The Believer’s Hope and Joy

Have a walk worthy of the calling with which you were called (Ephesians 4:1).

Yesterday we learned of the death of Dr RC Sproul (1939-2017), a man who had a profound impact on both my beliefs and my preaching. Even at the end of his life, when he could no longer breathe, he made every effort to continue teaching the Bible. For a preacher, it’s all you can do!

The Bible says that for the believer, to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord in Heaven (2 Cor 5:8). Upon hearing the news of Dr Sproul’s entrance into the presence of God, I thought of Jesus calling His apostles.

In Matthew 4:18-22 we’re told Jesus found brothers Peter and Andrew hard at their job as fishermen. He said, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. The Bible says the two immediately left their nets and followed Him (Mt 4:20). A bit further on Jesus found two more brothers, James and John in the boat with Zebedee their father … and He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him (Mt 4:21, 22).

Imagine, in both instances, those whom Jesus called left everything to immediately be with Jesus. Without hesitation they left their employment. They abandoned their livelihood. They departed from their own families. Can you image what Zebedee said when his two sons left in the middle of the work day?

When Jesus called Dr Sproul, he didn’t linger. He didn’t say, “Lord, just give me a few more days with my family. Heal me so I can live a longer and more productive life.” No, when Jesus called, RC immediately left this world behind to be with Jesus. He lived to be worthy of the One who called him.

Suppose I was going to Disneyland. You wouldn’t be sad that I was going to California to be welcomed by Mickey Mouse into his Magic Kingdom. You would be glad. Your sadness would be that you’re not going along. So it is with God’s people whom He calls home.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (Ps 116:15). We should rejoice in what God rejoices. So we are reminded that in death we do not sorrow as others who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13). Death for the child of God is not a time to mourn like those with no hope, but a time for joy and personal longing to also be with Jesus.

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Give Me Jesus

I was surprised on my first visit to Mexico in 1998 to find so many men named Jesus in one place. In this culturally Catholic nation, about 1 in 10 males is named Jesus. It reminded me of the Apostle’s warning of pastors offering another Jesus we have not preached (2 Corinthians 11:4).

We expect an un-Biblical Jesus from the Mormons, whose Jesus is the blood-brother of Satan. We’re aware of the Jehovah’s Witness belief that Jesus is the embodiment of the angel Michael. But other Jesuses are sprouting up in places that should bring us pause.

A Grammy-winning Christian singer denies that Adam, Eve, and Noah were real people despite what Jesus said of them (Mt 19:4; 24:37).

We’re told that the real Jesus was a transgendered, homosexual, refugee, gun-hating, abortion-loving Socialist.

We can go to the theater to watch a movie which denies the Trinity, Hell, sin, and teaches that Jesus is nothing more than an example of what it means to love.

Without the Biblical Jesus, there is no payment for sin, no righteousness, no satisfaction of God’s wrath, no victory over sin or Satan or death or Hell. Modern theology leaves us with the empty figure of a man who inspires hopey-changey feelings but did nothing to solve humanity’s greatest problem: Sin.

A Jesus who doesn’t fulfill the Scriptures can’t do anything in the Scriptures. A false Jesus isn’t the Way, the Truth, or the Life leading us to God the Father; every substitute Jesus only leads away from the Father (Jn 14:6).

I’ll take the Jesus of God’s Word.

Even if we, or an angel from Heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be cursed (Galatians 1:8).

We Need This Reminder

Before ascending into Heaven, Jesus told Peter news that went in one ear and out the other, but later it had to be constant in his thoughts. “… when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This Jesus spoke, signifying by what death Peter would glorify God (John 21:18-19).

As Peter wrote his second epistle, he knew that his death was at hand.

If you knew you were going to die one week from today, what would you want people to remember about you? What you look like? A certain life-achievement? Something about your character? Maybe just that you loved.

In his last letter, Peter used words like remember, reminder, or don’t forget 10 different times (2 Peter 1:9, 12, 13, 15, 19; 3:1, 2, 5, 8, 17)!

What did Peter want his readers, like you and me, to remember? That he was an apostle or fisherman? Perhaps that he saw Christ transfigured? His grizzly bearded face or aged rough hands? That he was the first to understand who Jesus really was? Maybe his betrayal of the Lord? The text of his sermon the Day of Pentecost?

Nope. Unlike us, Peter didn’t want to be remembered at all. He wanted the truth that he knew, lived, and taught to be remembered. Like any good pastor, Peter kept teaching and reviewing the same truths again and again, continually repeating the same doctrinal themes. There was nothing new to tell; just the old, old story of Jesus.

The pastor who doesn’t remind his congregation of the basic truths of the gospel in every sermon he preaches, is a complete failure.

Before Jesus was crucified, He also had a message of remembrance for us.

