14 But even though my condition tempted you to reject me, you did not despise me or turn me away. No, you took me in and cared for me as though I were an angel from God or even Christ Jesus himself. – Gal. 4:14 NLT
In this letter to the Galatians, Paul reminds them that he became as much likethem as possible without violating his conscience. In our words today, we would probably say that he spent time making friends and building a bridge of confidence so that they would be more willing to listen to him. As the saying goes “people have to know you care before they care what you know”. As it turns out, Paul got to spend quite a bit of time in southern Galatia because of his sickness that he developed. This may have been the beginning of what Paul later referred to as “a thorn in the flesh”. It was very possibly a severe eye disease causing some amount of pain and facial dis-figuration. Paul implies that it might have made some of the people treat him badly and others would have plucked out their own eye and given it to him. But Paul pushes on and asks them the same questions we must ask ourselves and others today. Does our telling you the truth make us your enemy? Or once you know and understand the truth, does it make any sense to turn away from it? Just as Paul did, we have to get the people to understand that our witnessing to them is not because we feel that we are better or more holy than they are. It is because Jesus died for all of us simply because He loved us enough to do that for us. And His love for us requires us to show that same love to others.
24 God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.25 He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act. — Exodus 2:24, 25
God never forgets a promise. He had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He would one day free the people from Egypt and that time had now come. He had listened to the groaning of His people long enough. God never fails to deliver on a promise, but He has His own timetable to do so. He used Moses to fulfill this promise. If God has made a specific promise to us, individually, He will fulfill it but it may very well be after we have gone through a period of groaning and travail. He has made a specific promise to all of His children. The first part of that promise was fulfilled when He came in the flesh to redeem us from sin and free us from our bondage to satan. We and all of nature are now in a period of groaning, waiting for His return to take us out of Egypt (the world). When He does come back, we will fly away with Him to our Promised Land. A land flowing with living waters and filled with the light of the Son. No more groaning, no more sorrows, no more pain, a land where the lamb will lay down by the lion.
22 If anyone does not love the Lord, that person is cursed. Our Lord, come! — 1 Cor. 16:22 NLT
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous
Have you ever promised God that you would not commit a certain sin and then you find that the next time the temptation comes up, you fail again? Every time we sin, we grieve God the Holy Spirit. Do you remember how you felt the last time you failed your parents, in particular, your Mother? I think if we can get that picture in our minds, we can start to understand how it hurts the Holy Spirit when we grieve Him by sinning. God the Holy Spirit is a person just as God the Father and God the Son are personages. We may not believe it or think it about much, but let’s look at what Paul writes: And do not make the Holy Spirit sad. The Spirit is God’s proof that you belong to him. God gave you the Spirit to show that God will make you free when the final day comes.—Eph. 4:30 (NCV) Did you realize that you could make God sad?
I believe the very moment that Peter denied Jesus the third time, he realizes that he could hurt and wound God, our Savior. John doesn’t elaborate on this event, but if we read what is written in Matthew, we see how this affected Peter. 74 Then Peter began to place a curse on himself and swear, “I don’t know the man.” At once, a rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered what Jesus had told him: “Before the rooster crows, you will say three times that you don’t know me.” Then Peter went outside and cried painfully.—Matt. 26:74, 75 (NCV) When we realize that we have hurt God the Holy Spirit, we need to weep and confess our sins quickly. We need to keep a good relationship with the Holy Spirit because through Him is the way we communicate with God.
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous
4 Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? — Romans 2:4 NLT
We live in a society that bombards us 24/7 with messages of self-indulgence and “me first” attitudes. We were born in sin and satan wants us to continue that sinful lifestyle. But from birth, there is a part of us that yearns for something that the world can’t satisfy. No matter, how far we go down that path of sin, there is no satisfaction and no peace. God is patient with us giving us opportunity after opportunity to change our lifestyles and accept His forgiveness. He knows that is the only answer to the emptiness that we feel inside. He showed that kindness and love to us by giving His Son to die for our sins. Once we have accepted His free salvation, we begin our journey with Him. The trip requires changes as we travel along. If we continue to focus on our wants, we will never be able to walk the path God has chosen for us. The pain comes in giving up our wants and desires so that we can find true life. It is only when we realize that loving Jesus is worth all the pain that we will be filled with peace and joy even in the middle of chaos and violence. That is His plan for us.
