We Can Praise God and Give Thanks

For November 30, 2019
Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem when He encountered ten men who were lepers.1

Because of the contagious nature of their condition, and that they were regarded as a health risk, the men remained isolated from the public. Scripture is silent about their individual family situations, and of how long they had been suffering. However, the Bible does tell us that when Jesus arrived, all of them stood at a distance yelling for His attention and assistance: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

While looking at them intently, Jesus told the ten men to go show themselves to the priests. As they went their way to the priests, they were completely healed of their leprosy, and their skin was cleared and restored.

Luke 17:15-19 (NLT) tells what happens next:

One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

No one can tell whether the nine others felt entitled as if they “deserved” God’s special attention and assistance. Yet the fact remains, only one of the ten lepers returned to Jesus to thank Him.

Only one would return to praise God and thank the Lord Jesus Christ for His wonderful intervention in his life. Truly, the man took to heart that he was a recipient of God’s loving kindness and tender mercy as demonstrated in the restoring of his health and well-being. He also understood that his life was now transformed from isolation to community—now having the opportunity to resume connections with family, friends, and loved ones.

Ultimately, he came to experience a loving, caring, living, personal, God who anxiously desires to intervene positively in our lives for (His glory and) our benefit.

Many of us today seem a bit shortsighted because we take the Lord’s blessings for granted. For example, we tend to forget how we are privileged to live in a country where we can freely worship, express our opinions without censorship, and travel where we want when we want without restrictions so that we can share a Thanksgiving meal with family and friends

Even more, we can thank God for sending us His Son to die for our sins, and to be raised for our justification. And we can thank the Lord for His Spirit, who is our “security deposit” towards our glorious, eternal, Heavenly home He prepared for all of us who love His appearing as 2 Timothy 4:8 teaches us.

During this time of reflection and celebration, let us praise God by giving thanks for His loving kindness and tender mercies.  What a Wonderful Savior!

 

The Lord is More Than Adequate

November 24, 2019
Over the years, I have noticed an increase in the numbers of people who have professed their faith in the Lord, yet they worry about their day-to-day well being.

Doubt and fear are a normal part of the human experience, and it is normal to wonder if the Lord is with us in our distress. In a recent conversation about God’s ability and willingness to answer our prayer, a person who felt abandoned by God posed the question: “Does God even care?

In 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NLT), the Apostle Paul relates a similar situation:

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

It is unbelievable to think how the Apostle Paul, someone who played such an essential role in the development, progress, and stability of New Testament Church not having his prayers answered. However, even our Lord Jesus Christ had feelings of abandonment while on the Cross when He cried: “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?”1

Despite the intensity of our sorrow, or how convincing the Enemy’s lies seem at the moment, we can know beyond a doubt that our Lord will comfort and console us, just as He promised:

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NLV)

As the Lord was dying on the cross for our redemption, He affirmed that His work is forever finished. All that we will ever need for reconciliation with God had been accomplished;  nothing else is required to secure our place in His Kingdom. Moreover after rising from the dead, Jesus reassured us that all power in heaven and earth is entrusted to Him alone. In Him, we have all we will ever need to successfully navigate this life.2

Because of the free gifts that He bestows upon us beyond measure, the Lord is more than able to comfort us when we are distressed and heal us when we are brokenhearted; especially when we come to Him with sincere and contrite hearts.

Ultimately, we can find comfort knowing our Lord is more than adequate to help us meet any situation successfully, just as Psalm 34:19 affirms: “The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time!”

What a wonderful Savior!

 

Ultimate Refreshment Today!

For November 17, 2019
The warm Palestinian sun was near its zenith when our Lord arrived at Sychar along with His Disciples as presented in John Chapter 4. Weary from His morning travels—being around noon—the Disciples went to buy food for the group while He sat by Jacob’s Well.

Almost immediately, a certain woman came to the well to draw water. There she encountered Jesus, and her life along with certain cultural mores and traditions would change forever.

