He Said: “Enjoy Your Evening!”

For April 23, 2019
The family had no alternative but to leave their dwelling. But where? With limited financial resources, and no friends or family in the surrounding area, living accommodations for the immediate future looked bleak and the situation impossible. Yet God, who is rich in mercy, provided the assistance they needed to sustain them.

The family turned to the Lord for assistance. After fasting and prayer, the Lord provided their breakthrough and told them: “(I got this; don’t worry. I will perform a miracle that will arrange accommodations for you this very evening. Be at peace and) Enjoy your evening!

In Psalm 23 (NIV), we read of God’s providence as our Shepherd:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

In 2 Kings 18 and 19, we read how the Assyrian king Sennacherib, after having conquered the Northern Kingdom, Israel threatened to conquer the Southern Kingdom, Judah. In his insulting letter to King Hezekiah, he ridiculed God’s Chosen People for their faith in the Covenant God (Yahweh).

People living in Judah around the capital city of Jerusalem heard the translators’ condemning tone: “Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’ Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?” 2 Kings 18:32-33 (NIV)

The Bible says that King Hezekiah read the blasphemous letter. Then he took it to Solomon’s Temple where he “spread it before the Lord” and prayed. (2 Kings 18:14-15ff)

After the Lord intervened—that same evening, 185,000 Assyrian soldiers lay dead, and Sennacherib retreated to Nineveh in disgrace.

In John 10, Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd who loves and cares for His sheep, even to the point of giving His life for them (at Calvary’s cross). Isn’t it wonderful to know that the Lord cares for us, and that He wants the best for us in every situation we face?

Once we accept His gift of grace (or the forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life) by directing our faith away from our human efforts to please God though “good works,” and direct our faith towards the perfect works He performed through His vicarious death and resurrection, we become His children—forever!

It is amazing how it is so difficult for us to trust the Lord completely when He proves Himself faithful repeatedly. Instead of trusting Him, we tend to rely on those things that will invariably fail us, just as Jeremiah 17:5-8 (NLT) teaches:

This is what the LORD says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the LORD. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land. But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.”

The Lord is our Good Shepherd who supplies all our needs, and as the Psalmist declares, we lack nothing. Thus, our life on earth from this day forward can be described as one filled with God’s goodness and mercy as we “enjoy the evening.” What a wonderful Savior!

Got Tranquility?

For April 22, 2019
After a religious gathering, inquiries were made about someone who missed the event. A person who knew the absentee responded by saying: “Gladiators,” and the message was clear.

A self-imposed representative of God, “straightened out” a person about a religious matter. As a result, the person who was criticized felt insulted, hurt, and chose not to attend the meeting.

In Luke 18:9-14, the Lord Jesus Christ addressed the issue of self-righteousness:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

In Matthew 7:1-5, the Lord admonishes us not to judge by attempting to remove the “speck” from someone’s eye when we have a “log” in our eye. A similar theme is presented in Galatians 6:1-3 (NIV):

Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

Religious gladiators slay their wounded. This dynamic is difficult to understand since failure is part of the human experience. Each of us, even gladiators will inevitably make mistakes and/or disappoint someone at some point during our lifetime.

In working with those who were sinners and outcasts, Jesus used an approach based on love whereby although the sin was addressed, the recipient felt loved and valued.

His new paradigm brought an extraordinary inner transformation, via the Born Again experience resulting in an eternal fellowship with God and others where faith, hope, and love are celebrated and practiced.

Also, the vicarious work the Lord performed on our behalf we could not perform for ourselves inspires our humility and gratitude. He loved us and died for us when we were sinners with no desire for Him or the things of God. As result, we now can have a deep abiding faith in the Lord while we hope in His promise of eternal life; completely motivated by love.

Because we are sin-tarnished, we must rely on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His perfect righteousness at all times. There is no place for self-righteousness in this model because our focus is never on our righteousness, which will always be “filthy rags” even on our best day according to Isaiah 64:6. Sanctification is a full time job that requires our attention 24/7.

Thus, civility, forgiveness, and reconciliation should be our aim when we encounter people who have either stumbled and/or have fallen into sin. Expressing love, and restoring the person to a right relationship with the Lord should be our objective. In other words, we should never shame or disgrace the person since we can stumble too.

Our goal is to restore, but our success is not guaranteed. Everyone has the freedom to choose to obey the Lord. Yet we can assist them into wholeness and restoration just as Jesus modeled.

Got tranquility? Yes! When Christ is our example.

Jesus Rose For Our Justification

For April 14, 2019
Much like any other Sunday morning in Jerusalem, this particular one was peaceful and quiet. The Roman soldiers who were guarding Joseph of Arimathaea’s tomb were preparing for what would otherwise be an ordinary day. Not quite dawn; the horizon’s shades were gradually changing from a starry pitch-black darkness into breathtaking shades of orange-red, beige-yellow and blue; to welcome the dawning of a new day.

These highly trained, hardened soldiers were alerted by the shadowy figures and voices of women who were coming to the tomb to embalm their Savior and Lord. The tomb was sealed and the soldiers were prepared to defend it with their lives. The soldiers were poised to strike when it happened….

