God’s Will and Human Expectations

But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened, (Luke 24:21).

This Scripture pulsates with disappointment and discouragement. Two disciples, Cleopas and his unnamed colleague are on their way to their home in Emmaus from Jerusalem, a city abuzz with current news about the recent execution of a young, vibrant itinerant Rabbi who had done many wonders and signs among the people including raising people from the dead and striding across the foamy, tempestuous waves of the sea of Galilee to save a boat of frightened disciples. Everybody had hoped He would be the One to deliver Israel from Roman domination. Unfortunately, He had died a shameful death of crucifixion at the hands of the Romans. Unbelievable!!! What was even more astonishing, said those who had followed the course of events to the end, was that Jesus seemed puzzlingly willing to subject Himself to this humiliating and torturous form of death.

Cleopas viewed and interpreted Jesus’ work and sacrificial death from a natural perspective. His hopes and desires and expectations were dashed because they were at variance with God’s will for His Son. That was the source of his perplexity, bewilderment and even confusion. Now he talks with despondency about the third day since the crucifixion, and the women’s testimony that they had seen the risen Lord, but Cleopas misses the significance, the spiritual implications, and the definitive universal benefits of the entire event. He has an opinion and is trying to justify it. The deliverance he and his ilk had anticipated was a political one. They were more concerned about their physical bondage than their spiritual bondage, which had led to physical bondage in the first place. To Cleopas, Jesus’ death was an unfortunate and disappointing occurrence; a source of dejection and disillusionment.

Looking back in retrospect, we know that he had totally missed the point. But he is not alone in this. Cleopas might as well be my spiritual twin. Alas, there is usually an uncanny dichotomy between God’s way and my own expectations of Him.  Only with hindsight do I get an opaque inkling of how things were actually meant to be. Kierkegaard aptly observed that life can only be understood backwards although it must be lived forwards. There are times, however, when the veil remains drawn and the loud silence and intense darkness become nerve-wracking. Only Jesus makes sense then.

Jesus came not to do our will. He came as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of this world (John 1:29). He is the Great Physician of every physical and spiritual malady as demonstrated by the accounts of His life in the gospels. He is the Light that shines into the dark and diseased areas of our lives to drive out the dark pathogens that plague our souls. He intercepts the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of disease in the body, soul and spirit. He morphs us, nay recreates us into new creatures (1 Cor. 5:17).

Cleopas and his colleague’s failure to recognize the risen Lord walking beside them is a reflection of their spiritual blindness and lack of comprehension about what the Scriptures taught regarding the role of the Messiah. The so-called sad story Cleopas shares with Jesus is, in actual fact, the grandest and most glorious story of all history. It is a story about the manifestation of the power of God unto salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16). Indeed, it is the eternal life-line of the entire universe. Because of this story, I dare believe that my sad stories are also glorious when viewed from God’s merciful perspective. As C.S. Lewis once remarked, God gives us back with His right hand what He takes with His left hand. Jesus sensed a deeper need in His two disciples. Ever the caring Savior, He came to revive their flickering faith, which was nearly snuffed out at Golgotha.

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Those Infuriating Fiends

We are all familiar with those unnerving monsters that lurk maliciously under the surface of our lives; the ogres that take the form of an assortment of propensities and proclivities to unsavory behavioral tendencies such as lust, gossip, wrath, doubt, jealous, slander etc…Most of us try to push these fiends down into the dark depths of our lives, away from the public eye because we are scared someone might catch a glimpse of them although they can be elusive and defiant. What is most chilling is that they have a tendency to surface unexpectedly, at the most inopportune moments. They wait until we are most vulnerable to shoot out of the depths of our souls, glaring at us, underscoring our flawed-ness. For the believer, this can be most distressing because these character defects tend to mock our efforts to live as people in “good and regular standing.” Shouldn’t we be thinking about things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely and of good report (Phil. 4:8)? From whence then come these unholy thoughts, which threaten to rob us of the joy of our salvation, particularly if we give in to the temptation of identifying with them and start labeling ourselves by their names. Sometimes, we wrongly believe that their persistence in our lives turns off God’s love for us. Sadly, this can propel us into the futile mode of striving to conquer them by our own efforts so that we can overcome them and please God. Our ensuing constant failure to do so can degenerate into religious neurosis and depression, not to mention disillusionment and frustration about our faith. The struggle to do what is right and to avoid doing what is wrong is an uphill overwhelming one (Romans 7). Sin seems weirdly appealing even when we know that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Consequently, eerily, we often find ourselves caught in the delusion of optimistic bias, which always leads to spiritual bankruptcy.

