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.

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Church Under Attack

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When I read this I couldn’t help but notice the irony. Herod took it upon himself to attack the church. He killed James and when he saw that this pleased the Jews, he had Peter arrested and thrown into prison. Herod clearly didn’t know that the powers of darkness would not prevail against the powers of light. When Peter was in jail, chained and secured between two guards, God sent an angel to set him free. At first Peter thought it was a vision but once he was outside he realized that this was really happening, he said, “Now I certainly know that the Lord has sent His angel and delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

While he had been in prison, the other believers came together and prayed for him. God answered their prayers. After Peter went to the brethren and told them how the Lord had led him out of the prison, he went to Caesarea where he stayed. As for Herod, he was struck down by the Lord because he did not give Him the glory. The wicked ruler was dead but God’s Word spread and increased. The Word of the Lord could not be chained. “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:8, 9).

Today, many are trying to suppress the Word of God in countries where Christians are persecuted but God declared, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11). Until Jesus comes, we are to preach the Gospel even unto death. The saving of souls makes it all worthwhile.

From Trials to Triumph

2 Corinthians 11:16-23

apostle paulPaul had many trials, hardships, faced death, was beaten and persecuted but these things did not discourage him.  He delighted to do the Lord’s work.  Like David, he could claim, “The Lord is my Helper.  The Lord is the One who keeps me alive.”

God was with him throughout all these stormy times, helping and encouraging him–providing him with the strength he needed to overcome.  God can do the same for us.  He is our Shelter in times for storm.

We can gain courage from Paul’s experiences.  He travelled a lot, sometimes to inhospitable regions, in storms.  Life was hard for him.  Travelling then was hard–not at all like now with all of its conveniences.  Paul did not allow these hardships to hinder him from his work.  He was able to finish the race and one day he will receive his crown.

Let this be our goal–serve God in spite of opposition, keeping our eyes on the prize–eternal life with our Lord–finishing the race and one day receiving our crowns.  We want to hear our Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant;  Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21).

Paul’s Testimony

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?

Jesus Comes First

And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming”- 1 John 2:28.

Our relationship with Jesus should take precedence over everything and everyone else.  Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew left their nets and followed Jesus after He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”   James and his brother, John left their father and followed Him.  He said to Matthew, the tax collector, “Follow Me.” And he got up and followed Him. (Matthew 4:18, 21-22, 9:8)  Paul immediately went out and preached the gospel, astounding all those who knew that he once persecuted Jesus’ followers. 

Abraham placed his relationship with God above all others.  He trusted God to meet his needs and he had great faith in Him.  Noah was a righteous man who walked with God.  Both he and Abraham were surrounded by corruption but they never allowed themselves to be corrupted.  Their fellowship with God took precedence over everything else.  They kept their eyes on Him and allowed the spirit not the flesh to lead them. 

Their righteousness may have seemed strange to those around them—the king of Sodom must have been baffled when Abraham refused the goods he offered him. And it must have seemed crazy and irresponsible of Abraham when he packed up his family and belongings and went off to a strange land. It must have seemed strange to people when Noah was building the ark.  The actions of these two men speak volumes of their incredible faith in God.  They did not allow what others might have thought or said to influence them.  They were only concerned with what God wanted and obeying Him.

Following God may not seem logical to others but our desire should always be to please God and not man.   Prayer and meditation should be daily pastimes.  Jesus prayed before He raised Lazarus from the dead; He prayed before He fed the five thousand; He prayed when the hour was near.  In fact, Jesus prayed daily.  He did not allow His preaching and healing to interfere with His relationship with His Father.  He died so that we could be saved and be able to have relationship with God. 

Throughout the Bible we are told that the Lord desires that we turn to Him and worship Him.  He promised, “Then you will call upon me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12-13)

Too often we allow work, household chores, daily routines, television, the media and other people to distract us.  We don’t allow ourselves the time to quietly meditate on God and His word.  We allow ourselves to become too busy and then in the evenings we are too tired or we sit down in front of the television and then, we go to bed and fall asleep.  In the morning we are in a rush to get to the office on time and don’t pause to spend time in prayer and meditation or even to pick up the Bible and write a Psalm or the Daily Word.  In other words, we put God on the back burner. 

As Christians we need to act as such.  We need to spend more time with our Lord who wants us to know Him better.  And as Christians we need to do what is pleasing to God and not worry about how strange it may seem to others.  Jesus did things that were not popular but they were what His Father desired Him to do.  He prevented the adulterous woman from being stoned to death; He healed on the Sabbath; He ate with tax collectors and other objectionable people.  Basically, He practiced what He preached.  We should do the same, regardless of how it may seem to others. 

We should glorify Jesus in our deeds and not just our words.  As John advises us, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)  It’s not enough to say that we believe in Jesus and that we love Him and are His followers, we have to do as we say.  We do this by putting Him first, fellowshipping with Him, seeking Him all the time, meditating on Him and His word and praising Him.  We cultivate our relationship with Him and then, we go out and sow His love.  We have to abide in Him and follow in His footsteps.  Our relationship with Jesus is the most vital one we have and we should cherish it and treat it as the gift it was meant to be.

Taking time away from a pressing matter or a hectic schedule and focusing on Him would do us a world of good and help us to get through whatever tasks or urgent matter we have to deal with.  Jesus should be the centre of our universe.  We should place our relationship with Him above the cares and distractions of the world.  Just as Peter started to sink when he removed his focus from Jesus, we sink into a myriad of emotions that distract us from Him.  We become stressed because we’re busy and fatigued and we worry about not being able to get things done.  We allow worldly concerns to interfere with our relationship with Jesus.

Instead of fretting and worrying and stressing ourselves and scrambling to get a hundred things done at once, we should take time out and ask Jesus to help us.  Jesus Himself promised, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the World you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)  What more proof do we need than this?

Helping

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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