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.

 

Advertisements

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.

Hearing and Doing the Word

James 1:23, 24

man looks in mirrorWhen you look in the mirror, what do you see?  Do you stand there observing yourself?  Do you move closely to the mirror and examine yourself, to see if there are any blemishes, spots or marks that you need to fix? Or do you just take a quick glance and then turn away?

James wrote about a man looking at himself in the mirror.  This person represents a hearer of the Word.  He looks at himself, observes himself, goes away and forgets what he observed.  He is a forgetful hearer.  He hears the Word but does not do it.  So, the Word is not in him.

The person forgets what kind of person he was.  It is like the person observes himself, sees what he sees but does nothing about the changes that he needs to make.  It is like a person hearing the Word of God and does not make the changes that it brings to light.

Are you a hearer only or a doer as well?  When you study God’s Word and it points out something in your life that you need to change, do you act or do you simply turn a blind eye?  Do you refuse to see yourself as you really are?  James says that the man views his natural face.  There is nothing to cover up what is there in plain sight.  He sees his natural self with all of its flaws.  This is what the Word of God points out.  It shows us our true selves in all of our unattractiveness and imperfections and calls for us to do something to change this.

Today, take a closer look at your life and be honest with yourself.  See things as they really are.  Don’t deceive yourself.  That is like trying to cover up a blemish on your face.  It might not be visible but it’s still there and won’t go away until you apply to proper treatment.  Like the mirror, the Word is there to reveal things about ourselves that we need to address.  And once we start making the necessary changes, we will be transformed and we will like what we see when we look in the mirror.

Slow to Speak

“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)

 

 

 

What Defiles A Person

When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man” – Matthew 15:10, 11

IMG_0412Growing up, we were encouraged to wash our hands before we eat because we were taught that “cleanliness is next to godliness”. The Pharisees and scribes had a problem with Jesus’ disciples eating with first washing their hands. In their eyes this was unthinkable because it was breaking their tradition.

In response to their complaint, Jesus pointed out that they were breaking God’s law for the sake of their tradition by letting people think that it was okay for them to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ They were basically saying that the people they don’t need to honor their parents. They were placing their tradition above God’s commandment. Jesus called them on their hypocrisy. There they were criticizing the disciples for eating food without washing their hands and yet they were encouraging people to dishonor their parents, worshipping God in vain and teaching as doctrine the commandments of men. These were the same people who bore malice toward Jesus and plotted to destroy Him when He healed a man on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:14).

Jesus made it clear to the crowd that it is not eating food with unwashed hands that makes defiles a person it is what is inside the person that defiles the person. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” Ironically, these people thought that ceremonial washing of the hands before eating make them clean but inside they were defiled–unclean. They were filled with evil thoughts and intentions toward Jesus, they committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit by attributing His power to Satan (Matthew 12:24-32). They had murder in their hearts. These things defiled them. They may have had clean hands but their hearts were far from clean. Eating food with unwashed did not defile the disciples.

This exchange between Jesus and the religious leaders had nothing to do with diet. Jesus wasn’t declaring that all foods are good to eat as some believe and teach. He was telling them that what comes out of them defiles them not what goes in. Clean hearts are more important than clean hands. Like David, we should pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10).

Love Righteousness

You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You  With the oil of gladness more than Your companions – Psalm 45:7

8x10ThoseWhoPursueRighteousness is the character or quality of being right or just.  It is uprightness before God.  It is something we practice.  Blessed is he who does righteousness at all times.  Righteousness delivers one from eternal death.  It is everlasting.  It leads to life.  In fact, the way of righeousness is life (Proverbs 12:28).  Righteousness exalts a nation (Proverbs 14:34) and it will bring peace.  We are to seek it.

In order to love righteousness, we must first be righteous.  What does it mean to be righteous?  It is to walk in integrity; desire justice for the innocent and oppressed.  It is to have regard for the lives and well being of others; to treat people with love, kindness and compassion.  “The righteous  consider the cause of the poor” (Proverbs 29:7).  The righteous shows mercy and gives (Psalm 37:21).  He or she is always merciful and lends (Psalm 37:26).

God loves the righteous and will not allow them to famish.  King David declared, “I have been young and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken nor his descendants begging bread (Psalm 37:25).  A righteous person and his or her family are blessed.

Like God we are to love righteousness and hate wickedness (Psalm 45:7).

Knowing God’s Voice

“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.

Matthew 9

As I read chapter 9 of the Gospel of Matthew, I noticed the following two things:

  • Some of the people came to Jesus
  • Others were brought to Him

Let’s first look at those who came to Jesus.

Jairus – a father went to ask Jesus to go to his house where his daughter lay dying because he believed that Jesus could raise the dead.

The woman with the issue of blood – for twelve years she had this condition and the doctors took her money but could not help her.  She braved the crowd to find Jesus because she believed that if she could only touch the hem of His robe, she could be healed.

The two blind men – they followed Jesus and cried out to Him.  They were very persistent.  He followed Him into the house and begged Him to have mercy on them.  They believed that He could restore their sight.

Now let’s look at those who were brought to Jesus.

The paralytic – his four friends brought him to Jesus because they believed that Jesus could cure him.  In Mark’s Gospel, we learn how far these men were willing to go to get their friend to Jesus.  And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.  Their faith impressed Jesus (Mark 2:4, 5).

The mute and possessed man – some people brought this man to Jesus because they believed that Jesus could cast out the demon.  When the demon was cast out, the man spoke.

Which were you?  Did you come to Christ or did someone bring you to Him?  Is there someone you are hoping will come to Him or is there someone whom you are hoping to bring to Him?

There is another important thing I noticed in this chapter.  Jesus called Matthew.  There are those whom Jesus calls.  There are those to whom He invites to follow Him.   Has Jesus asked you to follow Him?  What was your answer?  Did you follow Him without any hesitation or are you waiting for a more convenient time to do so?

It is important to point out that all those who came to Jesus exercised great faith.  Those who brought others to Him did so in faith.  Faith pushes some people to seek Jesus and faith motivates people to bring others to Him.  And faith compels others to get up and follow Him without a second thought.

Faith takes action.  Faith pushes through a crowd.  Faith doesn’t give up.  Today, come to Jesus in faith, believing that He could help you or the person you bring to Him.

God, the Artist

Last week Saturday my husband and I were studying the Sabbath School Quarterly Lesson on God as Artist.  The lesson stated that this is one side of God that people don’t pay much attention to.  However, I am constantly reminded of what a great Artist God is.

As an art lover and an art Minor, I enjoy going to museums.  When my sister and I were in Italy, it was a treat for me to visit the Uffizi, Borghese galleries to mention a few and stand for a while just staring at the paintings and the sculpture.  I was always fascinated with how Michangelo could take a block of marble and shape it into masterpieces like David and the pieta.  The details were so true to life.  And the painting on the Sistine Chapel.  Michangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael and all the others were truly blessed.  They had talents that to this day we can appreciate.

But as talented and gifted as these men were, they paled in comparison with the greatest Artist of all–God.  Their paintings and sculpture are facsimiles of the real things created by God.  God spoke things into existence.  He spoke and tigers, elephants, giraffes, squirrels, dolphins, sharks, whales, eagles, sparrows, the moon, the sun, the stars, etc were created.  When I think of the caterpillar who morphs into a beautiful butterfly, I cannot help but marvel and revere a God who obviously appreciates beauty.

When it came to creating man, God used His hands.  He formed Adam from the dust and He made Eve from one of Adam’s ribs.   It’s hard to imagine that man was formed from dust when you think of how we are made up of flesh, blood, bones, skin, nerves.   During my pregnancy, I liked to have pictures of the fetus to see what it looked like at each stage.  I saw it go from looking like a tadpole to a fully developed human baby with features, ten fingers, ten toes, etc.  All the time I was pregnant, I was reminded of who God was–Creator and Author of life.  And as I watch nature shows or look at my son I can understand why God was very pleased with His creative work and saw that everything was good.

In the Bible God is described as the Potter and we are His clay.  Jeremiah 18:3-10 and Isaiah 64:5-8 give us a picture of how helpless we are before the power of God.  We are clay in His hands and He, not us, is in charge.  We are the work of His hand.   He is the One who molds and fashions us.  He is the One who is working to recreate us into His image which sin marred.

