The Honest Truth About Honesty and Truth

honesty_truthfulness

When someone says, “I’m telling you the honest truth,” you either believe it or you don’t. You have to weigh the balance between whether that person can be trusted or not. You might want to see any evidence that proves the person is being totally truthful. You could also see if there’s a pattern from the past that shows the person has or hasn’t always been honest.

The honest truth is, it’s not always easy to be totally honest. Face it…we can be so brutally honest about the way we feel about something or someone that if we really said what we’re thinking we’d hurt those we love and make a lot more enemies than friends.

It’s possible to be so honest, that it can turn into insults. Imagine saying things like,

“To be honest…

…don’t you need a license to be that ugly?”

…any resemblance between you and an idiot is only natural.”

…your breath is bad enough to bleach my hair.”

…is that your nose or are you eating a banana?”

…if I had a face like yours, I’d sue my parents.”

The truth is, this is not quite the “honesty” that we’d expect to hear from those who are mindful of Psalm 64:3 where it describes persons “who have sharpened their tongue like a sword. They aimed bitter speech as their arrow.” And yet, we can find ourselves in certain sticky situations when we’d like to be honest without trying to hurt someone’s feelings.

This reminds me of a funny story. A woman and her husband were invited to her rich aunt’s home for dinner. The wife insisted that the husband treat the aunt politely. Her dessert was an original recipe. It was terrible. The husband responded, “I must say this is the best cake I have ever tasted.”
On the way home, his wife told him that she had not meant that he had to lie to her aunt.
The husband replied, “I told the truth; I said, I must say this is the best cake I ever tasted.”

Honesty and truth go hand in hand. Honesty is sincerity of truth. Truth is accepted in honesty.

Both are characteristics of believers. In Joshua 24:14, Joshua told the people of Israel, “Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; cast aside the gods your fathers served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.” Israel was forbidden to worship “the gods” or idols that pagan nations worshipped. If they were going to worship and serve the one true God, they must be honestly sincere in God’s truth.

The fact that there is only one God is one truth that never changes. That’s because God does not change for he declared, “For I, the LORD, do not change…” (Malachi 3:6). The fact that God does not change is an indication of his perfect character. And it’s when we put our faith in the one God that we allow him to shape our character and beliefs.

As we honestly submit to his will and follow his instructions, our own ideas and inclinations change for the better. But if we turn to dishonesty and do not apply his truth or conform to his will, we will never change for the better. It is written, “An honest man alters his ideas to fit the truth. And a dishonest man alters the truth to fit his ideas.” Honestly, if we try to alter the truth to fit into our ideas, we will be no different than the nations who worshipped other gods.

Honesty and truth based on God’s Word are important in at least three ways for those who follow Christ. First, we honor God with honesty and truth. Second, we trust God with honesty and truth. Third, we serve God with honesty and truth.

(1) We honor God with honesty and truth by obeying his commandments. The ninth commandment is, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor,” (Exodus 20:16). In other words, one who aims to honor God will not lie but will tell the truth (Leviticus 19:11). In this way, we honor God for, unlike humanity, God does not lie (Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 6:18). The Bible tells us that lying is serious business when it comes to whether or not we will be in the Kingdom of God. It says that “…all liars…will have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death,” come Judgement Day (Revelation 21:8). Whether it’s a boldfaced lie, little white lie, or merely stretching the truth, it all comes under the umbrella of dishonesty. And since dishonesty is not being truthful, it does not honor God. We, however, aim to honor God in honesty and truth.

(2) We trust God with honesty and truth. Trust is one of the three elements of faith, the other two being belief and confidence. Since our faith includes trusting God, we know we can trust his power to transform or change our lives (Romans 12:2). At our conversion to Christ (via faith, repentance, baptism) we no longer live in the dishonest ways of the world but the honest ways of God through Jesus Christ, God’s Son. One good example of the way trust in God changes us in honesty and truth is in the workplace. Take a look at Proverbs 16:11-21 paraphrased from The Message (MSG):

11 God cares about honesty in the workplace; your business is his business.
12 Good leaders abhor wrongdoing of all kinds; sound leadership has a moral foundation.
13 Good leaders cultivate honest speech; they love advisors who tell them the truth.
14 An intemperate leader wreaks havoc in lives; you’re smart to stay clear of someone like that.
15 Good-tempered leaders invigorate lives; they’re like spring rain and sunshine.
16 Get wisdom – it’s worth more than money; choose insight over income every time.
17 The road of right living bypasses evil; watch your step and save your life.
18 First pride, then the crash – the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.
19 It’s better to live humbly among the poor than to live it up among the rich and famous.
20 It pays to take life seriously; things work out when you trust in God.
21 A wise person gets known for insight; gracious words add to one’s reputation.

These same principles apply the same way in any area of life whether it be in the home, the school, or in any organization in which we are associated, and especially, the church (2 Cor. 8:21; Philippians 4:8-9).

(3) We serve God with honesty and truth. Earlier, I referred to Joshua’s admonition to the people of Israel in regard to serving God in sincerity and truth (Josh. 24:14). The church carried out these words as exemplified by the apostle and other leaders. The Apostle Paul testified concerning his own honesty and truthfulness as he served the Lord“I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my own conscience bearing witness in the Holy Spirit,” (Romans 9:1) . In Ephesians 4:17-24, he urged the church at Ephesus to “walk in the light” which included renewal in God’s Power, as well as honesty and truth. Then, in verse 25, he said, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”

When we serve the Lord out of honesty and truth as instructed, our relationships will improve, our attitudes will change, and our chances for success with increase. We serve God through Christ remembering that…

• Good people are honest (Prov. 11;13);

• God expects honesty and fairness in business (Prov. 16:11);

• Honesty and truth are marks of being good stewards (Luke 16:10-15);

• We will have a clean conscience if we are honest and truthful (1 Tim. 1:19; Heb. 13:18-19).

Honesty and truth are the products of Christians who are committed to living the teachings of the scriptures. The Apostle Paul outlined these teachings in Ephesians 4:4-7, “There is one body, and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” When we build our lives on these teachings, we will be on a solid foundation for growing in God’s wonderful grace (Eph. 4:13-16) with the expectation of entering God’s glorious Kingdom when Jesus comes (2 Peter 1:5-12). And that’s God’s honest truth!

Here’s a song about honesty, “If We’re Honest,” by Francesca Battistelli,
http://youtu.be/ikcFezmuazA

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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To Judge Or Not to Judge?

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When Jesus said, “Judge not, lest you be judged,” (Matthew 7:1, New American Standard Bible, NASB), where do we draw the line? Judging is a matter of human instinct.

Think of situations where judging is imperative: jurists doing their civic duty…judges rendering decisions in court…law enforcement officers making split-second decisions while protecting the public…judges in talent contests…parents using discipline to correct their children…making decisions for whom you vote into office…whether to approve or disapprove a moral issue or cause…. These examples require some kind of judgment for making choices and taking responsibility for our actions.

It is important to understand what Jesus meant when he said not to judge. Consider this: There are two kinds of judging. One, judgment of innocence. Two, judgment of guilt. From a legal standpoint, the judgment of innocence results in the reward of freedom but the judgment of guilt results in the reward of punishment. The kind of judging Jesus is referring to has to do with the latter— finding fault with others so as to pronounce them guilty and worthy of punishment. Judging for the primary purpose of condemning others puts one on thin ice seeing that none of us is perfect. And this is the point Jesus was making.

RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT

It is also important to understand the Jewish context in which Jesus was speaking. When the God was establishing the Law to Israel through Moses, judges were appointed. They were to  decide cases by judging the people with “righteous judgment.” Judges were also instructed on how they were to avoid injustice as they were to pursue true “justice and only justice” in their legal decisions (Exodus 18:13-27; Deuteronomy 16:18-20).  

Because he knew very well how to read human nature (John 2:24-25), Jesus was able to decide matters with “righteous judgment.” He was, after all, tempted as we are yet without sinning (Hebrews 4:15). So Jesus was perfectly qualified to tell his followers not to judge.

At the same time, Jesus could rightly judge the deeds of others. For instance, our Lord correctly judged the diabolical actions and extremist views of the Jewish leaders, calling them “hypocrites,” (Matt. 27:13-36). They were only looking out for their own self interests in the guise of their religion. Not wanting his followers to fall into the same attitude of the Jewish leaders, Jesus warned his followers not to judge others without first considering their own faults. [NOTE: This also fits the pattern of God’s law of love and the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12; 22:34-40). If we treat others the way we’d want to be treated, then we’d think twice about racing to our judgment of them.]

In John 7:24, he instructed them, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” Jesus was the exact reflection of his Father’s characteristics including judging, not according to someone’s outward appearance but rather, upon their heart (For example, 1 Samuel 16:6-13).  Thus, Jesus knew that sometimes appearances can be deceiving. What he knew is so true about our nature.

DECEPTIVE APPEARANCES

I was reading an interesting story about a distinguished astronomer at the turn of the 20th century who believed he’d discovered canals on Mars. Sir Percival Lowell was highly regarded for his study of the solar system. And he was particularly fascinated with the Red Planet.

According to the story, Lowell had heard that in 1877 an Italian astronomer had seen straight lines crisscrossing the Martian surface. Lowell was so intrigued with this news that the rest of his years were spent squinting into the eyepiece of his giant telescope in Arizona. He mapped out channels and canals he saw. He was convinced that the canals were proof of intelligent life on Mars, perhaps revealing an older but wiser race than humanity.

Lowell’s observations gained wide acceptance at that time. Few dared to question his assertion. He, after all, was the expert.

Now we jump to the 21st century—a hundred years later. Advancements have been made in the cosmos. Space probes have orbited Mars and landed on the surface. The entire planet has been mapped out. And, no one has found a canal. But Lowell said he’d seen them. How could that be?

Well, as someone has said, he either wanted to see the canals so much that he convinced himself over and over again that they were there, or maybe he was having some kind of eye problem that led to his conclusions.

Actually, it is now known that the renowned astronomer was suffering from a rare disease that made him see the blood vessels in his own eyes. The so called Martian “canals” amounted to nothing more than the bulging veins of his eyeballs. This malady is come to be known as “Lowell’s syndrome.” (selected)

This is a fitting illustration of the way we allow appearances to deceive us especially in the way we may judge others. Jesus warns us not to remove the “speck of sawdust” in another person’s eye without first taking out “the plank” of wood in our own eye (Matt. 7:1-3). In a spiritual sense, judging others is like Lowell’s syndrome. For if all we can see are the faults in others because we don’t want to see anything good in them, aren’t we actually missing something that might reveal a positive feature of their character? And perhaps we can’t see it them because we’re suffering from our own eye problem—or should we more accurately say “I” problem—suffered from our own disease of bias and prejudice.

