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)

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)    

 

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)

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)

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