Eyes in the Skies

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An officer in a police helicopter spotted a car speeding down the Interstate. He radioed his partner on the ground and the patrol officer in the car stopped the speeder and began writing a citation.
“How in the world did you know I was speeding?” the man asked.
The patrol officer didn’t say anything but pointed skyward.
“Aww,” the man moaned. “You mean, He’s turned against me, too?”

Evidently, the speeder had a guilty conscience. He immediately thought of God’s ever-watching eyes when the officer pointed upward. Not realizing that he was actually caught speeding by the police in the helicopter, he concluded that God was punishing him for breaking the law.

The speeder was correct to think that God saw him and knew what he was doing. The Bible teaches that God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omipotent. The prefix, omni, comes from the Latin word, omnis, which means, “all.” Therefore, God is all- knowing (omniscient); all-present (omnipresent); and all-powerful (omnipotent).

Since God is perfect in knowledge, presence, and power, he is able to look down from his dwelling place in heaven and see everything, everywhere, all the time, at the same time, (1 Kings 8:30). This is hard for us to understand since we are naturally limited, corrupt, and mortal. But God’s perfect nature is such that we cannot physically hide from God. Neither can we hide our thoughts and attitudes and plans from God. His eyes are always watching us no matter what we do or where we go from the time we’re conceived, to the time we take our first breath until we breath our last. He can even see us sleeping in our graves.

Here are the many Bible passages that refer to God’s ability to see everything (New American Standard Bible, NASB):

1 Chronicles 16:9. “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”

Job 31:4. “Does He not see my ways, And number all my steps?”

Job 34:21. “For His eyes are upon the ways of a man, and He sees all his steps.”

Psalm 32:8. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.”

Proverbs 15:3. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good.”

Jeremiah 16:17. “For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity concealed from My eyes.”

Jer. 23:23-24. “Am I a God who is near,” declares the Lord, “And not a God far off? Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?” declares the Lord. “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the Lord.

Zechariah 4:10. “For who has despised the day of small things? But these seven will be glad when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel—these are the eyes of the Lord which range to and fro throughout the earth.”

Hebrews 4:13. “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”

A close look at Psalm 139 reveals all three of God’s “omni” attributes:

Verses 1 – 6 describe God’s knowledge: “O LORD, You know it all.”

Verses 7-12 describe God’s presence: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? …You are there.” In heaven, in hell [sheol, the grave], at early dawn, under the sea, in the dark, in the light, God sees us.

Verses 13-24 describe God’s creative power: I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” He sees us being formed in our mother’s womb and knows all the days we’ll live even before we’re born.

Human nature is such that we don’t always remember the all-seeing eyes of God. This was the mistake Adam and Eve made when they tried to hide from God after disobeying him in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:8-10). We also remember Jacob who had such a stirring dream that he was led to declare, “Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it,’” (Gen. 28:16). Then, there was Jonah who thought he could escape God’s presence by sailing another route instead of going to Nineveh where he was supposed to preach (Jonah 1:3). But he realized the futility of his action after God sent a life-threating storm at sea and Jonah was then swallowed by a “great fish,” (Jonah 1:10-17; 2:1-10).

Knowing that God is always watching us, keeps us from doing the things we know we should not do, like speeding. Therefore, we do our best to obey and honor him at all times, calling on him to “search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way,” (Psalm 139:23-24). We can save ourselves from getting into many troubles we create for ourselves by not forgetting that God’s eyes have perfect vision. And he never misses or overlooks anything. His eyes do not blink even for a moment, therefore, all are called upon to repent (Acts 17:30-31).

If we’re not mindful of God’s eyes in the skies, we miss out on the blessings that come with our awareness of his presence. Christians find comfort in the fact that since God always sees us, he is not very far from us (Acts 17:24-28). We can call on him to guide us and provide us with help in times of need since his eyes are never closed in sleep (Psalm 121:1-4). God sees us when we’re sad and counts every tear drop that we shed (Psalm 56:8). God looks upon the heart and sees the potential quality of each one (1 Samuel 16:7). Jesus said there’s not one sparrow falling to the ground that God doesn’t see, “So, do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows,” (Matt. 10:29-31). How wonderful to know that when God sees those who’ve accepted Christ as their Redeemer and Savior, he looks upon them with mercy and forgiveness (Romans 3:20-24; Ephesians 2:13).

