What’s All The Commotion?

For April 1, 2019
Travelers from around the word assembled in Jerusalem to commemorate the Exodus, or the miraculous deliverance of God’s people from Egyptian bondage. Vast crowds descended upon the city because this was one of three designated times when all Jewish males had to assemble before the Lord in the place He chose to meet them, according to Deuteronomy 16:16.

Then on Sunday, it happened. While the people were preparing for the Passover, the excitement in the air fueled a commotion, which was followed by a murmur. The murmur turned into a chant, and the chant became a deafening roar: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest!” (Matthew 21:9)

It was apparent that royalty was coming to town. Jesus Christ had arrived in His earthly splendor and as His critics observe: “The whole world had gone unto Him!” (John 12:19)

Today, chauffeured limousines provide transportation for persons of nobility. Two thousand years ago, conquering rulers rode horseback to symbolize their power or dominance over their vanquished subjects.

Yet humbly and meekly, our Lord rode on the offspring of the donkey to fulfil the words of Zechariah 9:9 (NIV):

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Analogous to flying as a “stand by” customer when He had a first class ticket, Jesus could have used a more notable means to present Himself as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In other words, Jesus had every right to ride into Jerusalem on horseback as the Conquering King. Instead, He chose to be the Humble Servant, as death awaited Him.

It is quite remarkable that our eternal and holy God chose to occupy human flesh as Jesus Christ. Even more amazing was that although He is our Creator and Sustainer, He used this form of modest transportation on the first day of the last and most important week of His life on earth.

However much like His humble birth, the Lord’s choice is not surprising given His description of Himself (my emphasis):

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 (KJV)

On His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, our Lord chose the mode of transportation that would present Him as the “Prince of Peace” featured in Isaiah 9:6 also. As result, throngs of people covered the road with clothes or palm branches while swelling crowds cheered and/or waved palm branches in celebration.

Our Lord established a new ministry paradigm featuring genuine humility, unrivaled meekness and matchless love. He humbled Himself subjected Himself to those who were insulting, demeaning and humiliating because He loves us more than we could ever love ourselves

What’s all the commotion? Jesus is coming, and He is still accessible to us by faith today. What a wonderful Savior!

How Is Your Heart Today?

For March 28, 2019
To the astonishment of the masses, the sick were healed of infirmaries no physician could cure. More importantly, people were introduced to wonderful, revolutionary, irrefutable teachings of an itinerant preacher, Jesus Christ, who spoke to each of them as though He knew them personally.

Jesus of Nazareth understood and empathized with the people who languished under the weight of the religious intolerance and Roman colonialism during the First Century in Palestine. His audience desired a lasting, meaningful, and personal relationship with God, which their corrupt religious leaders and the government could not provide for them. With sensitive hearts they embraced our Lord’s gripping words:

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 7:19-21 (KJV)

For them it was validation at long last. Someone important—who knew God and spoke for God as though He was God—expressed their innermost desires and longings without laying a “guilt trip” on them.

They were no longer obligated to broadcast their religious fervor as did the corrupt religious zealots because He taught that God preferred our modesty and humility. In addition, fasting, sacrificial giving, moral purity, spiritual zeal, showing love to the unlovable, and rendering unselfish service towards others were now deemed as profitable since these (and other) ascetic practices allowed them to “lay up treasures in Heaven” from the heart.

Today we can find inspiration in this passage; or by the lyrics of a song that contains similar words; or when a Christian serves, shows love, or sacrificially gives to others without the thought of receiving recognition or repayment. Here, the heart is in the right place.

Unfortunately, the warning contained in this passage is also true. When people live their lives in a manner that implies their life’s purpose is “to get paid” as if acquiring material things is the key to eternal fulfillment; here, the heart is in the wrong place.

These people fail to see this earth is not our final destination. As the Bible tells us, we are pilgrims and strangers traveling through it. For some, the journey may be thirty years or less while others may exceed the seventy-year benchmark given in Psalm 90:10. Whatever time we have, Job 14:5 tells us the Lord has determined the exact day and time of our living and dying.

