Thursday, March 29, 2018

God's Love Expressed through Jesus’ Death

No copyright infringement intended
Keeping our thoughts and hearts on this great event, we need a constant reminder of its eternal value.For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Anne Graham Lotz expressed it beautifully, “John 3:16 is the North Star of the Bible. If you align your life with it, you can find the way home.” In this season of remembering the greatest event in human history more than 2,000 years ago, let’s glean some important truths in experiencing God’s love today.  When God declared His love for us, it was unconditional because “…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  
Here's an important: God saw our need for a Saviour and made it happen by sending Jesus in the flesh. John 3:16 declared,  “

God’s love was sacrificial because Christ became the Lamb of God for our sins. 1 John 1:9-10 states, "In this the love of God was made manifest (displayed) where we are concerned: in that God sent His Son, the only begotten or unique [Son], into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our sins” (Amplified Version).

The proof of God’s love became a reality when His only Son came to save us. Titus 3: 4-6 states,
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.

God’s love became especially accessible because of people believing in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. When people expressed their faith in Jesus, eternal life was guaranteed. John 20:30-31 states,

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Why do we need God’s love through His Son? It is simply to experience eternal life with God in heaven, not hell. Remember that our earthly life is short compared to what eternity offers. Romans 6:23 stated, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Here’s an important fact to remember: If God didn’t send Jesus Christ to die for our sins; our destiny in the afterlife is eternal separation from God. If God didn’t love us so, our destination is eternal anguish in Hell. I’m aware that many shunned this truth. But unfortunately, whether we believe it or not, it is a real place.

Let’s secure our place in God’s eternal home in Heaven by keeping these wonderful truths in mind:

1.     Jesus was crucified that we might receive God’s love for us.
2.     Jesus died that we might live with hope amidst suffering and troubles.
3.     Jesus gave His life that we might know our value on earth and in eternity.

Here’s another insight about John 3:16:

He loves. He gives. We believe. We live.
It really is that simple. God loves this world, more than we’ll ever know.
He gave his one and only Son so that we could live forever with him.
Apart from him we die. With him we live.
Choose life. Choose Jesus! ~Scott Bayles

In His last hours on the Cross of Calvary, the only thought holding Him until the end was His great love for humanity. He completed His task with a view of their redemption from sin’s power, Satan’s rule, and death’s grip. And fueling his sacrifice on the Cross is His abundant love and provision of eternal life to everyone who believes in Him.  Finally, keep this question in mind: “What held Him to the Cross?”

Not the nails, but His wondrous love for me, 

Kept my Lord on the cross of Calvary, 

Oh, what power could hold Him there—

All my sin and shame to bear?

Not the nails, but His wondrous love for me. ~Sunday School Times

Let’s talk again!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

God owns it all!

God owns it all! When this statement becomes our slogan, personal principles and attitudes align with
No cpyright infringement intended
God’s purposes in our lives as stewards. The future is secure and entirely dependent on God’s provisions. As a result, removing worries, doubts, and fears. The resources He gave us are means but never the end in fulfilling our destiny and calling. Declare it and receive the benefits of having God on our side as His stewards.

Here’s a great illustration from Lloyd Stilley describing what stewardship is all about:

When you go to a hotel, you might give your bags to a steward who takes them to your room, but they are not his bags. You entrust your bags and their safekeeping to him for a short period of time. The foundational principle of stewardship is that God is the owner of all.

Most importantly, the Scriptures stated in Deuteronomy 10:14, “Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it” (ESV). The whole premise of this declaration is ascribing to God ownership of everything known and unknown. In the Old Testament, the book of Genesis began with this statement, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Even Abraham declined the offer from the king of Sodom and recognized God’s authority, “Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have sworn to the LORD God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:22). King David also exclaimed, “A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD'S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it” (Psalm 24:1). Even the prophet Isaiah marveled at God’s sovereign power:

Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing (Isaiah 40:26).

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul declared, "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof" (1 Corinthians 10:26). No matter what unbelieving men and science present against this absolute truth, the evidence in the creation and human anatomy prove without a doubt of God’s ownership of everything. Allow me to share some principles of God's ownership and stewardship to live by today. First, accepting God’s ownership of everything provides responsibilities as stewards. John Wesley said, “When the Possessor of heaven and earth brought you into being, and placed you in this world, he placed you here not as a proprietor, but a steward.” Next, God’s ownership included procedures to follow and when followed yields reward for his stewards. Therefore, our attitude as stewards matters the most in discharging our duties. As a steward, the apostle Paul encouraged,

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism (Colossians 3:23-25).

