Why Not Try A Little Forgiveness?

For January 12, 2020
Isn’t it amazing how our omnipresent Lord God is not too big to care for us individually? He is omniscient, whereby He has the most intimate of knowledge regarding every detail of our lives—including the exact number of hairs on our heads.1

Nevertheless, the Lord is loving and compassionate enough to forgive us of all our misdeeds and chooses to embrace us as His children—forever!

Here, the Lord desires to remove our false assumptions, presuppositions, and sinful proclivities reflected in escalating hostility, and violence towards others, so He can establish His eternal peace fellowship with us—through the work of Jesus Christ alone as Ephesians 2:1-5 (NLT) teaches:

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)

The Lord characterizes the End Times as a period of escalating hostility. Each day we see the signs of the times in random assaults, terrorist attacks, school violence, workplace violence, and road rage. We live in a worldly kingdom that prefers retaliation over reconciliation, since from a child, we are taught not to let anyone take advantage of us or to show weakness.

One false assumption is the strong delusion our lives are above reproach and “never hurt anyone.” Here, we are lulled into a false sense of security, because when we misspeak to avoid hurting another person, we are telling a lie. Also, contemplating having a sexual encounter with someone—who is not our husband or wife—can be either fornication or adultery, depending on our marital status, and this is sin as well.

In addition, desiring the possessions of others (without having worked to earn them ourselves) is coveting, which is wrong. Similarly, expressing envy or jealousy towards another person is wrong, as is cheating, stealing, exploiting others, manipulating others, disrespecting others, expressing hostile speech, as well as violence, all of which keep us separated from God.

But an even more insidious threat to our eternal fellowship with the Lord is to feel that we have the God-given mandate to keep a record of offences, and to bear grudges against others. Here, sins are “rated” on a sliding scale as though one was more heinous than another.

However, rating leads to falsely characterizing others for their past behavior—even when they now live for Christ fully. We can never make comparisons since all of us have sinned and are deficient of God’s righteous standards.2

Our attitude should always be to overlook the offense and forgive the offender. It’s hypocritical to condemn a person for his or her past when we have “skeletons in our closet,” as Jesus observes in Matthew 7:3-5 (NLT):

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, “Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,” when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

Matthew 21:32-35 (NLT) tells us that our “sliding scales” must be discarded. In other words, we cannot forgive only certain offenses or forgive only to a certain level:

Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.

Our massive sin debt has been forgiven and canceled forever through the blood of Jesus Christ.

In John 13:34-35 Jesus taught it will be our love that brings life to our Christian witness and makes our faith a practical alternative to the world’s counter-productive methodologies. We emulate this perfect love by forgiving others.

Then we can live rightly in the eyes of God and humanity. In God’s eyes, we are His children and can experience and express His glory. To humanity, we are the brilliant reflections of God’s practical and tangible love, which proves we belong to His Son, Jesus Christ.

We should never think it strange to try a little forgiveness. Our God extended it to us, and He transforms us into receptacles of grace and mercy so that we can extend it to others.

What a Wonderful Savior!

Be Of Good Cheer!

For January 5, 2020
I’ve often wondered what the Eleven Disciples must have been thinking while watching the Lord Jesus Christ ascend into Heaven forty days after His resurrection. Here, a few weeks earlier, the Mount of Olives was the location where Jesus made His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on a donkey as the gathering throngs of people surrounding Him exclaim:

Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest Heaven!    Matthew 21:8b (NIV)

Also from this location, the Lord taught them in graphic detail about the Destruction of Jerusalem, (70 AD), the Signs of His Coming, and about The End of the Age shortly before His crucifixion. 1

Now the mount served as a point of departure (and subsequent return) for their Beloved Savior and Redeemer. But before departing, the Lord would give them words of comfort that apply to us today:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  Acts 1:8 (NLT) 

While watching the Lord Jesus Christ ascend into Heaven, two men in white apparel encouraged them (and us) with these words:

Men of Galilee…why are you standing here staring into Heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into Heaven, but someday he will return from Heaven in the same way you saw him go!   Acts 1:11 (NLT)

Amen! Jesus is coming again…and  very soon!

The Disciples returned to Jerusalem, and waited for the promise of the Holy Spirit, which would happen in ten days, on the Day of Pentecost. At that time,  the course of their lives, and the lives of others would be forever changed by their faith in Jesus Christ and the redeeming work He accomplished for them and us at Calvary.

