Finish the Race

“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there,  except that in town after town the Holy Spirit assures me that imprisonment and suffering are waiting for me.  But I don’t place any value on my life, if only I can finish my race and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” – Acts 20:22-24, ISV

womanbible-1000x667

Sharing the Gospel is no easy task.  It is with beset with hostility, resentment, persecution, opposition and in some cases leads to imprisonment or even death.  This is how it was in the apostle Paul’s time.  He testified,  I served the Lord with all humility, with tears, and with trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews. I never shrank from telling you anything that would help you nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house. I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance to God and faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:19-21, ISV)He was beaten, imprisoned, in danger of his life at the hands of those who wanted to stop him from doing the work Jesus had called him to do. 

Yet, Paul persevered.  He didn’t allow the actions of others or fear to impede him.  He was in a race and he was determined to finish it even if it cost him his life.  He was  true soldier.  He was in a war that will continue to rage until Jesus returns.  It is a spiritual war and as he pointed out we are not fighting against flesh and blood, but against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers in the darkness around us, and evil spiritual forces in the heavenly realm” (Ephesians 6:12, ISV).  These were the forces which were working against him at every turn of his ministry but through it all, he had the assurance that the Lord was with him. 

When he was in Corinth, the Lord spoke to him in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent;  for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.”  Paul was encouraged and he remained in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching the Word of God (Acts 18:9, 10, NKJV).

We have the same assurances as Paul did.  We are not alone in our ministry to share the Gospel.  The Lord is with us every step of the way.  We cannot be afraid to do the Lord’s work.  Instead, like the psalmist, we can boldly say, The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.  What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6, NKJV).  So, no matter what the enemy throws at us, we are to speak and not keep silent.  The salvation of so many is at stake.  We, like Paul, must finish the race.

Advertisements

Living Water

jesus-and-samaritan-woman-at-well-e1489842022443

But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” – John 4:14  

When the Samaritan woman needed water, she went to the well to draw it.  There she met a Jewish Man whom she didn’t know was Jesus.  As she was drawing the water, He asked her for a drink.  She was taken aback asking, “How can you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” because Jews didn’t have anything to do with Samaritans.  Racism existed between them.  The Samaritans were a mixed race resulting from intermarriages between the Israelites and the Assyrians after Samaria fell to Assyria.  For the Samaritans worshipped at Mount Gerizim while the Jews believed that the rightful place of worship was in Jerusalem.  Jesus explained to her that it isn’t where we worship God that’s important but how we worship Him.  God wants us to worship Him in spirit and truth.  Our worship must be genuine.

When Jesus asked her for a drink of water, He was thirsty.  It was her response to His request which led Him to said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who is saying to you, ‘Please give me a drink,’ you would have been the one to ask him, and he would have given you living water.”

She thought He was speaking about the physical water but He wasn’t.  She doesn’t realize that her need isn’t physical but spiritual.  Her life is in moral decay.  She had been married five times and was living with a man who wasn’t her husband.  She needed what only Jesus could give her and was freely offering her.  The water in the well could not satisfy her.  It would temporarily quench her thirst but the water Jesus wanted to give her would satisfy her forever.

The woman asked Him,  “Where are you going to get this living water?”  His answer was the water when given to those who receive it, it will become a well, springing up to eternal life.  It was life-giving water.  Jesus is the Source of the living water which He wants to give to all who thirst.  “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink” (John 7:37).  He is offering the gift of God, which is eternal life. 

What is the living water that Jesus gives to those who thirst?  “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.  Ephesians 1:13 states, When you believed in the Messiah, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” 

Jesus knew this woman and what her life was like.  He wanted her to know that despite her past and her present, He wanted to give her a future of hope.  When He made her aware that He knew about her previous marriages and her current living arrangement, He wasn’t condemnatory.  He came to save, not to condemn.  He commended her for being honest when she admitted that the man she lived with wasn’t her husband.  She realized that He was  prophet to be able to know such things and then she changed the subject.  She spoke to Him about worship.

When He told her that God wanted people to worship Him in spirit and in truth, He was basically telling her that worship isn’t just about going to a particular place or church but we worship God by the way we live.  Many of us go to church every week but there are things, relationships, people in our lives that have no business being there or there are things in our lives that we need to sort out, clean up.  Until we do that, we are not giving God the proper worship He desires.  This woman worshipped God but her life was in conflict with His Word and His commandments.  Jesus wanted her to see that true worship was a life that was pleasing to God.

She was looking for the Messiah to come and explain everything.  After Jesus revealed that He was the Messiah, she dropped her water pot and ran off to tell her community.  She said to them, “Come, see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done! Could he possibly be the Messiah?”  As a result of her testimony, that “He told me everything I’ve ever done,” many of the Samaritans of that town believed in Jesus.  The Messiah, the Savior of the world had come into that town and reached out to a woman whom many shunned and ostracized her immorality.  Jesus saw someone who needed Him and what He could give her even if she didn’t realize it.  He had a dialogue with her and opened her eyes to the fact that God loves her and wants to give her the gift of salvation which leads to eternal life.

Today, Jesus is offering you what He offered her–living water which springs up to eternal life.  All you have to do is drink.

Sources:  Wikipedia; Bible Gateway; Zondervan Handbook to the Bible, pp. 626, 808; Got Questions; Christianity;

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.

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.

friends-conversation-1200.1200w.tn

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.

woman-counseling-woman-84579876-copy-650x434

 

Sources:  Blue Letter Bible; Bible Gateway; Bible Hub