Tuesday, December 3, 2019

THE WORST OF ALL TRAGEDIES



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Tragedy is defined by Webster’s Concise Dictionary as a serious drama with an unhappy ending, or a sad event. Some tragedies happen by accident, but some are foreseeable and avoidable, and should therefore be prevented at all costs.

One such tragedy is eternal separation from God. You might wonder what it means to be separated from God, and why it is a tragedy. Understand that God is holy and therefore cannot coexist with sinners, but we are sinners, so right there, sin has separated us from Him.  And it is a tragedy, because not having a relationship with God on a personal level, in this life, is a big loss; but in addition, the Bible teaches that not being in a personal relationship with God sends a person to hell after death, a tragedy that does not need to happen. Hell is not a desirable place; it is a place of never ending torment.

But really, why does one need to have a relationship with God; what good would that do? God created humans for a loving, ongoing relationship, but that relationship was broken by sin: the sin of disobedience. So our sin is what caused the separation between us and God. We know from the Bible that sin has to be either forgiven or punished. The punishment for sin is eternal separation from God in hell. Although the other option is to be forgiven, one has to decide one wants to be forgiven, or by default be punished by going to hell.

Anyone who would like to be forgiven would have to repent of their sins, and ask God for forgiveness through Jesus Christ, who took upon Himself God’s prescribed punishment in our place—death on the cross. Anyone who accepts Christ’s offer is saved from hell and their relationship with God is restored; the gap is closed, and one becomes a child of God.

Since a personal relationship with God in this life and eternity in heaven are both possible, don’t you think it would be tragic to end up in hell? Hell can and should be avoided, because the Bible’s description of hell is frightening. See some of hell’s descriptions below:
       A place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (see Matthew 13:42).
       A place of eternal fire (see Matthew 25:41; Jude 1:17).
       A place prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).
       A place where the fire does not go out (see Mark 9:43).
       A place of everlasting destruction and being shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might (2 Thessalonians 1: 9).
       A place of a fiery lake of burning Sulphur (Revelation 19:20; 21:8).
       As the second death (Revelation 20:14).

Now that you know what the Bible says about hell, would you agree that not having a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ is the worst tragedy that could ever happen to anyone? I think so, and I encourage you to make the decision that will keep you out of that awful place called hell.
On the other hand, heaven is a desirable place, and is described below:
       A place of eternal life (see Matthew 25:46; John 5:24; Romans 3:23).
       A place for the children of God (see John 1:12).
       A place of no condemnation (see John 5:24).
       A place with many mansions (see John 14:2).
       A place with pearly gates and streets of gold (Revelation 21:21). 
       A place where God reigns (see Revelation 19:6).
       A place where there’ll be no death, sorrow, weeping, or pain (see Revelation 21:4).
       A place of feasting (Revelation 19:7-8).

Now compare these two places! Please don’t go to hell, because you don’t have to. Repent and turn your life over to Jesus; know that, “Just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:27 NLT).
Think about it, call on Jesus, and do it soon!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Church Is Heaven’s Embassy In The World




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What’s an embassy, what is the Church, and how are the two similar? According to the Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary, an embassy is a body of diplomatic representatives; specifically: one headed by an ambassador. An embassy represents its government in another country. According to the Bible, the Church is the Body of Christ-sinners who have placed their faith in Jesus for salvation, thus making them citizens of heaven. Christians are therefore, sojourners on earth; our home is heaven, and the apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5:20, we are Christ’s ambassadors (authorized representatives) here on earth.

Hence, both entities are established to represent higher powers (their governments). If one desires to know something about another country, one could go to that country’s closest embassy to find out, or ask any of the diplomatic representatives of that country they encounter. In the same way, individuals who’d like to know about God and heaven could contact the Church or Christians. As Christians, we should present our home and Lord in a way that makes people outside the Church hungry for what we have, and how they could also know our Lord in a personal way. It is our responsibility as citizens to introduce others to our Lord!

Some of the individuals who have never traveled outside their country of origin probably have very little knowledge about the importance of Embassies. They don’t care much about the role embassies play in international matters. Having been born and raised in Ghana, and currently living in the United States of America, I know a bit about the functions of embassies.

When considering relocating to another country, one can’t just up and move there without encountering an embassy. Every country has requirements for immigration from other countries. In order for me to gain access to the US, I had to go the US Embassy in Ghana, present the required documentation (quite extensive) for processing, and then be interviewed. On approval, I was issued a visa, permitting me to enter the US. That embassy was representing the government of the United States: protecting its interests, enforcing its laws even outside its shores, and making sure it is seen in the best possible light.       

