Born to Die?

Since the time of creation billions have been born into this world, lived out their lives and then died. Yet out of these there was only one who was born to die. Over two thousand years ago Jesus Christ was born as a man to make a way for all of those who accept and believe in Him to have life for eternity.

No king, queen or leader of a nation, no prophet, apostle or leader of a religious organization was ever born to die for every human being who lived, is living or is yet to be born. Not a single person in the history of the world ever sacrificially gave their life like He did.

Jesus came to this world so that we could have everlasting life. He took on Himself all of our sins to the cross where he willingly gave His life. He loved us so much that paid a debt that we could never possibly repay, a debt He did not owe.

Whether it is Christmas day or any day of the year let us remember the One who was born to die so that we, if we accept Him, might live forever.

To find out more about accepting Jesus into your heart and life please click here.

 

[Image credit: Jeff Jacobs/pixabay & Derek Boggs/freeimages]

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Your True Strength—the Joy of the Lord

A beam of sunlight shining through grey clouds on a body of water between two low mountain ranges[Image Credit: Davide Cantelli/Unsplash]

“Make no attempt to leave, thirst and mull over your spoiled gruel and keep it all for yourself, regardless of how much worse another’s condition is: for this night is full of sinful revelry to our Lord the devil: make every effort to feel sorry for yourself; for the misery and disappointment of the devil is your weakness and hopelessness.” Doesn’t this fictitious passage from an “anti-Bible” sound depressing? Yet it could describe just another day and night in the life of many people today. Why is it that way? It is from to a lack of real joy in their hearts.

We most commonly equate joy only with happiness. We can have happiness along with joy, but happiness is not all that joy is. Happiness is only a temporal and often conditional state of mind or being. It will come and it will go. We humans have often proven ourselves capable of going from happiness to misery in an instant. But real joy holds fast, regardless of our current condition or situation. The fact is that true and lasting joy comes from Jesus Christ alone.

Here’s that verse from the “anti-Bible” again, this time in its proper biblical form: “…Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Here the Israelites, who had been in captivity in Babylon over one hundred and sixty years, were just now returning to Jerusalem. While they were removed from their homeland for such a long period of time, they had been kept from really knowing the law of God (the first five books of the Old Testament—basically the “Bible” of that period). When, at long last, the people were able to hear God’s word read and explained to them again, they were grieved in their hearts and down in spirit as they became aware of their ignorance and disobedience.

As a result, Nehemiah, the governor of the land, made this proclamation to the Israelites, in order to encourage and remind them that it was a time of renewal and restoration of God’s covenant.

He and the priests did not want the people to focus on their failures, but on the One who could bring them out of their hopelessness and helplessness.

The “joy of the Lord” in this verse means reliance on the unfailing nature of God. But when men build their hope up on this sinful world, they will be disappointed every time. Joy is one common thread woven throughout the whole Word of God. It is not based on what we do, or don’t do, or only on our current circumstances. Joy is something that Jesus places within those who have committed their heart and life to Him. Joy is not found in what Jesus does, but in Jesus Himself and His unfailing nature.

When Jesus came to this Earth as a man, He didn’t just bring a smile to someone’s face and then move on. That would only be happiness. Instead, His life became the perfect example of joy. No matter what trial or situation He went through, He put “the joy of the Lord is your strength” into practice. He did not wonder or agonize over how, or if, He was going to make it through. He put His whole trust in His Heavenly Father instead, who always made His joy complete. He knew without any doubt that failure was not part of His Father’s nature.

Open Bible laying flat on hardwood table with hands folded and resting partially near lower portion of book[Image Credit: Pixabay]

How can we have the joy of the Lord? Simply by keeping His commandments and obeying His Word. “As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love. If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love. These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:9-11).

How do we effectively keep His commandments? By not trying to physically accomplish them in our own incomplete capacity. Obedience to God’s Word is not like a collection of merit badges that we must try to earn in order to be in right standing with God. Due to our inherently sinful self, it is impossible for us to fulfill all of God’s law and requirements in our own strength—although untold millions have tried to, always without success. That is why He sent His Son to Earth—to be our source of strength. Jesus is fully qualified and capable of fulfilling all God deems necessary to be in right standing with Him. Instead of trying to do everything to be obedient to God by our own efforts, we should look to Jesus—which is just what God has wanted from us all along. All the way from creation to today, He has wanted man to trust and be dependent on Him alone.

