Love In Action—Jesus Died For Our Sins!

For April 2, 2021
The word love has many meanings, although it defines our emotional attraction toward someone or something. For instance, we can love our jobs, houses, cars, classical music, pizza, and that old pair of comfortable jeans. Even the Ancient Greeks distinguished parental love (Greek: storge) from fraternal love (Greek: phileo) from the passion between lovers (Greek: eros).

However, Jesus Christ establishes a new love paradigm when He commanded us to love each other unselfishly and fervently, just as He loves us (Greek: agape). It is by this unselfish love, everyone will know we are His disciples (John 13:34—35). This is the highest form of selfless, pure love, which can only find its source in and expression through God. Jesus attests of this in John 15:13 (NKJV) when He states, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

God’s love is completely devoid of sin and selfishness. In our strength alone, we are incapable of such altruism because we are motivated by, “What’s in it for us?” before we consider responding lovingly.

Although difficult, Christians have the capacity to express His love as we yield to His Spirit, who instinctively responds to others through us in the ways that serve their best interests. The Spirit within us extends this unique, powerful, transforming love to all people everywhere—so that even our enemies can benefit greatly.

1 John 4:7—8 tells us that God is love. And He continues to express it as He has from the beginning. When there was nothing, He created the earth and all that is in it to make a perfect habitation for imperfect humans. Even after we fell and sin contaminated this world, He extended mercy to Adam and Eve by promising The Redeemer who would restore our lost fellowship.

Romans 6:23 tells us the payment for sin is death. In other words, someone has to die, and blood has to be shed to remediate our sin to restore our lost fellowship with God,

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).

God sustained our existence through Noah when sin was rampant, and He later produced a people of faith who would love Him and be a blessing to others through Abraham. Love delivered God’s people from Egyptian bondage, sustained them through the Red Sea, the desolate wilderness, and gave them a new identity in the land that He promised them.

God’s love foretold of One who would sit on David’s throne and rule God’s people with justice and mercy. He would also express God’s love completely by nullifying the curse and dominion of sin and by redeeming sin-cursed humanity in righteousness forever.

Only Jesus fulfills God’s enduring love for us. He left glory, inhabited human flesh, and walked on earth for thirty-three years; sharing His message of love, faith, and redemption. Unselfishly, He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the hungry, encouraged the downtrodden, and taught about His transforming, redeeming message.

Yet, on the last day of His earthly life, He demonstrated exceptional love. Knowing that one sitting with Him during the Passover Seder would betray Him shortly, He did not condemn him. Instead, Jesus shared a morsel of food with Judas and gave him permission to perform the despicable act he contemplated. Jesus could have exposed Judas to the other eleven disciples in the room, but He showed love by feeding Him and giving Him another chance to repent.

Later that evening, while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had the opportunity to escape death on the cross. The disciples were asleep when the full weight of what was to happen in less than twelve hours hit Him like the proverbial “ton of bricks.” Jesus cried to His Heavenly Father and asked, if it were possible, to let the cup pass and excuse Him from the cruel death on the cross. Yet He was determined to fulfill God’s will, not His own.

After being beaten, spat upon, insulted, and crowned with thorns, our Lord still loved us so much that He was willing to be further disgraced and humiliated. Stripped of His clothing, Jesus was affixed to a wooden cross with metal spikes driven through His hands and feet. Then He was placed on a hill between two thieves before throngs of mocking people.

Instead of commanding legions of angels to destroy us, He surrendered His life for our sins and interceded on our behalf by asking His heavenly Father to forgive all those who were responsible—including you and me today.

Jesus died for you and I to prove His wonderful, matchless love for us. Won’t you receive His love today?

What a Wonderful Savior!

Hosanna To The King of Kings!

For March 28, 2021
During this week of consecration and celebration, Jews from around the world converged on Jerusalem to increase the city’s population exponentially as all Jewish males were required to attend the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), and the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles).1

Passover and Unleavened Bread hold critical historical significance to the Nation of Israel and to Jews around the world as these observances commemorate the Children of Israel’s release from four-hundred years of Egyptian slavery (Exodus 12:1-13:16, 23:17, 34:23).

