Friday, May 31, 2013

God Explained

5 O Lord, You are so good (kind), so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing (abundant) love for all who ask for Your help. . . . 11 Teach me Your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to Your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor You. . . . 15 But You, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing (abundant) love and faithfulness. Psalms 86:5, 11, 15 (NLT)  

God is celebrated as good, forgiving, and generous to all who ask for His help (Psalm 86:5). He is so freely willing to forgive our sins and failures as we genuinely confess our sins to Him (Psalm 32:5). God is full of abundant love (1 John 4:9, 16), mercy (Psalm 51:1), grace (Psalm 25:6), patience (Nehemiah 9:17), and truth (Psalm 86:15). Even more, God is compassionate (Joel 2:13), always faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9), and forgiving (Romans 3:25; see also Psalm 103:8; Psalm 145:8). The Holy Scriptures tells of God’s continually goodness and blessings from generation to generation (see e.g. Exodus 34:6-7; Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2). The apostle Paul teaches us that knowing these features of God should lead everyone to genuine repentance and faithfulness to God (Romans 2:4). 

God is faithful and His love is amazing (Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 107; Isaiah 54:10). The love of God is higher than any skies (Psalm 108:4). God’s presence is with us everywhere we go (Matthew 28:20). If we will call upon Him, our great God will deliver us from all our problems. No problem is too great for God. Whether homelessness or starvation (Psalm 107:4-5), imprisonment (Psalm 107:10-12), self-inflicted disease (Psalm 17-18), and imminent ruin (Psalm 107:23-27), God is able to rescue those who call upon Him for help. God is mighty to save (Zephaniah 3:17).

God wants everyone to love, cherish, and trust Him with their heart and mind. A godly heart is a humble heart that loves God first and is faithful to Him.  (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Deuteronomy 10:12; James 4:7-8). A divided heart that does not trust the true and living God leads only to insecurity (James 1:5–8). In the Bible, the “heart” means the whole person and not just emotions. The heart is the center of the human spirit, from which springs our emotions, thoughts, motivations, courage, and action – the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23). God wants our whole heart and first allegiance to Him. In other words, God desires an intimate devotion to Him like a loyal bride for her groom (Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Jeremiah 2:2; Revelation 2:4). In essence, God desires our most intimate degree of loyalty, love, and faithfulness that can exist between two people to be for Him first. 

All the more, God wants everyone to commit to a lifestyle of ethical integrity by living according to His ways and truth (Deuteronomy 5:1-22; Deuteronomy 11; Psalm 25:4; Psalm 27:11; Psalm 119:33; Matthew 22:34-40). What good would come if God helped us in time of need but abandoned us to continue to live a life of sin and waywardness? God wants everyone to be protected from outward attacks and inward attacks to our hearts from sin, evil, and naughtiness (Psalm 51:7, 10; Psalm 73:1). Finally, God wants us to imitate His love, forgiveness, and mercy to others (John 13:35; Ephesians 5:1-2). God does not want to take the FUN out of life. Instead, God wants to protect us from the destruction and harm that comes with living a lifestyle of sin and evil. With sin come God’s wrath, sadness, and destruction. But God’s grace comes to all who lives holy lives and trusts in Him.

KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House, 2005.
New Student Bible. New York, NY: Zondervan, 1992.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House, 2008.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.
Wiersbe, Warren W. With the Word Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York, NY: Zondervan, 2008.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Jesus’ Second Coming

60 Then the high priest stood up before the others and asked Jesus, “Well, aren’t You going to answer these charges? What do You have to say for Yourself?” 61 But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked Him, “Are you the Messiah (the Christ), the Son of the Blessed One (God)?” 62 Jesus said, “I AM (Exodus 3:14). And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand (Psalm 110:1) and coming on the clouds of heaven (Daniel 7:13).” Mark 14:60-62 (NLT) see parallel references at Matthew 26:63-64 and Luke 22:67-69.
As Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was falsely accused and then arrested. Jesus' first trial began at the home of Caiaphas, the high priest. This trial was a mockery of God’s true justice system. Caiaphas asked Jesus two questions. To the first question, Jesus remained silent, calm, and courageous. Then, Caiaphas asked Jesus a second question and this time Jesus boldly declared His true identity and mission to the people. Jesus declared He was God, the “I AM” (Exodus 3:14; Mark 6:49-50) and stated He is the Messiah (the Christ or Son of Man) (see also Mark 1:1). Jesus declared a powerful role reversal. One day, Jesus would return as the Son of Man on the clouds of heaven to judge the world (Matthew 24:30; see also Daniel 7:13-14; Revelation 1:7; Revelation 20:11-13). The clouds of heaven portray Jesus as Divine. Throughout the Holy Bible, clouds represent God’s glory, majesty, and active presence (see e.g., Exodus 16:10; Exodus 19:9, 16; Daniel 7:13-14). In fact, God's glory appeared in a cloud at the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:9). 

