WE SERVE A MAGNANIMOUS GOD

Matthew 5:43-45 (New Living Translation)

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.

 

As long as planet Earth continues to exist, and the cycles of day and night, wet and dry seasons do not cease, the planet will continue to support human life. The seasons and cycles were established by God when he created the world, to sustain life on Earth, irrespective of our moral choices, whether good or bad.

Sunlight is not just good for plants, but allows for human activities of all kinds during the day, and has a powerful influence on our moods and emotions. The rain nourishes the soil and is a delight to the human soul – just ask the billions and billions of children throughout human history with great memories of playing in the rain.

God in his magnanimity – in his great generosity and kindness towards all people, just and unjust – has given us a world where all the elements, living and non-living things, exist partly to be a joyful blessing to humans on the planet.

Our daily troubles often make us blind to the joys and wonder of creation freely available to all. Lets take a moment this week to appreciate God’s magnanimity to us all, and his great heart of love towards us that is behind it all.

Take a minute every morning this week, before you get busy, to pray ‘thank you Lord for the sun and rain, trees and flowers, birds that sing, people that are nice to me, and for your love that makes it all possible – Amen’.

 

Image: Enjoying the rain (Wikimedia

THE GOOD NEWS FROM JESUS – Part 1

Street Painter View of Jesus

Luke 4:16-21 (New Living Translation)

When he [Jesus] came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.”

He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he [Jesus] began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”

 

The above passage is about Jesus introducing his ministry to the people after his 40 days fasting and being tempted by Satan in the wilderness. This is Jesus laying out the five big goals behind the work he will do while he walked on Earth. Let’s consider the first of these in today’s blog – “bring Good News to the poor.” 

Let’s start with the bad news – at creation, Adam was given rulership over the Earth, to rule under the guidance of God. Satan dethroned Adam, gaining authority and power over the Earth, including over our bodies, our soul, and our spirit. Satan uses this power to strongly influence every human person to live ungodly lives.

So, what is the good news?

It is that Jesus has set up the kingdom of God on Earth, side by side with the kingdom of Satan. Jesus has invaded the Earth and is forcefully establishing his own area of authority and power over our spirit, soul, and eventually our bodies. I can now choose to follow Jesus and live under the resurrection power of the kingdom of God.

Believing in Jesus, joining a Church, and diligent study of the Bible to understand God’s character, is how we join the kingdom of God. When God is satisfied with the number of people who have entered into the kingdom of God, this world will end, and a new world made up of only members of kingdom of God, ruled by Jesus, will begin.

This is the good news in summary. Are you in or out? Holy Spirit, please give us all a clear view of the good and beautiful kingdom of God, Amen!!!

 

Image: A street painter’s drawing of Jesus (Wikimedia)

WHAT IS YOUR ANCHOR IN TIMES OF UNCERTAINTY?

Seraphim 2

Isaiah 6:1-2 (New Living Translation)

It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.

 

Uzziah (also known as Azariah) was the twelfth king of Judah.  His father and grandfather were assassinated; they left Judah a poor and weak country. Uzziah was king at 16 and ruled for 52 years (see 2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 26). He was faithful to God, and thus God prospered and made Judah strong again.

Sadly, in his later years, pride caused Uzziah to attempt to take over the functions of the Priests; God struck him with Leprosy and this eventually led to his death. It was while mourning over Uzziah’s tragic death that Isaiah had this spectacular vision of God on the throne in the Temple, filing it up with his mighty presence and greatness.

The vision showed Isaiah that Judah’s true King was still alive and full of power. The vision strengthened Isaiah’s faith, renewed his hope, and showed him the way forward. It was the key turnaround moment in Isaiah’s life.

Who or what is king over your life? Country? The President? The economy? The certificate you earned from College? Family? The job you do? Friends? Church you attend? Will these hold firm in times of uncertainty?

Isaiah’s confidence was wrecked when Uzziah died, but the Lord rescued Isaiah with a vision of His presence and greatness. Our anchor and stability in times of uncertainty is Yahweh, the true and permanent Ruler of Heaven and Earth.

May the LORD give us a vision of his presence and greatness, like he did for Isaiah, to strengthen our trust in Him in these uncertain times, Amen!   

 

Image: Seraphim on Jerusalem YMCA based on Isaiah 6:1-5 (Source: Wikimedia

THE RESURRECTION – OUR LIVING HOPE AND GREAT EXPECTATION!

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1 Peter 1:3 (New International Version) – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…

1 Peter 1:3 (New Living Translation) – All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation…

 

Throughout history, there have been many who doubt that Jesus lived and walked the Earth; some others accept that Jesus did live and preached the gospel but he died and did not resurrect. These claim that Christianity is a fraud and the claim to resurrection of the dead to a new life where death has no power is fake news!

I sympathize with all who hold these views. Truly the chief claim of the Christian faith, that Jesus is the messiah who died for our sins and rose from the dead after three days, is quite incredible, beyond belief, and a miracle of great power too good to be true.

To accept that the resurrection happened is to accept that JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD to who we will all give account of how we lived our lives on Earth. Many people just don’t want to accept that we will give account of our lives – with the righteous rewarded with bodily resurrection to a new life, where disease and death have no power.