Indeed, God sees and knows everything about us and he loves us just like this song says:

http://youtu.be/XU0-MMRE01U

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Risk and Faith

leap of faith

A Leap of Faith

 

A story is told of a general in the Persian army who always gave his condemned prisoners a choice: Either they could chose a firing squad or the black door. Most picked the firing squad. The prisoners were never told what was behind the black door. Few ever chose the unknown of the black door. When asked what was on the other side of the black door, the general answered, “Freedom, and I’ve known only a few men brave enough to take it.”

This story begs a question: If a prisoner chose to pass through the black door, would he be taking a risk or extending his faith? I ask the question because some put risk on par with faith. If we, as Christians, put faith in God are we taking a risk?

Consider the word, “risk.” Synonyms for “risk” as a noun include, chance · uncertainty · unpredictability · precariousness · instability · insecurity · perilousness · riskiness · possibility · chance · probability · likelihood · danger · peril.
( thereformedbroker.com/2015/11/20/the-etymology-of-risk/ )

Synonyms for “risk” as a verb include, endanger · imperil · jeopardize · hazard · gamble · gamble with · chance · put on the line · put in jeopardy. (ibid.)

Consider the word, “faith,” from a Biblical perspective. The most concise definition of “faith” is in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” (New American Standard Bible, NASB). It is observed that words like “assurance” (“substance”) and “conviction” (“evidence”) are not among the synonyms for “risk.”

As we compare these two words, we can say that one may take risks but it may not be out of faith. Gambling, for example, is taking risks because it relies on chance rather than faith in God. Purposely driving through a red light at a busy intersection is not so much an act of faith as it is foolishness for it needlessly runs the risk of injury or even death not only for the driver but for anyone else who becomes a victim in the likelihood of an accident. This is a bad risk. On the other hand, running into a burning building to save the life of someone trapped inside would be considered a good risk since it’s for a good reason. Risking one’s life to save someone else’s life is a sign of faith based on love and sacrifice. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends,” (John 15:13, New American Standard Bible. NASB).

While there are good risks and bad risks, faith is always the best choice in all situations. For example, we have no verse in the Bible that says something like, “We walk by risk and not by sight.” Rather, it says, “We walk by faith and not by sight,” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Faith has deeper meaning than risk because faith through Christ is much more reliable.

Take Abraham, for example. He was commended not for taking a risk but for moving forward by faith. Hebrews 11:8-10 says, “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”

Abraham had a solid belief and trust in God because he had faith. Had he merely taken a risk when he left his home and lived in an alien land, then the outcome of his endeavor would have been unpredictable. But because he was called by God, he did not have to rely on chance. Rather, Abraham knew, in his heart and mind, that God will fulfill what he promised because he had faith. A day will come when Abraham and all the faithful will receive what God has promised according to his Word (Hebrews 11:39-40; Matthew 8:11).

The assurance and substance of faith outweighs the risk and provides the hope of salvation. In fact, we are not saved by risk but by faith through the gift of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8). The three features of conversion are faith, repentance, and baptism. We start with faith which comes by hearing God’s Word (Rom. 10:17). Our response entails repentance of our sins, which is then followed by water baptism in the name of Jesus. By giving our lives to Jesus Christ, we are given the Holy Spirit to spiritually grow in faith and service for the Lord (Acts 2:38).

Faith from the standpoint of conversion is not the same as taking a risk. True faith includes belief, confidence, trust, and surrender, as explained by the late Dr. Alva G. Huffer in Systematic Theology. Dr. Huffer points out that faith “is related to the three elements of man’s personality. Belief is related to man’s intellect; confidence is related to man’s sensibilities; trust and surrender are related to man’s will. Having true faith, the Christian will believe in God and Jesus, and essential truths of the Bible; he will have complete confidence in God and Jesus; he will surrender himself to Christ as Lord and will trust in Christ as Savior.”

With such faith, we are able to learn truth and experience the reward of growing in God’s grace. He provides us with the joy and satisfaction of following him as he fill us with his Spirit or Power each day of our lives. No matter the good times or bad times, we have the opportunity to enjoy the blessings that come by having faith in God through Jesus, his Son.

Faith will enrich our lives as we prepare for that blessed Day of Jesus’ return when he establishes God’s eternal Kingdom. Faith is what sustains us with the hope of the resurrection to immortality when the trumpet sounds at Jesus’ second coming (1 Thess. 4:16-18). We choose to live by faith as we never want to risk losing it by following the ways of the world (1 John 2:15-17).