All too often we focus only on misery, doubt and disappointment, which are inspired by the devil. But they only keep us in bondage.

No matter how hard we attempt to overcome the trying circumstances that we are in or will be going through, we will never be totally victorious without Jesus Christ. We can even be the happiest and most joyful-looking people around, but that is not lasting joy. True joy is Jesus Christ. He alone is our strength. Always turn to the One who cannot fail. He will carry us through, regardless of the difficulty of the trial or situation. Then we will know for ourselves that the joy of the Lord will be our strength.

The Ultimate Insurance

handshake in front of various insurance terms

The concept of insurance has been traced as far back as 1700 BC in the Babylonian period. It is basically a guarantee provided by an individual, company, organization, or governmental entity for reimbursement of a specific loss. In return, the provider expects payment of a premium or prearranged fee for the duration of coverage. While the principle concept is simple and relatively beneficial as a whole, it has currently evolved and exploded exponentially into a global, multi-billion dollar industry that impacts the welfare of businesses and individuals alike.

We can now find insurance for practically everything. We can insure our health and our life as well as our pet’s health. Farmers can get coverage for their livestock and crops—and even weather insurance. If we want a home, we’ll need insurance for it, especially if we get a loan. We can get coverage to protect against mortgage rate increases, not to mention for losses due to floods and earthquakes, depending on where we live. The person who built the house most likely had builder’s insurance too. Are we planning to rent it out? Then we’ll want landlord’s insurance, and whoever rents it will need insurance also. If we have a registered vehicle, then we are required to have insurance, not so much for ourselves, but to cover the other person who runs into us, and vice versa. If we own a business we will need insurance, and if we have employees we will need coverage for them, too. If there are customers or visitors present, then liability insurance is necessary. How about legal expenses, our kid’s Ivy League university tuition, a superb singing voice, or that trip to Europe? Somebody will be glad to provide coverage for any or all of these, if we want to pay for it. We can find insurance for terminal illness, accidental death, terrorism, kidnapping and ransoms, cyber-attacks, divorces, and much more.

photograph of a person holding pen while about to fill out life insurance document

It seems like almost all areas of life can be insured to some degree. But what about when life is over? Sure, there is life insurance and death insurance, but how about for what happens to us after this life is ended, whether we are buried away or scattered over the sea? There are some who readily claim to insure the soul for a sizable fee, but their methods will only ensure that their wallets remain full. Why? We can find the answer in the Bible. Jesus said, ” I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6) and in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” Unless we go to Jesus and accept Him into our heart, there is no guarantee or insurance for getting to Heaven for us when we leave this life for eternity. There is no other way or means that we, or anyone else, can carry out that will accomplish the same result.

Contrary to popular belief, God loves us more than we could ever possibly imagine. No one in history, on this earth and beyond, loved us so much that they gave their only son to die for us. God’s Son, as well, willingly came to this earth to sacrifice His life on a cross to pay for not only our sins, but also for all of those in the past, and all of those yet to be born. God knew that it was impossible for us to pay the price for all of the wrongdoings we have committed against Him. That is why His Son, Jesus, lovingly took our place. When we reject His sacrifice, we are telling God that we know more than He does and our way is better. In essence, God does not send us to hell—we commit ourselves there through our self-righteousness and the rejection of His Son. God intended hell solely for fallen angels who rebelled against Him ages ago, and not for us, His beloved human creation. By acknowledging His Son and His sacrifice, as well as forsaking our sinful, rebellious ways, we insure ourselves against a life in hell forever. We open the door to real peace and joy.

We can have insurance against almost every possible loss that could happen in this world, but in the end, it still won’t be enough.

What we need is the “ultimate insurance”—Jesus Christ. His policy is not full of exceptions and fine print. It will never fail or expire. There are no surprises or continual rate increases. Pre-existing conditions don’t matter, and we will never be turned down. Jesus said “…him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Insurance is of little benefit if you wait until after you need it to decide. So give your heart over to Him today, while you still can.

