We Can Trust In The Lord Today

For May 17, 2020
Faith is the trust or belief we have in someone or something to perform a task that may be beyond our current level of understanding.

Some try to use it as an instrument to impose our will on God. Here, we look at God not as the almighty and all-knowing Creator and Sustainer, but as a puppet on a string whose sole purpose is to do our bidding, as if He were our own personal genie in a magic lamp.

Yet our God will do exactly what He will do at the precise moment and in the precise manner that suits Him, not us. To us, His ways may appear to be mysterious at times, but they are always perfect because He always knows what is best for us in every situation.

The Lord said that we could move mountains and that nothing would be impossible with faith the size of a mustard seed. Job cursed the day of his birth, and yet he had a tremendous faith in God. To gauge the quantity or fervor of our faith, we can never rely on our feelings alone, because faith is a mystery that is essential to our human experience.

The Lord not only wants us to commit every element of our very lives over to Him , but He wants us to completely trust in Him  also, get out of His  way, so that He can perform His  perfect work in us and through us as Psalm 37:5 (NLT) teaches,

Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you.

Faith, trusting, committing all convey the idea that we believe in God because He not only loves and cares for us, but that He also wants the best for us in every situation. In this life, we will experience pain and suffering as reflected in recent news reports that show how the entire world seems to be paralyzed by fear and panic associated with the covid-19 virus.

Life’s vicissitudes are attributable to our inherent sin nature, our own poor choices, or just because. But despite these challenges to our faith, we can still believe that the Lord is holy, infinite, and His ways are perfect. As He leads us through life, His most perfect purpose for us will take place in the fullness of time (Romans 8:28).

Through faith in Christ, God supplies us with a new spiritual being. He eliminates our sins by way of the New Birth that Jesus described as mysterious as the wind and as the prerequisite for true fellowship with God (John 3:3–8).

We must invite Christ into our lives by faith, and through our obedience and submission, we receive a new internal being that allows us to perform the will of God, secure His eternal favor, and become His beloved children forever.

What a Wonderful Savior!

Wanted: Spiritual Vision (Apply Within)

For February 2, 2020
Disenchantment is a prevalent problem facing our world today. We can observe it in the lives of those who express doubt and uncertainty about their future. Who experience lives that lack purpose, meaning, and significance, and they turn to the use of illicit drugs and alcohol their coping mechanism.

In its December 18, 2019 online report1, the National Institute of Drug Abuse under the National Institutes of Health reported a significant increase of teenage marijuana vaping:

Past year vaping of marijuana, which has more than doubled in the past two years, was reported at 20.8% among 12th graders, with 10th graders not far behind at 19.4% and eighth graders at 7.0%. Past month marijuana vaping among 12th graders nearly doubled in a single year to 14% from 7.5%–the second largest one-year jump ever tracked for any substance in the history of the survey…Marijuana continues to be the most commonly used illicit drug by adolescents. After remaining mostly stable for many years, daily use of marijuana went up significantly since 2018 among eighth and 10th graders–now at 1.3% and 4.8% respectively.

Some have chosen suicide as a means to address disenchantment. Here, if one feels there are no absolutes, (e.g., God, Jesus, Heaven, Hell, eternal life, etc.), so the question is asked is: Why should my life matter? Certainly not all cases follow this thought progression per the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Instead, their findings indicate suicides often occur when a person experiences stressors that exceed his or her coping abilities. The Foundation observed the following trends as well2:

      • The age-adjusted suicide rate in 2018 was 14.2 per 100,000 individuals.
      • The rate of suicide is highest in middle-age white men in particular.
      • In 2017, men died by suicide 3.54x more often than women.
      • On average, there are 129 suicides per day.
      • White males accounted for 69.67% of suicide deaths in 2017.
      • In 2017, firearms accounted for 50.57% of all suicide deaths.

Recently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention established a website to address our fears and concerns about the current norovirus threat to our national/global health at: https://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/index.html.

Even more telling is how our doubt and spiritual uncertainty are significant problems we face today according to a recent Barna study:3

Two-thirds of all self-identified Christians or past Christians (66%) admit to experiencing a season of spiritual doubt. More than a quarter (26%) still find themselves doubting…A common response during times of doubt was to quit attending church (46%). Three in 10 stopped reading the Bible (30%) or praying (28%). One in four (24%) ceased discussing spirituality, God, or religion with their friends and families, but such community is also the place they were most likely to turn for help (40%).

However, our worry, fear, and disenchanted can be linked to our lack of spiritual vision as Proverbs 29:18 (KJV) teaches:

Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

Barna further observes:

While 40 percent feel they have worked through their faith crisis…Twenty-nine percent sought answers in the Bible and one in five looked to church (21%), a spouse (19%), or a pastor or spiritual leader (19). Some addressed their doubt with spiritual or religious books (16%), online resources (12%), counseling (5%), or conferences and retreats (3%). For the most part, these approaches worked; 52 percent of these Christians say their faith is now stronger or at least unchanged (28%).

Our greatest need is spiritual vision that will honor God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Here our greatest objective is to love the Lord first and foremost, love others, and love ourselves using His Word as our guide. Psalm 1:2-3 (NLT) reads:

But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.

Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are assured of God’s faithfulness in everything we experience. Along with the forgiveness of sin secured by His death on the cross, the Lord also provides spiritual vision through His Word, which brings us both direction, comfort, and true fulfillment.

Christians are not exempt from trouble. However, we can be certain that as we experience trials, the Lord comes to the rescue each time” as Psalm 34:19 (NLT) teaches. As we trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we diligently serve Him, and we commit our lives to Him totally, we shall discover the rich, fulfilling life He promises for this life and the next. This is true spiritual vision.

