How Awesome Is God’s Plan For Us

For June 6, 2021
It is amazing how many of us have forgotten our God-given identity. He has created us in His image and endowed us with a personal and distinct life purpose. Sadly, human hearts that do not embrace the Lord’s intricate design, often experience distress and peril,

In the morning you will say, “If only it were evening!” and in the evening, “If only it were morning!”–because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see. (Deuteronomy 28:67 NIV)

Hosea 4:6 (NKJV) states, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Thus, the current political uncertainty, coupled with recent spikes in crime, racial polarization, random shootings, terrorism in the US and abroad, and suicides are “real time” indicators of the helplessness many of us experience in today’s world.

Our recent suicide rates are telling statistics. For instance, although it was the second leading cause of death in 1999 for the 25-34 age group, it spiked within 20 years to become the second leading cause of death for the 10-34 age group in 2019.1

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers no single reason for a person to decide to take their own life. Life stresses combined with childhood trauma, substance use, and chronic physical pain can be contributing factors to this self-harm act.2

Inflicting harm on others or ourselves do not reflect what Jesus Christ says is our God-given purpose,

One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 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.” (Matthew 22:35-40 NLT)

We are the “crowning achievement” of God’s marvelous creation. Unlike all other created beings, we can choose to love God, our neighbors and ourselves deeply while living noble lives that reflect our Creator’s glory and dignity.

Satan’s job is to confuse and distort God’s perfect plan by telling us that our differences “prove” we are flawed, worthless or won’t amount to anything. As result, many of us have embraced the idea that we will be failures in life.

But these are lies because no two of us are exactly alike by God’s design. He has created us differently—much like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle—to make a beautiful portrait of His love, redemption, and glory when He joins all the pieces together in Heaven.

We are not mistakes or afterthoughts. Instead, we are uniquely designed to fulfill His perfect will. In other words, God created us, with all our complexities, to function according to His design—to honor Him.

Consider our human mind, which controls our cognitive and anatomical functions. God also designed it for us to have proper thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and memories as Philippians 4:8 (NLT) teaches,

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

In addition, God created our bodies to be expressions His grace, kindness, and love around the world; not as weapons for pain, death, and destruction. We are to live out His noble plan to enjoy an abundant life that is filled with loving God while helping and healing others around us—including ourselves.

Because of the presence of sin in the world, we have lost both God’s fellowship and perspective. We concern ourselves with loving the things of this world that do not last, while we spend little time loving those Christ-centered things that are eternal.

For too many, it is far more important to chase career goals and miss church services regularly; to purchase a new boat for recreation seems more financially responsible than giving our tithes and offerings; to splurge on us instead of helping others in need seems to be a far more constructive use of our time and resources.

And for others, raising children to be spiritually ambivalent seems far more practical than teaching them about God, reading His Word to them, and teaching them right from wrong. Our children need to know that lying, cheating, and stealing (or what many of us use “to survive in this dog-eat-dog world”) are an affront to the Lord, and to His perfect righteousness within us.

Although there are those who futilely try to discredit our God-given purpose, still God has not. Through faith in Jesus Christ, God can break the curse of sin forever to create His offspring who will do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before Him daily (Micah 6:8).

Jesus declares He is the light of the world, and anyone who follows Him will “not walk in darkness but will have the light of life instead” (John 8:12). Thus, we can be a changed people, who by His Spirit’s power live out our true identity—now and forever,

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing (John 15:5 NKJV).

God’s purpose is that we contrast the prevalent, sinful lifestyles of those who celebrate pretense and reward dishonesty. We can do so as we allow His Holy Spirit to work through us to share a compelling Christian witness with those we encounter in our personal and social lives.

Through Christ, we can embrace His perspective and realize how we are the unique and significant parts of His wonderful master plan. Won’t you embrace Him today and live out your full potential in Christ?

What a Wonderful Savior!

God’s Word Will Be True Forever!

