Sing to the Lord

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises – Psalm 98:4

Praising God is something that should be as natural as breathing.  It’s hard to do so, however, when facing trials, problems or challenges, but that is the time when we really need to do it.  I have had an experience when I was feeling down about something and it came to me, no doubt it was the Holy Spirit’s prompting, that instead of focusing on what I was going through, to focus on God instead.  So, I began to praise Him.  I began to sing songs of praise to Him and after a while, I felt so light and upbeat.  The problem which had seemed like a mountain became minuscule until with God’s help, I was able to resolve it.

The apostle Paul is a good example of someone who praised God regardless of what the circumstances were.  Who could forget when Silas and he were in jail and instead of suffering in silence, they began to sing?  Acts 16:25 says But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  God used that moment as an opportunity to reveal Himself.

Suddenly, there was an earthquake, shaking the foundations of the prison and the doors to the jail cells were opened and the chains broken, the prisoners could have escaped but no one moved.  The jailer thought that they had broken out and was about to take his life out of fear of reprisal but Paul assured him that all of the prisoners were there.  And that led the jailer to ask the question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Verse 30).  God used Paul’s and Silas’ attitude toward their circumstances to bring about the salvation of the jailer and his family.  And who knows if any of the other prisoners didn’t change too as a result of what they heard and witnessed.

How we deal with adversity will not only affect us but those around us.  Instead of looking down or around, we look up and whatever song the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, puts in our hearts, we lift our voices and sing to our God, Who is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).  It will lift our burdens up to Him and bring His comfort down to us.

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It’s a Virtue

Patience is a virtue that many of us would like to master but more times than not, it is impossible to do so.  Just this morning, I lost mine when my son wanted me to get up and go and get some bread for him.  I had told him that he could have some after he finished having his cereal.  Not long after I sat down and was having my breakfast when he came to me and said, “You can get the bread now.” In retrospect, I should have reprimanded him for talking to me as if he were talking to one of his friends.

I stared at him and asked myself, couldn’t he wait until I was finished eating first?  I began to fume, thinking how inconsiderate he was being.  “Have you finished your cereal?” I asked, looking past him at the white bowl on the table.  I couldn’t believe that he had finished it so quickly.  Well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  He was probably hungry and he’s growing so his appetite has increased.  I dread the teenage years.

Anyway, I got him the bread he asked for and resumed having my breakfast.  Of course, I felt bad shortly afterwards for losing my patience with him.  I realize that it takes so much more out of me when I lose my patience that when I exercise it.  It seems like there are times when it’s easy to remain patient and there are others times when it’s not.  I believe that children are there to test our patience because there have been occasions when I have asked God to give me patience and not long after a situation arises where I need it in order to deal with my son.  If we can exercise patience when dealing with our children on a daily basis, then we are off to a great start.

It’s not surprising that exercising patience seems like an impossible feat sometimes. It is a Fruit of the Spirit.  Anything spiritual is hard to achieve when we try to do it in our own strength.  In order to have patience we need the help of the Holy Spirit.  It’s too easy to get impatient, especially when dealing with our children, difficult situations, people, relationships or waiting for God to answer our prayers.  We get impatient when we have to wait or when we think things are not happening as quickly as they should.  Many things try our patience but the Bible encourages us to be patient anyway.

In Psalm 27:14, David encourages us to, “Wait on the LordBe of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!”  It takes courage to wait, especially when what we are waiting for is taking a long time to happen and the temptation to hurry things along is there.  After years of patiently waiting to have a child, Sarah finally decided that she was going to come up with her own plan because God’s was taking too long.  So, she had her handmaid, Hagar be her surrogate and she was going to raise the child as hers.  However, that only caused a lot of problems which are still evident today.  Yes, it takes a lot of patience to wait upon the Lord whose timing is not ours and who doesn’t always give us what we want when we want it or in the way we expect.  But, we have the promise that when we choose to wait, God will strengthen our hearts.

