God’s Kindness

What kind of people affect you? Mean, angry, agitated, critical, happy, funny, pleasant, sincere, or kind? When you order a coffee from your favorite coffee shop, what type of barista affects your experience?

My last visit to get a coffee supplied me with an overwhelming feeling of gratefulness. Not only was my barista pleasant and encouraging, but she also informed me that the previous patron had paid for my coffee. This was all undeserving on my account. I didn’t deserve any of this kindness after the morning I had had. I yelled at my husband, screamed at my dog, sent an angry text and was not a joy to be around. This experience getting coffee changed my whole attitude and turned my day around. The kindness I received turned my attitude from sour to joyful, and I did nothing to deserve it.

This is a very simplified scenario to describe how Jesus can use kindness to lead us to repentance. The barista lead me to joy. But Jesus does so much more for us!

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

This verse in Romans 2 focuses on three attributes of God.

The first attribute is God’s kindness. God is kind or good. It is the nature of God to be good. He is a good God to all who love Him. By nature, He is a good God.

The second attribute is God’s tolerance. The word tolerance means “a temporary truce.” It is not a sudden stopping of grievances. It is a momentary reprieve. God is just. He still must punish sin. He is holy and sin cannot go unpunished.

The third attribute is God’s patience. He is not in a hurry. Our lives are short, but God has a long term perspective.  He waits for us to choose to approach Him.

The kindness of God should lead us to repentance (or turning from our sin). When we consider God’s goodness, tolerance, and patience it should cause us to stop and think.

God’s ultimate act of goodness was sending His Son to die for our sins. The only way to be right with God is through the death of His Son Jesus. Jesus took our sin and experienced the punishment so that we might live eternally.

God loves us so much, He is kind enough.  He is tolerant enough. And, He is patient enough to wait for us to come to Him. We all have the choice.

 

Don’t Be Afraid

One night, the Lord spoke to Paul in a supernatural vision and said, “Don’t ever be afraid. Speak the words that I give you and don’t be intimidated, because I am with you. No one will be able to hurt you, for there are many in this city whom I call my own.”
Acts 18:9-10

Acts 18 reminds us that Paul is a real person.  It is easy to read stories about him and put him on a pedestal. But, today’s reading reminds us that he is probably more like you and me than we think.

Paul was now in Corinth, one of Greece’s largest and most prosperous cities. He first took his message to the Jews in the synagogue, but they rejected his preaching and abused him. Paul responded by shaking his cloak out at them. He then took his message to the Gentiles. He has faced much opposition to this point.

We do not read any details as to what Paul may be feeling, but when the Lord speaks to him in verses 8 and 9, we get insight into what he might be experiencing. It says in the verse above that Paul experienced a vision. This must mean that Paul was not sleeping, but probably up during the night agonizing over the repeated frustrations he continued to experience as he preached the gospel. Paul hears God tell him four things:

1) “Do not be afraid,”
2) “Speak, and do not keep silent,”
3) “I am with you,”
4) “No one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.”

After receiving this vision from God, Paul stayed another 18 months in Corinth. We can take refuge in the realization that God reminded Paul that He was with him even in his turmoil.

God knows where we are and what we are facing. He even knows the future problems that we will face, but He asks us to persevere and encourages us just as he did with Paul.

First Missionary Journey

When you face opposition what do you do? I’ll be honest, my first response is to give up!

Today’s reading in Acts 14, encourages us to continue to Go and do what God has called us to do.  Even when it gets harder than we could have imagined!

During this first missionary trip, Paul and Barnabas went to the town of Lystra. Here, they healed a man who had not ever been able to walk. The crowd who witnessed this miracle thought Paul and Barnabas were gods in human form. They brought bulls and wreaths to offer sacrifices to them. Paul and Barnabas attempted to redirect their praise to God, but the crowd did not relent.

The crowd got so riled up that they began to stone Paul. Believing he was dead, they dragged him outside the city. When the disciples gathered around him, Paul got up and went back inside the city.
I am pretty sure that I might have walked in the other direction, not back into the scene of angry people. After he went back into the city, the next day they left for Derbe.

