Love is a One-Way Street

Image result for hosea redeems gomerWould you love someone that keeps on cheating on you? Keeps on betraying you? It’s really tough even painful. Once bitten, twice shy as they say. But Hosea the prophet was asked by God to redeem his adulterous wife Gomer from sexual slavery. He was asked to love her again. Could you do that if you were Hosea? We read:

The Lord said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.’

So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then I told her, ‘You are to live with me for many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.’

Hosea 3:1-3

Hosea’s love for Gomer is a picture of God’s love for Israel though they have been unfaithful. Though they rejected God’s love. Though they ran after other gods. I’m not sure how Hosea would have felt. I would have asked God, “Are you serious? She’s hurt me too many times. I’m done with her.” But God asks him to love again. It’s a costly love too – Hosea had to pay to get his won wife back. That’s a beautiful picture of redemption.

On one level, it teaches us how to love others. Especially people that aren’t easy to love or grateful or willing to change. We don’t know how Gomer lived or if she changed her sinful ways. Hosea’s love teaches us how to truly love others.

There are so many aspects of this love. Love is risky. Love is a choice. Love is costly. Love takes courage. Love is long-suffering. Love is a one-way street. It doesn’t take but gives – again and again, in the hope that the other person changes. It opens you up to be hurt again. In spite of all that, Hosea still loves. You have the power to love someone else. No one can take that away.

God loves us with this kind of love when he sent Jesus to die for us.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Jesus didn’t redeem us with money or barley like Hosea did, but with his blood. He died on the cross to redeem us from slavery to sin. He didn’t wait for us to clean up our act before he would die for us. He died for us so that we could clean up our act. It was a great risk. We could reject his gift of salvation. But love gives first. It’s a one-way street. It’s a choice to make the first move.

How would you respond? Would you give up your sinful ways and accept Jesus as your Saviour? He loves you so much that he gave his life for you. No one is too far from God. No one is too bad for God to save. Would you show love to someone that doesn’t deserve it? Though that person has failed you time and time again? When we love, we are most like God.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

1 John 4:10-12

Jesus the Good Shepherd

Image result for jesus shepherdIf you had a pet kitten that strayed onto oncoming traffic, would you push your beloved kitten aside and die in its place? Probably not. Human life is more valuable than any cherished pet.

If you reared chickens for selling in the market and a rabid hound ventured into your farm, would you save the chicken but risk being bitten? Would you tell the hound, “Take me instead, let the chicken go!” Hmm…no.

But that’s exactly what Jesus did for us. I came to the familiar reading of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Jesus says:

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 10:11

I find that so radical. Think about it. A shepherd rears sheep, eventually kills it, and sells the meat and the wool as merchandise. I don’t think he treated them as a household pet. Even if there were extreme danger, would he really give his life for a sheep? It’s ridiculous! It’s just an animal. He still can get more sheep if he wants. But to lose his life would be disastrous.

Jesus was the Good Shepherd who gave his life for the sheep, even at the cost of his life. He was driving home a powerful point to his listeners: I love you with a radical, extreme type of love. The kind of love that will lead me to die so you can be saved. 

Jesus died for us lost, helpless sheep.

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
    We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
    the sins of us all.

Isaiah 53:6 (NLT)

Jesus willingly died on the cross for our sins and to take away our sins. But he rose again from the dead and conquered death. No longer are we doomed to hell if we believe in Him.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:9

Will you put your trust in the Good Shepherd who loves you and has made a way for you to be with Him forever?

 

Arnaud Beltrame’s Heroic Exchange

There was another act of senseless killing in the small town of Thebes, France. It happened just last Friday, 23 March. A Muslim man had taken hostages in a supermarket. He had killed the supermarket’s butcher already. It was the scene of death.
Lieutenant-Colonel Arnaud Beltrame arrived on the scene. And you know what he did?

He exchanged himself for one of the hostages. That’s an act of valour. 

He knew he was probably not walking out alive.

But he did it.

He replaced one of the hostages.

As police rushed into the scene, Beltrame was shot thrice. He was brought to the hospital but died on Saturday.

“He fell as a hero, giving up his life to halt the murderous outfit of a jihadist terrorist,” President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement shortly before dawn on Saturday.

He gave his life so someone else could live.

You can read the full article here.

Something similar took place 2000 years ago. Something greater. Something that rang through the centuries.

On Good Friday, Jesus died on the cross. He was beaten and bruised for us. He suffered and was crucified for us.

The Divine Exchange took place.

Why did Jesus have to die?

Sin had taken you Hostage. Everyone has sinned by breaking God’s laws. All have fallen short of God’s standard. A holy God cannot coexist with sinners. There was no way out. The wages of sin is death (Rom 3:23). For sinners, our destiny is Hell.

But God came for us. He loved you so much that he sent his Son Jesus to save you.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

Jesus, the one without sin, took your place on the cross. The Bible says:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Cor 5:21

He died for your sake. By believing in Jesus, you have received His righteousness. You can now be together with a holy God.

Not only did Jesus die, He rose again on the third day. He defeated sin and death! By believing in Jesus’s finished work on the cross, your sins will be washed away.

He died in your place. Will you accept his gift of forgiveness? Or will you spurn his sacrifice?

If you like to accept Jesus as your Savior, please pray this prayer.

Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

“I sat where they sat”

Last week, I accompanied my pastor as he conducted a funeral and cremation service. I was caught by surprise and only had a white T-shirt dotted with cartoon dogs. Unfortunately I had to wear it. Mental note: Keep a black collar shirt at all times ready.

The funeral service was rather short and we travelled to the crematorium. There was a Committal service conducted and that’s when the family started crying. Somehow, reality hit them hard at that moment when they realised their family member was really gone.

But it puzzled me.

They are all Christians. They know that the one who believes in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life. They know that death has lost its sting. Has it really lost its sting? Then why do they cry so much?

Well, love hurts. Crying is good, even necessary for healing. My pastor said that it takes roughly two years for grief closure. They often need counseling after the funeral to deal with their grief.

In ministry, we need to walk with those who are experiencing loss. I am struck by Ezekiel’s reaction when he came to his people in captivity.

Ezekiel 3:15

Then I came to the captives at Tel Abib, who dwelt by the River Chebar; and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days.

The phrase “I sat where they sat” is so powerful. That is often all we can do – meeting them where they are. Ezekiel sat with them seven days. I’m not sure if he said much but his presence spoke louder than words. So too as we bring the presence of God into people’s brokeness.

God understands grief. The Father experienced his son’s death. Jesus suffered a cruel painful death on the cross. He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief (Isa 53:3). We need to usher those who are hurting into the arms of One who truly identifies with them.

As I left that service, I realised it’s okay to be sad. Jesus wept for Lazarus even though he knew he would be raised from the dead. Why? He “sat where we sat”.

God Wants to Dwell With Us

There is a wonderful theme that weaves throughout Scripture – God wants to dwell with us. It is a fine thread that lets us understand God’s heart for mankind much better. We shall now take an excursion from Genesis to Revelation as I unpack this glorious truth.

1. The Garden of Eden

In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve so that he could dwell with them. Remember God walking in the garden in the cool of the day? (Gen 3:8) He was looking for his creations. Sadly, they had sinned and hid themselves from God. God, in his holiness, banished them from the garden. The communion was broken. God and man were separated. But God still wants to dwell with man.

2. The Tabernacle

After God redeemed Israel from bondage in Egypt, he led them to Mount Sinai where the Ten Commandments and other laws were given. Moses was given instructions on how to build the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle. This tabernacle in Hebrew means “residence” or “dwelling place.” It was place where God dwelled with his people.

Exodus 25:8

Then let them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.

God dwelt in the sanctuary (Most Holy Place/Holy of Holies) where the Ark was. God’s heart was to be with his people. Moses had specific instructions to build the tabernacle where God met them. Why? God is holy and he would knew how he wanted his “house” to be like. God gave his stamp of approval when he filled the tabernacle with his Shekinah glory cloud.

Exodus 40:34-35

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

An interesting fact is that the High Priest could only enter into the Most Holy Place once a year for the atonement of sins. The priest had to pass through a thick curtain that separated the Most Holy Place from the other parts of the tabernacle. Though God dwells with his people, there is still a barrier.

3. The Temple

The tabernacle was movable as Israel traveled through the wilderness. Later on, King David desired to build a permanent temple for the Ark of the Covenant. However, God told him that his son Solomon would do it. During King Solomon’s reign, there was rest from all enemies. He took seven years to build a glorious temple that mostly followed the layout of the tabernacle. God gave his stamp of approval again when the glory cloud filled the temple.

1 Kings 8:10-13

When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple.

Then Solomon said, ‘The Lord has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud; I have indeed built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell for ever.’

God was pleased with his new “house”! Solomon wanted God to “dwell forever” with Israel. However, it wasn’t to be. Due to Israel’s sin, the temple was destroyed by Babylon in the 6th century BC. A second temple was erected years later when the exiles returned from captivity (Zerubabbel, Ezra, Nehemiah). The second temple paled in comparison to Solomon’s one. The older people wept in sorrow while the young people cheered. What a confusing sight!

