Our Lord’s Return is Imminent

For March 15, 2019
Christians around the world look forward to our Lord Jesus Christ’s imminent return with great anticipation. Jesus’ Disciples asked Him what would be the sign of His coming (Greek: parousia).

Over the past two-thousand years, theologians have offered many complex views concerning His glorious return1. Yet in Matthew 24:30-31 (NIV), our Lord uses very simple language to declare His imminent return will be a glorious, unmistakably noticeable event befitting divine royalty:

Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

I am amazed at how people dismiss the Lord’s return as trivial when the signs of the times (also featured in Matthew 24) are so prevalent and irrefutable:

      • Many deceivers claiming to be the Christ will arise.
      • Ongoing wars and rumors of war (nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom).
      • Constant world-wide famines, pestilence and earthquakes.
      • Heightening levels of hostility and persecution towards Christians and Christianity.
      • Increasing numbers of false prophets deceiving many people.
      • Increasing immorality and decreasing benevolence as the social norm.
      • The Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed around the world.

Christians need not fear the “last days” since a wonderful future awaits uswe shall see the Lord in His full glory! And as 1 John 3:2 states, We shall be like Him and see Him as He is.

Remember at Sinai, when Moses asked God to show himself? God warned him that one brief glimpse of His glory would be too much for any mortal. So instead, God placed Moses in a cleft on the mount, and He passed by, allowing Moses to see His backside only briefly.

As Moses bowed and worshipped the Lord, he caught a glimpse of God’s glory from behind. Yet that split second glimpse illuminated Moses’ face so brightly that he had to veil his face to keep from frightening the Children of Israel assembled at the base of the mount.2.

If a momentary glimpse of God was this illuminating and frightening, imagine how powerful, how glorious and how magnificent a full view of the Jesus Christ, the Son of God “coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” will be? Awesome indeed!

Then in an instant, we shall forever know true ecstasy as we share His loving, glorious presence in the company of all of those who have placed their faith God since the beginning of time.

Although many speculate, no one knows the precise day and time of the Lord’s return. Yet as we wait, we can stand firm and let nothing deter us. We can give ourselves fully to the Lord’s work because we know that our labor in the Lord is never in vain, just as 1 Corinthians 15:58 teaches.

The Lord Jesus Christ’s return is imminent. Are you ready?

 

 

True Love is Possible Today

For February 25, 2019
The word love conveys a number of meanings, although it essentially names an emotional attraction towards someone or something. We can love our jobs, houses, cars, classical music, pizza, baseball, and that old pair of comfortable jeans. This is not a new phenomenon since the Greeks distinguished parental love (Greek: storge) from fraternal love (Greek: phileo) from the passion between lovers (Greek: eros) as well.

But, Jesus Christ established a new form of love when He commanded His followers, in John 13:34-35, to love (Greek: agape) each other unselfishly—just as He loves us—so that others will know we belong to Him. This is the highest form of authentic, eternal, selfless, pure love that only comes from God. Such altruistic love; this “true love,” is completely free of selfishness; for death is the ultimate demonstration of true love, which the Lord Jesus Christ willingly performed for us at Calvary in order to redeem us.

In our human strength alone, we are incapable of expressing it because we want to know “What’s in it for us?” before we respond. Our attempts at expressing such “true love” have failed miserably since they often produce an exploitative, self-gratifying human expression directed towards a well-defined, homogenous group that has the ability to reciprocate in kind. Here, we seek to please ourselves while those people who are in need of our love in the form of human kindness and beneficence continue to go without our intervention.

It is easy to love people who reciprocate our benevolence and to avoid people who reject us. Relationships fail when we choose not to express the love that covers a multitude of offenses. Conflicts arise when we do not consider how the other person’s needs, wants and aspirations are just as important as our own.

The miracle of true love enables Christians to express genuine, meaningful affection towards other people—without regard to race, culture or class—so that even our enemies can benefit as the Lord teaches in Matthew 5:43-48:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Although difficult, we Christians can find the ability to express His love as we yield to His Spirit, who instinctively responds to others through us in ways that serve their best interests. His Spirit inside of us loves through us without selfish motives or thoughts of recognition or repayment.

