Happy New Year!

For January 1, 2021
Today, people around the world will welcome a new year. With each successive year of the Gregorian Calendar, proposed in 1582 to compensate for the solar year drift of the Julian Calendar, which was instituted around 45   before the birth of Christ (B.C.), we note the time that has passed since the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The term B.C. is used to designate the time before the birth of Christ from the time after His birth, referred to as Anno Domini (A.D.), which is Latin for, “In the year of our Lord.” The time since Jesus’ birth is also referred to as the Common, Current, or Christian Era (C.E.).

Numbering these calendar years is appropriate for paying our respects to the most influential person in human history. In other words, this year, we acknowledge that two-thousand and twenty-one years have passed since the birth of Jesus Christ (although many scholars place His birth somewhere around 4 BC).

We make this distinction because only through Jesus Christ can we, as sin-scarred humans, be reconciled to our holy God. We benefit from Jesus’ atoning work, not by trying to perform good deeds, but by placing our faith in the redeeming works He still performs to God on our behalf.

      • His perfect life satisfies all God’s requirements for conformity to God’s holy Law.
      • His sacrificial death at Calvary remains our perfect sacrifice to absolve us from our sin.
      • Jesus’ resurrection secures God’s acceptance of His redeeming work; now we can have full confidence that He is our accepted way to God, and
      • His ascension, His Spirit, His intercession, and His glorious return provide all the spiritual graces we will ever need to fully experience His abundant life—now and forever.

The Lord promises to embrace us with His eternal power and providence when we surrender to Him. Then we can find the rest that completely satisfies and refreshes our eternal souls,

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28 NIV).

2020 was a difficult year for many. If you are looking for consolation, hope and a new beginning, let me suggest,

      • Others have failed you, so give your heart to Jesus Christ. He never fails!
      • Stop trusting in your human abilities alone. They are finite while God is infinite. Instead, turn to the Lord, and trust in Him completely.
      • Surrender to Jesus Christ so that you can experience and enjoy the fulfilling life of purpose, freedom, and victory He freely gives to all those who trust Him.

When our New Year’s resolutions are Christ centered and God honoring, He performs His perfect work in our hearts, minds, souls. Only then can we truly have a Happy New Year!

What a Wonderful Savior!

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

For December 25, 2020
Christmas is my favorite time of the year. For on this special day, we honor the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who represents the greatest gift ever given or received.

More than two thousand years ago, in a Bethlehem manger, the Savior of the World was born. Although some may dispute His December 25th birthday, no one can prove that He could not have been born on that particular day either. Other than Scripture, we have no eye witnesses alive today to retell the story.

Any controversy concerning the Lord’s birthday is merely a distraction from the fact that He was born, and for some, the less focus on Christ, so much the better.

Nevertheless, He came to save humanity from sin, and to reconcile us to the Father. This is as the Angel of the Lord announces in Matthew 1:18—21 (NKJV),

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

We were broken—morally and spiritually—before our holy God, without remedy when God decided to cancel the sin debt we acquired from Adam and Eve, by becoming human and shedding His blood to wash away our sins forever. Thus, as Acts 4:12 tells us, there is no other name, besides Jesus Christ, under heaven by which we can obtain salvation (and receive God’s eternal favor as a result).

Just like the shepherds of old, we too can joyfully observe December 25th as eternally grateful recipients of God’s unspeakable gift of grace and mercy. For we now have unimpeded and eternal access to a holy and loving God through faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Yes! On this day, we can be grateful for what the Lord is still doing around the world in the hearts and lives of untold numbers of people—ever since His first birthday.

What a wonderful Christmas present, and what a Wonderful Savior!

Happy Birthday Jesus!

Still No Room For Jesus!

For December 20, 2020
In Luke 2:7 (NKJV), we read these telling words,

“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

The world’s fate rested in the hands of two young travelers, Joseph and Mary, his espoused wife, who carried inside her the Savior of the world.

The Savior of the world is a title reserved for dignitaries. However, unlike the celebrities of today who travel with an entourage that provides for their very best, especially securing suitable four-star hotel accommodations.

Not so with our Lord Jesus Christ as there was no room for Him anywhere!

Fast forward two-thousand years, and this has not changed. There is still no room for Him in the public discourse as His teachings are “not relevant” for our modern world. For instance, no one wants to seek first His Kingdom and righteousness, or turn the other cheek when challenged, or love our enemies and our neighbors as we love ourselves, or provide aid to the widow, orphan, and downtrodden.

Instead, in today’s “me-centered” world, we clearly see the mantra: “Hang everybody else…I got to get paid!” being celebrated and perfected in the lives of young and old alike.

However, although we may seem to get by at times, we will never get away. There will be a day of reckoning when God’s righteous judgement will be served. Then, everyone will be required to account for his or her deeds—whether good of bad. Thus, Jesus Christ issues a warning for our proud, self-centered generation,

If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? (Mark 8:34—37 NLT)

The Lord chooses foolish things to confound the wise and weak things to confound the strong. He also uses the lowborn and chooses the things that are insignificant to make nothing out of the things that are. (1 Corinthians 1:26ff). In this way, no one can boast except he or she boasts in the Lord alone.1

I praise the Lord for His precious remnant. Those who leave room for Jesus to reign in their hearts as well as in every phase of their human and social interaction. These courageous men, women, boys, and girls continually celebrate our King of Kings and Lord of Lords, because in Him alone, we can find redemption and peace with God.

As we turn our faith towards Him, making room for Him, we can experience all the joy and fulfillment this Christmas Season has to offer—now and forever!

What a Wonderful Savior!

We Can Have Comfort And Joy Today!