Ezra 3:11b-12

And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy.

The second temple was around in Jesus’ day but was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. Since then, there has been no temple in Israel. The Muslims have built the Dome of the Rock on the exact site of the temple. All the Israelites have now is the Western “wailing” wall. Does the destruction of the temple mean that God no longer dwells with us anymore? No. God came to us on Christmas day two thousand years ago.

4. The Birth of Jesus

Jesus was named Emmanuel meaning “God with us.” God dwells with us! He took on human form and became one of us. There is a wonderful verse in the Gospel of John.

John 1:14

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. …

“The Word” refers to Jesus who made his dwelling among us. The word “dwelling” can be translated as “tabernacle”. Jesus “tabernacled” among us! Eugene Peterson in The Message paraphrases it as , “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” Finally, God dwells with us. He came into this world because he loves us so much, wants to be with us so much. But our sins have blocked the way. Jesus came to die for our sin.

5. The Death and Resurrection of Jesus

Jesus’ death for our sins opened the way to a relationship with God. Remember the curtain that blocks the entrance to the Most Holy Place? It’s a barrier that only the High Priest can enter once a year. Something happened to it when Jesus died on the cross.

Matt 27:50-51a

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

Jesus ripped the barrier wide open! The curtain was torn, note this, from top to bottom, not bottom to top. Only God could have torn it miraculously. Jesus, through his blood that was shed, opened a way into the Most Holy Place. He becomes our High Priest. The author of Hebrews says:

Hebrews 9:12

[Jesus] did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, so obtaining eternal redemption.

Amazing! Jesus redeems us permanently by his blood. Once for all time. The author continues later:

Hebrews 10:19-20

…we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and…have a great priest over the house of God…

Jesus’ body has become the new curtain to access God. By believing in Jesus’ work, we can confidently approach God in faith. God dwells with us. But that is not all.

6. The Holy Spirit

When Jesus ascended, he asked the Father to give believers the Holy Spirit to be with us. This Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus.

John 14:16-18

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you for ever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

God is now dwelling with us through the Holy Spirit. We are now the living temple where God resides. He will continue living with us till the Last Days when the New Heaven and Earth will be introduced. Then, we shall be with God forever and ever.

7. The New Heaven and Earth

We read these glorious verses in Revelation.

Revelation 21:1-3

Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

God will dwell with us for all eternity from that point onwards. That’s what God always wanted to do since the beginning when he created Adam and Eve. The problem is our sins that separates us from God’s holiness. It is remedied through believing in Jesus’ finished work on the cross. There is a final point about the temple a few verses later.

Revelation 21:22

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

There is no longer a need for a temple because God dwells with us now. The temple was a temporary construct on earth because of our sins. When we reach the new heaven and earth, God is the temple that we worship. The story of God being in the Garden of Eden with his creation is restored finally in this beautiful climax.

God wants to dwell with you. Are you willing to accept Jesus into your life so that you can be with God forever?

“Trouble will not rise up a second time.”

Nahum 1:9
What do you plot against the LORD?  He will make a complete end; trouble will not rise up a second time.

In the book of Nahum, God promises Israel to destroy their enemy. Israel’s brutal treatment by the Assyrians of Nineveh has not gone unnoticed. God will repay and wipe out Nineveh with a flood.

God assures them that the devastation is “complete” and “trouble will not rise up a second time.” I love that phrase – Trouble will not rise up a second time. Though the Assyrians troubled Israel the first time, there will not be a second time. Why? Because it will be completely destroyed. Not a remnant will be left to cause anymore problems.

How does this help us today? We as Christians have been enslaved by Satan and sin. After Christ’s redeeming work on the cross, we have been released from the devil’s grasp. The author of Hebrews declares:

Hebrews 2:14-15

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself (Jesus) likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

Jesus has destroyed the devil. This doesn’t mean that the devil is annihilated but that his hold over us is gone. There are two more effects: 1) We are no longer slaves to sin, 2) We need not fear death. Why not? Because Jesus intercedes for us as our great high priest. A few verses later, we read:

Hebrews 2:17

Therefore [Jesus] had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

Propitiation is a technical term to mean that Jesus makes peace with God for us through his sacrifice. God’s wrath has been appeased because of what Jesus did and continues to do for us in heaven. As Israel has been delivered from the hands of Nineveh, believers have been delivered from the hands of the devil! The same promise remains as it did hundreds of centuries before: Trouble will not rise up a second time.