When we express this Christ-centered, Spirit-driven love, we live rightly in the eyes of God and humanity. In God’s eyes, we are His children and fully capable of experiencing and emulating His glory. In the eyes of humanity, we are a brilliant reflection of God’s practical and tangible love, which emphatically proves that we belong to His Son, Jesus Christ.

True love enables us to extend mercy and forgiveness to the vile and unforgivable. We emulate God’s perfect love when we forgive others for intentional wrongdoings, show mercy instead of judgment even when we are wronged, and extend good will towards others especially when it is not expedient or it opposes conventional wisdom and/or public opinion to the contrary.

True love gives substance to our Christian witness and makes it more than mere rhetoric. We should never think that it is strange to experience and express a rare, pure, divine, and practical true love, because our Lord practiced it, and He is faithful to complete His perfect work in us and through us.

Jesus Christ: The Son of God

For February 3, 2019
The level of crowd noise increased to a deafening roar as the frustration level of the angry mob heightened with every passing moment. They were infuriated by the audacity of a relatively young man—not quite 30 year old—claiming Abraham rejoiced to see Him.

They shouted at the Lord Jesus Christ: “You are not even fifty years old!” As they wondered how He could claim to have seen a person who lived about 2000 years before His birth.

Then the Lord stared intently into the faces of His critics, and without even batting an eye, He declares:

 

I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I Am!    John 8:58 (NLT)

Stunned, offended, and outraged, the crowd collected stones to hurl at the young blasphemer who claimed to be God in light of the Old Testament Scriptures that declare Yahweh (or Jehovah) is God alone. Three familiar passages are:

• God replied to Moses, “I Am Who I Am.” Exodus 3:14 (NLT)
• Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Deuteronomy 6:4 (NIV)
• This is what the Lord says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies: “I am the First and the Last; there is no other God.” Isaiah 44:6 (NLT)

Jesus did not deceive His critics then…or us today. He was in fact 100 percent God in human flesh as He demonstrated an imposing mastery over His creation by walking on the turbulent sea; later calming it, turning water into wine, feeding the multitudes, healing the sick, raising the dead, and then by being raised from the dead Himself.

In addition, He ascended into Heaven, where He now intercedes for us. Moreover, He sent His Spirit to inhabit and comfort us while we await the fulfillment of His imminent return. Then He will establish His glorious, eternal Kingdom with us as His grateful subjects.

Jesus being God in human flesh is one of the greatest mysteries ever, because as such, He lived a perfectly balanced life of moral and spiritual excellence. And as the perfect human being, He chose not to yield to the lusts of the flesh or to selfish motives when He was tempted.

Instead, He humbled Himself so that He could satisfy all the requirements of the Old Testament Law on our behalf lovingly, willingly, and completely as Philippians 2:5-11 (NLT) teaches:

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Today we can have the forgiveness of sin because a sinless Jesus Christ paid for them with His precious blood at Calvary. Now, we can confidently approach Him by faith with broken and contrite hearts, ask for His forgiveness, and experience a complete spiritual transformation that restores our fellowship with God and leads to an abundant, eternal life.

Let us take comfort in knowing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Can These Bones Live?

For January 22, 2019
Some five-hundred years before the birth of Christ–while Jerusalem lay in ruins with the great Temple King Solomon built a smoldering heap–God gave Ezekiel a message of encouragement and renewal for the Jewish captives in Babylonian exile. Chapter 37:1-3 (NIV) sets forth this amazing event along with its unforgettable message:

The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

In this life, we are certain to experience many harrowing events that test our faith and may lead us to doubt God. Even our Lord Jesus Christ teaches that rain will fall on the just and unjust alike in Matthew 5:45. Our hardships serve as constant reminders of the presence of sin in our fallen world.

Often the Enemy uses our hardships to trigger the onset of spiritual, emotional, and psychological baggage to perpetuate the lie that we are broken beyond repair; worthless and cannot be forgiven. People who struggle to forgive themselves often insist: “God can’t/won’t forgive me…You don’t know what I’ve done!