APPLICABLE QUOTES

There are lot of good quotes on judging others by philosophers, Christian leaders, entertainers, and well-respected authors. Here are many of them to ponder…

~ None are more unjust in their judgments of others than those who have a high opinion of themselves. —Charles Spurgeon

~We should be rigorous in judging ourselves and gracious in judging others. —John Wesley

~When you judge others, you do not define them, you define yourself. —Earl Nightingale

~If you judge people, you have no time to love them. —Mother Teresa

~We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started. —Henry Ward Beecher

~The least amount of judging we can do, the better off we are. —Michael J. Fox

~When you meet a man, you judge him by his clothes; when you leave, you judge him by his heart. —Russian Proverb

~To judge a man by his weakest link or deed is like judging the power of the ocean by one wave. —Elvis Presley

~Instead of judging people, we need to pray. —Joyce Meyer

~Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers. —Voltaire

~If you judge, investigate. —Seneca

~If you would judge, understand. —Seneca

~No accurate thinker will judge another person by that which the other person’s enemies say about him. —Napoleon Hill

BIBLICAL DIRECTIVES

To judge or not judge? The scriptures give us the kind of guidelines that help us to wisely answer that question:

Luke 6:37-41 Do not judge and you will not be judged….

Romans 2:1 You are not without excuse, every one of you who passes judgment…

Romans 14:10, 13 Why do you judge your brother?…Let us not judge one another anymore.

1 Corinthians 4:5 Do not go on passing judgment before the time….

James 4:11 He who judges his brother…speaks against the law and judges the law….

Speaking of judging…it is wise to remember that a Judgment Day is coming when everyone will give an account to God (2 Cor. 5:10). Remember the two kinds of judgment to which I referred? There will be a judgment for punishment upon those guilty of sin, and they will be sentenced to eternal death (Revelation 20:11-15). But there will also be a judgement of those who are pronounced not guilty, because their sins have been forgiven by accepting Jesus Christ according to the Word of God (Acts 2:38; John 3:16; Rom. 6:1-23). They will receive the reward of eternal life in God’s glorious Kingdom. It, therefore, becomes imperative that we keep this in mind whenever we are tempted to judge others without first confessing our own sins (1 John 1:9). In so doing, we will have the hope of living in God’s future Kingdom (2 Peter 1:10-11).

Here’s Hillsong United singing, “From the Inside Out,” http://youtu.be/SZ-fghqc8Oo

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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The Model Prayer

prayer-bible

To Christians, prayer is that vital link of communication we have with God our Heavenly Father. When believers pray through the name of God’s Son, they have an advocate who acts in the role of High Priest—he mediates between the person who is praying and God, his Father. So, through Christ, we have direct access to God. [1]

Onetime, according to Luke’s account, (Luke 11:1-4), Jesus was asked a question about prayer. After Jesus was finished praying in certain place, one of his followers requested, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John [John the Baptist] also taught his disciples.” Somehow, this disciple was impressed with the power in which Jesus prayed and he wanted to it, too. So, Jesus proceeded to instruct him on how he should pray.

In Matthew’s account, (Matt. 6:9-13), a disciple’s request on how to pray isn’t mentioned. After initially making some comments about prayer [2], Jesus then goes right into what one should say. This is widely known as the Lord’s Prayer. It is spoken by most Christians of all faiths. And it is used more than any other prayer in both personal and public worship.

Having said this, however, we must be careful not to assume that everyone knows the Lord’s Prayer even though they think they do as this story illustrates…

Mike and Lefty grew up together in Chicago. They both became lawyers. Then, much to the amazement of Mike, Lefty became a Sunday School teacher. “I bet you don’t know the Lord’s Prayer,” said Mike.
“Everybody knows that,” replied Lefty. “It goes, ‘Now I lay me down to sleep….’”
“You win,” said Mike. “I didn’t know you knew so much about the Bible.”

Even though believers call it the Lord’s Prayer, it’s probably more accurate to call it, the Lord’s Model Prayer. For Jesus was giving his followers a fitting pattern for their prayers.

When Jesus taught us how to pray, he wasn’t intending this to become part of a religious ritual. Just like anything else quoted in the scriptures, these words can be recited like a robot. They can become repeated over and over again until they lose their meaning. Going by what he said in Matthew 6:7, “…do not use meaningless repetition…”, I don’t believe Jesus intended his model prayer to be used like this.

There may also be a tendency to use his model prayer as though it were a magical way to feel religious or reach a higher plane of contact with the Cosmos. Even though one may be sincere when reciting it, it does not make one any holier than anyone else. That’s not to say the prayer can’t be meaningful. But it’s not a mystical form of meditation such as the kind you find in Eastern cults.

Jesus’ model prayer can be misunderstood, as well, from a child’s perspective. When kids hear things, sometimes their little minds can’t quite connect with the King James style speech grown-ups are familiar with.

There’s a cute story about a new Sunday School teacher who had to iron out some problems with the Lord’s Prayer. One child had to be corrected after repeating, “Howard be thy name.” Another youngster prayed, “Lead us not into Penn Station.” Still another surprised the teacher with, “Our Father, who art in heaven, how’d you know my name?”

The prayer Jesus taught must be understood in a correct way. And it should be the way we correctly address our heavenly Father. The proper attitude we have toward it is about the way we humbly come before God’s throne. After all, it starts out with….

