Friday, February 16, 2024

The Manna From Heaven

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God sent Manna to Israel for a specific purpose and timetable as recorded in Exodus 16:35, “The people of Israel ate the manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land. They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan” (ESV).

Manna, basically a word that means “what is it?” is a bread-like substance that fell from heaven (Psalm 78:24), and that tasted like honey. The Israelites would go and collect a daily portion of manna each day, ensuring to get a double portion before the Sabbath (so they didn’t work for their food on the Sabbath). If they grabbed too much or too little, they suffered the consequences (Exodus 16:20).”[1]

Maybe you have this question: Why Did God Send Manna to the Israelites? One of the primary reasons is God meeting their physical need for hunger. Next, God wanted their trust and obedience in collecting them as commanded. Unfortunately, some of them collected more than enough manna on some days, and it rotted in their tents, full of maggots. Others didn’t obey the command of God in collecting double portions before the Sabbath, and they ended up hungry on the Sabbath because manna didn’t fall that day. Finally, it is God foreshadowing the coming of Jesus as the Manna from Heaven. God wanted a foretaste of what heavenly bread tastes like as a temporary relief. How about receiving a more permanent solution with an eternal impact?

Mark Woods in his article “Three Lessons For Today From The Manna In The Wilderness” shared the following reasons why God wanted them to collect what’s only needed for the day:

The Israelites at this time were a travelling people, reliant on finding grazing and supplies where they could. They were unable to store up large reserves of food. So when God gives them food that can't be stored up for a rainy day, he is encouraging them to depend on him daily. It was a way of warning them not to hold on to good things too long. Many of us face this temptation: we like things as they are, and we are resistant to change. But hold on to things instead of letting them go, and they can turn very sour.” [2]

Let’s always remember that the provision of God comes daily and supernaturally with a specific purpose for the exact benefit of His people. God’s miracles may not manifest as they did in the past, but instead sent the greatest miracle of them all, i.e., Jesus Christ. Jesus embodied and contained the miracles of God in the past, present and future in Him.

More than 1,000 years later, Jesus Christ repeated the miracle of manna in the Feeding of the 5,000. The crowd following him was in the "wilderness" and he multiplied a few loaves of bread until everyone had eaten their fill. Some scholars believe that Jesus' phrase, "Give us this day our daily bread" in the Lord's Prayer, is a reference to manna, meaning that we are to trust God to supply our physical needs one day at a time, as the Jews did in the desert. Christ frequently referred to himself as bread: "the true Bread from heaven" (John 6:32), "the Bread of God" (John 6:33), "the Bread of life" (John 6:35, 48), and John 6:51: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." (NIV)[3]

God sent Jesus as the Eternal Bread of life, and those who believed in Him received the full blessing of eternal satisfaction that God promised. In sending Jesus, God is a constant and abundant provider of all our needs. The feeding of the five thousand became an enduring reminder in our daily Christian life that nothing on earth is too big for God. Therefore, if Jesus can do it, He can do it again for us today.

Let me end with this insight: “Jesus points out that the manna the Israelites ate in the wilderness only sustained their life for a short time, but they eventually died. The bread that He’s offering will give them eternal life. And He is that bread. He goes on to tell them “this bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.[4]

If Jesus can fulfill the hunger of our hearts, why wouldn’t you receive Him as the Bread of Life now?

Let’s talk again!

Friday, February 9, 2024

Jesus, the Author of the New Covenant

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In the pages of the book of Exodus, Moses introduced God’s covenant with Israel through the blood of animals: “So Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words" (Exodus 24:8 ESV)

What does the Old Covenant represent then?

The roots of the Old Covenant actually trace back to Abraham, the forefather of Israel. God initiated a covenant with Abraham in which He promised to make a special nation of his descendants. It is these descendants who later entered into a covenant with God at Mount Sinai.  Exodus 20-23 is called “the book of the covenant” (Exodus 24:4, 7).[1]

What does the Old Covenant mean for us today?

 “As hard as we try, we cannot keep the Law perfectly. The Law shows us how sinful we are, but God's plan of salvation was to send his Son Jesus Christ to save us from our sins. The Ten Commandments are a guide for right living, but keeping the Law cannot save us.”[2]

The apostle James reiterated this simple fact: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it (James 2:10 ESV).”

Here's the clincher that God, through the Old Covenant, provided His people an opportunity to experience His presence and to understand His mindset from a distance.

Paul states the law was only meant to be our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24 KJV). The law does not create a sense of frustration and failure to leave us there. What it does is make us aware that we are incapable of meeting the demands of the law so that we are driven to Christ, the only one who fulfills in us what the law demands.”[3]

When the right time came, Jesus introduced the New Covenant with His shed blood on the Cross. During his Passover meal with His disciples, “He said to them, "This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”

Christ fulfilled the Old Covenant by demonstrating how to live the demands of the laws of God and maintaining a higher standard of living as Christians through His grace and mercy alone. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17 ESV).