For May 30, 2021
Truth and honesty have become extremely priceless commodities in today’s world due to their scarcity in public circles. Any person having committed themselves to communicating truth with honesty while pursuing sincerity with personal integrity is vilified by our modern-day media, political/social, and religious prognosticators.

It has become far too easy to engage in duplicity through deception and false information for nefarious purposes (i.e., personal gain, criminal activity, and civic/social unrest), which are antithetical to optimum life quality for all, than to courageously “speak the truth in love” while living it out in every phase of our personal and public lives.

We can be grateful that for about six-thousand years of human history, we can still rely on God’s Word as our supreme source of absolute truth, which silences all the lies, deception, and misinformation that bombards us every day.

Herein lies the central theme of Proverbs 31:5-6,

Every word of God is pure,
A shield to those who take refuge in Him.
Do not add to His words,
Lest He indict you and you be proved a liar.1

In these troubling times, we can be especially comforted knowing that our faith in what Jesus Christ performed on our behalf by dying on Calvary’s Cross for our sins, and by raising Himself from the dead to secure our reconciliation with God allows us to have a loving, purpose-filled life on earth.

Moreover, once we invite Him to be our personal Savior and Lord, we then can have His guarantee—the Holy Spirit living inside us—to ensure we will experience a glorious eternal life with Him in Heaven that exceeds our wildest dreams,

That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT).

God’s Word warns that flesh and blood will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50). In other words, we can not expect to attain eternal bliss with God in our present, finite and sinful human condition.

Nevertheless, the Lord is the giver and sustainer of all life. He also supplies the answer to every question, and the solution to every problem we will ever face. So, when He calls us from labor to reward, we who know Him, through faith in Christ, will experience the pinnacle of His redemptive work where the “wicked will cease from troubling, and the weary will be at rest” (Job 3:17).

Our eternal destiny requires we occupy immortal bodies (that resemble Christ’s resurrected body) so that we can experience God’s eternal presence in His full glory. Our eternal bodies will be free from sin, pain, and disease, and completely capable of having eternal fellowship with the Lord. John, the Apostle tells us in 1 John 3:2 that we will see Him as He is, and we will be like Him as well.

Such a world will have no need for the sun and moon since God’s glory will brighten it. Crime will not exist; neither will there be a need for keys to lock our doors since righteousness and goodness will prevail in our hearts. Of our glorious transformation, God’s Word says,

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, death is swallowed up in victory (1 Corinthians 15:54 AKJV).

Jesus Christ is Lord, Savior, and Righteous Judge—period! Those people who choose not to acknowledge Him in this life as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29) will know Him as the Eternal Judge before whom we give account for all we’ve done in this life…both good and bad (Revelation 20:12).

However, for those of us who love him; whose faith begins and ends with him, He is our hope, peace, expectation, and great reward. As James 4:6 tells us, “God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.” Thus by His amazing grace, our personal faith in Christ becomes the foundation on which our being, position, choices, and destiny are forever secured.

Just like airplanes without a pilot sit motionless on the tarmac. We too cannot achieve flight without our Eternal Pilot in the cockpit at our controls. With a humble, reverent, and sincere faith in Jesus Christ, we are assured to reach our final destination safely. Won’t you trust in the Lord and His reliable, eternal Word today?

What a Wonderful Savior!

When The Dust Settles

For May 23, 2021
How can anyone capture the emotions, anxieties, fears, doubts, and worries that plague us when our presuppositions concerning God, the world around us, and ourselves are in direct conflict with our understanding of what we think the Bible says?

Initially, we experience euphoria when we realize God has given us  His eternal love, redemption, forgiveness, freedom, liberty and peace. We are at our highest point because we belong to God, and He belongs to us—life is very good!

Then, adversity strikes unexpectedly in the loss of a child, parent, or someone dear to us; poor health, a near-death experience, sudden career change, loss of income, loss of property and/or possessions. Like the recent pandemic, these things are beyond our control and can trouble us severely.