But while we await our departure (and/or His return), the Lord has promised everlasting communion with both He, and the Father through the Spirit. Before going to the cross, He offers us comfort with His promise to return:

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. John 14:1-3 (NLT)

Then just before the Ascension, Jesus reassures us He would be with us forever in Matthew 28:20. His is an intimate, communion that lasts forever. For in Christ, we have the Comforter (Holy Spirit) who gently comforts, helps, guides, teaches, and secures us until we inhabit our eternal home according to John 16:7-15.

We can find true fulfillment in a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ who instructs us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him daily. Because if we try to save our lives, we will lose them, but if we loose our lives for His sake and the Gospel’s, we will find them. Yet, He still asks us today: What is the benefit to gain the whole world, and to lose our souls? (Matthew 16:24-26)

The condition of our heart will always determine whether we will have true intimacy with God. It will also determine where and how we will spend eternity. Some say rightly that the distance between Heaven and Hell is approximately twelve to eighteen inches—the distance between the head and the heart. In other words, there is a vast difference between knowing facts about the Lord (religion) and knowing the Lord personally (relationship).

The Lord knows the intent of our hearts, and He sees all things and will rightly judge or reward us accordingly. Very soon indeed, the Lord will return and receive those of us whose hearts and treasures are not on this earth but in Heaven. Amen!

True Peace With God—And Others!

For March 27, 2019
Our peace with God is the foundation on which our being, identity, choices, and destiny are forever changed. Through the vicarious and efficacious work of Jesus Christ, God deems us as having satisfied all of His righteous standards; suitable to have eternal, holy, and loving fellowship with Him according to Romans 5:1-2:

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

 

Romans 6:23 notes the wages of sin is death. In other words, someone had to die to pay sin’s price and reconcile us to God forever—Jesus did!

Our peace with God is complete and eternal because we are no longer at odds with Him due to our sinful past. (Jesus’ spilled blood at Calvary washes away our sins forever!) God accepts us into His family and into His holy presence forever. Jesus says those who come to Him will not be cast out in John 6:37. Also as the latter part of Romans 3:23 assures: “The gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Sometimes the Enemy (Satan) uses our memory of past negative experiences to perpetuate the lie we are worthless and cannot be loved or forgiven. People who struggle in this area will often say something like: “God will never love or forgive me…You don’t know what I’ve done!

We should be ever mindful our past is immaterial since it has been erased and forgotten by the cross as Colossians 2:14 (NLT) states: “He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.”

The Lord knows us better than we know ourselves. He is aware of our past hurts as well as those “secret” sins no one else knows about. Yet He is willing to love, accept, treasure, value, and forgive us. Thus, we should be all the more willing to love, accept, treasure, value, and forgive ourselves.1

When we have peace with God, we can be at peace with others and ourselves. Here, we do not seek to avenge, harbor grudges, or express ill will toward the people who may have wronged us in the past. Nor do we express ill will toward those who are of a different color or culture. Instead, we give them all a “clean slate” and treat them as though they are precious in God’s sight—just as He does for us.

At Joppa, God reminded Peter that He shows no partiality, and He expects us to follow suit (Acts Chapter 10). There while Peter was ministering to the non-Jew Cornelius and his family, there was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit similar to the one the Jews experienced at Jerusalem, as presented in Acts Chapter 2.

Ultimately through this experience, God shows how Christians are one body, and one family in Christ. Thus, today we can express genuine brotherly kindness (Greek: philadelphia) toward each other, or the social (or horizontal) dimension of our faith (the vertical dimension) in Christ, which allows us to fulfill our Lord’s prayer for unity:

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. John 17:20–23 (NIV)

Christians are a diverse people with Christ at the center. God loves, saves, and treats us as equals, while his Word and Spirit enable us to practice a loving fellowship (Greek: koinonia). This miracle of simultaneous unity and diversity under the banner of Christ validates our distinctive message of God’s grace and love.

