Unchanging Truth, Unshakable Security

I was reading the Bible this morning and came upon this encouraging truth:

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39, ESV).

According to this passage, what is the one thing that the Apostle Paul is convinced of or sure about? Simply put, Paul is convinced that nothing will be able to separate us—followers of Christ—from the love of God. That is right: nothing.

Dear child of God, when was the last time you heard and meditated on this gloriously-encouraging truth?

I do not know about you, but there are times in my life when I forget this truth. Why? Life is hard, especially when trials and hardships come my way. The pain is real. The frustration is real. The longing for something better is real. And the forgetting of this truth is real, unfortunately.

But so is God’s love. His love is real, and it is permanent, not temporal.

We need to remind ourselves of this truth—that God’s love for us is real and permanent—over and over again. And equally important, we need to remind ourselves that this truth is rooted and grounded in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

This love is permanent because of who Jesus is and what He has done for us. Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead for our redemption and adoption as sons and daughters.

The atoning work of Jesus Christ has both displayed God’s justice and satisfied His wrath on our behalf.  Therefore, “It is finished,” as Jesus said before breathing his last. And just how He died once to purchase us with His precious blood, He will also keep us and protect us and sanctify us completely until the day of His triumphant second coming.

This is good news! And this is the only reason why nothing in the world can separate us from the love of God. And because of that, there is a real, unshakable security for the Christian.

There is hope for our wearied and restless hearts. We can have security now, even in the midst of pain, suffering, confusion, and whatever else life throws our way.

God’s love for us is eternal in and through Jesus Christ. There is nothing, absolutely nothing that can change that. Ever.

May this life-changing truth sink in and penetrate the inner chambers of our hearts and bring about real hope and peace and joy and confidence. May we ponder and think and feel and rejoice in this amazing truth—that God’s love for us is real and permanent.

And that my dear friend is an unchanging truth.

A Sweet Conversation

Change Is In the Air

Yesterday I made the following post on Facebook:

Just spent the whole morning teaching my dad about the Mosaic Law, its purpose, and how the gospel fulfills it. After all these years, we finally had a meaningful conversation. The expression on his face as he began to see—from Scripture—the glory of the new covenant was priceless. Glory be to God! ‪#‎ForeverThankful‬

Let me share with you the story behind this post. It all started early in the morning. I was trying to decide whether or not to go to work. After giving it some thought, I decided to stay at home. It was a tough decision. Maybe laziness or the fact that I was restless over finals week had something to do with it, I do not know.

I noticed that my father was off from work as well (coincidence?). After breakfast, we quickly started a conversation that, to my surprise, would last for about four hours. Lunch time came and we were still going. Can you believe that even food did not stop us? Now that is crazy!

Why did we spend so much time talking? What was the subject of our conversation? Sports? Nope. Politics? Nope. News? Entertainment? Nope. We talked for four hours about the Bible, in particular, topics like: the Abrahamic covenant, the Mosaic Law, the gospel, the new covenant, justification by faith, and the person and work of the Holy Spirit, among others. These are biblical concepts/truths that my father has had difficulty understanding and reconciling over the years, so the fact that we were able to talk about them was super encouraging.

This was the first time my father and I had a fruitful conversation. It was awesome. I do not remember the exact order, but we read and talked about passages such as: Genesis 12:1-3, Habakkuk 2:4, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:22-28, Mark 14:22-26, 2 Corinthians 3 and 4, Matthew 22:34-40, and Galatians 3 and 4. (I share the Scripture references just in case you want to read them for yourself).

I asked him questions about the text and challenged him to dig in deeper by making observations and connections. He thought and processed through key concepts and themes. I gave him some feedback as we made our way through the passages, highlighting important truths along the way.

I was blessed. I did not care what time it was. This was a special moment ordained by God Himself. My heart was filled with joy when I saw how my father was getting it. He was being blown away by the truth of Scripture. He was connecting the dots for the first time. The expression on my father’s face was priceless. It was like if the “light bulb” in his mind turned on for the first time. I wish we would have recorded the conversation. It was a sweet moment–one I will never forget.

I had no idea this was going to happen. I did not plan for it, and neither did my father. I was surprised that we ended up talking for such a long period of time in one sitting without arguing or something.

I can honestly–and gratefully–say that I have witnessed some change in my family recently, especially over the last few months. My father and I talking about the Bible is just one example. God is on the move. He is doing something new in my family and I am so thankful for it.

Who is to receive credit for this change? Not me. No way. Yes, God used me, but He alone deserves all the credit. If there is anything God deserves is the glory due to His name. Change is in the air and there is one else to thank and praise but God alone.

Family As a Mission Field

If you or someone you know is having a hard time at home with family, please be encouraged: you are not alone. Family life can be very challenging at times. There is no doubt about that. What has helped me lately is realizing the fact that ministering to my family is the greatest investment I can make in life. God has been challenging me to see and approach my family from a different perspective–one that I am still trying to figure out how to live practically.

But nevertheless, I am starting to see my family as my mission field. God has given me a great opportunity to be a missionary to my family and bring the gospel to bear on every aspect of our lives. Will it look or feel perfect? No. In fact, it will be messy, hard, frustrating, and disappointing at times, but the effort is well worth it.

If you want to leave a legacy, make it your aim in life to impact your family. Invest your time and energy to build relationships with those who God has given you the privilege of doing life with on this earth. And what better day to start than today. Let’s go and make an eternal difference in the lives of those who matter the most–our families.

May God be glorified as we seek to humbly love and serve our families for the better.

Giving Generously

What does new covenant giving look like? For starters, it is different from the old covenant in that it is not really tied to numbers or percentages anymore. New covenant giving, when truly done right—i.e., when one is motivated by the gospel and moved by eternity and what is to come—is characterized by generosity.

New covenant giving should reflect the all-transforming reality of the new covenant under the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The truth is God has done a new, refreshing spiritual work in the lives of us believers. Shouldn’t our giving be impacted as well?

But how is the believer going to be motivated to not just give, but give generously? First of all, it starts with a right understanding of what giving is. The act of giving is, as Paul calls it, an “act of grace” (2 Cor. 8:6-7). Second, believers are encouraged to follow other believers’ example of generous, sacrificial giving. In this case, the Macedonian believers modeled this powerfully:

1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. (2 Corinthians 8:1-5; ESV).

For the Macedonian believers, giving was not an obligation, but a joyful opportunity to participate in helping the saints in Jerusalem and supporting Paul’s ministry (8:5). The Macedonian Christians did not just give; they gave over and above what was expected of them—giving to the Lord, first, and foremost; and then, to the apostle Paul and his ministry colleagues. And what is crazy is that the Macedonian believers begged to participate (8:4). Believers today are called to imitate this great example of giving and to model it for others to see, especially in and among our local churches.

Now, there is one more reason why a believer should be motivated to give and give generously. What is it? The person and work of Jesus Christ. Paul states, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (8:9). Jesus, being rich, became a servant and gave of himself for the sake of others (this includes you and me!). He is the biggest reason why believers should give generously.

We are called to give generously as a response to the gospel and as an expression of our love and gratitude to the Lord for His atoning work on our behalf. Jesus died on the cross and rose again from the dead for us. The truth is Jesus is the greatest giver of all time! He gave His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

As believers—who have been changed by the power of the Holy Spirit—we should be moved to give generously to the Lord, the local church, the spreading of the gospel, and to other worthy and noble causes that glorify God and seek to promote the well-being of others, Christians and non-Christians alike. But our giving should be characterized by wisdom (i.e., investing in eternity), integrity (especially within churches and non-profit ministries and organizations), and gospel-centered joy. After all, the Lord “loves a cheerful giver” (9:7).

Following Jesus

The call to follow Jesus as Messiah is a not an easy one. It is a costly and challenging invitation. Why? The call to follow Jesus is a call to die to self and to take up one’s cross. Then, and only then, can one truly began to follow the Messiah. We would be wise to hear and heed the heart-cutting, soul-penetrating, life-giving words of the Messiah Himself:

“If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:34b-35, HCSB).

The radical call to follow Jesus only makes sense in light of who Jesus is and what He has done for us. In other words, apart from the person and work of Jesus, the call to live a selfless and sacrificial life sounds a bit scandalous, counter-cultural, and altogether, impossible for one to live out in his or her own strength or wisdom.