Some of us seek comfort from those who are near and dear to us while others of us try to anesthetize our pain through substance use or sex. More still cope by using work as a distraction through jobs, volunteer service, or even church activity. Still others cope through isolation by shutting themselves away from the world around them.

Although it can be virtually impossible to find sanity during our most excruciating moments, we will never find comfort through external means.

The Bible tells us how to handle life after “the dust settles” by looking at it from its proper perspective. We live in a sin-sick, fallen world where things happen. It also tells us we can be our own worst enemy due to poor choices that lead to disastrous outcomes. Unfortunately, here we blame God for our calamity,

The foolishness of a man twists his way, And his heart frets against the Lord (Proverbs 19:3 NKJV).

Many who have experienced disappointment, loss, or trauma have chosen to rethink God’s goodness, faithfulness, and providence briefly, indefinitely, or even permanently by walking away from Him.

Jesus taught how we will receive and respond to His Word in adversity in His parable of of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-9 NKJV),

Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

Like the “good ground,” in this parable, David took the proper response to adversity. Here, he and his men were devastated by the loss of their families and property, and they cried until they had no more tears. He found no relief in his confederates, because they blamed him for their loss and spoke of stoning him to death.

He knew that God was with him, and so he “strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). True comfort comes from the inside out when we rely on our Friend who is closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).

We can always trust Him for answers, security, and lasting comfort—in any situation. Job’s poignant words ring true here, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15 AKJV). Despite his adversity, Job focused on what really matters,

I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself, Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought (Job 19:25-27 NLT)!

Look at Moses as presented in Exodus 1-3 for example. Imagine how disgraced he must have felt while he was tending Jethro’s flock on the backside of the mountain in the Sinai desert. He had been accustomed to all the pageantry and splendor of Ancient Egypt as Pharaoh’s grandson before he killed an Egyptian and fled the country for his very life.

He was responsible for his disgrace and exile having murdered an Egyptian. And for forty years, this former prince wore the titles of “murderer,” “fugitive,” and “vagabond” with Jethro’s flock as subjects of his kingdom.

Nevertheless, his life was not over. God had a special purpose for Moses that was beyond his wildest dreams. After he found the Holy One in the Sinai Desert, he began a life of consecrated and illustrious service. (Incidentally, God ultimately transformed this mountain from a place of isolation, shame, and disgrace to a point of faith, hope, and promise for Moses and the Nation of Israel.)

Because he trusted the Lord despite his circumstances, the Lord used him to provide the ceremonial and judicial principles that influence the religious affairs of God’s people today.

What really matters is that God is with us, and He will continue to be with us always—especially during our most painful moments—even when it is difficult to distinguish whether we are culpable for our “dust settling” or not.

There have been times when I too have blamed the Lord for troubling outcomes that did not meet my expectations. On those occasions, God seemed to be absent, although I knew Him personally and intimately. Those were moments when I felt spiritually empty as I went through the motions. In other words, I too have had my share of troubling “backside of the mountain” experiences.

But, after a time of somber, honest, and objective thought and reflection, coupled with some well-timed biblical counseling, it became even clearer that my poor choices caused my unfortunate circumstances.

In retrospect, it was at those times when I was angry with God and blamed Him for my predicament. However ultimately, those were also the times when an attitude adjustment was needed. The Holy Spirit was there to remind me that I should never be angry with God. Nor should I consider not serving Him. I was the one in error, not Him, and I needed to repent and return to Him—not Him to me.

We should not be so quick to abandon our faith in the Lord during tough times. Jesus Christ is the answer to every question and the solution to every problem. Thus, our intent should be to lean into Him even more during times of crisis as the Bible 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 (Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV).

We can trust in the Lord despite adversity. He loves us deeply and is faithful in everything. Won’t you rely on Him today?

What a Wonderful Savior!

