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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Indebted to Jesus

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.

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.

 

Peter Defends God’s Grace

Acts 11:1-18

It’s interesting the reaction Peter got from his fellow believers when they learned that the Gentiles had received the Word of God. The Jewish believers contended with him, accusing him of associating with the uncircumcised.

I couldn’t help thinking of Jesus who thought nothing of going to the home of a centurion whose beloved servant was gravely ill to heal him. He went with the men the centurion sent to escort Him to his house. Jesus was not far away when the centurion sent other men to deter Him, saying that he was not worthy for Jesus to enter his home (Luke 7:2-10). No doubt the religious leaders would have had a problem with Him entering the home of a Gentile.

Peter had harbored the same prejudices as these believers but the Lord gave him a change of heart. He said to Cornelius, the Gentile whom Jesus had sent him to minister to, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28).

Jesus didn’t discriminate. He ate with Pharisees and He ate with publicans. He didn’t play favorites. He gave all people His time and care and attention. He came to minister to everyone and manifest the love of God who sent Him to save the lost.

Are we guilty of reacting like these brethren? Do we harbor prejudices? Are there certain people we won’t associate with? What if God were to call us to minister to these people as He called Peter to minister to the Gentiles? Let us pray to have the heart and mind of Jesus. That is the only way that we would be able to rejoice with the angels when one lost person is saved.

Starting from the beginning, Peter explained what happened.  He ended his narrative with this rhetorical question:  “If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”  The brethren couldn’t object to that.  In fact, they had nothing to say.  They became silent.  Then, they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”

We are to glorify God for His marvelous grace and remember that His salvation is for everyone.

Godly Sorrow

2 Corinthians 7:10

When I read this I remembered that Paul had written an earlier letter, rebuking the congregation for not sorrowacting in the case where a member was guilty of adultery. He had relations with his father’s wife, something that God had condemned. The other members had not dealt with matter. Apparently, they were proud of their church when they should have felt shame that this type of thing was in the church and root it out.

Paul called on them to do what needed to be done. He reminded them that they were not to keep company with such a person. His letter was very frank and it had the desired effect. The Corinthian believers repented. Their pride had turned to mourning and sorrow. Paul didn’t regret writing the letter because it produced godly sorrow.

Sometimes we have to do what is necessary what is best for others–no matter how hard or painful it may be. Paul revealed his motive for writing the first letter. It was not for the sake of the man who committed the wrong or his father whom he had wronged but for the sake of the church. He did it because he cared. Sometimes what we do might seem harsh to someone but we do it out of love. Tough love.

Heavenly Wisdom

images (1)

When I read this I thought of heavenly wisdom as spiritual because it comes from God while earthly wisdom is carnal. The heavenly wisdom puts others first–before self while earthly wisdom is selfish. It’s all about self. What is best for us no matter what. It is the kind of wisdom that people use to live how they want, believing that they know best and doesn’t listen to wise counsel. They lean on their own understanding. They seek to please themselves. Take Eve for example. She wanted to be wise like God.

The wisdom she was seeking was not heavenly because it didn’t come from God. It was demonic. It was self-seeking. She was seeking it at the instigation of the Devil. The religious leaders thought they were wise in their own eyes because they didn’t allow themselves to be fooled by Jesus whom they felt was a false teacher. They rejected His teachings even though He taught with authority, something which they lacked. They thought themselves wise because they didn’t fall for His miracles and signs. They even attributed His miracles to the Devil. They envied Him and that envy led to murder plots.

Earthly wisdom leads to eternal separation from God. King Solomon, the wisest man in the world, wrote, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Eve didn’t see anything wrong with wanting to be wise like God but in her quest for godly wisdom, she had stepped outside of God’s will and smack right into the Devil’s trap. Her self-seeking led to spiritual and physical death. The kind of wisdom we should be seeking is the one that comes only from God.

James told us how we can acquire this. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). Solomon said that heavenly wisdom is more precious than gold, silver and above rubies. It is precious and it gives life to those who have it (Ecclesiastes 7:12).

This kind of wisdom has many benefits and James lists them in order: pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and hypocrisy. These attributes sound very much like those of love found in 1 Corinthians 13 and the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, 23).

Heavenly wisdom produces good fruits because it is not self-seeking. It puts God and others before self. It is quick to listen and slow to speak. It is the soft answer that turns away wrath. It is what Jesus used when dealing with the religious leaders when they confronted Him. He countered their envy, jealousy and hypocrisy with wisdom.

Heavenly wisdom surrenders to God. It humbles itself. It accepts godly counsel, reproof, discipline and instruction. And it leads to the correct way of thinking, feeling and acting. God’s wisdom is available to us. All we have to do is ask for it.

No Rewards

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.

Spiritual Adultery

James 4:4

spiritual-adultery-editedFriends usually do things together and have similar interests.  Being friends with the world means adopting the ways of the world–accepting or condoning the things of the world.  James refers to those who are friends with the world as adulterers and adulteresses.

Adultery is straying outside of your marriage.  When the Israelites turned to other gods and indulged in idolatry, they were seen as committing adultery.  They were turning away from God to pursue other gods.  When we turn away from God and pursue the things of the world, we are having an adulterous relationship with the world.  It is like we are going outside of our relationship with God to find something else.  It seems we are no longer satisfied with our relationship with God and are searching for something better which we think the world can give us.  We cannot have it both ways.  We either choose one or the other.

John 3:16 states that God loves the world but the key words or message here is that whoever believes in His Son should not perish but have everlasting life.  The key is for those in the world to believe in Jesus and this will lead to eternal life.

God does not want us to be friends with a world which rejects His offer of salvation and lives in rebellion.  These are the people in the world with whom we are to have nothing to do with.  These are people who love the things of the world more than they love God or people who want nothing to do with God.

This is not to say that we should not go out into the world and interact with people.  We can’t avoid people.  However, we are not to forsake our faith or compromise it because we want to maintain new or old friendships or relationships.  Jesus, when He was praying for His disciples, did not ask the Father to take them out of the world.  They had work to do in the world.  He asked the Father to protect them from the Devil.  He said that like Him, the disciples were not of the world.  So, keeping ourselves unspotted  in the world (James 1:27) and not being friends with the world, means that we live in the world but don’t have the mindset of the world.  We cannot allow ourselves to be worldly.  We are to have the mind of Christ who kept Himself unspotted from the world.

In his first letter to the Corinthian believers, Paul wrote, “In the same way, the Lord has ordained that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14).  As Christians and disciples of Christ, we are to practice what we preach.  We are to live our lives in such a way that the world will know that we belong to God and that it is Christ who lives in us (Galatians 2:20). 

Accusations

Psalm 109

imagesDavid talks about the wicked, his enemies and he wants God to intervene.  He wants them to be punished for speaking against him, lying about him, fighting against him without any cause and hurling accusations against him even though he has show them love.

He wants God to save him so that his accusers will know that God is involved (verses 26, 27).  He wants God to bless while they curse.  He wants them to be covered with shame.

“I will greatly praise the Lord with my mouth; yes, I will praise Him among the multitude.  For He shall stand at the right hand of the poor, To save him from those who condemn him” (verses 30, 31).

There are times when people will mistreat us, say all manner of things about us even though we have not done them anything.  God sees all and knows all.  We can ask God to deal with them so that they are ashamed or we can pray for them–that God will change them or speak to their hearts or we can address the situation with God’s help.

 

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