After preaching the wonderful news of the gospel there and winning a large number of followers to Jesus, they retraced their steps and revisited Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch. At each place they went, they strengthened the lives of believers and encouraged them to go deeper in their faith.
Acts 14:21-22

Once again, after the stoning, Paul continues on his journey and encourages the people to remain true to the faith. Paul doesn’t get mad at God, he continues serving Christ. He does not even complain. He just keeps on doing what God has called him to do – preach the Gospel.

The Gospel message has not changed, and the numbers of people who need to hear the Gospel are still beyond our ability to reach. We have a responsibility to continue the message just as Paul and Barnabas had. We also can expect rejection. But, it is the message of the Gospel that is rejected, not us. May we be as bold and brave as Paul, to continue to get up and spread the message of Jesus to others, no matter the consequences. We are to be the salt and light to the world.

Now wherever you go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 28:19

Stand Up and Walk

How fitting the reading for today is to my current situation!

3 weeks ago I had an accident, I misjudged some stairs and crumbled to the ground. Thankfully I was able to hobble to the phone and call my Mom for help. I prayed that I only had sprained my ankle and began the R.I.C.E method. 48 hours later my husband encouraged me to go get an X-ray. The Dr was amazed that I had been able to get around for two days as he saw 2 cracks in my fibula right above my ankle. I had to swallow my pride as I left the office in a full cast and crutches with instructions to not put any weight on that leg for 2 full weeks.

I took walking for granted! Scooting around with the help of a scooter and scooting up the stairs for the past 2+ weeks has opened my eyes to a whole new world. It is hard. It is hard to rely on others and ask for help. Thankfully, I have had ample help. I am now am in a walking boot and becoming more independent every day.

In Acts 3, Peter and John met a man in Jerusalem who had been crippled from birth. This man was destitute and relegated to begging on the streets for money, food, and help.

Peter and John were able to offer him something that he needed more than anything. Something more than the need to walk, which as I have recently experienced is a very necessary part of life. They did not offer him money, food or provision. They offered him Jesus! And, graciously, by God’s mercy and power, the man was given salvation and the ability to walk.

This is such a good reminder! We might have piles of problems we want God to fix. I sure want God to heal my broken leg right this moment! We might have money troubles, marriage troubles, sickness, or grievances with others. Yet, the most important thing that we need is not a quick fix from God. The most important thing we need is our Savior Jesus Christ.

Today in our reading of Acts 3 we see power from Jesus to heal. He can help us with our everyday problems, but more than that we see the power that Jesus has to SAVE. He can and has forgiven all our sins!

The man ran and jumped and praised God! Sure he was happy and relieved that he could walk, but he was now going to Heaven!!

Faith in Jesus’ name has healed this man standing before you. It is the faith that comes through believing in Jesus’ name that has made the crippled man walk right in front of your eyes!
Acts 3:16

So That You May Have Life

John chapters 19 and 20 are full of details of Jesus’ last hours on the earth, His death, and His Resurrection.  These two chapters contain details of:

Jesus Sentenced to Death

The Crucifixion

The Death of Jesus

The Burial of Jesus

The Resurrection

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

Jesus Appears to Thomas

Purpose of the Book 

The last two verses in John 20 tell us the Purpose of the Book of John.

The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book.  But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.

John 20:30&31

John wrote this book of the Bible to a very broad audience.  People believed that it was impossible for Jesus to be the Son of God and a literal human being at the same time.  Through the accounts in these two chapters, the crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, and appearances of Jesus, John is demonstrating that Jesus had power that could only come from God alone.  Jesus did this to show signs that He was who He claimed to be.  

John included these miracles in his gospel so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.  He included 7 specific miracles in his book.  These miracles changed the lives of not only those who received the miracle but also those who were watching the miracle.  

The miracles were:  

  1. Jesus changing water into wine (2:1-11)   
  2. how He healed a royal official’s son (4:46-54) 
  3. how He healed a lame man (5:1-18) 
  4. how He fed the 5000 (6:1-15) 
  5. how He walked on water (6:16-21) 
  6. how He healed the man born blind (9:1-41) and 
  7. how He raised Lazarus from the dead (11:1-57).

John wrote of these specific miracles to lead people to faith in Jesus.  He included evidence of the things that Jesus did to help his readers believe that Jesus was and is who He claimed to be.  His miraculous actions showed Him to be the Lord of creation.  And, if we choose to believe, we have life by the power of His name.