Jesus was tempted for 40 days by satan. We are not told how long each temptation lasted or how often the temptation was repeated. Since satan has probably not changed his pattern of tempting humans, it was probably a constant nagging to just go ahead and do it. When the first temptation fails, he tries another tactic, always going about like a roaring lion, but having no power. The first temptation that Jesus faced was one we are all familiar with; pride: “you don’t need God, just do it yourself”. The second temptation was idolatry and greed: “just worship me and I will give you everything you want”. Why should you wait and go through all the pain and suffering when you can have it now, just by bowing down to sin? The third temptation is the sin of presumption: “You know God is going to take care of you, just go ahead and do what you want to do, it doesn’t matter”. We are told in Psalm 19:13 “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.” Yes, God will take care of us in dangerous situations, but to think that we can do outrageous things of our own choosing and expect God to always react is presumptuous and deadly. It is one thing to test God’s faithfulness but it is completely different to tempt Him with
our foolishness. Be sober, be alert, satan is just waiting for his next opportunity to test us.
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous
1 For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. 2 A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. 3 A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up.— Eccl. 3:1-3 NLT
Our lives are divided into times and seasons. Since our finite minds cannot grasp infinite, eternal things in their fulness, God has divided time into seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years and lifetimes. There are good times and bad times, rough patches and smooth sailing, times of need and times of abundance, times of sickness and times of good health. There are valleys of despair and there are mountains of joy. This is true because we live in a sinful world and it will remain true until the Perfect One returns and restores us and all of nature to a perfect state. James tells us that when sin has conceived, it brings forth death. James 1:14, 15 There are more deaths than physical and spiritual that are brought on when we give into temptation and allow sin to rule in our lives. There is financial death when we spend foolishly. There is the death of abundance when we waste. There is the death of relationships when we are unfaithful to God and/or others. But not all death is bad. There is the death of anger and bitterness when we accept God’s forgiveness and forgive others. There is the death of guilt and condemnation when we accept Jesus as our Savior. That death frees us to live again. To really live as we have never lived before! Jesus showed us how to live free. He put everyone in heaven and earth above Himself and His desires and He died to set us free! Because He chose to do this, God has exalted Him above everyone and everything in heaven and on earth. Have we killed our fleshly desires and allowed our spirits to be free?
Today would be a good day to deny all of our “self” and allow God to heal every hurt, pain and all the bitterness in our lives so that we can soar like eagles and live free! I know, I know, we can’t. But God can! Matt. 11:28-30
10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. — Ephesians 2:10 NLT
When we think about God’s choices and blessings from a human viewpoint, they make little or no sense to us. Why would God call this person or that person to do a particular job? Why would He call them and not me? If we look deeper, those that God calls are given greater responsibilites and asked to do things that most of us would never agree to do. Look at the prophet Isaiah. God told Isaiah to walk around Israel for three years naked and barefoot preaching and prophesying. (Isaiah 20) That’s not exactly what I had in mind when I accepted Jesus as my Savior and it is not something I would want to do. With great blessings, there is usually great sacrifice. Mary was chosen to be the Mother of the Messiah. The angel told her she was highly favored and blessed and she certainly was. But with that blessing came much suffering and pain of heart for Mary. She watched as her own family and their own people rejected Jesus on a daily basis, She watched as He suffered great pain from a crown of thrones that mocked Him. She watched as He suffered even greater pain on the cross and as His side was pierced and His life flowed out of Him. I would not want to watch a child of mine go through that. God prepares each of us for the work He knows that we will do. We should be grateful He has chosen us for whatever task He has prepared for us to do and do it to the best of our ablilty. Don’t miss out on the blessings because we feel the work is small and insignificant. Nothing God asks us to do is insignificant.
