Are We There Yet?

For January 22, 2019
While driving recently, I heard a question that brought back precious memories of a bygone era in my life. I was reminded of the times when I drove our children to church and school events and our family vacations when they were young. Weather the trip was one-half hour or several hours in duration. Invariably they always seemed to ask: Are we there yet? Apparently, they wanted to arrive at their destination much faster than I was driving at the moment.

We’ve all grown up since then. But now I find myself asking that same question when I look at my contemporaries, our nation, and the world around me today. Where is our sense of civility? Where’s our respect for human dignity and worth? What about expressing tolerance for the opinions of others—for the sake of the common good? Are we there yet?

The wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon makes this observation in Proverbs 14:34 (NLT):

Godliness makes a nation great, but sin is a disgrace to any people.

I am grateful to the Lord to live in this country, which He has greatly blessed with many opportunities we often take for granted: to freely worship, to express opinions without censorship, to elect our representation, and to travel where we want when we want. We also benefit from a capitalistic system that supplies us with goods and services that enhance our standard of living and improve our overall quality of life.

However, sometimes I feel embarrassed when I see adults acting like children having temper tantrums. I wonder if these men and women understand the gravity of setting such poor examples before their own children; whether natural or communal. Nobody wins when we sow seeds that produce proud, self-centered, morally reprehensible fruit that will affect us all in time.

I am also saddened by the heightening racial hostility in the US where civility and understanding should be expressed. All of us should understand and be willing to accept that one particular race did not “corner the market” on victimization, and that ours is not a perfect world. Exploitation and victimization happen everywhere around the globe, leaving us with the realization there is much work to be done…everywhere.

We can start by acknowledging God created us to help and support each other. Otherwise, our alternative is more victimization, repression, anarchy, hostility, and senseless violence.

None of us are “perfect” enough to encumber another person (or race) with the debt of hostility or unforgiveness because all of us are offenders by default. Our human propensity to sin ensures global injustice as long as we live on earth. In other words, all of us have committed sinful acts against God or each other, either directly by commission or indirectly by omission.

Daily we watch the tragic futility of those who seek fulfillment through wealth, sports notoriety, political power, corporate achievement, social status, academia, technology, and medicine. Our failures remind us that, although we are unfit for a glorious Heaven morally and spiritually, we are well suited for a tormenting Hell; because God has a “no riffraff” policy that remains in force today.

As Romans 3:23 teaches, all people everywhere have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. For with all the technology, self-help, and other resources we have at our disposal, we can do nothing to correct our spiritual condition without God’s intervention. In fact, He must change us from the inside out as John observes in John 1:12-13 (NLT):

But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

Through Jesus Christ, we can  experience a complete, internal, spiritual transformation, have our sins forgiven, and we can have an intimate, eternal fellowship with God and each other as well.

Thus as forgiven followers of Jesus Christ, we can begin to exhibit a higher level of spiritual and moral acumen; one that accepts and embraces others so that we can enhance and preserve a civil society. Are we there yet? Unfortunately we are not!

But human lives can change drastically in the presence of the Living Christ, and drastically changed (Christ-centered and Spirit-controlled) human lives think, speak, and act in ways that are not detrimental to the health, welfare, or safety of others regardless of race, gender, culture, wealth, social status, or political affiliation.

We may not be there yet, but it is possible to change the world nevertheless—one person at a time—starting with you and me.

Can These Bones Live?

For January 22, 2019
Some five-hundred years before the birth of Christ–while Jerusalem lay in ruins with the great Temple King Solomon built a smoldering heap–God gave Ezekiel a message of encouragement and renewal for the Jewish captives in Babylonian exile. Chapter 37:1-3 (NIV) sets forth this amazing event along with its unforgettable message:

The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

In this life, we are certain to experience many harrowing events that test our faith and may lead us to doubt God. Even our Lord Jesus Christ teaches that rain will fall on the just and unjust alike in Matthew 5:45. Our hardships serve as constant reminders of the presence of sin in our fallen world.

Often the Enemy uses our hardships to trigger the onset of spiritual, emotional, and psychological baggage to perpetuate the lie that we are broken beyond repair; worthless and cannot be forgiven. People who struggle to forgive themselves often insist: “God can’t/won’t forgive me…You don’t know what I’ve done!

We cannot change our past with its hurts. What’s been done has been done. Nevertheless, God created us, and He knows us better than we know ourselves. Moreover, He is fully aware of our hurts, the “secret” sins, and the humiliating circumstances we carry that no one else knows about.

