Try God’s Love Today!

For August 9, 2020
When asked which two are the greatest of all the commandments God wants us to follow, our Lord Jesus Christ replies,

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.1

Isn’t it amazing how so many of us Christians claim to love the Lord and our brothers and sisters. Yet, we actually keep a close track of the times when people offend us. We bear grudges against them—when our love should dictate we overlook the offense and forgive the offender.

Often, we are guilty of “rating” faults or offenses on a “sliding scale” as though one is more egregious than another. However, we cannot make any such distinction since all of us have sinned; we all are deficient of God’s righteous standards as Romans 3:23 tells us.

Imposing an arbitrary “rating scale” on others is outrageously hypocritical when we have unresolved “blind spots” as Jesus teaches,

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.2

All of us are frail and fallible human beings with our own set of flaws in the form of hatred, bigotry, prejudice, envy, jealously, ill-will, pride, and selfishness. Thus, our “sliding scales” have to be discarded.

Jesus died to redeem us from our sinfulness, and He graciously gives us His Holy Spirit to make us righteous before God on the inside, and on the outside.

Once aliens, God has now reconciled us to Him when He called us out of darkness into His marvelous light as 1 Peter 2:9 teaches. He supplies us with unlimited power to love God and others when we trust in Him to save us. Only then can we forgive others to the extent that He’s forgiven us—at Calvary’s Cross.

Using His life’s example as our model, we can form and nurture meaningful relationships with all others that can improve our collective social conditions. We can also advance the causes of others and treat people with the respect and dignity they deserve.

We are created in God’s image; we are equals. So it is incumbent upon us to love others by interacting peacefully with them, without bigotry and prejudicial lawlessness (regardless of our class or gender or social/political ideology), just as 1 John 4:20 (NIV) teaches,

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

It is sad to witness heightening racial and social hostility in the US when  civility, acceptance, and understanding are needed so desperately.

As a natural-born US citizen, when I ponder my personal history and that of my foreparents, there were unfortunate historical events, which yet evoke rage within many of my people today.

Although some rage may appear to be justified, ours is not a perfect world. Exploitation and victimization happen everywhere to everyone indiscriminately. Therefore, there is much work to be done—within all races.

In other words, one particular race did not “corner the market” on victimizing or being victimized. Other races have either imposed or faced discrimination, injustice, and hostility in this country as well.

I am grateful to the Lord to live in a country where we can freely worship, express our opinions without censorship, elect our representation, and travel anywhere indiscriminately. Each of us also benefit from a capitalistic system that supplies us with goods and services that enhance our standard of living to improve our overall quality of life.

Yet, social and political attacks increase against our leaders and elected officials when the Bible teaches in Romans 13 that we are to obey the laws of the land by submitting to and praying for them, regardless of political affiliation.

Moreover, the heightening of personal attacks against others (we want to “pay back” for hurts we’ve perceived or experienced) using social media is wrong. God holds us accountable for our social media malevolence (whether done maliciously or in jest). Besides, we would not want someone to degrade or humiliate us even if they felt it was justified.

We should never keep a record of past wrongs as if we were some self-appointed vigilante. If we all did this, there would be no one left unscathed since we are equal debtors in the sight of God. The Lord Jesus rightly says in John 8:7 (NIV), “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.”

Love restrains us from practicing the sin of harboring grudges, and expressing ill will toward people. Instead, the “Jesus Christ in us” allows us to give them a “clean slate” and treat them as if they have never wronged us just as the Lord tells us in His Model Prayer (my emphasis),

And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us…If you forgive those who sin against you, your Heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.3

Our Christian lifestyle should apply to all areas of our daily, human interaction as we filter everything we think, say, and do through a Bible-based perspective.

In other words, we are people of the Bible who abide by its principles. Although we may listen to secular experts, the Word of God is the lamp for our feet that lights our path every day as Psalm 119:105 teaches.

Won’t you give God’s love the opportunity to change you and people around you for the better…today?

What a Wonderful Savior!