God cares much about His physical creation.  But He cares much more about the beauty of what He can do in us.  We are to surrender, to die to self, and to cooperate with the Lord.  He wants to recreate and give back to us the original, spiritual and moral beauty that we had at Eden before the Fall.

God is a Sculptor but unlike the great artists we mentioned earlier, He is not limited to granite or marble.  God sculpts our characters.  He can take a sinful person and chisel away at that person until the person’s beauty shines forth.  We have seen God shape people we deem to be unattractive, unworthy or hopeless.  Examples are Jacob (Genesis 32:22-30); David (Psalm 51); Peter (Luke 22:31) and Paul (Acts 9:1-22).  One good example of a person whom others saw as worthless and beyond redemption was Mary Magdalene.

 “Mary had been . . . a great sinner, but Christ knew the circumstances that had shaped her life. . . . It was He who had lifted her from despair and ruin. Seven times she had heard His rebuke of the demons that controlled her heart and mind. She had heard His strong cries to the Father in her behalf. She knew how offensive is sin to His unsullied purity, and in His strength she had overcome. . . . [This woman] who had fallen, and whose mind had been a habitation of demons, was brought very near to the Saviour in fellowship and ministry. . . . Mary stood beside the Cross. . . . Mary was first at the tomb after His resurrection. It was Mary who first proclaimed a risen Saviour.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages,p. 568.

Salvation history is full of divine creativity, restoring in fallen men and women the lost “image of God.” The gospel is no cosmetic facelift but a matter of life-changing orientation running deep and swift in its cleansing, shaping, and beautifying power. The gospel of Jesus Christ creatively builds with integrity and wholeness. Genuine newness is the result of an inward dynamic at work, a divine creativity that restores beauty to a fallen, sinful life.

We worship a God who takes persons who are unworthy and transforms them into beautiful creatures.

Even after the Fall, nature today is still quite beautiful.  Can you imagine what it must have been like before the Fall?  This shows us just what an amazing Artist God is.  We can see His mastery in the magnificent sunsets.  I remember a long time ago when I was in the park and several people were gazing up into the sky, dazzled by the splashes of orange and red.  This was God’s signature.  It was as if the sky were a giant painting for all to see and appreciate.

God is also seen as an Architect (Exod. 25:1–9).  He gave Moses the blueprints for the tent sanctuary which was the place of worship.  The details include beautiful artwork.

God is seen as a Musician.  He played a role in the worship service of the Israelites.  In 2 Chronicles 29:25, King Hezekiah restored temple worship.  He stationed the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with stringed instruments, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, of Gad the king’s seer, and of Nathan the prophet; for thus was the commandment of the Lord by His prophets.  Imagine four thousand men praised the Lord with musical instruments which David provided them with for that very purpose.  In David’s time, the worship service consisted of people making a joyful noise to the Lord with trumpets and the cornet.  This was a lively worship service.

I love going to churches where the song services uplift you and prepare your heart for worship.  I believe God loves it when we worship Him in a way that glorifies Him.  Music plays an important role in worship.

God is the Author of the Bible which has impressed Bible Scholars for its literary beauty.  The psalms which I think are beautiful were inspired by the Lord (2 Sam. 23:1, 2.)  The Book of Revelation is filled with imagery.

The reader is presented with an exceedingly complex tapestry of words, phrases, and themes borrowed from other biblical writers but now woven together into an entirely new fabric. This final book in the Bible is in a style vastly different from what Paul and the Gospel writers used. Instead, we are almost overwhelmed with a profound aesthetic display carefully structured around seven scenes of the heavenly sanctuary, each one opening with deeper access into the heavenly court.

God is many things to us but we seldom see Him as an Artist or it is a side of Him that we often overlook.   It is good to know that God is an Architect–He can put together plans or designs that would enable us to be the people He wants us to be.  He is the Potter, Sculptor who shapes us.  He is the Author of our lives and He is the inspiration behind the beautiful hymns and music we enjoy during worship service.

Let us enjoy all sides of God.  

Source:  http://www.ssnet.org/qrtrly/eng/12a/less11.html

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: