A Famine in the Land

For March 21, 2019
Approximately seven-hundred and sixty years before the birth of Christ, the Old Testament Prophet Amos warned ancient Israel of the consequences of disobeying God. In Amos 8:11-12 (NLT), he declares a most catastrophic warning to God’s people—both then and now (my emphasis):

The time is surely coming, says the Sovereign Lord, when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from border to border searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.

For ancient Israel, this was a time of material prosperity under the reign of Jeroboam II. Yet rampant idolatry, wanton licentiousness, corrupt and abusive leaders, injustice, excessive self-indulgence, and insensitivity to the needs of the poor and underprivileged plagued this nation.

Because they chose to pursue the pleasures of sin while rejecting their Lord, they were subject to His chastening and dispersion at the hands of the Assyrians less than 40 years later.1

If Amos’ warning sounds familiar, 2 Timothy 3:1-7 presents a similar declaration concerning the grave spiritual condition of many during the “last days (my emphasis):”

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power…always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Like ancient Israel, are we spiritually bankrupt and in grave danger today amidst our affluence?

I am concerned with how so many people adopt the opinions of “experts” who insist human beings are not created by God—in His image—with special, unique, incomparable intrinsic value; then we spoil, pamper and worship the animal kingdom, along with our pets, almost to the point of supreme deity.

Yet we can show little consideration for the sanctioned murder of a precious human life in the womb—especially in those instances when the medical technology to preserve life (coupled with the Hippocratic Oath) is an available, feasible alternative.

In Mark 10:14 (KJV), our Lord Jesus declares: “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” Yet many feel our children’s exposure to the Bible and prayer is somehow detrimental. Here, some will argue that supplying youngsters with contraceptives (instead of teaching abstinence) is somehow more beneficial and practical.

In addition, socially underdeveloped people (with a misplaced sense of entitlement) will often resort to violence to obtain the newest, biggest, or best “toy” they can have. Unfortunately, their actions often conflict with another person’s physical, financial, or emotional well-being; leaving behind vast numbers of abused, exploited, physically and emotionally traumatized victims of the perpetrator’s self-centered extravagance, sexual prowess, tyrannical oppression, and brutal assault.

Although these victims are often irreparably devastated, the harmful outcomes are irrelevant to the perpetrator because “it’s a dog-eat-dog world” where “only the strong survive.” Thus to them, the “ends will always justify the means” because “it’s not personal; it’s only business.” No wonder our news reports seem to grow gloomier by the day…there is a famine in the land!

God is the embodiment of love and holiness. He does not delight in our deprivation and famine. As 2 Peter 3:9 teaches, He is patient and longsuffering towards us because He does not want anyone to perish. Instead, He wants everyone to come to repentance.

To remedy the famine, God sent His Son as the Bread of Life, as presented in John 6:35-40 (NLT), to satisfy us forever:

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty…those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them…For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”

Jesus is the Seed of the Woman promised to Abraham, through whom the entire human race would greatly benefit.2 He is God’s Suffering Servant who redeemed a lost humanity as Isaiah 53:6 (KJV) foretells: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

As “The Good Shepherd,” His vicarious death imparts new life to His precious sheep just as He promises in John 10:10 (KJV): “The Thief [Satan] cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

Our Lord’s mission and message was distinct from anything seen or heard before or since, and His theme is simple:

“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again…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.”3

The Apostle Peter summarized these revolutionary ideas when he declared: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 (NIV) We belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the final analysis, absolute safekeeping is ours because He died for our sins and rose for our justification according to Romans 4:25.

As Christians, we should never live our lives based on the false assumptions of those who do not know the Lord and scoff at the Bible. Instead, we should always live by the biblical principles contained in our Christian faith. In this way can create an oasis where others can benefit greatly from God’s grace and love along with ourselves (as we grow spiritually as well).

By faith, we are a spiritual people whose very existence depends on Christ the Bread of Life and the Living Word. As we obtain His life-giving resources from the Bible that enable us to grow spiritually and morally, over time we can become astute practitioners of the Christian faith who express a growing moral consciousness to produce the living fruit that changes lives positively while validating our Christian witness.

Is there a famine in the land? Not for those of us who love the Lord…and love His Word.

 

 

Our Lord’s Return is Imminent

For March 15, 2019
Christians around the world look forward to our Lord Jesus Christ’s imminent return with great anticipation. Jesus’ Disciples asked Him what would be the sign of His coming (Greek: parousia).

