Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled Today

I imagine that the moon was full that evening when Jesus informed His Disciples of His departure. Instantly, fear and great anxiety overwhelmed them for they now realized their time with Jesus Christ was coming to an end.

Three years before, they were ‘called’ by this  itinerant preacher to leave everything—families, occupations, and lifestyles—to follow Him. Now He was leaving them, and they would see Him no more on earth…or so they thought.

This was certainly one very dark evening for them.

Many questions raced through their minds as they sat together on that last evening: What would happen during His absence? What would the people say? What were they to do next? What about their families? Do they return to their former occupations? Who would lead them now?

But at that moment of their deepest despair, Jesus comforts them with this magnificent promise:

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.   John 14:1-3 (NIV)

Before His departure, Jesus described the ‘last days’ as a lust-crazed world of personal and social addictions. Here, iniquity would be commonplace as we pursue the pride of life, the lust of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh with full gusto. With little regard for the sanctity of life or human dignity, people would brazenly use and discard other people while honoring and cherishing things.

In these last days, false teaching would also be accepted and embraced as well. Teachings like: Heaven is reserved for those whose good deeds outweigh their bad deeds. Fortunately, God does not keep a ledger with good deeds on one side and bad deeds on the other; eventhough there is a day when we shall account for our speech and behavior performed in this life.

We cannot do enough good to ‘balance the books’ because as Isaiah observes:

We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.  Isaiah 64:6 (KJV)

In other words, we are sin-soiled and require internal, spiritual cleansing.

Thus, the promises of Jesus shared nearly two thousand years ago still offer comfort to fearful and uncertain hearts today because Jesus Christ paid the full price for our sins forever. And since He is alive today, we have the assurance of His Abundant Life (John 10:10) now, and His Everlasting Life (John 3:16) later.  In Christ, we need not be troubled because:

  • Jesus freely exchanges His righteousness for our unrighteousness so that we can have true peace and fellowship with God forever.
  • God’s Holy Spirit inhabits us to strengthen our resolve to live for Christ each day as we await His glorious return for us.
  • Through Christ, we have a total spiritual transformation that produces Jesus’ love, peace, joy, faith and other means of grace that allow Him to work out His perfect will in us.

When Jesus returns in glory, then we shall experience the fulfillment of His comforting promises as Revelation 21:4 illustrates:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

When we face those uncertain moments during the new year, I pray that the Lord’s comforting promise will serve to remind us of His incomprehensible love, grace, mercy and faithfulness.

What a wonderful Savior!

Making Us New in 2019

Around the world, revelers gather to witness remarkable pyrotechnics and special effects lighting shows to celebrate a New Year. The Times Square Ball, New York, Burj Khalifa, Dubai, Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Harbour Bridge, Sydney, Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong, the River Thames near the London Eye as well as other locations provide revelers with spectacular images every year.

With each successive year of the Gregorian Calendar, we number the years since the birth of Christ. Anno Domini (AD or A.D.) is the Latin phrase that implies “In the year of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Moreover, BC or B.C. separates time before the birth of Christ from time after His birth, which is referred to as Common, Current, or Christian Era (CE or C.E.).

This year, we celebrate two thousand and nineteen years since the birth of Jesus Christ.1 Numbering years allows us to honor this most influential person in human history.

We make this distinction because through Christ we can become new people on the inside by way of the New Birth, as He promises in John 3:3, 16-17 (NLT):

I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God…For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

Some associate the New Birth with materialism and insist it insures our wealth and prosperity. This cannot be the case since Jesus’ teachings never advocated materialism over God’s spiritual Kingdom. Transforming hearts is His chief concern. And once He has our hearts, He has everything else we have.

Although our new life in Christ may not lead to wealth and fame, the complete, internal, spiritual overhaul that accompanies it will produce a new person as 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT) teaches:

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun.

Newness occurs once we hear the good news (Gospel) about how God loves us and wants to satisfy our deepest longings–freely. Then, we repent by changing our minds about pursuing sin, and we turn to Christ by inviting Him into our hearts as Lord and Savior, by faith. Then His Spirit preserves and enables us to accomplish His will as beloved children.

I pray that 2019 brings us His peace and fulfillment as it draws us one year closer to His glorious return.

 

Arise, Shine! For Your Light is Come!

Some seven-hundred years before the birth of Christ, Israel is no more while her sister kingdom, Judah along with her capital city Jerusalem’s destruction is foretold by the prophet Isaiah. For in just over one-hundred years, the nation’s elite will be exiled to Babylon and the city destroyed. In order to encourage a downcast nation, Isaiah offers these comforting words:

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.”                                                                                           Isaiah 60:1 (NIV)

Gone would be the thrones on which King David and his son, Solomon sat when Israel enjoyed her greatest glory and splendor. Gone would be Solomon’s Temple—one of the most beautiful structures ever designed and built—smoldering in ruins. Peace and prosperity would be distant memories for God’s chosen people.

A devastated people yearned for a message of consolation, hope and of new beginnings: The Lord will restore them to greater glory whereby all the nations of the world would not only become eyewitnesses; they would experience as well.