No effort at self-cleansing can rid us of the stain of sin. As a matter of fact, such an effort can only end up in a fruitless religious existence which Jesus condemned and likened to white-washed tombs full of dead peoples’ bones (Matthew 23:27). On our own we are no match for our inherent inclination to do evil. We need divine help. True, God can never condone sin and we must never expect Him to overlook it. But He does something that human beings have repeatedly failed to do: He loves the sinner and hates the sin. Just because we are being harassed by unrelenting monstrous thoughts and inclinations embedded in the depths of our lives does not make us monstrous. That is why God, in His love for us, has provided a panacea for our spiritual malady in the Person of Jesus Christ. Only Jesus has the weapons, authority, and power to overcome these menacing leviathans skulking under the surface of our lives. God alone leads us in triumph, in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 2:14). To Him be glory forever and ever.

The Invisible Reality

Human beings have spiritual acuity that allows them to experience both the physical and spiritual realms because they are made in the image of God. Although invisible to the eye, the spiritual realm surrounds and undergirds the physical realm. The spiritual realm is eternal while the physical realm is temporary. Human beings are born in the physical realm. They grow and blossom, but soon the telltale signs of their mortality begin to manifest themselves. Our bodies begin to betray us with incessant aches and pains due to degeneration. Finally, our relentless efforts to patch them up, and mend them and restore them back to health fail, and we die. But because we are more than just flesh and sinew, Scripture exhorts us to shift our focus to the spiritual; to remember that even if “our earthly house or tent is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” (2 Corinthians 5:1). This is where our hope should be anchored during our brief earthly pilgrimage. We are exiles from our eternal home, but we can catch a glimpse of it even in the flesh. This is what gives meaning to our existence.

The spiritual realm is real. It is unlimited and unrestricted, and it will ultimately determine the fate of the physical realm because it has transcendent power and authority. Everything is possible in the spiritual realm. The limitations and uncertainties that characterize the physical realm are of no essence in the spiritual realm. Sometimes the spiritual realm penetrates the physical realm and intersects it to direct and steer its affairs in a specific direction.  For example, the angel Gabriel appeared to the elderly Priest Zacharias to announce the birth of a son to him. Zacharias’ son would prepare the way for the One who would change the history of this planet forever by establishing the kingdom of God in the hearts of His followers. After the announcement, the angel stepped back into the spiritual realm and became invisible again. To authenticate his first message, he came back and appeared to Mary to announce the birth of the Lord Jesus. Then again he stepped back into the spiritual realm. On some occasions, human beings have had the privilege of seeing into the spiritual realm. For example, when the king of Syria gathered his military forces and surrounded the Prophet Elisha’s dwelling place with chariots of war in order to destroy him, the prophet was unfazed. To calm down his frightened and frantic servant, Elisha asked God to open his eyes and allow him to see into the spiritual realm. The servant saw chariots of fire surrounding the hills where the prophet was. Forces in the spiritual realm were arrayed for battle to protect the man of God. The Bible tells us that it is the invisible realm that created things in the physical realm.

But there are some that dismiss this as mere wishful thinking. Sigmund Freud, for example, said that religion is a reversion to childish ways of thinking. Similarly, the American president of atheists, David Silverman says this about things of the spiritual realm: “Even children know churches spew absurdity, which is why they don’t want to attend services. Enjoy the time with your family and friends instead. Today’s adults have no obligation to pretend to believe the lies their parents believed. It’s OK to admit that your parents were wrong about God, and it’s definitely OK to tell your children the truth.”1 Stephen Hawking thinks that belief in the spiritual realm is for people who are afraid of the dark. What is amazing is that these individuals do believe in the reality of the invisible realm themselves. For example, they believe in the reality of radiation, the electromagnetic field, gravity, and many more. They also believe the wave function of the universe, which they believe is designed to represent the behavior of the universe. But this wave function has never been observed, “seen, measured, assessed or tested” by any of its proponents.2 This is all based on a theory; a speculation promulgated by physicists and yet they believe it, totally. But when it comes to spiritual things, their argument is that there is not enough evidence. When Bertrand Russell was asked what his defense would be if on judgment day God should ask him, “Why didn’t you believe in Me? Russell said his reply would be “Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!” Maybe the word evidence is being loosely used and thrown around without taking into account its variant application in different disciplines and professions. For example, what a farmer might consider evidence for a bumper harvest of his crop might not make sense to a school teacher. But that does not mean the farmer is lying because, chances are, the teacher has no clue about evidence of predictors of a bumper harvest. Evidence in music might be totally different from evidence in chemistry. Similarly, an atheist physicist or cosmologist has no grounds for dismissing what the theologian claims to be evidence for the existence of God. If he or she did, they would be entering uncharted territory where their expertise would be limited.