Similarly, Christians are representing their Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, here on earth! As the Church-heaven’s embassy, we should present the whole counsel of God to the world. We’re all ambassadors, and should maintain that status twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week! We can show folks outside the Church how to become fellow-citizens of our incredible country, whose designer and builder is God Almighty (see Hebrews 11:10). Armed with the information we share, those interested in becoming citizens will be directed to place faith in Jesus Christ, and can then look forward to their new home, where no one will ever shed another tear or experience sickness or death. We can also show them how they can contribute to the efficient running of the embassy by faithfully using their God-given talents and abilities.

An Embassy doesn’t run independent of the homeland; communication is ongoing whether there are problems or not. Likewise, the Church needs to be in constant communication with the Father, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NIV), because without Him we can do nothing (see John 15:5). Lines of communication are always open; there are no busy signals or voicemail messages. In fact, he is always with us and knows our needs before we even realize them.

Another role embassies play is looking out for the welfare of their citizens in the countries where they are based. Their citizens call on them when they run into trouble. Likewise, the Body of Christ supports one another, whatever the need. We pray for each other, encourage each other from the Scriptures, and meet social and financial needs as much as is possible.

Embassies and their ambassadors show travelers how to obtain visas to the countries they represent. The time is coming when it will be too late to obtain a visa into heaven, so let us (the Church), get serious in our efforts to show the world how to obtain a visa into heaven—call on Jesus!                                                                                       






Tuesday, November 12, 2019

GOD’S RESCUE MISSION


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A rescue mission is an operation to reach and rescue people in urgent need, such as after a disaster or before an anticipated disaster.  In order to initiate a rescue mission, the following three indicators have to be in place:

1)    There has to be a pending disaster, or a disaster that has already occurred.
2)    There has to be a person or people in danger because of the disaster.
3)    There have to be people willing to carry out the operation.

It’s important to note that when rescue missions don’t succeed, whether because the effort wasn’t initiated in a timely manner or those in danger refused to follow directions, the end result is tragic—people perish! 

In a similar way, we can take a rescue mission into the spiritual realm.
Let’s see if the three indicators are present.

A)    Pending disaster- God’s wrath and pending judgment against sinners.
B)    People in danger- People, the descendants of Adam and Eve, the first couple.
C)    Someone or people willing to carry out a rescue mission- God the Father and Jesus Christ His Son.

Why are people in danger, and what danger are they facing? They are in danger because they have sinned against God the Father, and are in danger of His judgment: “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned” (Romans 5:12 NLT). Judgment is imminent unless there is a rescue mission.  This is how the Bible expresses it: “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standards” (Romans 3:23 NLT). Man can in no way make the acceptable restitution; there has to be a rescue mission outside of man, or man has to face God’s judgment and condemnation.

God, out of His love for man, put a rescue mission into motion. He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to take on human form, live sinless, as a man among men, suffer at the hand of sinners, and be judged and falsely accused. Having been found guilty falsely, He was condemned to death by crucifixion on a wooden cross. For three hours, He hung on a cross, bleeding and in pain. The worst part of His suffering was the separation He felt from God His Father. He cried out: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Mark 15:34 NLT). He asked for water, and instead of water, they gave Him vinegar! Since when did vinegar become a thirst-quencher? At the end of the three hours, He died. He was buried in a borrowed tomb; three days later, He rose from the dead, winning victory over death and the grave! The Bible explains it this way: “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners” (Romans 5:6 NLT).

For forty days after rising from the dead, He showed Himself to many, as proof that He was alive! After the forty days, He ascended into heaven, where He sits at the right hand side of the Father, interceding for us.

So how does Jesus’ death rescue man? In short, Jesus died the death man deserved to die; He exchanged places with man. He died so man would live! The Bible states it this way: “God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation” (Romans 5:8-9 NLT). 

Now, dear sinner, if you haven’t already, you need to acknowledge your sins, repent, and accept Jesus as your Savior. God will gladly forgive you; after all, the rescue mission was His idea, and He therefore will honor it.

Just as people perish when rescue missions fail, sinners will also perish if they refuse to be rescued. People should want to be rescued; Jesus died for all, but they have to want to be saved, and should follow directions that would lead to their salvation: “Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins” (Romans 5:16 NLT). If they don’t, their punishment will be judgment and condemnation to hell. There’s no need to perish when God’s rescue mission is available, but be aware it won’t be available forever. You need to accept this rescue while you’re alive; after death, it will be too late.   

