In Remembrance of Me!

For October 31, 2021
During His last Passover Seder, on the night before He went to the Cross, Jesus self-authenticates a New Covenant with His followers forever,

The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:23-26 NIV).

In this intimate gathering, Jesus institutes a solemn memorial of His passion and death that features His body and blood, the Lord’s Supper, “In remembrance of me” implies we publicly and regularly observe the Lord’s death to remind ourselves of His redeeming work. Jesus promises to share this memorial with us in Heaven upon his return,

But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:29 NKJV).

Thus, we are not to perform this act callously or frivolously. Nor do we observe this church ordinance in seclusion. Instead, we solemnly partake of two elements publically: the bread to symbolize our Lord’s body offered on Calvary’s cross as our complete sacrifice, and the wine to symbolize the blood He shed to remediate our sin, at a designate time in a local church.

Jesus’ redemptive sacrifice was necessary. Adam and Eve’s original disobedience in the Garden of Eden subjected us to God’s judgment. We are sinners by hereditary transmission and can never earn God’s favor on our merit.

Only God is just, right, and holy while we are not. His justice demands payment for sin, and His righteousness requires our total obedience to His standards (the Law). His holiness necessitates our utter perfection—in every aspect of our being.

The payment for sin is death. Jesus speaks of death, encompassing our banishment to a fiery Hell where worms never die and where tormenting fires burn forever (Mark 9:48).

Initially, God instructed Moses to use a sacrificial offering to remediate our sin,

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul (Leviticus 17:11 NKJV).

Although God gave instructions to use a “clean” animal’s blood to cover sin, it was not a permanent fix since we had to repeat the process.

Instead, it foreshadowed the restitution Christ would provide to completely wash away our sins, make us righteous, and restore our lost fellowship with God,

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect (1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV)

Through the Lord’s Supper, we demonstrate our faith in Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, who paid the full price for our sin. We also show that in Him, we find our dependence on Him for our spiritual life and vitality.

Further, we show our hope of eternal life through His resurrection from the dead. The Lord commands us to eat and drink of the Lord’s Supper until He eats and drinks it with us anew in the Kingdom of God.

What a Wonderful Savior!

We Are One In Christ!

For October 24, 2021
Isn’t it amazing how the human species—made in God’s image—is so divisive, with all of the random violence and social unrest perpetrated by what is becoming an increasingly younger demographic? The random shootings, cities aflame, and the increasing disrespect expressed towards other human beings, whether unborn, young, middle age, or old, when we have the capacity to express civility, respect and dignity courtesy trouble me.

It is the church of Jesus Christ or the visible Body of Christ that can present a viable, compelling alternative to the world’s heartless, maniacal madness. Unfortunately however, when we Christians replace our Christ-centered ideals with world-centered ones, we lose our exceptional Christian witness.

One example is prejudice, which gives people an excuse for not living in harmony. (This product of the depraved heart is not the product of the new heart that God gives us the moment we accept the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.) The Bible depicts Christians as a united group, serving the one true God,

Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. Ephesians 4:3–6 (AKJV)

Unfortunately, far too many of us resist fellowshipping with people who do not share the same race, culture, or class, although we share the same Lord and Savior—Jesus Christ. How can we testify to the world that we are one body in Christ and yet maintain world-centered ideals, as though we are soldiers stationed in enemy territory? This should not be!

The Lord described His followers as the “salt and light,” and that we would would change the world,

In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.   Matthew 5:16 (NLT)

Yet racial and cultural prejudice has not been a new problem within the New Testament church. 1 Corinthians 1:10–13 (AKJV) offers a rebuttal to this insidious form of interpersonal worldliness,

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas [Peter]; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

Christ is not divided, although his church had four separate groups vying for supremacy within the church. Peter faced a similar problem fifty days after the Lord’s Resurrection; on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit filled the Believers. Peter preached his first sermon before a vast crowd assembled at Jerusalem, and 3,000 people became Believers.

As the New Testament church grew, certain extremists wanted to preserve Jewish tradition within Christianity. Gentile (or non-Jewish) Believers could no longer have reconciliation by faith in Jesus Christ alone; they had to keep God’s Law and Jewish traditions as well. (After all, these were God’s chosen who safeguarded the Law, and Christianity was a reflection of Judaism, since Jesus Christ was a Jew.) Circumcision and observing other laws and rituals soon became proposed components to the Christian faith for the new Christian church.

Then at Joppa, God reminded Peter that he shows no partiality, and he expects us to follow suit. After receiving a vision from God, Peter ministered to the gentile Cornelius and his family, and there was a Pentecostal experience among the gentile Believers.

Through this experience, Peter became convinced that we Christians are called to show genuine affection toward each other, because in Christ, we are a family. Like a family, we practice a fervent, brotherly kindness (Greek: philadelphia) toward each other. This social dimension of our faith in Christ helps us to fulfill our Lord’s prayer for unity that transcends culture, race, gender, color, or class,

And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. John 17:22–23 (AKJV)

We are new creatures in Christ, and although it is impossible to repair the damage caused by 2,000 years of factions and infighting, the Holy Spirit, who lives inside us, can help us to think and act as One Body in Christ.

Christians have the ability to practice mutual respect, tranquility, and unity with other Christians, sharing our joys while offering encouragement, support, and aid as the Holy Spirit empowers us to do so.

As a Christian family, we have the power to can change the world around as when we focus on the things that unite us, instead of the minute points that divide us.

We who are in Christ are One Body, so let us be who we are: one Christian family, united in love and harmony, with the Lord Jesus Christ as our example of love, dignity and respect. Let’s begin anew today…and change our world.

What a Wonderful Savior!

Jesus Christ: Our Ultimate Assurance!

For October 17, 2021
The word “assurance,” conjures ideas of personal and/or organizational safety and well-being. Webster’s1 offers three definitions of assurance:

      1. : The state of being assured: such as
        a: a being certain in the mind
        b: confidence of mind or manner : easy freedom from self-doubt or uncertainty also: excessive self-confidence: brashness, presumption
        c: security
      2. : Something that inspires or tends to inspire confidence
      3. : The act or action of assuring someone or something: such as
        a: pledge, guarantee
        b: the act of conveying real property, also: the instrument by which it is conveyed
        c: chiefly British: Insurance.

For our purposes here, assurance can evoke peace of mind, which increases or diminishes according to the level of confidence we have in the people and/or systems we use to provide our security.

Recent studies have shown a substantial increase in corporate and personal security in recent years. In 2020 for instance, the North America’s Security Service market size was 32 billion US dollars while the global market was 132 billion US dollars.2  To accommodate our increasing need for personal and commercial surveillance systems, smoke and temperature detection, intrusion systems, fear of terrorism, public unrest, personal security devices, cyber/data security, and theft control to protect the people and property we care about.

In addition, the projected collateral costs to operate our local, state, and federal criminal justice system to encompass custody, care, programs and services for prisoners, ex-prisoners, victims, families, children, and communities exceeds a trillion dollars.3

Much of my life has been spent working with those who have been so adjudicated to protect the public from peril or loss. Yet, I have realized that our man-made security measures will never provide ultimate assurance. Because hackers, hijackers, electronic system failures, operator error, internal staff collusion, and “acts of God” can negate or bypass the security protocols causing a breach in the most advanced systems.

Since September 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers were attacked and destroyed, there has been heightened public interest to secure people, data, and property. However, each year there are telling instances of unauthorized exposure of personal information, loss of property, and the unfortunate loss of life as well. Life’s capriciousness and uncertainty render earthly assurance a fleeting illusion.

Thus, only in Jesus Christ can we find ultimate assurance. He gives us lasting security along with His faithful and enduring promises. The Lord warns about our fretting to preserve our earthly treasures in Matthew 6:19-21 (NKJV):

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Essentially, there are two views on the Believer’s eternal security that have been debated for years. One point of view espouses that we who believe in Jesus Christ cannot be sure we will endure to the end, and that some will renounce their faith in Christ entirely. This view emphasizes that for many, obtaining eternal life will not happen. However, the opposing view affirms that we who are in Christ will endure to the end. According to this view, our eternal life is both certain and secure.

