Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Eternity is Around the Corner



Image result for eternity





Quite often when people die, you hear their loved ones say, “He (or she) is in a better place.” This is a comforting thought, and I am sure everybody wants to assume that about their deceased loved one. However, before we go any further, we need to ask ourselves, “Where is this better place, and how do people get there?”

 The Bible, the Word of God, talks about eternity (time without end) as being either in heaven or in hell. There is no neutral or in-between place, so when people talk about a better place, they are referring to heaven, since hell is not a desirable place. Heaven, however, is not an automatic destination for the deceased.

When people die, their living loved ones can comfort themselves any way they want, but that does not guarantee their deceased loved ones are in heaven. The biblical truth is this: only those who believe on the name of Jesus (see Romans 3:22) -- whose names are written in the Lamb’s (Jesus) book of life (see Revelation 21:27) -- will go to heaven.  People who do not believe on the name of Jesus Christ before they die cannot be wished or prayed into heaven by loved ones: not even by the church.

Eligibility for heaven is not based on gender, age, or social or political standing, nor  does it  depend on good works or anything else people do. It is based solely on the sacrifice Christ made by dying on the cross (see Ephesians 2:5). By that act, He made Himself the bridge between God and man. Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for sin, making Him the only way for sinners to come to God by faith in Jesus (see John 14:6).

This is your opportunity. Ask Jesus to forgive your sins now. He will forgive you, taking away the guilt of your sins, filling you with His Spirit as the deposit that guarantees your future with Him (see 2 Corinthians 1:22) and writing your name in His book of life.. Don’t count on your loved ones or your priests to wish or pray you into heaven after your death. It just doesn’t work that way.

If you refuse Christ’s offer for salvation, you have automatically and personally chosen to go to hell after you die. Remember: if you die without making this decision, you’ve missed the opportunity to go to heaven for good!

So, while you still live, I encourage you to make the decision that guarantees you will spend eternity in heaven. Your loved ones will then be able to confidently say without hesitation, at your passing, “He (or she) is in a better place.” Please make this decision soon: hopefully today, because eternity is around the corner!


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

JESUS IS COMING BACK





Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, Isaiah, an Old Testament prophet, prophesied both of Jesus’ first and Second Advents (see Isaiah 9:6-7). As we know, the First Advent was fulfilled when Jesus was born. The details of the events surrounding His birth happened exactly in the manner in which they were prophesied. That fulfillment was proof that the Word of God is dependable. We celebrate that First Advent as Christmas, characterized by festivities, giving and receiving gifts. Looking back, we see that, that advent was very obscure, very few people knew anything about it, or cared about it. The key people mentioned in that event included: His parents-Joseph and Mary; the Inn Keeper; the shepherds; and the Wise men.

Similarly, the Second Advent will be fulfilled unerringly; Jesus is definitely coming back! Whereas He came as a helpless baby the first time, and did not catch the attention of many, things will be a lot different with the Second Advent. The Second Advent will not be obscure in any way; rather, as the Bible says, “Every eye will see Him” (Revelation 1:7 NIV). He is going to come with the armies of heaven and the Christians who were raptured seven years earlier. This occasion is going to be grand, unlike anything we’ve ever seen. He is coming as the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Ruler of the nations, and the Judge of the world, and He will hold sinners accountable for their wickedness, and reward the righteous.

Before His Second Advent though, there will be the rapture of the Church. The Bible describes the rapture as the sudden removal of all Christians from the earth to join with resurrected believers and Jesus Christ Himself, in the air. The rapture will usher in the tribulation period, a seven-year time of suffering, lawlessness, and severe persecution of Christians. At the end of the tribulation period, Jesus will return to earth to cleanse the world of sin and evil, and establish His Millennial Kingdom (a thousand-year rule). This will be Jesus’s Second Advent.

Jesus’ return to earth is mentioned not only in the Old Testament, but also in the New Testament. Jesus Himself spoke about His Second Advent while He was here on earth. Towards the end of His ministry, Jesus promised His disciples He’d return from heaven, “I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3 NIV). Furthermore, the day Jesus ascended into heaven (forty days after His resurrection), two angels appeared to the distraught disciples who were amazingly watching, as their Master went up. The angels comforted them by saying, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11 NIV).

In the book of Revelation, John, the author, recorded for us Jesus’ message to the Churches. He said, “Behold, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done…I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star…Yes, I am coming soon (Revelation 22:12, 16, 20 NIV)! God is faithful; none of his promises has ever failed, and will not fail now! So let’s be ready; Jesus is coming back soon!     