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

YOU CAN WALK AWAY FREE, TODAY




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Most responsible people who incur debts have the intention of paying them off, to the last penny, which is the responsible thing to do. Unfortunately, things don’t always work out the way they planned or intended.

Have you or someone you know ever become unemployed for an extended period of time, for reasons like layoff or prolonged ill health? The answer I’m sure is “yes.” This means, sometimes, through no fault of an individual’s, their ability to earn a living in the face of debt and other responsibilities can be curtailed. This happens more often than society would like to admit. As a result, all good intentions regarding debts fall by the wayside, leaving the debtor open to harassment from creditors and debt collectors.

If you were ever in a similar situation, how would you like for someone to pay off your debt and never hold it against you? If someone did that for you, how would you respond? You could respond in one of the following ways: No, thank you, I don’t take handouts; this is my debt and I intend to pay it myself; wow, I can’t believe it; or simply THANK YOU!

All mankind is in debt to God for our sins. We sin because of the sin-nature passed on to us by our original parents, Adam and Eve, and that makes each person a sinner. “Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23 NLT). The result of sin, according to the Word of God, is death: “All people will die for their own sins” (Jeremiah 31:30 NLT), meaning eternal separation from God after physical death, also known as hell.

God sent His Son Jesus to die in our place, so we don’t have to pay the debt we owe Him. Again, the Bible addresses that this way: “This is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NLT). Also, “He was handed over to die because of our sins, and He was raised to life to make us right with God” (Romans 4:25 NLT).

How would you respond to God’s offer? Jesus paid the penalty already; you don’t have to ever be responsible for it. Will you say you intend to pay your own debt,
which will mean you’d rather perish? Or would you say with gratitude, “Thank you; I believe in your Son, Jesus; please forgive me.”? You’re in debt to God, but Jesus paid it all already; there’s no reason for you to perish. Think about it; you can walk away free, today!

There’s always the temptation to postpone making decisions, but time does not belong to you. If you understand this message, please don’t postpone your day of salvation, because although you routinely make decisions and think you have control over your life, the truth is you don’t. Your circumstances could change anytime, and you could miss the opportunity to be saved. Please decide today, and walk away free, leaving your sins --no matter what -- on Jesus. Tomorrow could be too late!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

THIS PROMISE IS FOR YOU



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“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose”
(Romans 8:28 NIV).

Are you a child of God? If you are then you’ve been called according to His purpose, and therefore, the above promise is for you, and it covers all your circumstances, as expressed in—“All things.” What is the promise? The promise is this, none of your experiences (good, bad, painful, intentional, unintentional, engineered by the devil, by people, etc.) are ever wasted. God in His infinite wisdom uses them all to bring about something good in your life, and needless to say, to bring Him glory! He gets glory, because you will praise Him, and testify to His love, wisdom, and faithfulness.   

Let us consider Joseph, son of Jacob. His brothers sold him into slavery into Egypt. He ended up in jail after being falsely accused by his master’s wife. He was forgotten by those who could have helped free him, but God worked it out. In the end, he became the vice to the Pharaoh (Genesis 41:41-44 NIV), and through him, God provided for everybody, including his own family (his father Jacob and his mean brothers and their families) during the seven years of terrible famine.

After the death of Jacob, the brothers were afraid of retaliation from Joseph, but to reassure them, he said to them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the savings of many lives” (Genesis 50:20 NIV).   

So take heart, my brother, my sister; your pain and suffering are not for naught. Since you are a child of God, He will work it out for your good and for His glory! He said it, so believe it, because He is faithful!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD



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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. In general, most professions, if not all, have associated risks. 

So are there associated risks with Christian Service (Ministry)?  The answer is a resounding 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, and 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 hazard associated with Christian Ministry.

The worst I believe, is DISCOURAGEMENT, which can happen to any Christian, no matter how spiritually matured. How does one arrive at discouragement? Discouragement creeps into our lives for various reasons and at different times. Discouragement can result 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 those prophets 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’s prayer! 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 Kings 18:39 NIV), Elijah had Baal’s prophets 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 then led to discouragement, to the point of wishing he were dead. Could it be that he had no prayer support? Maybe! Before Elijah was discouraged, 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 Kings 18:21 NIV). He had also  challenged the king without fear of punishment, telling him, he and his father’s house had made trouble for Israel (see 1Kings 18:18), and then taunted the prophets of Baal about their god who could be asleep, deep in thought, busy, or travelling (see 1 Kings 18:27). Discouragement however, changed everything for him; 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 job done

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. In general, most professions, if not all, have associated risks. 

