Archive for May, 2015

For the Afflicted

May 28, 2015

In life, there are many trials or challenges that one will face. There may be one great or multiple small afflictions that each of us has to combat. Take my mom for example, she has been afflicted with a number of physical ailments that totally changed how she envision spending her retirement years. She thought her time would be seasoned with a myriad of service opportunities, but soon after retirement, her body just quit. She was stricken with osteoarthritis which is a degenerative joint disease that causes a breakdown of cartilage tissue, triggering pain, edema and deformity. For her, it struck in her knees first but now is in her hip as well. It has totally limited her mobility. What may take you or me a minute may take her ten to do. Simple functions like just going to the bathroom are arduous tasks for her. From that we can easily answer the question of what does it mean to be afflicted. Afflicted is one having painful physical or mental ailment. defines it as to distress with mental or bodily pain; trouble greatly or grievously: to cause suffering or unhappiness to; Is there any relief for the afflicted?

Throughout the bible, there are people who were afflicted. Sarah was afflicted with a barren womb. Albeit self-imposed, Aaron was afflicted with leprosy. There is Mephibosheth, a son of Jonathan and Saul’s grandson, who was crippled. There is the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. The blind, the lame, the death are included too. There are the prideful and greedy also. There is Judas and Peter who both suffered mental anguish because of their betrayal and denial of Jesus. Ultimately, there is Jesus who chose to endure the physical, mental, and spiritual pain of the cross for the sake of the elect.

Those others and Jesus give us hope For the Afflicted. I was moved to write this today after rereading Psalm 34. It is a passage that I shared with a co-worker. God challenged me to read it again and For the Afflicted jumped off the page in verse two.

My soul shall make its boast in the Lord;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad. (NKJV)

I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice. (NIV)

I am sure that we all are dealing with an affliction at this present moment. God wants us to know that He is our strength, hope and song. There is not more than I can say. Read the text and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Invite Him to speak to your heart and mind.

Psalm 34 (NIV)

I will extol the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
    for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Whoever of you loves life
    and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are attentive to their cry;
16 but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
    to blot out their name from the earth.

17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

19 The righteous person may have many troubles,
    but the Lord delivers him from them all;
20 he protects all his bones,
    not one of them will be broken.

21 Evil will slay the wicked;
    the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord will rescue his servants;
    no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

The Good Life

May 26, 2015

Life comes with many winding turns. Roads that often lead to a dead end which require you to retrace your path to another unfamiliar route. In the advent of GPS, we hardly ever get lost in travel but with the travel of life that’s another story.

As I was reading and studying 1 Peter 3, I found Matthew Henry’s commentary about verse ten interesting. The verse is a quote of Psalm 34 verses 12-14. It says,

12 Whoever of you loves life
    and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.

cat got my backMuch of life involves our interaction with people with whom we will have conflict. As I fumed over a trivial matter with my this morning, I looked at the picture to the left which I keep on my mirror. As I looked at myself, I had to ask was I assuming the best about my wife? Did the matter which angered me really matter in light of who she is to me? If she was dying, would I care about it? The answer was a resounding no in all cases. I had to let it go. I just did not realize that God was preparing me for a life-lesson to share with you all today from the passage I would read. The passage is from David, but today, it is my song. Like many of you, I want The Good Life. The Good Life is simply being able to be at peace with my God, myself and my fellow man. I was certainly not at peace, so I had to seek refuge in my God. Actually, God sought me out. He realized that I was not at peace. He had the Holy Spirit to prompt me to remind me that my mind and spirit were not in the right place. I had a choice to make. Surrender to Him and be at peace or to stay mad.

About The Good Life, Matthew Henry says, God “gives an excellent prescription for a comfortable happy life in this quarrelsome ill-natured world. “If you earnestly desire that your life should be long, and your days peaceable and prosperous, keep your tongue from reviling, evil-speaking, and slandering, and your lips from lying, deceit, and dissimulation. Avoid doing any real damage or hurt to your neighbour, but be ever ready to do good, and to overcome evil with good; seek peace with all men, and pursue it, though it retire from you. This will be the best way to dispose people to speak well of you, and live peaceably with you.” Learn, (1.) Good people under the Old and new Testament were obliged to the same moral duties; to refrain the tongue from evil, and the lips from guile, was a duty in David’s time as well as now. (2.) It is lawful to consider temporal advantages as motives and encouragements to religion. (3.) The practice of religion, particularly the right government of the tongue, is the best way to make this life comfortable and prosperous; a sincere, inoffensive, discreet tongue, is a singular means to pass us peaceably and comfortably through the world. (4.) The avoiding of evil, and doing of good, is the way to contentment and happiness both here and hereafter. (5.) It is the duty of Christians not only to embrace peace when it is offered, but to seek and pursue it when it is denied: peace with societies, as well as peace with particular persons, in opposition to division and contention, is what is here intended.”