It was customary to draw well water during the late afternoon or evening hours when temperatures were much cooler.1 Although Jesus was considered a Jewish Rabbi, He was forbidden to engage in a public dialogue with the woman.2 Nevertheless, He breaks tradition by engaging in public dialogue.

Moreover, Samaritans3 were considered “half-Jews” at the time of Christ. And as such, contact between the two races was discouraged.

However, the Lord ignored the social, cultural traditions and initiated a conversation with the woman that shifted from drinking the water from Jacob’s Well to experiencing eternal ultimate refreshment through the “living water” that only He provides:

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14 (NIV)

The woman accepted Jesus’ invitation to receive His living water because she, like so many of us today, grew tired of her mundane, unfulfilled life. She too discovered that a life of sin does not fulfill the deep longings of the heart as a personal relationship with the Lord does.

Moreover, acquiring the newest, biggest, or best material thing that we can have might feed our egos or tantalize our senses briefly, but they will never fill the spiritual void we have in our hearts for a personal, loving, eternal, relationship with the Lord.

She discovered that only Jesus Christ can give us ultimate refreshment that lasts forever, and she craved His living water, which He offers everyone freely, and without measure.

She came to the well looking for regular water. But, after meeting Jesus, she found living water that provides ultimate refreshment forever. Overjoyed, she dropped her bucket and ran into town, telling others about her encounter with the Lord and of His living water. Her compelling story led others to the Lord that day as well.

Having living water will not exempt us from the adversity or the pain we can experience in this life. Yet, it will ensure our victory just as Jesus promised in John 16:33 (NIV):

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

What a wonderful Savior!

  

Trust the Lord Nevertheless

For November 10, 2019
In John 1:29, John the Baptist introduces Jesus to the assembly as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Shortly thereafter, those who heard His teachings and witnessed His miracles would follow the Lord in droves wherever He went.

One of His more reluctant followers initially was Simon who encountered the Lord near the shore at the Sea of Galilee. On that particular morning, as recorded in Luke 5, a large crowd surrounded Jesus, listening intently to His every word.

Then, stepping into a nearby fishing boat, Jesus asked Simon to pull it away from the shore so that He could use it as a speaking platform to accommodate the large crowd that gathered along the shore.

Simon and his brother, Andrew, along with the brothers, James and John were exhausted after returning from an unsuccessful, all-night fishing expedition. In their minds, they were distracted by this meddling teacher, who kept them from washing their nets and performing other necessary chores in preparation for a more productive fishing expedition that evening,

One can imagine how the entire crew must have dozed off to sleep occasionally while the Lord taught. After all, they were exhausted from the night before. Even more stressful for Simon was when the Lord finished teaching, He instructed him to launch into deeper nearby waters, and prepare to catch fish.

Knowing that Jesus was not a skilled fisherman, Simon’s initial response was: “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything!” (Luke 5:5a NIV): In other words, Simon was saying: “Lord, I realize you are a great teacher, but we are experienced fishermen. We’ve  spent all night fishing and we’ve caught absolutely nothing!” (Your idea does not make any logical sense!)

We can identify with Simon when we feel our efforts have gone for naught. When we have tried to do things “our way” with disappointing or even disastrous results. The anger, frustration, and disappointment can be most unbearable when we have “taken matters into our own hands” and have failed—miserably.

After his initial angry feelings subsided, Simon had the good sense to surrender to the Lord and say: “But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:5b NIV) In essence, Simon chose not to trust in his feelings, or unfortunate circumstances. Instead, he chose to surrender everything he had to the Lord, and trust in Him for the results.

Then immediately, Simon and his crew were so overwhelmed by the vast number of fish that they had to call James and John on the other ship for help collecting the fish.

When our work yields futility, surrendering to and trusting in the Lord is always the best response. This may require us to:

    • Spend time fasting and praying for clarity of the Lord’s will and purpose for our lives,
    • Perform an honest reassessment of our purpose, mission and goals to confirm they exalt Jesus Christ—not us, or
    • Reverse our current course immediately so that we can conform to the Lord’s divine plan for our lives and others.

