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 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)

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)    

 

WISDOM FROM LAMENTATIONS

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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)

 

HEALER OF THE BROKENHEARTED

 

John 4:7-9 (God’s Word Translation)

A Samaritan woman went to get some water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink of water.” (His disciples had gone into the city to buy some food.) The Samaritan woman asked him, “How can a Jewish man like you ask a Samaritan woman like me for a drink of water?” (Jews, of course, don’t associate with Samaritans.)

 

The meeting of Jesus and the Samaritan woman happened early in his ministry. He was going back north on foot to Galilee after a short visit to Jerusalem. Samaria was in-between both places; the people, the Samaritans, were children of Jews who had inter-married with gentiles for many generations. Sadly, they were considered impure by Jews, and contact with them was strongly forbidden by Jewish laws.

Relationships between Jews and Samaritans were often hostile, bitter, full of mistrust and pain. So it was a shocking surprise to this woman in the passage from Chapter 4 of the Gospel of John that Jesus is speaking with her, and even asking her for water. Adding to her surprise was that Jesus knew all about her five failed marriages, and about her current living situation with a man who was not her husband.

A normal Jewish religious leader would not associate with this Samaritan woman, but Jesus did. He not only interacted with this woman, he did not condemn her, he instead offered her redemption and salvation. This woman who came to the well to draw water alone with no friends coming with her as was the custom back then; a woman with a bad reputation; with deep emotional wounds; found a savior in Jesus.

This woman’s story in John Chapter 4 shows an aspect of God’s character revealed in Psalm 147:1-3 (God’s Word Translation) –  Hallelujah! It is good to sing psalms to our God. It is pleasant to sing [his] praise beautifully. The LORD is the builder of Jerusalem. He is the one who gathers the outcasts of Israel together. He is the healer of the brokenhearted. He is the one who bandages their wounds.

John Chapter 4 is about Jesus truly bandaging the wounds of outcasts, bringing salvation to a troubled woman and to a despised people. This woman with no friends to accompany her to the well, was so full of joy and went to call everyone in her city to come see Jesus. He spent two days there and we are told that: Many Samaritans in that city believed in Jesus because of the woman… (John 4:39).  

What is it that could be causing you deep inner pain? Failed relationships? Unsuccessful career? Financial hardship? Health problems? Discrimination against you because of racism, because of your ethnicity and tribe, because you are a woman, or because you believe in Jesus? What is it that has left you brokenhearted?

Don’t lose all hope; look to Jesus, connect with him through prayer – He is the healer of the brokenhearted. He is the one who bandages their wounds.

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Image: Jesus and the Samaritan woman (Source: Wikimedia)

OUR DAILY BREAD

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Luke 11:1-4 (World English Bible)

…when he [Jesus] finished praying in a certain place, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.”

He said to them, “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come. May your will be done on Earth, as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. Bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

 

While some scholars say Jesus was born 1,250 years after God delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt (the exodus), others say he was born 1,500 years after. During this long length of time, Israel had occupied the promised land, and under King Solomon, silver was as common as ordinary stones in Israel (1 Kings 10:27).

The Israelites saw God fulfill his word to bring them into a land of milk and honey (see my previous blogs MILK AND HONEY – Part 1 and MILK AND HONEY – Part 2); but by the time Jesus was born, many lived in poverty. This was because Israel became a wealthy nation and forgot about God; consequently life became difficult for them.

When Jesus came and was performing great miracles, his followers were amazed. They observed that he was prayerful, and felt this was why he was so powerful. They therefore asked to be taught how to pray. Jesus taught them to pray about heavenly issues, to pray about their sins, and to pray also for regular daily bread.

We should be concerned about heavenly issues and therefore study our Bible regularly to understand heavenly issues better and better. We should also pray for our daily needs for our spirit, soul and body, and do so without doubts whether God will answer. To be spiritual is not a call to a life of starvation, disease, and misery. 

O God of heaven, give us day by day our daily bread, in Jesus name, Amen!   

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Image: Homemade White Bread with Honey By TheCulinaryGeek from Chicago, USA – Homemade White Bread with HoneyUploaded by the wub, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27753532

MILK AND HONEY – Part 2

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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

 

HEALING BY REMOTE CONTROL

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Proverbs 3:5-8 (God’s Word Translation)

Trust the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths smooth. Do not consider yourself wise. Fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. [Then] your body will be healed, and your bones will have nourishment.

In high school, I never cared much about my health. I was young, very well-fed, and strong. I could do whatever I wanted with my body. As a young adult, I was involved in work that required long hours of standing, long walks in the forest, and short hours of sleep in rough places. I could do all of this, get up the next morning, dust my body, and off I go to punish the body some more.

Now entering middle age, my body does not seem to recover as fast anymore from bruises, aches, pains, and short hours of sleep. I watch my steps when going up and down stairs, and when on wet surfaces. When it snows, I don’t want to go to the office, pick the kids up from school, or go grocery shopping. My health and concern for my body is now a top priority issue on my mind every day.

Consequently, the words of Solomon above have taken on a huge significance in my life as I have gotten older. How can it be that trusting in the LORD, giving ear to his counsel to turn away from evil, results in healing for my body and nourishment for my bones? What kind of technology and medical practice is this? My rational scientific mind fails to see the connection between faith and healing.

Then I asked myself ‘how come I can press the remote control and watch any program or movies I like on TV?’ To be honest I can’t fully explain how the remote control works. I know there are experts out there who can break it down for me to understand; but to me and billions of people around the world, it’s like magic, it’s like spirit in motion, when using the remote control to navigate the TV.

If God be given due respect as creator of all things including our bodies, then it is not too much to acknowledge that God must have a remote link with our bodies, such that at his word, our physical bodies including our bones receives nourishment, which our eyes just cannot see.

I know for that when I fast and pray on a regular basis, I am able to stay off junk food; I sleep better and physical activities seem lighter to perform. My energy levels stay high without need for energy drinks. There must be truth and power in this Bible passage, and it’s available for you too. Trust in the LORD, turn away from evil, and experience healing by remote control for your entire person.

 

Image: Christ heals the daughter of the woman of Canaan. Etching by Simpson after Samule Wale [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons]