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God’s Vision for the Future – A Brief Reflection on Habakkuk

Today’s world is filled with great affliction, violence, and corruption. Habakkuk’s world, in the 7th century B.C., was the same in many ways. We, along with Habakkuk, might be tempted to look around and complain and cry out:

How long, Lord, must I call for help and you do not listen or cry out to you about violence and you do not save? Why do you force me to look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Oppression and violence are right in front of me. Strife is ongoing, and conflict escalates. This is why the law is ineffective and justice never emerges. For the wicked restrict the righteous; therefore, justice comes out perverted. (Hab. 1:2-4, CSB)

From our vantage point, everything seems messy and, at times, out of control. Is there hope that things will change? From God’s vantage point, the great injustice and corruption that plague our world shall all pass away.

One day—in His appointed time—God will judge evil in all its forms. When it’s all set and done, the whole earth will know about God and what He’s all about (2:14). All of man’s injustices and corruption—and what he has accomplished through them—will come to nothing (v. 13).

Just like Habakkuk in his day, we are called today to walk by faith (v. 4) in who God is and what He has promised, despite the injustice around us. God’s vision for the future will come to pass (v. 3), even if it takes a long time. And when everything does not function the way it should, we can rejoice in the God of our salvation (3:17-18). He’s the one who will strengthen us and make us reach new heights (v. 19) in the midst of the chaos all around us. Why?

The ultimate righteous one, Jesus Christ, has dealt with the greatest injustice of all—our sin and rebellion against our Creator. By turning away from our sin and by following Jesus, we have and are coming to know God and this knowledge has, is, and will transform us for the better.

There is hope that this life-changing knowledge of God will spread throughout the earth, transforming countless individuals and families from every people group and language. As Habakkuk cried out, “Revive your work in these years; make it known in these years. In your wrath remember mercy!” (3:2)

We aim to live life in light of God’s vision for the future by knowing God ourselves and making Him know anywhere and everywhere by the power and love that He generously supplies to those who trust in Him.

God’s glory—the knowledge of the sum total of His attributes—will cover the whole earth and bring about His original plan to fruition, namely, to bless all the nations of the earth through salvation in Jesus Christ (Gen. 12:3; Gal. 3:13-14; Rom. 4:13-25).

Next time you’re in front of an ocean (or a large body of water), remember the promise that one day the knowledge of God’s glory will cover the earth in an unmeasurable and unfathomable way.

I want my life to point to God’s glory. Here and now. How about you? Is your life pointing to God’s glory and what He has, is, and will accomplish to redeem this world of ours?

P.S. For more on the life and book of Habakkuk, check out these free resources from The Bible Project here. You can watch their amazing animated video below:

 

 

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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.

God (Re) Visits His People

As I was reading How God Became King by N.T. Wright this week, I was struck by the fact that the story of Jesus is the story of Israel’s God visiting His people. The truth is the story of Jesus can only be rightly understood in light of the story of Israel. Why? Simply put: the story of Israel finds its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

The story of Jesus is really the story of Israel’s God re-visiting His people. During the exile, the presence of God had departed from the temple due to Israel’s idolatry and wickedness. The four hundred years between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament is known as the four hundred “silent” years because there was no prophet or divine revelation of any sort. During this time, history was unfolding of course, but God seemed distant.

Mark the evangelist intentionally begins his gospel account by reminding us of God’s promised visit as told through the prophets Malachi and Isaiah:

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 3:1; ESV).

And in Isaiah we read:  “A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God …” (40:3).

Time for a pop quiz. Who was going to visit the people of Israel according to both Isaiah and Malachi? Yes, that is right: God. God was going to re-visit His people! This is huge! This is how explosively encouraging the beginning of the gospel of Mark is. I can only imagine how encouraging this was for the Jewish people during Malachi and Mark’s time.

As I was reading Mark 11:15-19 this week, one phrase stood out to me:

15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. 19 And when evening came they went out of the city.

And he entered the temple. It hit me there and then: God was re-visiting His temple in the person of Jesus! God was re-visiting His people in the coming of Jesus in general, but here we see, God re-visiting His temple in particular. Malachi’s prophecy was being fulfilled before their very eyes.

Jesus had been preparing His disciples for the moment in which He would enter Jerusalem and all events associated with it would unfold as written in the Old Testament Scriptures.

The disciples were told that the Son of Man was going to suffer, die, and rise from the dead not once, not twice, but three times (read Mark chapters 8-10). In Mark 11:15-19, we see Jesus entering the temple for the first time in the gospel of Mark. The Lord was finally visiting His temple in the person of Jesus Christ, and unfortunately, they completely missed it.

Now, what does Jesus say and do inside the temple? Jesus entered the temple and began to cleanse it. Jesus was bringing God’s judgment to bear on the corruption of the temple. “Why judgment?” you may be wondering. This may seem strange at first, but here we have to go back to Malachi to get more insight. After sharing about God’s promise to re-visit His people, Malachi goes on to say:

“But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.  He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the  Lord” (3:2-3).

Here is the main point: God was, indeed, re-visiting His people in the person and work of Jesus Christ. This was both encouraging, but frightening as well. Why? God’s visitation meant that His life-giving presence was returning to His people alongside His purifying judgment to bring about restoration and renewal.

 

 

Deeper

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” —A. W. Tozer

Knowing about God is one thing; knowing God personally is a whole different story. The bottom line is people need to know God in a personal and intimate way. Head-knowledge and the mere approval of biblical doctrine will not suffice it anymore. We need to encounter the living God in fresh and powerful new ways.

The truth of the matter is we are all desperate for more—more of something that can quench our spiritual thirst and satisfy our spiritual hunger. We need something that can blow our minds away, changes our hearts, and transform our lives forever.

Unfortunately, our Christian gatherings can sometimes be dry, shallow, and superficial. Something needs to change. Something needs to happen…and soon.

What is this something that must happen? It is a lot simpler than we think. The answer may (or may not) surprise you. What we desperately need is a double dose of, none other than, God Himself, and a more biblical view of who He truly is.

Programs, gatherings, and special activities (as good as they may be), will not ultimately fulfill us. We need to possess a richer, more profound understanding of who God is—His character, attributes, and dealings with humankind—all of which has its ultimate fulfillment and consummation in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

But it doesn’t stop right there. We must allow that knowledge of God to penetrate the inner, most personal chambers of our heart and soul and bring about real, positive change in our lives. This will not happen instantly or naturally, but prayerfully as we strive to live in submission to, and obedience of, the Holy Spirit.

The incredibly good news is more of Him is available! But in order for us to know and enjoy Him more, we need to dive in. We need to go deeper—deeper into the oasis of His grace, mercy, and infinite love.

Are you ready to go deeper?

For His glory,

Jonnathan Menendez

It Is Hard to Share Our Faith

Yesterday I had another great conversation with a friend from school. My friend is not a follower of Jesus, but she is interested and curious enough to listen and have a conversation about God.

We became friends last fall, and since then, we have had several fruitful and enjoyable conversations about Jesus, life, faith, relationships, and the like.

It is always a joy for me to connect with others and hear their stories, passions and dreams. I find this fulfilling and energizing, especially when Jesus is the center of it all. I could spend hours and hours talking about Jesus, without realizing (and noticing) that time is passing by. (I mean, come on, time flies when you are having fun, right?).

Every morning (well, at least when I remember), I always like to pray for God to give me an opportunity to talk, pray, encourage, teach, disciple, motivate, and love others.

To this day, God has been faithful in answering that prayer. It always amazes me to see how God works in and through my life, for His glory and for the good of others.

As I was sitting in my car, writing and thanking God for a wonderful day at school, I asked myself the following question: Does my friend, Jessie (not her real name), know me more for what I am against rather than what I am for? It was something to think about.

What about you? Do others know you mostly for what you are against or for what you are for? When others hear your name, what do they think of? What do they say?

It is so tragic to hear that there is a lot of Christians who are known mostly for what they are against, and not for what they are for. This is a big turn off for the unbeliever and the skeptic.

There are so many people out there—neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family members—who are eager to hear more about Jesus, but because we are too busy proclaiming what we are against, they tend to walk away without having the opportunity to hear about the gospel.

This is due primarily because of the barriers that we sometimes create due to our lack of communication, patience, and if we are honest, love. Such walls prevent us from having gospel-centered conversations and fruitful dialogue, which is essential for building long-lasting, and intentional relationships.

As believers, we know God’s eternal and unchanging truth, and we are responsible to communicate it; but, we must communicate it in a loving and kindly way, not by forcing or imposing it on others against their will. We must imitate our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and be humble about it.

Speaking the truth and sharing the gospel with others is not easy. If I told you otherwise, I would be lying. There are times when my friend and I have our disagreements and points of tension.

Sometimes she does not accept or agree with what I say, but at the end, we walk away thanking each other for the chance to talk and converse and build a stronger friendship.

Next time we pray, let’s ask God to give us more opportunities to share the gospel. I believe there will be a time to unapologetically speak God’s truth, and there will also be a time to show others what we are for rather than what we are against.

Now, let me be clear. The problem is not speaking the truth, but when and how we go about it. We must be careful and wise enough to know when to speak and when to listen.

As believers, we are called to preach the gospel, both in word and in deed, just like Jesus did. Each opportunity is unique and there is not a “one size fits all” method of sharing the gospel.

How we go about sharing the gospel will vary depending on the situation we are involved in, and the people we are ministering to.

The message—the gospel of Jesus Christ—does not change, but our communication methods must adapt and adjust according to the need of the moment.

Sometimes, we are called to defend the truth against atheism, and at other times, we are called to preach the gospel by showing love and compassion. Both are necessary and important when it comes to reaching out to others.

It will take wisdom to know what to do in a given situation. When an opportunity arises, and God puts someone in your path, take full advantage of it and tell him or her all about Jesus and His unconditional, life-transforming love.

You can do it! I believe in you, and so does God!

Do you have any similar examples or stories about sharing the gospel with others? If so (and I know you do), please write a comment and share it with me below. I would love to hear all about it.

For His glory,

Jonnathan Menendez

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.**