Dealing With Our Enemies

The angry voices in the crowd rose to a crescendo, “Crucify Him!” drowning out Pilate’s protest.  They wanted Him dead.  They had delivered Him up and denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go (Acts 3:13).  Yet, this was all in fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation.  The innocent was put to death for the guilty. The people had asked Pilate to put Him to death although they had no legitimate cause to do so (Acts 13:28).  They were motivated by envy (Mark 15:10).

He hung on a cross like a common criminal and they mocked Him, urging Him to save Himself.  “If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:40). Little did they know that it was because He was the Son of God, that He didn’t save Himself by coming down from the cross.  He stayed there for their sake and ours.  He took the punishment we deserved.

It must have wounded Him to hear the jeers but the same love that made Him willing to lay down His life was the same love that infused Him when He cried to the Father, Fatherforgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).  He was not overcome by their evil but He overcame it with good (Romans 12:21).

Jesus is our perfect example of how to deal with our enemies.  We don’t let their insults or wrongdoing get the better of us.  We rise above their evil intentions and follow Jesus’ advice “whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12).  He never said that it was going to be easy but as His followers and the children of God, we must make the effort.   And the Holy Spirit is there to help us.

The apostle Paul tells us how to deal with our enemies by quoting Proverbs 25:21, 22. “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.”  In acting contrary to what your enemy expects such as showing them love and kindness, it will stir feelings of shame and remorse. As Christians, we don’t treat people as the world does.  We treat them as Jesus would.

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Sources:  Blue Letter Bible; Bible Gateway; Bible Hub

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Love’s Ultimate Sacrifice

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; He has put him to grief.
    If he made himself as an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days,
    and the good pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand – Isaiah 53:10

Jesus on the cross

Whenever I watch the scenes of Jesus getting beaten, mocked and nailed to the cross, I cry.  It hurts to see the suffering and humiliation He went through.  Yet, it says that it pleased the Father to crush Him and make Him suffer.  Why?  It was the Father’s will that His Son would carry out the plan of salvation.  It pleased God that His Son willingly offered Himself.  Jesus explained why the plan of salvation was so important to the Father.   “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  God bestowed His Son as a Gift.  He didn’t send Him into the world to condemn us but to save us and to give us life.   And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11).  

When God gave us His Son, He gave us much more than we could even imagine or deserve.  Paul said, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  Can you imagine, instead of facing death for your sins, you receive the gift of life instead?  Instead of facing God’s wrath, you receive His grace?  This is why it pleased God to offer up His Son.  When Jesus laid down His life, He provided a way for us to be reconciled to the Father.  Sin had separated us from Him.  We were God’s enemies yet, He showed His love for us when He sent His Son to die in our place (Romans 5:8).  God wanted to reconcile with us but that could only happen through Jesus’ death.  Without the shedding of blood, there could be no forgiveness or pardon from sin (Hebrews 9:22).  It pleased God to send His Son, “in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14).

God’s love for us is so profound that He went to great lengths to save us.  How many of us would have made such a supreme sacrifice?  Yes, the plan of salvation brought great suffering to Jesus but the reward is that those who believe in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life.  Yes, it pleased God to set us free from sin and this freedom can only be found in His beloved Son. “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for loving us so much that You sent Your precious Son to suffer and die in our place.  He died so that we could live.  He bore and died for our sins so that we could be reconciled to You.  Thank You for Your grace and unfailing love and mercy.  Thank You for the gift of salvation.   In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Hansini’s Cross

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven – Matthew 10:32

I was moved when I read the story of Hansini, a young woman who made the decision to follow Christ, no matter what the cost.  She faced persecution from her family and the entire village.

The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law – Luke 12:53

Hansini withstood, the attacks of the Devil and held firm to her faith, refusing to renounce Christ. Her family turned on her.  Pressured to do something about their wayward daughter, Hansini’s father beat her but to no avail.  I can almost imagine her saying, “No matter what you do to me, I will not forsake my Lord.”  Three years went by and still Hansini refused to give up her faith.  Then one day, things changed.  Read how a sewing machine changed the lives of Hansini, her family and her community.

It’s amazing how God can a sewing machine to share His love with a village who once rejected His Son and persecuted those who no longer worshipped their gods.

I was greatly inspired by Hansini and her unshakable faith.  She trusted in God and stood up for Jesus and was blessed with a sewing machine which she used to pay her family’s bills.  She convinced her parents that, “Jesus Christ is the giver of all good gifts and it is because of the love and grace of Christ that our family is able to overcome all of our financial struggles.”