During Jesus’ public ministry, Jesus concealed and hid His identity as the Messiah and God’s true Son. However, God the Father knew Jesus’ identity (Mark 1:11; Mark 9:7), Jesus’ disciples knew Jesus was indeed the Messiah (Mark 8:28-30), and evil know Jesus’ true identity (Mark 1:24; Mark 3:11; Mark 5:7). At the trial with Caiaphas, Jesus publicly announced for the first time that He was indeed the Messiah and the Son of God (Mark 14:60-62). Jesus goes on to announce that He would sit in the place of power at God’s right hand (Psalm 110:1; see also Acts 2:33-36). God’s right hand represents Jesus’ authority, power, and benefits. Though He would be falsely accused and crucified, Jesus told the world of His coming resurrection from complete death and return to heaven with God. Even more, Jesus declared to the world that one day He would return in His full glory on the clouds of heaven to judge the world (see also Isaiah 26:21; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10). 

Jesus’ second coming to earth is referred to as the Blessed Hope (Titus 2:13). In the upper room with His disciples, Jesus told them He was going away but He would come again one day (see e.g., Matthew chapters 24 and 25; Mark 8:38; Mark chapter 13; Mark 14:25, 60-62; John 14:1-3). At Jesus’ rise into heaven, the two angels standing with Jesus’ disciples also declared that Jesus would return (Acts 1:11). The Holy Scriptures clearly state that Jesus will return to earth (see e.g., Isaiah 26:21; Micah 1:3; Zechariah 14:4, 9 16; Philippians 1:6, 10; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Timothy 4:1, 8). Jesus’ second coming will be visible, triumphant, and glorious (Matthew 24:27, 30, 44; Acts 1:11; 2 Thessalonians 1:10; Revelation 1:7), but also sudden and unexpected (1 Thessalonians 5:2). At His second coming, Jesus will come down from the clouds of heaven just as He ascended into the clouds of heaven after His death and resurrection (Acts 1:8-11). The apostle Paul also teaches that Jesus’ second coming will be signaled by a trumpet fanfare, a shout, and the voice of God’s angels (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; see also Matthew 24:27-31).

Nevertheless, God wants everyone to use Jesus’ second coming as a motivation to do good works, remain holy, and share God’s message of love (Matthew 25:14-30; John 13:34-35; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 John 3:3). God wants everyone to be ready for Jesus’ sudden return (1Thessalonians 5:2), not standing around "looking into the sky." While patiently waiting for Jesus’ second coming, the apostle Paul encouraged people to work hard, share God’s love to others with good deeds, love God with our whole hearts, and flee sinful choices (Titus 2:12-14). 

The exact time of Jesus’ second coming has been speculated for years by biblical and non-biblical scholars. However, NO ONE knows the date and time of Jesus’ second coming. Neither Jesus nor the heavenly angels know the date of Jesus’ second coming. Only God the Father knows this precise and sudden date (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32-37; Acts 1:6-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; 2 Peter 3:4-12). We should not speculate about the date of Jesus’ coming (Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7). God is sovereign and He wants everyone to come to Jesus to find God’s love and salvation (2 Peter 3). Jesus’ second coming will be sudden and swift (Matthew 24:40-42).

As we wait, God wants everyone to live patient, loving, and honorable lives as we reveal God’s love and mercy to the world and flee evil (Galatians 5:22-23; James 2:8, 13; James 4:7-9; 2 Peter 3:11-12; 1 John 4:7-21). God’s purpose in telling of Jesus’ return is to stimulate hope and not predictions and calculations about the date (Matthew 24:44). Like Job and the prophet Elijah, we must practice faith, patience, humility, perseverance, and continual prayer while waiting on Jesus’ return (James 4:10; James 5:11-17). Even more, we are to love one another and worship God as we wait and not live recklessly — sitting and waiting, doing nothing (Matthew 22:34-40). When Jesus does return, He will reward all of God’s faithful children (Jews and Gentiles) with eternal life, everlasting joy, and peace (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 21:4-5).  

Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008.
Packer, J. I. Concise Theology. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 1993.
Butler, Trent C. Holman Bible Dictionary. Holman Bible Publishers, 1991.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

God Is Great!

1 I will exalt you, my God and King, and praise Your Name forever and ever. 2 I will praise You every day; yes, I will praise You forever. 3 Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure His greatness. 4 Let each generation tell its children of Your mighty acts; let them proclaim Your power. 5 I will meditate on Your majestic, glorious splendor and Your wonderful miracles. 6 Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue; I will proclaim Your greatness. 7 Everyone will share the story of Your wonderful goodness; they will sing with joy about Your righteousness. 8 The Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love (see also Exodus 34:6-7). 9 The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all His creation. 10 All of Your works will thank You, Lord, and Your faithful followers will praise You. 11 They will speak of the glory of Your kingdom; they will give examples of Your power. 12 They will tell about Your mighty deeds and about the majesty and glory of Your reign. 13 For Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. You rule throughout all generations. The Lord always keeps His promises; He is gracious in all He does. 14 The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads. 15 The eyes of all look to You in hope; You give them their food as they need it. 16 When You open Your hand, You satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing. 17 The Lord is righteous in everything He does; He is filled with kindness. 18 The Lord is close to all who call on Him, yes, to all who call on Him in truth (sincerely, genuinely). 19 He grants the desires of those who fear Him; He hears their cries for help and rescues them. 20 The Lord protects all those who love Him, but He destroys the wicked. 21 I will praise the Lord, and may everyone on earth bless His Holy Name forever and ever. Psalms 145:1-21 (NLT).

Psalm 145 gives a wonderful description of the true and living God. God is great (Psalm 145:3). He is full of love, mercy, and compassion (Psalm 145:8, 17; see also Exodus 34:6–7; Numbers 14:18; Jonah 4:2 and Nehemiah 9:17). No matter what bad things we may have done in the past, God is always ready to receive us with open arms and forgiveness (see also Isaiah 65:1-2; see also Luke 15:11-32). All we need to do is simply come to God and turn from sin!  If you have trouble turning from sin, humbly ask God to help you turn from your sins and despair (Acts 2:21). The true and living God is faithful to help you. 

Sometimes our burdens and troubles seem too hard to bear. But God tells us to come to Him as the Great Burden Bearer (Psalm 145:14; see also Matthew 11:28-30). God will carry our burdens and lift us up as He is faithful to rely upon. If you are sad and discouraged, God will bring you comfort and encouragement (2 Corinthians 1:3–4). We can cast all our cares and burdens upon God, because God cares and loves us (1 Peter 5:7; see also Psalm 104:27-28 and Matthew 6:26). God is truly He is mighty to save (Zephaniah 3:17). 

God is so great and kind (Psalm 145:3, 17) and He knows our every need (Matthew 6:25-34). His greatness and goodness continues from generation to generation (Psalm 145:4, 8-9) as He rules from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 145:13; see also I Timothy 1:17). Also, God is mighty, glorious, and majesty (Psalm 145:5) and filled with awesome works (Psalm 145:5-6). Moreover, God is righteous (Psalm 145:7), patient, and loving (Psalm 145:8-9). He supplies all our daily needs (Psalm 145:15-16; see also Philippians 4:19-20). God is so good and we can always trust the faithfulness of God. God’s goodness extends to all people (Psalm 145:9; see also Matthew 5:45) and He is near to “all who call upon Him” (Psalm 145:18; see also Deuteronomy 4:7). 

So, if you have a need, humbly call upon God with all honor, love, and truth (Psalm 145:18). God always hears our genuine cries for help (Psalm 145:19-20). If you stumble, God will help you up (Psalm 145:14). If you are hungry, God will feed you (Psalm 145:15–16). If you call, God draws near you (Psalm 145:18). God is the ultimate source for all our needs and desires. One day the world will recognize God and worship Him. Who could not worship our great and living God with these magnificent features?

1 The Lord says, “I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help. I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for Me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!’ . . . . 2 All day long I opened my arms to a rebellious people. But they follow their own evil paths and their own crooked schemes. . . . 24 I will answer them before they even call to Me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers! Isaiah 65:1-2, 24 (NLT)

KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
Spirit Filled Life Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.
Word in Life Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Why Does God Allow Evil And Injustice?

Why does a holy God allow evil and injustice? This question has been asked for centuries. Even the prophet Habakkuk from the Old Testament asked God this very same question. “Why do You allow injustice?” Habakkuk asked God. “Why do You tolerate evil?” The prophet saw injustice, violence and evil in the world and the wicked seem to be winning (Habakkuk 1:2-4; see also the book of Job and Psalm 73). Yet, God remained silent, invisible and did not intervene. Why did not God answer Habakkuk’s questions and cry for help?