And when it comes to trials, we are encouraged to bear them without grumbling.  The apostle Paul had his share of trials which he mentioned in great detail in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28.  He faced death, was persecuted, imprisoned, beaten but Paul saw these trials as nothing because they were the result of his faith in Christ and his service to the One who had called him into ministry.  Paul learned patience from Jesus who had shown him patience when the apostle was persecuting the church.  For him, Jesus was the perfect example of patience. 

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote that he received mercy from Jesus although he was a blasphemer, persecutor and an insolent man who acted in ignorance because he was to be an example of Jesus’ patience toward people like Paul for those who will believe on Him for eternal life.  In other words, there’s hope for us because the same Jesus who exercised patience toward Paul and showed him mercy will do the same for us.  Paul testified, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).   

Right now, the Lord is showing great patience toward us in that it seems as if He has delayed His coming but the reality is that He has not.  He will return at the appointed time.   He has promised that He will return and the Lord is not slack when it comes to His promise but in the meantime He wants as many people as possible to be saved.  He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).   Praise the Lord for His enduring patience.

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Blue Letter Bible

Jesus’s Birth

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace – Isaiah 9:6

Jesus’ birth didn’t happen exactly as one would expect.  Matthew tells us how it came about.  Mary, Jesus’ mother was a virgin.  In fact, Matthew makes a point of showing that in having Jesus, Mary was fulfilling prophecy.  “Now all this occurred to fulfill what the Lord had spoken through the prophet, saying,  “A virgin shall be with child, and will bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is interpreted, “God with us.”

Mary was engaged to a carpenter named Joseph.  It was around that time that she was found with child by the Holy Spirit.  Matthew doesn’t go into the details as to how her pregnancy came about but Luke does.  The angel Gabriel visited her to tell her that she was highly favored and blessed among women.  She was told that she would have a Son and call His name Jesus.  He explained how this would happen seeing that she was still a virgin.  “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35).

It is not a surprising  thing for the Holy Spirit to create life in Mary.  He was part of the creation of the world where things that didn’t exist came into existence.  Jesus’ birth was to be different from the rest of humanity’s.  He was to be both Divine and Human and this could only be accomplished the way Gabriel explained.

At the risk of ruining her reputation and even her life, Mary agreed to the Lord’s plan for her life.  In those days, if a woman betrothed to another  man was discovered to be pregnant and the child was not the man’s whom she is promised to in marriage, she could be stoned to death for committing adultery.  And this is what was weighing on Joseph’s mind when he found out that Mary was pregnant and knew that it wasn’t his child.

Joseph was a decent man.  He didn’t want to publicly expose Mary but he couldn’t go through with their impending marriage.  He had to break things off quietly.  No doubt his sleep was fitful and it was while he was thinking this predicament, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for He who is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

What a relief that must have been for Joseph.  Mary hadn’t two-timed him and he could go ahead and marry her as he had planned.  When he woke up, he did as the angel told him and he took Mary to be his wife.  And he named her Son, Jesus.

God knew exactly what He was doing when He chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus and Joseph to be her husband.  He knew that everything would work out as it should.  Mary trusted God when she accepted His will for her life and as a result she was blessed with Jesus who would her Savior and the world’s.

Sources:  Matthew 1; Luke 1

The Christian Faith

Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” – Mark 1:17

The Christian faith has mushroomed into what it is today thanks to men and women who were willing to let the Holy Spirit work in and through them to share the Gospel with others.  It all started with two men–one was Andrew and the other was Philip.  After each man encountered Jesus, they went and told others about him.  When Andrew found his brother, Peter he said to him, “We have found the Messiah.” And Philip declared to his friend, Nathanael,“We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:41, 45).

Then, Peter and Nathanael were taken to meet Jesus.  How do we follow the example of what Andrew and Philip?  We tell our families, friends and co-workers about Jesus and share the Bible with them.  It is through reading the Bible that they meet Jesus.  We introduce them to Him but they have to get to know Him for themselves.

One of my favorite stories is the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  She went to the well to draw water at a time of the day when she wouldn’t run into other people.  Married five times and living with a man who wasn’t her husband, she wasn’t exactly the pillar of society.   She didn’t expect to see Jesus there.  She could tell that He was a Jew and was surprised when He asked her for a drink of water as Jews didn’t have any dealings with Samaritans.  And she was a woman.

