A Message from God

You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all – Acts 10:36.

The first and last person everybody should listen to, if they desire life, is God. We can dispute His word, argue it as much as we may, or even deny it outright; but, God remains the Creator of all things, seen and unseen, and the Supreme Authority over everything. Our discomfort or aversion for this fact doesn’t change anything. What God says is the absolute truth and final word on everything. If you are with me on this, then hear what God says in Acts 10:36.

“You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all”.

The message is simple.

The virgin birth of Jesus was the announcement to Israel that their Messiah had come (Lk. 2:8-12). The Manger baby was the Immanuel the prophet Isaiah spoke about (Isa. 7:14).

His birth announced the good news of peace to the world.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Lk. 2:14).

The peace that was announced is the reconciliation of sinful humans to God, who is holy, by the removal of the sin that has separated human from God (2 Cor. 5:17-19).

Jesus is the only One who could do this, because He was sinless from birth and lived a completely sinless life on earth. He made peace by His substitutionary death on Calvary cross – the shedding of His blood as atonement for the sin of the world (Rm. 3:25; Heb. 2:17). His sacrifice completely satisfied the justice of God and appeased His righteous anger. Through His death, the only way to God is open to everyone who comes to Him by faith. This is eternal life, which is a gift from God (Rm.6:23).

The resurrection of Jesus has sealed the deal between God and the repentant sinner. It is God’s acceptance of the terms of the new covenant in Jesus’ blood, and the assurance of eternal life with God in the hereafter (1 Pt. 1:3).

By his death and resurrection, God has crowned Jesus as Lord of all His creation. As the Bible declares, “Therefore God has exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).

Now this Good News has been declared to the world by the express command of Jesus to His disciples (Matt. 28:19-20). It is the Good News the angel of God told Cornelius to call Peter to come and proclaim to him (Acts 10:1-43).

“You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all … They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen … by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.  He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (36-43).

Despite Cornelius’ devotion to God and his good works – a memorial before God – they couldn’t qualify him for heaven. His righteousness, as well as that of every human being, was as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6). Cornelius needed a Savior in Christ Jesus. As Jesus has authoritatively declared, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6). So, He invites everyone to come to Him and be saved.

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved … Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rm. 10:9-10, 13).

 This is the message from God for every soul.

Who then will you listen to? What message will you believe – God’s message or the world’s.

The choice is yours.

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The Zacchaeus by You

“Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay in your house today.” (Lk. 19:5).

Can a soul, find rest without Jesus? Can the sinner find peace without the grace of God through Jesus Christ? Modern man would argue for the affirmative, but deep within the recesses of his heart, the contrary screams for audience. His life is scattered. His mind is in constant torment, except for flashes of brilliance and celebrated accomplishments, power, and wealth that deliver momentary pleasure. Defiantly, he plows on with concealed agitation and torment. He seeks a savior, but unwisely designs and creates one for himself. His money deceives him, friends forsake him, power fails him, his acquisitions lose their luster, and the future presents him with a bleak painting he can’t hang in his Living room. Many crave his situation, ignorant of his disgust for life and the hollowness in his heart. Yet, his smile continues to deceive. His gusto mesmerizes the seeker of power, sex, and pleasure, until one day, the cracks in the mask begin to reveal the emptiness, and his life begins to unravel. Such was a man called Zacchaeus.

He was scorned by his own people despite his wealth. As chief tax collector, he had become notorious among them as betrayer and a sinner (Lk. 19:3). But on this day, something different attracted our friend Zacchaeus and he couldn’t resist chasing after his curiosity. He wanted to see Jesus. Having heard about the miracles of Jesus and His teachings with authority, Zacchaeus couldn’t hold back his heart’s yearning. Despite his handicap as a short man, he was determined to see Jesus, and so he ran ahead and climbed a Sycamore tree; hoping nobody would see him.

Jesus, however, stopped where he was, and called him by name; “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay in your house today.” (Lk. 19:5). He hurried down and gladly welcomed Jesus into his house (v.6). The crowd grumbled and sneered, but Zacchaeus showed genuine repentance by promising restitution (7-8). What a man!

            No soul genuinely receives the grace of God through Jesus and remains the same (2 Cor. 5:17). A transformation takes place and displaces the heart’s tendency towards wickedness. The very presence of Jesus in the life of a person inclines them towards conformity with His nature. Zacchaeus started the day a sinner, but found forgiveness and new life in Jesus. The world didn’t matter to him anymore. Money and possessions lost their appeal and grip over his heart. He easily gave them away in exchange for peace with God in Jesus (Rm. 5:1). To every renewed heart in the mercy and grace of God, heaven resounds with affirmation in Christ. Jesus therefore responded to Zacchaeus, “Today, salvation has come to this house” (9-10).

Like Zacchaeus, Jesus is seeking after the lost soul who seeks rest (Matt. 11:28). He knows the anxious moments and emotional struggles of everybody. He sees those who stand afar as if they don’t need Him, but are checking Him out anyway. He knows how careful they are, hoping, like Zacchaeus, that no one may see them. He smiles when people put on the appearance of “civility”, but are desperately crying for redemption. He pities those who fill church pews every Sunday, but snubs “this born again nonsense.” Jude categorizes them into three groups – those who need mercy because they doubt and are hesitant, those who are almost tipping over into hell fire and need to be “snatched” from it, and those needing “mercy, mixed with fear,” because they are corrupted by false teachers (Jude 1:22-23).

These are the people you and I have been commissioned by Jesus to reach out to and invite them to come to Him (Matt. 28: 19-20). They are in our homes, offices, markets, favorite stores, neighborhood, towns, regions and countries. What we need is a heart for their souls, wisdom and direction from God, and boldness to evangelize them in love. The rest is the work of the Holy Spirit.

A Zacchaeus is perched in the tree near you. Will you ask the Lord of the harvest to give you sensitive eyes to see them, and the boldness to engage them in a healthy conversation that could lead to their salvation?

Can You Trust Him?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord – Isaiah 55:8

Sometimes we try to understand how things happen the way they do and why God allows them. What God does and how He does them has intrigued mankind for ages and sent many on some interesting quests to understand Him. As psychologists probe the thoughts of their patients, many people have tried to get into God’s mind to probe His thoughts. They’ve tried to pick His brain to know how He does things and why He does them. How theatrical those efforts are!

One thing that has intrigued and mystified many is the simplicity of salvation. God says:

“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Rm. 10:9-10).

The natural mind responds: “That is foolishness.”

 I remember the day one of my friends posed this question to me: “How can an intellectual like you believe that somebody’s death on a wooden cross can take away your sins?” The idea baffled his cognitive mind, and he couldn’t process it intellectually. But, how could he? For spiritual things are spiritually discerned.  

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:14).

The simplicity of things is that God’s ways are higher than ours. We should realize that His thoughts are way higher above our feeble minds. No one can make God’s ways fit into their human pattern. Nobody can bring God’s thoughts to conform to theirs. Such fruitless enterprises simply frustrate the natural mind. Imagine the folly of trying to investigate God by bringing Him to a human court. That’s how scornful every human effort to understand the ways and thoughts of God are to Him. Our duty is to just obey.

After all those miraculous ways God dealt with Israel from Egypt, like the people of today, they still wanted things their way. Listen to how God pleaded for their hearts, as he pleads for ours today:

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (Isaiah 55:1)

Tell this to the man on Madison Avenue, N.Y.C., the advertising capital of the world, and he see how he will dismiss you. How can you buy something without money? But that is the wisdom of God. Call it foolishness as you may, but, again, He says, “The foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:25).

So, God’s plea to the simple mind is:

Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.

For your own sake, it’s easier to just accept some things for what they are rather than oppressing yourself by stressing to explain things. God cannot be solved as a jigsaw puzzle. Faith is the only reasonable means of knowing and understanding Him; and how blissful is the one who finds Him this way! (Rm. 10:17; Heb. 11:1)

I pray you finally settle in your heart that God is too lofty for any human to completely know and understand. His ways are beyond your best imagination and your intellectual capacity cannot capture the thoughts of God. He chooses to reveal as much as He wants to, and nothing more.

The simplicity of the Gospel message therefore is:

“Be reconciled to God.” For, “God made Him [Christ] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Cor. 20-21).

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes will not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).

Can you trust Him?

They Cry for Help

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him – Psalms 127:3

It was Monday, the only off day for the old preacher, and he looked forward to some time alone with his wife. However, he couldn’t shake off a strong urge to visit the home of some distressed children his Church had been ministering to. Unable to suppress his sensing, he reluctantly succumbed to it.

The stench from the makeshift thatched house the boys called home,was repulsive as he approached it. A combination of unwashed clothing, strong body odor, urine, and a pile of garbage produced a foul odor that could make anybody throw up. Without toilet facilities in the house, good hygiene was compromised. No wonder, seven of the children were sprawled in the sand and writhing in pain. The Koranic teacher responsible for the boys was out, leaving his wife alone to administer some medicine they had acquired from the local pharmacy. There was no time to waste. The preacher’s vehicle and a taxi sped the children to the University hospital. But who are these children?