Sources

1 DeMar, G. (2014). American Atheists Hide Behind the Fairy Tale of Evolution. Accessed from https://americanvision.org/11504/american-atheists-hide-behind-fairy-tale-evolution/

2 Berlinski, D. (2008). Th Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions, Crown Forum, New York. pp. 100

“Come, Follow Me,” (Matthew 4:19)

To be a follower of the Lord Jesus is more than merely agreeing with what He taught. It is to become an adherent who imitates Him; to have Him as the ultimate role model (1 Peter 2:21). This type of follower is known as a disciple. Being Jesus’ disciple means walking in His footsteps all the way even through rough terrain. Whether the terrain is dark and dreary or characterized with loss and tears, the disciple must never slacken the pace otherwise the enemy will read the cue and move in to steal, kill and destroy. In every situation, our pace must be consistent and unwavering lest we lose sight of the Lord going before us and find ourselves plunged into destructive darkness. To follow Jesus is to be called to a different ethical standard. As disciples, we are called to become like the Lord in purpose because we have the same Holy Spirit that dwells in Him. We read from Scripture that after Jesus had chosen His disciples, He preached what is known as the Sermon on the Mount; a redefinition of morality with specific ethical behavior; a roadmap for disengaging from the tantalizing worldly affiliations that so easily encumber us. This sermon is a call to being transformed by the renewing of the mind through power of the Holy Spirit. To be a disciple is to have a radical paradigm shift. It is to embrace Jesus and His teachings as guidelines for everyday conduct. As disciples, we abandon ourselves to Jesus as both Lord and Savior. For the disciple, “There is no compartmentalization of the faith, no realm, no sphere, no business, no politic in which the lordship of Christ will be excluded. We either make him Lord of all we are and have, or we deny him as Lord of any.”1 He must be preeminent in all facets of our life. He will not take a divided heart and will not compete with anyone or anything. The Bible talks about a certain would-be disciple who pledged fervent love for the Lord and promised to follow Him everywhere. But Jesus’ response was surprisingly dissuasive: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matt. 8:20). Jesus answered people based on their unarticulated motives. He addressed the person not the words that veiled their intention. In this case, Jesus discerned in His spirit that the individual’s motive for wanting to be his disciple was wrong. Jesus did not come to set up an earthly kingdom to impress people with its glory and grandeur. He came to be the Savior and Lord rejected by His own. He came to be taunted and scorned by the same people He came to die for. Jesus came not to glorify Himself, but the Father who sent Him. He was oppressed and afflicted, but never opened His mouth in resistance nor did He fight back. He is the King who allowed Himself to be literally bound hand and foot by his own subjects and still loved them even after they pronounced a death sentence on Him and handed Him over to be crucified. Jesus knew the would-be follower was not looking for that kind of life. Being a disciple is being the light of the world (Matt 5:14), diffusing the glory of the Master; walking where He bids us go even when it is painful, obscure and insignificant in the sight of the world. After all, ultimately, the only opinion that really matters is the opinion of our Creator. To be a disciple is to be the salt that preserves this world. As disciples, we enter into a new, spiritual realm, and attain a new identity. We re-organize our schedules so that Jesus becomes our first priority. We become members of a new family; the eternal family of God composed of blood-bought individuals from every nation, kindred, tongue and people; an unimaginably diverse community with an array of spiritual gifts for edifying each other. As Jesus’ disciples, we die to self so that we may be alive to God. We lose ourselves in Him so that we can find our full selves there. The Golden Calf of self-gratification is detrimental to our relationship with the Lord. As His disciples, we must give Him our dreams, our reputation, our careers, our finances, our purpose, our everything, so that He can make a glorious tapestry out of them. But this act of self-renunciation takes nothing away from us because, in the end, what we really have is what we have surrendered to the Lord. As His disciples, we get to know Jesus’s voice not through doctrinal teachings, but through His eternal presence in our lives. He never gives up on any one. Jesus “washes our feet even when we would betray him.”2 He gently restores and reaffirms our place in the family of God even when our quest for self-preservation leads us to deny Him.

