Thursday, August 16, 2018

It's All About the GIFT of Righteousness

Last month, early in the month, I was facing so many challenges.

I needed a new car, and I needed a steady income.

I was so frustrated. I was struggling with bills, debts, demands.

One night, I got so angry. I shouted at God: "What good is having my sins forgiven if  I can't pay the rent?!"

When I had shouted like that, I paused.

I did not esteem the sacrifice. When Jesus died on the Cross, He took away all my sins, and all the sins of the world. He paid the ultimate price so that none of us will ever have to. The guilt and shame of sin is great. There is no escaping it through our efforts. Our hearts cannot rest with any kind of security as long as we continue to feel guilty about the sinful things which we have said and done.

Sunday evening, the second week of July, I was meditating on the gift of righteousness which I have received, and which I am called to keep receiving (Romans 5:17). A great joy flooded my heart.

No matter how bad things may seem around me, I can rest assured that I have been made the righteousness  of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). No matter what the economic circumstances may have been, no matter if I had face similar setbacks, I had neither right nor reason to condemn myself.

In fact, that is precisely what had happened. I had started condemning myself. "How is it possible that I have ended up in this situation again? I have to do this. I must face that. I have to take these steps again to get by, etc. I thought I was going to be past this!"

Then I recall what Paul had shared with the Philippians:

"I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." (Philippians 4:12)

It takes time. We don't get used to hardship and easy-ships all the time and overnight. The struggles we overcame in the past we may face again, because Jesus wants us to see something new about Him! Paul learned how to handle all these setbacks. We learn to trust in Jesus and recognize that He is supplying all our needs according to His riches, and not out of them (Philippians 4:19).

The gift of righteousness is the foundation for all blessings.

Jesus wasn't mincing words are just idly speaking in His Sermon on the Mount:

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33)

That Sunday night, after I finished church, I met with a friend. He had a job. He had a car. He had enough resources, and yet he was complaining.

For me, I rested in the truth that God has made me righteousness, and that no matter what may be happening around me, that this gift was the most important to receive ... and keep receiving.

The next day, I had a new job and I got a car. God met all of my needs!

But the most important thing was to rest in His peace. That's what mattered. I needed to esteem and recognize more deeply how great is His gift of righteousness, that through Jesus I am justified from all things! (Acts 13:38)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

How to Follow God Fully: Believe on Him and His Promises

"And the LORD heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and sware, saying, 35Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers, 36Save Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him will I give the land that he hath trodden upon, and to his children, because he hath wholly followed the LORD." (Deuteronomy 1: 34-36)

Many Christians wonder what it takes to follow God fully.

It's not about what we do.

It's about believing on Him and receiving His promises.

Consider Caleb.

How did this man of God follow Him fully?

He believed God that He had given the Israelites the Promised Land:

"And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it." (Numbers 13:30)

And then

"6And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes: 7And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. 8If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. 9Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not." (Numbers 14: 6-9)

Notice that Caleb pointed out how the Lord delighted in them. God was not angry with the Israelites, His chosen people. He did not hate them.

He wanted them receive this wonderful Promised Land, and had laid out this guarantee early on.

God had said to Moses:

"And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey." (Exodus 3:17)

Caleb believed that God not only had given them the land, but that He would make them victorious over their enemies.

God recognized Caleb's faith:

"23Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it: 24But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it." (Numbers 14: 23-24)

He had "another spirit", a spirit of faith which took God at His Word!

"8Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the LORD my God. 9And Moses sware on that day, saying, Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children's for ever, because thou hast wholly followed the LORD my God. 10And now, behold, the LORD hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the LORD spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old." (Joshua 14: 8-10)

Do you want to be recognized by God as someone who follows Him wholly?

Believe Him! Believe on Him and take Him at His Word when it comes to His promises:

"6But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." (Hebrews 11:6)

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Unity in Christ Jesus Dispels Disunity

I work with a number of activist groups in Southern California.

Infighting seems like an ongoing constant in many of these groups. Little conflicts emerge, hurt feelings happen, and there are so many misunderstandings.

Yet for all of the things that happen, all the disagreements, I have remained at peace.

For one, I tell individuals that they need to take up their issues with those whom they are in conflict.

I draw this wisdom from Jesus:

"15Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. 18Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 18: 15-18)

Notice how Jesus instructs us to talk to the person who has hurt us alone.

Most people won't do that. They air their grievances publicly and shame people on social media so that everyone is in on the fight.

Many times I tell friends of mine to take their conflicts up with others. It's not good for them to run to me when they have an issue with someone else, and they haven't even bothered to say anything to first person in the first place!

