He Still Wants Your Heart Today

October 12, 2019
From the time of God’s Creation until now, it has always been the His design to have eternal, unbroken fellowship with the centerpiece of His Creation: humanity. So while addressing us, the Lord Jesus Christ cites Old Testament Law (Deuteronomy 6:5) to revise the old, established model of faith.

Here, He establishes a new faith-fellowship paradigm not based on our works, (although works can serve as evidence of our faith), but upon our affection instead:

Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV)

We delight in those whom we love. We like to be around them and want do all we can to please them. Thus, to love the Lord with all of our heart infers that we have a sincere, passionate, single-minded attraction towards Him, as the only true and living God, Redeemer…and Friend.

The heart represents the seat of our emotions. No other person or object can dominate our attention or command our affections when the Lord owns our hearts. However, His access is by our invitation only as Revelation 3:20 (NIV) teaches:

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

The Lord also wants our soul and mind, which means that our love for Him is evident in every facet of our lives. In essence, both who we are and what we do. In other words, we surrender not just our emotions, wishes, desires, feelings, affections, understanding, intellect, but also our character, personality, thoughts, words, deeds, lifestyle, goals, aspirations and so forth.

All these things and many more should resonate a deep love for our Lord with every fiber of our being. In short, we are commanded not love the Lord half-heartedly, but wholeheartedly.

The Lord Jesus Christ could rightly demand such love from us because He demonstrated His when He died on Calvary’s Cross to pay the menacing, unbearable debt of sin, which we could not pay for ourselves.

Then He rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven where He intercedes for us today. While we await His glorious, imminent return, His Holy Spirit lives within us, communing with us while preserving us as His precious children. What a wonderful Savior!

We may not arrive at this level of love towards Him in all its intricacies and implications 24/7 in this life. Nevertheless, we can give Him our hearts daily as we set our affections on things above, as Colossians 3:1 teaches.

Although many may dread our Lord’s return, we can look forward to it, as the day when we unite with those other redeemed saints at the Great White Throne Judgment to hear the King of Kings and Lord of Lords say to us, as His beloved and redeemed children: Well done!

Then we shall forever experience His holy, unbridled love in its fullest measure just as this theologian observes:

But in heaven there is an undisturbed reign of holy love. All the inhabitants of that bright world love God supremely and love one another subordinately…The satisfaction arising from this consciousness will never be disturbed by a single doubt or solitary suspicion.1

Won’t you give the Lord your heart today? He’s given you His already!

 

No More Condemned

October 5, 2019
In His meeting with the Jewish religious leader Nicodemus recorded in John Chapter 3, the Lord Jesus Christ made several astounding claims.

His first claim was that we all have  to be Born Again to see the Kingdom of God (3:3). His second claim was that we have to experience both natural birth (of water) and a spiritual birth (of Spirit) to see the kingdom of God (3:5).

Then Jesus predicted His death at Calvary and promised that we who believe  in the merits of His sacrifice “should not perish, but have eternal life.” And later in 3:16, He presents the essence of the Gospel message that is still recited around the world some 2000 years later:

For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

The Creator of the Universe knows our deepest thoughts, motives, and desires. Although He is also fully aware of those “secret sins” hidden from others, He still chooses to love us with such a great love that despite what we’ve thought, said or done—past or present, He is willing to forgive us and extend to us His gifts of eternal fulfillment and bliss.

None of us are “good enough” to earn God’s consideration; struggling with some fault is something that all of us share in common. The only exception was the Lord Jesus Christ, who was morally and spiritually perfect, well qualified to make this observation in 3:17:

For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.

The Lord did not come to condemn us. We were condemned the moment that we took our first breath in this sin-tarnished world. A cursory look at news, entertainment, sports and political stories attest to the fact that we are yet fallen creatures in need of a Savior, just as the Bible teaches.

The Lord is choosy about the people He associates with, so it shouldn’t surprise us that the Lord has a “no riff-raff allowed” policy that remains in force today as Romans 3:23 observes: All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.

 Over the years, I’ve met many people who struggled with some form of compulsive addictive behavior, who for the most part, never needed to be reminded of their flaw in character or judgment.

n order to relieve us of our flaws, the Lord chose to offer Himself as the perfect sacrifice so that our faith in Him would forever secure God’s consideration towards us both now and forever. What a wonderful Savior!

Won’t you give Him your heart today?

Letting Go Through Radical Forgiveness

September 28, 2019
In Matthew 18, it was only “natural” for Peter to ask the question: How often should I forgive? Seven times? From our human perspective, forgiving once is remarkable, and forgiving seven times is extraordinary.

We too often keep track of the times when someone offends us, and we bear grudges against those who have offended us when we should overlook the offense and forgive the offender.

We also “rate” sins on a “sliding scale” as though one sin was more heinous than another. But we can’t make such comparisons since all of us have sinned, and we are deficient of God’s righteous standards (Romans 3:23). Rating sin can lead to falsely characterizing others for past criminal behavior, drug use, marital infidelity, divorce, or an abhorrent lifestyle—even when they now live for Christ fully.

In addition, it’s hypocritical to condemn someone for his or her past when we too have “skeletons” in our closet, as Jesus observes in Matthew 7:3-5 (NLT):

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, “Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,” when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

Our “sliding scales” have to be challenged. We cannot impose human standards on godly principles by forgiving certain offenses or forgiving only to a certain level.

The Lord’s response to Peter’s question was immediate: Not just seven times, but seventy times seven! In other words, we must be perfect, even as our Heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48) by forgiving to the extent that He has forgiven us.