After the millennium, there will be no more tears, pain, or suffering, which is what God had in mind right from the beginning of creation. There will be peace, no political garbage and lies! We will have one Ruler who is kind, loving, and just, and totally trustworthy. Wow! What a world that will be! We’ll get to call it our permanent home; a city whose Founder and Maker, and Ruler is God Almighty! Amen!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

BE A SAINT




Who is a saint, and when does one become a saint? There are
people who think sainthood is pronounced upon a person after
their death, based on how good/holy they lived. According to the
Scriptures, saint is another name for Christian. The apostle Paul
addressing the Church at Ephesus called them saints; “Paul, an
apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus,
the faithful in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 1:1). These addressees were alive,
so one does not need to be dead to be called a saint. Hence those
of us who are in the body of Christ Jesus are saints, whether we
are in or out of our individual earthly bodies.

Having established that we are saints, we should also establish
that unless the Lord draws us we cannot come to Him (see John 6:44),
and therefore sainthood is a calling. Paul writing to the church
in Rome addressed them this way, “To all in Rome who are loved
by God and called to be saints” (Romans 1:1). The online dictionary
defines Call as: 1) Making a request or demand, 2) Speaking
in a loud distinct voice so as to be heard at a distance, and one
of the definitions for to be: is to become. So CALLED TO BE
SAINTS means, God requested/demanded that we become
saints. To become something different from what we are requires
a transformation from one state of being to another; example:
going from a cocoon to a butterfly. We are transformed from a
state of unbelief/ungodliness to belief/faith in Christ, resulting in
the newness of life and the renewal of the mind. We are not called
to act like saints; we are called to be saints.

Sainthood is not a cloak we put on and take off when we feel
like it. We are to be saints around the clock, 24/7. It should be
our new nature, our state of being. We are to be saints at home,
away from home, when we are awake and when we are asleep. We
should be saints at all times; in the company of believers as well
as in the company of unbelievers, no matter what. ‘Saint’ should be
our identity; the identity by which we are known.

How can we vibrantly maintain our sainthood? Let’s compare
sainthood to professions in the circular world. We need to have the
mindset that we are saints. We need to learn all we can about being
saints, by studying the manual for saints, by attending in-services,
seminars, and training sessions about saints. This will equip us to
get better at being saints. The word says we should not neglect the
assembling together of the saints, as some are in the habit of doing,
but we should encourage one another (see Hebrews 10:25). It also says we
should correctly handle the word of truth. (see 2 Timothy 1:5). Every so
often, professionals go through certification and re-certification
to ensure their skills and knowledge are up to date. We receive
our certifications and re-certifications through the trials we go
through to confirm that we are applying the lessons we learn on
how to maintain our sainthood.

Sainthood is ongoing, and takes perseverance. We should get
better at being saints with the passage of time as we keep our gaze
on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. (see Hebrews 12:2).

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD




“Occupational hazard” is a very common expression in our society that refers to potential risks, dangers, or perils associated with one’s job or profession. For example, people who work with asbestos run the risk of developing lung cancer later on in life; roofers run the risk of falls and injuries. Most professions, if not all, have associated risks. 

So are there associated risks with Christian service (ministry)? The answer is yes!  There are associated risks for just being a Christian; Jesus warned, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33 NIV). The early church was bitterly persecuted. The hymnist captured it this way, “Mocked, imprisoned, stoned, tormented, sawn asunder, slain with sword.” The Church today still faces persecution in horrible ways, including isolation and being disowned by loved ones. Persecution and the like in themselves, as harsh as they sound, are really not the worse hazards associated with Christian ministry.

The worst, I believe, is DISCOURAGEMENT, which can happen to any Christian, no matter how spiritually mature. How does one arrive at discouragement? Discouragement creeps into our lives for various reasons and at different times. Discouragement can ensue when there’s not enough support or cheering on (encouragement), not enough supplies to work with, obstacles and threats in the way, and the absence of fruit. Discouragement, if not appropriately addressed, can lead to despondency and throwing in the towel.     

First King 18 recaps for us the contest between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to call on Baal to send down fire to consume their sacrifice, which of course didn’t happen.  On the other hand, God answered Elijah! When he called, fire came down from heaven, burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. After demonstrating that “The Lord-He is God! The Lord-He is God!” (1 King 18:39 NIV), Elijah had the prophets of Baal killed. King Ahab’s wife Jezebel swore to kill Elijah in revenge. So what did Elijah do?  He ran for his life; he went into hiding! He was so discouraged, he wanted to die. This was his prayer: “I have had enough, Lord, take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (1 King 19:4 NIV).