Habakkuk’s questions rings in the hearts of all God-fearing people. The book of Habakkuk does not offer any easy answers to the problem of evil and injustice in the world. God did answer Habakkuk but not in the way Habakkuk had anticipated. Whether or not the prophet Habakkuk understood God’s answer and ways, Habakkuk learned he could wholeheartedly trust God and live by faith. In fact, the prophet Habakkuk gives everyone sound reasons to trust in the supreme, holy, and fair God. God ultimately brings justice to His world.

The Holy Bible does not give much background information about Habakkuk. Habakkuk was a prophet of Judah and a contemporary of the prophets Nahum, Zephaniah, and Jeremiah, during the reigns of good King Josiah (640-609 BC) and evil King Jehoiakim (609-598 BC). The prophet Habakkuk may have witnessed the decline and fall of the Assyrian empire and the rise of the Babylonian kingdom near the end of 600 BC.

The name “Habakkuk” is not a typical Hebrew name and occurs only two times in the Old Testament (Habakkuk 1:1; Habakkuk 3:1). The prophet’s name means "to embrace" or "to wrestle." In the book of Habakkuk, the prophet does both by embracing and wrestling with God. Habakkuk’s prophecy is a record of his wrestling with God on behalf of God’s people. Further, Habakkuk embraced God by faith (Habakkuk 2:4; Habakkuk 3). The musical psalm in Habakkuk 3 suggests that Habakkuk may have been a Temple musician or singer as a member of the Levitical family. The prophet's famous statement "The just shall live by his faith" (Habakkuk 2:4) is quoted three times in the New Testament (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38).

During the time of his ministry, Habakkuk saw wickedness, cruelty, and injustice all around him (Habakkuk 1:2-4). Not only did the prophet see wickedness and evil from God’s people of Judah (Israel’s southern kingdom) but also from the Gentile nations of Babylon and Assyria empires. So, evil, violence, and corruption ran rampant in Israel and the Gentile world. Even more, the people were embedded in idol worship and not faithfulness to the true and living God.  Even in the courts, morality and justice were no longer existence among the people as the leaders oppressed the poor, the weak, and the powerless.

The book of Habakkuk takes the form of a discussion or dialogue between God and the prophet. Seeing the evil, badness, and unfairness, Habakkuk had an open and honest talk with God. Habakkuk could not understand why God seemed to ignore sin and evil in the world. Habakkuk felt God was not listening to him, despite his repeated cries and prayers for answers.

Eventually, God did answer Habakkuk. God’s first answer to Habakkuk is that He would punish Judah’s sin by rising up the Babylonians to judge Judah and punish Assyria (Habakkuk 1:5-11). This answer from God did not satisfy Habakkuk because Babylon was just as evil, cruel, and ruthless as Judah and Assyria (Habakkuk 1:12–2:1). How could God, who is “too pure to look on evil” (Habakkuk 1:13), appoint the cruel Babylonians “to execute judgment” (Habakkuk 1:12). Moreover, God answered Habakkuk that He would also punish Babylon for their sins, pride, and violence (Habakkuk 2:2-5). Babylon also failed to maintain God’s standards of faith and morality and warranted God’s divine punishment (Habakkuk 2:6-20). The Babylonians worshipped their military strength and not God (Habakkuk 1:16). Although Habakkuk did not live to see, Babylon was destroyed.

God reveals two truths to the prophet Habakkuk. First, evil, corruption, and wickedness may dominate the earth but will NEVER win and ultimately be defeated! Moreover, God reveals to Habakkuk His character. God may be silent for a time but not forever. “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). In essence, God’s glory will fill the earth. In the meantime, God’s people must live by faith in God and have confidence that God is doing what is right.

There is a curious passage in the Talmud (the body of Jewish civil and religious law) which says that Moses gave six hundred laws to the ancient Israelites. As these laws or commands might prove too numerous to commit to memory, King David brought them down to eleven in Psalm 15. The prophet Isaiah reduced these eleven to six at Isaiah 33:15. The prophet Micah further reduced the commands to three at Micah 6:8. The prophet Isaiah once more brought them down to two at Isaiah 56:1. These two command the prophet Amos reduced to one (Amos 5:4). However, lest it might be supposed from this that God could be found only in the fulfillment of the Law, the prophet Habakkuk said, “The just shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). See William H. Saulez, The Romance of the Hebrew Language (Classic Reprint), originally published 1913 and reprinted 2012.

