We Are Salt and Light

August 3, 2019
In Matthew 5:13-16 (KJV), the Lord Jesus Christ taught His followers:

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.

Jesus establishes a new spiritual norm for appropriate earthly conduct that can change the world. This “Kingdom Living” occurs when normal, everyday human lives are dramatically changed as they encounter the Living Christ personally.

Such lives become Christ-centered and Spirit-controlled to the extent that we think, speak, and act in ways that honor the Lord Jesus Christ as His new creations. In other words, the Holy Spirit governs our thoughts, words, and actions, so that we grow morally and spiritually in our commitment to prayer, reading His Word (Bible), attending regular worship, and serving others.

We acquire this new life by placing our faith in the Lord’s death and resurrection to reconcile us to God instead of our futile self-righteousness. We submit to His will while clinging tenaciously to Him for our every need. Now, the power of Satan, the cares of this world, and our own inadequate strength no longer debilitate us as we operate under His unfaltering might.

Our desire is to know the Lord better and become more like him daily. The Lord helps us grow to be more like Him each day and gives us the ability to honor Him in everything we say, think, and do. In other words, we “grow up” morally and spiritually. Our new lives, like savory salt, will not lose its zest, and like bright lamps, we illuminate our surroundings magnificently.

We become active and willing participants who join him in this operation. Here, we are not working to achieve salvation. Instead, we deliberately make godly, moral choices, and we intentionally perform selfless, noble acts because we are saved already.

Kingdom Living is consistent with the Lord’s will that no one should perish but that we all become the benefactors of His grace and love as John 1:12–13 (KJV) reads:

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons [and daughters] of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man [or woman], but of God.

This New Life in Christ is something that all His followers share in common. This Christian Heritage allows us to live out the truths of Galatians 2:20 (KJV):

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Kingdom Living also moves beyond our interaction with God to include our interactions with others as we function in ways that are not detrimental to their health, welfare, or safety regardless of race, gender, culture, social status, or political affiliation.

We are the Lord’s “salt” and “light” uniquely suited to represent Him. Our life’s mission as His Ambassadors is always to model His righteousness and to transform this sin-contaminated, sin-darkened world one person at a time. Our eyes remain focused on Jesus Christ and Him crucified while our feet follow His “straight and narrow path” consistently.1 Should we try to be anything else, we become utterly and absolutely worthless.

We are not perfect, only Christ was. Yet we strive for perfection in Him daily so that we can show that it is possible to practice an authentic, Christ-entered, Spirit-controlled life.

Without hesitation, we love and serve the Lord and others in need and become compelling witnesses that render timely responses to a world seeking answers to many complex issues and questions.

The Lord wants us to experience His abundant and everlasting new life so that we can emulate His moral and spiritual excellence consistently.

Can normal everyday people change the world? Yes we can—as salt and light!

 

We Can Come Home Today

July 26, 2019
In Luke 15, the Lord Jesus Christ presents three parables about a lost item that was found. In the Lost Sheep Parable, the Lord describes how a concerned shepherd left ninety-nine sheep to search for one lost sheep. The Lost Coin Parable presents a woman who searches her house diligently to recover one lost silver coin. The Lord’s third parable is about a Lost (or Prodigal) Son.

These parables share a common theme: something lost is found resulting in celebration.

The Lost Son is especially endearing to those of us who can relate to being “lost” by making poor financial decisions, wrong career choices, keeping company with the “wrong” friends, engaging in antisocial behavior, In other words, doing things that caused harm to ourselves and/or others we later regretted.

From this perspective, it is easy to understand how the son could change his perspective as expressed in verses Luke 15:17-20 (NIV):

When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’So he got up and went to his father.

Revelation 3:20 tells us that Jesus stands at the door of our hearts, knocking, and if we are willing to open the door—giving Him complete control of our hearts, minds and lives—He will provide us with a life of freedom that is completely fulfilling forever. We must “come home” as did the Lost Son!

Jesus Christ, our Lord, Savior and Friend graciously bestows an unselfish love we cannot earn by human effort; a consuming and incomprehensible peace that cannot be taken from us; the necessary provisions that sustain our life and existence, and a deeply satisfying purpose for living that is uniquely suited for each of us individually. What a wonderful Savior!