• “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”

Our very first thoughts in this prayer are upon God our Heavenly Father. We are his children adopted into his family through our entrance into Christ. As our Father, he loves us, corrects us, and teaches us how to live. We, in turn, respect him, love him, and obey him. And because he is our Father, we honor him in worship and praise. For his name is sacred. It stands for his almighty power and existence. It is not to be used and abused in vain. Rather, it is to be treated so reverently, one is behooved to even try to speak it. Interestingly, Jesus is never recorded in the scripture to verbally call his Father by his holy name. Neither did he ever instruct his church to verbalize God’s name. Just as we respect our earthly fathers by not calling them by their given name, we want to treat our Father in heaven with the same respect.

• “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Sadly, the reality is that many do not fully understand what God’s kingdom is all about. Yes, it is prayed but do Christians know what it really means? Jesus says it’s God’s kingdom, not a world-wide church movement like some imagine. So many times we hear persons equate the church with bringing in the kingdom. They confuse God’s redemptive kingdom, the church, which is being added through Christ in this present age with the future providential kingdom on earth that is coming in due time. God will establish his providential kingdom on earth in the age to come. It will commence when Jesus physically and visibly returns from heaven to earth. [3] And it will cover the entire planet. The coming kingdom is God’s will for completing his plan of salvation. Our privilege and responsibility is to do God’s will for our lives in preparation for his glorious kingdom. [4]

• “Give us this day, our daily bread.”

NOTICE…Jesus now moves from his recognition of God our heavenly Father, his coming kingdom, and will in heaven and on earth, to our physical and spiritual human needs. Daily bread takes into context how God supplies us physically—not only food but shelter, clothing, and the like. Of course, we can enjoy these things because he uses the natural resources to produce them—rain, rivers, oceans, sun, seasons, soil, seeds, livestock, trees, and so forth. God feeds and clothes us in even more abundant ways than he does in everything else he has created. [5]

• “And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.”

From the request to provide for our physical needs comes the request for restoring our spiritual needs. Forgiveness is both vertical and horizontal. Vertically, there’s the need for God’s forgiveness of our sins. Horizontally, there’s the need for us to forgive one another. Why? Because it all comes down to the way we must deal with sin. [6]

Once there was a Sunday School teacher who was very knowledgeable about religious ceremonies. The teacher spent an entire session talking to the young pupils about the correct way to pray. “Now,” she said finally, “suppose we want to pray to God for forgiveness. What must we do first of all?” One little boy suggested, “Sin?”

Speaking of sin and the need for forgiveness, perhaps we need to simply look at it like this one four-year-old who prayed, “And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.”

Without forgiveness from God and forgiveness of one another, we cannot survive the wrongs and provide the healing necessary for spiritual growth and development. When we forgive others like God forgives us, then we are able to go on building better relationships. [7] It is written that forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the high cost of hatred, and the waster of energy.

• “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

After asking for forgiveness, Jesus jumps into temptation. Why? Because once we call upon God’s forgiveness for bringing cleansing and healing, we need to ask him to help us whenever we’re tempted to revert back to sin. We remember that through Jesus, we can overcome temptation for he was likewise tempted but without falling into sin. [8] He is our highest example for though he did not sin, he took our sins on the cross and died in our place so that we would be spared eternal death when God’s Day of Judgment comes Someday. [9] Through Christ, we receive power to face our own temptations and overcome them. Since evil is all around us, we are vulnerable seeking that we are naturally weak due to our sinful nature. But with Jesus in our lives, the evil that is constantly trying to tempt us, will not be able defeat us for gives us strength to live victoriously as we serve him. [10]

• “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.”

The prayer ends with this doxology but it is absent in Luke’s account. It does occur in various numbers of early manuscripts and versions of Matthew’s account while other versions do not add it. Whether or not these words are part of the original Model Prayer of Jesus, it can be taken in the context of our Lord’s teachings and scripture in both Old and New Testaments. Interestingly, these words are very similar to 1 Chronicles 29:11-12, “Thine, O Lord is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all,” (King James Version, KJV).

Whenever we call on the LORD, it is fitting to use this as a pattern for our prayers. This doesn’t mean we have to recite it word-for-word. But we can paraphrase it in our own words, in a meaningful and sincere way. This has been a good guiding way I’ve been able to present my prayers.

The Lord’s Model Prayer will help make our prayers to be stronger and effective. With this in mind, someone wrote,

I cannot say “our” if I live only for myself.
I cannot say “Father” if I do not endeavor each day to act like his child.
I cannot say “who art in heaven” if I am laying up no treasure there.
I cannot say “hallowed by thy name” if I am not striving for holiness.
I cannot say “thy Kingdom come” if I am not doing all I can to be ready for it.
I cannot say “thy will be done” if I am disobedient to his Word.
I cannot say “on earth as it is in heaven” if I’ll not serve him here and now.
I cannot say “forgive us our debtsif I harbor a grudge against anyone.
I cannot say “lead us not into temptation” if I deliberately place myself in its path.
I cannot say “thine is the kingdom” if I do not give the King the loyalty due him from a faithful subject.
I cannot attribute to him “the power” if I fear what people may do.
I cannot ascribe to him “the glory” if I’m seeking honor only for myself, and I cannot say “forever” if the horizon of my life is bounded completely by time.
(author unknown)

Here’s the classical song, “The Lord’s Prayer,” by Charlotte Church: http://youtu.be/z7aWC7E2Fec

