  We have done terrible things in our lives but He showed us such love and grace that we could only respond in humility and gratitude.  There are times when my past comes back to haunt me but then I remember Jesus’ love and forgiveness.

Paul writes to Timothy about his past.  He shares how he was once an enemy of the church.  He blasphemed the Lord and persecuted His people but it was done in ignorance.  How many of us have not done things that we later regret out of ignorance?

Paul spoke of how Jesus poured out His grace on him.  “He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.”  How many of us are called into ministry after the Lord has shown us mercy?  I have heard of men who once on the wrong side of the law become pastors.  At a Women’s Ministry program, a speaker shared her testimony of how life was for her before she found Jesus.  She used to be a drug addict.  

It doesn’t matter where or how we encounter Jesus.  What matters is that once we surrender to Him, He can do remarkable things in our lives.  When people see how the Lord has transformed a person you never would imagine would become a Christian, they can’t help but be amazed and curious.  When Paul began preaching after his conversion, many people were amazed.  They couldn’t believe that it was the same person who used to a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man.  In his eyes, he was a chief sinner among the sinners whom Jesus came to save.  I can almost hear the regret in his words but he sees something positive in this.  As the worst sinner of them all, he can be used to demonstrate how patient Jesus is towards the worst of sinners.  He, Paul will serve as an example to all who in the future should trust Jesus for eternal life.

We, like Paul, are indebted to Jesus for His love, kindness, mercy, grace and patience.  He loved us even when we were rejecting Him.  All that time when Paul was persecuting the church, Jesus loved him.  He knew Paul’s heart.  He knew that Paul was acting out of ignorance and He knew that He could redirect that zeal.  This explains why Paul was so passionate in his work as a minister.  He testified, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).  It is as if he were working hard to show Jesus that His mercy toward him had not be in vain.

Let us show the Lord how much we appreciate His grace toward us.  Let us do this by the way we live, how we treat others and in whatever work He has called us to do.

Thank You, Jesus for saving us and using us to bring other lost souls to You.

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?

‘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.

The Pharisees and the Scribes wanted Jesus to give them signs but interestingly enough, they had been given signs all along but had failed to see them or acknowledge them.  These signs were manifested in the healing of the sick, the cleansing of the lepers, the lame walking, the blind seeing, the mute talking and the deaf hearing.  Yet people still asked for signs.  Their unbelief blinded them to what was right there before their eyes.  Unlike the Queen of Sheba who went out of her way to see King Solomon because she had heard of his wisdom and wanted to see or hear for herself, the Jews did not go out of their way to see for themselves the glory of the Lord, His wonderful miracles nor hear what He had to say.  Unlike the pagan sailors who were with Jonah who once they saw the sovereignty of God, worshipped Him and became believers, those who professed to know Him did not even recognize that He was with them.

Immanuel was in their midst displaying His sovereignty in a different way but they failed to see Him or acknowledge Him.  Unlike the Ninevites who repented when they heard Jonah’s warning, God’s chosen people hardened their hearts and did not listen to One far greater than Jonah.  The Messiah they had long awaited was there talking to them, warning them but they paid no heed because He did not measure up to their expectations.  They could not reconcile the Messiah, the Son of God, and the King of Kings to the man clothed in humility before them.  To them, He looked no different from the people they fancied themselves to be superior to.  Their spiritual blindness prevented them from seeing that there was a difference in His demeanour—the way He treated others, His vast knowledge of scriptures and the law and of God.  Then there were the miracles He performed, His growing popularity and His many followers.  The Light had come into the world but the darkness did not understand it.

Even when they received the sign of Jonah they refused to accept it and instead bribed the guards, encouraging them to say that His body had been taken from the tomb by His disciples.  Before that they had posted guards in order to prevent Jesus from fulfilling His word.  Matthew 27:62-64 gives an account of the religious leaders going to Pilate in order to secure guards at the tomb.  Their reason for this was, “Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night, and steal Him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.”  They recalled Jesus’ words that He will rise after three days but they referred to Him as “that deceiver”.  They had asked Him for a sign and yet they were doing their best to prevent it.

Jesus rightly says of them, “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted and I should heal them” (Matthew 13:15).

One of the questions in a study lesson was what sign would I like to see and I thought about it.  I thought I would like the Lord to talk to me in a dream as He spoke to Mary’s husband, Joseph in a dream.  Or for Him to tell me something that I share with others and then it comes to pass.  But, then, I got my sign that morning and it was not what I expected but was just as profound.  God reminded me of something I needed to have with me so I had to walk with an extra bag to carry it in.  God once again made it clear to me that every detail in my life, no matter how small it is just as important to Him.  The sign here was His loving care, attention and presence.  Another sign is Him talking to me.  What greater sign do we need than that God Almighty talks to us.  He communicates with us.