10 Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” — Zechariah 4:10 NLT
19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called,because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. — 1 Peter 2:19-21 NIV
As we look back and honestly assess the hard times in our lives, we can attribute most of them to bad decisions that we have made. Those decisions may have involved unkind words that we spoke causing ill feelings and anger between us and others. The decisions may have been based on our fleshly desires and caused us to commit acts that we should not have committed. The decisions could have been bad financial decisions we made because we did not want to wait until we were able to afford certain things. We get no credit or praise for enduring those times that were brought on by our own wrong doing. I cannot recall one time in my life when I had to suffer because of a good deed that I had done. I read the horror stories of our brothers and sisters being abused and persecuted for the good deeds they have done and are doing and I pray for them. Those events seem so far away and foreign to me. And I wonder what my reaction to that kind of treatment would be. Would I stay faithful to God and endure the pain? We are called to and warned to be ready for such acts. We have the examples of those in the Bible and in our daily news of those who do endure. They are the ones who make up the “cloud of witnesses” that surround us. I shed tears of grief as I listen to their stories and I feel so small and unworthy knowing that the tears they are shedding as they tell their stories are tears of joy, the joy of sharing in suffering with our Savior.
It should break our hearts to think about what pain Mary felt as she gazed upon the cross and saw her Son in such agony. What anguish she must have felt as she remembered that this was the little baby that she had held in her lap on the first Christmas day! It must have been hard for her to believe that it took that kind of suffering to redeem a fallen world. As we celebrate the season this year and every year. let us remember that there is no gift that can match the one He gave on the cross. He gave His all for us, so let us commit to living lifestyles that reflect His love for us. Let us rejoice because the cross is empty! Let us sing with gladness of heart, “Joy to the World, the Lord has come” and He has risen in our hearts!
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. — James 3:9-12 NIV
These verses come at the end of a passage that speaks of the tongue and how our inability to control it causes us some many problems. No human can tame his or her tongue. We can pray about it and we can strive to do it, but it is an impossible task for a human. Only one man was able to do so and that was Jesus, the God-Man. Nevertheless, that does not relieve us of the responsibility of asking the Holy Spirit to help us do better every day. Our goal is to be that person who would never say or do anything to hurt someone else and that is the mark at which we should be aiming. Words that we speak without any intention of hurting anyone are often taken in the wrong way and cause pain to others. Our prejudices, and we all have them, sometimes lead to a “slip of the tongue”. Our thoughts lead to words and actions that show our true feelings and attitudes about others. We need to always pray this prayer:
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. — Psalm 19:14
The things that we talk about most are the things that are truly important to us. The words and actions that we say and do are the fruits of our mindset and our hearts’ desires. Just as a tree produces fruit after its kind, we will produce like fruit, be it good or evil. Our tongues were made to give praise, glory and honor to our Father in heaven. Just as He spoke creation into existence, we have the power to speak words of life or death. Let us always speak the words of life.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” — John 6:68, 69
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. — James 1:2-4 NIV
We love reading those verses that make us feel good, like Romans 8:28, Phil 4:13, John 10:10 and John 3:16. Those are great verses that encourage us by letting us know that God is good and everything is going to be okay. But those verses can seem pretty hollow when we feel like God has deserted us and we are all alone in this evil world. It is hard for us to understand how God, who is love, can allow bad things to happen to His children. When these times come, we need to remember that all we can see is “now”, but God sees and knows all about the future. He allows testing so that we can know where we are on our journey. He already knows but we need to know so that we do not become puffed up and prideful. Jesus warned us that in this world we would be offended and tested, so, it should come as no surprise when we are. Our Lord and Savior was tested and tempted in every way possible. He understands our pain better than we do. We should never deny that we are in pain or that we are sick and hurting. We need to admit our weaknesses and ask God to bring us through this time of testing. We need to persevere so that we can become mature and complete, fulfilled in Christ Jesus. We don’t want to hear “count it all joy” while we are in the process, but after the test is concluded, we can look back on the experience and see that Jesus carried us through the whole process. The joy comes from knowing who we serve and that He loves us so much that He will allow nothing in our lives that He doesn’t give us strength to overcome. We are to “count it all joy”, not because of the situation, but in spite of the situation. We can’t be overcomers and conquerors if we never face situations that require us to overcome or conquer.
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delightin weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. — 2 Cor. 12:9, 10 NIV