Elijah was exhausted, persecuted, and afraid, which led to discouragement, to the point of wishing he were dead (maybe he had no prayer support). Before his discouragement, he was fine. He had challenged the people, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is god follow him” (1 King 18:21 NIV). He had also challenged the king without fear of punishment, telling him that he and his father’s house had made trouble for Israel (see 1 King 18:18). He then taunted the prophets of Baal about their god who could be asleep, deep in thought, busy, or travelling (see 1 King 18:27). Discouragement, however, changed everything for Elijah; he threw in the towel!

Discouragement can be a serious occupational hazard in Christian ministry. Let us remember to pray for one another, for our missionaries, and for our pastors. Let us cheer them on, and if at all possible, make sure they have all they need to get the job done. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Terrorist Turned Evangelist/Missionary





For years now, terrorism is a big global issue. We can describe terrorists as murderers, evil, wicked, heartless, ignorant, and on and on. But thank God that a number of Muslims have seen the light, trusted Jesus, and turned their back on the darkness. Jesus died for all mankind, terrorists included, and the Bible tells us, “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 NLT). Terrorists can come to faith in Jesus, because God is able to make that happen. Let’s turn the pain, frustration, anger, and even hatred that we feel toward them into prayer.

As Christians, the apostle we reference most often is the apostle Paul (aka Saul) of Tarsus. Before he became an apostle, he was a terrorist! He persecuted the Church of Jesus Christ; he was one of the witnesses and was in total agreement when Stephen was stoned to death for testifying about Jesus. Why was he a terrorist? As a Pharisee (the strictest sect of Judaism—see Acts 26:5), Paul wanted nothing to do with Christianity (The Way, as it was called). He took it upon himself to preserve Judaism, and in his own words, “I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem… I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.” (Acts 26:9-11 NLT)

Paul continued his terrorist acts until Jesus got his attention. He had received letters from the High Priest in Jerusalem, requesting the cooperation of the synagogue in Damascus, to arrest and bring back to Jerusalem any Christians in Damascus (see Acts 9:1-2). As he neared Damascus, his trip was interrupted; Jesus had a dialogue with him.
“Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

The response, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:3-6 NLT). That was the turning point in the life of this terrorist; he became a new person: a believer!
Saul, received marching orders (from God) while in Damascus. Immediately, he started preaching Jesus and fellowshipping with the very people he had gone to terrorize and arrest. Those who heard him speak about Jesus as the Son of God could not believe what they were hearing. They questioned, “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem? And didn’t he come here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?” (Acts 9:21 NLT) His arguments about Jesus were so convincing that the Jews in Damascus could not refute his proofs. On his return to Jerusalem, the believers there were afraid of him, and could not believe that he had become a believer of Jesus Christ.

This dramatic change is proof that no matter how much people hate Jesus, God can turn them around, making them useful instruments in His service. Our current-day terrorists can be confronted just as Saul was; they can understand the truth about Jesus, believe in Him, and take the message to their former colleagues. This is a call for Christians to sincerely pray for all non-Christians, especially the terrorists and all who support and encourage their cause, just as Stephen prayed for those who killed him (see Acts 7:60).

On Paul’s return to Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit commissioned him and Barnabas to go and preach the gospel; they travelled extensively, preaching to both Jews and Gentiles. Through their ministry, many believed and were saved, many were healed, Christians were encouraged to live for the Lord, and churches were planted (see Acts 13-14). In addition to sharing the gospel, he continued to encourage the churches he planted and individuals he discipled through letters, and constantly prayed for them. Those letters (Epistles) continue to build and strengthen the Church today. Indeed, Paul was a terrorist turned evangelist/missionary!

Saul, the most anti-Jesus individual mentioned in the Scriptures, worked extremely hard for the cause of the gospel. His hard work was not without suffering. This is his own testimony: “I have worked harder (than the other apostles), been put in prison more often, been whipped without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea…I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep warm.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27)   

So, is there hope for terrorists? Yes! If we Christians pray fervently, this hope can be realized. The Scriptures tell us, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16 NLT) As we pray for them, let’s also pray for churches that are experiencing the brunt of this evil: that God will encourage them, and that they’ll find it in their hearts to pray for their persecutors. Let’s pray until we have numerous Paul-type-terrorists turned evangelists and missionaries!



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

THE PARTY IS CRASHED





In the beginning, God created man in His own image.
God maintained camaraderie with man through friendship with man in the Garden.
“Should God have fellowship with man? I don’t think so,” said the devil.
So the devil devised a plan to destroy the friendship between God and man.
Through the devil’s scheme, man disobeyed God, and lost friendship with God.
The devil was ecstatic. He had succeeded. He beamed with pride. 
But God said, “Not so fast, Satan! It’s not over until it’s over.”    