The final chapter of Habakkuk involves the prophet’s prayer and praise to God. Habakkuk’s spiritual journey begins with honest doubts and frustration and ends with one of the most beautiful songs in the Holy Bible. The prophet declares that even if God sends suffering and loss, he would still rejoice and trust in God his Savior (Habakkuk 3:18-19; see also Psalm 46:1-5). Habakkuk “saw” the powerful glory of God as well as God’s sovereignty and goodness. The prophet gained strength to endure trials and wait on God in the midst of trouble. No matter how hard and desperate life might become, Habakkuk knew he could wholeheartedly trust in God and “live by faith.” In the end, Habakkuk rested in God and worshipped.

Habakkuk:  2 Lord, I have heard the news about You; I am amazed at what You have done. . . . 17 Fig trees may not grow figs, and there may be no grapes on the vines. There may be no olives growing and no food growing in the fields. There may be no sheep in the pens and no cattle in the barns. 18 But I will still be glad in the Lord; I will rejoice in God my Savior. 19 The Lord God is my strength. He makes me like a deer that does not stumble so I can walk on the steep mountains. Habakkuk 3:2, 17-19 (New Century Version)

Habakkuk’s spiritual journey is similar to that of most people that struggle to understand the ways of God. When violence, evil, and corruption prevail, God’s people often question God’s power, holiness, and goodness and whether God is really in control. Habakkuk’s questions to God help us understand that God does not rebuke or punish such questions when these questions come to Him in prayer from an honest and concerned heart (see also Hanna’s prayer for a son at 1 Samuel 1:9-18). Some people believe that we should never question the ways of God. Some even feel that such questions borders on sin to ask God, “Why?” The book of Habakkuk teaches that we can also bring our genuine complaints and questions to God. In fact, the prayer for help and understanding in the Holy Bible often demonstrates trust in God (e.g., see Psalm 73; Psalm 102:1-2; Psalm 145:18; Isaiah 65:24). God’s people need to always approach God first and share their concerns and problems with Him. God wants everyone to come to Him with our struggles and doubts.

Furthermore, the book of Habakkuk teaches everyone that God is still in control of the world (see also Psalm 145). God’s people must be willing to trust God and His will with patience and obedience. With each passing day, Habakkuk and many other people recognized that God always rights all wrongs, comforts all pain, and brings His justice into the world! God is omnipresent and ever-present (Habakkuk 2:2-20). He sees the “big picture” of life. God sees and cares deeply for every pain, wrongdoing, and injustice. Although people may not see it, God’s sovereign Hand is at work in His world for His glory, salvation, and justice (Habakkuk 2:2-3, 14; 1 John 5:14-15). God acts sovereignly to correct wrongdoing and corruption, especially against His people, so that all people may ultimately see His glory (Habakkuk 2:3, 14; Habakkuk 3:2-15). Even more, God’s grace and blessings follow our trust and obedience. God alone will be worshipped for His divine goodness and holiness (1 John 5:21).

Habakkuk’s mission was to make it clear that even if God’s justice seems slow in coming, God’s justice will come (Habakkuk 2:2-5). Wickedness and evil will NOT win but righteousness will prevail. Judgment may not come quickly, but it will come. God’s people are to be patient! As God told Habakkuk, "Wait for it" (Habakkuk 2:3). God dislikes sin, wickedness, and evil and His punishment of sin will certainly come. God’s people are to patiently wait and trust in God and not in themselves, knowing that God will ultimately punish all violence, wickedness, and injustice (Habakkuk 2:5, see Hebrews10:35-38).

The key verse of Habakkuk is Habakkuk 2:4, “But the just shall live by his faith.” This verse is quoted in Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38. The apostle Paul takes Habakkuk 2:4 and makes it the heart of the Gospel message about Jesus Christ. Righteousness (or a right relationship with God) is reached only through faith. To live by faith means to patiently trust God and obey God's Word, no matter how we feel, what we see, or what the consequences may be (see also Hebrews 11). At Galatians 3:10-11, the apostle Paul says that no one is righteous before God by the Law. Paul cites Habakkuk 2:4 as proof that faith in God makes a person righteous in the eyes of God as opposes to keeping the Law (see also Romans 5:1-5; Ephesians 2:8-10). Continually trusting God during suffering and difficult times produces character, perseverance, and hope.

