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?

 

He Still Wants Your Heart Today

October 12, 2019
From the time of God’s Creation until now, it has always been the His design to have eternal, unbroken fellowship with the centerpiece of His Creation: humanity. So while addressing us, the Lord Jesus Christ cites Old Testament Law (Deuteronomy 6:5) to revise the old, established model of faith.

Here, He establishes a new faith-fellowship paradigm not based on our works, (although works can serve as evidence of our faith), but upon our affection instead:

Jesus replied: “ ‘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.” (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV)

We delight in those whom we love. We like to be around them and want do all we can to please them. Thus, to love the Lord with all of our heart infers that we have a sincere, passionate, single-minded attraction towards Him, as the only true and living God, Redeemer…and Friend.

The heart represents the seat of our emotions. No other person or object can dominate our attention or command our affections when the Lord owns our hearts. However, His access is by our invitation only as Revelation 3:20 (NIV) teaches:

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

The Lord also wants our soul and mind, which means that our love for Him is evident in every facet of our lives. In essence, both who we are and what we do. In other words, we surrender not just our emotions, wishes, desires, feelings, affections, understanding, intellect, but also our character, personality, thoughts, words, deeds, lifestyle, goals, aspirations and so forth.

All these things and many more should resonate a deep love for our Lord with every fiber of our being. In short, we are commanded not love the Lord half-heartedly, but wholeheartedly.

The Lord Jesus Christ could rightly demand such love from us because He demonstrated His when He died on Calvary’s Cross to pay the menacing, unbearable debt of sin, which we could not pay for ourselves.

Then He rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven where He intercedes for us today. While we await His glorious, imminent return, His Holy Spirit lives within us, communing with us while preserving us as His precious children. What a wonderful Savior!

We may not arrive at this level of love towards Him in all its intricacies and implications 24/7 in this life. Nevertheless, we can give Him our hearts daily as we set our affections on things above, as Colossians 3:1 teaches.

Although many may dread our Lord’s return, we can look forward to it, as the day when we unite with those other redeemed saints at the Great White Throne Judgment to hear the King of Kings and Lord of Lords say to us, as His beloved and redeemed children: Well done!

Then we shall forever experience His holy, unbridled love in its fullest measure just as this theologian observes:

But in heaven there is an undisturbed reign of holy love. All the inhabitants of that bright world love God supremely and love one another subordinately…The satisfaction arising from this consciousness will never be disturbed by a single doubt or solitary suspicion.1

Won’t you give the Lord your heart today? He’s given you His already!

 

We Can Choose Whom We Will Serve Today

For September 14, 2019
About two thousand years before the birth of Christ, God promised to bless Abram and Sarai in a way where everyone on earth would benefit. In Genesis 12:3 (NLT), God speaks to Abram:

I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you!

Twenty-five years passed, and Abram was one hundred years old when he and Sarai would have a son, Isaac though whose son’s lineage, Jacob (Israel) the promise would be fulfilled. To mark the event, God changed their names to the more familiar Abraham and Sarah.

(Ultimately, Jesus Christ would be the fulfillment of this promise when He freely gave His life to purchase our forgiveness of sin and redemption to God through His shed blood at Calvary. What a wonderful Savior!)

Now, fast-forward about six hundred years to one of Abraham’s descendants, Joshua who was standing beside the overflowing Jordan River. The Lord commanded him to lead His Chosen People across the river to occupy the Promised Land.

Joshua was the successor to Moses, who was the most influential prophet and leader since Abraham. Thirty days passed since Joshua was entrusted with the responsibility of providing spiritual, moral and civic leadership to the Children of Israel. In Joshua 1:2-9 (NIV), the Lord says to Joshua:

Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites.  I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.  No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.  Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Joshua and Caleb were the only two of his generation to occupy the Promised Land, because they chose not to rebel against the Lord by giving an “evil report” after they searched the land. He was well equipped to serve as Moses’ successor. He was with Moses at Mount Sinai when the Lord gave Moses the Law, he also helped Moses lead God’s people through the wilderness, and he led many assaults against the opposing forces east of the Jordan River.

Joshua instructs the priests to take the Ark of the Covenant and stand in the riverbank. When their feet touched the overflowing river, the water stood in one heap, and the people crossed over. That day, the Lord magnified Joshua in the eyes of the entire assembly—as He had done forty years before to Moses at the Red Sea—from that day forward, Joshua served as the consummate successor to Moses, the Man of God, to lead the Children of Israel into the land of promise.

He practiced an unwavering commitment to the Lord. Even towards the end of his life, his desire to remain faithful to The Lord was so evident in the speech he delivered in Joshua 24:14-15 (NIV), that it still serves to inspire God’s people today (my emphasis):

Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!

We can choose whom we will serve today. I too choose to serve the Lord! Won’t you join me?

Love: Handle With Care

For September 1, 2019
Performing good works is the path to God for many people. For them, consistent charitable giving, or demonstrating selfless acts of hospitality, or showing kindness to a friend or stranger in need or encouraging the downtrodden guarantees one’s eternal bliss in Heaven.