Jesus spoke to her, telling her what true worship was and salvation.  When He told her things about herself that a stranger could not have possibly known, she thought He was Prophet.  Jesus revealed that He was the Messiah and excited, she left her water-pot and ran into the city to tell the people there, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”  Like Andrew and Philip, the woman met Jesus, went and told others about Him before bringing them to Him.  Many of the people believed in Jesus because of her testimony.   The woman discovered that despite the fact that Jesus knew everything about her, He loved her.

Does your neighbor know that there is a Savior who loves him or her and wants to reach out in love and forgiveness to him or her?  This encounter between Jesus and the woman was an example of how the Gospel should transcend racial and gender barriers.  The Gospel is for everyone.  Salvation is for everyone.  We must not allow our prejudices to get in the way of spreading the love of Christ to those who need it.

So, we see a progression here.  The mission field begins at home, with our relatives and then spreads to our friends and then our neighbors.  It follows what Jesus said to His disciples when He sent them out to preach and minister to others.  “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.  But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5, 6).  The Jews were to receive the Gospel first and then the Gentiles and Samaritans.  It makes sense that we witness to those closest to us first and then to others.

Once we are willing and open to His leading, God will find opportunities for us to share the Gospel.  He did so with Peter on the Day of Pentecost and Paul when he was in Athens.  After the Holy Spirit filled the disciples, they began to speak in tongues.  The crowd marveled when they heard them speak in their own language.  Some, however, mocked them, accusing them of being drunk.  Peter used their remarks as an opportunity to give a sermon.  He spoke of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.  The people were convicted and they asked Peter and the other disciples what they should do and Peter’s answer was, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Many were baptized and about three thousand people became Christians on that day.

We may encounter skeptics but, instead of becoming discouraged, we can do what Peter did and use their unbelief as an opportunity to share our faith.  As Paul said, we are to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).  When Paul was in Athens, he saw that the city was given over to idols.  Provoked, he reasoned with the Jews in the synagogue and the Gentiles in the marketplace.  He spoke to them about the resurrection of Jesus.  They took him to the Areopagus, curious to hear his doctrine.

Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and addressed the people, acknowledging that they were religious because of the objects of worship and the altar they had built to the Unknown God.  He revealed to them who the true God was.  He was the “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.  Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.  And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,  so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;  for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’  

Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.  Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

When some of them heard the word “resurrection”, they began to mock him while others wanted to hear him speak further on the matter.  And others believed in what he said and joined him, among them a woman named Damaris (Acts 17:23-34).

Paul was prepared to share the truth about the God he worshipped and he used what he saw around him to do so.  He wanted the people to turn from their idols and worship the true God who wanted them to seek Him while He could still be found.  We can use whatever is at our disposal to share the truth about God with others.  Many people still have a negative opinion of God but we can change that by reaching out to them in love, compassion and sharing our testimonies of His goodness.

As in Jesus’ day, the Christian faith is growing and will continue to grow.  Although it is under attack and many believers are facing persecution, imprisonment and even death, it will continue to spread and transform lives until Jesus returns.  We can do our part by reaching out to those around us.  Each one can reach one.  We can do it through handing out literature, through social media, blogging, websites or witnessing in person.  God will give us the means and the opportunities to further His ministry.  All we have to do is to be ready and willing like Andrew, Philip, the Samaritan woman and Paul.

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Sources:  Biblegateway; Blue Letter Bible

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

A Changed Life

Christ [redeemed] me, and He will [redeem] you also!

These words rang out loud in the marketplaces.  Myo Zaw made the impassioned plea to the crowd.  He was like Wisdom crying out in the marketplaces and pleading with the people to come her.  Myo’s message was one that the people needed to hear. He was on fire for Christ and he couldn’t hold it in.  It wasn’t always like this.

Before Myo Zaw encountered Christ he was the village drunk who got into fights with people and beat his wife and children.  The people who knew him thought he had gone insane, however, it was not madness that drove Myo to proclaim the message of redemption but the love of God which consumed him like a fire, refusing to be quelled.  He traveled throughout his region, sharing the Word of God, telling people, “how a sinner like me was found by God.”