To read more on how you can give your life over to Jesus please click here.

The Masquerade

Photo of costume masks hanging on display

“Hey, Mitch, what are you wearing for the masquerade?” a voice yelled out from one cubicle. “Mitch, is the bell going to toll this year?” said another voice bursting out of one of the offices, followed by uproarious laughter. Mitchell began to hurry as he walked to the city planner’s office. He had often regretted his choice of dressing up as a Liberty Bell two years ago, ever since he first stepped foot in the annual gala. The masquerade ball, hosted by the city to benefit the abused children’s home, was one of the biggest events of the year. People from all over the region and even other parts of the world would attend, wearing some of the most elaborate costumes ever seen.

When Steve, the city planner, saw Mitchell at the door, he interrupted the others’ conversation. “Mitch, I know “gala planning” is not regular city business activity, but I’ve got to press you into going this year. I’ve heard you’re still reeling from the reaction to that bell costume a few years ago, but people loved it.” The others in the room readily agreed. “Look, you’ve got to remember that this whole event is for the children,” Steve pleaded passionately. “Oh, before I forget, here are the reports I wanted to give you. Don’t be a devil and let them ‘fall’ off the back of your motorcycle this time.” Mitch initially returned the quip with a sheepish look, but then followed up with a devious smile.

When Mitch woke up early the next day, his day off, he could hardly wait to get downtown to the theatrical supply outlet. He knew that if he was going make a big splash this year, his outfit would have to truly be out of this world. The clerks were few, but their knowledge was phenomenal. He eventually had enough supplies to make a dozen devils. After racing back home, he began composing all the elements for his breathtakingly ‘devilish’ design. His pinstriped suit was black and flaming red, his pointed boots—deep cherry, and his face, hands, neck and ears were all painted bright red. Even his hair was dyed a flaming red and spiked, complete with two curved horns. With pitchfork in hand and faux fangs in his mouth, he could have scared the devil himself! “Ha! Let’s see them in hysterics over this. I’ll have them hiding under the stage in sheer terror!”

man with devilish appearance with red candlelight underneath face

He arrived at the hall hours early, but the line to get in was already over two blocks long. “I can’t just stand here all afternoon,” Mitch thought as he surveyed the crowd. “Even fifteen minutes will take away most of the effectiveness of this outfit.” After driving around awhile, he discovered a place he could slip in unnoticed. He gloated to himself about how he just parked and passed hundreds of people in only ten minutes. “Why, I didn’t even pay the admission. My, my, how evil I am!”

Once inside the auditorium, Mitch was stunned by how lavishly the building had been transformed. After severely startling three people and causing another to faint, he decided to sit in a darkened corner and nap until the crowd really filled the building. Loud trumpet blasts from the band soon awakened him, so Mitch decided the time was now right to make his entry. Assorted screams and gasps emanated from those at the tables he passed as he made his way over and sat down. All eyes were on him as he slowly lifted his head and looked around, or so he thought.

But, across the vast room, there was another man drawing the attention of almost everyone in sight. His eyes captivated anyone who looked at him. They were totally enamored with him. It seemed that everything he said or did left them in awe. But he had no costume. He was simply dressed impeccably instead. No suit in the world could even remotely come close to the one he wore. Even his hair was styled perfectly.

Mitch was crestfallen. He had one of the most striking costumes in the building, but it was no match for this individual. He tried parading about with a vicious sneer and an evil laugh that would chill anyone’s spine, while shaking and pointing vigorously with his pitchfork, but to little avail. Almost everyone gravitated toward the slick and amiable stranger. Finally admitting defeat, he decided to leave. On his way out, he passed near the man of the hour. As he glanced over in the other man’s direction, he paused as he was conversing with the multitude and remarked: “Hey, nice outfit. I appreciate the publicity.” Mitch nodded in return, finding himself totally unable to speak. He finally broke free from the hold this guy seemed to have on him and managed to leave. But the man’s words continued to ring in his head. He blurted out, “Who does he think he is, the devil himself?” as he walked toward his motorcycle.

