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.

 

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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.

Mark 14:32-42

download (1)Jesus was troubled and deeply distressed.  He told Peter, James and John that His soul was exceedingly sorrowful even to death and asked them to stay there and watch.  He went a little farther in the garden and fell on the ground.  He prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him.

When I read verse 36 where He asks, “Take this cup away from Me,” I cried.  I cried because I thought of how heart-wrenching it would be for Jesus to be separated from His Father because our sins would be placed on Him as since the beginning–before the world was, He and His Father had been together–inseparable.  The cup mentioned in verse 35 was the agony of being separated from the Father.  When Jesus, the sinless Son of God took on the sins of the world, He would be separated from His Father so that we could have eternal life.  Sins separate us from God.

Then Jesus said, “not what I will, but what You will.”  Even though He knew what doing the will of the Father would cost Him, He was obedient.  Like Jesus, are we willing to place our Father’s will above our own no matter the cost?  Jesus did it because there was no other way through which men could be saved.  Jesus’ death and blood were the only ways we could be reconciled to God (Romans 5:10, Ephesians 2:13).

It is interesting that the three whom Jesus took with Him, weren’t there for Him when it mattered the most.  In Mark 14:29, Peter insisted that he would not desert Jesus.  In verse 37, Jesus addresses him only.  He asked him, “could you not keep watch for one hour?”

In Matthew 20:22, 23, James and John said that they were able to drink the cup He was about to drink and be baptised with the baptism that He would be baptised with and they said they were able.  Yet, like Peter, they could not keep watch.

There are times in our lives when we will be vulnerable to temptation.  What can we do to resist?  Jesus gave us the following tips:

  • Keep watch
  • Pray
  • Resolve to do God’s will

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.

 

The Importance of Prayer

Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.  And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles:  Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; 15 Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot; Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor – Luke 6:12-16

MH900409444When it comes to making big decisions what do you do?  Do you call a friend?  Do you struggle to make a decision?  Do you put off making a decision?  Or do you seek God in prayer?  Before choosing the twelve disciples whom He also named apostles, Jesus sought His Father in prayer and spent all night communing with Him. He had a big decision to make and needed wisdom and guidance.  He was setting an example for us.  When faced with big decisions or life changing situations, we need to go straight to the Source of all wisdom and knowledge.  He knows the beginning and the end and He knows what is best for us.

Prayer is extremely important.  It is our best option when faced with tough choices or trials or problems or challenges.  When Solomon was faced with the daunting task of ruling God’s people after his father died, he sought God in prayer.  It was a beautiful prayer and it even pleased God.  “Now, O LORD God, let Your promise to David my father be established, for You have made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude.  Now give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this great people of Yours?” (2 Chronicles 1:9, 10).  Solomon was young and wanted to be an able leader for the people but he knew that he couldn’t do this without God’s help so he appealed to Him to give him the tools he needed to be an effective leader–wisdom and knowledge.

Prayer is our connection to God who cares about us and is ready to provide whatever we ask for.  Jesus encouraged persistent prayer.  He encouraged us to pray in faith, believing that what we ask for we will receive.  Instead of worrying, Paul advises us “in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6, 7).  Many times I have been overwhelmed by something going on in my life and I turned to God in prayer. In the midst of my anguish, I feel God’s peace come over me, calming me, assuring me that He will get me through this.

Seek God in prayer daily.  Daniel prayed three times a day.  You can pray anywhere and anytime.  As you are sitting on the train on your way to work, you can pray.  As you fix breakfast, you can give God thanks and ask Him to help you get through your day.  You can pray as you walk to the bus-stop or the office.  That’s the beautiful thing about prayer, it is not limited by time or place.  And God is always there, just waiting to hear from you.

Prayer is a privilege we should never take for granted and should always take advantage of.  Jesus, through His sacrifice on the cross has made it possible for us to have easy access to God through prayer.  Thanks to Him, we can “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

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 Your Enemies

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust – Matthew 5:44, 46

David Spares Saul I Samuel 26:6-12Whom would you consider to be your enemy?  Someone you don’t get along with?  Someone you just can’t stand?  Someone who has it in for you?  Someone who doesn’t like you and is always undermining you?  How could we possibly love these people? This commandment of Jesus to love our enemies seems impossible but as He pointed out, if we love only those who love us in return, what good is that?  He was teaching us that hate is not of God.  Love is of God, even love for our enemies.

We are told that, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:20, 21).  Jesus showed love toward Malchus, the High Priest’s servant after Peter cut off his right ear.  Matthew gives an account of the incident.

Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him. And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.  But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” – Matthew 26:50-54.  Luke wrote that Jesus said, “Permit even this.” And He touched his ear and healed him (Luke 22:51).

Jesus rebuked Peter and healed Malchus.  I’m sure this act of kindness must have affected the servant in some way.

King David had an opportunity to kill his enemy Saul twice.  The first time was when they were in the wilderness in En Gedi.  Saul heard that David and his men were there and set off at once, taking three thousand men with him.  He meant to get David.  David’s men said to him, “This is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it seems good to you.’”  David listened to his men and went to Saul who was in the cave.

David secretly cut off a piece from the corner of the king’s robe but afterward he felt badly about what he had done.  His heart troubled him and he said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.”  So David restrained his servants with these words, and did not allow them to rise against Saul. And Saul got up from the cave and went on his way (1 Samuel 24:1-7).  The other time David spared Saul’s life is recorded in 1 Samuel 26.

Love for God made David do the right thing.  He loved Saul too and mourned when he died (2 Samuel 1:17).  He even commanded that the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan be buried in the tomb of Kish his father (2 Samuel 21:14).

By loving those we would consider to be our enemies, we will be perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48).  Love and kindess should extend to everyone.  Loving God makes God us want to do right by others.  Show God how much you love Him with an act of kindness or making amends wit the person or persons you had a falling out with.

NEVER TOO YOUNG TO LEARN

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” – 1 Timothy 4:12

Teaching the next generation about God is the duty of all Christians.  Teaching our children who will in turn teach their children God’s law and share with them how God had demonstrated His presence and power in their lives.  The Ten Commandments were written for the Moses’ generation and the generations that followed.  “These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all His decrees and command that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. In the future, when your son asks you, ‘What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?’ Tell him: ‘We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.  Before our eyes the Lord sent miraculous signs and wonders—great and terrible—upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household.  But He brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that He promised on oath to our forefathers.’” (Deuteronomy 6:1-2, 20-23)

 

Moses had records of what happened in Egypt and when the Israelites left Egypt and everything that happened during their journey to the Promised Land so that these could be shared with the next generations.  We too could share God’s commandments with our children so that they could live the way God intended them to.  And when God works wonderful miracles and brings blessings in our lives, we get to share those with our children as well.  We could also share these things with other young Christians and non-believers.

 

Before he died, David said to his son, Solomon, “So, be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires:  Walk in His ways, and keep His decrees and commands, His laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go, and that the Lord may keep His promise to me: ‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.’” (1 Kings 2:2-4)  Solomon later advises, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

 

As a child I was taught that Jesus loved me and that is why He died on the cross for me.  I was taught that Jesus loved all children—children of all colours. I was taught the Our Father prayer and other prayers.  Even now I’m learning things from my mother and my aunt.  I’m learning things from God who is my Father.  He is opening my eyes to what I am reading.  Even though I have read the Scriptures before, I feel as if I’m reading some of it for the first time.

 

Solomon’s advice to the young is, “Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; Walk in the ways of your heart, And in the sight of your eyes; But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment.  Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, And put away evil from your flesh, For childhood and youth are vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10)  When we are young, we want to enjoy life, have fun, and be adventurous.

