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

WHAT IS YOUR ANCHOR IN TIMES OF UNCERTAINTY?

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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

PSALM 91 – A TESTIMONY OF MOSES

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Psalm 91:1-2 (New Living Translation)

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.

 

It is commonly believed that Moses wrote Psalm 91 when Israel was traveling through the desert on their journey to the Promised Land.

We remember that during their 40 years journey, a cloud was always over the children of Israel during the day to protect them from the sun; and a pillar of fire appeared in the middle of their camp at night to provide light, warmth, and security (check out Exodus 13:21). Psalm 91 is thus a testimony of how God cares for his children.

While it is often difficult for us to see the many ways God cares for us, especially in times of trouble and trials, we have the testimony and praise of people like Moses, to encourage us. Moses lived in the palace of Egypt from birth till he was 40; was then driven away and lived a tough life as a shepherd for another 40 years.

During his 40 years as a shepherd Moses must have felt abandoned; likely concluded he was a failure; and lived with pain at not being able to rescue Israel from slavery. All this turned around when Moses met God at the burning bush and was empowered to go deliver Israel (check out Exodus 3 for this terrific experience). 

We see Moses in Psalm 91, now as deliverer of Israel with full support from God, testifying that ‘those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty… he is my God, and I trust him.’ Moses speaks strongly to us today, let’s not give up on God no matter the challenges we face – Amen!

 

Image: Moses and the burning bush (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

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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!

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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)

A LESSON FROM KING DAVID

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1 Samuel 22:1-3 (New Living Translation)

So David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. Soon his brothers and all his other relatives joined him there. Then others began coming—men who were in trouble or in debt or who were just discontented—until David was the captain of about 400 men. Later David went to Mizpeh in Moab, where he asked the king, “Please allow my father and mother to live here with you until I know what God is going to do for me.”

 

David is honored as the greatest king of Israel. Before he became king, he served King Saul, who later became very jealous of David’s popularity among the people. Saul felt David was a threat to his throne and decided to kill him. David ran away and ended up living in a cave outside of Israel as a political refugee.

To add to David’s pain, his brothers and all his other relatives, including his elderly parents, became political refugees too, running away from the persecution of King Saul. David’s parents lived comfortably, so life in a cave was going to be extremely hard on them, so David pleaded with king of Moab to keep and protect them.

David was facing a big, big, crises, that was hurting him, and also hurting his entire family. This was a very heavy load of trouble he was carrying on his shoulders! Yet, in this dark moment, David’s faith shines bright, he says to the king of Moab, please help care for my parents “until I know what God is going to do for me.”   

This is amazing and of great encouragement!

We would expect David to be mad at God. David is instead looking to God for solutions when his life and that of his family, including his parents, have fallen apart!  Indeed, as we read on about the life of David, we do see that God eventually rescued him from King Saul, and established him as a great king honored in Israel to this day. 

May the Lord give us a faith like David’s, able to withstand the troubles of this world, especially in times when it seems we have lost everything, Amen!

Image: David plays the harp for King Saul (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)    

 

SHAMELESS PERSISTENT PRAYER

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Luke 11:5-10 (New Living Translation)

Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’

But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.

“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

 

When it seems like you are praying and praying and praying, and heaven is not answering, pray some more, keep at it until the answer arrives. The answer may sometimes seem not the best, but over time we come to see that God always has our best interests in mind. Let’s not quit in prayer, lets be shamelessly persistent!

This is not me asking you to be persistent, this is from the teachings of Jesus as you can see from the above passage from the book of Luke. Yes, it can be frustrating praying over a specific issue time after time, but if Jesus says we should, then lets stick with it. The words of Jesus are true, and he says shameless persistence pays off eventually!

May the Lord give us the strength to be shamelessly persistent in our prayers, Amen!

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Image: Climbing stairs to the summit of Tian Menshan Mountain China (Wikimedia)

JESUS FAVORITE SERMON

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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)