Here is Hillsong singing, “Faith”: http://youtu.be/GOr46CLT2-Q

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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A Good Resolution

happy-new-year-card-colorful-fireworks-animated-gif-image-2

Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet? Some make them; others don’t. Though resolutions are made with good intentions, they are often not kept. But those who do keep theirs can be pleased for their stick-to-it-ness. Are you one of those persons who have made and kept a resolution in the past or tried yet failed to fulfill it?

Some might not bother to make New Year’s resolutions because they cite that it has pagan origins. According to history, the ancient Babylonians held a festival honoring their gods for their new year which began, not in January, but in March when the crops were planted. They prayed to their gods to keep their promises of paying their debts and return anything they borrowed from their neighbors. They were afraid that if they broke their promises, the gods would punish them throughout the year.

When the Roman Empire ruled the world, the emperor, Julius Caesar changed the calendar which was  no longer based on the moon but the sun. This move made January first the beginning of the year rather than March first. 

In the Middle Age the church didn’t recognize certain Roman festivals because of their pagan background. New Year’s was, therefore, celebrated in states on various dates  throughout Medieval Europe including March 25 and December 25. Then, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII changed the calendar back to January first as the official starting day of the new year. Although other countries, cultures, and religions may not all celebrate January first as the New Year, most of the world continues to recognize it as the official date. And with it the tradition of making resolutions continues, as well. http://www.history.com/news/the-history-of-new-years-resolutions

As I see it,  it is perfectly fitting for a Christian to make a resolution whether it be at the start of the New Year or any other time. First, consider the definition of “resolution.” According to the dictionary it means, “Firm determination; something resolved, esp. a decision or expression of opinion adopted by a deliberative body; a solving, as of a problem.” Resolution, noun, is from the word “resolute,” an adjective, meaning, “marked by firm determination: unwavering.” The verb form of “resolution” is the word, “resolve”: “to make or cause to make a firm decision; to state formally in a resolution; to separate into component parts; to find a solution to; to deal with successfully: settle.”

Second, the meaning of “resolution” provides us with several important points to remember when we make New Year’s resolutions: (1) There must be a problem or dissatisfaction of some kind which we sincerely believe is in need of correction or improvement; (2) We must isolate and identify the problem and find ways to solve it; (3) We must be unwavering in our decision to solve the problem; (4) We must be firmly determined to carry out our decision; (5) We must be successful as we carry out that decision, for success breeds success.

Third, we find that a resolution is more than wishful thinking. It’s more than merely “turning over a new leaf.” And it’s more than a whimsical attempt to change things in our lives. Indeed, it entails a serious aim we resolve to accomplish.

One resolution that is excellent for Christians to adopt is from the Apostle Paul’s testimony in Philippians 3:10-14,

… (10) that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; (11) in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (12) Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. (13) Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, (14) I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (New American Standard Bible, NASB)

When it comes to forgetting those things which are behind, this seems like an impossible resolution to keep. There are some things that are not easy to forget although we know we should do it.

It’s been written that it is not easy to apologize, begin over, be unselfish, take advice, admit error, face a sneer, be charitable, keep trying, be considerate, avoid mistakes, endure success, profit by mistakes, forgive and forget, think first and then act, keep out of a rut, make the best of little, subdue an unruly temper, maintain a high standard, shoulder a deserved blame, recognize the silver lining. But it always pays.

Since it pays to do these actions which are not easy, we must have firm determination and unwavering desire to do them. It’s a matter of the mind. The Apostle Peter said, “Prepare your minds for action,” (1 Peter 1:13, NASB) The mind can play tricks on us if we rationalized too much. It can fool us into thinking that we can’t put the past behind us; we can’t forgive others for what they’ve done to us; we can’t change our personalities; we can’t get out of the rut we’re in; we can’t be better off than before. But these can’t’s can be turned into cans when we resolve to change our attitude by saying, like the Apostle Paul, “I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” (Phil. 4:13).

Through the power of God in Jesus Christ, we CAN forget what lies behind and reach forward to what lies ahead. A good resolution is one that moves forward without gazing backward. Someone remarked, “You cannot walk backward into the future.” Remember the movie, “Back to the Future?” It was very entertaining to imagine that someone went back into the past when their parents were teenagers, but it’s all make-believe. The reality is that we cannot go back in time, so we must move ahead into the future.

How do we move forward, then? It includes, pressing toward the mark “for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  What is “the mark,” “the prize,” and “the high calling”?

“The mark” is the translation of a Greek word which indicates “that on which one fixes his gaze.” In classical Greek, it was commonly used as a mark for shooting at, sort of like a bullseye on a target. Interestingly, sin means to “miss the mark.” Instead of sinning, we submit to Christ and, therefore, hit the bullseye by following his instructions.

“The prize” is what we obtain if we hit the mark. The final reward of our resolution is receiving the promise of eternal life. Jesus said, “The words I speak to you, they are full of the Holy Spirit [divine power] and they are life,” (John 6:63). The prize consists of the benefits for obeying the words of Christ and getting ready for his second coming (Luke 12:35-48; Revelation 22:12, “Look, my coming is soon! My reward is with me!”).

“The high calling of God in Christ Jesus,” is God’s call to join the Christian race. The “high” or “upward calling” of God is the call to conversion which Paul heard on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-31).  Paul’s conversion to Christ reveals a pattern of change. His resolution to follow the call of Christ is our resolution, too.

As we prepare to cross the threshold of another new year, let us take up the challenge to AIM for the mark, OBTAIN the prize, and HEED the calling of God in Christ. This would be a good resolution for the start of a new year. Don’t you agree?

Here is “We’ll Be Faithful,” by Hosanna! Music: https://youtu.be/ceyQTokSSpw

Happy New Year!
Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

  

    

 

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Advent and ‘Peace With One Another’

Peace And Joy

The last two posts we’ve been discussing peace with God and the peace of God in connection with the advent of Jesus Christ. Jesus was born to give us peace with God so that we could enter into a relationship that heals broken relationships and builds happy lives. Jesus was also born to give us the peace of God so that we don’t have to fear the unknown but anticipate the joyous future that is to come through him. When you combine peace with God and the peace of God you are, therefore, able to have peace with one another. Like someone said, “Peace with God helps mightily in living peaceably with men.”

This principle of peace helps to explain why the world is not at peace. The world does not know God and, thus, it cannot achieve lasting peace. It took a special birth to give the hope that “peace on earth, good will toward men” is going to come someday. This message is so urgent in view of all the unrest in the world.

Consider one person’s account of world events:

The people were being heavily taxed, and faced every prospect of a sharp increase to cover expanding military expenses. The threat of world domination by a cruel, ungodly, power-intoxicated band of men was ever just below the threshold of consciousness. Moral deterioration had corrupted the upper levels of society and was moving rapidly into the broad base of the populace. Peace propaganda was heard everywhere in the midst of preparations for war. The latest rulers were covering the landscape with their statues and images, invoking a subtle form of state-worship. Intense nationalistic feeling was clashing openly with new and sinister forms of imperialism. Conformity was the spirit of the age. Government handouts were being used with increasing lavishness to keep the population from rising up and throwing the leaders. Interest rates were spiraling upward in the midst of an inflated economy. External religious observance was considered a political asset. An abnormal emphasis was being placed upon sports and athletic competitions. Social life centered around the banquet and the pool. Racial tension was the breaking point.

Sounds like something you’d hear on TV news or read from an on-line report, doesn’t it? You’d think it’s describing world conditions today. But think again. The account goes on to say,

In such a time and amid such a people, a child was born to a migrant couple who had just signed up for a fresh round of taxation and who were soon to become political exiles. The child was called, among other names, the Prince of Peace.

Yes, this was the state of world affairs when Jesus entered the scene at his first advent. And yet, when he comes at his second advent, he will change the world so that it will no longer be in such a state. You could say that the child born in the stable will someday change an unstable world and make it permanently stable. For the Prophet Isaiah wrote,

There will be no end to the increase of his government or of peace. On the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this (Isa. 9:7).

Just think of it: Jesus the Messiah or Christ will rule over the nations with power and authority and establish world-wide peace. This is the peace to which the angels were referring when they heralded the birth of Christ. And it was presented with joy that will come to all the world.

When believers in this present age accept Jesus into their lives, they begin their quest for the day the Prince of Peace comes. The peace of God and peace with God fills our hearts so that we get a tiny taste of that future peace by experiencing it in our own lives.

Jesus promises us this inner peace. He said he would give us HIS peace: “MY peace I give to you…” (John 14:27). It’s an important feature produced by the Spirit  (Galatians 5:22-26). And thus, as we live Spirit-filled lives, we strive to live peaceably with all persons, just as Paul admonished the church:  “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men….Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,” (Rom. 12:18, 21).