Thank God For The Seven-Thousand Today!

For August 2, 2020
There is a tremendous faith lesson to be learned from the Old Testament prophet, Elijah at Mount Horeb (Siani), which followed his victory at Mount Carmel over King Ahab’s eight-hundred and fifty idolatrous, false prophets, which was also accompanied by an abundance of rain that ended a severe drought.

Yet, this Man of God fled for his life—hundreds of miles away from Queen Jezebel—who threatened to kill him to avenge the death of her disgraced, false prophets. Elijah would recount how he felt alone in his zeal for the Lord, and that everyone had rejected God, destroyed His altars, and are killing His prophets.

After his forty-day and forty-night pilgrimage, he arrived at Horeb where he faced a severe wind, a jarring earthquake, and a raging fire. Then, He heard a “still small voice” and recognized it was the Lord at work. Immediately, he covered his face with his mantle cloak and stood at the opening of the cave and awaited further instructions.

“What are you doing here, Elijah?” God asks. Then Elijah expresses his concerns,

I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.1

We do not have the four-hundred and fifty prophets for Baal along with four hundred prophets for Asherah to seduce us today. Instead, political power and influence, honor and prestige, pride and selfishness, personal possessions and self-absorbing toys, greed and covetousness, personal and professional success, and physical pleasure/hedonistic pursuits—which will not follow us beyond the grave—have replaced them to distract us from turning to the Lord as our God…and relying on Him for our everything.

However, during Elijah’s encounter, the Lord reminds Elijah (and us) of His precious remnant by asserting He has reserved seven thousand in Israel who have remained true by not participating in rampant idolatry so prevalent at the time.2. In other words, the Lord was not calling Elijah’s attention to a specific number. He was teaching a very important lesson, He will always preserve His remnant…anywhere at anytime.

Fast forward about nine-hundred years, our Lord Jesus tells us that the way of life He provides is so “straight and narrow” that only a few will find it.3 In addition, during His Intercessory Prayer, He foretells how His followers live “in the world,” yet they will never become “of the world”4 These valuable life principles remain true for us today.

Typically, God’s remnant does not garner the fame, fortune, or accolades of the masses, even though there may be famous and influential people among them, as 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (NIV) attests,

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.”

We do not seek notoriety since our spiritual eyes are on the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the source and consummation of our faith in God, and His Spirit actively works within us.

Thus, from the moment we meet Christ onward, ours is a life-long race where His penetrating words ring true for us each day,

If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23 (NLT).

God commands us to be holy, just as He is holy, and Jesus calls us to be perfect as God is perfect. He is the Vine, and as His branches, we yield His morally and spiritually pleasant fruit consistently—as His remnant.5

Although only Jesus was perfect, yet we can make every effort to refrain from habitual sin and let our lights shine before the world. Then we can glorify God and be a blessing to others just as the Lord teaches in Matthew 5:16.

Oh, how I long for a time when noble character with principled behavior is deemed as innate Christian characteristics for all of those whom He has called out of darkness into His marvelous light. Why not start today?

What a Wonderful Savior!

 

Give Thanks To The Lord For He Is Good, And His Mercy Endures Forever Today!

For July 29, 2020
In the beginning, as God was completing His Creation of Heaven and the earth, He created man and woman and placed them in the Garden of Eden. Only a loving, omniscient, omnipotent God could combine blood, bone, tissue, and flesh with His Spirit to create such special creatures as human beings.

Eternal bliss was ours with one caveat; do not eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. When our ancestors ate the fruit, spiritual and physical death happened as God warned. Our physical death occurred over time, but our spiritual death was immediate, and it contaminated the entire world with sin.

Our eternal fellowship with God was lost forever leaving us with a sinful spiritual condition that causes us to think, speak, and act in sinful ways. By sin I mean, “A lack of conformity to the moral law of God, either in act, disposition, or state.”1 Through the transgressions of our ancestors, sin became our inheritance.