What a Wonderful Savior!

God’s Supreme Mystery

October 19, 2019
Some would argue that our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, His Son and the Holy Spirit are three expressions of one being, and not three distinct persons.1Here, the idea of Jesus Christ being a person who is both infinitely God and finitely human simultaneously is questioned.

However, the Apostle John, who also wrote the Fourth Gospel, refers to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as both divine and human:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:1-5, 14 (NIV)

It is a mystery how three persons are one. But when we count the two persons identified in John’s passage, along with the Spirit of God, who hovered over the waters in Genesis 1:2, each person is given the title “God” and are heavily involved in creation as well.

God’s supreme mystery paid for our redemption by resolving our sin problem, which began immediately after God’s perfect creation was tarnished by sin through Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Thus, we today are sin-cursed—not because of the sins we’ve committed—but because of the sin-tainted nature at work in us constantly.

The Apostle John describes our remedy through God’s loving intervention:

But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth at comes from God. John 1:12-13 (NLT)

Of this mystery, Colossians 1:26-27 (KJV) states:

Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory!

The Father set in motion what the Son fulfilled and the Spirit sustains. It is not ours to fully understand how the same God who created us can be the same God who redeemed us at Calvary. Or how God can forgive our sin while filling and sealing us by His Spirit simultaneously.  How God can intercede for us today and yet soon return for us so that we can live with Him forever in Heaven can be beyond our comprehension at times.

But He did and still does…What a wonderful Savior!

Although God’s supreme mystery lies beyond our finite understanding, we are  eternally grateful that it is not beyond the grasp of our simple, child-like faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Letting Go Through Radical Forgiveness

September 28, 2019
In Matthew 18, it was only “natural” for Peter to ask the question: How often should I forgive? Seven times? From our human perspective, forgiving once is remarkable, and forgiving seven times is extraordinary.

We too often keep track of the times when someone offends us, and we bear grudges against those who have offended us when we should overlook the offense and forgive the offender.

We also “rate” sins on a “sliding scale” as though one sin was more heinous than another. But we can’t make such 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.

In addition, it’s hypocritical to condemn someone for his or her past when we too 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.

Our “sliding scales” have to be challenged. We cannot impose human standards on godly principles by forgiving certain offenses or forgiving only to a certain level.

The Lord’s response to Peter’s question was immediate: Not just seven times, but seventy times seven! In other words, we must be perfect, even as our Heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48) by forgiving to the extent that He has forgiven us.

Then the Lord Jesus illustrated endless forgiveness with the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.

In this parable, a certain king had a servant who owed him ten thousand talents (about 15 million dollars), yet he forgave the entire debt. But, this same forgiven servant could not find it in his heart to forgive the debt of one hundred pence (about $17.00) that his fellow associate owed him. 1

The Lord used the largest and smallest forms of ancient currency to emphasize how the first servant’s debt was so massive that it could never have been paid—yet it was forgiven. Thus, the unforgiving servant was condemned because he could not find it in his heart to forgive his fellow associate’s minuscule debt. The Lord provided the application in Matthew 18: 32-35 (NLT):

Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

How miniscule are the offenses we commit against each other in comparison to the enormous sin debt that we owe God, Our Lord Jesus Christ was perfect. He never sinned, yet He chose to be fastened to a wooden cross for our eternal benefit.

Moreover, He did not complain about His unjust treatment—being tortured and executed like a common criminal. Instead He willingly bore our sins because only His precious blood could wash them away once and for all (and secure our eternal destiny with Him).

What a wonderful Savior!

Since the Lord forgave us completely, and His Spirit lives within us, we have the means to forgive also. Let us truly practice letting go through Christ-empowered radical forgiveness.

 

Love: Handle With Care

For September 1, 2019
Performing good works is the path to God for many people. For them, consistent charitable giving, or demonstrating selfless acts of hospitality, or showing kindness to a friend or stranger in need or encouraging the downtrodden guarantees one’s eternal bliss in Heaven.

There was an era when being raised in a Christian home, as part of a nuclear family was common practice. Then, it was common to see neighbors assisting parents with providing proper instruction to children using revered Bible teachings, especially those of Jesus Christ—even in public schools—because Christianity held a prominent role in the public discourse.

Timeless principles like don’t steal, murder, covet, commit idolatry, worship crafted images, lie, irreverently use God’s name, or commit adultery, along with honoring one’s parents, remembering to worship and abide by the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” were constantly reinforced at home, in church and the community as well, thank God.

As a result, treating others with civility and respect was a common practice for many. As “looking out for #1” seemed to be more the exception than the rule. Altruism was encouraged and reinforced through the promise that if we performed enough good deeds, we would make it to Heaven.

Trying to earn God favor through our good works alone leads to futile exhaustion and ultimate disappointment. Because without Jesus Christ in our hearts; prompting and perfecting our works. Certainly good works matter, but good works without fellowship with God just won’t cut it alone. Because without Christ, our works are motivated by selfishness as we do them not with what’s best for the recipient, but with what’s best for us in mind.

Jesus gives us a new paradigm for good work by emphasizing love as the greatest work in Matthew 22:37-40:

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.

The Lord Jesus Christ was the only person who could perform untarnished good works because He alone was without sin. More importantly, He loved us so much that He freely gave Himself as a holy sacrifice. In this way, He canceled our debt of sin so that each of us could inherit His righteousness and thus have unbroken fellowship with God.

Now loving God with our entire being through Christ not only grants us unlimited access to God. It also frees us to express His unselfish love fervently towards others and ourselves as well.