It is important to note that Jesus’ call to follow Him comes right after Mark 8:27-30 and Mark 8:31-33—two important passages that share a light on the identity and mission of the Messiah.

In Mark 8:27-30, we see Jesus asking His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” (v. 27). After the disciples respond by stating the various opinions of the day, Jesus goes on to ask them directly, “who do you say that I am?” (emphasis added). Peter, standing up and speaking on behalf of the group, expressed the following: “You are the Messiah!” (v. 29). Peter got the right answer, but he—along with his fellow disciple buddies—misunderstood the Messiah’s God-given mission (at least during His first coming).

The predominant Jewish belief in regards to the Messiah was that he was to be a military/political leader, whose very coming meant the liberation from Roman oppression and the restoration of Israel’s kingdom.

But the Messiah had something else in mind. His primary purpose was not to bring about Rome’s demise, or the restoration of Israel’s earthly kingdom for that matter, but to bring about spiritual restoration. If this spiritual restoration was not going to come through military conquest, then how exactly was this going to be accomplished? The second passage will give us insight to this question.

In Mark 8:31-33, we read that Jesus began to teach His disciples the real purpose for His first coming. What was it? Mark puts it this way:

“Then He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, be killed, and rise after three days” (v. 31).

The Messiah was supposed to suffer and die? That cannot be right. This was God’s great plan? Yes, that is correct. Jesus taught His disciples that He must suffer and die at the hands of Israel’s religious leaders. This is what the disciples did not understand, let alone believe. The Old Testament alluded to the Messiah’s suffering (look at Isaiah 52 and 53, for example) but the majority of the people—including His disciples—was not able to discern what this meant.

Jesus is, as Peter exclaimed, the Messiah and His God-ordained task was to suffer and to die. But it did not stop right there. Jesus was going to rise from the dead on the third day. Jesus was going to conquer the grave through the resurrection. And this was the way in which He was going to bring about spiritual restoration to His people.

God, through the person and work of Jesus, was restoring people to a right relationship with Himself. And this was only made possible through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Having said all of that, the call to follow Jesus, then, is a call to restoration; a call, indeed, to life—but life through the way of the cross. The call to follow Jesus is a call to be restored and to be part of the kingdom of God. For this, one must, as mentioned above, deny himself, take up one’s cross, and follow the Messiah.

But this is hard. We would be fooling ourselves if we say otherwise. It is our natural tendency to be self-centered. Jesus’ call to follow Him is a direct attack at our selfish nature. Jesus’ call to abandon our selfish way of living does not only sound outrageous and unappealing, but also foolish and out-of-this-world crazy, especially in today’s self-absorbed, self-obsessed society.

A call to die is not an easy pill to swallow. But following Jesus is also a glorious call. How? The fact that Jesus gives an open invitation to follow Him as Lord is an expression of God’s amazing grace. When was the last time you and I saw the call to die to self, take up our cross, and follow the Jewish Messiah as an expression of grace? But this is exactly what it is! The call to follow Jesus is an opportunity to experience the undeserved grace of Almighty God.

Many Christians today can testify that choosing to follow Jesus as Lord has been the most important decision they have ever made. The truth is one cannot be drawn—by the power of the Holy Spirit—to accept and follow the Messiah and not have his or her life radically transformed.

To follow the Messiah is—as challenging as it may sound and be—the single, most important, heart-changing, worldview-shaking, spiritually-satisfying, and life-transforming decision/commitment one can make in life.

The invitation is open. The call is challenging, yet glorious. Let’s follow Jesus as Messiah for the glory of God and for our joy. Amen.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness. What a hard thing to live out! The truth is we should forgive others, no matter who they are or what they have done. That is challenging. How can we forgive others when they use, abuse, disrespect, or mistreat us? You may be asking, “How can I forgive someone, when he or she hurts me emotionally and/or physically?”

If we are honest, forgiving others is a hard, and sometimes impossible, thing to do, especially in our own strength. I know that this will not be surprising at all, but here it goes. Are you ready? We all make mistakes! Yes, all of us. As in, every individual in the world. In other words, no one is perfect. We all mess up or blow it, one way or another.