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

References:
[1] See Hebrews 4:14-16; 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:1-2
[2] In Matt. 6:5-8, instructs his disciples how they should pray in contrast to the hypocritical way the scribes and Pharisees—two radical Jewish groups—prayed.
[3] Systematic Theology, Dr. Alva G. Huffer, p. 517.
[4] Daniel 7:13-14; Galatians 5:21; 2 Timothy 4:1; Revelation 19:11-16
[5] Philippians 4:19; Matt. 6:25-34
[6] Ephesians 4:31-32
[7] Mark 11:25; Ephesians 4:32; James 5:16; 1 John 1:9
[8] Heb. 4:15
[9] John 3:16; Romans 5:8-11; 1 Peter 3:18
[10] John 16:33; Rom. 8:37; 2 Cor. 2:14; 4:7-18

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The Invisible God

Seeing the Invisible God

There’s a cute story of a little boy who was working on a drawing. His daddy asked him what he was doing. The son replied, “Drawing a picture of God.” His daddy said, “You can’t do that, honey. Nobody knows what God looks like.” But the little boy was undeterred. He continued to draw, looked at his picture with satisfaction and said very matter-of-factly, “They will in a few minutes.” (selected)

Although he was sincerely determined to draw God’s picture, the little boy did not understand that no one has ever seen God entirely. True, it is written that Moses saw the backside of God (Exodus 33:18-34:9). But no one can actually see God face to face and live to tell about it even as God exclaimed to Moses, ” But He said, ‘You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!’” (Ex. 33:20, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

In that context, John the Baptist testified, “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known,” (John 1:17-18, New European Version, NEV)

The fact that God hasn’t fully been seen is why he is called, “the invisible God.” Colossians 1:15 says that Jesus Christ is “…the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation…” (NEV).

Though God cannot be totally seen by the naked eye, he has revealed himself to humanity in several ways:

• God has revealed himself in the universe. David spoke of God’s glorious creation of heaven (Psalm 8:3-4). David marveled at God’s handiwork in the heavens as he declared, The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. (Psa. 19:1-6 NASB)

• God has revealed himself by his creation of Earth (Gen. 1:1), including day and night (Gen. 1:2-5); Earth’s atmosphere and formation of continents and oceans (Gen. 1:6-10); vegetation and plants (Gen. 1:11-13); sun, moon, stars and the four seasons (Gen 1:14-19; 8:22; Isaiah 55:9-11; Rom. 14:17); aquatic and fowl life (Gen. 1:20-22); animal and human life (Gen. 1:24-31; 2:7-25).

• God reveals himself by the fact that mankind was created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27). Yes, God is a living person because he had made us in his physical image. Moreover, unlike the animal species, he created mankind to have the ability to think, feel, and choose. Ergo, we are conscious beings with a built-in conscience. Even though we might never have been directly taught the Law of God given through Moses, we have a natural inclination to consciously know what is right and wrong because of conscience (Romans 2:14-15).

• It’s also pointed out that God reveals himself through history. Dr. Alva G. Huffer wrote,

…The historic divine judgments—the Flood, dispersion of nations from the Tower of Babel, destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues upon Egypt, the captivity of Israel, etc.—were revelations of God. Fulfilled predictions God made concerning ancient nations were divine self-revelations. In his providence God uses one nation to punish another and his guiding hands upon the destiny of nations. (Read Habakkuk). According to Ezekiel the recognition of God’s work among the nations will be the major result of the fulfillment of future prophecies. The key phrase of Ezekiel is “that they might know that I am God.” (Systematic Theology, p. 50.)

• We learn about God and how he reveals himself to us primarily through his inspired Book, the Bible. Both Old and New Testaments show us the truth of God’s Word to mankind. We know his work and will through the way he inspired holy men to write the holy Scriptures (2 Peter 1:20-21). The Scriptures are the ultimate written source for receiving instruction of holy living and understanding God’s plan salvation (2 Tim. 3:15-17).

• Now we come full circle to the aim and purpose that God has for revealing himself in so many ways. The living manifestation of God’s Word is the revelation of himself through his only begotten Son, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus was in God’s plan even before God began his creation (Col. 1:15-16). Jesus suffered and died but God resurrected him to immortality to be “firstborn from the dead,” (Col. 1:18; cp. Rom. 6:9) He is, therefore, “before all things” in that God his Father exalted him higher than any thing he ever made before or ever will make in the future: “And he is superior to all things, and in him all things consist,” Col. 1:17, NEV; also Philippians 2:9; Hebrews 1:1-4). When the “reasoning” [Greek: logos, “word”] of God “became flesh” at the birth of Jesus Christ (John 1:14), God was literally revealing his plan of salvation for mankind. Though we cannot see God our Father, we can see him through the eyes faith (Heb. 11:1). For Jesus—God’s Son—is the perfect image who, like a mirror, reflects God’s perfect moral character (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15; 2:9). That is why Jesus could make the claim, “He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me,” (John 12:45, NASB).

One day, after Jesus has returned and completely established God’s Kingdom, God himself will come down from his heavenly throne to this planet (Revelation 21:1-4). Only those who’ve been faithful to him through conversion in Jesus Christ will be able to see God for they will be glorified with immortality just as Jesus is now (1 Cor. 15:51-52; Philippians 3:21). Just think… believers won’t need to draw God’s picture then to know what he looks like because he will actually be among us! Sadly, as for everyone else who has not accepted God’s Son as Savior, the Bible says that they will never be able to see God (Rev. 20:11-15).