This is My body which is broken for you … This cup is the new covenant in My blood … do this in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes (1 Corinthians 11:24, 25, 26)

We are prone to obsessing over ourselves and the things in our lives we think are important. Really, when we die, we should want the faith we held in Christ to be remembered; and until then, we need to remember Jesus and His work. We remember and proclaim Him each time we partake of the Lord’s Supper. How very often we need this reminder!

Social Injustice and Our Message

As Christians, our primary ministry on this earth is to share the good news of Jesus to a broken, dead, and dying world.

We can’t fix the brokenness of a society. No political party or particular candidate can create a nation of godliness. There has never been a social justice campaign resolve age-old hatred and bigotry or save an innocent life from a corrupt police officer. Protests and chants in California don’t put food in the bellies of hungry African children or achieve equality for women in the Muslim world.

Too many Christians are distracted by the symptoms of sin around us and have ignored and even rejected the cause and remedy of all that ails the human race. Sin brings separation and death. It causes the separation of husbands and wives, parents and children, black and white, rich and poor, Kenyans and Canadians. Sin kills relationships and eats away at nations. The only answer for death is life, and life is only possible through Jesus Christ, the Prince of life (Acts 3:15).

After the massacre in Las Vegas in early October, my wife sorrowed over the loss of 59 lives. I agreed and then reminded her that in all likelihood, most of the thousands at the concert that night and survived were unsaved and would end up in the Lake of Fire. That is the greatest tragedy.

Salvation in Jesus must be our message to our hurting world.

These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:31).

Resurrection from the Dead

It was Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the American Republic, who wrote, Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

Death and taxes are two sure components of every human life, but there is a third: the resurrection from the dead.

In the Old Testament, a man named Job asked the question: If a man dies, shall he live again? (Job 14:14). The answer from Jesus was a resounding “YES!” Jesus said that all of the dead shall indeed live again (John 5:29).

Every human comes into this world physically alive, but at the same time is spiritually dead because of sin (Ephesians 2:1).

At the new birth, through faith in Jesus, the sinner is given spiritual life (Ephesians 2:5). Though his physical life will come to an end and his body will decompose into the dirt from which he came, there will be a physical resurrection for him (1 Corinthians 15:51-55; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). These resurrected physical bodies will be suited for eternity with God in the New Heaven and New Earth.

The Bible also promises a physical resurrection for the wicked (Revelation 20:11-15), whose physical bodies will be suited for eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire.

Jesus said, The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear My voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28-29).

You don’t just life today for this life; you are living and making decisions that will span eternity.

Discomfort for Mr Macaroni

slow food pasta art workHeaven is a prepared place for a prepared people.”

Mr Macaroni boiled hearing Moody’s words. He’d always been something of a limp noodle, and today he was doubting his choice of employment. It had always been tough making decisions, but once made one he was left feeling deep regrets. When the clock struck 5, Macaroni was ready to get sauced.

Despite his constant indecision, Mr Macaroni was as true as a man could be. He was no impasta when it came to living, but his new job as a dental assistant was leaving him feeling a bit al dente.

He quickly exited the office on his way to the Meat Ball to dance with his sweetheart, a beautiful Italian gal named Penne. All dressed up, he straightened his little bow tie and slicked back his thick blonde angel hair with a bit of olive oil.

As he stepped from the sidewalk into the street, humming “On top of Old Smokey all covered with cheese,” Mr Macaroni was still steaming. A motorcycle with gleaming chrome twin-forks raced toward him. He never knew what hit him and instantly pasta way.

A moment later Mr Macaroni opened his eyes. Before him were the golden arches and beyond was the dazzling White Castle he’d always heard about. Macaroni was greeted by a choir of French guys singing, “Welcome to the realm of Burger King and Dairy Queen.”

A stout fellow calling himself Big Mac approached and laid a whopper of a story on him about being dead and forever living in the presence of the King. “If you’ll lettuce, tomater my friends and I will take you in-and-out through the kingdom.” It gave Mr Macaroni the shakes.

He hadn’t been at ease with people when he was alive, now an eternity with them was unbearable. He wasn’t made for a place like this. He hadn’t wanted anything to do with the king while he was alive and he didn’t want it now. He longed to have it his way and he wasn’t lovin’ it one bit. Mr Macaroni wondered, “Why did the King bring me here if I didn’t want him back when I was living?

If you don’t enjoy King Jesus today, what makes you think you’ll enjoy eternity with Him?

In My Father’s house are many mansions; it if were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:2-3).

True Calamity

I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish (Luke 13:3, 5).

Sometimes bad things happen – not because we’ve sinned – but because we live in a world corrupted by sin.

Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Palestine from 26-36 AD. He was known to be arrogant, stubborn, and insensitive in a place where Jews and Romans lived in constant conflict.

On Pilate’s first day on the job, he marched Roman troops into Jerusalem carrying standards. A standard was a tall pole with a banner and carved image on top. The Jews considered any carved image to be an idol and violent rioting immediately broke out across the city.