Lastly, God’s ownership included responsibilities. Therefore, as stewards, we are accountable as Hugh Whelchel explained,

Like the servants in the Parable of the Talents, we will be called to give an account of how we have administered everything we have been given, including our time, money, abilities, information, wisdom, relationships, and authority. We will all give account to the rightful owner as to how well we managed the things he has entrusted to us.[1]

During our lifetime, keeping these principles in mind assists us in becoming better stewards of God’s resources. Simply put, it is living with God’s resources daily and having a clear focus on pleasing God when the time of accounting arrives. In the end, the resources God entrusted to our care, whether small or large, produces responsible stewards or wild ones. Let’s keep in mind the encouraging message shared by Charles R. Swindoll to all stewards: “Trust Him. Let it go. You’ve been given one main task: to be a good steward of what He has entrusted to you. Nothing less. Nothing more. God owns it all.”[2]

Let’s talk again!


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Practicing Hospitality

No copyright infringement intended
From a biblical perspective, “Hospitality can be defined as “the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.” In the New Testament, the Greek word translated “hospitality” literally means “love of strangers.”[1]

The Scriptures commands us, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God (Hebrews 13:16, ESV). If commanded, then it is an attitude Christians must adhere consistently on a daily basis. The simple reason is this: “Everything that passes between Christians should be a proof and instance of the union they have in Jesus Christ” (Matthew Henry Commentary).[2] 

When we practice hospitality, we represent Jesus and His principles. Jesus practiced hospitality especially among the society’s poor and as a result, infringed on various traditional practices of His time. Notwithstanding, He performed many hospitable acts in spite of various oppositions because He is only motivated by His great love of humanity.

The apostle Paul summarized how practicing hospitality looked like in this way, Share with the Lord’s people who are in need” (Romans 12:13, NIV). The Parable of the Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) clearly showed how hospitality is practiced. Simply put, Jesus taught that hospitality is an attitude of the heart, not an opportunity of becoming great in the sight of others. Therefore, when we follow Jesus’ example of hospitality, it becomes a lifestyle:

The duty of ministering to the saints is so plain, that there would seem no need to exhort Christians to it; yet self-love contends so powerfully against the love of Christ, that it is often necessary to stir up their minds by way of remembrance. (Matthew Henry Commentary)[3]

Practicing hospitality goes beyond the idea of just being a hospitable person but as Christian believers following the hospitality principles exemplified by Jesus. And having this mindset aligns with the exhortation of the apostle Paul’s to the Colossian Christians: “So that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10, ESV).

In our time today, how do we go about practicing hospitality? Allow me to provide three components of practicing hospitality and it begins by having open hands and an inclination of extending help to others in need without reservations. In the Old Testament, here's a simple instruction to follow:

If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. (Deuteronomy 15:7-8, ESV)

What does it mean to have open hands? Here’s what I found shared by Shasta Nelson,

My open hands invite me to embrace, hug and cherish the people in my life now. My open hands remind me to feel grateful for those relationships even when they have flown away. My open hands provide me a visual promise that I anticipate a future filled with more love.[4]

Next, it is by having open hearts and involvement without restraints. When asked by a group of audience, “John replied, "Whoever has two tunics should share with him who has none, and whoever has food should do the same" (Luke 3:11, ESV). What does it mean to have open hearts? Rick Hanson, a Ph.D. shared an excellent idea,

Get a sense of your heart being expansive and inclusive, like the sky. The sky stays open to all clouds, and it isn’t harmed by even the stormiest ones. Keeping your heart open makes it harder for others to upset you.[5]

Lastly, it is by having open doors and an initiative without regrets. Jesus encouraged us this way: “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42, NIV). What does it mean to have open doors? Nan McCullough shared this wonderful insight,

Our present culture is moving toward more and more isolation. We work at jobs where we sit in cubicles in front of computer screens and talk to unknown faces on telephones. We come home, lock our doors, and sit in front of the television. Hospitality counteracts this trend because most people are honored when you open your home to them.[6]

In the end, always remember that our acts of hospitality, anchored in Jesus’ principles, induce hope for many in need. More importantly, it reflects the right character of what Christianity is all about. And finally, don’t get tired of doing good things to others in need because God will bless us more than we expect to receive.

Let’s talk again!


Sunday, December 31, 2017

Welcome Home

Keeping the right perspective in approaching the next year is critical in experiencing new things even if the package is the same. It is a parallel concept as far as a church family is concerned. We need a physical home, but we also need a spiritual home. Therefore, finding a church family is essential to our spiritual growth. The Old Testament concept of a gathering place is around the temple. In the New Testament, Jesus provided a new perspective of a gathering place called church when He declared, “…and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18, ESV). In this new setting, Jesus showed a picture of God’s Kingdom filled with God’s people called and chosen as God’s dwelling place to fulfill His plan and purpose for humanity’s salvation.
No copyright infringement intended

It begins with Jesus as the Foundation Stone of God’s church family: “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11, ESV). An important question is this: How does this church function? It is a place where believers of Jesus are called to become living stones: “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4-5, ESV). Another major component of God’s church and His living temple is His Spirit dwelling in us: “Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16, NIV).