In Matthew 28, we learn there was a great earthquake as the Angel of the Lord descended from Heaven and rolled the stone from the door. The Angel appeared as bright as lightning with snowy white clothing. The solders trembled in fear—horrified by what they saw—“became as dead men.”

The Angel’s reassuring message to the women still comforts Christians everywhere today:

“Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.” Matthew 28:5-7 (NLT)

Naysayers have speculated the Lord’s Disciples stole Jesus’ body, the women went to the wrong tomb, or people hallucinated our Lord’s resurrection. Yet no one has yet to refute or discredit the New Testament account of the resurrection.

In addition, after two-thousand years, we are still not able to refute the testimonies of those, who like the Apostle Paul, claimed to have seen the Lord Jesus. Moreover, the incredible transformation in the lives of those who have encountered the Risen Christ by faith cannot be explained as well.

Jesus Christ is risen, and because He lives:

    • He proved emphatically that He is Lord and God.
    • We know that He is the only Mediator between God and humanity.
    • We have victory over sin, death and the Enemy (Satan) through our sincere, penitent faith in Christ.
    • Our true, lasting intimacy with our loving God is secured and guaranteed.
    • We know His Spirit inhabits and preserves us until He returns for us.

When we give our hearts to the Lord Jesus Christ, He transforms us so marvelously that we often cannot recognize ourselves as being “new creations” in Christ, just as 2 Corinthians 5:17 teaches. What a wonderful Savior!

Yes! Jesus Christ is risen indeed!

Jesus Christ Died For Our Sins

For April 12, 2019
It was early Friday morning of Passover Week, and Jesus had not yet slept. Over the last 24 hours, He changed the festive Passover Seder into a commemorative Lord’s Supper. Then while in Garden of Gethsemane, Judas betrayed Him into the hands of the corrupt religious leaders for a mere thirty pieces of silver.

He was unjustly hastened before Pilate, Herod Antipas and Pilate again to be condemned to death, but not before cruel Roman soldiers savagely beat him without mercy. Then when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him; but was our Jesus Christ a sinless, guiltless innocent victim of egregious injustice?

In Ezekiel 18:4, God tells us everyone belongs to Him and anyone who sins will die. While Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. To remedy sin’s curse, God sanctioned blood sacrifices to atone for human sin (See Leviticus 17:11).

In other words, sin equals death, and blood atones for sin.

As the Son of Man, Jesus accurately predicted His vicarious death and suffering when He said:

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.   John 3:14-18 (NIV)

As the Lamb of God, Jesus chose to pay the price for our past, present, and future sins with His precious blood by freely giving His life at Calvary. In other words, someone had to shed blood and die to pay for our sins, and Jesus alone chose to pay this enormous price for us.

Although our Lord had the opportunity to escape death on the cross, He sought to fulfill God’s will instead of His own. Even after being beaten, spat upon, insulted, and crowned with thorns, our Lord was willing to suffer even more disgrace and humiliation by being stripped of His clothing and affixed to a wooden cross. Before throngs of mocking people, He had the power and the right to command legions of angels to destroy all humanity instantly; but He yielded His life for our sins and became our perfect Intercessor instead.

Yes! Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ chose to be the innocent victim so that we could experience eternal love, joy, peace and fellowship with God, which continues from this life into the next. What a wonderful Savior!

In Remembrance Of Me

For April 7, 2019
What an exciting week for people in and around Jerusalem! Sunday, a Triumphal Entry captured the hopes and dreams of those who heralded Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah. The next day, Temple gatherers witnessed the Lord purging the Temple from unauthorized vending and money changing.

Then Jesus forever settles the dispute concerning His Kingdom authority, an unidentified woman, whom John indicates as Mary (John 12:3), anoints Jesus’ feet with very precious aromatic oil, Jesus and the Disciples find brief seclusion, and then He requests a furnished room for the Passover Observance.

Now it’s Thursday evening, and the Disciples looked forward to the Passover celebration, which is the festive gathering for all Jews to commemorate God’s deliverance from 400 years of Egyptian bondage by the hand of Moses.

But for the Twelve Disciples it was a much-need break from a busy week…or so they thought.

However, from the outset, this particular Passover observance was distinctly and uncharacteristically different from any they had ever experienced before or since.

After settling the discussion about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom, the Lord served as house servant and performed the ancient tradition of washing His Disciples’ feet by cleaning the dirt and dust that accumulated on their feet as they traveled the dusty Palestinian roads in open sandals.

Jesus spoke very graphically and candidly of His dying, their betrayal, denial, and ultimate desertion. Then inexplicably, Judas left the celebration without muttering a word. From first glance, one could rightly say that this very special celebration was ruined—completely!

Yet as the chaos subsided, a strange thing happened. Instead of the usual Seder recitation, Jesus changes it by taking the bread, blessing it, braking it, and giving it to His Disciples while saying: “Take, eat; this is My body!”

Then Jesus takes the cup, gives thanks, and while passing it to them He says: “Drink ye all of it; for this is My blood, a New Covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you: I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom! Do this in remembrance of Me!1

I can imagine how while the Disciples were leaving the room, singing a hymn, and accompanying the Lord to the Mount of Olives, they were asking themselves: “Why did the Lord change the Seder so unconventionally?” and “What did He mean by saying: This is My body and blood—a New Covenant?”

They would have the answers to these two questions within the next seventy-two hours.