To have life is more than eternal life.  It is also life now, right here where we live.  It is the assurance of God’s promises and protection.  It is the love and community and purpose He gives us here and now.  

I came that they may have life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].

John 10:10

Light of the World

About 30 years ago I had the pleasure of driving to Anderson, Indiana to pick up my sister from college and drive her home for a weekend.  All I remember from the car ride home is that Shelly and I had a concert!  You may not know this, but my sister has a gift of singing.  She carries a beautiful tune and I love to sing with her.  In fact, I love sitting next to her in church so I can sing along with her during worship.  It almost makes me feel like I am a good singer.  Anyway, we had an Amy Grant album blasting in the car and sang the entire 3 hours ride home.  I remember distinctly, bolting out the words, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path”, (Psalm 119:105).  I can still sing the whole song to this day.  It is a song that climbs to my memory when I feel lost and have no idea which direction to take.  Our chapter today in John 8 has a verse that reminded me of this time and these words.

Once more Jesus addressed the crowd.  He said, “I am the Light of the world.  He who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

John 8:12

In John 8, Jesus was at a big festival in Jerusalem called the festival of the tabernacle.  A huge part of this festival was the lighting of large lamps that lit the entire temple area.  People gathered in the light to sing praises to God and dance.  

Right in the middle of this, Jesus told the crowd that He is the light of the world and anyone who follows Him will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.  (John 8:12)  When darkness surrounds us, light is what gives us direction so we can find the right path.  Light is our security and helps us feel less lonely.  When we follow Jesus, He is that light.

Without the light of Jesus, we would be stuck.  We would be trapped in our sin, our darkness, with no way out.  When we follow Jesus, we live life His way, and He is the light that guides us out of darkness.  

I am thankful for this light in my own life.  This past year has been full of some dark days when things did not go as I planned.  I easily could have stayed in the darkness and been overcome by my circumstances.  And, if I am honest, there were moments that I let myself feel the pain and the heaviness of the moment.  But, then I would open the Bible and and let the light creep in.  Little by little God would let me see glimpses of light that brought me hope.  The enemy wants to strip me of that light.  He does everything in his power to bring me back to the darkness, to make me feel like my life will never get better.  But, thank goodness Jesus is all powerful and rules over the darkness.  Each time I feel the darkness creeping in, I look to the light, to Jesus!  And He never fails!  It is not always magical or instantaneous, but Jesus’ words fill my heart and mind with hope.

Praise and singing words of worship to Jesus let the light shine in and remind us that Jesus is the light of life.  Turn on the christian radio station, google a praise album on your phone, or just start signing songs that you remember from Church.  You will immediately feel your feelings shift and hope rising inside of you.  Jesus is the light of life.

https://youtu.be/a6LC8cu03Ig

“Thy Word”

[Chorus:]

Light Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet

And a light unto my path

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet

And a light unto my path

When I feel afraid, think I’ve lost my way

Still You’re there right beside me

Nothing will I fear as long as you are near

Please be near me to the end

[Chorus]

I will not forget your love for me

And yet my heart forever is wandering

Jesus be my guide, hold me to Your side

And I will love You to the end

[Chorus]

Nothing will I fear as long as you are near

Please be near me to the end

[Chorus]

And a light unto my path

You’re the light unto my path

(Thanks Shelly for letting me write for you today!  Steph)

Share Your Story

Can you think of anyone you know that has an “ugly” past or is living differently than you would approve of?  Maybe they were involved in something that you think is offensive?  Maybe someone who has not conducted themselves as you think right in their marriage?  Maybe they have even gone to jail for something?  Does anyone come to mind?  We are all fully aware of what we think is morally acceptable and not acceptable, and as hard as we try, we probably cast negative feelings towards others for what they have done.  Some of us may even go to the extent of avoiding any contact with such person.  

But not Jesus!

Today we are looking at John chapters 4 and 5, but focusing on a what we can learn from the Samaritan woman.

