Memorials of Reverence

Memorial Day_Remember and Honor

Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, commemorates those heroes who’ve died in service of the United States of America. This solemn occasion is rooted in honor of those who gave their lives during the Civil War (1861 to 1865). Ever since U.S. General John Logan, Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed the 30th of May as the official date in 1868, honor has been given to those who gave their lives defending their country.

On May 5, 1868, General Logan gave General Order No. 11 which proclaimed,

“The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

Today, Americans continue carrying out the proclamation. Graves are still decorated with markers, flowers, and flags in cemeteries all around the country in memory of these brave, dedicated soldiers. The solemn occasion also features speeches, services, parades and even old war movies to express appreciation for our heroes. All of these traditions mark Memorial Day as a time to pay reverence to those who sacrificed their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to preserve our precious freedom.

Speaking of Memorial Day, I am reminded of the memorial stones that were laid during the time of Joshua in the Bible. Just as we mark our holiday with decorations and events that show reverence to our heroes, God commanded Joshua to incorporate a very sacred occasion with memorials. But, unlike using these memorial stones to remember fallen soldiers, they were used to remind future generations that a new leader in Joshua has been chosen. And now he is bringing them to a new land promised to them for all time under God’s providence and power.

So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of Israel, one man from each tribe; and Joshua said to them, “Cross again to the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel. Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever. (Joshua 4:4-7, New American Standard Bible, NASB.)

The crossing of the Jordan River was a momentous event. Israel’s great leader and lawgiver, Moses, who delivered the people from Egyptian bondage and led them through 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, had died. They were just about to enter the land promised to them from the time of Abraham. It was now time for Joshua, Moses’ successor, to lead the people across the Jordan River to establish them in the land given to them by God.

Two sets of memorials in the form of stone monuments commemorating the crossing of the Jordan River on dry ground were erected. One set of 12 memorial stones (one for each tribe representative who carried a stone) were placed in the bed of the river. The other set of 12 memorial stones were placed at Gilgal, the site of their first encampment after their crossing. Gilgal means “a circle of stones.” These were to serve as sacred memorials reminding generations to come of the power of the Lord in their quest to occupy the land he gave them long before (Josh. 4:19-24).

These memorial stones signifying the crossing of the Jordan reminded the people of all that God had done to save Israel and carry out his plans for the nation. It has been compared to salvation —from a dry, barren wilderness to a new land of prosperity and beauty; from an old life of sin to a new life of grace; from leaving a life of wandering to a life of purpose and meaning.

In a way, the memorial stones set up by Joshua are not unlike the objects we use to show our reverence on Memorial Day. The memorials then and now get us to think about the past and remember what it took to get where we are. Both memorials help each generation to appreciate the efforts put forth by those before us who gave for a greater cause. And they also serve to remind us that a better and brighter day for those in Christ is coming— when we cross over from wandering day to day in this present mortal existence to the new day when we put on immortality and possess the Promised Land in God’s glorious Kingdom.

Let us praise God with memorials of reverence in appreciation for our blessings and all that we enjoy because of those we remember on Memorial Day.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here is a Memorial Day Tribute to heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom: http://youtu.be/_P-HpmohQZM

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A ‘Strange’ Inheritance

inheritance

Fox Business Network has a reality show called, Strange Inheritance, which is about “bizarre artifacts” and “outrageous stories” suitable to the title. The host, Jamie Colby, presents fascinating stories such as the family that inherited gang member, Ma Barker’s house; the Houston man who inherited Houston Astrodome’s railcar; a woman who inherits 67,000 pieces of a hand-carved miniature circus; and the like.

What adds to the oddity of what’s inherited is that someone may be named unexpectedly in the will. Anyone other than the surviving members or friends of the deceased can, indeed, attract attention—for example, the Portuguese aristocrat who left his fortune to 70 total strangers randomly chosen from a phone directory; the waitress who inherited half-a-million dollars from a customer; and the teenager who inherited an Island with a buried treasure. Eyebrows are also raised if the inheritance goes to one’s pet—like the Terrier named Trouble who inherited a $12 million fortune. (oddee.com)

Sometimes those who don’t deserve to inherit anything, get exactly what’s coming to them. That reminds me of this joke:

A lawyer was reading out the will of a rich man to the people mentioned in the will:

“To you, my loving wife Rose, who stood by me in rough times, as well as good, I leave her the house and $2 million.”

The lawyer continued, “To my daughter Jessica, who looked after me in sickness and kept the business going, I leave her the yacht, the business and $1 million.”

The lawyer concluded, “And, to my cousin Dan, who hated me, argued with me, and thought that I would never mention him in my will—well you are wrong. Hi, Dan!” (selected)

Many might be surprised to know that the Bible talks about a “strange” inheritance. Let me qualify that by saying those who are NOT believers through Christ might find it “strange.” Due to lack of faith on their part, they might look at the believer’s inheritance as something that is full of fantasy and fiction. They are the skeptics who mock and belittle those who claim that someday believers will inherit a great fortune worth more than anything that can be imagined in this mortal life (for example, 2 Peter 3:3-4).

The Bible speaks of this “strange” inheritance in terms of property, power, and position. It is connected with the second coming of Christ and the establishment of his Kingdom when he rules and reigns as King over all nations of the earth (Psalm 2:8; Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 25:31; Revelation 19:11-16). He will reign in the restored and exalted Jerusalem on the throne of his forefather, David (Micah 4:1-4; Luke 1:31-33).

The property is the entire planet and its contents perfectly restored and renewed in pure beauty, harmony, and peace for eternity:

Jesus declared, “Blessed are the meek [humble] for they shall inherit the earth,” (Matt. 5:5). Jesus is talking about real land, not heaven or some other place. He has in mind, the Promised Land referred to in the Old Testament, a place of prosperity and blessings of joy. (See Psa. 25:13; 37:9, 11; Isaiah 29:19).

Inheritance of the land or earth goes back to the promises made to faithful Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3. 7; 13:14-17; 15:5-7, 18; 17:1-8; 22:16-18), and passed along to his sons, Isaac (Gen. 26:2-5), and Jacob renamed Israel (Gen. 28:13-15; 35:10-12), who passed it on to his twelve sons (Exodus 2:23-25) which constituted the nation of Israel (1 Chronicles 16:13-19).

The inheritance is confirmed through David, “a man after God’s own heart,” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22-23). In Psalm 16:5 and 6, David said, “The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; Thou dost support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritance is beautiful to me.” The portion or share of inheritance not only includes the land and the royal heritage promised through the line of David, but the LORD God, himself.  For God has given his Word and his Word is as good as the inheritance he has promised (2 Samuel 7:12-16; 1 Chronicles 17:7-14; Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:15-26). Verses 10 and 11 are a prophecy of the Messiah fulfilled in Jesus when he arose from death (Acts 2:24-28), the One who will fulfill the portion of that inheritance claimed by David when Jesus rules on his throne (Psa. 89:3-4, 27-37; Isa. 11:1-12). 

The property also includes a perfect environment: All the nations of the whole world will permanently be at peace (Isa. 2:4; 9:7; Micah 4:2-3). There will be no more injustice or unfairness for all wrongs will be corrected with righteous and perfect judgment (Psa. 72:1-7; Isa. 11:3-5; Rev. 19:11). There will be no more sickness (Isa. 35:5-6; Rev. 21:4). Animals will be made harmless (Isa. 11:6-9; 65:25). The earth will be restored to its original beauty and fertility as it was before Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden (Isa. 35:1-7; 55:12-13; Ezekiel 36:33-35; Acts 3:20-21; Rev. 22:3). And the entire world will be filled with God’s glory and knowledge (Isa. 11:9; Habakkuk 2:14).

The power is what believers (the church) will receive at the first resurrection when Jesus returns to earth. All the faithful throughout the ages in Christ who have died will be raised from death to receive immortality (Job 14:14; Psa. 17:15; Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2-3, 13; Hosea 13:14). After that, those in Christ who are living at the time Jesus comes will be instantly changed from mortal to immortal, and from corruption to incorruption (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58; Acts 24:15; Rev. 20:6).

Those in the Old Testament, including Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who served God in faith, believing in the promises of his Kingdom, will be resurrected and rewarded with eternal life in Christ’s Kingdom, as well (Hebrews 11:13-16; 39, 40; Matt. 8:11).

The resurrection power that all believers will inherit at Christ’s coming is based on the hope that we have through him. The Apostle Paul testified, “…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead,” (Philippians 3:10-11, New American Standard Bible, NASB). Our hope is to inherit the glorious power of our resurrected Lord and Savior at his coming (Titus 2:13; Phil. 3:21; Colossians 3:4). Believers strive to be found faithful and ready when Jesus comes so as not to be judged to receive the final sentence of eternal death (Matt. 25:24-30; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:8-11; Rev. 20:5, 11-15; 21:8).

Another part of the believer’s inheritance is position. Along with the power of eternal life is the power of rulership alongside the rulership of Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. Believers (a.k.a., the church) are called, “joint-heirs,” “fellow-heirs,” or “co-rulers” with Christ in his Kingdom (Rom. 8:17; Galatians 3:29). They will be made “kings and priests” of God and of Christ and reign with him on the earth (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 20:6).

Jesus alludes in the Parable of the Talents that those who’ve been faithful, and used the gifts given to them in this life, will be rewarded accordingly in his Kingdom when he returns (Matt. 25:14-23). We want to be found serving him loyally and not hiding our “talent” at the time of his coming. Our aim is to hear the words of the Master, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been found faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your Master,” (Matt. 25:23; See also, Matt. 26:31-46).

Those who’ve accepted Christ as Savior and Lord through faith (Rom. 10:19; Galatians 6:26; Ephesians 2:8), repentance (Acts 2:38-39; 3:19), and baptism (Rom. 6:1-11; Gal. 6:27-29; Colossians 2:12) have the hope of inheriting these three “p’s”— property, power, and position in the coming Kingdom.

And to all of this we could add another “p”—prosperity. For as we anticipate the many blessings that believers will inherit, we do indeed look forward to the prosperity that we’ll enjoy in that wonderful Kingdom to come. To some, this might sound strange; to us, it sounds glorious! (2 Peter 1:10-11).

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Those who look to inherit the Kingdom must first ask Jesus to enter into their lives. Here’s Hillsong Worship in “Jesus, I Need You,” http://youtu.be/qz_oad9XZ0o

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Blueprint Moms

mother

Christian minister and author, Dr. Lowell D. Streiker, said the greatest Mother’s Day tribute he heard came from a very successful businessman. He said, “Yes, I am a self-made man—but the blueprints came from my mother.” (An Encyclopedia of Humor).

This is not only a great tribute to one’s mother, it is a fitting description of what it takes to be a godly mother. For godly mothers are like the blueprints of a building—they portray the plans for building the lives of their children upon the principles of God’s Word. Thus, when their children grow up to lead their own lives, they will be able to enjoy the benefits of the things they learned from their blueprint moms.

Ever since Adam and Eve, motherhood is a blessing that comes from God. “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD; The fruit of the womb is a reward,” (Psalm 127:3). Blueprint moms recognize that since children are their reward from God, they do their best to train and teach their children the ways of the LORD as they develop and grow.

Moms who are devoted to Christ provide the blueprints of godliness in the home. Such a mom is fully aware that her primary function as a woman is to bear and rear children. First Timothy 2:15 says, But women shall be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint,” (New American Standard Bible, NASB).

Blueprint moms strive to model “faith, love, and sanctity” as a good pattern for their children to follow. In turn, as moms pass along their faith to their children, they will be able to know the LORD and be saved.

This is precisely the way young Timothy came to know Christ and serve him in ministry. The Apostle Paul commended Timothy for his faith which was handed down to him from his grandmother to his mother. “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and you mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well,” (2 Timothy 1:5). We can safely say that Timothy’s grandmother, Lois, and mother, Eunice, were blueprint moms that had quite an influence on his life for serving the Lord.

And there are many other blueprint moms in the Bible we could point to. Some who come to mind are Sarah (Gen. 21:6); Jochebed (Exodus 2:1-3; 6:20; Heb. 11:23); Hannah (1 Samuel 1:22); Elizabeth (Luke 1:41); and Mary, the mother of our Lord (Luke 1:46). Though all of these women had faults of their own, their faith was such that their children were tremendously influenced to serve the Lord in wonderful ways, having a great impact on the lives of many even to this day.

We cannot emphasize enough how important it is for moms to do their share in training and nurturing children in the Lord. Through setting a good example and providing sound Biblical teaching, blueprint moms can leave an indelible impression upon the lives of their children that will bring many blessings.

Proverbs 31:27-31 says,

She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
“Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.”
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates
.

Interestingly, these and the other words written in Proverbs 31, were inspired by King Lemuel’s own mother (v. 1).

And, yet, while there are many blessings in this life for having blueprint moms, there are even more to come.

The greatest reward for blueprint moms lies in the one that will be received when Jesus returns to set up God’s everlasting Kingdom on the earth. What a glorious Day it will be when faithful moms and their saved sons and daughters will receive the reward of eternal life—when families of all the ages will be joined together again to reign with the Lord. This should be the goal of all those who truly aspire to be blueprint moms.

Good News to YOU!
And Happy Mothers Day to all mothers!
Pastor Michael

P.S. A mother’s love through Christ is the hallmark of a blueprint mom. Here is “This Amazing Love (Mother’s Day Song)” in honor of our mothers, https://youtu.be/xll5tDJOoI0

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Accuracy is the Best Policy

bible_truth

The joke is told of six-year-old Angie who came home from school with a blue ribbon. She excitedly reported to her mother that she won it for knowing an answer in natural history. “I said a giraffe has three legs.”

Her mother responded, “But a giraffe has four legs.”

Angie agreed. “I suppose so, but I was the closest of anybody in the class.”

One thing’s for sure: Angie learned that you don’t have to be accurate to get a blue ribbon. But was this a good lesson for this young, impressionable girl? Imagine her growing up thinking that all she has to do is just get close enough to the truth and she’ll be rewarded for it. But this seems to be the worldview nowadays.

Imagine Angie grows up to be a reporter for a syndicated newspaper outfit. She’s reporting about a scandal in the White House. She doesn’t quite get the information right but as long as it gets more publicity than everyone else’s report, she gets a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize. It might make her name and the newspaper rich and famous, but it doesn’t represent truthful and accurate reporting, does it?

Being half right, or even 99.9% right, and looking for a rich reward, leaves a true stain on accuracy. We shouldn’t expect doctors, lawyers, teachers, judges, police officers, soldiers, engineers, politicians and other professionals to be almost right and then be hailed as great heroes, should we? Accuracy is required if the truth is to be known and accepted. For anything short of it is guaranteed to lead to some kind of disaster.

The same idea applies to theologians, preachers, priests, and other religious leaders. When teaching and proclaiming the Scriptures, it’s imperative to strive for accuracy, not lean on hearsay, theories, or church dogma without any evidence to back it up. It’s my opinion that men and women honored with high degrees in religion ought to be examined to see if their teachings are completely accurate or not.

I’ve observed that all too often, the ordinary Christian is too quick to accept what a priest, preacher or teacher advocates without closely studying the Bible, first, to check on the accuracy of their assertions. I remember when I was in high school I brought my Bible to my classes. Wanting to know what my friends believed about certain Bible subjects, I asked them questions about the Bible. Instead of being able to back up their opinions by showing me a verse or two, their usual response was, “First, I’ll have to talk to my pastor,” or “I’ll need to ask my Sunday School teacher then get back to you.”

A Christian might be told about something in the Bible because that’s what the minister said. After all, isn’t that minister supposed to be trained and ordained at a seminary or some other place of higher education? But has the Christian ever taken the time to study the Scriptures for him or herself to see if the minister is accurate or not? That minister might be close to the truth when making assertions, but it is really, entirely correct? Answers to these questions depends on how important you think the truth is for your own Christian growth and salvation.

The Bible gives us some good guidelines for checking on the accuracy of what others assert. One of the first ones that come to my mind is Second Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth,” (New American Standard Bible, NASB).

The Apostle Paul believed that accuracy was essential when it comes to understanding and applying the truth of God’s Word. There were many false teachers in his day. And he was alerting his young associate, Timothy, to the seriousness of the issue. He added, “But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene,” (v. 16-17a). Yes, just being a little off can spread like cancer to the Body of Christ.

The accuracy of Scriptures is so important that even when one thinks he or she is being accurate, it would do well to reconsider that assumption. There was an incident in the early church where a certain newly converted Jew named Apollos, a learned man, needed to learn more. Though he “was mighty in the Scriptures,” something else was lacking. 

Luke records, “This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue…” (Acts 18:24-26a). Apollos was accurate concerning his conviction but only to a certain extent. He hadn’t quite fully attained to the teachings since he only knew of John’s baptism to repentance. Though his knowledge of Scriptures was spot on, Apollos hadn’t yet arrived at all of the truth.

“But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately,” (v. 26b). When Paul’s good Christian friends, Aquila and his wife, Priscilla, took Apollos aside and taught him the way of God more accurately, he was even more motivated than before. And he proved to be of great benefit to the Lord’s work among the believers ( vss. 27-28).

If accuracy wasn’t essential for salvation, it wouldn’t matter what you believe. When you say you believe in God and Jesus and the teachings of Scripture, how close are you to the truth? Do you “examine the Scriptures daily” as the New Testament Bereans? The believers in Berea did not take the words of their preachers and teachers as the Gospel Truth, and they were commended for it. It says, “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so,” (Acts 17:11).

Accuracy is the best policy for wanting to learn and grow in Christ. And it also keeps us guarded against those who would lead us astray with their own misguided notions. “No prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,” as it says in Second Peter 1:20. We let God’s Word speak for itself since “men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God,” (v. 21).

Accuracy affects true hope. According to the Apostle Peter, you must be ready, willing, and able to “give an account for the hope” that you have (1 Peter 3:15). But is that hope based on accuracy of the truth or is it based on what someone else may have inaccurately told you? Don’t expect God to hand out blue ribbons to those who don’t have the correct answer.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. When we let God’s Word speak to us, we will be blessed abundantly. Here’s       MercyMe in, “Word of God Speak,” http://youtu.be/4JK_6osCH74

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Blessings in Disguise

blessings in disguise

When something appears to be bad, at first, but ends up being good it is called, “a blessing in disguise.” Take, for example…

In his book, It Is Toward Evening, Vance Havner tells the story of a small town that made its living entirely from growing cotton. It was not a great living; nevertheless, it was a living. Then calamity struck as the boll weevil invaded the community, destroyed the economy, and threatened to ruin everyone. The farmers were forced to switch to peanuts and others crops that eventually brought them greater return than they would ever have made raising cotton. Ultimately, that which had seemed a disaster became the basis for an undreamed prosperity. To register their appreciation, they erected a monument—to the boll weevil. To this very day in that very little southern town, there is a monument to the boll weevil. (1001 Great Stories & Quotes, R. Kent Hughes)

The boll weevil was a blessing in disguise. If the boll weevil would not have forced the farmers to switch to peanuts, they would not have become so prosperous. And yet, some would rather just have the blessing. Forget the disguise. One discouraged salesman said to another: “What I need is a blessing that isn’t in disguise!” But it’s the disguise that makes the blessing a blessing when it’s all said and done.

Consider more examples…

THE BLESSING OF FORGETFULNESS

You and your family are all packed up to leave for a vacation. You get in the car and take off down the road. You’ve only gone three miles when you remember you left the stove on. You turn around and go all the way back home and turn it off. You get back into the car and there you go again.

Everyone is grumbling because this delays arriving at your vacation spot at the expected time. However, just after you pass the place where you turned around you see that a terrible accident occurred. Everyone is relieved realizing that if you had not turned around, you and your family would likely have been the ones in the accident. Having to go back and turn off the stove was a blessing in disguise.

THE BLESSING OF A BREAK UP

Melissa is so in love with her fiancé, Jerome, as the big day for their wedding was only two weeks away. But something very shocking happened that changed everything. Melissa accidently discovered that Jerome was seeing her best friend who was supposed to be the maid of honor. Melissa broke off the plans immediately, vowing that she could never trust a man again.

Two years pass by during which time Melissa becomes a Christian. Then, one day, she meets a very charming and handsome man, Jeremy. Some time passes and they begin dating. But when he proposed to her, she just didn’t think she could go through with it after her last experience. However, unlike the other man who let her down, this one is a devout Christian who sincerely loves the Lord. And Melissa comes to understand that he loves her, too. She realizes that Jeremy is nothing like that other man.

They marry and end up serving as missionaries in Africa. Melissa’s discovery about Jerome and their break up was a blessing in disguise: It led her to meet Jeremy, a better man—a Christian like her who was really meant for her—and which provided the opportunity to serve the Lord.

THE BLESSING OF AFFLICTION

Consider Job’s afflictions. He loved his family. He was well-respected in his community. He was a God-fearing man. He was very wealthy. Everything was going well with Job until, one day, disaster came. His oxen and donkeys were attacked and taken by Sabeans, a rival group, who also killed his servants caring for the animals. Then, a bolt of lightning caused a fire, burning up all of his sheep along with his servants tending them. Next, some Chaldeans raided his camels and also slew the servants taking care of them. Meanwhile, his sons and daughters were having a party in their oldest brother’s house when a hurricane-force wind came up, destroying the house and all of them inside. If that wasn’t enough, Job contracted painful boils from his head to his feet.

Job’s wife didn’t help matters any, either. She said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” Job responded, “‘You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips,” (Job 2:9-10).

Job’s three old “friends” came along (Job 2:11) but all they basically did was criticize Job assuming he must have done something wrong to deserve his affliction. He called them, “sorry comforters,” (Job 16:2).

After his three friends were finally finished, a young know-it-all spoke up. He rebukes Job saying that God is afflicting justice on Job.

Suddenly, God intervenes. God has his final say, letting everyone know that he is the one in charge and everything is under his control. Job recognizes God’s power and turns it all over to him. In the end, he blesses Job more than in the beginning: God restores his health and wealth (more animals than he’d ever owned), reinforces his standing in the community, gives him many more children to the fourth generation, and lives to a ripe old age of 140 more years. Job’s afflictions were a blessing in disguise thanks to God’s wonderful mercy and grace.

Whenever life hands you a lemon and things go sour, just remember how it might be a blessing in disguise. God could want you to make lemonade out of it. In other words, something good can come out of something bad for God is known to do such a thing. You may not want to go as far as the townspeople who erected a monument to the boll weevil, but you can offer appreciation to God who is able to turn a disaster into a blessing.

Second Corinthians 4:17 says, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal,” (New American Standard Bible, NASB).

When the Apostle Paul speaks of “light affliction” he is not making light of affliction. I’m sure he took any kind of affliction serious. He should know. He went through plenty of it himself through his service for Christ (2 Cor. 11:16-33). But when we compare “the eternal weight of glory” to the trials and tribulations of this mortal life, our afflictions are only for the moment. We cannot see the unseen things God has in store for his people in the future when Jesus comes to establish the kingdom over all the earth (Isaiah 64:4; 1 Cor. 2:9). No one has, as yet, seen and experienced “the eternal things” to come including life eternal which is to be rewarded to all the faithful at his coming (Matthew 24:29-31; Romans 6:22-23; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

Just think of your afflictions as blessings in disguise as you look beyond them to the glorious day when Jesus Christ appears on earth. At that time, God will take into account all the bad things that happen to good people and bring justice and righteousness to all believers who have faithfully served him (Ezekiel 34:26; Hosea 10:12; Matt. 13:41-43).

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here is Laura Story who also went through her own struggles, singing,  “Blessings,” http://youtu.be/WvgzjNb_X3Q

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The Epitome of Pity

resurrection brings hope

The Apostle Paul commented, “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied,” (1 Corinthians 15:19, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

He makes this statement in the context of proving the resurrection of Jesus Christ and what it means to believers. In fact, First Corinthians, chapter 15, is called, “The Resurrection Chapter” which can be outlined into these key points:

I.     Verification of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection by many eye witnesses who were actually there at the time (vss. 1-11);

II.    The significance of believing in Jesus’ resurrection (vss. 12-19);

III.   How the certainty of his resurrection plays into the future of God’s kingdom (vss. 20-28);

IV.   Further into reasoning with anyone who might doubt the reality of Jesus’ resurrection (vss. 29-49);

V.    Revealing the “mystery” of the future resurrection of all believers (vss. 50-54);

VI.   Encouraging believers to remain steadfast in their work for the Lord (vss. 55-58).

In verse 19, Paul sums up the significance of Jesus’ resurrection in view of the hope we have in regard to the future resurrection of all believers when Jesus returns. The point is…

We are to be most pitied if we do not have such hope of the future. In other words, if all we have is hope in this life without believing there is something better to come, such as the resurrection to immortality in the coming Kingdom, then pity and misery on us! There’s not much reason to be a Christian if Jesus was not resurrected and the resurrection of the dead is not going to take place! This would, indeed, make all professing believers down through past ages, to the present, and beyond, the epitome of pity.

Death without hope is like going down a dead-end street and pity those who are travelling on it. Sadly, there are persons who do not have hope beyond this life. I found an illustration of this printed in PreachingToday.com which cites Philip Yancey from his book, “Where Is God When It Hurts?”

Yancey describes a unique funeral custom conducted by African Muslims. Close family and friends circle the casket and quietly gaze at the corpse. No singing. No flowers. No tears.

A peppermint candy is passed to everyone. At a signal, each one puts the candy in his or her mouth. When the candy is gone, each participant is reminded that life for this person is over. They believe life simply dissolves. No eternal life. No hope.

Upon reading this, we can only feel pity for persons who think life simply dissolves like peppermint candy and that’s the end. Persons who deny that God raised Jesus from death to immortality deprive themselves of the hope that makes this life abundant and meaningful. For, in contrast to those who do not follow Christ, the believer’s hope is deep and rich and genuine. Or, as someone has said, “Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.”

That’s why Jesus’ second coming is called, “the blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). It’s a blessing because it gives us a reason to live for the “better things to come,” (Hebrews 6:9). Unlike those who deny that Christ (who himself was raised to life) will come again to raise all the dead to life (Daniel 12:2; Revelation 20:1-6; 11-15), our hope keeps us secured and strong even when there are difficulties and sorrows in this present life…

“…in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil…” (Heb. 6:18-19).

The Apostle Peter calls our hope in Christ, “…a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,” (1 Peter. 1:3-4). The hope of our inheritance is reserved in heaven now through Christ. But it won’t be received until he comes back to raise believers from the dead to give it to them (a.k.a., “the crown of life,” James 1:12; “the crown of righteousness,” 2 Timothy 4:8; also, cp., 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Cor. 9:24-25).   While we as believers go through the various trials and tribulations of this present mortal life, we look for an inheritance that will never fade away resulting in “praise, and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ,”—that is, when he comes to reward all of his faithful followers (Matthew 25:14-31; Heb. 11:39-40).

Without this hope in Christ, what do we REALLY have to live for? This is the underlying question of our faith. And it comes to mind, especially as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For what is the TRUE meaning of Jesus’ resurrection in the first place if it doesn’t affect our hope for the future?

Pity us if we have hope only in this life. For such hope is not really hope at all. We groan within ourselves due to the miseries of this life yet we wait expectantly for the “redemption of our body,” (Romans 8:23). That is, if we have immortality within us now, do we not already have our hope fulfilled? But we’re looking forward to “putting on immortality” and incorruption” when Jesus comes to awaken believers sleeping in death to give them everlasting life (1 Cor. 15:51-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). We have not seen this hope fulfilled yet. But with perseverance, we wait eagerly for it…

“And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it,” (Romans 8:23-25).

If we do not want to be the epitome of pity, then we will place our hope in Jesus Christ who himself declared, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies…” (John 11:25).

Good News to YOU!
And have a blessed Resurrection Sunday!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here is Tenth Avenue North singing, “I Have This Hope,” http://youtu.be/eBg9jHQtE44

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Prophecy and ‘The Triumphal Entry’

Palm Sunday_Jesus entry into Jerusalem

The headlines might have read, “Hundreds hail Nazarene prophet as King,” with the subheading, “Words of the prophets ‘fulfilled’ according to many.”

One of the most significant reasons for recognizing Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on that day, we also know as Palm Sunday, is because it coincides with ancient prophecies concerning the Messiah. In all four of the Gospels, the recorded events of his grand entrance into the City of David includes references found almost verbatim from the writings of Old Testament prophets: Matthew 21:1-17; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-40; John 12:12-19.

At the time, the crowd anticipated that Jesus was fulfilling his Messianic role to restore greatness to Israel as the prophets foretold. Hailing him as their King (John 12:13), they thought that he was going to turn Israel back into a mighty kingdom like it was when one of his ancestors, King David, ruled over them (Mark 11:10). Then, they could overpower Rome’s  dominance over them for good.

Sadly, the Jews who honored him did not understand that his entrance into Jerusalem was a foreshadow of prophecy to come. The people didn’t expect the shocking turn-of-events that would take place by the end of what would be called, Passion Week. Nor did they realize what more and greater things were still down the road for Israel, along with the whole world, more than 2,000 years into the  future (Matthew 25:37-39; Revelation 1:7).

Thankfully, we have the luxury of hindsight to look back and know how The Triumphal Entry as well as the other Passion Week events fit into the whole prophetic picture. Those converted to Jesus Christ with knowledge of his saving truth can envision what it all  means in terms of fulfilling God’s plan of salvation. And we can appreciate how that first Palm Sunday verifies what we know and believe about our Lord from God’s inspired Word.

Key prophecies which were fulfilled on the first Palm Sunday confirm the mission of our Lord in connection with his second coming. Fulfillment not only applied to Jesus then but, even more importantly, in his future role when he will reign as King. What is called The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem then, is merely a small snapshot compared to The Triumphal Entry when he enters Jerusalem the next time (through the Eastern Gate which he shall open: Ezekiel 44:1-3; Psalm 24:7-10) to sit on the throne of his father, David (Luke 1:31-33), ruling over all nations of the world (Zechariah 14:4, 9-11, 16-21).

Consider these Old Testament prophecies of his triumphal entry which are quoted in the Four Gospels (from the English Standard Version, ESV):

Matthew 21:4. This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'”  (also Mark 11:2-3; Luke 19:30-31; John 12:14-15)

Zechariah 9:9. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

While this verse from Zechariah 9:9 applies to the first triumphal entry of Messiah Jesus, the verses that follow suddenly jump ahead to include his next triumphal entry—that is, when he establishes his power and authority over all the nations to forge peace during his 1,000 year reign as King (Revelation 20:4-6). For example, verse 10 predicts, “….and he shall speak peace to the nations (Isaiah 2:1-4; 9:6-7; 11:1-10; Psalm 72:7); his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River (Euphrates River, Exodus 23:31) to the ends of the earth (Psa. 72:8; 2:1-12; Daniel 7:14, 27; Micah 4:1-3; Zechariah 14:9).

The prophecy regarding his mode of transportation into Jerusalem, the donkey, is also significant for three reasons:

(1) It stood for peace. Most generally, when kings rode on horses, it indicated war. Jesus, “the Prince of peace” entered Jerusalem on a donkey which symbolized peace. But when he comes again, he will come as a conquering King envisioned as riding on a white horse to deliver his people from their enemies (Rev. 19:11-12).

(2) It stood for the common people.  Jesus the humble servant (Matt. 11:29; Luke 22:27; Philippians 2:5-11) who rode upon a lowly beast of burden, did not come to call the self-righteous but humble sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). He came to serve as King and, in turn, we serve him as the King of our lives.

(3) It stood for a sacred purpose: “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here” (Luke 19:30). In ancient tradition, animals were regarded as sacred if never ridden before and used for special religious purposes (Numbers 19:2; Deut. 21:3; 1 Samuel 6:7). A young, unridden donkey was used to indicate the sacred role Jesus would play as Israel’s future King.

Isaiah 62:11. Behold, the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion (Zech. 9:9; Matt. 21:5; John 12:15), “Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.” This prophecy not only points to Jesus’ first entry into Jerusalem, but beyond to a future time when he comes again to bring the reward of eternal life to all of the faithful: In Revelation 22:12 Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with me, to render to every man according to what he has done.”

The palm branches they used to honor Jesus, and to voice their to praise God [“So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him….” (John 12:13)] were a foreshadow of what is to come when Jesus returns to earth: “After this I [John] looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands…” (Revelation 7:9).

Interestingly, the use of palm tree fronds used by Israel to celebrate the Feast of Booths (a.k.a., Feast of Tabernacles) was a sign of rejoicing over God’s shelter of the Israelites during their forty years of wandering in the wilderness (Leviticus 23:40; Nehemiah 8:15-18). Just think of it: They rejoiced then. And they rejoiced when Jesus rode into Jerusalem. But imagine the kind of rejoicing there truly will be when Jesus gloriously returns from heaven to save and exalt Israel, gather his Church, and bring peace to all the nations! (Note the restoration of the Feast of Booths when the Lord reigns: Zechariah 14:16-21, cp. Rev. 7:9). 

The fact that the crowd shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13b) takes us back to Psalm 118:25 and 26, “O LORD, do save, we beseech Thee; O LORD, we beseech Thee, do send prosperity! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD; We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.”

These verses from Psalm 118 are part of the Messianic prophecies fulfilled by Jesus including his rejection by his own people (verse 22). “Hosanna” is an expression of praise with the prayer, “Save us, we pray!” A prayer of praise is extended for Jesus, Israel’s Savior and Deliverer who comes in the name of the LORD God Almighty.

Such glorious praise dovetails with the rejoicing to which I previously referred. In Psalm 118:24 it says, “This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” The great Day in which all of creation will rejoice and offer praise to God is when the curse of sin and death are removed and Jesus the King establishes God’s Kingdom over all the earth (Romans 8:18-25; Revelation 22:1-4, 12). And all of the prophecies concerning Christ the King will be completely fulfilled. Amen!

Good News to YOU!
And have a blessed Palm Sunday!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here is the timeless hymn, “All Glory, Laud and Honor,”  http://youtu.be/h3a8fTTrAdE

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