Looking for a message of consolation, hope and new beginnings? Having difficulty making a New Year’s resolution? Let me suggest the following:

♦ Others have failed you miserably; give your heart to Jesus Christ. He never fails but offers a wonderfully transformed life that honors God and blesses people—including you.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God…For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.                                                                                  Ephesians 2:8, 10 (NLT)

♦ Stop trusting in your human futility alone. Turn to the Lord instead, and trust in Him for everything.

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.”                                                                                Jeremiah 17:5 (NLT)

♦ Commit your life to the Lord, and rely on Him to live out a victorious life through you each day.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.                                                                                                          Micah 6:8 (NIV)

♦ Experience and enjoy forever the abundant life that Jesus secures for His people.

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.                                                        John 10:10 (NLT)

When our New Year’s resolutions are Christ centered and God honoring, the Lord performs His perfect work in our hearts, minds, souls. Only then can we truly have a Happy New Year!

Happy Birthday Jesus!

Observing Jesus Christ’s birthday on the 25th day of December is a controversial matter for some. Although critics cannot prove that our Lord was not born on this day, some of the more vocal critics tend to create an atmosphere that can ruin the celebration of many who embrace this occasion, as did the heavenly host of angels and shepherds some two thousand years ago as recorded in Luke 2:10-14 (KJV):

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!

Ultimately, the Enemy is responsible for the warfare against Jesus Christ. He will stop at nothing to discourage or distract us from honoring the Lord because there is no other name under Heaven given among men or women whereby we must be saved as Acts 4:12 declares. (Incidentally, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, the Virgin Birth, Jesus’ Resurrection, and His Second Coming are similarly scrutinized as well.)

To explain why the Bible is silent about a specific day when Jesus was born, some scholars suggest it was far more important for Bible authors to authenticate His birth—as the moment in history when God became human—than to record a specific day or time in history. In other words, it is more important to establish the fact that Jesus was born than to record its specific day of occurrence.

Everyone is entitled to express his or her opinion regarding the celebration of Christmas. Yet, I believe it is both permissible and proper to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ (vis-à-vis Christmas) on December 25th because:

a) It is reasonable to expect climate and temperature variations during the winter months that would permit the outdoor pasturing mentioned in the Luke Chapter 2 Christmas Narrative, and

b) Both pagan and religious observances occur almost every day; we cannot rescind a person’s birthday because it falls on a specific observance. 1

In addition, observing Jesus’ birthday at Christmas continues to serve as a practical expression of our personal, sincere faith in God. Moreover, I believe we can and should reserve one day out of the year to observe the Lord’s birth. Why not Christmas Day?

I have chosen to honor our Lord by celebrating His birthday at Christmas, and as a result, this remains my favorite time of the year.

I am not alone. For I share the sentiments untold numbers of people around the world, who are grateful to God for His unspeakable gift to us as foretold in Isaiah 9:6 (KJV), some seven hundred years before Jesus’ birth:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

I wish you a very, Merry Christmas. But most of all…Happy Birthday Jesus!

 

 

Thanks to God Who Gives Us the Victory Today

Imagine living in a world with no pain, sorrow, or disease and where all your wants, needs, and desires are satisfied. In this blessed state of perfect innocence, peace, tranquility, and safety, you thrive in the company of loving companions with the freedom to do anything you want.

This was how it was in the beginning, when God created this world and our ancestors Adam and Eve. He placed them in the Garden of Eden with everything they could ever want or need. Eternal bliss was theirs as long as they obeyed one command: do not eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (See: Genesis 2:17)

The moment they ate the fruit, spiritual and physical death happened just as God warned. Physical death came over time, but spiritual death came at once, as the entire world became sin-contaminated. (See: Genesis 3:6–19, Romans 5:12)

Ours is a segregated society in many respects. Not only do class and race divide us. Many face strong public resistance after completing their prison sentences as well. Nevertheless, have you ever considered that God has the right to be choosy about whom He fellowships with? In other words, God has every right to enforce a “no strangers allowed” policy towards everyone who is offensive to Him—including you and me.

To make matters worse, with all the technology, self-help, and other resources we have at our disposal, we can do nothing to correct our nature externally. Daily we watch the tragic futility of those who seek remedies through wealth, sports notoriety, political power, corporate achievement, social status, academia, technology, and medicine.

Our failures remind us that, although we are morally and spiritually unfit to occupy a glorious heaven forever, we are well suited to occupy a tormenting hell forever. Our sin-contaminated internal nature prompts us to commit evil deeds and makes us “sinners” before our holy God.

God could have solved our sin problem by programming us to obey Him like robots, but He wanted us to love Him freely and surrender to Him willingly. God could have created loopholes and exemptions in His perfect Law to accommodate our sin problem, but then He would have made Himself less than holy by sacrificing His perfection for our imperfection.

God chose the most effective remedy instead. He became a human being in the person of Jesus Christ so that He could pay the price for our sin Himself as the Apostle John writes in John 1:14 (NIV),

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Our human works cannot earn God’s gift of grace. Only by our simple faith in Jesus’ perfect works can we have our sins forgiven and become non-offensive to God.

Once we come to Him by faith, we can also experience an inner spiritual transformation as His Spirit inhabits and empowers us to love, serve, and obey Him faithfully and victoriously each day until He returns for us, as promised in 1 Corinthians 15:57-58 (NIV),

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

What a wonderful Savior!