As a result, we are inclined to practice sin instead of seeking after godly things, by nature. In other words, it is because of our fallen nature that we think, speak, and act—often without provocation—in ways detrimental to others and us consistently.

This fallen nature also alienates us from God since He never fell from perfection. He remains holy, righteous, and just. His holiness requires our perfection; His righteousness demands our obedience to His moral law, and His justice, which is demonstrated in His wrath, addresses our disobedience (with judgement in this life and eternal separation in Hell in the next). Concerning our wretched moral and spiritual condition, one author notes,

[Fallen humanity] will make no effort to remove his moral corruption, for he does not desire its removal. He is satisfied with the state of his heart, and lives according to its inclinations. He is the voluntary slave to sin, and is therefore pleased with the slavery. 2

To many, the fallen nature, sin, and moral depravity are all irrelevant and outdated concepts that cannot inform or instruct the twenty-first-century, sophisticated mind. To the “modern mind,” God’s intervention is unnecessary. Moreover, when asked about the need for salvation, they reply, “Why? Me, a sinner? That’s impossible! I have the ‘right’ name, and the ‘right’ connections. Besides, I have all the ‘right’ things the world can offer—I don’t need God!

Thus, it has been said rightly that the distance between Heaven and Hell is approximately twelve to eighteen inches (or the distance between the head and the heart). So in order to clearly communicate a fundamental, essential spiritual truth, the Lord Jesus Christ appeals to the human heart by relating a most wonderful story about God, our loving Father; Himself as the One and only Son of God, and the world, or all humanity,

The Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life. 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. John 3:14-17 (NLT)

The good news is the Lord can change our fallen nature from vile and sinful to pure and holy, through the Born Again experience (Regeneration) as one theologian writes, “Regeneration is that act of God by which the governing disposition of the soul is made holy. It is God turning the soul to Himself.”3 And as the Bible 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!) For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of His grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all He has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:1-10 (NLT)

Our need for a spiritual transformation is analogous to a computer that is contaminated by a virus. Although it can still function, it cannot at its optimum level. However, once the virus is removed, the hard drive is reformatted with new software installed; the machine can function at an optimum level according to its original design.

Like this computer illustration, sin contaminated us, and we need spiritual reformatting. Here, we must acknowledge our “contamination” by confessing our sin before God. Then we turn from the continual practice of sinful behavior through repentance. We place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who installs the spirit-directed software, which enables us to function according to our original design—at full capacity!

2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, we are “new creatures.” Now, loving and pleasing God is our new all-consuming, lifelong objective. No longer do we seek the things of the world. They have become dead to us, and we are no longer subject to them. Our new aim is to emulate our Lord as we live for Him to the best of our ability for the rest of our lives.

Once proud and selfish, we are now humble and selfless; once aggressive and villainous, now we are assertive and virtuous. In place of deceit, we now practice sincerity. Once we sought to victimize others through hypocrisy, betrayal, and lies. Now we interact with God, others, and ourselves with authenticity, faithfulness, and truth at all levels. Our spiritual transformation is all-encompassing as the Holy Spirit, who now dwells within us, enables us to perform the perfect will of God on the outside.

As one author writes, “The disposition of God to impart happiness to His creatures is called His goodness.”4 We can be eternally grateful, because His mercy as reflected in His love, forgiveness, benevolence, and reconciliation through Christ is far more than we deserve and could never be earned. Won’t you trust in His goodness and mercy today?

What a Wonderful Savior!

The Gates Of Hell Shall Never Prevail Today!

For July 26, 2020
In Matthew 16:13-18 (NIV), at Galilee near Caesarea Philippi, the Lord asks His Disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” His Disciples’ responses were varied, “Some say that you are John the Baptist; others say you are Elijah; still others say that you are Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

Never concerned with public opinion, Jesus asks more direct and extremely personal questions, (But what about you? he asks.) Who do you say I am? Peter’s response, although impulsive, revealed his understanding of our Lord Jesus Christ, “You are the Christ (the Anointed One, the Messiah) the Son of the Living God!” With this, our Lord asserts and affirms Peter’s declaration (my emphasis),

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in Heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:17-18 (NIV)

I am glad Jesus Christ is never concerned about satisfying the public’s opinion regarding His identity. Even today, some refer to Him as a prophet or a great teacher; others say He was a good man who died a horrible death on a cross.

