Sunday, March 1, 2015

Who is Jesus?

The Quran says about Jesus, “Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah, and His Word” (The Quran 4:171).  The Jehovah’s Witness New World Translation says He was “a god” (John 1:1). Notice the small “g”.  Rabbi Shraga Simmons says that, according to Judaism, “Jews to not accept Jesus as the messiah”.

The existence of God is denied by millions.  However, world religions, historians and most people agree in the existence of Jesus.  Agreement gathers around what He did calling Him a good man, miracle-worker or powerful teacher.  Interestingly though, when we move from “what Jesus did” to “who He was” division begins. 

The main point of tension is this statement - Jesus is the one true God in human flesh.  Despite centuries of heated disagreement such a statement reveals who He really is.  It all started with Jesus who once said about Himself, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), or in other words, “When you see me, you see God.”   

Again, most people also agree Jesus died, but why did He?  Those who actually conspired to put Him to death tell us it was because He claimed to be God.  They once accused Him saying “you, being a man, make yourself God” (John 11:33).  His fierce opponents did not realize how they were helping the world to know who He truly was.  Jesus ultimately died because He claimed to be God, which He did openly for all to see and hear.  Then three days later He rose from the dead validating everything He spoke of.        

Why does this point of Jesus being God matter, because it changes everything.  What if an atheist who agreed in the existence of the historical Jesus also believed He was God?  It would change everything.  What if a Muslim who accepted that Jesus was a great prophet also believed He was God?  It would change everything.  What if a Jew who agreed that Jesus was a great teacher also believed He was true Messiah?  It would change everything.  Most importantly though, what do you believe?  A good man cannot forgive your sin.  Only Jesus can.  A miracle-worker cannot remove your guilt and shame.  Only Jesus can.  A powerful teacher cannot redeem your life from the pits of despair.  Only Jesus can.  Believe in Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  May Jesus be your hope for today.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

What is True Love?

What is love?  One search engine on the Internet indicated over one billion searches have been made for that question.  The music group Foreigner hit number one on the charts several years ago with their song “I Want to Know What Love Is”.  No matter if we are single or married, or young or old, we want to know what love is.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “a feeling of a strong or constant affection for a person”.  What if that feeling slips away over time?  What if that feeling is for more than one person, especially after we are married, then what? 

The Scriptures say, “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.  If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised” (Song of Solomon 8:7).  God speaks of love in this particular context as a strong romantic affection between a man and a woman.  It might be when you think about and want to be with that person, and are mysteriously drawn to him or her.  Let us call this desire.  There is good desire (or affection) and bad.  When we have this desire for someone outside of marriage, it is bad.  It should be kept within the boundary of the husband and wife relationship.  When desire turns into immoral lust, it is bad.  We know it is lust (and not true love) when we are driven by our insatiable dreams and our physical obsession for another person.  The test of bad desire is, “I want for me.”  The test of good desire is, “I want so I can serve and bless another person.”

How can we find real love?  It starts with the author of love Himself, God.  He created the first man and woman, brought them together and presided over their marriage.  The Scriptures say “God is love” (1 John 4:8).  How did He demonstrate that love?  When He sent His Son, Jesus, to suffer and die upon a cross for you and me that we might call upon Him for the forgiveness of our sins, it was real love. 

Genuine love starts at affection then moves on to sacrificial service.  It is not about what I am getting, but what I am giving.  It is not if I am saying the right words, but if I am listening with the right heart.  It is not about what I am feeling, but how I am serving.

May God be your hope for today as you seek for and live out true love.                                       

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Pregnant & Afraid

Jill, a high school senior, took the emotional wrenching drive to the clinic. Nervously she sat, seeming unsure of herself. It felt like there was no other way to handle her unplanned pregnancy.   

There are millions who can identify with Jill. It might be a pregnant college girl and boyfriend who are not ready for the challenges of parenthood, a pregnant single mom who cannot afford another child or a couple who knows the baby they are carrying will likely have a life-long disability.

Hope is that intangible thing you need when you feel overwhelmed by your circumstances.  It is that gentle voice inside that in our moment of crisis, challenges us to believe in someone that is greater than our self. 

If you are pregnant, living in a very difficult set of circumstances and wondering what to do, let me say, “There is hope!”   

Have hope for your baby.  Any ultrasound or a simple hand on the belly will prove it is not just an “it” or blob of tissue.  You.  Are.  Carrying.  Life!  Let your mind dream of what your baby could grow up and become.  Imagine. Dream great dreams for that little one you are carrying.   

Have hope for yourself.  Choosing an abortion tosses those dreams away and will etch a tragic memory on the walls of your mind.  This baby can be a new beginning.  Like the start of a new year.  Determine to accept this child and be the very best father or mother your baby could ever have.  Another way is adoption.  Perhaps you could fulfill the wish of a couple out there.  Maybe there is a loving husband and wife who would welcome your baby into their home. 

Have hope through forgiveness.  Maybe you have already had an abortion and the sense of guilt and shame weighs heavy on your shoulders.  What can you do to find relief from this burden? 

Centuries ago, Jesus provided a way for complete forgiveness.  His sacrificial death on a cross atoned for all our sin.  His blood that was shed covered our sin, removed it and washed us clean.  The atoning work of Jesus and the relief it brings is waiting for you.  If you call out to Him, He stands ready to forgive.  God says, “I will be merciful toward their iniquities [sins], and I will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12).  Imagine having your sins remembered no more.  The peace.  The joy.  May Jesus be your hope for today and in the choices you face.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Heart of Christmas

What is the heart of Christmas?  Is it the children, helping the less fortunate or being with family?  Also, what is the significance of the baby Jesus in a manger that we observe in holiday plays and hear about in Christmas carols?  Is it just a nice seasonal story or does it mean something? 

Words like the Incarnation, Virgin Birth and Immaculate Conception do not show up in most Christmas cards but these words contain the heart of the season.  World history uses them to describe only one person – the birth of Jesus. 

The Scriptures declare Jesus existed in heaven from eternity as God the Son.  Then one day, through a carefully crafted plan, God the Father sent His willing Son from heaven to earth.  He took the form of a seed that was implanted by His Holy Spirit into a specially chosen young woman – Mary.  She was pure having never lain with a man.  The news of her approaching pregnancy did not come from a doctor, but an angel.  He said “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son” (Luke 1:30-31).  Soon she conceived by the hand of God and months later, a host of angels announced the birth of this miracle baby to a lost world.     

This extraordinary historical account has its share of skeptics.  Some argue it is biologically impossible.  Others doubt, calling it a myth equal to the stories of Greek mythology.  God’s miracles have their critics because they cannot be explained in a classroom, under a microscope or on a calculator.  If they could, they would not be miracles.        

Why was this virgin birth necessary?  First, for the forgiveness of our sins.  We carry the weight of our guilt and shame every day.  It is a heavy load.  Yet, only one man is the vessel by which forgiveness can come – Jesus.  His Deity from conception made it possible. 

Second, in order to show us the way.  Jesus could have descended from heaven and bypassed a birth.  Instead, He chose to enter our world as a baby becoming one of us.  He took on our weaknesses and was subjected to our temptations.  Then through His eventual death and resurrection He showed us we can overcome through trust in Him.  He became our way to victory.     

The heart of Christmas is Jesus.  His miraculous virgin birth is our triumph.  May Jesus be your HOPE FOR TODAY during this Christmas season.