What does the New Covenant represent?

When Christ instituted the New Covenant with His shed blood (Luke 22:20), He made it possible for us to be truly cleansed from sin (Hebrews 9:13-14; 1 John 1:7). The result was that animal sacrifices were no longer required as symbols because Christ was the ultimate fulfillment of that symbolism.[4]

What does the New Covenant mean for us today?

Contrary to the belief of many, the New Covenant does not abolish all the terms of the Old Covenant. Both covenants include provisions for a sacrifice for sin, a priesthood serving in a tabernacle, obedience to God’s laws, and promised blessings from God. However, in each case, the changes in the New Covenant amplify the terms of the Old Covenant! Under the Old Covenant, God presented the Israelites with two options and told them to “choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20). What makes the New Covenant “new” is that it is a far better agreement than the one entered into at Mount Sinai.”[5]

Another revelation is that God, through the New Covenant instituted by Jesus, provided His people an opportunity to experience His presence intimately through Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence daily.

In the end, God’s promise declared in Genesis 3:15 covered the Old Covenant pages towards the fulfillment of the promise through Jesus’ birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, and coming back again for those who believed and trusted Him called the New Covenant. Thus, from Adam to Jesus Christ, God’s plan was fulfilled at the right time and by His plan and purpose (Galatians 4:4) for humanity and His glory alone.

Jack Zavada shared this insight: “Both the Old and New Testaments are the story of the same God, a God of love and mercy who gave his people the freedom to choose and who gives his people the opportunity to come back to him by choosing Jesus Christ.”[6]

Let’s talk again!

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Releasing Forgiveness as God Intended

The story of Joseph and the scene of forgiving his brothers is familiar. This episode conveys redemption, healing, and a firm decision of forgiveness. In Genesis 45:1-15, the story unfolded and seemed unreal. However, it became the occasion where God set up shocking everyone and having disbelief in the story.

Nowhere in this chapter is the sin of his brothers minimized. Joseph identified the treatment they had given him as sinful, yet his words were filled with hope and encouragement. Verses 5-8 assure these men that their sin had not thwarted the purposes of God. “You sold me,” Joseph said, “but God sent me” (verse 5). Their purpose was to destroy, but God’s was to save.” 

Somebody said, “Reconciliation heals the soul. The joy of rebuilding broken relationships and hearts. If it’s healthy for your growth, forgive and love.”

The lingering question many asked: “Was Joseph in Egypt because of the sin of his brothers or because of the good plan of God?” In effect, they are both true. If this is the case, forgiveness made sense in both aspects because of what they represent. We forgive because people sin and need it. And most importantly, seeing them from God’s perspective, as the apostle Paul declared, “All things work together for good…” 

In releasing forgiveness, Joseph summarized how forgiveness becomes possible when understood from God’s perspective. In releasing forgiveness, Joseph realized that God ruled his life, not good or evil individuals, not circumstances or fate. Because God was in control, God made sure all things worked together for the best of everyone involved.

The story of Joseph is a prophetic picture of what Jesus fulfilled at the cross of Calvary when He prayed, “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice” (Luke 23:34 NLT). Enduring Word Commentary explained the rationale of this prayer:

In this Jesus fulfilled His own command to love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good for those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5:44). Jesus recognized the blindness of His enemies in His prayer. However, this prayer did not excuse the guilt of those who put Jesus on the cross. Instead, Jesus set His enemies in the best possible light in His prayer to the Father.”

Because Jesus forgave His enemies, He provided the platform to His genuine disciples on how forgiveness becomes a way of behaving towards people who wronged us. In releasing this forgiveness, Jesus paved the way for future disciples that it is impossible to live for Jesus without doing what He did. Thus, Stephen, the first martyr and disciple of Jesus, imitated this attitude during his stoning (Luke 7:60). 

Gary Smalley provided a picture of how forgiveness works as Jesus intended:

Forgiveness involves pardon. Basically, it is like erasing offenses toward us from a marking board. We immediately wash their offenses away like a wave washing away a message in the sand. Second, forgiveness involves caring for the offending person because most people who offend us have something in their own heart that needs healing. When we forgive others, they are released from our anger and we are healed by God.”

C. S. Lewis wonderfully summarized what forgiveness really means for the followers of Jesus: “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

Let’s talk again!