To show the influence that Christ has on those who are able to be at peace with one another, there were these two monks. The two monks lived together in perfect harmony and accord. But these two were getting tired of the monotony of the manner of life which moved one of them to say, “Let us get out of the groove of our humdrum round of daily tasks and do something quite different. Let us do as the world does.”
Having lived sequestered life so long, one of them inquired, “What does the world out there do?”
The other monk said, “Well, for one thing, the world quarrels.”
Having lived so long in the bondage of holy love, he had forgotten how to quarrel. So, he asked, “How does the world quarrel?”
The other monk replied, “See that stone over there? Place it between us and say, ‘This stone is mine.'”
Willing to accommodate his beloved friend, he said, “The stone is mine.”
Pausing for reflection and feeling the compulsion of years of harmonious friendship, the monk who suggested the quarrel concluded, “Well, brother, if the stone is thine, keep it.”
And thus ended the quarrel.

A lot of quarrels would end if the parties involved simply decided that harmony was more productive and satisfying. As a result, others would notice this, too. There’s no better way to convince others of the benefits of peace than to show it by the way we treat one another.

When we ask the Prince of peace into our lives, we will then be able to show the world what it means to be at peace with another. The righteous example of a life at peace with God does, indeed, have an influence on those who do not know what the true peace of God brings.

According to a Chines proverb,

If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character. If there be beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home. If there be harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. When there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.

The spread of peace starts in the heart and flows over toward others. It’s most difficult to enjoy the reward of peace through Christ if there is conflict within one’s inner self. Such unrest will cause divisions in personal relationships as well as social relationships. It explains why there is so much instability in the world, dividing families, communities, and nations.  

While we always hear the words “world peace” we know that it will never be permanently achieved by human effort but by God himself when his Son enters the world a second time. The babe that was born long ago was praised as the one who will ultimately bring it in due time.  And those who follow him will be right there with him to assist him when he does.

Jesus Christ is the peace-bringer. He brings peace with God that our lives may be cleansed from sin and changed for his glory. He brings us inner peace of mind through the Power of God. He brings peace to one another in preparation for that future reign of peace in his kingdom. No wonder the angels praised God! No wonder the shepherds were so excited upon hearing the Good News of his birth! No wonder we celebrate his birth with much joy and rejoicing!  

Here is a beautiful rendition of “Joy to the World,” in a live concert presented by Celtic Women: https://youtu.be/VDmIddF7DfQ

Have a Blessed Christmas!
Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

 

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Advent and ‘The Peace of God’

angels appear to shepherds

Imagine being at home alone in the night.  Suddenly, you hear a strange sound outside. You go to the window and peek through the blinds.  Peering into the darkness, you feel a twinge of terror trickling down your spine wondering what might be out there. You see something but can’t quite make out what it is. Fearing the unknown, you begin to feel the hairs standing straight up on your skin.

Anytime something happens unexpectedly in the night and we don’t know what is going on, we tend to feel afraid and somewhat puzzled. It was no different with the shepherds at the time Christ was born (Luke 2:8-20). There they were, watching over their flock of sheep on that starry night. Then, from out of nowhere, heavenly angels appear. No doubt, they were as scared as we would be if we heard a strange noise outside at night. Imagine if it were aliens invading us from outer space. Well, for the shepherds I’m sure it was just as chilling. Put yourself in their place: A glowing angel in dazzling light suddenly appearing before their very eyes. No wonder they were “terribly frightened!” Then, the next thing, they hear this angel make a strange announcement of Good News. It includes the joyful message that a baby born in a manger in nearby Bethlehem is the Messiah, the long-awaited deliverer of Israel. Then, dozens of these heavenly beings suddenly appear all together, lighting up the sky. All of them were heard, praising God in unison. What a sight to behold!

The shepherds must have received peace WITH God as they encountered the peace OF God that unforgettable night. At first, however, they were terribly afraid when the angel appeared. Fear is, indeed, not a very good feeling. It’s hard to be at peace when you are afraid. But the angel reassured them: “Do not be afraid.”

Unless you’ve ever encountered an angel, you can only try to imagine what this angel’s voice sounded like. I picture it as gentle, warm, and caring. It was probably soothing enough to bring a calming peace to the shepherds ears. Besides, the news the angel had to share was about great joy that is meant for all people to have.

Just think of it: Good news of joy from those who are gentle, warm, and caring does indeed calm our fears. It provides us with the peace of God in our hearts. It was the same kind of peace that Jesus would instill upon his disciples when they were troubled. “Peace be unto you,” he told them (John 14:27).

Following his resurrection, the apostles and other followers were afraid for their lives. Their troubled minds were undoubtedly wondering, If Jesus could be put to death, what more might happen to us next? Thus, we hear the Lord greeting the apostles three times with the words, “peace be unto you.” Once, is when he suddenly appeared out of nowhere while all of them, except Thomas, were secretly gathered together in a room behind locked doors. The second time is when he verified that he was the risen Lord by showing them the scars left on his body from the crucifixion. The third time was about eight days later, when he made another surprise appearance to all of them, including Thomas this time. (See John 20:19, 21, 26.) At each encounter, he calmed their fears and gave them renewed confidence that he is who he said he is: the Son of God who, through the power of the Spirit, would be with them always (Matt. 28:20).

He is with us always, too. Remember, even the title, “Emmanuel,” meaning, “God is with us,” (Isaiah 9:6-7) reflects that peace that our heavenly Father gives through his beloved Son. Why? Because we can trust God to deliver that peace found through Jesus Christ. It’s a peace that we can’t fully explain but we can experience it in times of unrest and fear.  Philippians 4:7 says, And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” (Berean Study Bible, BSB).

When the shepherd heard the Good News, their fear gave way to anticipation and joy. They immediately went down to the City of David. When they came to that babe wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger, they felt peace and joy: “And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen just as had been told them,” (Luke 2:20, New American Standard Version, NASB). They were no longer the same again. And neither are we when we encounter the One who was born to give us the peace of God.

Here is Heather Prusse singing, “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night”: https://youtu.be/nUDGR7_8Et0

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Advent and ‘Peace With God’

peace_with_god

The Advent Season would not feel like advent if it were not for the true story that included, the shepherds…the angels…the shining star…the wise men…the inn…the manger…and, of course, baby Jesus, his mother, Mary, and Joseph. And one word that is often associated with this story is peace.

When the angels heralded the birth of Christ, their theme was Peace. They appeared in peace to the shepherds. They praised God with a proclamation of peace. And they gave hope that the newborn child would one day bring peace to all the world. Here is what Luke records in Luke 2:8-15,

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” (New American Standard Bible, NASB)

All throughout the ages, ever since the angels proclaimed, “peace on earth, good will toward men,” the hearts and minds of people everywhere have been affected. We talk of it, sing of it, dream of it. Men, women, and children around the world hunger for peace, pray for peace, hope for peace. Peace-loving nations around the world diligently yearn for it. Political leaders seek ways to make a “deal” to achieve it.

In fact, the historical announcement that President Donald Trump has officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (signed on Dec. 6, 2017) has led some to believe that a pathway to peace is more possible now. In spite of those who fear that the eventual move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will be “catastrophic” and hinder the peace process, there are others who believe that this could lead to the pathway toward a two-state solution between the Palestinians and the Israelis resulting in peace.

The White House says the U.S. remains “deeply committed” toward achieving Mideast peace. Trump said that he intends “to do everything” in his power to help forge a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. He has instructed the State Department to begin the long process of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But Trump is fully aware of the opposition to his plans: “There will of course be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement. But we are confident that ultimately, as we work through these disagreements, we will arrive at a place of greater understanding and cooperation.”

Long before peace was on the lips of those want to achieve it in the Middle East today, the heavenly hosts announced it at the birth of Christ. The Good News they were declaring was the fact that “peace and good will toward men” will come through the One  born in the city of David. Yet, even before the shepherds heard the words of the angels that holy night, peace was prophesied over 700 years earlier by the prophet Isaiah: “For unto us a child is born, to us a Son is given…and his name shall be called…Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of his government or of peace…” (Isaiah 9:6-7a).

Jesus’ role as Prince of Peace will be fulfilled not only as our Peace Maker, but our Peace Bringer, as well. Jesus said to his followers, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, not let it be fearful,” (John 14:27). Jesus left us with the promise of peace and peace he will give us, not like the world gives. The world gives us false peace. It makes promises but doesn’t keep them. It makes treaties and breaks them. It makes claims that personal peace comes through self-indulgence yet it never fully satisfies. So, in reality, the peace the world gives is not really peace at all.

True peace is the kind that Jesus gives. Such peace continues to be received for those who find peace with God. Christ Jesus entered the world for this purpose according to Colossians 1:20-23. At his first advent, Jesus’ mission was to reconcile us to God, “having made peace through the blood of the cross.” Jesus was, indeed, born to die so that we might live ” holy and blameless and beyond reproach” and “not moved away from the hope of the gospel….”

The fact that Jesus is “first-born of all creation” (Col. 1:15) and “first born from the dead” (Col. 1:18) is proof why we can have peace. As “first born” he is entitled to bring us into a personal relationship with God so that we are no longer alienated from him because of sin. This is what it means to be reconciled to God. When we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we are no longer natural born enemies of God because of sin. Rather, when we give our lives to Christ, we become friends of God through reconciliation and receive forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:13-18). This paves the way for providing true peace in our lives.

The Puritan, Thomas Watson, put it this way:

[Jesus] came into the world with a song of peace: “On earth, peace…” He went out of the world with a legacy of peace, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you.” Christ’s earnest prayer was for peace; He prayed that his people might be one. Christ not only prayed for peace, but bled for peace: “Having made peace through the blood of his cross.” He died not only to make peace between God and man, but between man and man. Christ suffered on the cross, that he might cement Christians together with his blood; as he prayed for peace, so he paid for peace.

Until one enters into that relationship of peace, one will have what could be called “a ruptured or shattered relationship.” It’s compared to a broken bone or dislocated joint. Sin causes our lives to be out of joint with God. That’s the problem with this sinful world which does not recognize the truth concerning Jesus Christ. It does not know lasting peace because it does not know the One who brings peace. Peace in the world will only come when it finds peace with God through peace in Christ. Like it’s been said, “No God, no peace; Know God, know peace.”

Peace with God is possible IF we make room for him in our hearts. One of our Christmas songs says, “let every heart prepare him room.” And yet, without peace WITH God through Christ, one’s heart cannot BE prepared. Sarah W. Stephen is quoted, “Peace, when ‘ruling’ the heart and ‘ruling’ the mind, opens in both EVERY avenue of joy.”

No wonder that when the shepherds heard the word “peace” upon learning of the Good News, they were filled with excitement and joy. They didn’t waste any time to get down to Bethlehem to see this new bundle of joy: “Let us go straight to Bethlehem and see this for ourselves…and they came in haste…” (Luke 2:15-16). Then, after they saw this future Prince of Peace, they “went back, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.” I imagine they were never the same since; their lives forever changed. And so it is with us when we encounter this Prince of Peace in our lives. The peace WITH God that comes through his Son changes us so that we can have the peace OF God.

Here’s the classic song, “Let There Be Peace on Earth”: http://youtu.be/1BkoaPTeZM0

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Preparing for Advent

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Have you ever stopped to think how we spend all of our lives preparing for something? We go to school and get educated so we can be prepared to earn a living and find our place in the world.

We buy groceries and stock up on supplies, and some even grow gardens, for preparing the food we will eat. We invest our money to buy insurance so that, if an emergency should arise, we’re better prepared to pay off our bills and feel financially secure. Speaking of money, we maintain a savings account in order to prepare us for any future need or item we desire to purchase. We even make out a will so when we die there will be someone to inherit our possessions.

During this Christmas season, many are also preparing for the all the activities and traditions that go on this time of year—namely, putting up Christmas lights and decorations, buying gifts, going to Christmas parties, attending holiday concerts and programs, preparing for meals and the arrival of families who will be visiting. But, speaking of preparation, there’s something else that is most important for it has to do, not merely with Christmas but what Christmas is really all about—that is, the advent of Jesus Christ.

In fact, I believe that when it comes to preparation, “advent” is the best word to use since it reminds us not only that Jesus Christ was born but that he will come again some day. For the word “advent” is a Latin word that means “coming.” So, at his first advent, Jesus came as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. At his second advent Jesus will come from heaven to earth in great power and glory to rule as King of kings and Lord of lords. His return is the event for which believers want to be ready since it will bring in the restoration of all things according to God’s promises (Acts 3:21).

Our preparation for the second advent starts with our response to the first advent of Jesus. Jesus was born as the Son of God (divine) and the Son of Man (human) so that he could fulfill the plan God has in store for his people and their future. In his earthly ministry, Jesus performed the works or signs that demonstrated his power and authority through his teachings, examples, and miracles. He suffered, bled, and died on the cross for our sins so that we could be forgiven and be given the hope of receiving eternal life when he comes at his second advent.

The responsibility of every believers in Christ is to get ready for that coming day by living according to the teachings and examples he set forth as our Lord and Saviour. God raised his Son from the grave to immortality to give us that blessed hope of the first resurrection when all the faithful will receive immortality at his return.

So, our celebration of Christmas actually goes deeper than the traditions and activities of the holiday season. It is actually rooted in Jesus, who said, “I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star,” (Revelation 22:16b, King James Version, KJV). He is entitled to rule on the throne of his father David “and his kingdom will have no end,” (Luke 1:31-33). He is the One who will return as the Messiah (Christ) or Anointed One of God. “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be,” (Rev. 22:12, KJV).