Over the past two-thousand years, theologians have offered many complex views concerning His glorious return1. Yet in Matthew 24:30-31 (NIV), our Lord uses very simple language to declare His imminent return will be a glorious, unmistakably noticeable event befitting divine royalty:

Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

I am amazed at how people dismiss the Lord’s return as trivial when the signs of the times (also featured in Matthew 24) are so prevalent and irrefutable:

      • Many deceivers claiming to be the Christ will arise.
      • Ongoing wars and rumors of war (nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom).
      • Constant world-wide famines, pestilence and earthquakes.
      • Heightening levels of hostility and persecution towards Christians and Christianity.
      • Increasing numbers of false prophets deceiving many people.
      • Increasing immorality and decreasing benevolence as the social norm.
      • The Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed around the world.

Christians need not fear the “last days” since a wonderful future awaits uswe shall see the Lord in His full glory! And as 1 John 3:2 states, We shall be like Him and see Him as He is.

Remember at Sinai, when Moses asked God to show himself? God warned him that one brief glimpse of His glory would be too much for any mortal. So instead, God placed Moses in a cleft on the mount, and He passed by, allowing Moses to see His backside only briefly.

As Moses bowed and worshipped the Lord, he caught a glimpse of God’s glory from behind. Yet that split second glimpse illuminated Moses’ face so brightly that he had to veil his face to keep from frightening the Children of Israel assembled at the base of the mount.2.

If a momentary glimpse of God was this illuminating and frightening, imagine how powerful, how glorious and how magnificent a full view of the Jesus Christ, the Son of God “coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” will be? Awesome indeed!

Then in an instant, we shall forever know true ecstasy as we share His loving, glorious presence in the company of all of those who have placed their faith God since the beginning of time.

Although many speculate, no one knows the precise day and time of the Lord’s return. Yet as we wait, we can stand firm and let nothing deter us. We can give ourselves fully to the Lord’s work because we know that our labor in the Lord is never in vain, just as 1 Corinthians 15:58 teaches.

The Lord Jesus Christ’s return is imminent. Are you ready?

 

 

Blessed We Are!

For March 13, 2019
Some of those who heard the Lord Jesus Christ proclaim the Beatitudes had been disappointed. For it was ancient Palestine around the beginning of the last millennium.  Although Rome was the world power, there were rumors of a promised Messiah who would establish His eternal Kingdom with Jerusalem at its center. But there was yet no Messiah—and no new kingdom emerging—or so they thought.

There were many recognized leaders of the day. One in particular, Jesus of Nazareth, gathered a significant following of anxious people who heard Him promise the following:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Matthew 5:3-12 (KJV)

Those who were disgruntled and disappointed by these words, expected Jesus tell how He was going to subdue the Romans and establish an earthly kingdom.

Unfortunately, many are still unmoved by His message today because they fail to realize that our Lord’s reign is invisible now (as He reigns in the hearts of His subjects), but it shall be visible later—when He returns!

Thanks be to God for those who heard the Lord’s piercing words and were spiritually transformed by them—as many of us have been today. They, like us, understand and embrace His eight fundamental blessings of Kingdom Citizenship:

    • The “poor in spirit” or those who turn from their pride and humbly seek the Lord Jesus Christ for their reconciliation to God are given eternal access to the Kingdom of Heaven.
    • Those who are truly penitent, who “mourn” over their helplessness (as sinners in need of a Savior) shall find the Lord to be the only means of true and lasting comfort.
    • Those who are the “meek,” who emulate Christ’s selflessness (especially when facing opposition; knowing that vengeance is the Lord’s, and He will vindicate) shall inherit the earth.
    • The Lord Himself shall completely satisfy the cravings of those who “hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness” in their lives, families, churches, communities, and world.
    • Mercy begets mercy. Those who graciously extend mercy to others are assured to receive God’s mercy and grace. Here, we can be merciful because the Lord has been merciful to us.
    • Those who demonstrate sincere desires and motives, who consistently show they have hearts that are pure (no malevolence or duplicity). These people shall see God face to face.
    • The Children of God always seek to preserve peace by living in harmony with others. This is because Jesus, the Prince of Peace lives inside them in the person of the Holy Spirit, who performs the Lord’s perfect peace through them as His “peace makers.”
    • Ill-treatment is a common plight to all humans. But those who inherit the Kingdom of Heaven having been “persecuted for righteousness sake” share an experience comparable to that of the ancient prophets. So when we face rejection, criticism, or isolation because of our Christian testimony, we can rejoice and be exceedingly glad because our reward in Heaven is great!

As Christians, we are the subjects of the Lord’s universal, yet invisible Kingdom where Jesus Christ reigns as both Savior and Lord. As such, we are the living proof of His marvelous plan of redemption. Thus, our faith in Christ and labors for His Kingdom’s benefit are never futile or wasted.

We are the joint heirs in whom the Lord has entrusted the New Birth. This priceless heirloom, which we acquire by faith in Christ alone and share in common, confirms our identity as His followers, allows us to live morally responsible and spiritually astute, and enhances and preserves a civil, global society both now and forever. What a wonderful Savior!