“The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” – Luke 18:27

Within three years, he had visited 100 communities, encouraged by his wife’s letters. In them, she wrote, “If your life can change by Christ, there is no one who cannot be changed by Christ.  So wherever you are going and sharing the Word of God, we are here to pray for you. I believe people will be changed by the love of Christ.”  And she was right about the people.  350 heard the message about Christ’s love, saw how it manifested in Myo’s life and they were changed.

Myo believed that his mission was the share the love of Christ which had transformed his life and that it was God’s will for him to go to a missionary in an area where people were unfamiliar with the Lamb of God.  He and his wife prayed about it and ten years later God sent them to the southern region of their country as Gospel for Asia supported missionaries.

At first when the people in the community learned that Myo and his family were Christians, they wanted nothing to do with them.  They forced the family out of the community.  They threw stones at their home, threatening to penalize anyone who spoke to the Christians and the children faced discrimination because of their faith. Myo and his family were  seen as enemies but in the midst of it all, they saw God’s grace working in their lives, getting them through these trials.  They trusted Christ during their hardships and through the ministering of the Holy Spirit, they learned how to love the people in their new community.

They reached out to the people by showing them movies that they liked to watch, teaching the children songs and caring for them.  When the parents saw the love of the couple for the community, they were amazed and they began to talk to them at the market.  This gave Myo and his wife the opportunity to share Christ’s love with them.  They cared for the sick and took people to the hospital as needed.  When flood waters destroyed homes and livelihoods, the couple and other GFA supported workers helped to provide relief.

Myo visited people and encouraged them by offering words of hope and life in Christ.  Through his actions, he proved that he was a redeemed man.  The love of Christ had transformed him from a drunk and abusive husband and father to a missionary of God.  The same love that had Christ had shown him he wanted to show to others.  Like the apostle Paul, he was filled with a zeal for the Lord who “who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Myo realized that greatest weapon is love.  It can transform hearts and lives.  It can destroy the strongholds which beset people who have no knowledge of Christ and kept them in spiritual darkness.  Once the love of Christ is revealed it lives are changed–despair gives way to hope and darkness to light.

Like Myo, ask God to use you to share the love of Christ with others.  Be a light in the world.  Shine for Jesus and let those around you or wherever God sends you know that no matter what state they are in, “He will redeem you also!”

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Source:  Gospel for Asia Canada

Temptation

She stood on the precipice overlooking the ocean.

Her gaze fixated on the waters as they ebbed and flowed

much like the desires that raged inside her.   The drop to

the foaming waters was long and it made her think of the great

distance that would exist between God and her if she gave into

temptation.  Her feelings were like the rushing waves that threatened

to sweep her away if she gave in…

 

In her mind, she heard wisdom, calling out to her, “Listen to me.  Don’t

ignore what I say.  Turn around and come to me and you will have life.

Ignore me and you will be in danger.”

 

She felt the pull of good judgment but the desires of her heart resisted,

luring her closer to the edge…Why was it wrong if she gave in?  After all,

she and Patrick were engaged.  If they decided that they would go all the

way now instead of waiting until the wedding night, surely, that was ok, right?

They loved each other and waiting was agony…they just wanted to take their

love to another level.

 

Yet…reason seemed to conspire against her, reminding her of

her vow to remain celibate until she was married.  And if

that weren’t enough, she heard Paul’s admonition:  “Do you not know

that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you

have received from God, and that you are not your own?  You were bought

with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit,

which are God’s.”

 

Try as she did, she couldn’t drown out the voices of wisdom, reason

or Paul…With a start, she realized that she was standing a little too close

to the edge.  She quickly backed away, her eyes fixed above and not

below.  Her lips moved in silent prayer.  After a while the tempest that

raged in her quieted.  The momentary lapse of judgment was abated.

Reason had won.  She could wait.  And if that meant not being alone

with Patrick until their wedding in two weeks, so be it.  She knew he would

understand.  They loved each other, yes, but they loved the Lord more.  And

until they were married, their bodies belonged to Him.

 

She found a grassy part and knelt down to thank God for pulling her back

from the edge.

woman on cliff

Source:  1 Corinthians 6:19, 20