Hansini demonstrated the love and forgiveness of Christ when she used her income to support her family and gladly agreed to teach the neighbors’ children how to sew.  They had all been her enemies, persecuting her, viewing her faith as a scandalous and shameful act.  Yet, Hansini did not hold a grudge against them.  Instead, she showed them kindness.  And in no time, their hostility toward her stopped.  Hansini used the sewing machine that God gave her as a way to open a door for the people to see firsthand the love of Jesus.  They saw how faith works and how God responds to that faith.

Hansini’s story is a testimony to the faithfulness of God to those who place their complete trust in Him. He used a sewing machine to lift her and her family out of poverty and at the same time, point them to His beloved Son.  This Christmas, look through Gospel for Asia’s Christmas Gift Catalog and see what practical gifts you can provide for families like Hansini.  Through these gifts, they can come to know the true Gift.

Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong – 1 Corinthians 16:13

Source:  Gospel for Asia

A Father’s Vow

“If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering” – Judges 11:30, 31

I read this story again today and it filled me with sadness.  Jephthah was a mighty man of valor but was driven out of his home by his step-brothers because his mother was a harlot. He went to the land of Tob where he fell into the company of worthless men he went raiding with.

When the nation of Amnon made war against Israel, the elders of the Israelite people went to Jephthah for help.  He reminded them of how they had treated him and wanted to know why they were now seeking his help.  They promised him that if he would fight for them, they would make him their head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.  Jephthah agreed.  He went with them and they made him their head and commander.  Before he went to war, Jephthah gave the king of Ammon the opportunity to call a truce but he refused to listen.

God’s Spirit was upon Jephthah as he advanced toward the people of Ammon.  It was at this time that he made a vow to the Lord.   The Lord delivered the people of Ammon into his hands.  When he returned home after his great victory, his daughter came to meet him, happy to see him and and he was devastated.  He had made a vow to the Lord that whatever came out of his house to meet him when he returned from fighting the Ammonites, will be the Lord’s.  It never occurred to him that his daughter, his only child, would be the one to come out to meet him.

When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low! You are among those who trouble me! For I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot go back on it.”

So she said to him, “My father, if you have given your word to the Lord, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, because the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the people of Ammon.” Then she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: let me alone for two months, that I may go and wander on the mountains and bewail my virginity, my friends and I.”  She had accepted her fate.

For two months she and her friends bewailed her virginity on the mountains.  And at the end of the two months, she returned to her father and he honored his vow to the Lord.  She never knew a man.  She remained a virgin until she died.  Jephthah never had any grandchildren.

How sad it must have been for this young girl who like most girls dreamed of one day falling in love and getting married.  She would never know the joy of being a wife and a mother.  If a man showed any interest in her she would have to reject him.  How it must have been hard to see her friends get married and have children.  She may have held some of those children in her arms, knowing that she would never be able to have any of her own.  It is said that it became a custom in Israel for the daughters of Israel to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite for four days each year.

I can’t imagine how her father must have felt, seeing his only child live the rest of her life a spinster because of a foolish vow he had made.  The vow as not even necessary.  The Spirit of the Lord was with him.  God would have given him the victory anyway.  What should have been a celebration for father and daughter turned into a tragedy.  His victory came at a great cost because of a vow he had made in order to guarantee that victory.

Be careful when you made a vow to the Lord or anyone.  Consider what you are doing first.  Make sure you can live with your decision.  Don’t make promises that you may regret keeping.

If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth – Numbers 30:2.

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Pilate’s Wife

She is mentioned once in the entire Bible–in a sentence, thanks to Matthew.

While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him”  (Matthew 27:19).  A simple but profound request.  We never learn about the contents of her dream but it disturbed her so greatly that she was compelled to warn her husband not to get involved in the plot to have Jesus crucified.

A while ago while attending one of our pre-marital sessions, the pastor explained to my fiance and me the woman’s purpose in a marriage.  She is to help her husband; encourage him to go in the right direction; build him up.  Pilate’s wife was divinely warned that her husband should leave Jesus alone and she made sure that he knew this.  Her words compounded what her husband already knew.  He knew that Jesus was innocent and that He was being unjustly accused by men who envied Him.  Jesus had done nothing deserving of death.

Unfortunately, Pilate did not do as his wife warned.  Pressured by the mob who called for Jesus’ death, Pilate he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it” (verse 24).  He basically handed Jesus over to His enemies.

Pilate’s wife did her part.  She warned her husband.  It was up to him to do what was right.  If you have information that you need to share with someone share it.  You are not responsible for what the person does with the information.  You did what you needed to do–the rest is up to them.  If you see a loved one heading in the wrong direction, speak up.  It’s for that person’s good.  Pilate’s wife spoke up.  If she had kept silent, she would have been as guilty as her husband who would never be able to wash his guilt and responsibility from his hands.

If God gives you the opportunity to do what is right, grab it.  Be like Pilate’s wife who did what she believed was for her husband’s good.