In essence, the apostle Paul declares by citing Habakkuk 2:4 that Habakkuk characterizes the righteous as a people of faith and a people who earned status with God not by keeping the Law but by trusting God even during tough times. In other words, people are not righteous by keeping God’s Law. People keep God’s Law because they trust God and believe in God despite the circumstances. The one who is faithful to God even during tough times will keep God’s Law and is righteous. God transforms the hearts of those who trust Him so they can faithfully follow God’s holy standards of living (Romans 1:16-17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:37-39). Therefore, one cannot separate having faith and being faithful. We are declared righteous with God by living a life of continually joy and trust in Him, despite troubling conditions (see also Habakkuk 3). God is trustworthy even when things are hard!

Living by faith is far more than merely following rituals and rules. Faith is a matter of the heart (Hebrews 10:22). The prophet Habakkuk encourages God’s people to persevere in their faith and conduct when facing persecution and pressure (see also Romans 5:3-5). The apostle Paul reveals through Habakkuk's declaration (Habakkuk 2:4) that by trusting God — believing in his provision for our sins and living each day in his power — we will ultimately win! 

God’s people must patiently trust God in a difficult time. However, we are to never arrogantly trust ourselves and leave God out of our lives (Ezekiel 18:9; Isaiah 26:1-6). God is on His holy throne, and He is King of kings and Lord of lords (Habakkuk 2:20). Empires and nations may rise and fall, but God remains the same generation after generation. God’s people must trust that God is directing all things according to His glorious purposes when we do not understand why (Romans 8:28). The men and women listed in Hebrews 11 illustrate how ordinary people accomplished extraordinary things because they trusted and obeyed God.

Habakkuk is all dialogue between the prophet and God. The prophet had a crisis of faith. God does not speak through the prophets to the people. Instead, God speaks to the prophet and the prophet’s attitude. God declares with public notice to the prophet that everyone is to live by faith (Habakkuk 2:2-4). In other words, Habakkuk 2:4 states clearly that the righteous will live faithfully before God and trust God in the midst of hard times. Even more, God wants everyone to have continually joy and realize that God will bring peace and triumph as we trust Him with and during the suffering (Philippians 4:4-7; James 1:2). 

Job was under God’s leadership and evil was the agent of Job’s downfall.  According to the book of Job, evil attacks us to test us and we bring glory to God in the way we suffer. Evil wants us to curse and turn away from God. According to Job, we do not suffer because we have sinned; we suffer so we can sin. By not sinning, we bring glory to God. Also Job found restoration and restoration is the answer to suffering. As we enduring suffering, God brings restoration and glory. After passing through judgment, glory follows. God’s people are to endure testing (James 1:3) and temptation (James 1:13-14).

Moreover, God’s message to Habakkuk stresses that His people must live a life of faith, goodness (righteousness), and patience (Habakkuk 2:4). God’s people are to make God’s righteous standards their own and imitate God’s righteousness in their lives (see also Genesis 15:6). As God’s people, we are to commit to doing what is right even when we face suffering (1 Peter 4:19). Our suffering and troubles can always provide an excuse for sinning, but we must live holy lives, branded by love for God and others (Matthew 22:34-40). In trials, God is still sovereign and faithful (1 Peter 4:19). God controls everything of life and we do not need to fear (Joshua 10:25; 2 Chronicles 20:15; Luke 12:7). Because we know that God is faithful, we can trust in Him and His promises (Psalm 145:11).

Those who patiently trust God and faithfully obey Him will rejoice and find victory (Habakkuk 3:16-19; see also Romans 1:16-17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:35-39). The prophet Habakkuk calls all people to wholeheartedly trust God and to be faithful to Him. We can rise above our circumstances, and even rejoice in them, by focusing on God who stands above all. The prophet Habakkuk does not deny his problems; instead, he finds God’s glory and peace in the midst of his trials and troubles. God always draws close and answer those who love and trusts Him (Psalm 147:11).

2 The Lord answered me (Habakkuk): “Write down the vision; write it clearly on clay tablets so whoever reads it can run to tell others. . . .  4 The evil nation is very proud of itself; it is not living as it should. But those who are right with God will live by trusting in Him. . . .  14 Then, just as water covers the sea, people everywhere will know the Lord’s glory . . . 20 The Lord is in His Holy Temple; all the earth should be silent in His presence.” Habakkuk 2:2, 4, 14, 20 (New Century Version), see also Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:37-38.

19 So if you are suffering according to God’s will, keep on doing what is right and trust yourself to the God who made you, for He will never fail you. 1 Peter 4:19 (The Living Bible)

King James Version Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
New Student Bible. New York: Zondervan, 1992.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
Spirit Filled Life Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991.
The Amplified Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.
Woman’s Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995.
Word in Life Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008.