 

When we are young, we don’t want to take life seriously or responsibility for our actions.  We just want to have a good time.  When we are young we think we are invincible, untouchable.  We think we can experiment with drugs and alcohol and not be affected; we think we can handle them.  We drag race and not think that we can get hurt or hurt someone else.  We do anything to get into a fraternity or we are willing to do anything to be accepted into the in-crowd.  We want to seem cool to others so we do things that we are not comfortable doing just to impress other people.  When we are young, we are easily influenced and vulnerable to peer pressure.  We don’t want to be seen as the geek or the wallflower.  We want to be popular.

 

Young people should be taught that it is cool to be a follower of Jesus.  It is cool to obey His commands and hold on to them.  It is cool to read the Bible, go to church, pray, meditate, help others, tell their friends about Jesus.  It is cool to do volunteer work, Bible study, work hard in school, do well in their studies and stay out of trouble, say no to cigarettes, drugs and alcohol.  It is cool to serve others.  Jesus wearing just a towel got down on His knees and washed the feet of His disciples.  It is cool to feed the homeless, visit the sick, help the poor and to treat others as you want to be treated.  It is cool to be part of God’s crowd rather than the in-crowd.  It is cool to stand out as a committed believer than as the popular girl or boy or the jock.  Young people should be taught that following God is the coolest thing they could ever do and the wisest.

The Key To God’s Heart

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” – Philippians 2:8.

 

Abraham was told to leave his country and go to a strange land believing God’s promise that, “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2)  Abraham obeyed and journeyed to Canaan.  Difficult times were ahead for them.  They faced famine; strife between Abraham’s herdsmen and Lot’s livestock; and war which resulted in Lot’s capture.  Abraham and Sarah were childless.  At their age it must have seemed unlikely that they would be parents as God had promised.  But, God kept His promise and Isaac was born.  Isaac became the ultimate test of Abraham’s faith making the earlier challenges pale in comparison.

Abraham was asked to “take now your son, your only son to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 22:2)  One cannot imagine what it must have taken for Abraham to be able to obey such a command.  For years he and Sarah had been childless and now the son God had promised them was going to be taken away and offered up as a sacrifice.  What about God’s promise of an everlasting covenant with Isaac and his descendants?  What must have been going through Abraham’s mind as he bound his son and laid him on the altar?  What must Isaac have been thinking?  As Abraham raised the knife to kill his son, was it his love for God that gave him the strength to go through with such an act?  God explains why He stopped him, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son from Me.” (Genesis 22:12) 

Without question, Abraham obeyed God.  He did not demand to know why God was asking him to sacrifice the child he and his wife had waited so long to have.  He didn’t ask God why he was taking away the child he had promised him, “in Isaac your seed shall be called.”  He did not wonder why God who was faithful and never broke a promise was now asking him to do the unthinkable.  Abraham had no way of knowing that God would stop him.  He had no way of knowing that God would replace Isaac with a ram for the sacrifice.  Abraham’s faith in God was so strong, so powerful that he was able to obey the most difficult command a man would ever receive from his God.  As a result, God, in His loving kindness, spared Isaac and blessed Abraham. 

Obedience is not too difficult to achieve.  Abraham is proof of this and so is Jesus.  Jesus faced many difficulties during his ministry.  He was criticised, rejected, mocked, flogged, deserted, denied and crucified because He was speaking on God’s behalf as He was commanded.  When Jesus was on the Mount of Olives, He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” An angel from Heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him.  And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly.  Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. (Luke 22:41-44)  Jesus had a crisis of faith but, He was strengthened and He remained obedient. 

We too have crises of faith sometimes when faced with difficult times or temptations, but, if we pray to God, as Jesus did in His hour of need, God will strengthen us so that we don’t fall into temptation and remain obedient to Him.  Obeying Him will not always be easy but if we remember that it is the only way we will be able to experience God’s best and become closer to Him, we will be greatly motivated.

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