The fundamental difference between the two points of view is where we place our emphasis. In other words, where we put our faith and confidence determines our point of view.

The emphasis in the former view is on our capricious human will and our finite strength. Here, it is up to us to hold on to Christ the best way we can as we face life’s uncertainties—relying on our human power alone!

The emphasis of the second view is God’s infinite power and providence. Here, it is up to the Lord to hold on to us the best way He can as we face life’s uncertainties—completely dependent on His omnipotent power to sustain us!

Isaiah wrote about how God sustains us with His power in Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV):

But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

Our patient endurance is more about the Lord’s omnipotence and faithfulness demonstrated toward His precious children than it is about our finite and uncertain attempts to hold on to Him. Article Eleven entitled: “The Perseverance of the Saints,” of the New Hampshire Confession describes God’s power and providence,

We believe the Scriptures teach that such as are truly regenerate, being born of the Spirit, will not utterly fall away and perish, but will endure to the end; that their persevering attachment to Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes them from superficial professors; that a special Providence watches over their welfare; and that they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.4

We endure because of Christ, the Good Shepherd’s, providence watches over us while His power keeps us forever.

There is a vast difference between those who make a verbal profession of Christ as Savior and those who believe and receive Him as Lord. God provides the ultimate assurance to all those who confess Jesus Christ with their mouths and believe in Him with their hearts,

But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:6-13 (NIV)

Those people who profess with their mouths, and do not believe with their hearts are merely going through the motions. They have not experienced the spiritual transformation Christ provides, and they do not have fellowship with God. And when the Lord returns, He will banish them from His presence forever (Matthew 7:21-23). These people will not endure because they are not of Christ, and He never knew them, as John explains:

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. 1 John 2:19 (NKJV)

We who profess and believe find hope and will always experience the strength, and victory in Jesus Christ that lends itself to the “Abundant Life” He promises in John 10:10, as we progress along these mundane earthly shores towards the glorious heavenly home awaiting us. This is as Proverbs 4:18 (NKJV) teaches,

“But the path of the just is like the shining sun, That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.”

Won’t you give the Lord your heart today, and experience His ultimate assurance?

What a Wonderful Savior!

True Freedom is Found in Jesus Christ!

For October 9, 2021
When we think of “freedom,” we conjure up notions of unlimited mobility or liberty someone or something has without imposition, hindrance, or restraint. Webster’s defines freedom as,

Not subject to the control or domination of another, exempt, not bound, confined or detained, capable of moving or turning in any direction; to cause to be free, to relieve or rid of what restrains, confines, restricts, or embarrasses.1

Human freedom can provide short-term confinement relief, but it is not redemptive because we will always have indiscriminate exploitation and victimization due sin’s presence in all of our hearts. Consequently, I recognize the importance and thank God for the presence of civic and moral law, which helps to guard against the wanton pursuit of personal freedom at the expense of others.

There was a time in our nation’s history when racial segregation deprived many U.S. citizens certain basic freedoms. During that era, we associated freedom with racial justice and equality. So as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others both black and white spoke of freedom, it stirred our hopes for a better tomorrow with access to places and things unavailable to us at that time,

Our freedom was not won a century ago, it is not won today…Today the question is not whether we shall be free but by what course we will win.2

In the wake of Dr. King’s assassination, our astronauts landed on the moon. The ‘60s were behind us, and the ‘70s became our long awaited moment to realize “the Dream,”[“The Dream” refers to the “I Have a Dream” speech Dr. MLK, Jr. delivered during the March On Washington on August 28, 1963[/note] and to embark on our brave new world filled with love and peace—together!

But, as Psalm 118:8 relates, it is far better to place our confidence in the Lord than in fallible human beings, even when we are well-meaning. The onset of personal and political materialism, greed, and opportunism, along with “high-profile” moral failures and scandals, and false promises, coupled with the proliferation of sex, drugs, gangs, senseless violence, and more victimization, which subsequently followed should not have surprised us.