Monday, January 22, 2024

Sold for the Price of Slaves: The High Price of our Redemption

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Many of us have never experienced becoming a slave or being sold as one. However, people are going through this experience in our modern times. Did it change throughout these many years? It is unlikely because the reasoning behind it comes from the same motivation Joseph experienced from his brothers. Thus, one of the worst experiences in the life of Joseph came from his brothers when they sold him for the price of a slave.  In the book of Genesis, we find this record:

Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. 28Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt.” (37:26-28 ESV)

“In Hebrew culture, thirty pieces of silver was not a lot of money. In fact, it was the exact price paid to the master of a slave if and when his slave was gored by an ox (Exodus 21:32). The slave’s death was compensated by the thirty pieces of silver.”[1] What went wrong in this scenario? The odds between them, whether Joseph became aware or not, caused undue friction leading to Joseph’s outcast: 

From Joseph’s point of view, these dreams were evidence of divine blessing, rather than his own ambition. From his brothers’ point of view, however, the dreams were further manifestations of the unfair privilege that Joseph enjoyed as the favorite son of their father, Jacob (Gen. 37:3-4). Joseph’s failure to recognize this put him at severe odds with his brothers.[2]

Isaac Khalil in his article “Lessons From the Life of Joseph” (December 15, 2021) shared, 

Remember the dreams Joseph had when he was young? The brothers had interpreted the dreams as Joseph ruling and lording it over them (Genesis 37:8, 10). So they attacked him based on this interpretation. It wasn’t until Joseph revealed himself that they realized the dreams weren’t about lordship, but about salvation and service. God sent Joseph before them to save them from a terrible famine that was coming. Joseph told his brothers, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20).[3]

In this case, they took offence without understanding the whole picture. When people look at any situation, the immediate reaction comes in a positive impact or taking offence. However, God is always looking at the long view of His plans, and no matter what happens, He’s got a plan for you and me regardless of what people think or feel about us. Joseph’s life provided a parallel truth in Jesus’ betrayal as Matthew shared it: 

 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him” (Matthew 26:14-15 ESV).

For many, it is unthinkable what Judas Iscariot did to Jesus. G. Connor Salter, in his article, “Did Judas Iscariot Have a Choice to Betray Jesus?” (March 14, 2022) shared:

We know from historians that various people claiming to be the Messiah were active in Judea at the time, many trying to overthrow the Romans or change the religious order. Therefore, it’s possible that Judas figured Jesus was going to seize authority for himself soon and being part of Jesus’ “in-group” would benefit him. Once he realized that Jesus’ goals didn’t fit his own agenda, he may have been angered by that and wanted Jesus out of the way.”[4]

The betrayal of Jesus for the paltry price of a slave became the ultimate price of our redemption from the slavery of sin, Satan, and death’s power at the cross of Calvary. It is the message the apostle Paul reminded the Corinthian believers: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Jesus redeemed us from a life of slavery and set us free, although not set free to do whatever we want. Rather, being free in serving Jesus, the One who died and redeemed us for His purpose and plan (1 Peter 2:16).  Jesus went through it all so we can become more than conquerors for His glory and praise. 

In the end, Judas Iscariot, and many others like him confirmed that an outward devotion to Jesus is hollow unless Christ is followed wholeheartedly as a genuine disciple. Following Jesus is having His agenda front and center of our lives while our agenda becomes set aside. When we do it His way, our lives are enriched from an eternal perspective.

Let’s talk again!

Sunday, January 14, 2024

The Sustaining Power of Jesus Christ

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The power of God will take you out of your own plans and put you into the plan of God.“ ~Smith Wigglesworth

In his Christian journey and during one of the worst times of his life, Paul acknowledged the
empowerment of Christ. He then shared what he learned with the Corinthian believers and wrote: "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10 ESV). And from this experience, there are two principles for our reflection today:

1.       Being content with Christ provides empowerment that can drastically change how we face various challenges in life.

2.       During times of weakness, submitting to Christ becomes an opportunity for Him to empower us with His strength.

Maybe you are wondering how the Lord empowered Paul after experiencing the worst possible attack of his life. How does the strength of God manifest during the weakest point of life? However, in his letter to the Philippian congregation, he shared how he grew stronger in his relationship with Jesus despite experiencing various encounters of the worst kind: 

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13 ESV)

Charles Spurgeon shared how God empowers His people: “Great tribulation brings out the great strength of God. Oh, there must be the weakness of man, felt, recognized, and mourned over, or else the strength of the Son of God will never be perfected in us.” 

In other words, God sustains with His power what He expects to accomplish during the worst times of life. It is about keeping our perspective aligned with His plans and purposes for everything that matters. And in doing so, it increases our faith and motivation moving forward. Moreover, every little and big thing that happens comes with a specific purpose for fulfilling His mandate given to us. Thus, never miss what God reveals each moment because He promises everything will be alright!

What matters is seeing things from the perspective of God and the reasoning behind it all. Unfortunately, we diminish the bigness of God when we focus on the problem, thus making it bigger than God. Remember, God is always in control of what He wants to accomplish in our lives and trusting Him is the only option during the worst times. 

Finally, let me share this statement for us to think about: 

God’s strength is made perfect in weakness when we put our faith and trust in Him. The Lord’s presence is all we need in times of weakness. His great power and sufficiency rest on us as we find our strength in Him, and He is glorified. We can say with the psalmist, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).”[i]

Let’s talk again!