They are the “red-tomato-can” boys of Dakar, Senegal. The system calls them Talibes. From age four and above, some parents send their boys to study the Koran under a teacher called Oustass. With no financial obligation to the parents and no other source of income, the teachers claim begging as the only means of support for their “Daaras” – school system.” However, prevailing evidence reveals a well-designed system of exploitation and abuse of the children. Why any modern society would allow such a wicked system to thrive is beyond reason. Amazingly, it has survived some well-meaning governmental interventions as well as efforts by the UNESCO, NGOs and many Missionary houses.

Child exploitation is a serious crime in the world. Parents in many poor communities send their children, especially girls, to live with other family members under harsh conditions. Some send these children into farm plantations to labor for almost nothing, while others sell them into sex slavery. They have one common denominator: unimaginable cruelty and inhumane treatments.

In Acts chapter 16:16-24, Paul encountered a demon-possessed slave girl. A syndicate exploited her as a fortune-teller. She had become an enterprise for profit. Paul sparked a serious controversy by casting out the evil spirits. The syndicate incited a riot that ended with Paul and Silas beaten and imprisoned.

Such is the wickedness of man (Jer. 17:9); but God has a big heart for the oppressed and abused children. That’s why Jesus was indignant at His disciples when they tried to stop people from bringing their children to Him (Mk. 10:13-16).

So, do you have a heart for the abused children of this world? Do you see the pain and fear in their eyes when you pass them in the streets? Can you bend your knees?  Do you have a voice? What can you do to help alleviate their pain or help rescue just one of such children?

 

The Day of You Salvation

“Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay in your house today.” (Lk. 19:5).

He was scorned by his own people despite his wealth. As chief tax collector, he had become notorious among them as betrayer and a sinner (Lk. 19:3). But on this day, something different attracted our friend Zacchaeus and he couldn’t resist chasing after his curiosity. He wanted to see Jesus. Having heard about the miracles of Jesus and His teachings with authority, Zacchaeus couldn’t hold back his heart’s yearning. Despite his handicap as a short man, he was determined to see Jesus, and so he ran ahead and climbed a Sycamore tree; hoping nobody would see him.

Jesus, however, stopped where he was, and called him by name; “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay in your house today.” (Lk. 19:5). Zacchaeus hurried down and gladly welcomed Jesus into his house (v.6). The crowd reviled Jesus’ choice of host, and so they muttered, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner” (v.7).

Crowds could be very cruel sometimes. They have unique ways of getting under a person’s skin. But, blessed be God Almighty; Zacchaeus did not give way to their ridicule. He shot right back at the crowd’s jab in a manner that may have sent a hush over them. “Look, Lord! Here and now, I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (v.8). What a man!

No soul genuinely receives the grace of God through Jesus and remains the same (2 Cor. 5:17). A transformation takes place and displaces the heart’s tendency towards wickedness.The very presence of Jesus in the life of a person inclines them towards conformity with His nature. Zacchaeus started the day a sinner, but found forgiveness and new life in Jesus. The world didn’t matter to him anymore. Money and possessions lost their appeal and grip over his heart. He easily gave them away in exchange for peace with God in Jesus (Rm. 5:1).To every renewed heart in the mercy and grace of God, heaven resounds with affirmation in Christ. Jesus therefore responded to Zacchaeus, “Today, salvation has come to this house” (9-10).

Today! That’s the key.  Zacchaeus knew the right time and what to do. His height and the crowd were hindrances, but he didn’t allow them to hinder his opportunity. He climbed the sycamore tree, and received more than he bargained for.

Jesus is still seeking the lost soul who seeks rest (Matt. 11:28). He knows your emotional struggles like that of Zacchaeus. He knows you’re checking Him out from afar, hoping no one sees you. He smiles at your feigned “civility”, despite your desperate cry for redemption. It’s a pity you’re in church every Sunday, but hate “this born again nonsense.” Yet, He doesn’t roll back His invitation .He promises to save you when you call on His name (Rm. 10:13).

This is your day.  This is your hour. Will you come?

 

A Poisonous Intruder

Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else? – Matthew 11:3

John the Baptist’s question to Jesus from jail illustrates how doubt can blur our minds and cause people to question the very things they have affirmed with absolute certainty as truth (Matt. 11:1-6). Frustrated in jail, the man who confidently announced to Israel, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29), now sent to ask Jesus if He was “the One who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matt. 11:3). It’s an example of how our unmet high and lofty expectations can defuse our confidence and trust in God.