Our Stellar Christian Witness

For May 16, 2021
When asked which was the greatest of all God’s Commandments, Jesus said there were two; to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:36–40, Mark 12:28–34, Luke 10:25–37). The Lord’s answer discloses how we are to live in harmony with God, neighbors, and ourselves—especially when we are meeting our physical, social, and aesthetic needs appropriately.

In other word, our altruism can sustain and improve the quality of life for others and ourselves. However, when we exploit people for our own sensual gratification, danger ensues to everyone’s detriment. Thus, Jesus offers this profound illustration to tell how important His Followers are as we impact our world and glorify God,

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:13–16 (NKJV)

The Bible speaks about how in the last days false teachers will promote a form of lawlessness where no longer do the Word of God and the Holy Spirit inform and direct our thoughts, words, and actions exclusively. Instead, we consider whatever feels good (or whatever feels right) with far greater value.

As a result, too many of us today live conflicted lives as we try to accommodate two diametrically opposed realities. One reality features Christ as savior where His abundant and eternal life prevails. The other reality features Satan, the world and self where a life of sin and debauchery prevails.

Just before our Lord’s return, our world will be lust-driven where iniquity abounds and where people no longer have a regard for their fellow human beings. Here, using people and cherishing things is commonplace as we pursue the pride of life, the lust of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh with all fervor.

The pride of life is a self-centered obsession with power or influence, without regard for the safety or the well-being of others, which is in stark contrast to God’s design for power and influence: to maintain order, render justice, and help others in need.

When we succumb to this particular sin, we turn our focus away from others and onto ourselves. With a new credo, “God helps those who help themselves,” or “I’ve got to get paid,” we resort to satisfying our selfish cravings at the expense of others.

Over the last few years, we have witnessed an escalation in the abuse of power that has manifested itself in global tyranny and violence, adversely affecting so many of us around the world.

The lust of the eyes is coveting things of value for our own aesthetic gratification. The love of money is one example of this. God wants us to use our money as a form of worship through tithes and offerings, which express our appreciation to God for His providence while providing for His servants who minister to us.

God also wants us to use our money to show benevolence toward others who are less fortunate through charitable giving and to create wealth for ourselves as well. The lust of the eyes changes purpose for money into selfish extravagance. We splurge on ourselves and are cold toward others in need of our generosity and compassion.

The lust of the flesh is the overindulgence of our sensual desires. Gluttony, substance abuse, and sexual incorrigibility are all forms of this obsession. The Bible also teaches that sexual incorrigibility devastates God’s plan to sustain healthy, interpersonal relationships. Fornication, adultery, homosexuality, masturbation, voyeurism, pedophilia, rape, and pornography all lead to what one writer considers as a false intimacy,

The fantasies of a sex addict are feeble attempts to gain what only God is capable of giving, which we will experience partially on earth and fully in Heaven. Sexual fantasy can conjure up a perfect world of nourishment, love, generosity, and tenderness. The truth is, however, that when we try to bury the core reality of emptiness, the result is false intimacy, not genuine. When we insist that our needs of intimacy be fulfilled and ignore the reality that loneliness is always present, we get the very opposite of what we’re demanding: We’re left alone to stare with open eyes at the harsh reality of nakedness.1

Promiscuity and debauchery are not the identification badges we are to display before the world. Our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to represent Him—as salt and light—with moral and spiritual purity. The Holy Spirit gives us the remarkable ability to resist not only the lusts of the flesh in general, but also our sexual cravings in particular.

Sexual gratification outside of God’s intended purpose of monogamous relationships yields shattered hopes, destroyed relationships, and feelings of intense guilt, shame, and emptiness. People who seek mere physical enjoyment in sex, outside of the commitment of love and fidelity in marriage, are deceiving themselves as this writer notes,

Don’t buy into the promotion of sex as mere physical enjoyment totally apart from the commitment of love. Men [and women] who open their Christmas present before the holiday invariably find themselves bored by the celebration.2

We tend to admire those who practice a personal self-control through moral temperance to contrast the moral licentiousness that is accepted and encouraged by our fallen world.

