Sunday, September 30, 2018

Is God Good?

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The Scriptures provided an excellent answer to this question: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11, ESV)

It is an interesting observation from the Scriptures noting how the worst fathers still give the best gifts for their children. In 1 Samuel 2-3,  Eli was a father who became aware of his children’s sins and received notice from the Lord of confronting their sins. Eli was like any father who thought he was doing the very best for his children, gave opportunities and good things to them. Unfortunately, the cost of doing it resulted in them breaking away from God’s standard. Because Eli's children grew up sinning, without consequences, warning and guidance from their father, God dealt with them as He saw fit by putting an end to their sinful lifestyles. What Eli failed to do, God did!  Jerry Bridges explained God’s prerogative in this case:

God is completely sovereign. God is infinite in wisdom. God is perfect in love. God in His love always wills what is best for us. In His wisdom, He always knows what is best, and in His sovereignty, He has the power to bring it about.

God, our Father, provides the best gifts for His children who ask Him: “…how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Because He is good, we need only to ask His help with boldness: For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11). John Calvin emphasized, “It is only the goodness of God sensibly experienced by us which opens our mouth to celebrate His praise.”

Because He is good, we must acknowledge His goodness in our lives with gratitude: Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting (Psalms 107:1). With this emphasis, John Ortberg explained:

The goal of prayer is to live all of my life and speak all of my words in the joyful awareness of the presence of God. Prayer becomes real when we grasp the reality and goodness of God's constant presence with 'the real me.' Jesus lived his everyday life in conscious awareness of his Father.

Because He is good, we are confident of our standing in Jesus and to receive His abundant blessings through Him: He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, freely give us all things? (Romans 8:3).

Overall, the goodness of God revealed in the writings of the apostle James provides a guarantee, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, with whom there is no change or shifting shadow” (James 1:17). God's assurance of provisions and eternal blessing for His people is secured. Therefore, when God's people experience God's goodness, faith strengthens and expands greatly. Martin Luther described such kind of faith this way: “This is true faith, a living confidence in the goodness of God.”

Remember, speaking about God’s goodness and living it out are two different things. God's goodness becomes a reality at the least expected moments of life and being ready at all times is a must. Here’s how we can see God's goodness appreciated by examining an example of one of God's faithful missionaries in the life of Allan Gardiner.

Allen Gardiner experienced many physical difficulties and hardships throughout his service to the Savior. Despite his troubles, he said, "While God gives me strength, failure will not daunt me." In 1851, at the age of 57, he died of disease and starvation while serving on Picton Island at the southern tip of South America. When his body was found, his diary lay nearby. It bore the record of hunger, thirst, wounds, and loneliness. The last entry in his little book showed the struggle of his shaking hand as he tried to write legibly. It read, "I am overwhelmed with a sense of the goodness of God" (excerpt taken from the "The Lord is Good" Sermon by Jeffrey Richards).

What’s your story about the goodness of God? Would you declare the same perspective as Allan Gardiner did?


Let’s talk again!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Holy Scriptures brings Victory


God the Father is the giver of Holy Scripture; God the Son is the theme of Holy Scripture; and God the Spirit is the author, authenticator, and interpreter of Holy Scripture. ~J. I. Packer

After 4,000 years of human history, no other book is like the Holy Scriptures in its supremacy over all books written in the past, present and the future. And although the Holy Scriptures experienced a lot of attacks and threats, yet it withstood everything in its path. Now, more than ever, many are turning to its power and promises for receiving hope, comfort and strength in their lives. How powerful is the Holy Scriptures? Let’s look at how Jesus utilized the Holy Scriptures during overcoming Satan’s temptation. Matthew 4:3-4 described, “And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” One thing is certain; the Devil tempted Jesus to go against God’s word. Bob Jones, Sr. shared, “The Devil did not tempt Adam and Eve to steal, to lie, to kill, to commit adultery; he tempted them to live independent of God.” Jesus neutralized the temptation of the Devil by speaking God’s word and spoke with authority (Deuteronomy 8:3; Deuteronomy 6:16, 13). He knew what to say and where to stand His ground and as a result, overcame his temptation.

God’s promise of victory through His Word is assured because God’s word never fails in fulfilling its intended purpose: So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:11). Next, God’s word is reinforced by the power of God’s Spirit in empowering His people: Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts (Zechariah 4:6). Next, God’s word assured us of eternal life when we put our faith in Jesus: The promise of eternal life when we hear His words: Truly, truly, I tell you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment. Indeed, he has crossed over from death to life (John 5:24).

Jesus knew Satan’s strategy precisely because Satan used it already at the Garden of Eden with Eve (Genesis 3). This time, Jesus didn’t fall for his trap. Instead, He stood on God’s Word, and it paid off. In His encounter with Satan, Jesus provided everyone who believes in Him a pattern of defeating temptations as well. Dwight L. Moody emphasized, “The Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation.”