God gave me the option of choosing The Good Life this morning by assuming the best about my wife, about me. God gives you that choice too. What will it be?

Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God

May 22, 2015

The Word of God has much to say about offerings and sacrifices. The Old Testament introduces us to the notion that offerings and sacrifices were a key part of the practice of relationship with God from Cain and Abel, to Noah, to the patriarchs, to Jethro the priest of Median, to the ratification of the Mosaic covenant by sacrifice. This is true before and after the tabernacle was built. Regardless of your understanding, you should know that in the Old Testament sacrificial system the sacrifice, that is the spilling of blood, was continual. Sacrifices had to be made continually. This spoke to the inadequacy of the sacrifice. While sufficient in the moment, it was not a sustaining and completely satisfying sacrifice. This also spoke to the nature of man’s character and his ability to meet God’s expectations. Since man is fallible, he could never meet God’s expectation of perfection.

What was man to do? Would man’s character morph into infallible from fallible? NOT. As the population continued to grow, could the Old Testament Sacrificial system continue? No. There would have been massive slaughtering of animals. While not the major reason this process stopped, the primary reason that it stopped was that a perfect and sustaining sacrifice was made. The perfect and satisfying sacrifice was Jesus’ death on the cross. 1 Peter 3:18 says,

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.”

Why is it that Christ’s sacrifice is satisfying and sustaining? Why does His sacrifice meet the demands of God? God explains this in Hebrews 7.

“17 For it is declared:

“You are a priest forever,
    in the order of Melchizedek.”

18 The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.

20 And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21 but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:

“The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind:
    ‘You are a priest forever.’”

22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.

23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.”

Why is it that Christ’s sacrifice is satisfying and sustaining? Why does His sacrifice meet the demands of God? Simply put, God said so. For those who want more, Jesus was God incarnate. He was perfect, so a perfect sacrifice satisfied God’s perfect requirement; therefore, it is only through Christ that man can truly be forgiven. Acts 4:12 says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. Without Christ, you will not be able to commune with God. Jesus declares it Himself when He said, “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.John 14:6  Those are Jesus’ Words not mine.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—(Romans 5:8, John 1:12 respectively) Jesus suffered the consequence of sins, separation from God so that you would have the opportunity to be united with God. Honor His sacrifice and follow Him.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord

May 21, 2015

We have all kinds of sayings that involve the heart. I love you with all my heart. You are in my heart and mind. I learned your number by heart. Idioms abound regarding the heart: a bleeding heart, a change of heart, a heart of gold, for the faint of heart, have your heart set on, after one’s own heart, chicken-hearted, put your heart in it, tear one’s heart out, and on and on.

Generally, we all understand what we mean by heart. For our text today, the Greek word for heart in this verse is kardia (kär-dē’-ä) which denotes the center of all physical and spiritual life. The soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavours. Considering that statement and those idioms, there is great competition for the heart of man. Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Deuteronomy 6:5 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 30:6 says, “The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.”

We know from all those few verses that the conflict of life revolves around who wins our heart – this world, man, or God. A heart reflective of this world reflects the selfish desires, the opinion of others, worldly wisdom, the pressure of circumstances, and many other. The heart reflective of a pursuit and thirst for God reflects a simple and complete allegiance to the one and only Lord, Jesus Christ. It is a heart that pursues the purposes of God not those of self.

In 1 Peter 3, Peter addresses the matter. Listen to what God says through him,

13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

The challenge for the people then who were experiencing persecution was to consider others, their safety or Christ as Lord. There is only room for one Lord in our hearts. It will either be someone, something, Christ that seats on the throne of our hearts. God tells us who it should be But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Lord being he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; master, lord;the possessor and disposer of a thing; the owner; one who has control of the person, the master. Ultimately, this is God, the Messiah – Jesus Christ.