Who was the Samaritan woman?  The Samaritan’s were a race of people that the Jews utterly despised as having no claim on their God.  This woman, who is not directly named, walks to Jacob’s Well to fill her water jar.  She comes alone at a time when she knew others would not be around.  She chose this time because she did not feel comfortable being around others, for they looked down on her.  She was ostracized and labeled as immoral because she was an unmarried woman living openly with a man (her 6th man to live with).  People avoided her and treated her unkindly because she did not live up to their standards.

Jesus and his disciples are traveling from Jerusalem in the south to Galilee in the north.  To make their journey shorter, they take a quick route through Samaria.  Jesus, being tired and thirsty sat by Jacob’s well while his disciples went to a nearby village to get food.  At this same time, around noon and the hottest part of  the day, the Samaritan woman came to draw her water.

The shocking part of this story is that Jesus spoke to her, breaking 3 Jewish customs.  First, he spoke to her despite her being a woman.  Second, she was a Samaritan woman, and the Jews traditionally despised Samaritans.  And, third, he asked her to get him a drink of water, which using her jar would have made him ceremonially unclean.  

I am sure the Samaritan woman was shocked that this man was speaking to her.  But then, Jesus begins to tell her that he could give her “living water” as a gift from God so that she would never thirst again.

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again.  But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again.  It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

John 4:13-14

Once again, the Samaritan woman had to be shocked that Jesus was telling her about this “living water” and then Jesus started telling her about her own life!  What?!?!  Even though he had never met her before, Jesus told her that he knew she’d had five husbands and was now living with a man who was not her husband.  She had to be astonished.

“Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet.”  

John 4:19

Jesus and the woman continued their discussion and the woman began to understand who she was talking to.  Jesus revealed to her that He was the Messiah.

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ).  The he comes, he will tell us all the things.”  Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

John 4:25-26

In her shock at realizing Who she was speaking with, the disciples returned to the well.  The disciples were socked to find Jesus speaking to a woman.  Leaving her water jar behind, the woman returned to her town, inviting the people to “Come see a man who told me all that I ever did.”  John 4:29

This woman who was shunned by other woman for her immorality ran back to the town to tell others about Jesus.  She was so excited she even forgot her water jar at the well.  All of these people she had been avoiding, she now was running to them to tell them about Jesus.

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “he told me all that I ever did.”  So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed tow days.  And many more believed because of his word.

John 4:39-41

This woman’s excitement caused her to be bold and face all the people who called her an outcast.  She was full of hope and she wanted everyone to know.  

A woman who is a brand new believer, who is still living with a man outside of marriage, who has no background in theology and no training in how to share her faith brings many villagers to Jesus.  And Jesus does the rest!  

And many more believed because of his word.  They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

John 4:41-42

The Samaritan woman’s words had power!  It is because she ran back to tell the people that they came and had the opportunity to meet Jesus.  This is the lesson for us.  We can not forget what Jesus has done for us.  Get excited about it and use your words to share with others.  Our responsibility is to share what Jesus has done, just as the Samaritan woman did, and He will do the rest.

The Parable of the Lost Coin

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?  And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’  Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Luke 15:8-10

Can you relate to the woman in this parable?  When have you lost something so important to you that you spent the next minutes or hours searching until it was found?? 

Oh, I can think of a few times when I was searching for something lost.  Most recently, it was my diamond wedding ring.  We were in the process of moving so I put my ring in a certain spot that I thought for sure would be safe.  Low and behold, after our move I checked all the spots where I thought I put my ring and it was NOWHERE!  You know that feeling…your heart is racing, your mind is racing, you get a little hot, and your attitude becomes strained??  I was there!  I had my husband helping me search.  Finally, I checked one last place and there it was, safe and sound.  The instant relief was amazing!!  

Just like in the parable above, after the woman finds her lost coin, she is elated.  This is not news she could keep to herself, she announces the discovery to all those around her and invites them to celebrate with her. 

In the day of this parable, women usually received ten coins as a wedding present.  Each coin held sentimental as well as monetary value, so the loss of even one was very upsetting.  The woman would have been willing to go to great lengths to find her coin.  

Jesus goes on to say that God sees every person as having great value.  The Lord feels great sadness when anyone is lost, following the ways of the world instead of Him, and longs for them to return.  