Although festive revelers, musicians, and celebrators packed the streets with song, dance, and reverie, this day marks the last week of Jesus’ earthly life, which culminates with what we observe as Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter.

The week began on our Palm Sunday, with Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into His beloved Jerusalem.  He presents Himself as the long-awaited Messiah riding a donkey. Crowds gathered to lay palm branches and their outer clothing in His path shouting,

Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven! (Matthew 21:9 NIV).

Jesus did not ride a horse, as would a conquering hero. Instead, He rides the donkey’s colt, a symbol of peace, to present Himself as God’s humble emissary sent to redeem a fallen humanity. His calculated actions fulfill these two Messianic prophesies,

Indeed the Lord has proclaimed To the end of the world: “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Surely your salvation is coming; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him’ ” (Isaiah 62:11 NKJV).

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9 NKJV).

Humbly, our Lord presents Himself as the Messiah, our Conquering Hero who will not only establish His eternal Kingdom where righteousness, justice, and peace will reign forever. He also presents Himself as the Holy One of Israel—the Lamb of God—who ultimately defeats the plague of sin and death that has troubled humanity since shortly after the Creation.

No one but Jesus Christ loves us so deeply, gives of himself so freely, and keeps us so completely in this life and the next. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who delivers us from a life of sin and presents us before God in His role as our everlasting Advocate, Alpha and Omega, Bridegroom, Deliverer, Faithful and True Witness, Lord and God, Good Shepherd, Great God and Savior, Great High Priest, Hope of Glory, I Am, Eternal Judge, Friend, King of Glory, Lamb of God, Light of the World, Physician, Prince of Peace, Prophet, Ransom, Redeemer, Resurrection and Life, Righteous Judge, Rock, Ruler of Kings, Savior, True Vine, Truth, Way, and Word of God. The Lord Jesus Christ is, and shall forever be, our all in all.

What a Wonderful Savior!

What Ever Happened To Humility?

For March 14, 2021
In Jesus’ day, people did not have access to the many forms of motorized transportation (i.e., motorcycles, cars, trucks, trains, airplanes, etc.) we have today. In addition, the roads were not paved. So depending on the terrain and weather conditions, travel could be extremely messy.

People who could not afford to ride animals (i.e., camels, donkeys, horses, etc.) walked, exposing their sandaled feet to dirty roads—sometimes checkered with animal feces. Thus, as a common courtesy (and sanitary reasons), the host provided for foot washing since the guest’s feet were soiled by the time they reached their destination.

Also in Jesus’ day and culture, people ate while reclining on one side—sometimes with their feet extended toward other guests,

Reclining on the triclinium, or dinner bed, the guest lay usually upon his left side, leaving his right hand free to reach for food. His head would thus easily come into contact with the breast of the person on his left. It was in this way that John leaned on the bosom of Jesus while at supper.1

Foot washing was the task reserved for the lowest ranking person (or servant) in the household. However, in this instance, Jesus “flipped the script” by washing the Twelve Disciples’ feet as if He was the lowest ranking servant. In so doing, He teaches an unmistakable object lesson on humility to the astonishment of His Disciples,

It was at this juncture that Jesus washed the feet of the Disciples. It was an object lesson to impress upon them the quality of true greatness. He was their Lord, and yet He became their servant as He laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself, poured water into a basin, and stooped to wash the feet of His Disciples. Jesus was not instituting an ordinance like that of the Lord’s Supper but was giving an object lesson in true humility of spirit.2

The Lord exercises great patience with His Disciples’ failure to understand the importance of humility and selflessness. He was their Rabbi (leader and teacher), yet He lowered Himself to serve them when it was their obligation to serve Him. (To the Disciples’ credit, there was no designated servant present to wash their feet since the gathering was a private one.)

The Disciples also failed to grasp the vast spiritual dimension of the Kingdom of God where our Lord reigns forever in full majesty and glory. (They were too busy arguing about who would be “greatest” in the Kingdom and forgot that someone within their ranks should have performed the task.)

Jesus teaches His Disciples what constitutes true greatness—humility—especially for His people. His actions were consistent with His earlier teachings, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24 AKJV).

Jesus was the ultimate example of humility as He relinquished His deity and took on human form to pay for our sin,

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 (Philippians 2:6-8 NLT).