Through our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we can find the strength  to live morally and responsibly. Through our faith in Christ, we now have a willingness to honor Him, to serve others, and to meet our needs safely and appropriately.

When He transformed us from the inside out, He released us from the bondage of sin and gave us the ability to resist temptation as we walk in His Spirit just as the Bible further teaches,

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11–14 (NKJV)

There will be times when we fail. Yet our Lord supplies us with the power we need to resist the urge to blame others and make excuses. In this way, He turns us from our destructive patterns of compulsive, addictive behavior. Instead of using blame and excuses, we ask the Lord for forgiveness and reconcile with the offended, relying on His Spirit to strengthen our daily faith walk.

Over time, His Spirit helps us become morally astute practitioners of the Christian faith who refrain from exploiting others and live lives that feature astounding “good works” that glorify our Heavenly Father. Let’s live for Christ today and show our stellar Christian witness. Shall we?

What a Wonderful Savior!

Listen To Him!

For May 9, 2021
In Matthew 17:1-9, the Lord takes Peter, James, and John up a mountain where He was “transfigured” or transformed before them. Jesus’ face and clothing turned bright as the sun, and Moses and Elijah appeared suddenly; talking to Him about what would happen at Jerusalem shortly thereafter.

Out of fear and at a loss for words, Peter offers to build three temporary dwellings for the Lord and His two esteemed guests: Moses and Elijah. While Peter was yet speaking, a cloud  overshadowed them, and a voice thundered: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” (v. 5).

At first glance, one could almost miss God’s command: “Listen to Him!” But those words capture the essence of the Lord’s earthly ministry as this writer observes,

Whether he realized it or not, Peter was ostensibly putting Jesus on the same plane with these Old Testament servants of God (“one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”). That will not do. God spoke in the past to the fathers through the prophets, but now He has spoken through a Son. The difference must be understood and respected. Jesus is a prophet but more than a prophet.1

Jesus Christ is more than a “good” man, prophet, religious leader, or teacher, and God’s command to listen to Jesus not only points to His deity as the God’s Son. It also implies emphatically that our Lord’s words are greater than Moses the Lawgiver, and Elijah the Prophet.

No other person in history received the accolades our Lord Jesus Christ receives here. This declaration was unheard of, given how God spoke to Moses “face to face” as He would towards a friend (Exodus 33:11, Numbers 12:8), and how Elijah is still considered the quintessential prophet of God (1 Kings 17:24, Luke 1:17).

Yet in retrospect, it is comforting to know that God’s thundering declaration did not distract the Lord Jesus Christ from His mission to save the world from sin by way of His death at Calvary.

He was the only person—past, present, or future—uniquely suited to accomplish that mission. Thus, without pride, selfishness, or the quest for celebrity status, He retains His humble demeanor as He continues His redemptive work, which speaks volumes about His impeccable character in the absence of personal, ulterior motives.

Now as a result, by faith in Him, we can know and experience God personally, intimately, and eternally. His powerful words can impart abundant life into our spiritually dead bodies now and forever, just as He promised,

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life (John 6:63 NKJV).

Moreover, Jesus taught that He did not come to destroy the Mosaic Law or invalidate Elijah and the prophets. Instead, He came to fulfill that which the Law and Prophets declared. (Matthew 5:17) In this way, He always affirmed the importance of those who preceded Him.

We can trust in the words of Jesus Christ because the voice of God heard here affirms His pre-incarnate deity. Jesus spoke as did no other person—living or dead. Of the relevance, and importance of His sayings, Jesus also declares,

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall (Matthew 7:24-27 NKJV).

Jesus Christ’s words are true, steadfast, and relevant for today’s ever-changing world. We cannot go wrong when we listen to Him and obey Him. Won’t you listen to Him today?

What a Wonderful Savior!