We cannot change our past with its hurts. What’s been done has been done. Nevertheless, God created us, and He knows us better than we know ourselves. Moreover, He is fully aware of our hurts, the “secret” sins, and the humiliating circumstances we carry that no one else knows about.

And if He is willing to love, accept, treasure, value, and forgive us through Christ, we should be more than willing to love, accept, treasure, value, and forgive ourselves. Shouldn’t we?

Hardships do not negate God’s love, grace, and mercy, nor do they reveal His desertion. Because nothing can separate us from His love, and in the final analysis, all the things we experience will work together for our good as Romans 8:28; 35-39 teach us.

Hebrew 2:1 tells us: Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. To “give the more earnest heed” (Greek: prosecho), implies being “concerned about” or “paying attention to” something. In this context, it summons our vigilance to: “be [especially] careful,” or to “be on guard.” 1

Such introspection helps to free us from the emotional and psychological scars associated with a tragic past. Over time, we can affirm there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Then we can grow in His grace by walking according to the Spirit; ever-yearning for more of the Abundant Life He freely extends to all of us who trust in Him. 2

The New Living Translation of 2 Corinthians 5:17 reminds us that: “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” Here, we can experience the Lord’s Abundant Life now and His glorious Heaven later. At that time, all our hardships and toils will be forgotten instantly the moment we see Jesus Christ in his full majestic splendor. Amen!

Can these bones live? Can shattered, broken lives be repaired and restored? As Ezekiel 37:10 offered assurance to ancient Israel that dry bones can live and become “an exceeding great army.” It offers hope today that decimated lives can be fully restored by the ever-renewing, omnipotent Spirit of God.

What a wonderful Savior!

 

 

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled Today

For January 11, 2019
I imagine that the moon was full that evening when Jesus informed His Disciples of His departure. Instantly, fear and great anxiety overwhelmed them for they now realized their time with Jesus Christ was coming to an end.

Three years before, they were ‘called’ by this  itinerant preacher to leave everything—families, occupations, and lifestyles—to follow Him. Now He was leaving them, and they would see Him no more on earth…or so they thought.

This was certainly one very dark evening for them.

Many questions raced through their minds as they sat together on that last evening: What would happen during His absence? What would the people say? What were they to do next? What about their families? Do they return to their former occupations? Who would lead them now?

But at that moment of their deepest despair, Jesus comforts them with this magnificent promise:

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.   John 14:1-3 (NIV)

Before His departure, Jesus described the ‘last days’ as a lust-crazed world of personal and social addictions. Here, iniquity would be commonplace as we pursue the pride of life, the lust of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh with full gusto. With little regard for the sanctity of life or human dignity, people would brazenly use and discard other people while honoring and cherishing things.

In these last days, false teaching would also be accepted and embraced as well. Teachings like: Heaven is reserved for those whose good deeds outweigh their bad deeds. Fortunately, God does not keep a ledger with good deeds on one side and bad deeds on the other; eventhough there is a day when we shall account for our speech and behavior performed in this life.

We cannot do enough good to ‘balance the books’ because as Isaiah observes:

We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.  Isaiah 64:6 (KJV)

In other words, we are sin-soiled and require internal, spiritual cleansing.

Thus, the promises of Jesus shared nearly two thousand years ago still offer comfort to fearful and uncertain hearts today because Jesus Christ paid the full price for our sins forever. And since He is alive today, we have the assurance of His Abundant Life (John 10:10) now, and His Everlasting Life (John 3:16) later.  In Christ, we need not be troubled because:

  • Jesus freely exchanges His righteousness for our unrighteousness so that we can have true peace and fellowship with God forever.
  • God’s Holy Spirit inhabits us to strengthen our resolve to live for Christ each day as we await His glorious return for us.
  • Through Christ, we have a total spiritual transformation that produces Jesus’ love, peace, joy, faith and other means of grace that allow Him to work out His perfect will in us.

When Jesus returns in glory, then we shall experience the fulfillment of His comforting promises as Revelation 21:4 illustrates:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

When we face those uncertain moments during the new year, I pray that the Lord’s comforting promise will serve to remind us of His incomprehensible love, grace, mercy and faithfulness.

What a wonderful Savior!