Because of Jesus’ humility, we now can have God’s great love and forgiveness through our faith in His redeeming sacrifice on Calvary’s Cross. Our humility and surrender is essential to receiving these blessed gifts from God,

Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 1:5 NKJV).

What a Wonderful Savior!

But What About Forgiveness?

For February 7, 2021
When asked how many times we should forgive, the Lord Jesus Christ’s response was immediate, “Not just seven times, but seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:22) We must be willing to forgive to the extent that He has forgiven us.

In other words, it is incumbent on us as Christians not to seek revenge, harbor grudges, or express ill will toward others whom we feel may have wronged us. Instead, the Lord challenges us to give them a “clean slate,” by treating them as if they have never wronged us, just as He does for us.

He expresses this Kingdom principle in His Model Prayer,

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:12-14 NIV).

Romans 12:19-21 (NLT), which cites from Deuteronomy 32:35 and Proverbs 25:21-22, elaborates further on the necessity for forgiveness,

Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

While on the earth for nearly four years, the Lord taught incomparable lessons  on humility and self-denial such as, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24 KJV). But the Twelve Disciples were slow to capture the essence of His teachings, much like we are today.

In addition, we have the Lord as our prime example of humility and self-sacrifice. He freely emptied Himself of His deity and took on a human form so that He could offer Himself as our payment for sin. Yet again, we do not understand that the Kingdom of God encompasses the spiritual realm of God’s glory, majesty, and dominion over the heavens and the earth. It is not a visible kingdom now, but it will be gloriously and incredibly visible soon.

As it was two thousand years ago, it is still true today. We prefer retaliation over reconciliation. From childhood to adulthood, we are taught not to “show any weakness” or let someone “take advantage” of us.

The Lord characterized the End Times as a period of escalating hostility. We see overt “Signs of the Times” in heightened levels of national and international warfare, the proliferation of hostility and rage, and increasing random violence.

In our modern world, we keep track of offenses, and we bear grudges when we need to overlook the offense and forgive the offender. We also “rate” sins on a “sliding scale” as though one sin was more heinous than another looking to justify ourselves.

 But no one can make comparisons since all of us have sinned, and we are deficient of God’s righteous standards (Romans 3:23). Rating sin can lead to falsely characterizing others for past criminal behavior, drug use, marital infidelity, divorce, or an abhorrent lifestyle—even when they now live for Christ fully.

Most of all, it’s hypocritical to condemn someone for his or her past when we have “skeletons” in our closet, as Jesus observes in Matthew 7:3-5 (NLT):

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, “Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,” when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

All our sliding scales need rescinding and must be replaced with true forgiveness—that is to say, forgive the offender while forgetting the offense.

We cannot impose our self-righteous human standards on God’s divine principles by forgiving certain offenses or forgiving only to a certain level. We must practice what I heard my parents, teachers, and ministers say to me while I was growing up, “God hates sin, but He loves the sinner.”

Just as God does, we too must distinguish between the offense (or sin) and the offender (the sinner) through forgiveness. Certainly at the very least, our lives would be much healthier and happier as a result.

What a Wonderful Savior!

He Is Risen…He Is Risen Indeed!

For April 12, 2020
It was supposed to be like any other Sabbath in Jerusalem. Much all the others that preceded it, this one was peaceful and quiet. Highly trained, battle tested, hardened Roman soldiers were guarding Joseph of Arimathaea’s tomb, preparing for what would otherwise be an ordinary day.

Then it happened:

Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint. Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.” The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.” Matthew 28:1-10 (NLT)

Little did anyone know that the entire course of human history would be changed forever when three women were informed that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead—just as He said.

The implications of His resurrections comprise the central core of our Christian faith and message as 1 Corinthians 15:17-20 (NLT) insists:

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.

Because He lives, we can know that our faith in His death and resurrection is not in vain. Forgiveness of sin along with the gift of eternal life with the Lord forever is now a certainty—because He lives.

Herein lies what distinguishes Jesus Christ from all other religious leaders: He rose from the dead just as He promised, and His tomb remains empty today. Jesus Christ is risen…He is risen indeed!

What a Wonderful Savior and Happy Easter!