For November 1, 2020
The New Testament book of Hebrews provides us with enduring lessons of faith, comfort, and joy—especially during these times of uncertainty,

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2 AKJV).

Three thoughts emerge from this passage, which are well worth noting. First, we are surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses.” This implies our physical death is not the end of our human existence. God has given us a spiritual dimension that will continue to live long after our bodies have passed away. (God also gives us the responsibility to choose where we spend our eternity in Heaven or Hell.)

In other words, along with the “Roll Call of Faith” of Hebrews 11:4-40, all those who have died in Christ surround us like a crowd of ardent spectators cheering us toward the successful completion of our individual Christian races. Just think. We have our own “cheering section” rooting for us!

Our loved ones who have departed this life are “absent from the body and present with the Lord,” awaiting His glorious return for us. Then, they along with all those who have “died in the Lord,” will accompany Him to be reunited with us who are yet alive (2 Corinthians 5:8, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

I am comforted knowing that one day, very soon I will see Jesus along with all those precious saints, including loved ones and extended family, “coming in the clouds with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26). A most welcome and most wonderful day that will be indeed. Amen!

Second, we as Christians are to make every effort to “lay aside” the continual practice of sin, particularly the ones we find extremely tantalizing and are within easy reach. Instead, we are to pursue earnestly and heartily His righteousness consistently. Jesus makes this observation in Luke 11:35-36 (NKJV):

Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light.

“No part dark” means our lives are faith-driven, Spirit-powered, Christ-centered, and God-honoring quests for spiritual and moral purity publicly and privately, with no “secret” sins. We strive to be the same spiritual and moral person, whether we are alone or in the company of others. In other words, what we do, and how we act on Sunday during church services should be the same way we act on Monday at home, work, or school.

The “what I do in the privacy of my own home” should never be shameful or embarrassing if ever disclosed publically, since our lives reflect an integrated, consistent ethic that flows from our genuine conversion in Christ,

Sin is turning away from God. As someone has said, it is aversion from God and conversion to the world; and true repentance means conversion to God and aversion to the world. When there is true contrition, the heart is broken for sin; when there is true conversion, the heart is broken from sin. We leave the old life, we are translated out of the kingdom of darkness unto the kingdom of light.1

In Jesus’ Intercessory Prayer, He foretells how His followers live “in the world,” yet they will never become “of the world” (John 17:15-18). This was true two-thousand years ago, and it remains true for us today.

Our “spiritual eyes” must remain focused on the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the source and consummation of our faith in God, as His Spirit actively works within us. His great work of redemption, dying on the cross for our sins and being raised for our justification (Romans 4:25), pays the debt for our sins and reconciles us to God forever.

Our lives are then changed forever as we “pass from death unto life” (John 5:24). Thus from the moment we meet Christ onward, ours becomes a life-long race where His penetrating words ring true for us each day,

If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me (Luke 9:23 NLT).

God commands us to be holy, just as He is holy (Leviticus 20:26). Jesus calls us to be perfect as God is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Jesus is the Vine, and as His branches, we can yield His fruit consistently, just as He tells us in John 15:5.

Although only Jesus was perfect, yet we can make every effort to refrain from habitual sin and let our lights shine before the world. Then we can glorify God and be a blessing to others just as the Lord teaches in Matthew 5:16 (NIV),

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Unfortunately, dishonesty, deceit, and debauchery have become commonplace for many professing Christians as three-quarters of Americans identify themselves as Christian, yet only 13 percent say they have no faith at all. Only one in every four is Bible-minded, although nearly two-thirds have an orthodox view of God.2

Oh, how I long for a time when noble character with principled behavior is deemed as innate Christian characteristics. To the modern-day society, inconsistent conduct has hampered our noble Christian witness,

Christianity is often not portrayed well in media. It is not “politically correct” to be a Christian anymore. Social pressure to “fit in” as a Christian is largely absent. In contrast, it is considered more socially acceptable to embrace non-Christian identities and lifestyles that stand in conflict with biblical values.3

God’s eternal purpose for His people—to “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly” before Him each day—has not changed (Micah 6:8). Jesus declared that as the Light of the World, His followers will not walk in darkness but will have “the light of life” instead (John 8:12). In this way, He affirms His righteousness and ours.

Christian faith changes human lives as we enter into the presence of the Living God. Drastically changed human lives think, speak, and act in ways that improve the welfare of others without being motivated by race, gender, culture, social status, or political affiliation. Such is our destiny,

We don’t have to be victims of our glands. We are not automations or victims. We are free to make choices, whether noble or ignoble. To live for money, power, or pleasure is to die one day and leave it all behind. Indeed, to live for anything except Christ will mean reaching the end haunted by guilt and despair.4

Contrary to popular belief, I believe that we as Christians can and do change the world around us for the better—one person at a time.

Finally, Jesus paid the price for our sin so that we can share in the perfect joy that was set before Him. It is His most exhilarating joy that captivates our hearts and minds today and always as we receive His unfathomably precious gifts of forgiveness and freedom.

 I believe that our understanding of the “joy” set before Him, produces an assurance, comfort, and security we will not find anywhere else on earth as this enduring hymn encapsulates,

Blessed Assurance5
Fanny J. Crosby (1820—1915)

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

Perfect submission, perfect delight, Visions of rapture now burst on my sight; Angels descending, bring from above Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest, I in my Savior am happy and blest; Watching and waiting, looking above, Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

Chorus:

This is my story; this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long; This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long.

Yes! The Lord lavishly provides His children with forgiveness, freedom, and joy. We can never be “good enough” to earn His consideration. But we can continue pressing toward the heavenly prize He has in store for all of us who love His appearing (Philippians 3:14, 2 Timothy 4:8).
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!