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The Holy Scriptures provides practical applications for securing victory through the Scriptures on a daily basis. First, continually study God’s truth in safeguarding our freedom in Christ: “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31-32). Next, courageously fulfill God’s agenda for your life no matter what we face: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Finally, confidently live consecrated lives as we await Jesus’ return: “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:11).

One thing is sure when our lives become fully anchored in God’s Word; we equip ourselves against all temptations and attack of the enemy of our faith. If Jesus did it and with His help, so can we!

Let’s talk again!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

God’s Amazing Grace

The late D. Martin Lloyd-Jones provided an excellent picture of what grace is all about: “There is no
more wonderful word than 'grace.' It means unmerited favour or kindness shown to one who is utterly undeserving.” While the apostle Paul expressed grace this way: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NIV). No matter how one looks at it, God’s grace is a fact we need to accept that is anchored only in the personhood of Jesus Christ. He alone carried grace for humanity’s sake. During His lifetime, Jesus manifested it, and those who received it benefitted greatly from it. But most importantly, in His death and resurrection, He made it available to everyone who believes in Him. Unfortunately, there are those who also reject grace without considering the eternal impact of being separated from God.
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Throughout the pages of the Scriptures, illustrations of God’s amazing grace are continually revealed. Here are two examples of God's amazing grace for our learning and reminder: Adam and Eve clothed by God with the skin of an animal before leaving the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:21). The woman caught in adultery received grace from Jesus’ intervention: Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:10-11, NIV). 

In these settings, while God extends grace, human beings must be willing to receive the favour offered by God. God provides grace, but humanity must accept it for its maximum benefit in one’s life. It is not just about receiving grace but living out God’s amazing grace on a daily basis.  

First, we begin by communicating God’s amazing grace to others in need through personal witnessing. Robert Murray M'Cheyne expressed it this way: There cannot be a secret Christian. Grace is like ointment hid in the hand; it betrayeth itself. If you truly feel the sweetness of the cross of Christ, you will be constrained to confess Christ before men.

Next, let’s do it by celebrating God’s amazing grace with others in the community of faith through personal testimony. Francis Chan explained how it works: We should be so joyful from God's grace that others would respond by saying, 'I wish I had your God. 

Lastly, it is by extolling God’s amazing grace as a witness to the unbelieving world through personal consecration. Andy Murray described it this way; “Time alone with the Lord Jesus each day is the indispensable condition of growth and power.”

As a personal example, being a father of two beautiful young adults, extending grace is a constant exercise in releasing it on a daily basis. At times, frustration and impatience occur. Nevertheless, withholding grace is never an option. What prompted me to extend grace? It is love and hope for a better tomorrow for my children. Here’s the gist: parenting with grace is showering them with much love and hope. 

Grace without these two ingredients is an exercise in futility. Similarly, God’s grace also includes love and hope for a better tomorrow. He wants the best for everyone who accepts His amazing grace. If you receive it, things happen for the better, but if you reject it, you’ll miss what could have been the best time of your life. May you receive His grace when He offers it to you today.

Let’s talk again!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Connecting Broken Bridges

We are living in a time of uncertainties where various opinions compete for our attention. Adding social media to the mix allowed many a platform for their views. While all of these things are significantly changing on a continual basis, we must find an anchor strong enough in carrying our stability through all of them. Otherwise, we will see ourselves pulled in every direction and left confused. Let’s find our balance, and in doing so, we gain the ability to navigate confidently through these opinions. G.K. Chesterton stated, “There are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands.”
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During Jesus’ time, a great divide stood between God and man. He declared Himself as the only Bridge to God: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, ESV). At the cross, God confirmed Jesus as the Bridge to Him: But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8 ESV). Now, it’s our turn to ensure these two things are relayed clearly to many people up in arms against one another in holding on tightly with their sentiments. But as for me, my opinion is squared firmly with God’s Word and its principles. 

Following the example of Jesus in bridging bridges is a top priority. He came with a specific mandate of building bridges between God and men. Thus, my role is keeping the bridge clear of obstacles for any individual I lead to Jesus. When Jesus met the Samaritan woman, He first created a bridge of communication when no one else dared because of the prevailing culture and resulted in the salvation of a whole community. How do we build bridges with others? Start by communicating God’s message of hope and love. It is by attracting them to see what Jesus did for humanity, and although there is a flipside of rejecting His offer, we focus instead on presenting eternity with God primarily. We never give up and give in because of rejection. We must expect these animosities and never surprised at them because Jesus forewarned us about them already. 