There was an era when being raised in a Christian home, as part of a nuclear family was common practice. Then, it was common to see neighbors assisting parents with providing proper instruction to children using revered Bible teachings, especially those of Jesus Christ—even in public schools—because Christianity held a prominent role in the public discourse.

Timeless principles like don’t steal, murder, covet, commit idolatry, worship crafted images, lie, irreverently use God’s name, or commit adultery, along with honoring one’s parents, remembering to worship and abide by the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” were constantly reinforced at home, in church and the community as well, thank God.

As a result, treating others with civility and respect was a common practice for many. As “looking out for #1” seemed to be more the exception than the rule. Altruism was encouraged and reinforced through the promise that if we performed enough good deeds, we would make it to Heaven.

Trying to earn God favor through our good works alone leads to futile exhaustion and ultimate disappointment. Because without Jesus Christ in our hearts; prompting and perfecting our works. Certainly good works matter, but good works without fellowship with God just won’t cut it alone. Because without Christ, our works are motivated by selfishness as we do them not with what’s best for the recipient, but with what’s best for us in mind.

Jesus gives us a new paradigm for good work by emphasizing love as the greatest work in Matthew 22:37-40:

Jesus replied, 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.

The Lord Jesus Christ was the only person who could perform untarnished good works because He alone was without sin. More importantly, He loved us so much that He freely gave Himself as a holy sacrifice. In this way, He canceled our debt of sin so that each of us could inherit His righteousness and thus have unbroken fellowship with God.

Now loving God with our entire being through Christ not only grants us unlimited access to God. It also frees us to express His unselfish love fervently towards others and ourselves as well.

Giving All Diligence

August 26, 2019
At the onset of His earthly ministry, Jesus Christ announced that He could resolve our sin problem with His sinless life and precious blood when He declared: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” Mark 1:15 (KJV)

His was the greatest proclamation in history because it heralded a New Testament age for all people everywhere. Now we can have our sins forgiven, experience a complete, internal, spiritual transformation, and we can have our need for an intimate, eternal fellowship with God satisfied as well, as Hebrews 9:11-12 (KJV) teaches:

But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

This new period in history also revoked all claims of neutrality toward God. In John 8:24, Jesus warned that those who did not believe in Him would die in their sins. Either we can choose to receive His gift of abundant life on earth and eternal life in Heaven, or we can reject it and face an empty, unfulfilled life on earth along with a tormented eternity in Hell as a result.

Of Jesus’ Twelve Disciples, Judas was the one who was so preoccupied with obtaining a worldly kingdom that he refused to trust in the Lord and forever changed his identity from Disciple to traitor with a single kiss. Like many people today, the allure of “thirty pieces of silver” was too much to resist, and without Christ as redeemer, eternal separation from God in Hell awaited him.

Our Lord knew that Judas was a godless degenerate, yet He chose him to be one of His Disciples. Even more amazing was how the Lord loved him and gave him every opportunity to repent. For three years, the Lord revealed His redemptive plan to Judas through His moral and spiritual excellence, His astonishing miracles, and His eternal truths like those in Matthew 7:13–14 (KJV).

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Although tragic, Judas’ example provides hope for everyone everywhere, especially those who feel that God has forgotten them or that they are beyond redemption. In Judas, we see how patient, gracious, and loving Jesus is, as He extends himself to the worst of us freely and willingly. Jesus gives rest to those who labor under heavy loads, with a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light. What a wonderful savior!

Simon, another Disciple, recognized and understood the importance of having a sincere, penitent, and reverent faith in Jesus Christ. (Such a faith yields complete inner spiritual transformation, reconciliation to God, along with the privilege to share eternal blessing and glory with God in Heaven.)

When the Lord Jesus saw this impetuous yet rock-solid leader, He changed his name to Peter (Greek: petros, meaning “rock”). This characteristic was evident during the unfolding of Jesus’ warning to Peter that Satan desired to sift him as wheat in Luke 22:31-32.

Because although he denied his Lord three times, he repented, was restored, and later became the leader of the apostles, who fed his Lord’s precious sheep. Under his leadership, the New Testament church flourished during its infancy. Later, Peter encapsulates our Christian mission and message in 2 Peter 1:5–8 (KJV):

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity [love]. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated these eight moral and spiritual attributes, and we as His followers do so today. In this way, we fulfill His prophecy that we are not of the world and show that we are the recipients of God’s amazing grace and love as well.1

We Believers are the living examples of His good news (Gospel), by “living out” the undeniable fact that God can transform vile sinners into His holy people—from the inside out, even today.  Forever grateful, we are humbled by what our Lord Jesus Christ did on our behalf, which we were unwilling and incapable of doing for ourselves.

Now as the salt of the earth, we can represent Him around the world in a manner that reflects His noble character. 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. Should we try to be anything less, and live like the world, we become worthless, like tasteless salt.

We grow to be more like Christ and honor Him in everything we say, think, and do. Our new Spirit-driven life is born out of a sincere faith that transforms us while providing us with the clean hands and pure hearts that God requires.

Are we perfect? Absolutely not, but God is! Moreover, He provides us with all the spiritual resources we need to live for Christ nobly in this life while preparing us for the glorious Heaven awaiting us in the next life. In this way, we affirm the sentiments 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.

Let us give all diligence to follow this wonderful legacy today!