And if He is willing to love, accept, treasure, value, and forgive us through Christ, we should be more than willing to love, accept, treasure, value, and forgive ourselves. Shouldn’t we?

Hardships do not negate God’s love, grace, and mercy, nor do they reveal His desertion. Because nothing can separate us from His love, and in the final analysis, all the things we experience will work together for our good as Romans 8:28; 35-39 teach us.

Hebrew 2:1 tells us: Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. To “give the more earnest heed” (Greek: prosecho), implies being “concerned about” or “paying attention to” something. In this context, it summons our vigilance to: “be [especially] careful,” or to “be on guard.” 1

Such introspection helps to free us from the emotional and psychological scars associated with a tragic past. Over time, we can affirm there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Then we can grow in His grace by walking according to the Spirit; ever-yearning for more of the Abundant Life He freely extends to all of us who trust in Him. 2

The New Living Translation of 2 Corinthians 5:17 reminds us that: “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” Here, we can experience the Lord’s Abundant Life now and His glorious Heaven later. At that time, all our hardships and toils will be forgotten instantly the moment we see Jesus Christ in his full majestic splendor. Amen!

Can these bones live? Can shattered, broken lives be repaired and restored? As Ezekiel 37:10 offered assurance to ancient Israel that dry bones can live and become “an exceeding great army.” It offers hope today that decimated lives can be fully restored by the ever-renewing, omnipotent Spirit of God.

What a wonderful Savior!

 

 

God’s in Control

For January 20, 2019
Many people use the euphemism “the man upstairs” to describe God, although he cannot be described as a mere mortal man. Our awesome God has many distinctive characteristics that set him apart from anything we know or can imagine, just as King David acknowledges in his prayer of dedication and consecration:

Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.   1 Chronicles 29:11 (NIV)

God has never relinquished control of the universe, and the Lord Jesus Christ makes this assertion in His Model Prayer found in Matthew 6:13 (KJV): For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Our God has many distinctive characteristics that help us to appreciate his incomparable majesty and splendor.

  • Eternal: Our God is eternal, without a beginning or end. He always was, and will always be, the everlasting God.
  • Self-existent: Our God exists in and of himself. He has no creator, but he alone is the source and origin of all life and existence. Our God is the living God.
  • Omnipotent and Omniscient: Our God has all power and all knowledge. He is able to do anything that he chooses with an unlimited, perfect, and eternal knowledge of all things past, present, future, actual, and possible, so that the outcome is always perfect.
  • Omnipresent: God is everywhere at the same time, without diminishing his being or essence. He occupies both heaven and earth simultaneously.
  • Faithful and True: Our God is reliable and authentic in all his ways. He is the embodiment of truth and veracity and the source of all that is authentic and genuine.
  • Just and Righteous: Our God is the source of all moral uprightness, and his right judgments evoke our confident assurance in every situation.
  • Loving, Good, and Merciful: Our God expressed an unselfish benevolence toward us when we were spiritually dead and morally corrupt. He loves us with an unfailing and unselfish love, and he is merciful by forgiving our sins and securing our eternal fellowship with him through Jesus Christ.
  • Holy: Our God is morally and spiritually perfect, and glorious in holiness. This trait is at the very core of his being. The Hebrew term qados, used extensively in the Old Testament, depicts God as the only one with a pure, undefiled quality of essence that separates him (“cut off”) from any other group or class. The Greek counterpart hagios, used extensively in the New Testament, describes God as pure and sacred. Whether studying the Old or New Testament, the message is clear: holiness is predicated on God, because he alone is pure, majestic, and glorious. In other words, only our God is holy and without equal.

Life on this earth is unpredictable and uncertain as recent human and weather tragedies poignantly remind us. Nevertheless, we can rest in the Lord our God because He is not capricious with His exquisite care, and He consistently reveals His veracity, fidelity and incomprehensible grace each moment of the day—without fail.

Ours is not a perfect world, but we can know a perfect God. Did you thank Him for that breath you have just taken? What about the heartbeat that happened within you just now? We take many common occurrences for granted…often feeling entitled to them.

However, we are not entitled. These are merely some of the wonderful blessings He lovingly and graciously bestows upon us to show that in Him “we live, move, and exist” and that “all things work together for our good” as Acts 17:28 and Romans 8:28 tell us.

The blessings of God–especially those awesome provisions made available to us by Jesus Christ–enable us to experience His eternal comfort, strength, and fulfillment.

Today, let us hear the voice of the Almighty God thundering from eternity:

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.   Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled Today

For January 11, 2019
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

For January 1, 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.