There are signs everyday like solutions to problems; a kind word; an encouraging smile; food on the table; money in our bank accounts; waking up every morning and being able to get out of bed.  His word is full of signs.  God speaks to us when we read His word.  A sign is His Holy Spirit, who dwells in us; who recalls scripture to us; who helps us to understand God’s message each time we open the Bible.  People recovering from illnesses, coming out of financial difficulties are all signs.  The weekly Sabbath is a sign.  It proclaims God’s sovereignty and celebrates creation.  Nature is an unmistakable sign.  We ourselves are signs of God’s goodness and mercy.  Jesus came so that we may have life in abundance.  The changing of the seasons each year; the rising and setting of the sun; the babies being born everyday all speak of the Creator of all life.  The signs are there but do we take the time to see them?

For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” – Mark 3:35

In John 14:15, Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” The operative word here is keep.  I checked the Thesaurus for the word keep and these words were listed:  continue, store, hang on to, protect, honour.  This is how we can apply each word to God’s commandments:

  • We continue to obey them.  God intends for us to always obey Him.
  • We have to store them because we will always need them.
  • We have to hang on to them because they are our insurance for good and productive lives.  They are the bane of our existence.  Without God’s guidelines, we are lost and have no direction in our lives.
  • We should protect these commandments because they are God’s and they are precious. 
  • We should honour them.  They are our lifesavers—they protect us from sinning against God.

As followers of Jesus, we should keep God’s commandments just as Jesus Himself kept them.  In John 14:31, He says, “but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.”  Jesus clearly demonstrates here that love and obedience are synonymous.  We obey God because we love Him and we keep His Word.  Jesus related everything His Father told Him to and He kept the word by setting a good example to His followers.  He didn’t just preach, He practiced what He preached.  He taught forgiveness and He showed it when He saved an adulteress from being stoned and said to her “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:11) He talked about mercy and He showed it to the multitudes because they were weary and scattered like sheep without a shepherd.  He ate with tax collectors and sinners because, “For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Matthew 9:13, 36)

A friend is someone who is always there when we need him; someone we can confide in, depend on, trust, be intimate with, share things with, seek advice from and have a close and loving relationship with.  Jesus is the embodiment of all these things.  He’s not just our Saviour.  He is our Friend.  And because He’s our Friend, we should show Him how much we care for Him and appreciate Him.  We should be willing to do anything for Him and not want to disappoint Him.  We should be worthy of His friendship.  “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.  No longer do I call you servants; for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:14-15) 

We are no longer strangers to the gospel or as Jesus puts it, servants who don’t know what the master is up to.  His commandment is for us to love one another as He loves us.  There is no greater love than for a person to lay down his life for his friends.  Jesus laid down His life for us. We are His friends and friends stick together.  So, out of friendship and love for Him, we keep His commandment.  Commandments are for our own good.  David couldn’t have said it better, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.  The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.  The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening to the eyes.” (Psalm 19:7a, 8) Just as we follow good advice when it is offered to us, we should follow God’s commandments given to us out of love.

What a blessing it is to help people who are in need.  That is what Jesus did when He was here on earth.  He helped the sick, the poor, the oppressed and the persecuted.  To the crowd gathered in the synagogue, Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has appointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to announce that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed” (Isaiah 61:1). 

Jesus came to counsel, teach, heal.  He came to help people to turn their lives around.  He gave many a new lease on life.  He healed lepers, making it possible for them to return to society.  They were no longer outcasts.  He helped the adulteress to clean up her life.  He helped the Samaritan woman to see that her current living arrangement was not right.  He helped Nicodemus, the Pharisee to understand what it means to be born again.  It took a while to explain it but Jesus was patient.  Jesus helped many people. 

Paul encourages us to help one another.  “Dear brothers and sisters, if another Christian is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.  Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ.  If you think you are too important to help someone in need, you are only fooling yourself. You are really a nobody.  Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters” (Galatians 6:1-3, 10). 

Jesus’ message to His disciples also applies to us.  “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:34, 35).

God wants us to help everyone–not just our families or other Christians.  We are to be kind and helpful to strangers too.  Jesus taught that the way we treat people personally affects Him.  “’For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.  I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ “ When the people asked Him when was He in these situations and His reply was, `I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’  What affects us affects Him (Matthew 25:35-45). 

So, the next time you see a homeless person cold and hungry or an elderly person trying to cross the street or someone unable to open to open the door because they are carrying a lot of groceries, help that person.  You will be helping Jesus.  You are His hands and His feet.  Remember every time you help someone, you will be demonstrating love and proving to the world that you are His disciple.



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