Laughing at God

Laughing at God is probably not the most respectful way to react when God comes with a message. Sarah thought it was quiet funny to hear that she was going to have a baby when she was already an old woman. With all the logic and reasoning she could muster, all she could do was see the humor in it and laugh. Others might have cried after waiting so long to have a child. There were probably many times in her life and during her marriage that she had felt like a failure. She had failed to provide a child, especially a son, to her faithful and fine husband Abraham.

Laughing is what we sophisticated people often do when we hear something unbelievable. It is certainly not a sign that we are taking the matter seriously. It is a lack of faith. God “straightened” Sarah out a bit when He said ““Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” (Genesis 18:13-14)

Sarah failed to realize that when logic and reasoning say God can’t, it is God that smiles and says “Oh yea, I’ll show you!” It was God who got the last laugh when Sarah at the age of ninety-one had a son.

When God makes a promise, He will fulfill it. There are no miracles too small or too great for God. We are blessed to know that God loves us and will hear our prayers. Jesus said “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7) Instead of laughing or showing our incredulity let us rediscover and strengthen our faith, knowing that God is still able and will deliver us in His time.

 

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Because He lives

Death, it is the cause of nightmares and fills our heart with fear;  it causes men to take the most horrendous actions and make the poorest choices. We do not know all its secrets but we know its reason and its condition. It is the price we must pay for our fall and it is the state of being apart from God. (Genesis 2:17) We are sinners. How can we escape it? How can any debt be escaped? Someone must pay.

The creator in his infinite love and mercy looked down upon us and knowing our hopeless state came to our rescue. He, the Messiah, became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14) With supernatural power He changed the lives of multitudes. He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed thousands and caused legions of demons to flee. Nature itself bowed to His will. While all this was done to relieve a suffering humanity, it had an even greater purpose, to help their unbelief. Yet most still did not comprehend that the Messiah would have to die. (Isaiah 53:7-9)

They came with soldiers and thought they had captured Him. But it had always been the plan. He gave himself up to be stripped, beaten and whipped. Then they nailed Him to the cross and completed the sacrifice. With every drop of blood he cleansed our sins and made us new. He would say “It is finished” (John 19:30). The price had been paid. But there was one last enemy to be vanquished.

They placed our Savior in a tomb and sealed it with a stone. They set a guard of several soldiers and thought that was it. (Matthew 27:65) They thought Jesus was defeated. But then came Sunday Morning.

It had been prophesied (Matthew 12.40), it had been told, but no one seemed to be ready. While the disciples cowered in unbelief, the rulers celebrated their victory, and the devil rejoiced in his darkness, an Angel came upon the tomb. He rolled the stone and out came the King of Kings and Lord of lords. (Matthew 28:2) He vanquished death for all time. He shone as the sun, and Instead of the lamb he rose as the mighty Lion of Judah. He had set the captives free, washed away the sin, crushed the devil on his head and freed us from the nightmare of death. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55-56) Because He lives we know He is the Messiah, the promised one. We now know that we will be safe in his arms.

Because He lives we know that we need not fear. Our God lives and we shall forever be with Him!

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Tending to others while on the cross

Jesus was beaten, whipped and nailed to a cross. After all Jesus had been through, you would expect him to hang there in His misery crying in pain or casting judgment. Surely we all have the tendency to focus on our own problems and difficulties. We can be rather indifferent to others when we are in the midst of great tragedy and sickness. In truth even the smallest setback can make us a bit self-centered. Some would call this survival instinct. Perhaps we can call it selfishness. But Jesus with His last breath, and little strength, fighting pain, saw the women that had been with Him since childhood and the most faithful disciple He had. He saw their hearts and knew their needs. He saw a mother losing her son and a disciple losing his friend and companion, and knew how to care for their needs. He drew them together with this statement “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” (John 19:26-27) He knew that one could supply the need of the other.

Jesus still sees our hearts and knows our needs. While hanging on the cross He made the needs of His followers a priority; surely our needs are also His priority. Wait one minute; this was Mary and John! Are we held in the same regard? Actually we are! Jesus said, “For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”(Mark 3:35)

Jesus has never be too distracted or busy to tend to our needs. He proved that on the cross. One other note here is that He took care of the needs of two individuals by bringing them together. Often God uses us to satisfy the needs of each other. It is one of the many reasons why we are called to do His will (John 14:23) and tend to those in need (Matthew 31-46). In doing so we do what is best for our lives and all those around us. We also become more like our Savior who was able to tend to the needs of others while in His most difficult time.