Now, fast forward to 2021, and we seem to be reliving our past hopes for a brave new world. However, five things are profoundly clear in retrospect,

    1. Creating more laws, delivering eloquent orations, and protesting/demonstrating will not make people love each other, especially when an adversarial relationship exists between them.
    1. It is pointless for anyone to expect to obtain the respect or love from another person if he or she does not love or respect themselves (or their own race).
    1. Evocative rhetoric will not change a person—whether black or white—when his or her heart is full of malice, hatred, or ill will. The malevolence within a person will eventually reveal itself with painfully tragic results.
    1. As long as sin and hatred are parts of our normal, day-to-day world, we will never experience “Heaven” on earth.
    1. Only Jesus Christ can transform the very worst of us into forgiven and free citizens of the Kingdom of God. Through Him, we can experience real, lasting peace, justice, and equality now and forever.

Much has improved for many disadvantaged people who took advantage of the opportunities in education and commerce that became available. Incidentally, the freedoms we share as Americans, which we often take for granted, were never intended as licenses to do what we want, when we want, to whomever we want willy-nilly.

The increases in disrespect, hostility, and violence where we should exercise understanding, civility, and courtesy trouble me as well. All of us are free to express our opinions appropriately (i.e., without endangering the health, safety, or welfare of others), without the fear of censorship.

As a civilized people, we are to exercise vigilance and a swift dispatch in our moral responsibility to extend consideration toward our fellow citizens,

The freedom of God is exercised and illustrated in his government of his moral creatures. It has pleased God to create intelligences possessed of moral freedom and to make their ultimate destiny contingent upon the right use of their freedom.3

Human freedoms carry with them a sacred duty to preserve public civility, decency, and goodwill especially within our own families and communities. We share the world with others, so it would behoove us to foster a congenial atmosphere, which is in everyone’s best interests. Otherwise, there will be more anarchy, hostility, and senseless violence to jeopardize everyone’s safety.

Human freedom will not provide true lasting peace and fulfillment, and when we rely on it alone, it becomes a broken cistern,

For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13 AKJV).

Physical or man-made freedom does not address our spiritual being; to be truly free, we must consider our spiritual dimension as well,

Seek God and discover Him and make Him a power in your life. Without Him all of our efforts turn to ashes and our sunrises into darkest nights. Without Him, life is meaningless drama with the decisive scenes missing. But with Him we are able to rise from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope. With Him we are able to rise from the midnight of desperation to the daybreak of joy. St. Augustine was right—we were made for God and we will be restless until we find rest in Him.4

Our Lord Jesus Christ presents a more comprehensive view of freedom—beyond civic change—by emphasizing its transcendent dimension,

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. (John 8:32, 34-36 NLT)

Jesus Christ is the embodiment of truth by which we can know and experience absolute freedom. No longer slaves to sin, we can become new creations with new desires that emerge from our new disposition as 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us.

The Greek word Jesus uses for “free” is eleutheros (Strong-G1658), which conveys the idea of one being unrestrained; to go at pleasure; not enslaved; to be exempt from obligation or liability; to go where ever one pleases.5

Derivatives appear in Galatians 5:1 (NKJV), which present a very similar picture (my emphasis),

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

True freedom can only happen when we surrender to Christ completely. His Spirit within us will keep us from bondage. Now we can be forgiven and free followers of Jesus Christ; called to foster and preserve a civil world with a consecrated, Christ-centered life. Won’t you give Jesus Christ your heart and experience true and lasting freedom?

What a Wonderful Savior?

Yearning For More God

For September 26, 2021
The Bible does not provide us with the exact time and place where Nicodemus met with Jesus. John tells us it happened during Passover, which is a major Jewish observance that runs concurrently with the Feast of Unleavened Bread; from the fourteenth day through the twenty-first day of the first month of the Jewish calendar or Nisan.1

During this week of feasting and celebration, massive throngs of people flooded Jerusalem from all over the world as every Jewish male was required to attend this observance to commemorate Israel’s Exodus from Egyptian slavery (see: Exodus 12:1-13:16, 23:17; 34:23).2

Yet in the midst of all the festive merry-making, Nicodemus yearned for more—he wanted to meet Jesus. Something intrigued him about the Lord. Perhaps it was His many miracles, or maybe it was His remarkable teachings about the Kingdom of God that resonated within his heart such as,