The Eleven had been fearful and were in hiding.2 Some doubted as did Thomas.3 Even Peter tried to resume his lucrative fishing career. However, this failed as he finally realized that feeding the Lord’s Sheep was his new profession exclusively.4

After Pentecost, the Disciples would no longer cower in fear, doubt, or seek personal interests. Instead, they would change the course of human history through their preaching, teaching and faithful, diligent service.

In essence, these men, along with those of us who would follow them became the “salt and light” Jesus foretold of in Matthew 5:13-16 (NLT):

You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

In this life, we are certain to experience trials and suffering. However, in John 16:33, the Lord Jesus Christ promises us His rich, abiding peace, which we will never find anywhere else on earth.

But best of all, because He overcame the world triumphantly, and because He now lives within us, in the person of the Holy Spirit, we can be of good cheer because we know that we will overcome triumphantly as well. What a Wonderful Savior!  

 

Happy New Year!

For January 1, 2020

At 12:00 AM, January 1, 2020 of the Gregorian Calendar, we celebrate two thousand and twenty years since the birth of Jesus Christ.1, and thereby acknowledge the birth of the most influential person in human history.

It is also a time when many of us begin the New Year resolving to improve our circumstances by accomplishing identified personal and professional goals we call New Year’s Resolutions.

Exercise, rest, diet, write a book, seek professional advancement, take a trip to an exotic location, spend more time with family and loved ones, are all positive resolution ideas. I feel however, our greatest personal or professional goal is God-centered as Moses observed as he charged Ancient Israel in Deuteronomy 10:12-13 (NLT):

What does the LORD your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the LORD your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul. And you must always obey the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good.

In our own strength, ultimately we  fail since we have live in sin-tainted bodies that move us think, speak, and act—often without provocation—in ways detrimental to others (including God) and ourselves. This, our governing disposition, needs to change before we can experience oneness with God.

The good news is God changes our governing disposition through the Born Again experience or Regeneration, which is the wonderful act of God when He changes the governing disposition of the soul, making it holy and turns the soul to Himself.2

A computer that has been contaminated by a virus may still functions, but not at optimum capacity. However, once the virus is removed, the hard drive is reformatted, and new software installed; the machine can function at an optimum capacity—according to its original design.

Much like this computer illustration, sin contaminated us, and we need God’s spiritual reformatting made available to us through faith in Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection secured our moral and spiritual transformation as well as our eternal reconciliation to God.

Here, by faith we acknowledge our contamination by confessing our sin before God. Then we turn from the continual practice of sinful behavior through repentance. We place our full trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, who installs the spirit-directed software, which enables us to function according to our original design—at full capacity!

With a new, transformed appreciation for God, we can no longer express indifference and ambivalence about our church involvement because we are driven to present a sincere, reverent, intentional Christ-centered way of living that involves our deliberate participation.

Our new life reflects the Spirit’s work within us and our desire to grow closer to God in all phases of our lives. Much like a compass needle that points north because of the magnetic forces, our freedom in Christ points others to the Christ who lives in and works through us.

We also develop a strong sense of piety and reverence toward God while craving a deeper intimacy level in our fellowship with Him. Each day, it becomes easier to invite Him to reign in every area of our lives so that we can reflect His holiness.

God is a life-changing Spirit whose incredible majesty and splendor compel us to revere Him with a sober view of His eternal being. This helps us pursue His moral and spiritual perfection with all sincerity and dedication.

With this Spirit-driven, distinguishable lifestyle, we now can keep our word, speak the truth in love, and ask for help when we need it. Confiding in a pastor, a trusted, mature Christian friend, or a qualified professional can be invaluable to us as we seek to attain spiritual and moral balance.3

In this New Year, let’s live our lives this decade—full of faith—in spiritual, emotional, and psychological harmony with God and others as we grow “in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and others” as did our Lord according to Luke 2:52. Then we can live stellar lives, never resorting to blaming others or using flimsy excuses to escape accountability.

Instead, we ask God for forgiveness, we reconcile with the offended person (or persons), and we practice an improved moral and spiritual lifestyle, just as God intended us to live. Why not begin at 12:00 AM today!

 

Happy Birthday Jesus!