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What is the measure of His love?

We do not love everybody the same. We love in different ways. We love our friends, but we love some more than others. Perhaps some friends have a better connection with us, while others have been our friends longer. We love our family members but there is the Uncle we hardly knew and then there is the cousin who has been our best friend. We do not love them the same or in the same quantity.

So how does Jesus love us? Let us put Jesus to the test.

When someone loves us we would expect them to hear us and speak to us. Jesus is the friend that is never too busy and never gets bored. He is patient and always hears us when we pray. He speaks to us in three ways, His word (the bible) , through His messenger (preacher, teacher, counselor etc.) (2 Timothy 3:16–17) and directly to us (our conscience, dreams, visions, experiences, and even audible). He always speaks to our needs and with the power to change all circumstances and see us through all difficulties.

When someone loves us we expect them to want to be with us faithfully. Jesus said in his word that he would be with us until the end. His presence though spiritual is real. Sometimes we are too busy and our lives too full to know that He is there. But He patiently waits until we are ready. He also said that he has gone to prepare a place so that we can be with Him forever. When someone wants to be with you forever that’s love(Matthew 28:20, John 14:1-3) !

When someone loves you they care about your needs and wants. They don’t necessarily give you everything you want, especially if like a loving parent they know what’s best for you. But they do listen, please you when it is good for you and care for all your needs. Jesus said ask and ye shall receive (Matthew 7:7-8). He also said that God would provide for all that we need if we could just seek Him first (Matthew 6:31-34).

Before someone can have a great and genuine love for you they must truly know you. How well does He know you when he is the one who formed you(John 1)?  How well does He know you when he has seen all that you do, say and think? How well does He know you when he has always been there from the beginning (John 1)? He knows you better than you know yourself.

If all this does not prove the love of Jesus, He did pass the greatest test of all. For the greatest love is revealed when someone gives his life.(John 15:13) . Jesus proved His love without a doubt by his horrific death. Taking a bullet would have been enough, but he went through so much more.  The bible reveals that he was beaten, whipped, forced to carry a cross, and nailed to the cross (Matthew 27). There he hung barely able to breathe.  He did it to save us. He did not have to. He volunteered. We cannot forget that He made legions of demons flee (Mark 5:9-13), conquered death (Matthew 28) and commanded the storm (Mark 4:35-41). He could have easily protected Himself but chose not to.

His death paid the price for our sins, so that we may be forgiven, if we only believe. (John 3:16-17) Sin condemned us to eternal damnation, but since we are forgiven our eternal home is in paradise with the one who loved us since the day He created us. Jesus loves us with the fullest and greatest love we will ever know.

 

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Hard to please everybody

Nobody wants to be unpopular. Most of us by nature like being part of the group. We therefore seek the approval of the group. It stands to reason that the ideas and opinions of the group will affect us. This is of course known as peer pressure. This is not unique to teenagers. It is part of the human experience. However living our lives constantly seeking the approval of others can be a challenge. You can make some people happy some of the time but you can’t make everybody happy all the time. Usually somebody, or perhaps a multitude of people, will not approve of our attitude or our actions no matter how well intended they are.

Jesus came into this world because of love (John 3:16) and spent his life doing acts of love. Multitudes followed Him in hopes of benefiting from his work. (Matthew 8:1) However Jesus still had plenty of critics. Some groups in particular, the Pharisees and the Scribes could never be pleased.

If Jesus freed someone from demonic possession, they would accuse Him of working with the devil. (Matthew 12:22-37) It didn’t matter that the person’s life was changed for the better, the crippling condition removed and the misery over.

On other occasions the Pharisees would accuse Jesus of breaking the Sabbath. (Mark 3:1-6) Such was the case of the man with the withered hand. The Pharisees were really angry this time and plotted how they could destroy Jesus. This man had suffered with this sickness; most likely making it impossible for him to take care of himself or be productive in any way. Jesus did not charge him. It was a pure act of kindness. But it was on the Sabbath!