The end of the story shows the woman finding the silver after searching.  She shares her great joy with neighbors and friends.  Jesus directly compares her reaction to God and the angels rejoicing when a person repents of their sin, believes in the Son, and submits their lives to Him.  How much more valuable is a person turning towards Jesus than any monetary thing that we lose?  Jesus is shows us the rejoicing that happens when we find Him!

Point to Jesus

In today’s reading of Luke 3, we see John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus as well as the genealogy of Jesus.  It is evident that John does not seek to bring glory to himself or be puffed up with pride regarding his own ministry, rather he points all of the people that he encounters to “he who is more powerful”.

…But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie…

Luke 3:16

I cannot remember the last time I physically sat in a movie theater to watch a movie.  It has been many years.  I remember as a kid sitting in my seat eating my popcorn and watching all of the previews.  I thought they would never end.  As I grew older I learned that the movie did not actually start at the designated time the theater stated, but I could actually arrive 15 minutes later and be just on time for the main attraction.

In skipping the previews to the movie, I also missed the warnings and guidelines, such as, turn off your cell phone, no talking, pick up your garbage, etc..  These messages help everyone in the theater prepare for the main attraction, the featured movie.  This is kind of what John the Baptist’s role was, he was preparing the people for the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  

Isaiah 40:3-5 describes John as the “voice of the one calling in the wilderness.”  He urged his listeners to prepare for the arrival of their promised Messiah.  How should the prepare?  Verses 11 through 14 are a set of instructions.                               

11-“Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

13-“Don’t collect any more than you are required to”

14-“Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely-becontent with your pay.”

Simply following the instructions did not imply that they could earn their own salvation, but they should seek to treat others justly and mercifully.  

John realized that he was not the focus of the message.  His job was to point his followers to the One who could save them.  He compared the baptism he offered – water – to the baptism of the “Holy Spirit and fire” that Jesus will bring to believers.

But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Luke 3:16

Luke 3:16 points us to Jesus.  He makes the great confession that we all must make….we are NOT God.  He is mightier than we are.  Christ is greater than John because he will not merely baptize with water but with the Holy Spirit and fire.  Jesus will enable those who follow him and who repent and trust him not merely to get wet through water but to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, to be born again.

Rest

A lot happens in the sixth chapter of Mark.  Jesus is rejected in his hometown.  He sends the 12 disciples on mission.  John the Baptist is killed.  Jesus feeds the five thousand and walks on water.  

It is a lot.  Kind of like our lives today.  We face seasons that are just a lot.  The disciples had to be exhausted during these days.  These 12 men had a difficult assignment.  They were commissioned by the Lord to travel in pairs, preaching repentance wherever they went.  Many places they visited they were not welcome.  

The 12 men were not allowed to take any sort of provision for their journey.  They were not even allowed to take a bag with them, no food, no money in their pocket, and not even a change of clothes.  They were to rely soley on God’s provision and His strength.  

During their time of ministry, the disciples didn’t even have time to eat.  Jesus knew how the pressures of ministry would affect them.  He knew what it was like to be tired and thirty, weary and worn out.  The disciples had been so busy ministering to others that they neglected their own bodily needs.  

Jesus knew what these men had been through, he recognized their fatigue.  

There was such a swirl of activity around Jesus, with so many people coming and going, that they were unable to even eat a meal.  So Jesus said to his disciples, “Come, let’s take a break and find a secluded place where you can rest a while.”

Mark 6:31 (TPT)

Just as these men were called to work, Jesus also called them to step aside and rest.  The disciples were facing many stresses.  Just read through the entire chapter of Mark 6 and you will get a glimpse of all these men endured.  Is our life any different?  Think of all that you have faced the past week, the past month, and I know what we have all faced the past year!  

We to need to hear Jesus’ words, “Come, let’s take a break”.  Life’s stresses and pressures can take a toll on our bodies as well as on our relationship with Jesus.  We have to take steps to make sure we take a break with Jesus!  We have to find the secluded place (more times than not, I find this alone in my car) and fix our eyes on Jesus.  Sometimes it is just sitting in His presence.  

With so many demands on our lives, it is easy to push Jesus to the side in the busyness we experience every day.  Jesus asks us to take a break and dwell on Him.  Do you have time to spend with Jesus today?  He will give you rest and refresh your soul.

“Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden?  Come to me.  I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis.”  

Matthew 11:28