Jesus' Footprints

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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.

 

“Truly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country”  – Luke 4:24, MEV

Read Luke 4:16-30

jesus-in-nazarethJesus is in the synagogue in Nazareth where as, His custom was, He went there on the Sabbath day.  He stood up to read. He read what Isaiah prophesied about Him in 61:1, 2.

After He finished reading, He sat down and all eyes were on Him.  It was then that He told them that the scripture He had just read was fulfilled that very day in their hearing.

At first they marvelled at His gracious words but that soon changed when Jesus got to the heart of the matter.  He told them the truth which was that no prophet was accepted in his own country.  He quoted the proverb, “Physician, heal yourself, whatever we have heard you do in Capernaum, do it here too.”  In other words, do these things in your own country.

Jesus reminded them that although there were many widows in Israel during the three and a half years of no rain and famine, the prophet Elijah was sent to a Gentile widow.  The widow did as he told her and make a cake for him although she but only a handful of meal in a barrel and a little oil in a jar.  Her act of faith resulted in her, Elijah and her household ate for many days and the barrel of meal did not run out, nor did the jar of oil empty, according to the word of the Lord, which He spoke by Elijah (1 Kings 17:7-16, MEV).

There were many lepers in Israel but Elisha cleansed none of them except Naaman, the Syrian.  Naaman was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master because by him, the Lord had given victory to Syria.  He was a mighty man of valor (2 Kings 5:1).

John 3:19 – “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

We see how fickle the people are.  They were fine where Jesus quoted Isaiah but when He rebuked them, their reaction was violent.  They had heard of His miracles and wonders and were thrilled that He had returned to His home town.  That’s why they said, “Is this not Joseph’s Son?”  We know Him, they seemed to say.  We know His family.  We heard of all the great things He has done in other places.  Perhaps they thought He would perform some of those miracles there.  He was accepted throughout Galilee before He went to Nazareth and news of Him went through all the surrounding region which is most likely how the people of Nazareth heard about Him.

Jesus taught in the synagogues in Galilee and was glorified by all.  Not so in Nazareth.  Once He pointed out, using examples of Elijah and Elisha, that prophets, are more welcomed, accepted by others and not by their own, the people of Nazareth were filled with wrath.  Jesus hit a nerve.  No one likes when their true motives, nature, or spiritual condition are brought to light.  They tried to push Him off a hill but Jesus slipped away.

How do we react when someone points out sin in our lives or bring to light something in our lives that we need to change? Do we reject them?  Do we turn against them?  Do we run them out of our lives?  What is it about truth that make people get so bent out of shape?

What condition would Jesus find you in when He comes into your life? Will you turn to Him?  He promised that, “While you have light, believe in the light that you may become sons of light” (John 12:35, MEV).  Or will you turn away from Him because you prefer your life the way it is? I pray that you will choose to accept Him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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?

When I read chapters 38 and 39 of the book of Job, I felt as if I was reading poetry.  The Lord’s words as He spoke of His creation and sovereignty are beautiful and rich.  We learn a lot too.  We learn that the ostrich is not loving toward her young.  She treats the, as if they are not hers.  We learn that God deprived her of wisdom and understanding.

He sends lightnings where He wants them to go.  They obey His command.  He hunts the prey for the lion and fills the appetite of their young.  He provides the food for the raven when its young cry out to Him because of lack of meat.  He knows when the wild goats give birth and the hinds calve.  He provides homes for the wild ass, and the eagle who at His command builds her nest up high.  Her home is on the rock where she can see her prey.  It is by God’s wisdom that the hawk flies south.  Every creation, all of nature responds to their Creator. God is reminding Job who is in charge and He is drawing his focus away from his situation and unto Himself.

God wants us to know that just as He knows every detail of the lives of the animals and nature that He knows every detail of our lives.  Just as He hears and responds to the cries of the raven’s young and just as He provides for the lions, just so He does for us.

Instead of questioning and wondering where God is during times of trouble and hardship, remember how He has taken care of us in the past and trust that He will in the present and in the future.  It is during these hard times that we ought to remember that God is in absolute control and that should give us some comfort and reassurance.

It is interesting that God speaks to Job in a whirlwind while with Elijah, it says, “And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind, an earthquake; and after the earthquake, a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire, a still small voice” – 1 Kings 19:11, 12.

God speaks to us in different ways—in whatever way that will grab our attention and by whatever means.  The way He responds to us depends on the situation we are in.  Sometimes as in Job’s case we are so caught up in our woes and troubles that we fail to hear the still small voice and when we have other voices clamouring for our attention that makes it even harder.  So, God has to do what He has to do to get our attention.  And other times we are able to hear the still small voice once we have stilled our own thoughts and blocked out the external noises and distractions.

Be thankful when God seeks your attention.

The LORD [is] my shepherd” – Psalm 23:1

Although we are saved, we still face temptations.  This because we are sinners by nature which means we still have the capacity to sin against God, however, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.  Jesus left Him behind to help us.  We have to keep on working to be sanctified.  The Holy Spirit helps us to live holy lives.  He empowers us when we are weak and vulnerable and more susceptible to old destructive habits, old temptations, and old desires.  He is our Helper who teaches us all things and reminds us of all the things Jesus said. 

This is what Paul says about the Holy Spirit, “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.  For who among men knows the thoughts of man except the man’s spirit within him?  In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that e may understand what God has freely given us.”