But guess what? This is inevitable! You and I will continue to make mistakes in life because we are sinners and we live in a fallen world. That is just plain ol’ reality! I think that recognizing this and admitting our own sin is the very first step in growing and learning to forgive others.

So, since we live in a fallen and sinful world, where there is the possibility to get hurt by others, and others getting hurt by us (whether it is intentionally or unintentionally), the real question, I think, we should be asking is: how will we respond when others make mistakes or treat us in a negative way?

You and I can respond the usual (and common) way—by treating others harshly, acting out in revenge, calling them out, etc. But what good will that do? Absolutely nothing! It will just start a never-ending cycle of arguments and debates, mutual confrontation, and exchange of inappropriate, and sometimes, demeaning terms. Who wants to get caught up in that mess? Not me!

In such a case, no one wins! But there is hope because of Jesus! You and I can start living differently and make a difference, by treating others the way we would want them to treat us. This is called “The Golden Rule” for a reason—because it works!

Jesus said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12, NIV).

Do you want to be treated well? Do you want to be treated with respect, honor and dignity? (I hope you answer those questions with a big and loud, YES!) Well, do the same to others, but take the initiative and do it first. Do not wait for others to change. You and I are called to a new life in Christ first, and then we are called to live that new life with others.

To sum it up, forgiveness is hard and challenging but not impossible. God can (and will) give us the strength, courage and humility to love others and forgive them for their sin against us. If you are in Christ, you have been forgiven of your sins. Yes, that is right! You have been forgiven of your sins because of what Jesus has done on the cross. That my friend, is called grace!

If you and I have tasted the unconditional love of God, and have been forgiven much, doesn’t it make sense to do the same to others—to love and forgive them for their sin, no matter who they are or what they have done? (Yes, I just repeated what I said at the beginning, so what?).

The Apostle Paul stated, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13).

If we practice forgiveness, others will be dramatically impacted by our testimony and willingness to do such a thing. They will come to the realization that our ability to forgive is initiated by God, inspired by the Spirit, and fueled by the love of Jesus. And for that we praise and worship the King!

For His glory,

Jonnathan Menendez

**P.S. Feel free to leave a comment or prayer request below.**

Some Thoughts on Appearance

I was reading Scripture the other day and came upon a passage that struck me as fascinating. The passage, when originally written, was specifically for the ladies, but the principle applies to men as well.

“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:3-4, ESV).

An observation I made was that the problem is not the act of adorning, but how you go about it, or better said, what type of adorning you will primarily focus on.

In this passage, the apostle Peter seems to emphasize the importance of the inner person. In today’s culture, people praise and admire external and superficial appearance. Why? Well, for starters, all we see and hear through the media is culture’s unbiblical perspective of beauty.

We are constantly being bombarded with an unhealthy view and definition of beauty (just look at Hollywood). Believe it or not, we are heavily influenced by such a view to the point that we judge ourselves and others based on that standard.

In a culture that values superficial appearance, one has to ask, “Where are those who are known for their inner person and good character and moral values?” “Where are those who strive to be godly and pure and modest?”

True beauty comes from within a person and it flows outward. Now, do not misunderstand me, there is nothing wrong with adorning ourselves. (I think that God is pleased when we look and feel good about our appearance. Wouldn’t you agree?) But the problem is that sometimes we make our appearance our number one priority and focus, to the extent of neglecting our own personal character development (and worst, we forget about God).

True beauty begins and ends with God. Let me explain what I mean. You and I were created in the image of God and that is not just an old, outdated Bible fact, but a relevant one that has many implications for our daily lives.That means that you and I do not have to look a certain way to have value and meaning because we already have it in Jesus Christ. That’s revolutionary!

You and I are beautiful in God’s eyes. Now, let me be honest, it is so hard to accept that truth sometimes because we have the tendency to base our worth and value on performance alone.

To sum things up, our definition of beauty should come from God, and our perception of beauty should be grounded and firmly rooted in our identity in Christ (read Eph. 1:3-14) and not in our external appearance.

What a difference it will make when you and I accept the truth of God’s Word—that we are beautifully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)—and live in light of that reality!