So are there associated risks with Christian Service (Ministry)?  The answer is a resounding 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, and the hymn writer 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 hazard associated with Christian Ministry.

The worst I believe, is DISCOURAGEMENT, which can happen to any Christian, no matter how spiritually matured. How does one arrive at discouragement? Discouragement creeps into our lives for various reasons and at different times. Discouragement can result 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 Kings 18 recaps for us the contest between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Elijah challenged those prophets 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’s prayer! 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 Kings 18:39 NIV), Elijah had Baal’s prophets 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 Kings 19:4 NIV).

Elijah was exhausted, persecuted, and afraid, which then led to discouragement, to the point of wishing he were dead. Could it be that he had no prayer support? Maybe! Before Elijah was discouraged, 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 Kings 18:21 NIV). He had also  challenged the king without fear of punishment, telling him, he and his father’s house had made trouble for Israel (see 1 Kings 18:18), and then taunted the prophets of Baal about their god who could be asleep, deep in thought, busy, or travelling (see 1 Kings 18:27). Discouragement however, changed everything for him; 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 job done!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

NOT A WOODEN CROSS, BUT THE WOODEN CROSS



A wooden cross is made by nailing or tying two pieces of uneven-length wood together, as seen in this picture. Even a child could put one together. In years past, in Rome and other parts of the world, hanging a person on a cross was a way of punishing criminals. As to be expected, many criminals died this way, but of all the individuals crucified, only one of them had never done anything wrong. In fact, He was sinless.

A cross is a cross, but this sinless one on it made one particular cross significantly different from all the others. You see, the man on that cross was not a man at all; He was God, and he died willingly, out of love.

When God Almighty, Creator of the universe, with power to call on legions of angels to fight on His behalf, hangs defenseless on a tree, everybody needs to stop and pay attention! That act speaks volumes: of man’s ignorance and wickedness, and of God’s love and longing to forgive, redeem, and to replace a broken relationship with an ongoing Father-child relationship now, and into eternity.  

The cross: there was a reason for it! Right from the beginning, God knew He would be dying a cruel death, to restore the fellowship with man that would be broken by sin.
If you are confused, be patient; I’ll explain further. The only sinless Person who ever died such a horrible death was God. Why did He die if He was sinless? He died to pay for the penalty of man’s sin. Without this act, there could be no forgiveness of sin (see Hebrews 9:22), as His death was the only acceptable payment for the sins of man. That one act covers their past, present and future failings (see Hebrews 9:28). Without it, there’d be no restoration of the relationship between man and God.
So how did we fall out of fellowship with God? Adam and Eve (our original parents) sinned against God in the Garden of Eden through disobedience, and, being their offspring, we inherited their sin-nature. So now we sin because we were born with a sin-nature; we’re sinners not because we sin, but we sin because we’re sinners (see Romans 5:12). Sin has put a separation between us and God (Adam and Eve were thrown out of God’s presence). The only way to restore our relationship with God was for the sin to be paid for, which God did through that cruel death of His Son Jesus on the cross. For “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them" (Corinthians 5:19 NLT). 
The cross! Although it represented such pain and agony, it demonstrated love and brought forgiveness and life! The cross!
How then should we respond to a sacrifice this costly? In one word, REPENT! Repentance is agreeing that we’re sinners (see Romans 5:20), deciding to turn our back on sin, and placing our faith in Jesus. When we take that step, God forgives us; because He’s promised He would if we confess and forsake our sins (see 1 John 1:9). If we choose to not repent, we’ll face God’s judgment in the future, and the verdict will be condemnation to hell.

Just so we understand that: “Each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 NLT). If you haven’t already placed your faith in Jesus, what are you waiting for? Tomorrow is not promised to anyone; death could knock on your door any day, any time, and it might be too late for you to experience God’s grace and forgiveness in a personal way. You might have an elaborate funeral when you die, but that won’t change your stand with God. Please do this today; it is that urgent!



When you place your faith in Jesus, God will: remove your sins as far from you as the east is from the west (see Psalm 103:12). He’ll never again remember your sins (see Hebrews 8:12, 10:17). He’ll guide and teach you through His Word, the Bible, and through sharing with other Christians. He’ll always be available to you through prayer.

God is waiting for a response to His call; answer today!