Here’s a great example of another strategy of building bridges through prayer as shared by George Mueller, the great Victorian Christian and social reformer: 

He tells a story of persistent prayer in his diary: In November 1844, I began to pray for the conversion of five individuals. I prayed every day without a single intermission, whether sick or in health, on the land, on the sea, and whatever the pressure of my engagements might be. Eighteen months elapsed before the first of the five was converted. I thanked God and prayed on for the others. Five years elapsed, and then the second was converted. I thanked God for the second, and prayed on for the other three. Day by day, I continued to pray for them, and six years passed before the third was converted. I thanked God for the three, and went on praying for the other two. These two remained unconverted. Thirty-six years later he wrote that the other two, sons of one of Mueller’s friends, were still not converted. He wrote, “But I hope in God, I pray on, and look for the answer. They are not converted yet, but they will be.” In 1897, fifty-two years after he began to pray daily, without interruption, for these two men, they were finally converted—but after he died![1] 

One thing is clear, George Mueller didn’t give up because of his faith in God’s saving power. No matter what we see and hear around us, keeping the bridge open is a top priority without giving up like George Mueller. Like Noah of old, he preached for 120 years and warned everyone of the impending floods. We know the result of his preaching didn’t persuade people. That’s why, in leading people to the bridge of life that is Jesus; we let people make their decision for eternity. Our role is sharing like Noah and praying like George Mueller then let God be God. 

Let’s talk again!


[1]Retrieved from https://sermons.faithlife.com/sermons/120117-mueller's-persistent-prayer

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Confessing our Sin

The promise given to anyone who approaches God with humility in seeking forgiveness is simple: “If
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we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, ESV). In this scenario, God is waiting for us and ready to forgive us until we decide to approach Him finally. Why is it important? Because when we finally take the step, we are admitting and confessing our sin. 
J. Hampton Keathley, III[1]explained, “The Greek word for confession in 1 John 1:9 is homologeo. This word means, “to speak the same language,” “to acknowledge, admit, agree with.” Confessing our sin is agreeing with God’s verdict of our sinfulness with the aim of restoring our broken fellowship with God. Lee Strobel shared this excellent insight:

Believing the right things about Jesus isn't enough. You're not adopted as God's child until you confess and turn away from your wrongdoing and receive the freely offered gift of forgiveness and eternal life that Jesus purchased with his death on the cross.

Next, when we confess and acknowledge our sin to God, He responds because “…he is faithful…” God’s faithfulness never wavers and never ceases. The book of Lamentations described it distinctly: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (3:22-23). J. Stephen Lang[2]shared, “For the Christian, confession is not an option. We sin, and we confess, and our life with God goes on. It can't be otherwise.” Confessing our sin opens doors in His great vault filled with faithfulness.

Next, when we confess and acknowledge our sin to God, we can be assured that He will be  “…just to forgive us our sins…” Frederick Buechner shared, “To confess your sins to God is not to tell [God] anything [God] doesn't already know. Until you confess them, however, they are the abyss between you. When you confess them, they become the bridge.” Fear always keeps anyone from doing this essential task. However, everything starts with this one thing towards mending our broken relationship with God because of sin and its effect. Let’s heed the prophet Isaiah’s counsel:  “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7, ESV).

Finally, when we confess and acknowledge our sin to God, He sees Jesus and His blood as the only means “…to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”Daniel Fuller provided this insight, “If God did not forgive the Christian who confesses and turns away from sin, God would become unrighteous by holding in contempt Christ's atoning work, whose purpose was to uphold God's glory.” Jesus came for the sole purpose of bridging God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness.  Without Christ, there’s no way for humanity to approach God. “Sin is the most expensive thing in the universe. If it is forgiven sin, it cost God His only Son. If it is unforgiven sin, it cost the sinner his soul and an eternity in hell”(Charles G. Finney). Thus, with Christ dying on the cross, He became the “only way, the truth, and the life…” (John 14:6). 

The seriousness of God’s intent of providing a way out of our sinfulness came after Jesus gave up His ghost and the temple curtain split into two safeguarding the Holy of Holies. In His death, Jesus tore the veil representing the separation of man from God. And because of His atoning work, entering the throne of God with boldness became a reality for all of us (Hebrews 4:16). If we are sick and tired of our bad situation, the ball is in our court. Let’s set aside our pride and approach God with humility. Somebody said, 
            
Sometimes victory over sin comes quickly. Other times, victory comes more slowly. God has promised that as we make use of His resources, He will progressively bring about change in our lives. We can persevere in our efforts to overcome sin because we know that He is faithful to His promises. 

Let’s talk again!


[1]Retrieved from https://bible.org/seriespage/16-assurance-god-s-provision-sin
[2]Retrieved from http://www1.cbn.com/questions/how-do-we-confess-our-sin