What helps people to unite and stay united?

Not a focus on issues or even a project, since the process can get in the way of the goals.

Unity works out best in an individual, in the proper leader who can inspire and unite disparate cohorts and factions within a movement.

For me, my leader,my identity is found in Christ Jesus!

In Him, we leave off the disunity, the bickering, the fighting, the conflicts, and we are restored to a peaceful directed wholeness.

Check out Paul's exhortation to the Ephesians:

"1I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Ephesians 4:1-6)

Unity is in One Body, One Lord, One Baptism.

We are called to a Person, not to principles, not to ideas.

In Jesus, we find our rest and our relationship with everything else.

In Him, we find unity of heart as well as mind.

Consider Jesus warm consolation and promise to His disciples before His death on the Cross:

"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me." (John 14:1)

Jesus used the plural "your", but mentioned one heart. Jesus gives us rest and He brings unity when we believe on Him.

Consider what Cleopas and his wife shared after the broke bread with Jesus, who had expounded to them everything concerning Himself in the Scriptures:

"And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" (Luke 24: 32)

The couple spoke of one heart. Jesus brought them together!

This is how I have stayed out of the never-ending personal conflicts.

Jesus is my rest and my peace. I am called to a Person, Him who has been from the beginning (1 John 2:12)

When we see Him is our Leader, our Father--our Savior--much of the fleshly rancor falls away, and even when some people trespass against us, we do not fear to speak out against it, nor do we fear losing a person because they hold something dear to us that we cannot do without.

"For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." (Colossians 2:9)

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Be Like Peter: Dwell on Jesus' Sacrifice, Not Your Sins

"The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:" (1 Peter 5:1)

Peter witnessed Christ's sufferings.

Jesus died on the Cross, nailed and stretched out on that tree for six hours, yet there were also intense sufferings Jesus endured for us during the six mock trials He was rushed through.

Consider what Peter saw below:

"But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest's palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end." (Matthew 26:58)

Now, Matthew's and Mark's Gospel account do inform us that Peter denied knowing Jesus three times.

And yet, Peter affirms that he witnessed Jesus' sufferings.

The word in Greek covers the following:

pathéma: that which befalls one, i.e. a suffering, a passion
Original Word: πάθημα, ατος, τό
Part of Speech: Noun, Neuter
Transliteration: pathéma
Phonetic Spelling: (path'-ay-mah)
Short Definition: suffering, passion
Definition: (a) suffering, affliction, (b) passion, emotion, (c) an undergoing, an enduring.

This term does not just cover the fake trials, but Jesus' death on the Cross, as well as the hatred and opposition he faced from the religious leaders of the day. Even though Peter had denied Jesus three times, it would seem that Peter witnessed even Jesus' death on the Cross, even if from afar.

Peter writes about Jesus' sufferings in his First Epistle, and He writes that Jesus bore our sins:

"Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." (1 Peter 2:24)

Not once does Peter ever talk about the fact that he had denied Jesus.

He does focus on who Jesus is, what He did, and how He suffered for us.

We can draw such comfort and revelation from this great fisherman--and fisher of men.

No matter how we have failed, no matter what sins we have committed or will commit, let us look at Jesus and what He has done for us through His death on the Cross! (cf. Hebrews 12:1-2)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Yes! He Cares for You!

"6Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Jesus cares for you and me.

He cares for us even when we think that He does not care at all.

The Pharisees misrepresented Him when the questioned Him about loyalty to God or Caesar:

"And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men." (Matthew 22:16)

Right away, Jesus confronted their hypocrisy, telling to them "Render unto God what is God's" (Matthew 22:21) -- let's not forget that everything belongs to Him, to Christ Jesus, since He holds all things together! (Colossians 1:17)

He cared for His disciples, when they challenged His care for them!

"And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?" (Mark 4:38)

Just because He seems asleep doesn't mean that He doesn't care. Just because the storms are raging all around you doesn't mean that Jesus doesn't care.

When Martha was busy trying to serve God, filled with cares that she could--and had to--provide something for the King of Kings, she chided Him:

"But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me." (Luke 10:40)

Jesus reminded Martha that only thing was needful:

"But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:42)

Mary sat at Jesus' feet and listened to Him. That serves Jesus more, and most importantly Mary knew that Jesus cared for her--and for her sister.

Yes, Jesus cares for you.

He cares for you in them midst of your trials. He cares for you, so stop thinking that you must do all the caring for yourself.

He cares for you, so don't accept the religious lie that He doesn't care what you are going through or doesn't even concern Himself with what you are facing.