In order to fully appreciate and, thus, celebrate the two advents of Christ, we must understand the spiritual truths that (1) tell us why preparation is important; (2) how to be prepared; and (3) what to be prepared for. Many of these truths are found in Isaiah 40:1-8 Let’s consider some of them: (New American Standard Bible, NASB):

1 “Comfort, O comfort My people,” says your God.
2 “Speak kindly to Jerusalem;
And call out to her, that her warfare has ended,
That her iniquity has been removed,
That she has received of the Lord’s hand
Double for all her sins.”
3 A voice is calling,
“Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness;
Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.
4 “Let every valley be lifted up,
And every mountain and hill be made low;
And let the rough ground become a plain,
And the rugged terrain a broad valley;
5 Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
And all flesh will see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

6 A voice says, “Call out.”
Then he answered, “What shall I call out?”
All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades,
When the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.

If preparing for the future isn’t important, then we shouldn’t waste out time doing it. But the Bible says it IS important if we expect to have our human needs fulfilled. For example, verse 1 states one reason why preparation is necessary: “Comfort.” There is no greater time in which we need comfort than when we are going through tragedy and confusion.

Ancient Israel was in this sort of state. Bloody wars, a brutal holocaust, horrible deprivation, marked hopelessness and fear. For Israel suffered exile and humiliation beyond one’s imagination due to her sins. Read verse 2.

Through it all, however, God extended his mercy: “Her iniquity has been removed.” Israel would survive. God’s nation would be purified and tempered to withstand the test of endurance in due time. God would pardon Israel’s iniquity; recompense her sins; forgive her evil ways. He would restore her honor and beauty, once again.

These words of comfort echo down through the centuries even to our own day and age. Israel keeps on suffering from terrorism, internal division, and international pressure. But there is still hope. The late Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, once uttered the thoughts of many who continue to believe that one day, peace and security will come when he said, “…there is always hope that the Biblical vision of ‘Peace in thy tents, tranquility in thy palaces,’ [Psalm 122:7] will become a reality.”

While hope for peace prepares Israel, it prepares us, as well. Even when our sins cause our own suffering and guilt, we have hope that God will forgive us, too. Everyone of us, as the scriptures say, is “become filthy. There is none that doeth good, no, not one,” (Psalm 53:3). Proverbs 20:9 asks the question, “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from sin”? John wrote, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us,” (1 John 1:9).

And, yet, Jesus was born to save us from our sins. As the angel told Joseph concerning Mary, “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins,” (Matt. 1:21). The name, Jesus, is the Greek form of Joshua, which means, “the Lord saves.” The LORD God sent Jesus, his Son, to save his people, Israel, and all those who of the faith of Abraham, from their sins, so that believers might have the hope of inheriting life eternal in the Kingdom of God when Jesus comes at his second advent.

The fact that we are sinners in need of salvation shows why preparation is essential. Everything in this life is temporary. But God’s Word provides us with the promise of a future life and inheritance that is permanent. In Isaiah 40:6 and 7 this life is nothing more than “grass that withers” and “flowers that fade.” But the Word of God “stands forever.”

Preparation includes the duty to proclaim this promise. It provides the message of salvation all need to hear. In fact, Isaiah 40:3 is prophetic of John the Baptist who was preparing his people for the first advent of Jesus. As Matthew pointed, John fulfilled that “voice of one calling in the desert, ‘prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God…’” (Matthew 3:1-3).

John the Baptist is called the “forerunner of Christ” because he paved the way for the people to repent and accept Christ as Savior and Lord. John prepared the people by offering them the opportunity to commit themselves to the Lord, warning them of the consequences if they didn’t, and showing them the blessings if they did.

His message to “prepare ye the way” applies to us, also. The coming of Jesus into the world is good news for it fulfills the news that “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,” (Titus 2:11). And this is the kind of news that causes us to be ready and “…to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ,” (Titus 2:11-13).

Preparation requires us to take a good, hard look at ourselves and just where we stand with the Lord. Jesus said, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he had enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28). Preparation means that we “pay up” what we owe to God through the service we render to him.

Whether we’re talking about building a tower or building our lives on the Lord Jesus Christ, we know that both require careful planning and foresight. We set high standards, give up trivial pursuits that waste our time, make possible the more important, desirable pursuits, and make worthy sacrifices and investments. This is what we do in preparation for the advent of Christ.

Here is “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” by Caedmon’s Call : http://youtu.be/FONzkDLOOFU

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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