For December 25, 2019
We desire to be with loved ones on special occasions. This is especially true during the Holiday Season as reflected in a recent Transportation Security Administration (or TSA) report of record numbers of travelers during this past Thanksgiving Holiday. For instance, on December 1, 2019, more than 2.8 million travelers were screened at TSA checkpoints nationwide, marking its busiest day on record.1

Our Loving, Holy and Eternal God, who created the Heavens and the Earth, was deeply motivated by a yearning to restore the fellowship He Had with a fallen humanity—like He shared with Adam and Eve, our ancestors in the beginning.

We will never know the size of our universe since the more we explore the more galaxies we yet discover. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA reports that beyond our own galaxy lies billions of galaxies.2

Nevertheless, in the fullness of time, our Living God easily bridged this vast expanse so that He could demonstrate His matchless love for us in an unmistakable way about two thousand years ago. Luke 2:8-14 (NKJV) describes this event:

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, 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, goodwill toward men!”

Jesus’ birth facilitated a new human relationship paradigm between God and humanity based on His peace and goodwill. Here, all God’s promises concerning the forgiveness of sin, reconciliation, peace, and forgiveness that were directed towards His Chosen People (vis-à-vis the Jews) exclusively, as conveyed through the prophets, priests, the Holy Scriptures, and through sacred family traditions and customs were now available to all of us—men, women, boys, and girls everywhere—by faith.

In other words, all of us now have the opportunity to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and as Savior in order to receive the promise of abundant life in this world leading to eternal life with Him in the next as Philippians 2:5-11(NLT) attests:

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Either in this life or in the next, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess Jesus Christ as Lord to the glory of God the Father. There is a far better outcome for us if it happens in this life out of our free will motivated by our love for Him. Then the result is eternal, loving fellowship. In the next life, the outcome is far more severe since it is by compulsion as we succumb to His omnipotence and invincibility before being relegated to spending eternity in a tormenting Hell.

Yes! We can celebrate the birth of this wonderful Baby Boy, Jesus Christ, on Christmas Day realizing His physical life began privately in a Bethlehem manger, but it will end publically on Calvary’s Cross.

Yet, when He rose from the dead, as our Redeemer, He won us back to God so that we could have fellowship with Him forever. What a Wonderful Savior!

 

In Darkness, The Human Race Awaits

For December 15, 2019
Seven-hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ, Isaiah observed:

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.   Isaiah 9:6 (NKJV)

These prophetic words earmarked a new day for those of us who did not know the Covenant God of Israel. We droped in darkness—without God’s grace—doomed to spend an eternity separated from God’s eternal presence.

People in Jesus Christ’s day were unaware of and oblivious to His lowly birth in a Bethlehem manger. This was because the shepherds’ testimony of the Heavenly Host declaring: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14 NKJV), was not reported in the local news.

Just as the people did two-thousand years ago, today we see the tragic outcomes of sin in a world that seems to grow more and more deficient of consciousness and civility by the moment. Leaving us to wonder how people—even as young children—can perform violent acts and vicious murder.

We never consider how our sin produces evil acts, and that our sin is a byproduct of the fallen nature we’ve obtained at birth and that by nature, we demonstrate the following tendencies consistently:

    • We are proud, selfish, and dishonest in our interactions with others and God
    • We are disobedient, rebellious, and ungodly by nature
    • Since our reality is based on what we can empirically see, feel, touch, taste, and smell, we only understand those things that only “make sense” to us
    • We have a darkened mind that conjures up evil actions

Yet today in darkness, the human race awaits the grace of God, manifested in Jesus Christ, the Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, who reconciles us to God as Son of God, Lamb of God, and sin-less substitute before God.

Only through Jesus Christ, we can be redeemed recipients of God’s grace through faith. Now we can act differently from the world because:

    • Our sins are washed away and completely forgiven (no longer held captive by sin)
    • His Holy Spirit, living inside us produces holy fruit of noble character and conduct
    • His mind dominates out thinking influencing our Godly thoughts and speech

Because of this wonderful First Christmas Gift, we can be new creatures. God’s grace alters us drastically, so that we are no longer of this world as we conform to the moral and spiritual image of Jesus Christ.

As benefactor of God’s wonderful gift, Jesus makes us suitable to spend our present and future lives with the Lord and know Him as our God, Friend, and Keeper. What a Wonderful Savior!