When the word ‘devil’ is mentioned, the most common image that comes to mind is some creature resembling Mitch in his outfit. This is just what the devil wants us to believe. While there is no denying that the inhabitants of the underworld are grotesque, the fact of the matter is that deception is not usually presented by slimy, repulsive, obnoxious and horrifying creatures. We are, instead, most easily fooled by what is familiar to us. As master of lies and deception, the devil loves to make himself and his work look extremely appealing, while at the same time, it is breaking us down and destroying us.

If someone quickly ran up to us in a terrifying costume with arms waving about and a deep growl in his voice, we’d most likely flee for our life. We wouldn’t calmly stand there and engage him in pleasant conversation. Yet the devil himself, or one of his demons, can casually stroll up to us in a fine suit with fine speech and great charisma and we are totally mesmerized. When the devil came to Eve back in the Garden of Eden, he did not scare her into disobeying God. He was subtle and pleasing, and he even used God’s word (incorrectly, of course) to deceive her.

The devil uses any available means that will make us more susceptible and vulnerable, such as alcohol, drugs (legal or illegal), pornography, audio, video (like certain kinds of music, movies, video games, and television) and even what we eat.

As our resistance goes down, a door opens spiritually for his ‘helpers’ (demons) to enter our life. We may not always be actually occupied by these spiritual entities, yet we may still allow them to control us. This is why the Bible warns us to keep far from evil. Look all throughout the Old Testament and you’ll find instances where people fell for the devil’s charm and deception and became corrupted.

The point is, we are not to be fooled. The Bible speaks of the devil as “transformed into [masquerading as] an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14) and as a roaring lion, [who] walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). He is also mentioned as one who “cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10). The devil plays for keeps, using anything and everything within his power to try to deceive us and bring us down. But we don’t need to fear him, since his power over us is only as great as we allow it to be.

When Jesus sacrificed His life at the cross, He took away the devil’s power and authority over the children of God. When we stand on that finished work of Jesus and His victory on the cross, then we can have victory over the devil too. The key to victory is to increase and deepen our relationship with Him. Just saying that we have received Him into our heart is not enough. We must follow up and cultivate that bond through prayer and reflecting deeply on his Word. On the other hand, the less time we spend with God, the more vulnerable we become to the devil’s subtleties. As a result, we actually give him power over us, because we have turned our eyes off of Jesus and onto whatever the devil cleverly tries to slip in. He knows he has already been defeated by Jesus, but continues to do his best to keep this revelation away from us.

Don’t be entranced by his masquerade as a suave, savvy and reputable being. Keep your focus on Jesus instead, and leave it there, and you won’t be fooled when the devil masquerades in front of you.

Spiritual Property Theft

a graphic of a masked thief of intellectual or spiritual property evading a policeman

(Image credit: Montage by author, unmodified graphic by Mohamed Hasen/Pixabay)

Josef enjoyed his work as senior engineer at Applied Technological Counter-analysis Systems. He emigrated to the United States from Europe more than 35 years ago and became a U.S. citizen several years later. He had always considered the United States to be a place of innovation and promise. Numerous patents were in his portfolio, along with electronic part designs and technical drawings for potential government communication equipment.

His son Giorgio is a professional musician and filmmaker whose name can be found on more than 26 different albums on the market. Many of his films have successfully made their way through the global film market, including more than 10 documentaries which have been nominated for, or have won, top awards. Josef’s daughter, Maria, an artist, author, and website designer, has also won numerous accolades for her work. Many of her books have risen to the national bestseller lists.

But over the past several years, Josef has grown increasingly aware of unusual activity both at work and at home. His biggest suspicion arose after an unexpected visit by several old classmates from the college he attended in Europe. Their visit was congenial, and all were very eager to examine his design work and read many reports he had archived long ago. One claimed to be researching material for a documentary he was writing, but whenever Josef inquired about it, a vague answer was the only reply.

His son and daughter also discovered their work in parts of the world where they have no distribution network. Maria was visiting an Asian country recently where she discovered a painting of hers for sale. She was alarmed that the signature on it was not hers, and that there were ten more just like it! She had never painted more than one of any of her works at any point in her career. Another time, Giorgio heard a song that he wrote and performed being played on a child’s music player, with no credit being given to him. It was a low quality counterfeit of one from a major toy manufacturer. They have even found some of their movies, books and poetry redistributed under someone else’s name.

The final straw came when Josef’s employer recently approached him about a design he had drawn up for a government contract the company had secured. That design had taken him many weeks to put together. Now the company wanted to know why a foreign manufacturer had not only already put the design into actual production, but had also released it for sale to the wholesale industrial market. After much consultation and collaboration with the government and the company’s legal department, Josef found that he, his company, and his children had all been victims of intellectual property (IP) theft.

This story is fictitious, but the actual concept is all too real. IP theft is a serious and difficult crime to combat that has been increasing steadily for several decades. Intellectual property basically consists of ownership of an intellectual creation, i.e., something that a person comes up from his own mind. It can include, but is not limited to: formulas, logos, books, movies, software, works of art, inventions, copyrights, trademarks, patents, literature, trade secrets, and client lists.

Losses due to IP theft add up to hundreds of billions of dollars annually. As nations are becoming more globally connected, IP theft will only continue to rise. While economic loss is a significant part of the problem, the negative impact on creators of intellectual property can be just as great also. The vast amount of creative labor now being exploited is already incalculable. As technology advances by leaps and bounds, it won’t be long before no amount of government intervention will be able to fully reign in all of the counterfeiting and piracy of goods and ideas.

Yet an even greater kind of thievery has already been active for many centuries, which could be called “spiritual property” theft.

This happens when the devil counterfeits what God has created or instituted. The devil, once known as Lucifer, was the greatest of the angels and the choirmaster of Heaven. He tried to capitalize on his superiority by attempting to commit mutiny against God Himself. This resulted in him being thrown out of Heaven, along with a third of the other angels he also managed to deceive. Ever since then, he has surreptitiously continued to try to thwart and overthrow God. As the great deceiver, he makes every effort to make a nearly identical replica of the works of God in order to deceive us. He knows that he cannot successfully attack God directly, but he can attack through us, who were created “in the likeness of God” (Genesis 5:1) and are the dearest to His heart.

The devil constantly tries to get us out of God’s hand. He wants us to give up, turn against God, and come back into his world. Then he can boast to God about how His plan doesn’t work. The world is really just a battleground between the devil and God, with us caught up in the middle! This is why “spiritual” property theft is a far greater offense than anything else in this world. The Bible says “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10).

The devil cannot create anything original; therefore he mimics, duplicates, or outright steals the works of God.

Thousands of years of experience observing the human race has made him extremely knowledgeable about man, to the point that he knows even more about us than we know about ourselves. He well knows how to deceive us to the point that we might even believe that he is Jesus Himself. “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Therefore, as believers in Christ, it is imperative that we rightly establish ourselves in our relationship with Him. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). We are to look solely to Him, not some cheap imitation who will only lead us astray. Jesus is true and genuine; all else is just a lousy counterfeit. When He sacrificed His life on the cross and then rose again, He took away the ground for the devil to stand on. Jesus warned us to “…take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them” (Luke 21:8).

With intellectual property theft, the value of the created item or idea is reduced as more and more pirated items are acquired, up to the point that the original creation becomes worthless. When we fall for the fake material that the devil promotes as genuine, in place of the real work of God, we do the same thing spiritually. We ultimately make God and His Son of no worth and thereby nullify our relationship with Him. The answer to spiritual property theft is Jesus. Let’s draw near to God in prayer and really seek His face, desiring of Him only that which is true. The more time spent with our Creator and in His Word, the less likely we will be led astray by the imitations of the devil.

The Path to Greatness

A great tit feeding its young.

What is the whole work of a servant? It is to serve. Even though Jesus is God and King, He gave up all claims to honor and glory in order to be a servant to man. Since He was willing to yield Himself to the lowest position of a servant in order to serve the very ones He created, where do we get the idea that serving others is beneath us? “…the servant is not greater than his lord…” (John 13:16).