By faith, we turn to the God we cannot literally see in this life, but believe we WILL see in the Kingdom Age to Come. Through his own self-revelation we can see evidence of God’s personal existence. If we know the Son of God, Jesus Christ, as our personal Lord and Savior we can also know God our Father and his salvation plan even though we don’t visibly see him at present.

What’s the benefit of all this faith in our invisible God now? “Spiritual wisdom and understanding…walking worthily in the Lord…producing fruit for doing God’s good work…being strengthened with all power…patience and endurance with joy…being made suitable to be partakers of the eternal inheritance with all the other believers in Jesus Christ…forgiveness of our sins…” (Colossians 1:9-14).

Here is Steve Green singing his rendition of, “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise,” http://youtu.be/MlbnP4_yj18

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Motivation Through Inspiration

God's Word Inspired

I was reading a funny story about one way a father motivated his family to pitch in and help set up a campsite where they were staying. After their loaded station wagon parked at the only remaining campsite, the four children leaped from the vehicle and began feverishly unloading the gear and setting up the tent. The boys then rushed to gather firewood, while the girls and their mother set up camp stove and cooking utensils. A nearby camper marveled to the youngsters’ father: “That, sir, is some display of teamwork.” The father replied, “I have a system. No one goes to the bathroom until the camp is set up. (selected)

Funny how it takes certain ways to motivate people. Some use a conditional approach like the father: You may all go to the bathroom upon the condition you set up camp first. Others use bribery: mother to son… I offer to pay your ticket to go to a movie if you finish your homework. Still, others resort to black mail: sister to brother…I will tell dad you got a traffic ticket when you drove his car unless you do all my chores for the next few weeks. There’s also the time approach, often used in sales: Get this widget now at this low price before time runs out. Ah…another one I just thought of is the threat of punishment : Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time. There are also other examples of motivation you can probably think of.

The point is…motivation can be found through many means and methods. But the best way is through the inspiration of the scriptures. In fact, God’s inspired Word provides the kind of instruction that truly motivates us for achieving genuine success in our lives.

Second Timothy 3:16 and 17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (New American Standard Bible, NASB)

Let’s break this passage down. The word, “inspired,” literally means, “God-breathed.” All Scripture is “breathed out by God,” (English Standard Version, ESV). Through his Holy Spirit or Power, God spoke to the eyes and ears as well as the minds and hearts of holy men who recorded his Word and will to them (2 Peter 1:21). Therefore, everything you read from Genesis to Revelation is not something that human beings made up. Every word or thought derives from that divine Source which makes the Bible true, accurate, and trustworthy. God is the sole author of his Book.

God’s inspired Word, therefore, is profitable or useful in various ways–namely, teaching or instruction; reproof or persuasion; correction or setting right again; training in righteousness or discipline in doing right under God’s justice. The profitability of God’s inspired Word is so that believers can be adequately equipped for doing God’s good work. In effect, there can be no better way to be motivated than by applying God’s inspired Word in one’s daily life.

Let’s cite some examples:

  • Teaching. Joshua 1:7, “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go,” (ESV).

There are many books on the market that tell us how to achieve success. But the foundation of true success from the Christian standpoint is by doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. God’s laws of do’s and don’ts provide the ethics that motivate us to move forward toward whatever we’re doing. And it keeps our conscience clear and our minds confident knowing we’re doing what God requires by following his instructions.

  • Reproof. Romans 8:38-39, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (New King James Version, NKJV).

Whenever we’re presented with an opinion or idea that we question we want evidence. Reproof requires proof of evidence by testing our conviction. God’s Word is meant to convict us in our beliefs even if it takes reprimand or rebuke (2 Timothy 4:1-4). Motivation through reproof is when we are convinced or persuaded to accept God’s truth regardless of those who would challenge us to believe otherwise. Like the Apostle Paul, whose conviction was also tested and proven, we are motivated knowing that nothing and no one can come between us and the love of God through Christ our Lord (2 Tim. 3:1-15).

  • Correction. 2 Timothy 2:23-26, “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will,” (ESV).

Call it human pride, but no one usually likes to be corrected. We all like to think we’re right. But when someone sets us straight on a certain matter, we’re either going to resist or admit our error. Motivation rests on how we take correction when we need it. We can either take it with a positive or a negative attitude which is why the Apostle Paul instructed Timothy to correct his opponents with gentleness. Motivation is strengthened if correction is done in the correct way: With gentle words rather than with harsh or judgmental words (Matthew 7:1-5). Another thing to remember is that God’s Word provides the truth that keeps us corrected. If we keep it hidden in our hearts (Psalm 119:11), then we’ll be divinely motivated to follow his correction in a positive manner. And that gets us to the next principle…  

  • Training in Righteousness. Hebrews 12:4-13, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. 
    ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

          nor be weary when reproved by him.
    For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
          and chastises every son whom he receives.’
    For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left       without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.”

Any kind of training you undergo takes discipline. To be trained in God’s righteousness or justice is no different. Among other things, it includes great sacrifice, hard work, intensive learning, and gut desire. Motivation is imperative if you want to be trained in God’s righteousness. By remembering that God’s correction is what trains us to pursue those principles that bring us success, we will be motivated through his perfect, genuine love, “For the Lord disciplines [trains] the one he loves.” Even when you don’t feel well and you are so weak you think you can’t go any farther, God’s discipline will motivate you with peace of mind and strength and hope to move forward in your midst of trial and temptation.  