The world is a cold, cruel, and lonely place, where smiles are rare, and where people are so busy that they do not have time to establish and maintain connections. Yet Christians yearn for opportunities to fellowship, because we enjoy our interconnection as a Christian family; where even strangers can feel welcome as we share their world and allow them to share ours.

Worshipping, praying, and fellowshipping, sharing a meal, spending time together, celebrating birthdays and special occasions, and attending events of mutual interest are all ways that we show the world that we are a family where no one is a stranger or outcast.

Over time, together we will affirm there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, by growing in His grace and not walking according to the flesh an its desires but according to His Spirit as Romans 8:1-2 teaches.

When we Christians show kindness, honor and prefer one another as Paul teaches in Romans 12:10, we show kindness, honor and prefer our Lord, who says, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren [and my sisters], ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:40 (KJV)

Our peace with God results in a clear conscience that frees us from our past and opens new and exciting possibilities for our future. Now we can express positive, constructive feelings toward God, others, and ourselves.

 

 

Everlasting Life is Possible

For March 23, 2019
I am old enough to remember when if someone professed he or she was a Christian, having moral and spiritual soundness was implied and expected. The hearers of that particular faith declaration expected to witness Christ-like behavior from professors who emulated the Lord in their words and actions.

Unfortunately, moral and spiritual excellence is not the expected norm for Christian conduct. For there are those who profess to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior—yet their words and actions reveal they do not know Him at all. What a tragedy.

There is a difference between profession and possession. In other words, anyone can profess to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and yet not be possessed (i.e., inhabited and controlled) by the Lord.

The Lord is aware of the “profession vs possession gap” and makes the following observation:

You do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. John 10:26-30 (NIV)

Jesus realizes there are people who claim to know Him, and yet they don’t (nor do they have any desire to know Him).

The Bible presents a radical, fundamental difference between professors and possessors. Professors (or wicked) are those whose god is the self; they do not want or need the Lord (or anyone else for that matter). Both sin and Satan motivate these people to fulfill their life’s mission: “Get all I can each day with little or no consideration for God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible or the welfare of others.” To say it in other words: “It’s all about me!

Possessors (or righteous) are vastly different. These people recognize their need for the Lord Jesus Christ and, by faith, ask Him to live and reign in their hearts and lives forever. They earnestly seek Him like the “Pearl of Great Price” presented in Matthew 13:45. When they receive Him, He satisfies every desire and meets every need completely.

In addition, the Holy Spirit transforms and inhabits them so that they will be the distinguishable “New Creatures” presented in 2 Corinthians 5:17. As such, they practice a Spirit-driven lifestyle, which reveals they are truly in Christ.

We Christians are those who will always seek to follow the Lord and abide in Him by doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly before the Lord daily as Micah 6:8 teaches. To say it in other words: “It’s all about the Lord—and others!

In John 8:12, the Lord declares He is the Light of the World; His followers will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life instead. Later in John 15:5, He states He is the Vine, and we are His branches. If we abide in Him and He in us, we can produce much fruit, for without Him, we can do nothing.

As Christians, we possess the Lord—and He possesses us. Thus, we do not operate under our own feeble strength exclusively. Instead we utilize His free, Spirit-powered, internal resources that enable us to practice a Christ-honoring lifestyle, which contrasts the sinful conduct of those who celebrate pretense and iniquity around us.

To secure this eternal, amazing gift of God’s grace and love, Jesus performed a wonderful sacrifice on Calvary’s Cross on our behalf we were unwilling and incapable of performing for ourselves.

Are we perfect? Absolutely not! The Lord is, however, and He gives us all we need to live nobly for Him in our world today while supplying all we will ever need to live gloriously with Him in His Heaven later (in the company of all those who have gone before us in like manner).

As Proverbs 4:18 (NIV) reads: “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” We can demonstrate an awesome Christian witness before those we encounter daily in our private and public lives—for His glory and the benefit of others and us.

We can be grateful to the Lord Jesus Christ for the everlasting life we have now, which we will one day understand and appreciate in its fullest measure.

What a wonderful Savior!

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.