Then the Lord Jesus illustrated endless forgiveness with the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.

In this parable, a certain king had a servant who owed him ten thousand talents (about 15 million dollars), yet he forgave the entire debt. But, this same forgiven servant could not find it in his heart to forgive the debt of one hundred pence (about $17.00) that his fellow associate owed him. 1

The Lord used the largest and smallest forms of ancient currency to emphasize how the first servant’s debt was so massive that it could never have been paid—yet it was forgiven. Thus, the unforgiving servant was condemned because he could not find it in his heart to forgive his fellow associate’s minuscule debt. The Lord provided the application in Matthew 18: 32-35 (NLT):

Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

How miniscule are the offenses we commit against each other in comparison to the enormous sin debt that we owe God, Our Lord Jesus Christ was perfect. He never sinned, yet He chose to be fastened to a wooden cross for our eternal benefit.

Moreover, He did not complain about His unjust treatment—being tortured and executed like a common criminal. Instead He willingly bore our sins because only His precious blood could wash them away once and for all (and secure our eternal destiny with Him).

What a wonderful Savior!

Since the Lord forgave us completely, and His Spirit lives within us, we have the means to forgive also. Let us truly practice letting go through Christ-empowered radical forgiveness.

 

We Can Choose Whom We Will Serve Today

For September 14, 2019
About two thousand years before the birth of Christ, God promised to bless Abram and Sarai in a way where everyone on earth would benefit. In Genesis 12:3 (NLT), God speaks to Abram:

I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you!

Twenty-five years passed, and Abram was one hundred years old when he and Sarai would have a son, Isaac though whose son’s lineage, Jacob (Israel) the promise would be fulfilled. To mark the event, God changed their names to the more familiar Abraham and Sarah.

(Ultimately, Jesus Christ would be the fulfillment of this promise when He freely gave His life to purchase our forgiveness of sin and redemption to God through His shed blood at Calvary. What a wonderful Savior!)

Now, fast-forward about six hundred years to one of Abraham’s descendants, Joshua who was standing beside the overflowing Jordan River. The Lord commanded him to lead His Chosen People across the river to occupy the Promised Land.

Joshua was the successor to Moses, who was the most influential prophet and leader since Abraham. Thirty days passed since Joshua was entrusted with the responsibility of providing spiritual, moral and civic leadership to the Children of Israel. In Joshua 1:2-9 (NIV), the Lord says to Joshua:

Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites.  I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.  No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.  Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Joshua and Caleb were the only two of his generation to occupy the Promised Land, because they chose not to rebel against the Lord by giving an “evil report” after they searched the land. He was well equipped to serve as Moses’ successor. He was with Moses at Mount Sinai when the Lord gave Moses the Law, he also helped Moses lead God’s people through the wilderness, and he led many assaults against the opposing forces east of the Jordan River.

Joshua instructs the priests to take the Ark of the Covenant and stand in the riverbank. When their feet touched the overflowing river, the water stood in one heap, and the people crossed over. That day, the Lord magnified Joshua in the eyes of the entire assembly—as He had done forty years before to Moses at the Red Sea—from that day forward, Joshua served as the consummate successor to Moses, the Man of God, to lead the Children of Israel into the land of promise.

He practiced an unwavering commitment to the Lord. Even towards the end of his life, his desire to remain faithful to The Lord was so evident in the speech he delivered in Joshua 24:14-15 (NIV), that it still serves to inspire God’s people today (my emphasis):

Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!

We can choose whom we will serve today. I too choose to serve the Lord! Won’t you join me?

Love: Handle With Care

For September 1, 2019
Performing good works is the path to God for many people. For them, consistent charitable giving, or demonstrating selfless acts of hospitality, or showing kindness to a friend or stranger in need or encouraging the downtrodden guarantees one’s eternal bliss in Heaven.

There was an era when being raised in a Christian home, as part of a nuclear family was common practice. Then, it was common to see neighbors assisting parents with providing proper instruction to children using revered Bible teachings, especially those of Jesus Christ—even in public schools—because Christianity held a prominent role in the public discourse.

Timeless principles like don’t steal, murder, covet, commit idolatry, worship crafted images, lie, irreverently use God’s name, or commit adultery, along with honoring one’s parents, remembering to worship and abide by the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” were constantly reinforced at home, in church and the community as well, thank God.

As a result, treating others with civility and respect was a common practice for many. As “looking out for #1” seemed to be more the exception than the rule. Altruism was encouraged and reinforced through the promise that if we performed enough good deeds, we would make it to Heaven.

Trying to earn God favor through our good works alone leads to futile exhaustion and ultimate disappointment. Because without Jesus Christ in our hearts; prompting and perfecting our works. Certainly good works matter, but good works without fellowship with God just won’t cut it alone. Because without Christ, our works are motivated by selfishness as we do them not with what’s best for the recipient, but with what’s best for us in mind.

Jesus gives us a new paradigm for good work by emphasizing love as the greatest work in Matthew 22:37-40:

Jesus replied, You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.

The Lord Jesus Christ was the only person who could perform untarnished good works because He alone was without sin. More importantly, He loved us so much that He freely gave Himself as a holy sacrifice. In this way, He canceled our debt of sin so that each of us could inherit His righteousness and thus have unbroken fellowship with God.

Now loving God with our entire being through Christ not only grants us unlimited access to God. It also frees us to express His unselfish love fervently towards others and ourselves as well.