In this gathering place called the church, believers are invited to become God’s dwelling place: “What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:16, NIV). It is a church where believers are called to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading: “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us” (1 John 3:24, NIV).

In serving God as a church pastor for twenty-five years, I firmly believe belonging to a church family is non-negotiable. It is natural inclination of coming together as Jesus’ disciples. As such, having Jesus Rock of Ages Ministries (JRAM) as my spiritual family and church in the past five years is an opportunity and a privilege. Moreover, I am proud to say JRAM is an active part of God’s Kingdom and the Body of Christ with a clear intention of seeing people meet Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. More importantly, it is a church family where people are warmly greeted with a particular tagline, “In JRAM, the welcome never ends.” 

In this declaration of complete openness and a welcoming spirit, we follow Jesus’ example of hospitality and care. Here’s an excellent portrayal of what a church family is all about: “A family is a shelter from the storm, a friendly port when the waves of life become too wild. No person is ever alone who is a member of a family” (Source Unknown). JRAM endeavors in following these principles in our church family.

If you haven’t found a church family yet, I urge you to look for such a place where you can experience real belongingness and where the welcome never ends. Also, in looking for your church family, please remember that each church family is unique and its members are imperfect. However, knowing this fact must not deter us from becoming part of a church family. Similarly, we love and care for our unique and imperfect family members because after all, they are our family.

That's why we extend in JRAM a warm welcome because we love and care for everyone just as Jesus said we must do. Finally, if in the future you get to attend to one of our church family gatherings, expect to hear, “Welcome to JRAM, where the welcome never ends.”

Let’s talk again!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Baby in a Manger: God Sent His only Son

The days are filled with excitement as Christmas season arrives. People are scrambling for various things and events with families and friends. Everyone is becoming focused on finding the best gift for one another. Some, along the way, share with those in need in the spirit of the season. All of these running here and there are good. However, when we remove the real concept of Christmas apart from Christ, we missed the whole message altogether. Laura Hooker provided this insight of what occurs
during Christmas:

What is the thought of Christmas? Giving.
What is the hope of Christmas? Living.
What is the joy of Christmas? Love.
No silver or gold is needed for giving,
If the heart is filled with Christmas love,
For the hope of the world is kindly living,
Learned from the joy of God above.

No copyright infringement intended
Simply put, the Christmas message is primarily about the coming of the promised Messiah and God’s love for fallen humanity through the birth of Jesus Christ. Most importantly, God gave His Son for our salvation. Luke wrote: “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (2:12).  Somebody said, “Christ was content with a stable when he was born so that we could have a mansion when we die.” His birth is a paradox to many because everyone thought of his birth happening in a palace and not in a manger.

There are various realities shown regarding His birth demanding close attention. First, the helplessness of humanity is expressed in Jesus becoming a baby. Second, the humility of Jesus became evident because He became like us: God became like us (Philippians 2). Jesus went through the process of humanity to become our Savior and Lord. Lastly, the hope of humanity’s redemption from the power of sin came because the Messiah Jesus was born. The Promised Messiah arrived at the perfect time of God’s timetable, not ours (Galatians 4:4). Joel Pankow explained,

God became man - born in the manger with one mission. He had to take on our flesh - born of a virgin - so that he could fulfill God’s will - and save us. He fulfilled his mission of dying for you. He fulfilled His mission of making you holy. That’s the reason for Christmas.

Why did Jesus come? What’s the message of Jesus’ birth in our time? There are three things to consider. It begins with obedience. Jesus’ birth as a baby showed His obedience to His Father’s will without questions. Next, His birth signified servanthood. And Jesus, in being wrapped in swaddling cloths, affirmed His intention of associating with the poor people of the world. Finally, His birth revealed the mission-mindedness of Jesus and a clarity of purpose in what He wanted to achieve, i.e., salvation of humanity.

God expects everyone respond to His Son with a simple acknowledgment of our need of a Saviour. If we don’t see Jesus this way, then the message of Christmas is lost in translation, i.e., “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21, NIV). Let’s put everything in the right perspective. Someone asked this question, “What shall I give Him, poor as I am?” The answer comes in this way:
If I were a shepherd, I would give a lamb;
If I were a wise man, I would do my part;
But such as I have I give Him,— Give Him my heart.

Christmas is a significant event for everyone whether people believe it or not. Also, it doesn’t change the fact of Jesus’ birth and its value for everyone needing a Saviour. He gave His life, and we reciprocate in the same way by acknowledging Him in our life. It becomes our greatest gift to Him as we remember and celebrate His coming. Think about it for a moment. No other person of great importance in human history claimed what He did, and other founders of religion never declared of being the Messiah except Jesus alone.

Therefore, when people asked, “Why do we celebrate Christmas?” Give them a simple answer: It is the celebration of the coming of Jesus as the Saviour of the world.

Let’s talk again!