Jesus urged His disciples to desire earnestly to be a servant to not only some, but to all. “…whosoever will be chief among you…,” the one in the first or highest position—in order to have the first place in the kingdom of the Messiah—should first be a servant. The Apostle Paul confirmed this by becoming a servant to all men himself, despite the fact that he was a free man. He was willing to do this so that men might come to Christ. This attitude made him the “chief among the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:9) even though he considered himself the least of the apostles, and even the least of all the saints. But far more important than seeking to be chief over men is seeking the salvation of men’s souls.

Much of the time Jesus spent ministering here on Earth was in healing the sick and helping the suffering. During that era, the task of dealing with the sick and suffering was assigned to servants. Jesus gave up His personal freedom in order to bear the burdens of the sick, the suffering, the friendless, and the nobodies. His example demonstrated that true ministry really means serving, or assisting those in need. “Minister” and “servant are the true distinguishing marks of greatness. The message here is that anyone seeking greatness will do so by becoming the greatest servant.

Therefore, what should be the spirit of God’s ministers? A minister called of God should devote his time, his talents, his abilities, and his powers to the well-being of the flock Jesus has put in his care. He should not lord himself over Jesus’ flock. He should not take care of the affairs of the portion of the Church in his care by imposing his own will on others as if he ‘ruled’ the Church.

True greatness involves serving the body of Christ like the first apostles did. It also applies to a man who can humble himself and stoop to the lowest offices—if that is what it takes to move the true happiness and salvation of his fellow men forward.

He should be willing to spend himself in serving that flock. He should even be willing in his heart to give up his life unto death if necessary, if it will move the salvation of others forward. Paul said, “…I will very gladly spend and be spent for you…” (2 Corinthians 12:15).

Jesus promoted this idea, which He also lived Himself. His greatest apostle also lived it. Yet there are some, if not many, who still hold to the idea that greatness does not come from serving the lowly, but from being honored and served and elevated to a position of great dignity by others instead. The very attitude and exercise of serving, no matter how low it must go—when done willingly out of sincere sympathy and concern for the good of others—leads to being exalted. “…whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant…the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28). This is where that we find the path to true greatness.

Same Direction, Wrong Destination

A red electric train on curved tracks.

Many major cities around the world have specific areas where multiple railroad tracks cluster together. A great number of trains pass through these hubs to pick up and unload passengers or freight. For some, this is their destination, for others, just a stopover. Looking down on these rail yards from above, you would see many tracks running parallel to each other. Some will cross paths with another, while many never meet at all. Even in some towns, two or more tracks may run near each other yet never come together.

An overhead view of three red cabooses sitting on one of several train tracks including one that curves away from the others.

Now suppose two people decided to each take one of these parallel tracks and travel on it, expecting to get out and meet the other at the end of the line. After only a short period of traveling, they might discover that the tracks they chose depart from their parallel course instead, and end up reaching separate destinations. For the one who ended up at the wrong destination, everything seemed right in the beginning. His companion riding on the other track started off shortly before he did and moved along in the same direction as he was about to travel. Therefore he assumed that the end of the trip would work out just as well.

Two trains sitting side by side at a station.

Many think that they can just get on a track that seems right when it comes to really finding God and entering Heaven and they will surely arrive at the feet of God Himself, along with everyone else on other parallel tracks. The Bible spoke of this and its outcome thousands of years ago: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12). Just because we think the way we want to travel is the best way does not always mean that it is. God made only one way available to get to Him, and that is through His Son, Jesus. “Jesus saith…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). But many vehemently disagree with this statement, because they want control over the whole process. They do not want God’s way, because it involves giving up of the right to their self. They want everything on their own terms. They feel God must come down to them, not the other way around. They would prefer to accept a verse out of the ‘anti-Bible’ –“…I am a way, a truth and a life; all persons can come to the Father whether by me or anything else.”

Because of our sins, we are not allowed to come before God, since He is holy and righteous. No other being can rival or equal God. He is supreme and almighty. On the other hand, we—the human race—are sinful, finite beings. Our sinful nature cannot mix with God’s holiness; if we could do so, it could not make us more holy and free of sin. Instead, it would corrupt God Himself, nullifying His very existence, and cause complete chaos in the delicate balance of all of His creation (including us). In fact, with our limited knowledge of this world and the universes beyond, we cannot possibly comprehend the fullness of the consequences of God’s annihilation (if such was possible).