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3-10 (NIV)

It could have been the stories from people whose lives had been changed completely after they met Jesus that fascinated him. Ultimately, there was something about Jesus that was most captivating to Nicodemus, as one author notes:

[Nicodemus] recognized in Jesus something he had never yet encountered. He was so impressed that he sought a private interview with this new teacher, and arranged an appointment with Jesus “by night.” The fact that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night certainly is no evidence of cowardice on his part. It was the natural thing to do.3

Although their meeting was outside the norm since both the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin opposed Jesus, Nicodemus saw it as crucial. Ultimately, it would help him find the answer to the age-old question many of his contemporaries were asking: “Is this teacher our long-awaited Messiah?”

At Sinai, Moses yearned for more of God, but God warned that a physical encounter between the finite and infinite would be impossible without mediation or shield (my emphasis),

The LORD replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh, before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose. But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.” The LORD continued, “Look, stand near me on this rock. As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen.” Exodus 33:19-23 (NLT)

In the Old Testament, one unfiltered look at God was too much for any mortal. So, God placed Moses in a cleft on the mount. Then as He passed by, Moses  caught a brief glimpse of God’s glory from behind. Nevertheless, one brief glimpse at God’s backside illuminated Moses’ face to the extent he veiled his face to keep from frightening others (Exodus 34:28–35, 2 Corinthians 3:12–18).

Now in this New Testament Age, Jesus Christ is the embodiment of everything we will ever want to know or experience about God, and His Holy Spirit gives us access to the presence and power of God in His fullest measure,

For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. Colossians 2:9-12 (NLT)

Our God is morally and spiritually perfect, and glorious in His holiness. This trait encapsulates the very core of His being. The Old Testament word that describes something sacred or holy (Hebrew: qados) depicts God as the One who has a pure, undefiled quality of essence, which separates Him (or “cut off”) from anything in His group or class.4 He is the one, true, holy God!

The New Testament counterpart (Greek: hagios) describes God as pure, blameless, sacred; distinct from what is common or normal and conveys the idea of bestowing reverence.5

Therefore, whether we read the Old or New Testament, the message is clear: holiness is predicated on God, who alone is pure, majestic, and glorious—our God is holy and without equal.

Proverbs 25:2 tells us that our Lord has chosen to conceal the full extent of His grandeur and majesty, while Psalm 147:5 (NLT) reads: “How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension!” However, when we express a sacred devotion or sanctity toward God (or get real with God), He is faithful to reveal His loving, captivating radiance to us.

In the Old Testament, God commands His people to be holy, just as He is holy (Leviticus 20:26). Likewise, in the New Testament, Jesus states we are to live our lives with “no part dark” (Luke 11:36). One can only imagine the impact we’d make within our families, churches, communities, nation, and the world if more of us lived our lives with “no part dark.” It would certainly free us from a world filled with all forms of greed, hatred, deceit, bondage and exploitation. How much safer would our world be if we lived like this? I can only imagine!

As finite and fallible creatures, achieving His holiness through sanctification is impossible without His intervention. God’s life-changing Spirit compels us to revere His creation with a sober view of His eternal being. This will help us pursue His moral and spiritual perfection with all sincerity and dedication.

When we come to God with a new appreciation for His all-encompassing presence and dominion, we can no longer express indifference and ambivalence towards Him because we are driven to present a sincere, reverent, intentional Christ-centered way of living that involves our deliberate participation.

God is a life-changing Spirit whose incredible majesty and splendor compel us to revere Him with a sober view of His eternal being. As we yearn for more of God by surrendering to Christ daily; allowing His Spirit to reign in us, we can grow closer to God in all phases of our lives. We also develop a strong sense of piety and reverence toward God that causes us to crave an even deeper level of intimacy with the Lord.

Over time, it becomes easier to invite Him to reign in every area of our lives so that we can reflect His holiness as Proverbs 4:18 (NLT) indicates, “The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.” Won’t you yearn for more God today?

What a Wonderful Savior!