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!

 

Wearing Our Badge Of Honor

August 10, 2019
It is unfortunate how some people view physical aging as a curse and will make every attempt to recapture their youth by trying to out-do people half their age. To the casual observer, wearing younger fashions, buying sportier cars, and engaging in social activities targeted to younger audiences are expensive and futile attempts to prove something.

What can we say about these attempts to recapture the past and achieve an impossible dream? Are they coping mechanisms to address the guilt, shame or regret of past failures and missed opportunities? Or are they attempts to relive the nostalgia of our pleasant past? One can never be sure.

Aging is not a curse, and grey hair is a badge of honor worn by aged, experienced men and women who exhibit a stellar lifestyle that challenges and inspires us to excellence—long after they have passed away from the earth.

Without a faith-based, personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we humans are certain to live defeated, sin-enslaved lives—whether young or old. This is as Proverbs 16:31 (NLT) teaches: Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life.

Psalm 8:5 tells how God designed us a little lower than the angels; that we are crowned with His glory and honor with all things under our feet. Truly, God has given us an amazing pedigree that is up to us to accept and fulfill.

Unlike other created beings, we humans can choose to live noble lives that reflect our Creator’s dignity and to affect positive changes in others around us. Thus, we cannot be mistakes or afterthoughts because we are special and unique creations who fulfill the Lord’s perfect, eternal design.

God created us—complex creatures who function according to His purpose: to honor Him always!

Our minds control our cognitive and anatomical functions. We use them for proper thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and memories. Our bodies are His instruments that perform tangible and meaningful acts that reveal His love and goodness in the world.

The Lord did not create us to be the Enemy’s weapons of death and destruction. The Enemy’s mission is to confuse and distort the Lord’s perfect plan by convincing us that our internal and external differences “prove” we are flawed and worthless. Many of us believe we are ugly and that we won’t amount to anything. Too many of us have accepted this fallacy and believe we will do nothing but fail in this life.

Nevertheless, Psalm 139:14 reads: Thank you [Lord] for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. We are God’s crowning achievement of creation and salvation. As such, we are responsible for living out the noble plan He has designed specifically for each of us before we were born—to the best of our ability.

Much like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, God created us special and uniquely different so that when assembled, we reveal His beautiful portrait of love, redemption, and glory.

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!