While serving as pastor in Kelso, Scotland (circa 1846), Horatius Bonar wrote this popular hymn that inspires our Christian faith today:

I heard the Voice of Jesus Say1
Horatius Bonar

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come unto Me and rest; Lay down, thou weary one, lay down Thy head upon My breast.” I came to Jesus as I was, Weary and worn and sad; I found in Him a resting place, And He has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Behold I freely give The living water thirsty one, Stoop down and drink and live.” I came to Jesus, and I drank Of that life giving stream; My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, And now I live in Him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “I am this dark world’s Light; Look unto Me thy morn shall rise, And all thy day be bright.” I looked to Jesus, and I found in Him my Star, my Sun; And in that Light of life I’ll walk, Till trav-‘ling days are done.

Oh how these precious words adequately express the sentiments of those of us who have “come home” to abide in Christ forever. For as Acts 17:28 (KJV) reads: “In Him we live, and move, and have our being.”

Won’t you come home today?

We Are Small Yet Large

July 19, 2019
A prevalent misconception links size and scope with the Lord’s association. Perhaps this derives from our interpretation of Scriptures like Ephesians 3:20 (KJV): “Exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,” and Deuteronomy 28:13 (KJV): “The head and not the tail” depicting God’s bountiful grace and providence towards His people.

Linking material prosperity with God is problematic since His Word offers a very different view of His intervention that is independent of our feelings and circumstances. For example, the Lord Jesus taught the meek will inherit the earth. He also acknowledged and praised a poor widow for giving all she had, and He promised there will always be the poor.1

A similar theme can be found in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (NIV):

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

During that morally and spiritually bankrupt time in ancient Israel’s history, near the end of Ahab and Jezebel’s evil reign, God’s prophet Elijah confronted Ahab and the 450 false prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18. There, the Lord demonstrated His power to consume the water-soaked, evening sacrifice with fire from Heaven after the false prophets and their god failed to consume that same sacrifice.

Yet in 1 Kings 22, the Lord used a lesser-known prophet to declare the exact day of Ahab’s death.2

Jehoshaphat, the King of Judah, formed an alliance with Ahab to defeat the Syrians at Ramoth Gilead. Before engaging in battle, Jehoshaphat asked King Ahab for the Lord’s counsel, so the prophet Micaiah was summoned.

Imagine the spectacle as this one man stood alone among the pomp and splendor of two great kings seated on thrones in their regal glory surrounded by hundreds of false prophets who were predicting a resounding victory at Ramoth Gilead.

It would have been easy for Micaiah to follow the crowd and repeat the same false assurance his contemporaries were declaring. He did not, however. Instead, he declared one simple message: King Ahab will die in battle! A few hours later, King Ahab died in battle just as the man of God predicted—even though Ahab changed clothes with Jehoshaphat in an attempt to disguise himself from the enemy.

As Christians, we should never consider ourselves to be mistakes or afterthoughts. We are special and unique persons designed to fulfill the Lord’s perfect, eternal purpose. He created us with all our complexity, to function according to His perfect will.

Our Lord can and will use anyone, even those considered “small or insignificant” to accomplish a great work that will honor Him and benefit others and ourselves. All He wants is our willing and obedient hearts.

We are small yet large!

 

Just Because

For July 12, 2019
Intimate, loving fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ—especially now, before His glorious return—is of critical importance. Yet it is often overlooked, as there are many who will define fellowship with the Lord within the context of our service performed. This is problematic, because how much we do to help others in need or to point others to Christ do not constitute fellowship.

It’s easy to get caught up in the “stuff doing” routine and lose sight of the relationship the Lord desires for us and offers us freely. Like Martha, as presented in Luke 10:38-42, we can become so focused on the “doing for” Jesus that we miss the “being with” Jesus; the opportunity to sit at His feet, and to feast on His words, as did Mary and others who were privileged to be with the Lord on that marvelous day.

What we do for the Lord reflects the inner work His Holy Spirit is perfecting in us. In this proper context, works rightly serve as the thermometer to reveal our spiritual fervor towards and our growth in the Lord. Since we cannot return to the First Century during the time of Jesus, we pray, read, study, and memorize God’s Word (the Bible), fast, and attend regular worship services to maintain and enhance our fellowship with the Lord.