God’s Help

10 Fear not, for I (God) am with you. Do not be dismayed (afraid, depressed, or anxious). I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you with My victorious right hand. . . . 13 I am holding you by your right hand — I, the Lord your God — and I say to you, do not be afraid; I am here to help you. 14 Despised though you are, fear not, O Israel; for I will help you. I am the Lord, your Redeemer; I am the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 41:10, 13-14 (The Living Bible)

"Fear not!" God is with us and we do not have to fear (Isaiah 41:10, 13-14; see also Isaiah 43:1, 5; Isaiah 44:2, 8). God promised to be with Israel. Even more, God also promises to be with us today to give us His strength, protection, help, and victory over sin and death. We should never place our trust in anything — money, career, family, or even military power — other than the true and living God of Israel. No nation can defeat the eternal and true God of Israel. Only God can save us! 

The ancient Israelites learned God is mighty to save them (Zephaniah 3:17). As the ancient Israelites faced the challenge of the long journey from Babylon (modern day Iraq) to the Promised Land, God assured the people He was with them and would give them success. God knew the glorious future plans for His people and He had everything under control. So, Israel did not need to worry. God would go before Israel and be with Israel working on their behalf. 

In fact, God purposely rose up Cyrus of Persia (559 – 530 BC) to defeat Babylon for the sake of His people Israel. Cyrus defeated Babylon in 539 BC. God chose Cyrus to carry out His righteous purposes to help and deliver Israel (Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1, 4-5). Amazingly, the prophet Isaiah called Cyrus by name over a century before he was born (Isaiah 44:28). Babylon had previously been a world power and devastated Jerusalem, including the Temple, in 586 BC. By God’s help, Cyrus issued a decree to allow the Israelites to return to their land to rebuild Jerusalem and the God’s Temple (Ezra 1:1-4; Ezra 6:3-5; see also Proverbs 21:1). 

Today, we can also trust God and fear not as we contemplate our situation and face an unknown future. God promises to “help you” (Isaiah 41:10, 13- 14). God keeps all His promises! God is with us no matter the circumstances, and He strengthens us no matter the assignment (Isaiah 41:10). Only God holds us as He helps us (Isaiah 41:13–14). God is the Master and Creator of the universe (Isaiah 45:12, 18), and He has not rejected Israel and not rejected you! 

So, do not be afraid or anxious for God is with you (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). God will strengthen, uphold, and help you by His righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10). God is our true Savior, Protector and Redeemer! God cares for you personally. When you feel your strength is gone, remember to call upon God for help. You can always trust God to help you.

28 Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of His understanding. 29 He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. 30 Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. 31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:28-31 (NLT)

Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
New Student Bible. New York: Zondervan,1992.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.
Wiersbe, Warren. With the Word Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991.
Woman’s Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Loving God's Way and the Holy Spirit

When Jesus Christ gave His command to love (John 13:34-35; John 15:12, 17), He knew people would find loving God’s way very difficult and would need help. So, Jesus sent a Helper to live inside people and give them encouragement, ability and power to love God’s way. This Helper is called the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity (John 14:26).

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God and Jesus Christ living inside us - God's Presence (John 14:16-17). The Holy Spirit is a part of the Godhead. There is one God of the universe who exists eternally as a Trinity of Three Persons - God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is one of the most important ideas of the Christian faith. The Holy Spirit has been active among people from the beginning of time, as seen in Genesis 1:1-2 and throughout the Old Testament.

God the Father and Jesus Christ freely and willing give every person who accepts Jesus Christ as his or her Lord and Savior the Holy Spirit to help them walk in love (Acts 2:1-4). The Holy Spirit inside us gives us care, direction, and strength to live according to the teachings and commands of the Holy Bible (John 16:5-15). Most importantly, the Holy Spirit transforms us to live, act, and look more like Jesus Christ and to walk in love. The Holy Spirit within us helps us live as God wants us to (Galatians 5:14-26).

In addition, the Holy Spirit is a powerful Person on our side, working for and around us. The Holy Spirit lives with us and in us, and He teaches, helps and guides us into all truth, as stated in the Holy Scriptures (John 14:26; John 15:26). The Holy Spirit points to the teaching, illuminating, and reminding work of the Spirit. Moreover, the Holy Spirit ministers to both the head and the heart and gives us the power, strength, and ability genuinely to love and to overcome hatred and evil in our world.

The result of the Holy Spirit's work inside our lives is a great and lasting peace (John 14:27-29). Unlike worldly peace, which we see as the absence of conflict, God’s peace is a confident assurance that in any circumstance God‘s Holy Spirit is there to protect, guide, and bless us.