If you need motivation to get you going in whatever you pursue to do, get inspired by God’s inspired Word. Nothing is so essential and so rewarding as following God’s Word to get you motivated. As the Apostle Paul noted in his own testimony of life-long commitment, it is most profitable for equipping us to serve as we look forward to the appearing of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 4:7-8). Nothing could be more motivating than to anticipate the crown of righteousness the Lord will award to believers when he comes again!

Here’s an inspirational song that will motivate you: “Word of God Speak” by Mercy Me, https://youtu.be/4JK_6osCH74

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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A Matter of Interpretation?

Bible says

A young mother had been too busy to visit her elderly neighbor, who was ill. She said to her small son, “Johnny, run over and see how ‘old Mrs. Smith’ is.” Within a few minutes, the boy was back. “She says it’s none of your business how old she is.” (1001 Humorous Illustrations for Public Speaking, Michael Hodgin)

Johnny must have interpreted his mother to say one thing but she meant it another way. This sort of thing happens all the time, doesn’t it? We say something to someone but they interpret it another way. Usually, it results in confusion and, sometimes, strife.

It is no different when Christians have opposing views on the Scriptures. I remember oftentimes discussing a specific Bible verse with someone and the person will say, “It depends on how you interpret it.” In other words, that person is saying it doesn’t really matter what the truth is but what you think about it that counts. But will that kind of attitude bring us any closer to the true meaning of a Bible passage? And won’t that just bring confusion and, perhaps, strife over it?

Yes, we can agree to disagree just for the sake of maintaining love, civility and mutual respect. But there can only be one truth and, therefore, one faith for building the kind of unity taught in God’s Word (Ephesians 4:1-6). In fact, wasn’t this the goal of the early church leaders? The Apostle Paul said to the church of Ephesus:

…till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ… (Ephesians 4:13-16).

Whenever we study the Bible, and want to come up with the truth of a word or passage, we need to be very careful not to let our own bias or personal preferences interfere with the meaning. What we want to believe about a certain teaching or subject and what it is actually saying has to be closely considered whenever we search the Scriptures. There is such a thing as “interpretive bias,” as author, Michael Hodgin, has illustrated:

Whenever we interpret Scripture, we tend to lean toward our own bias. We need to recognize the reality of such biases that we all have. I like the story I read in Sunday Sermons about the driver of a tour bus in Nashville, Tennessee. The driver was pointing out the sights of the Civil War Battle of Nashville. He said, “Right over here a small group of Confederate soldiers held off a whole Yankee brigade.” A little farther along he said, “Over there a young Confederate boy, all by himself, fought off a Yankee platoon.” This went on and on until finally, a member of the tour group asked, “Didn’t the Yankees win anything in the battle of Nashville?” The bus driver replied, “Not while I’m the driver of this bus, they didn’t.” (ibid.)

It is imperative that any student of the Bible not allow outside influences to distort the actual meaning of Scripture. What you’ve always been taught by your parents, or your church’s creed, or your Sunday School teacher, or college professor, or even your preacher or priest has to be weighed against what you are reading and studying for yourself. It may just be that what you are discovering through your own studies may not agree with the traditional views others have given you. Remember what it says in Second Peter 1:19 through 21. Scripture must interpret itself.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible that I’ve used as a guideline for interpreting Scripture is Second Timothy 2:15, where the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” (King James Version, KJV). The Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC) puts this verse in context with verses 14 and 16 and states the text this way:

(14) Remind [the people] of these facts and [solemnly] charge them in the presence of the Lord to avoid petty controversy over words, which does no good but upsets and undermines the faith of the hearers. (15) Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth. (16) But avoid all empty (vain, useless, idle) talk, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness. (vss. 14-16)

I cannot over emphasize the need to study God’s Word on your own and see if you come up with same conclusions as others. This is what the Berean Christians were commended for. In Acts 17:10-12 it says,

The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 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. Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. (New American Standard Bible, NASB)

As I’ve pointed out, when studying God’s inspired Word, one must approach it diligently and allow it to speak for itself. This includes going to the original languages in which it was written (Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic), understanding the culture, customs, and history of the time, and taking everything into context what was written. It’s also advisable that you use Bible translations which come closer to the original text rather than paraphrases which are basically modernized versions of what translators think it says. Commentaries are okay to an extent but I believe you must still be somewhat objective with a little bit of skepticism added in until you can see proof of what is being asserted.

All of this might sound too overwhelming for some. But you don’t have to have a degree in Theology or a be an expert in linguistics to understand God’s Word. There a many more resources to consult now that we have access to computers and other technology tools in addition to books. And be assured. God has revealed his Word in such a way that even the most simple-minded person can read it and absorb it into one’s life. In Psalm 119:130 it says, “The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.” Through Christ, God wants us to know his truth so that we can apply it for our spiritual growth as we serve him and prepare for his Kingdom (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 4:1-8).

Here’s Amy Grant singing, “Thy Word”: http://youtu.be/M_3Ad3Q4Rrk

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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The Fallacy of Humanism

humanism

Have you ever heard of a building literally making someone sick? It happened one time in 1996 when a mother, Randi Armstrong, and her two daughters moved from California to Staten Island. According to the New York Times, Randi and the girls started mysteriously suffering from recurring itching, fatigue, headaches, and cold and flu symptoms. They spent days at a time in bed, missing school, and work. Randi spoke to the landlord and her doctor but no one could help her identify the cause of the problem.