We aren’t told the details, but in Luke 13:1-5, Jesus spoke of an event where Pilate slaughtered a group of Galilean men at the temple as they offered their sacrifices. The word on the street was that these Galileans were killed because they were more sinful than anyone else at the temple that day.

Popular Jewish theology of Christ’s day taught that suffering is always a sign of God’s judgment for sin. Catastrophes are always evidence of God’s displeasure.

Sometimes God judges individuals and nations because of their sin; but disasters can also be the consequence of living in a fallen world.

The man who thinks he’s in control of his liquor, drives home, and kills another driver has his own sin to blame for the accident; the sober man who was killed was not being punished by God.

Each day God spares the lives of guilty sinners because He is patient and compassionate. Really, that’s the only reason any of us are alive right now.

True calamity, Jesus said twice, is death apart from a saving faith in Him. Unless you repent you will all likewise perish (Luke 13:3, 5).

Repentance is two-fold. First, it’s a God-caused change of mind about your sin. It’s acknowledging that you’re a sinner far from God, separated from Him by your personal disobedience to His law. Second, repentance is acknowledging and trusting in Jesus as the only Saviour from your sin (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).

He is Good

The Lord is good … (Nahum 1:7).

God is good and only does good, but our concept of good is seldom the same as God’s. The same rain we pray for to grow our food floods another man’s house; the sun that warms our home also burns our flesh. What God says is good can be met with skepticism, but we are unable to see the long-term goal of God in His works.

Second Samuel 12 records that when King David’s newborn son became ill, he pleaded, fasted, and humbled himself before the Lord. Seven days later the baby died. Jewish babies were always circumcised on the 8th day after birth (Leviticus 12:3), which means David’s son went both unnamed and uncircumcised, separated from God’s earthly covenant people (Genesis 17:13-14).

When David realized the baby was dead he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped (2 Samuel 12:20). He wasn’t callous; he knew that God in His wisdom and grace caused the baby to die and there was no more he could do or pray. He was surrendered to the will of God and David knew that it was his own sin that worked death in both him and his family. God’s will is always good and best. If we question God’s goodness, it’s not God who has done wrong, but us, because our sin blinds us to truth.

The circumstances of David’s life didn’t change who God was; He was good. David was confident of God’s continued fellowship and grace. He did what every person of faith does in distress: David worshiped the merciful, gracious, ever-worthy sovereign God, whose every act is one of goodness, justice, holiness, perfection, and love.

** Please keep us in prayer while we minister in Kenya. Thanks!

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

innocent-until-proven-guiltyThe American judicial system deems every accused person “innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.” Everyone accused of a crime is automatically declared innocent of every accusation until the government proves otherwise. You do not have to prove your innocence.

The Bible says, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Are you guilty of sin? or has God falsely condemned you?

Jesus set the standard of righteousness very high. He said, You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Are you perfectly sinless like God the Father?

Jesus gave a few examples of such perfection. He mentioned murder and explained that murder is not just an act of violently taking the life of another person; murder includes the thought and intention of being angry with his brother (Matthew 5:22). Ever been angry toward someone? You’re guilty of murder.

How about adultery? Again, Jesus said that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:28).

Sin dives far deeper into you than your outward actions. Sin includes your thoughts, motives, and intentions. For example, if you have considered taking something that doesn’t belong to you, you are guilty of stealing.

Jesus also said that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). Do you love God with all of your being? Does He come first in every decision and choice? Is pleasing Him your only goal in life with never a hint of selfishness?

The Bible not only declares that you are guilty of sin as charged, but also declares your sentence: The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

In His mercy and grace, God also provides this great hope: The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). Jesus died in your place. He took your sin and guilt upon Himself as your Substitute before God. Trust Him as your only Lord and Saviour.

** Please keep us in prayer while we minister in Kenya. Thanks!

Our Refuge

our-refugeWhen Israel conquered the land of Canaan, six special cities were chosen as cities of refuge (Joshua 20:1-9). Each city was spaced throughout the land so that it could be reached within a day.

A city of refuge was a place where anyone who accidentally killed another person could flee and be safe from vengeance by the family of the deceased. As long as the guilty man remained within the city of refuge, the city elders were obligated to protect him at all cost until a fair investigation and trial could be held.

If after investigation, the fugitive was found guilty of premeditated murder, he was executed; if innocent, he was given a place to live within the city where he would be protected from the avenger. When the sitting high priest died, the fugitive was free to return to his home.

The Bible says that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We each are guilty and deserving of the just wrath of God. However, the Father has appointed Jesus as the Saviour of mankind (Acts 4:12). Every sinner who comes to Him by faith will be saved and Jesus will by no means cast out (John 6:37). The guilty who have fled for refuge (Hebrews 6:18) in Christ are saved.

Christians don’t deny our guilt of sin. Instead, we throw ourselves upon the mercy of the Judge. We run to Jesus, our city of refuge, who took our sins upon Himself so that we might be declared righteous before God (Romans 4:24-26).

** Please keep us in prayer while we minister in Kenya. Thanks!