To us, followers of Jesus, his resurrection is a guaranty of our own future resurrection – because Jesus rose from the dead, ‘now, we live in great expectation’ that we will rise from the dead to be like him, and be with him. To us, followers of Jesus, death is not the final word, glory be to God in the highest, hallelujah!   

Happy Easter – its a season of great joy, as we look forward with great expectation to our own resurrection to a new life, where death has no power over us, Amen!

 

Image: The empty tomb (Source: Wikimedia

OUR DESTINY IN JESUS CHRIST

Jesus

Acts 10:34-38 (New Living Translation)

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.

You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

 

In the above passage from the book of Acts, Peter is preaching to Cornelius, a high ranking official in the Roman army, recalling how Jesus went about ‘doing good and healing’ all who looked to him. The Jews had many prophets in their history, who did amazing things, but Jesus surpassed all of them.

Since the death and resurrection of Jesus, the world has been experiencing the Christian era, the period between the resurrection and ascension of Jesus to heaven, and his second coming, this time around to rule the world. What would the rule of Jesus look like? It will be similar to what happened when he came the first time.

A critical difference will be that the goodness and healing powers of Jesus will extend to people in every nation around the world. It will be a time of peace, love, prosperity, and health. His coming again, will usher in a time of joy and gladness for all peoples on the planet, Jews and gentiles. All the world will see Jesus doing good, healing all.

This is our destiny and nothing can stop it from coming to pass, hallelujah!   

Image: Jesus the Redeemer (Source: Wikimedia)

WHEN THE TROUBLES OF LIFE ARE TOO MUCH TO BEAR!

1024px-Climbing_in_Eagle_Lake_Cliff_-_Lake_Tahoe,_California

 

Genesis 24:67 (New Living Translation) – And Isaac brought Rebekah into his mother Sarah’s tent, and she became his wife. He loved her deeply, and she was a special comfort to him after the death of his mother.

John 14:15-17 (New Living Translation) – “If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate [Comforter, Encourager, and Counselor], who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.

 

Despite the wealth of Isaac, son of Abraham, when his mother Sarah died, he needed a comforter. Like Isaac, there will be times and seasons in our lives when the troubles of life seem too much to bear; in those times, some seek comfort in food, alcohol, drugs, shopping, careless sex, and even in violence against others.

We reach out to a comforter or comforting experience because we are in pain, we are hurting, and are struggling to cope or overcome what troubles us.

Jesus understood this, and spent much of his time being a comforter to those who were hurting and looked to him for solutions. Towards the end of his time physically living with us on Earth, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit will come, and the major part of his work, will be to comfort, encourage, and counsel us.

As Christians, we experience good times and bad times – loss of a job or family member, ill health, difficult times with our studies, false accusations by close acquaintances, race based stress in society, broken homes – I could go on and on. What makes us different is that we have a comforter from God to help us overcome our setbacks.

As Christians, in times of troubles, we need to take time out to pray to God, asking for the comforter, the Holy Spirit to help us overcome, asking the Holy Spirit to give us strength and wisdom to keep going until we emerge out of the darkness into light.

Don’t let the troubles of life destroy you, ask the Holy Spirit for help, ask shamelessly and persistently, and he will answer, Amen!  

 

Image: Rock climbing California (Source: Wikimedia)

THE REAL SUPER-MAN!

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Matthew 11:2-5 (New Living Translation)

John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen – the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.

 

When news that the actor Christopher Reeve, who played the role of the children’s comic book hero Superman, had broken his neck while horse riding in May 1995, I was shocked and sad. Like millions of children who adored Superman, I was sad to accept the truth that the man who acted as Superman was flesh and blood, like myself.

As I think back on the Superman movies, I see that the producers did an excellent job in presenting Superman to us children as the solution to human problems. Here was a handsome young man, who could fly, see through walls, lift any object, defeat all the evil people in the world, but was a humble and nice person to be around.

The creators of Superman presented him as a messiah – and as a child I believed them!

Contrast this with John the Baptist, a firebrand preacher, who had been locked up by the King Herod, for his strong preaching against the King. Jesus did not fly like Superman to go free John from jail, neither did he go beat up the King to release John. So messengers from John, came to Jesus to question whether he is truly the Biblical Messiah.

The response from Jesus is beautiful – “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” It says to John, I may not be flying in to release you, but see what it is that has preoccupied me, judge for yourself if this is messianic work!

To strengthen his messianic status, Jesus rose from the dead, and is now in heaven, from where he continues his ministry to the blind, the lame, the leper, the deaf, the helpless, and the hopeless, in every generation, in every nation. This is a hero who cannot broke his neck while horse riding, who is divine not flesh and blood.

Jesus was full of godly power while he walked on Earth, but was kind, gentle, and compassionate. In him, we find a precious, faithful friend, who understands our pains, as we live in this tough world. He is our Superman – call on him today and every day, and you will find help in the day of trouble, Amen! 