I’ve heard the “Who is Jesus?” question in this form, “How can anyone believe in a dead man’s religion?”

Those who ask this question see Jesus only through the “Son of Man” prism where He dies on Calvary’s Cross one tragic Good Friday afternoon. And if His death was all we knew about Jesus Christ, then we would be “most miserable!” as 1 Corinthians 15:19 (KJV) tells us.

Praise the Lord! Death does not encompass all we know of Jesus Christ!

He is also the “Son of God,” who rose from the dead and walked out of the grave victorious that Easter Sunday morning; leaving us an empty tomb as a permanent reminder of His vicarious redemptive work—yet applicable today to reconcile us back to God—through our faith in Him.

As we acknowledge both facts (i.e., Jesus’ death and resurrection) equally and objectively, everything about Him as the God-man becomes crystal clear as this author observes,

If God did become man, who or what would He be like? He would possess the attributes of God, He would have an unusual entrance into this world, He would perform feats of the supernatural, He would be sinless; a lasting and universal impression would be left by Him. God came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ, and in Jesus we see manifest the attributes of God and the characteristics that would accompany a God-man.1

Jesus Christ is more than just some obscure historical figure who suffered a tragic death on a cross. We can know Him not just as our Mediator and Redeemer, but also as our Great God and Mighty King.

Moreover, Peter’s acknowledgement denotes our Lord as the Anointed One, the Messiah, God’s Redeemer foretold of by the prophets centuries before His birth. Our Lord affirms Peter’s testimony while safeguarding His followers forever, I will build My church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it! Matthew 16:18 (KJV)

The Greek word Jesus uses for church is ekklesia (Strong 1577), which combines two Greek words, ek (Strong 1537), a preposition that denotes movement “from out of something to something,” and kaleo (Strong 2564), “to call or summon someone.”2

As Believers in and Followers of Jesus Christ, we have been “called out” of the world to occupy His glorious Kingdom, represented by His visible New Testament Church as Peter further attests (my emphasis),

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10 (NIV)

In this New Testament Age, we are a congregation of Believers in Jesus Christ—whether a local assembly or the Church Universal (vis-à-vis the Bride of Christ)—who gather regularly for worship, reading and hearing the Word of God (Bible), singing songs, hymns, and spiritual songs, for prayer, fellowship, and service, to observe the Ordinances of Christ, and otherwise participate in every means of grace necessary for our spiritual life and nourishment at our disposal.

Recently, there have been futile attempts to impose civil regulations to disrupt the church’s operations, discourage its membership, and disband its rights and privileges vouchsafed by our Lord. From its inception until now, Church persecution has been a tragic reality and can be expected. Yet the Bible teaches our Lord secures our ultimate victory as well as the demise of the wicked,

The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. The Lord shall laugh at him: for He seeth that his day is coming. The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation. Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken. The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him. The Lord will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged. Wait on the Lord, and keep His way, and He shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it. I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found. Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace. But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off. But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: He is their strength in the time of trouble. And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them: He shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in Him. Psalm 37:12-15, 33-40 (KJV)

There is an old familiar hymn that illustrates how our Great God and Savior attends to His Church Universal—personally,

I Love Thy Kingdom Lord3
Timothy Dwight
1752-1817

I love Thy kingdom, Lord! The house of Thine abode—the church our blest Redeemer saved with His own precious blood.
I love thy church, O God! Her walls before Thee stand, dear as the apple of Thine eye, And graven on Thy hand.
For her my tears shall fall, For her my prayers ascend—To her my cares and toils be giv’n, ‘Til toils and cares shall end.
Beyond my highest joy I prize her heav’nly ways—Her sweet communion, solemn vows, Her hymns of love and praise.
Jesus, thou Friend divine, our Savior and our King—Thy hand from ev’ry snare and foe, shall great deliv’rance bring.
Sure as Thy truth shall last, To Zion shall be giv’n, The brightest glories earth can yield, And brighter bliss of heav’n.