God was grieved of course, but in order to satisfy His justice, sin must be redressed.
So God became Man, in the Person of His Son Jesus, and lived among men.
Through his Son Jesus, God showed man how to restore friendship
Through faith in His Son Jesus.
The devil incited the people against Jesus. They hung Him on a cross, He died, and He was buried.
Again the devil thought to himself, “Finally, I have done it! Man will forever be estranged from God, and be my partner in hell.”
“Not so fast, Satan! It’s not over until it’s over.”

Now, after Jesus died, Satan was so overjoyed he threw a party.
Who was at the party?
Satan and his demons of course!
They slapped each other on the back and congratulated each other.
“We did it, we did it! The tomb is tightly sealed, what good is a dead Savior?”
Not so fast. Not so fast, Satan! It’s not over until it’s over.

On the third day, as the party was going on, there was a big earthquake.
All back-slapping and celebration stopped abruptly. “What’s going on?” Satan asked.
Before any could answer, he saw the stone at the mouth of the tomb roll away.
Jesus walked out with angels worshiping Him!     
“O, Nooooooo,” said the devil, “JESUS IS ALIVE, MY ENEMY IS ALIVE!!!  
“This wasn’t supposed to happen. Man will find his way back to God through faith in Jesus!”
“What can I do differently now?” asks the disappointed Satan.
Slow down, Satan. Now it’s really over!



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Once Upon a Time



I still remember the first line of many children’s stories I read as a kid years ago. Quite often, it went like this: “Once upon a time, many years ago, there was…” Do you remember reading any such stories? The stories were always things that happened in the past and the lessons that one could learn from them. Most often, the stories ended with a happy-forever-after.Let’s see how that format would work with the God-story!
Once upon a time, many years ago, there was God, His Son Jesus, and His Spirit: the three in One. “And God said, ‘let us make human beings in our own image, to be like us.’” (Genesis 1:26)  He still is, and will always be. Nothing else existed at that point (see Genesis 1:1). With no physical resources, He created everything you see today, and much more. He created the heavens, the earth, the sky, the seas, vegetation, and animals. Then He created man, Adam, and then his wife Eve, in His image and gave man authority over all that He had created, including the responsibility to name them. He placed man in a beautiful garden He had created--the Garden of Eden- and instructed him to take care of it, and to eat the fruits for food. There was only one tree that was off-limits to man—the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the center of the garden (Genesis 2:16-17).
Satan, envious of God’s position as LORD, tampered with God’s plans; he tricked Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. God was heart-broken, man felt guilty for the first time, and God’s judgment fell. Man died spiritually: he was kicked out of the garden, losing fellowship with God. Consequently, sin passed on to every descendant of Adam and Eve (see 1 Corinthians 15:21-22).
This means everybody starts life as a sinner and God’s enemy, but God, out of His love for us, put into action His plan to redeem us unto Himself. (See John 3:16) He sent His One and only Son, Jesus Christ, to be our substitute: to die in our place for our sins. Jesus died a cruel death at the hand of sinners, and whoever repents and declares their faith in Jesus is saved and their relationship with God is restored. The resulting relationship is a Father/child relationship. Unlike human parent/child relationships, we never outgrow our relationship with God. We’ll never be so grown that we are independent of Him. We’ll always have to submit to Him, depend on Him, and serve Him!
Having heard the story, we have a responsibility to respond. God doesn’t force us to accept His grace and love, but He makes it clear that death (eternal separation from God) waits at the end of a Christless-life (see Romans 6:23). If you’d like to spend eternity in heaven with God, you need to repent today, and ask God for forgiveness through Jesus. Timing is important! Planning to do something is not the same as doing it. If you procrastinate and die before getting around to doing this, your situation will be just like the person who didn’t care about the gospel message. There is no such thing as an almost-child of God: either you are or you’re not. Think about it!
The God-story can have an ending like the children’s stories, with a happy-forever-after.  Anyone who puts his or her faith in Jesus for salvation is promised an amazing hereafter- life, forever in the presence of the Almighty God. According to the Bible, there’ll be no more pain, tears, or death; we’ll live in mansions, and darkness and sin will be things of the past. No sinners will enter heaven; only the saved will, and we will reign with Him forever and ever, never again to be separated from Him or from our loved-ones.
A shorter version of the story looks like this: “Once upon a time, man rebelled against God, and was thrown out of God’s presence. Through the one sinner, all people became sinners. God sent His Son Jesus to die in payment for man’s sin. Through Jesus, all who believe will become God’s children.” Don’t delay; repent and call on Jesus today, and be assured that your name is written in heaven before it is too late!