The Lord wants us to love Him first and foremost.1 But, the Apostle John illustrates how the Lord expresses His pure, self-less, eternal love towards us in 1 John 4:7-10 (NLT):

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

It is comforting to know our fellowship with the Lord is not contingent upon our performance. It is contingent upon His all-encompassing performance on our behalf that reconciles us to Him forever.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord prayed to have “this cup pass”2 and to be excused from the cruel death awaiting Him on Calvary’s Cross in a few hours. Nevertheless, His desire to redeem us prevailed as He when on to pray: “Not my will but yours be done!” Thus, beaten, humiliated, disgraced, and mocked, our Lord loved us enough to die for our sins.

Ironically, Jesus foreknew about His death and suffering long before it happened. Yet created His executioners, the hill on which He was crucified, the trees used to make the wooden cross, and the metal ore used to make the spikes that fastened Him to the cross when He created the heavens and earth along with everything in it in the beginning.

Moreover, He died for us although He was innocent of all the charges leveled against Him. Even Pilate, the Roman Procurator over the province of Judea at the time of Jesus stated repeatedly in His defense: “I find no fault in Him.” Yet He was crucified.3

Matthew 26:53 tells us the Lord could have commanded legions of angels to destroy His captors and accusers. Instead, He chose to pay our sin debt and restore the fellowship that was lost by the disobedience of our ancestors: Adam and Eve as presented in Genesis 3.

Then He rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven where, at the right hand of God, He continues intercede for us. Hebrews 12:2 (KJV) sheds light on the importance of our looking to Jesus in light of His redeeming, efficacious work:

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Ever concerned for our spiritual welfare and security, He provides us with His precious Holy Spirit to guarantee our spiritual success as we await His glorious return.

A hundred lifetimes of our “good works” will not begin to compare with one instant of the Lord’s perfect work for us. The Lord Jesus Christ left His deity and glory to redeem us, not based on what we could do for Him, but because of the glorious and eternal fellowship He desires for us.

It is amazing how the Lord offers His loving fellowship to everyone everywhere—even to those who choose not to believe in Him just as John 3:16-17 (KJV) states emphatically:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

We are no longer without hope, because God’s love expressed through Jesus Christ lifts us from the depths of despair and raises us to the lofty heights of His love and fellowship forever. Although He is not obligated, The Lord continues to do more than we could ever imagine—just because.

What a wonderful Savior!

 

We Can Give Thanks Unto The Lord Today

For July 6, 2019
Although Psalm 136:1 (KJV) reminds us: “O give thanks unto the LORD; for He is good: for His mercy endures for ever,” yet we often take His goodness and mercy for granted. Luke 17 illustrates this phenomenon, where the Lord healed ten men who were lepers while passing through Samaria and Galilee. Yet only one returned to thank Him!

We can give thanks unto the Lord for many things today. I am grateful to live in a country He has blessed in many marvelous ways—often taken for granted: to worship freely, to express our opinions without censorship, to elect our representation, to travel without restraint when and where we want, and to enjoy goods and services that enhance our overall standard of living.

Beyond these blessings, the Lord continues to show His goodness and mercy by sustaining our overall quality of life. In other words, He lovingly and mercifully provides us with common, critical events and activities each moment: that breath you just received from Him; the beating of your heart that sustains your life; the ability to think; to speak; to move; etc.

Even more than these acts of goodness and mercy, we can give thanks unto the Lord for His eternal spiritual and moral workings He chose and perfected for us—while we were yet sinners. Here, the Lord Jesus Christ expressed His goodness and mercy by reconciling us to God through His death and resurrection.

Then He provides all we need to experience an abundant, fulfilling life in this world along with an eternal, glorious life in the next. We do not have to work for His reconciling work. We can receive it freely by putting our faith in Him alone.

“Forgiven and free” aptly describes our new relationship with the Lord. Without Him, we are utterly hopeless with hardship now and eternal torment later. We have ultimate victory just as our Lord declares in John 8:36 (NASB):

So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

Truly, when we consider all that the Lord has done and is doing for us, we can give thanks unto the LORD; for He is good: for His mercy endures forever. What a wonderful Savior!