Thursday, March 29, 2018

God's Love Expressed through Jesus’ Death

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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
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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

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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!