God has promised that the devil will not be able to cause problems for us a second time. In popular lingo, the devil ain’t got nothin’ on you! The only way that the devil can touch you is if you reject God’s protection and Jesus’ work. I believe that you are saved only if you choose to remain in Christ! Once you step out from God’s circle, you are fodder for the devil. Yet, if you remain in Christ’s atoning work and aim to live a godly life, trouble will not rise up as second time. What’s your decision today?

Kubo and the After life

I love the movie, Kubo and the Two Strings. It addresses many dark themes such as death, life, supernatural beings and what happens to souls when one dies.

“Many say, the songs about what happens when we die, how we don’t just disappear. Like Kubo’s paper, we shift, we transform, so we can continue our story in another place.The end of one story is merely the beginning of another.”

– Monkey

I find it so apt that the quote reflects many aspects what Christians believe when we die.

1. “We don’t just disappear.”

There is an after life. Believe it or not, we all are eternal beings. It’s just where you end up forever. Heaven or hell. Eternal life or eternal damnation. Believers in Jesus spend eternity with God.

Daniel 12:2 

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

2. “We shift, we transform.”
St. Paul affirms that our body will be transformed in an instant into a heavenly body when we die. We don’t keep our mortal bodies. We don’t fade into nothingness.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52 

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

3. “So we can continue our story in another place.”
Indeed, our mortal flesh is changed to immortal so that we can move into the next world. The next world is entirely different from this world and thus, new bodies are needed. The story of our lives here continues to the next. And if you haven’t realised, our lives are but a breath compared to eternity. How you live in this super short time will determine where you spend for a super long time.

James 4:14b 

What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

4. “The end of one story is merely the beginning of another.”

Our story continues on in the next world. How it ends is up to you. Where you go is up to you. Decide to believe in Jesus who can save your soul from hell. And your story will continue beside Jesus for all eternity.

John 3:16 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Jesus, Barabbas and You

image

Luke 23:18-19
But the whole crowd shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)

The Jewish crowd a week ago was welcoming Jesus as he entered Jerusalem. Now they were condeming Jesus to death by crucifixion.

Pilate, knowing their Passover customs, asked them if they would like to set Jesus free. The crowd got angrier and insisted on freeing Barabbas, a condemned criminal instead.

Luke 23:25
He (Pilate) released the man (Barabbas) who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.

Can you imagine that? The Jews freed a murderer and executed an innocent man. The contrast in character of these two men is so extreme, you’d think that they would make the right decision easily. I wonder how Barabbas felt, knowing that he was replaced on death row by a good man. Jesus took his place and was crucified on a cross between two thieves.

I’m not sure if Barabbas felt a certain relief of escaping death, or a thankfulness to Jesus. Maybe he was remorseful. We won’t ever know because the Bible is silent on that. How would you feel if you were Barabbas?

Do you know something? We are all like Barabbas.

We are all sinners, condemned to die. The Bible says that our sinful lives will lead us to die in hell for eternity. There is no escape, no hope. No amount of good works can save you.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

But something wonderful took place 2000 years ago.

As Jesus took Barabbas’ place on the cross, Jesus took your place on the cross too. He died in your place (exchanged/substituted) so that you can live. He wants to give you eternal life. Jesus died on that cruel cross but on the third day, rose from the dead. He had conquered sin and death!

Do you believe that? That is the best news ever heard! God dying for wretched man like you and me. Why?

Brcause God loves you and wants you to be with him forever.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

All you need to do to receive eternal life is as simple as ABC.

Admit that you are a sinner and need forgiveness.
Believe that Jesus Christ died for you on the cross and rose from the grave to bring you to God.
Confess, through prayer, that Jesus Christ is the only way to God, and commit to live for Him the rest of your life.

Plese pray this prayer to accept Jesus.

Dear Lord Jesus,
I know I am a sinner and need your forgiveness. I believe that you died on the cross for my sins and rose from the grave to give me life. I know You are the only way to God, so help me to quit disobeying You and to start living for You. Please forgive me, change my life, and make yourself real to me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Divine Exchange – Derek Prince

image

Isaiah 53:4-6 (NLT)
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.


Jesus was punished that we might be forgiven.

Jesus was wounded that we might be healed.

Jesus was made sin with our sinfulness that we might be made righteous with His righteousness.

Jesus died our death that we might receive His life.

Jesus endured our poverty that we might share His abundance.

Jesus bore our shame that we might share His glory.

Jesus endured our rejection that we might have His acceptance with the Father.

Jesus was made a curse that we might enter into the blessing.

Claim these precious promises and thank God for saving us wretched creatures! It was all because of His grace and not because of our goodness that He saved us.