It is amazing how our great God and Savior is not too big to care for each of us individually. Yet He remains small enough to care for us personally as well. This is so that He can establish an intimacy with us that lasts forever.

Won’t you give Him your all today? Be encouraged blessed Church, God’s got your back!

What a Wonderful Savior!

 

We Can Have Blessed Hope And Wonderful Victory Today!

For July 22, 2020
The Bible depicts a time just before our Lord’s return as a lust-driven world of addictions, where iniquity abounds, and where people have little regard for their fellow human beings. Instead, using people while cherishing things are commonplace, as we pursue the pride of life, the lust of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh with all fervor.1. Of these dangers, Jesus Christ admonishes our persistent vigilance,

Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth. Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man. Luke 21:34-36 (NLT)

The pride of life is a self-centered obsession with power or influence, without regard for the safety or the well-being of others. This is in stark contrast to God’s design for power and influence—to maintain civic order, render justice, and to provide for those in need.

The pride of life can be as subtle as prejudice or as overt as war as we succumb to sin and selfishness with the credo, “God helps those who help themselves.” Recently, we have witnessed this phenomenon as people continue to satisfy their selfish cravings through monopolizing goods and services, creating civil disturbances, bullying and intimidation, random or targeted violence and/or property destruction, and through physical and/ or verbal assaults.

The lust of the eyes is coveting things of value for personal gratification. Being parsimonious with our money (as opposed to expressing generosity) is one example of this. God desires us to use money as a form of worship through tithes and offerings. In this way, we can express our appreciation to God for His providence while providing for His servants who minister to us.

Yet, He also wants us to use our money to show benevolence toward those who are less fortunate through charitable giving, (and create wealth for ourselves as well). Lust of the eyes changes God’s purpose into self-centered extravagance as we splurge on ourselves lavishly while being heartless toward others who need our generosity and compassion.

The lust of the flesh is the overindulgence of our sensual desires. Gluttony, substance abuse, and sexual incorrigibility are all forms of this obsession. The Bible teaches that inappropriate sexual conduct devastates God’s plan for healthy, interpersonal relationships. It also yields shattered hopes, destroyed relationships, and feelings of intense guilt, shame, and emptiness.

Nevertheless, because of His vicarious death and glorious resurrection, Jesus Christ supplies us with both the desire and the power to love Him, serve others, while meeting our needs and desires appropriately.

Jesus transforms us from the inside out by releasing us from the bondage of sin, and giving us the ability to walk in His Spirit and resist the lust of the eyes, flesh, and the pride of life. Not in our human strength, but only through Jesus Christ, can we have blessed hope and true, lasting victory,

This is what the LORD says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the LORD. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land. But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” Jeremiah 17:5-8 (NLT)

As frail humans, there will be times when we yield to temptation. Yet, Christ supplies us with the power we need to resist the urge to blame others and make excuses.

Thus, He turns us from our destructive compulsive, addictive behavior to a consistent, noble, Christ-like conduct. Daily, we ask for His forgiveness, reconcile with the offended, and allow His Spirit to strengthen our faith walk.

Over time, we will experience His blessed hope and total victory as we grow into morally astute practitioners of the Christian faith. With our growing moral consciousness, we produce the living fruit that validates our Christian witness.2

Our godliness is a byproduct of our reverence toward God and His penetrating Spirit inside of us, helping us live out a pure religion that is undefiled before God, and to keep us unspotted from the world. Our victory is Jesus Christ—working in us. Bought with a price, we now use our bodies to glorify God, while we patiently and diligently await His glorious return,3

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of Heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of Heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all His glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT)

Most of all, we love and fear God. Thus, we want to do what we can to please Him since it is the right thing to do. Won’t you share in His blessed hope and victory today?

What a Wonderful Savior!