Our fleshly bodies do not have the ability, despite our sincere efforts, to live a life of love God’s way. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit leads us into God’s holiness and righteousness and changes us from within. The Holy Spirit gives us the desire to please God and reveals the standards of love. Only the Spirit of God Himself living inside us can produce in us godly love, also called “fruits of the Spirit” or virtues.

The Holy Bible lists nine fruits of the Spirit that are bound together by love. A person who shows the fruit of the Spirit fulfills the Law. Love encompasses all the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT).

If we want the fruits of the Holy Spirit to grow and work inside us, the Holy Bible teaches we must join our lives to the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. We join our lives to Jesus Christ by reading His words as taught in the New Testament and praying to God daily in the Name of Jesus Christ. By growing and knowing Jesus Christ, we will fulfill the Law — to love God and our neighbors.

There is more Good News! We can generously receive the Holy Spirit when we accept and turn to Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of our lives. When we sincerely trust and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior by faith, we receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ baptizes us with His Holy Spirit. You do not have to wait for a certain feeling to guarantee the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life. Jesus Christ promised and guaranteed to send the Holy Spirit to all those who trust and accept Him as Lord and Savior. As we accept Jesus Christ by faith, we also receive the Holy Spirit by faith. Then, the Holy Spirit stands by daily to help, guide, and give us the power to live and love God’s way. By faith, we obtain the Holy Spirit's power each day.

If you have not received the Holy Spirit, then like the apostles from the New Testament, ask Jesus Christ from your heart in prayer for a “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” Praying for this baptism could be done privately by the following:

1. Humbly and honestly turning your life, heart, and will to God
2. Admit you need God’s help, strength, and love to live
3. Apologize, repent, and turn from all your sins to God and ask God to forgive you
4. Believe that Jesus Christ is God, that He died on the Cross for all your sins, and that He rose from the dead by God’s power
5. Surrender every area of your life to God to allow Him to work in and through you
6. Trust that Jesus Christ as God has forgiven your sins with His death on the Cross
7. Then ask Jesus Christ to baptize you in the Holy Spirit.

If you have prayed that prayer, the Holy Spirit is now living inside you and equipping you to live and love God’s way. This is the beginning of a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ and is the start of a new life (Romans 8:14-17). God’s Spirit living inside you will teach, equip, direct, empower, and encourage you to live God’s way. Congratulations! As we continue to trust, follow, and obey Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit continually lives inside you daily.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Be Strong!

4 But now the Lord says: Be strong, Zerubbabel. Be strong, Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people still left in the land. And now get to work, for I am with you, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 5 My Spirit remains among you, just as I promised when you came out of Egypt. So do not be afraid. Haggai 2:4-5 (NLT).

Several times God through the prophet Haggai encouraged the people to "be strong . . . and work. For I [God] am with you." God had sent the prophet Haggai to motivate the Israelites (the Jews) to rebuild God’s Temple and return to wholeheartedly following God. At that time, the people neglected God and God’s work and pursued a comfortable lifestyle for themselves (Haggai 1:6–9). Haggai encouraged the people to be courageous, strong, and brave and to seek God and God’s work first (see also Zechariah 8:9; Colossian 3:17). In response, the Israelites resumed rebuilding God’s Temple (Haggai 1:14-15) and the Temple was completed in March 12, 516 BC (see Ezra 6:15).

Haggai reflects other passages of Scripture that encouraged God’s people to be strong, brave, and courageous for the Lord God is with us. King David used these words in 1 Chronicles 28:20, 28 when he encouraged his son Solomon to build the first Temple. The Lord God encouraged Joshua and Israel with similar words in Joshua 1:6-7, 9, 18 and Joshua 10:25 as they conquered and captured the Promised Land of God. Moreover, God used these words to Hezekiah’s military officers (2 Chronicles 32:7). So, the same God that helped Joshua and Solomon would also help Zerubbabel, the Israelites and God’s people today to do God’s work.

God’s Holy Spirit goes with us as we humbly obey and trust God and God’s Word. In fact, God is always with those who walk with truth, faith, humility, courage, and love (see also Zephaniah 3:12; Matthew 5:5, 8; Colossians 3:14). As Haggai reminded the people, the one true God will always be with us wherever we go (see also Genesis 28:15; Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:5; 1 Kings 8:57; Psalm 23:6). God is faithful and God will never leave nor forsake us no matter the difficulties and no matter the obstacle (Hebrews 13:5). So, be strong and courageous with wholehearted faith in God because God is with us (see also 1 Samuel 17:45; Matthew 1:23).