Forgiveness was definitely a “no no” for the Scribes. The fact that Jesus was changing the lives of immoral people and helping them to live a life closer to God was of no importance. Jesus would forgive and would often add “now go and sin no more.” The Scribes, who thought Jesus to be only the son of the carpenter, accused Jesus of blasphemy. (Matthew 9:1-8)

Jesus did not change his behavior to silence the critics. He was on a mission and He felt there was only one person He had to please, God. (John 6:38, John 5:19, John 4:34) We too should not live our lives as if it was one big popularity contest. Although it is natural to want to please those we love, our greatest concern must be doing what is right, simply because it is “right.” God whose will is for us to live righteous lives is the only one we must always be sure to please.

 

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Resisting sin

Jesus taught his disciple many lessons. He knew that he was going to leave them with a great mission; to go into the entire world spreading the gospel, changing lives, seeking the lost and making more disciples. (Mark 16:15-16) One important lesson was the Our Father. This was intended to be a model for them to follow. One of the lines is “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (Matthew 6:5-14) He knew the disciples and all of us were destined for failure and in need of constant forgiveness. Jesus knew he was about to leave them and that soon after they would be filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:4) The Holy Spirit would give them great power and yet Jesus knew that they and all of us as well would find it difficult to remain perfect at all times. (Acts 1:8)

Paul also explained this problem. He said that sin was in us. (Romans 7:13-20) No matter how strong we are, no matter how much we try, we are still in this world and must contend with our flesh. Therefore we are still capable of falling into sin. This is a constant danger. The devil like a lion is looking for who he can devour. (1 Peter 5:8) That would be us, he is looking for.

What can we do? Our desire is to live a life that is pleasing to God. Should we wait around waiting to fail? Should we live however we please and just repeat the “Our Father” every night?

Since we are sincere Christians it is imperative that we be on the offensive. We must live our life aware of the devil’s attacks. How can we do this? First and foremost we must diligently work every day to increase our understanding of what pleases God. This happens as we study scripture. When we study scripture our faith increases as well. (Romans 10:17) We therefore become stronger Christians.

Jesus also gave us another solution. He once spoke of the power to rebuke demons and he told the disciples “This one only comes out through prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21) If prayer and fasting can give a servant more power to contend with the devil then certainly it will help us in all matters. It too will draw us closer to Christ. How do relationships grow stronger? They grow stronger with communication. This is what prayer means to us. Prayer is our vehicle to communicate with God, strengthening our relationship with Him.

We also know that idle time is a dangerous time. It is when we allow the devil to tempt us and fill us with thoughts that are not pleasing to God. Idle time allows us ample opportunity to focus on what we don’t have. Consider David who casually walked about his temple with nothing to do only to be tempted by seeing the naked Bathsheba bathing. (2 Samuel 11:1-5) We should look to close the door on the devil by occupying ourselves in productive tasks, primarily serving God and the needy.

Remaining sinless is impossible. We have all fallen and will fail again. But sin certainly does not have to consume our lives. We can greatly reduce its hold on us and the likelihood of failing God, through much prayer, study of scripture and occupying ourselves in worthy endeavors.

 

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Faith and humility is required

Our wonderful Savior would never ignore us, would He? It appears that is exactly what Jesus did to a Canaanite woman. Was Jesus prejudice or insensitive? The woman came chasing after the disciples and Jesus. The bible specifically says “Jesus did not answer a word.” (Matthew 15:23) The disciples then complained to Jesus “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us” (Matthew 15:23)

Jesus finally responds to her and it doesn’t seem very nice “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 15:24) Are we to assume that Jesus would only help fellow Jews? In actuality Jesus provided many miracles for those who were not of the nation of Israel. There was the centurion who had great faith (Matthew 8:5-13) and the one leper who came back (Luke 17:11-19). Jesus also told a parable where the central character and hero was the “Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-37). He also taught that God’s purpose was to bring salvation to the whole world. (John 3:16)

The woman then begs again “Lord help me!” Jesus then says what some might consider insulting “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” (Matthew 15:26) Was this Jesus or an impostor?

Then the woman said some very special words “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” (Matthew 15:27) The woman from the beginning showed desperation, due to her great need, as anyone would. However desperation does not move the hand of God. Faith and humility moves the hand of God. When we truly believe and yet understand that we are not worthy, God is willing to act. This is when we understand that it is not our will but his will that matters. Upon hearing these words Jesus immediately grants her request and confirms the importance of her faith when he says “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” (Matthew 15:28)

Although desperation may cause us to seek God, God is waiting for us to truly believe and humble ourselves. We must realize the sovereignty of God and accept that it is His will that will be done.

 

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