For instance, a man meets a woman and falls in love. They get married and begin a life together. They believe every word God has said concerning marriage. Over time, their personalities begin to knock against each other. They begin to doubt if they saw right, heard right, or made the right choice. Suspicion reigns everywhere and the relationship begins to crumble. Meanwhile, Mr. Doubt tells them that God cannot help them resolve their issues. They must work things out their own way. Valuing the other person above themselves or looking to the interest of each other, as God says, ceases to be the creed of their home (Phil. 2:4). It is “my way or not at all.” The wheels of their marriage begin to move towards the edge of the precipice and into the deep and treacherous valley of divorce, the very thing God has said He hates; but they can’t even see it.

Doubt is a dangerous visitor that has power to destroy relationships, if entertained for any reason. It has a way of planting itself in the mind of a person with no intention of leaving until awareness evicts it. When comfortably settled in one’s mind, it takes the character of chief inquisitor. It suspects everything and melts confidence like butter in the noonday sun. It destroys trust and causes a person to see shadows around everything. It’s like a misty cloud on a bright beautiful day. It says to its host: “You can’t believe that. It’s ridiculous!”  Two of its familiar clichés are: “He doesn’t love you as you think”. “She is hiding something from you”.

Do you remember the day you met Jesus and fell in love with Him? Things were going well until you hit some potholes on the way. You lost your first love, and Christ became your burden instead of your burden bearer. Now He is no more the powerful Savior who carries His children through challenging times. Doubt has eroded your faith and you don’t know what to do with Jesus anymore.

Maybe Jesus’ answer to John the Baptist could be helpful here. He told John to take his mind from his own ideas and expectations of the Messiah and fix it on the reality of His “being in very nature God” (Phil. 2:6), as evidenced by His works (Matt. 13:4-6).

Likewise, you don’t have to look at your circumstances and question your faith. You got it right with Jesus. Stay diligently in His word and draw closer to Him. It will make you diminish so that Christ may increase in your life (Jn. 3:30). For only then can you have the right perspective and the winning attitude in your trials.

So, don’t let doubt frustrate your faith in Jesus. He is the only answer to all your issues.

Playing with Fire

“Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? – Acts 5:3

Is telling a lie okay? Does God really understand when we tell a lie to get out of trouble? Is lying any less sinful than any sexual sin or murder? So, how could we pride ourselves as good Christians because we don’t fornicate or kill, but continue to lie?

 It reminds me of the story of two children who got into an argument.

 “A fib is the same as a story, and a story is the same as a lie,” Thomas said.

“No, it’s not!”

“Yes, it is. My father said so, and my father is an editor.”

“I don’t care if your father is an editor. My father is a real-estate man, and he knows more about lying than your father,” Nathan said emphatically.

The point is that we have made lying so acceptable that it has become a normal lifestyle. We lie to get what we want from each other, avoid losing a favor, get a job or contract, make ourselves look good before others, destroy other’s reputation, and mislead others. We lie when in trouble, during examinations, on application forms, in interviews, tax claims, filing reports and other routine documentation. We embellish the facts a little here and there when telling our story or that of others for effect. In all of these and many other situations, we walk away congratulating ourselves for being smart or for being such wonderful speakers. What is wrong with us?

The story is told by Dr. Charles Gilkey of Chicago who recalls an uncle at Islesboro, Maine. As he sat by the fireside conducting a family worship, he read Psalms 116:1.

“I said in my haste, all men are liars” (Ps. 116:11).

The old uncle remarked, “David said this in his haste; but if he had taken his time to think about it deeply, he couldn’t have come nearer the truth. He wouldn’t have had any reason to change his mind.” And that’s the pity of today! It shows how normal lying has become.

We have conveniently forgotten how seriously God views lying and how harshly He deals with it!  We forget the Garden experience that got us here before Christ.

“Did God really say, ‘you must not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Satan said (Gen. 3:1).

You know the rest of the story.

Sadly we continue to lie. However, the story of Ananias and Sapphira must be seen as God’s deliberate reminder to the church of His aversion for lying (Acts 5:1-10). Why then haven’t we learned? I don’t know how many of us would be alive today if God reacts to our lies as He did to Ananias and Sapphira.

In spite of grace, have you considered the diverse ways in which we lie? There is nothing harsher than grieving the Spirit or quenching His fire (Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 5:19). Ask strongman Samson (Judges 16:20). If we claim Jesus who is the Truth as our Savior and Lord, we can’t continue to speak the native language of the devil (Jn. 8:44).

Our defense is in perceiving God in His holiness. When we see Christ in His transcendent glory and majesty, we realize how sinful telling a lie is. Hopefully, we’ll be humbled enough to bite our tongues and rather tell the truth. He deserves nothing short of glory.