But being a disciple is not a walk in the park. The road is difficult and the gate narrow, and only a few find it although there is room for everyone. The trials and tribulations that beset the disciple are the difficult road and the narrow gate. Our sinful nature resists and rebels against the discipline of turning the other cheek or loving others the way we love ourselves or blessing and praying for those who curse and revile us, which are all characteristics of the kingdom to which Jesus is calling His disciples. But this is how Jesus overcame the kingdom of darkness forever: using the weapon of love. Trials can be excruciatingly painful and draining, physically and emotionally. But we take comfort in the promise that this light affliction we might suffer momentarily as disciples is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). Whatever we have gone through in this life, whatever we will still be called to endure, the Bible insists that it pales into insignificance against the splendor awaiting us. Whatever has been taken from us, God will make it right beyond our wildest dreams and imagination. To be a disciple of Jesus is not to be disadvantaged. It is to be more than a conqueror both in this life and in the life to come….through Him.

“Follow Me,” the call has not changed.

Sources

  1. Camp, L.C..(2003). Mere Discipleship, pp. 19, 23-25.
  2. Ibid.

Seeing Through the Façade

Question: Has anyone provided a proof for God’s inexistence?

Answer: Not even close.

Question: Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here?

Answer: Not even close.

Question: Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life?

Answer: Not even close.

Question: Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought?

Answer: Close enough.

Question: Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral?

Answer: Not close enough.

Question: Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good?

Answer: Not even close to being close.

Question: Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences?

Answer: Close enough.

Question: Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational?

Answer: Not even ballpark.

Question: Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt?

Answer: Dead on.1

“The claim that the existence of God should be treated as a scientific question stands on a destructive dilemma: If by science one means the great theories of mathematical physics, then the demand is unreasonable. We cannot treat any claim in this way. There is no other intellectual activity in which theory and evidence have reached this stage of development.”2 The author does not vilify or dismiss the landmark achievements of science or their benefits to mankind. What he is saying is that science is not the default intellectual framework for interpreting and understanding life and the universe. There are some things scientists cannot explain.

 

Sources

1.Berlinski, D. (2008). Excerpt. The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions. Crown Forum, New York. (Flaps of Book).

2.Ibid. pp. 60

January 2 – Truth And Consequences

THE RIVER WALK

truth-and-consequences-trw

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:13)

Read: Genesis 3:1 – 4:26, Matthew 2:13 – 3:6, Psalm 2:1-12, Proverbs 1:7-9

Relate: The idea of a clean slate was a good one. What happened? I loved the concept of a new beginning. Has it already been marred? I’m not even halfway through day two of this new year and already I’ve sinned. I’ve messed up. I’ve failed. This year began with such high hopes. It began with such promise, but my stupid pride, my foolish ambition, my lazy apathy, my fallen humanity already got in the way. Now I’m stuck sitting here wondering why I even bother. I should fall to my knees asking for forgiveness and then get up and start walking this journey again. Instead my instinct is to try to run and hide from God. My shame…

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Thank God For Your Enemies Prayer!

Pure Glory

by Apostle Gabriel Cross

Thank God for your Enemies Prayer! (POWERFUL DELIVERANCE PRAYER)

I want you to open your mouth and thank God for your enemies! Your enemies serve a purpose, in your God-ordained destiny.

Thank you Lord that my enemies help confirm to me that I am anointed, approved, and chosen by God. Thank you Lord that what my enemies planned as evil against me, you made as good for me, to deliver many others. (Genesis 50:20) Thank you Lord that the same people (enemies) putting me down, will become the same people (friends), lifting me up. Because You cause me to RULE IN THE MIDST OF MY ENEMIES, whether at work, ministry, family, or etc. (Psalms 110:1, 2,) Thank you Lord that I don’t have to fight my enemies because You smite and defeat them.

You BLESS ME SO, when my enemies come at me one way, they…

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