For those of use who think that man has a good heart and can lead ourselves, Jeremiah addresses that matter. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 1 Kings 11:9  Will you turn your heart away from the Lord, the one true God? Peter gives us instruction in the matter. He says, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord

Be Kind, Compassionate and Forgiving to One Another

May 11, 2015

I can think of a lot of things that I want from those whom I love the most, but I would be hard pressed to find something greater than to Be Kind, Compassionate and Forgiving to One Another. In order for those three actions to be present and prevalent in a relationship, love must exist. Love of God and love of the person. It takes the love of God to prompt you to forgive someone who has hurt you especially when it was intentional. It takes the love of God and a mindset bent on emulating Jesus in order to Be Kind, Compassionate and Forgiving to One Another.

As I was going to 1 Peter this morning, Ephesians 4:32 surfaced. It was quoted at church yesterday. It was one of the first verses that my daughter remembers learning. In fact, we have a light moment over it from time to time because of the word “hath” used in the King James. Hath serves a reminder to her to be kind, compassionate and forgiving. When she is giving it to her brother for something he did or as she is expressing her frustration/anger at someone even me, all I have to do is say “Hath”. The Word of God is sharper than a double-edge sword. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. The Word makes us take a step back and reflect on our behavior. Is it indicative of God or us.

Ephesians 4:32
And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (KJV)
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (NIV)

That’s the Word of God. According to the Vines Expository Dictionary, the Greek word for kind is chrēstos (khrā-sto’s) means primarily signifies “fit for use, able to be used” (akin to chraomai, “to use”), hence, “good, virtuous, mild, pleasant” (in contrast to what is hard, harsh, sharp, bitter). It is said

(a) of the character of God as “kind, gracious,” Luk 6:35; 1Pe 2:3; “good,” Rom 2:4, where the neuter of the adjective is used as a noun, “the goodness” (cp. the corresponding noun chrestotes, “goodness,” in the same verse);

(b) of the yoke of Christ, Mat 11:30, “easy” (a suitable rendering would be “kindly”);

(c) of believers, Eph 4:32;

(d) of things, as wine, Luk 5:39, RV, “good,” for AV, “better” (cp. Jer 24:3, 5, of figs);

(e) ethically, of manners, 1Cr 15:33.

There are two other expectations in the verse: compassionate and forgiving. I would not attempt to address those today, but we understand what kind means in contrast to what is hard, harsh, sharp or bitter. Can we focus on being kind today out of reverence for Christ and a desire to be like Jesus? God, through Paul, has commanded us to Be Kind, Compassionate and Forgiving to One Another. As followers of Christ, we do not have an option as to whether we want to be kind to someone today. We are told to do so. While I am not attempting to address being compassionate and forgiving, it should be noted that we will not be kind in truly unless we are compassionate and forgiving.

If someone offends or hurts us, the last thing, in the flesh, we want to do is to be compassionate and forgiving. God has called us all to walk in the Spirit; therefore, let us surrender right now to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Let us accept that when we are offended today that we will show compassion, which is an action not solely a feeling, and forgiveness by being kind to the person who trespassed against us. This is especially true for those who are in the body of Christ. Remember 1 Peter 3:9, Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

Be blessed by making the effort to Be Kind, Compassionate and Forgiving to One Another.

How Do We Get to God?

May 5, 2015

In the movie The Bucket List, two terminally ill men escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die. There were many places that we all wish to go. As we seek to get to a chosen destination, we have many options. We can drive our own vehicle, ride a bus, travel on a train, fly on a plane and even cruise on a boat in many instances.

What do we do when our destination is not reachable by those means? We begin to seek a means that will get us to where we want or need to go. Like those terminally ill men, we too have a terminal illness – sin. Isaiah 59:2 says,

“But your iniquities have separated
    you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
    so that he will not hear.”

We have the illness of sin which separates us from God. God is life; therefore, we have no life when we are separated from Him. Since we are separated from God, How Do We Get to God? Romans 6:23 says, For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

How? Through Jesus. You might not agree. You might question Christ’s claim in light of all the other faiths, but in John 14:6, Jesus declares that He is the only way to God. It’s the man who stated that He was God declaration. The disciple Thomas had a similar inquiry. He said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” In response, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

How Do We Get to God? Through Jesus, but just in case you are still wonder, Peter confirms what Jesus and the prophets have said all along. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.1 Peter 3:18 The Word of God says that Jesus died to bring you to God. When you reject Jesus as Lord and Savior, you are rejecting your way to God. You are rejecting the truth, and you are rejecting life.

How Do We Get to God?  Once more, through Jesus. In this case, GPS stands for God’s Providential Sacrifice. It is through the sacrifice of Christ that we have access to God. It is through Christ that we are considered righteous though we are still unrighteous. Will you attempt to get to God on your own, or will you accept, seek, and pursue “the way, the truth, and the life”?