Suffering for months, one day she saw a television news program describing maladies caused by a noxious mold called Stachy-botrys atra (pronounced stock-e-BAH-trus AH-tra) that grows in dark, warm, moist conditions. It had become a problem in some buildings on Staten Island because of the borough’s high water table. A library and a day-care center had been closed because of the mold. Instantly, Randi recognized the streaky patches of black, slimy mold on some of the walls and ceilings of her apartment. As quickly as she could, she moved out of the apartment. (Craig Brian Larson & Leadership Journal)

Sick buildings make a person physically ill. And in the same sense, when people make their abode with human philosophies and worldviews that are spiritually harmful then they, too, will suffer the consequences. This points to the fallacy of modern secular humanism.

What is “humanism”? It’s said to be…

…a term widely used within the church to describe the prevailing philosophy of today—the world’s mold that Christians have to resist deliberately. But what, specifically, is “humanism”? Probably its clearest definition and most aggressive repudiation of Christianity appears in the Humanist Manifesto II [Sept. 2, 1973], which contains the following basic tenets:

  • We believe that traditional dogmatic or authoritarian religions that place revelation, God, ritual, or creed above human needs and experience do a disservice to the human species.
  • Promises of immortal salvation or fear of eternal damnation are both illusory and harmful. They distract humans from present concerns, from self-actualization, and from rectifying social injustices.
  • We affirm that moral values derive their source from human experience. Ethics is autonomous and situational, needing no theological or ideological sanction. Ethics stem from human need and interest. To deny this distorts the whole basis of life. Reason and intelligence are the most effective instruments that human kind possesses. There is not substitute; neither faith nor passion suffices in itself.
  • No deity will save us; we must save ourselves. (as cited in 1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Baker Book House, Michael P. Green, ed.)

This manifesto is one of three that have been published by prominent humanists for the past 85 years. Humanist Manifesto I was first published in 1933, at the time John Dewey and others organized the American Humanist Association, AHA. The tenets of the first manifesto essentially advocated socialism over capitalism.

In 2003, Humanist Manifesto III was published in The Humanist. Although it did not include the various tenets of the first two manifestos, it was printed in paragraphs containing words that did not directly oppose Christian beliefs like the second one. However, it still advocates a humanistic philosophy that is contrary to a belief in anything supernatural (i.e., God’s existence and that he is our Creator). (LINK: http://www.icr.org/article/evolving-humanist-manifestos/ )

When you think about it, humanism is basically the worship of humanity rather than worship of the one, true God. It denies God and the teachings in God’s Word. It believes that humanity is the solution to the world’s problems, and not God. Humanism couldn’t be more wrong.

Humanism is a sick building. It extols “the creature” rather than “the Creator” just like the Apostle Paul stated to the Roman Church:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (Rom. 1:18-25, New American Standard Bible, NASB)

Evidence of God’s is everywhere, just as the Apostle Paul points out. But well-educated philosophers who profess to be wise turn out to be fools because they deny their own Creator. They are like the fool described in two Psalms (NASB):

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds;
There is no one who does good. (Psalm 14:1)

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God,”
They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice;
There is no one who does good. (Psalm 53:1)

The fallacy of humanism is that humanists believe it can succeed. The truth is, however, it will never bring lasting joy or prosperity or security and peace and especially love. Humanism travels on a one-way street going the wrong way. It goes against the flow of God’s moral character since it denies him. Humanism asserts its own “moral value” which is really “immoral” since it is without the One who establishes true moral value.

In essence, humanism is a “sick building” built on a weak foundation of sand rather than the solid rock of Christ’s highest standards (Matthew 7:24-27). Those who promote socialism, materialism, cultism, hedonism, and many other kinds of ism’s breed the spiritual sickness and diseases the lead to disappointment, disillusionment, and disaster. The Apostle Paul goes on to list these “sicknesses” and their results:

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (Rom. 1:26-32, NASB)

Have you ever noticed how those with a bent toward humanism tend to give their “hearty approval” for the very things God does not approve of? You might be watching a TV show and hear someone endorse something that is not according to God’s moral standards even though that person likes to make it look most popular and acceptable. But what they want you to accept leads to the sickness of a “depraved mind to do those things which are not proper….” When you observe the ills of this world, you can always trace it to the humanistic frame of mind, attributed to this problem called SIN.

It all started when our first parents disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were humanistic in their depraved minds when they humanly thought that they could be gods themselves rather than obeying the one, true God (Genesis 3:5-6). This led to their sin. And humanity has been suffering ever since.

It took the “second Adam,” Jesus Christ, to give humanity the hope of overcoming sin and the curse we are all under (1 Corinthians 15:45). Jesus was born to undo what Adam did and provide forgiveness of sin which is available since he died to save us from the penalty of sin, namely, eternal death (Isaiah 53; Rom. 5:6-8; 1 Cor. 15:3; Galatians 3:13-14; Ephesians 5:2; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 10:12; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 3:16). Those who accept Jesus Christ as Savior through faith, repentance, and baptism are able to escape the sickness of humanism and the misery it breeds. Believers find a better “house” to dwell in which they are able to really live through the power of God’s wisdom and grace (Psalm 84).

Here’s Jason Silver with a song from Psalm 84: http://youtu.be/W1_RuGwZEj8

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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