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Image: A very human superman (Source: Wikimedia)    

 

JESUS FAVORITE SERMON

Mustard oil and seeds (2)

 

Matthew 13:31-32 (New Living Translation)

Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants…”

 

Reading through the gospels, it is clear that Jesus preached about the Kingdom of God more than any other topic. He told the crowds that followed him that the kingdom was near, and asked them to repent, so they can be a part of it.

He explained the nature of the kingdom to them using many parables and stories like the one above about the mustard seed. Indeed as the image above shows the mustard seed is the smallest of seeds; but when fully grown it is a good size tree.

Jesus is the seed that has given birth to the Kingdom of God on Earth.

The Kingdom of God is simply the place where Jesus is King. The Bible teaches that Jesus is King in the hearts of all who sincerely believe in Him. These are the Church of God; not the Church referring to buildings, but of people who believe in Jesus; not perfect people but people who see their sinfulness and look to Jesus for healing.

These make up the Kingdom of God on Earth, and the number grows daily. It started with a single seed, Jesus, over 2000 years ago, and has been growing and growing. There is no exchange of money to get in, the visa is belief in Jesus as the one who can give us power from the inside, power in our soul and spirit, to live godly lives.

As you seek for daily bread, for career success, for friends, for intimate relationships, for fun and laughter, seek Jesus a little more through prayer and Bible reading. Be part of the Kingdom of God on Earth today! 

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Image: Mustard seed and oil (Source: Wikimedia)

WISDOM FROM LAMENTATIONS

File:The captivity of Judah.jpg

 

Lamentations 1:1 (New Living Translation) – Jerusalem, once so full of people, is now deserted. She who was once great among the nations now sits alone like a widow. Once the queen of all the earth, she is now a slave.

Lamentations 5:21-22 (New Living Translation) – Restore us, O LORD, and bring us back to you again! Give us back the joys we once had! Or have you utterly rejected us? Are you angry with us still?

 

These are the opening and closing verses of the book of Lamentations, written by Prophet Jeremiah. Many avoid Lamentations because it is about grieving with sorrow over a devastating event; in this case, it is Jeremiah mourning the horrible destruction of Judah by the Babylonians and taking the people as captives.

This happened about 1000 years after God delivered Israel from Egypt and took them into a land of milk and honey (see previous post on Milk and Honey Part 1 and Part 2). When David was King, Israel was a very powerful nation, and when Solomon was King, it was a very rich nation. Here they were in Jeremiah’s era, a captive people.

The books of the prophets in the Bible, explain that this happened because Israel turned her back on God; consequently her Kings ruled very badly; her court judges were corrupt; her markets had traders who often cheated buyers; men were unkind and women cared more for their dress and make-up than their character.

Despite the prophets warning Israel for about 500 years to repent, they refused; and were then cruelly destroyed by Babylon. If Israel’s leaders, greatly favored by God, could get it wrong so badly, what about leaders of our nations today? Is it wise to place ALL our hopes for a better life, a better country, in the ability of our leaders today?

Psalm 146:3-5 (New Living Translation) tells us – Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them. But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the LORD their God.

Lamentations teaches a wise lesson that human leadership, no matter how blessed, will fail the people, from time to time. The only secure anchor we have is God; so in these difficult times of political insecurity everywhere, seek God earnestly and sincerely, and he will keep you and give you peace, Amen!   

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Image: The Captivity of Judah (Source: Wikimedia)

 

MILK AND HONEY – Part 2

1200px-Goats_Cheese_&_Honey_(17296929331)

 

Deuteronomy Chapter 8 (shortened) (New Living Translation)

God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character… to teach you that people do not live by bread alone – we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD… [He] is bringing you into a good land… 

…when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes… do not become proud… never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’ Remember the LORD your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful…

If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods, worshiping and bowing down to them, you will certainly be destroyed.

 

Last week in MILK AND HONEY – Part 1 we saw from Exodus Chapter 3 that the Lord promised Israel that he is rescuing them from Egypt and taking them to a land flowing with milk and honey; we also saw that this gospel of milk and honey is very popular, with many Christians seeking God because they want to get out of poverty.

The narrative from Deuteronomy 8 shows how the Israelites left Egypt; were in the wilderness for 40 years; survived on manna; and passed through God’s school of character building, in preparation for entering the land of milk and honey.

Lesson: before providing milk and honey, God will first build godly character in us.

Why is this important? If God does not build godly character in us, when he answers our prayers for milk and honey, we might become proud, lose interests in serving him, and become much more committed to other activities like politics, sports, pleasure travel, shopping, sexual diversions, excessive eating and drinking.

We have thus moved from the Lord just promising Israel milk and honey in the book of Exodus as a motivation for them to leave Egypt and worship him, to the Lord teaching them 40 years later in the book of Deuteronomy, that worshiping him as the source of their milk and honey is the more important thing he wants them to do.

Lesson – Yahweh will provide us bread as we pray for bread; but an abundance of bread should not turn us away from worshiping him to worshiping our own idols. He will build godly character in us so that success does not make us go astray; but if we still choose to turn our back on him, he won’t save us from eternal death. 

May the goodness of God, not be a stumbling block to us, Amen!

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Image: By jules – Goats Cheese & Honey, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45846370