Prior to Jesus coming to Earth as a man, God made a temporary way for man to come before Him. But man still could not actually be in His presence, similar to children being in the house of their parents but still not in the actual room where their parents reside. The whole process found in the Old Testament exceeds the scope of this article, but the essence of it involves a sacrifice. God required the blood of an innocent, spotless, defect-free lamb to be shed as a temporary covering for the sins of the people. The lamb took the death penalty man deserved. Note the word ‘temporary,’ as these sacrifices could never permanently remove anyone’s sins. Therefore, they had to be repeated over and over. By obeying God’s commandments outlined in the Old Testament, and the offering up of the sacrifice by a high priest, God’s judgment could be avoided. But God never intended for this sacrificial system to go on forever. It necessitated a final sacrifice, one that would, once and for all, pay the price for the sins of every man, woman and child—not just the ones alive now, but even for those who already died and those yet to be born. The problem was that no one on Earth, or anywhere in the universe, could qualify as a man who was a perfect, sinless substitute.

A silhouette of a cross and brush with fog, sky and mountains in the distance.

That is where Jesus comes in. He willingly came down from His place in Heaven and became a physical human being just like us—only without any sin, ever. He, in turn, became the ultimate, final, living sacrifice needed to pay the penalty for our sins. During His time here on Earth, He fulfilled every requirement God had laid out in the Old Testament. This was something impossible for any other person on Earth to completely accomplish. When He was crucified on the cross, He took upon Himself every sin—past, present and future—of every person who was, is, and will be on Earth. His shed blood covered our sins. They are completely removed from God’s sight. “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission [elimination]” (Hebrews 9:22). But, unlike the lamb mentioned earlier, Jesus’ sacrifice was final and permanent. Not only that, after He was taken down from the cross and buried, He rose three days later from the grave and soon ascended back to His place with God. This further seals the finality of His sacrifice.

This is how Jesus alone became “the way, the truth, and the life.”No man or animal ever sacrificed his life for us and rose from the dead afterward. Furthermore, no one every loved us to the point that he gave his only son to die for us.

But “…God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Remember also, that Jesus loved us as much as the Father, in that He willfully came down and gave His life in our place.

Which track are you riding on right now? Is it the one that you think (or have been taught) is going to God? Or is it one that everyone else is riding because they also believe that it is going to the right place? Just because the train’s cars are full does not make that track the right one. There may be two tracks at that station, or there may be many tracks in the rail yard, but only one is the right one that will take you to eternal life with God. Are you on that track? Or are you on a parallel one that will ultimately take you away from God? Don’t let today’s smug rejection be tomorrow’s surprise for eternity. There is still time to get on the train that is riding on the correct track. Why don’t you take a moment now and ask God to lead you to it?

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Faith or Just Hope?

mother baby looking at plane

Is the object of our faith…

woman looking at planes

just a hope that a plane will get us to our destination?

airplane cockpit with pilot

Or do we place our faith in the pilot with his wisdom, training and experience…

woman looking out airplane window

to get us to where we are to go as safely as possible?

How often the child of God feels inadequate when it comes to faith. Our thinking seems to be—if we only could have more faith, then our doubts would dissipate completely. Actually many of us already have a great amount of faith. Jesus said, “…If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder [a distant] place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20). Our problem is that the faith we already have does not have works. “…faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17). Therefore, it is ineffective.

Often we say we have faith, but the truth is we just really, really hope that the problem will solve itself! So we cringe; we strain; we agonize. Yet in the end, we either solve the problem some way ourselves, thinking that our faith worked, or, by sheer coincidence, the problem has gone away somehow on its own. Our idea is to make faith into the actual effort, instead of having faith in the One who can solve our problem at hand. But it is the faithfulness of God that brings godly results, never our faith alone. If we will put our faith in God’s son, Jesus, and His finished work on the cross, then our sinful self is taken out of the picture, and He is able to carry out the actual works needed, through us.

Father, help me to make my understanding of faith not according to my own works, but of believing solely in your Son. May Jesus be the object of my faith and never anything else. From this point forward, I will look to Him and what He has done on the cross as the means for my victory. Amen.