The Spirit is a gift from God.  He helps us to communicate to God when we are unable to express ourselves when we are hurting.  Many times I reach out to God because I need Him so desperately but am unable to get the words out because I’m so overcome with tears and hurt and that’s when the Holy Spirit steps in.  As Paul confirms, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.  For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  Now He searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to will of God.” (Romans: 8-26-27).

Becoming more like Jesus is an ongoing process.  The Holy Spirit helps us along the way.  Whenever I am tempted to do something I know I shouldn’t whether it is buying another clothes or shoes or when I hesitate to do something I know is the right thing to do, the Holy Spirit talks to me.  He reminds me that I don’t need to buy anything and I leave the store.  He reminds me that I want to be like Jesus and that prompts me to do a kind deed.  He keeps me focused on the will of God.  He keeps me in line.  I may not always be receptive to His guidance but I know that He loves me and wants what is best for me.

The Spirit reveals the truth to me—He reveals to me that God loves me and wants me to live a full and healthy life by walking in His ways, trusting Him and obeying Him.  Once I focus on God and the truth, the spirit will grow stronger and the flesh weaker.  “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.  And it is the Spirit who bears witness because the Spirit is truth.”  (1 John 5:4, 6b)  As long as we believe that we have the power through the Holy Spirit to resist temptation and to fight the enemy, we will be fine.  We have a long way to go but we have help and encouragement along the way.

Before Jesus came into the world, we were separated from God by sin.  Jesus’ death on the cross reconciled us to God.  He was the bridge between sin and holiness.  His death and resurrection brought us closer to God.  Through Jesus we were able to have a relationship with God.  This brings to mind the parable of the Shepherd and His flock.  We are the lost sheep, Jesus is the gate, God is the Shepherd and the pasture is God’s word or the life that awaits us once we are saved and pass through the gate.  Jesus says, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  He will come in and go out, and find pasture.” (John 10:7-10)

Through Jesus’ death on the cross, we were saved; we were called to fellowship with God who leads us to greener pasture—to a new life.  We allow God, the Shepherd to lead us because we know him.  We let Him lead us to a better life where the spirit is willing and the flesh is weak.  The opposite of what life was before Jesus came into the world—before we passed through the gate of salvation and into the pasture of sanctification.  We are God’s sheep and we cannot let the thief or what we now know as sin or the enemy lead us astray.  Sin is like a thief, it creeps up on us—it is underhanded, sneaky and it tries to drive a wedge between God and us.  We cannot allow this to happen.  We cannot allow ourselves to think that we can handle whatever comes our way without God’s help.  We cannot allow the thief to steal our attention away from God.

God leads us and we follow Him because we trust Him.  He is a God of truth and He makes us face the truth about ourselves and that is no matter how many good deeds we perform we could never measure up to Him.  We are not righteous—we are flawed creatures who need the power of the Holy Spirit to help us to live godly lives.  We cannot find the pasture on our own—we need the Shepherd to lead us to it.

Thanks to Jesus, the Gate, we were able to enter into a loving relationship with God and graze in His presence.  Once we were on the other side of the Gate, lost in the wilderness and then, one day, the Shepherd came and the gate was opened and the sheep were led away from their live of sin.  Jesus was the Good Shepherd who came to get His sheep and led them to the Father.  He led us away from the wolf that wanted to attack the flock and scatter us—keep us separated from God.  Jesus like the Shepherd laid down His life for us to save us from the enemy.

In Psalm 118:19:21, the psalmist writes, “Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.  This is the gate through which the righteous may enter.  I will give you thanks, for you answered me; You have become my salvation.”

“To day if ye will hear his voice” – Psalm 95:7

God speaks to us but we must listen. We must be able to discern His voice like a child is able to discern his/her mother’s voice by listening for it. The child knows his/her mother’s voice. We, as children of God, our Heavenly Father, should know His voice. To do this, we should read about Him, learn more about His nature from the scriptures and spend more time with Him. It is like a person you develop a relationship with. The more time you spend with him or her, the more you learn about this person. You become close and you are able to tell when they are happy or when they are troubled.

God is the same way. The more we get to know Him the more we are able to tell the difference between Him and the intruder who enters the pen through another way instead of the gate. This is the devil who tries to draw us away from God through whatever means are at his disposal. He tries to tempt us, deceive us and distract us. But, if we keep our eyes on Jesus and listen for His voice we will not be led astray. He will protect us and provide for us. When we lean on him, trust Him, give our lives to Him, it will be easier to block out the temptations of the world and not be led astray by the intruder (the thief, robber) who tries to separate us from God and the truth.

Jesus is the means through which we are able to have a relationship with God. He is the gate through which we, the sheep, enter and God is the Shepherd. We have to go through Jesus to get to our Father. It is through Jesus that God expressed His love for His sheep. It is through Jesus that our sins were forgiven. It is through Jesus that we have the Holy Spirit, which dwells within us. It is through Jesus that God conforms us to Christ’s image and prepare us for His work. We are sanctified through Jesus.

It is through Jesus that we are able to resist temptation, follow His example, learn more about God, Heaven, forgiveness, love, trust, faith, tolerance, mercy, salvation, truth. Jesus is the gate. Whoever enters through Him will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture (John 10:9). This means that once we accept Christ, we are saved and have everlasting life. The pasture is the word of God. Once we feed on the word of God, we will not want of anything as pointed out in the 23rd Psalm. The pasture is God. Once we hunger for Him, we will not want of anything.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He knows His sheep and we know Him. He laid down His life for us. He protects us from the wolf (the devil). If one of us gets lost, He goes out of His way to find us and bring us back to Him—under His loving care and protection. He will not allow the wolf to scatter His beloved sheep.


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