Ultimately, we choose to obey the Lord’s instructions and trust Him for the results, nonetheless. Then, we can experience His excellence and our fulfillment just as Proverbs 3:5-6 (N KJV) teaches:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

Won’t you trust in the Lord today?

 

Nobly And Purposely Designed In The Image of God

For May 20, 2019
In the beginning, as God was completing His Creation of the Heaven and the earth, He created man and woman and placed them in the Garden of Eden. But before performing His crowning achievement, God said:

Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth (Genesis 1:26).

Yet in the grander scale, we humans are separate and distinct from—special from all other created beings just as God is special and unique; separated from all others. When He breathed in us “the breath of life,” He purposely and deliberately imparted this distinction within us giving us an eternal human spirit (Genesis 2:7).

Genesis 2:15 states the Lord placed Adam in the Garden of Eden to manage and cultivate it. Ours is a solemn stewardship because we have dominion over the land, air, and aquatic creatures and the responsibility to cultivate vegetation, minerals, and water for its proper use and our benefit.

Colossians 1:16-17 tells how the Lord created all things, including us. But, we humans are His greatest creation; greater than Mount Everest, the Grand Canyon, Aurora Borealis, Victoria Falls, Table Mountain, the Barrier Reef, the Amazon rainforest, the magnificent Redwoods, and the sun, moon, and stars combined—in God’s eyes.

It is the Enemy’s job to confuse and distort God’s perfect plan by telling us we are flawed and worthless. He has convinced many of us that we “won’t amount to anything.” As result, many of us believe we will be “nothing but failures” in this life. However, these are lies because God created us differently, much like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle; when assembled they create a beautiful portrait of His love, redemption, and glory.

The Psalmist declares God designed us with glory and honor with all things under our feet (Psalm 8:5). Truly, God has given us an amazing pedigree that is up to us to accept. However, we must never let our pride and sense of self-importance deceive us into thinking or feeling we are God ourselves. He is the Creator, and we are the created. Psalm 36:6 tells us God preserves the earth and all that is in it.

Unlike any other created being, we can choose to live a noble life that reflects our Creator’s dignity to affect eternal changes in our lives and others around us. Thus, we should never consider ourselves as mistakes or afterthoughts.

We are special and unique persons who fulfill His perfect, eternal design for the universe. In other words, God created you and I, with all our complexity, to function according to His design: to bring Him honor, not the Enemy.

God’s marvelous creation provides us with the undeniable evidence of His existence and loving care. The Psalmist observes the heavens declare His glory, and the skies above are the visual displays of His awesome craftsmanship (Psalm 19:1). Because of the undeniable witness of His creation, those who brazenly and defiantly scoff at His existence have no excuse on the day when they will account for “every idle word” (Matthew 12:36).

Yet, made in His image also means we can choose where we will spend our eternity; whether in Heaven with the Lord or in Hell separated from Him. Jesus describes Hell as a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth; where the tormenting worms never die and the raging fire is never quenched (see: Matthew 13:42, and Mark 9:48).

I believe the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” will be a self-imposed human torment to some degree. Because unfortunately, Hell is the place where atheism and agnosticism will no longer exist because everyone there will instantly become “believers” in God’s existence and His redeeming love and grace freely extended to everyone through Jesus Christ. But they will spend eternity regretting not taking advantage of it—when they were alive and had the opportunity.

Our minds control our cognitive and anatomical functions. We should use them for proper thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and memories. Isaiah 26:3-4 (NLT) is clear about what happens to those whose thoughts and minds are properly fixed on the Lord:

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.

We also read in Philippians 4:8 (NLT):

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

We are to use our bodies as examples of God’s love and goodness in the world and never as the Enemy’s weapons for death and destruction. We are God’s crowning achievements of creation and salvation. We are to live out—to the best of our ability—the noble plan He has designed for each of us.