A Lie in Disguise or Truth Unclothed?

old brick stone mansion

We live our life as a façade. We have pretty curtains on the windows with a nice welcome mat on the front step, and at the same time, we surround everything with a massive wrought iron fence. Our doors are padlocked and dead-bolted, but the painted stucco covering the walls is magnificent. The front yard is immaculately trimmed, yet the grass is artificial, and the flowers are plastic. In reality, our life often amounts to little more than a heavily dressed-up lie.

We tell our friends and neighbors how wonderful they are, then gossip about them when they are not present. We boast to our coworkers about what a wonderful job we did, never mentioning that someone else we haven’t mentioned did most of the work.

Under the guise of diplomacy, nations cover up their lies to appease other nations. Many leaders and politicians are quick to divert the not-so-pleasant truth about themselves, yet are quite eager to expose it about others—or even demand that others reveal it about themselves.

“These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord” (Zechariah 8:16,17).

All the way back in the beginning, the first man and woman chose to clothe their disobedience in deception. “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:7-8). Adam and Eve knew they were wrong, but chose to hide and not disclose the truth to God, their Creator. But God cannot, and will not, be mocked or fooled in any manner. “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13).

 

When we dress up our misdeeds we just make them into an appealing lie. And by living a life of covering up falsehood, we fill ourselves with pride, which further worsens our situation. We are telling God that we can handle the situation in the way we think is best. We don’t want the results that the actual truth will bring, so we keep the lie beautifully clothed and hope that no one will peek inside. Yet all we are really doing is putting ourselves into more and more bondage. By continuing our fashion show with our lie, we begin to live more and more in fear.

The reality here is that we sin, meaning we fail to obey the commandments of God, and then sin gains control over us. But we really don’t want anyone to know it. The only one who has a remedy for our desire to constantly disguise who we really are is Jesus. When we yield ourself to Him, and strip our disobedience bare by admitting that we were wrong and that we have sinned against Him, we allow Him to free us of this burden. From the time when Jesus came into this world, to the time when He sacrificed His life on the cross and rose from the grave, He fulfilled all of God’s requirements for us to be free from sin’s control over us.

The truth about who we really are is best when it is unclothed, raw, and out in the open before God. By hiding it, we set ourselves up for a life of falsehood, fear, and shame.

Even a half-truth, or a lie poorly clothed, is still falsehood. We may successfully disguise this from others, but never from God. Concealing it will never benefit anyone, especially in the long term. By living this way, we are in rebellion against God and setting ourself up for an eternity in hell. God loves us so much and has absolutely no intention of sending us there. We make this happen by continuing to reject Him. Yet all of this will change in a moment if we turn our heart and life over to Him. (Click here to learn more about how to yield to God.) Don’t dress up your disobedience—bring it out in the open, and lay it in the hands of Jesus.

Simple and Dependent

boy holding bible

In this world, a little child is generally considered to be at the lowest level in society regarding knowledge, maturity, experience, and gullibility. Yet in God’s plan, this concept is completely the opposite. He looks with great favor upon little children, more so than adults. Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14b). Why? It is due to the child’s simple and dependent nature. God wants us in complete dependence on Him, not on our self. When Jesus came to this world as a man, He did not rise up and overthrow the government, declaring Himself the almighty Emperor. Instead, He came in dependence on His Father in Heaven for everything—from what He should say, to where He should go next. He was never concerned about how He would get His next meal or where He was to sleep each night. Even while in a boat during a fierce storm, He slept on in peace. He knew that His Father would take care of everything.

Now if Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, was totally dependent on God, how much more so should we be in all areas of our life? Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Which kingdom are we seeking? Is it one where we are constantly struggling to get ahead without God, in order to achieve a high position in a fragile and evil world that will one day perish forever? Or is it a kingdom where our needs can be met just by asking and believing in simplicity like a child—with no room or need for anxiety, fears, or worry?

Father, I surrender myself to You, wholly and completely. Forgive me for my self-centered ways and motives. Turn my heart and life into one that is dependent on you. May I have the simple faith of a child that I may enter into Your kingdom and dwell there forever with You. Amen.