We Are One

For March 7, 2019
The Bible depicts a time in history, immediately before the Lord Jesus Christ’s return, when a callous disregard for the incredible, intrinsic value of other human beings, coupled with wanton lasciviousness and random, escalating violence would be commonplace.

It has been shown that ours is a segregated society where class and culture are often the mitigating factors deciding how and where we choose to live. Unfortunately, where we choose to worship is often scrutinized in this manner as well. Here, we allow sin to separate us into divisive factions that resort to violence to settle the most harmless of disputes.

Even worse, many professing Christians attempt to exchange our radical yet fundamental Kingdom principles for world-centered ideals at the expense of our extraordinary Christian witness.

Two of the more insidious examples are status and prejudice, which deceive us into making false assumptions about and/or imposing unreasonable, arbitrary restrictions on others.

In other words, here we can falsely assume that someone’s faith in God is invalid because they do not share our culture. Or we can choose to disassociate with certain people because they do not share our social/economic status and/or political affiliation (and/or vice versa); even though we profess Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior.

Unfortunately, there are some communities that have Christian churches on every street corner within a one-mile radius, and yet they share similar doctrines, liturgy, and rituals. How can we testify to the world that we are one body in Christ and yet maintain our divisiveness as though we were soldiers guarding a military base in enemy territory?

My brothers and sisters, this should not be when the Bible depicts a way of living that juxtaposes the hostile tendencies of this fallen world: How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! Psalm 133:1 (NIV)

Imagine living in a world where we not only demonstrated benevolence towards others, but we also valued each other equally. This would create an environment where we practice civility, respect, care, support, and goodwill towards each other consistently. That would be wonderful!

The Lord introduced such a magnificent Kingdom to a sinful, clandestine world almost two thousand years ago where His people are one—even as He is one with the Father. (John 17:22) Today, this glorious Kingdom remains a radical, counter-culture to a fallen world as it values unity and harmony among all its citizens regardless of culture or class.

He made us one with God through His vicarious death and triumphant resurrection. As result, the Bible teaches that we are united in Christ and serve the one true God:

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  (Ephesians 4:3-6 NIV)

While the world promotes and celebrates factions and dissension, we Christians promote and celebrate peace and harmony. We understand we share the same identity and lineage as we are created in the image of God, and we share the same ancestry: Adam and Eve.

As such, since our ancestors fell, we understand that none of us are righteous before God in our own merit. Thus, we all share the same fundamental need for a Savior who will impart His amazing grace to us as we place our faith in Him.

More than ever before, this world needs to be reminded of the unifying message our Lord and Savior offers all people everywhere. Not only do we have this capacity, but we also have the responsibility to offer this world a glimpse of Heaven with its rich diversity of people united in Christ.

In this way, we can show that we are the blood-washed and blood-bought Saints who are one in Christ in Heaven forever, just as we are one in Christ on earth today. Now that we know that we are precious in His sight, let us view one another through His gracious and forgiving eyes.

 

We Have Another Comforter Today

For March 5, 2019
The Holy Spirit or the Comforter shares God’s full essence and deity. Terms like the Spirit of Christ, Spirit of God, Spirit of Truth, Holy Spirit, and Holy Ghost are synonymous. Although the Holy Spirit is a person, He has been described using the pronoun “it.”

Thus, consequential notions: “it” can be manipulated by human whim; “it” comes or goes, or “it” can be turned on or off—like an electric current—are not consistent with our Lord’s description of the Comforter  (Greek: parakletos) in John 14:16-18 (KJV):

I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

Jesus promises He will be inside us; abiding with us forever. In His description, He uses the Greek word: Paraclete: one who is “called to one’s side” or “called to someone’s aid,” which conveys the idea of Helper and Advocate.1

Additional characteristics worth noting about the Comforter are:

    • He is Christ’s representative, keeping company with us and living inside us to reveal the Lord’s grace and glory each day.
    • As Advocate, He provides us with the means of identification and association with the Lord Jesus Christ; distinguishing us from those who are not associated with the Lord.
    • He is the Spirit of Truth whom the world will not understand or receive.
    • As Teacher, He constantly reminds us of the Lord’s incomparable teachings, and He enables us to share those wonderful truths with others for their benefit.
    • As Helper, He empowers us to emulate the Lord’s impeccable lifestyle so that He is glorified in what we say, think, and do.
    • As Spirit of God, He permeates our hearts and minds with abiding peace, joy, and strength to sustain us through those difficult times all of us will face.
    • As Sprit of Christ, He helps us to fix our minds on Christ as we confidently await His glorious and imminent return.

The Holy Spirit of God—the Comforter—draws us to Christ, brings us to life (quickens us), secures our identity with Christ (seals us in Christ), guides us, makes us one in Christ, and He prepares us for Heaven.

In this way, our victory over the Enemy in this life, and our victory over death in the next are certain. What a wonderful Savior!