A Lesson on Confession

The story is told about a Sunday school teacher of a class of small boys who was emphasizing the need of personally confessing our sins to God. As he closed the lesson, and wanting to see if he had put across his point to the boys, he asked, “Now, boys, how many of you have sins you would like to confess to God?” (W. Woodard Henry)

The boys sat as still as a mouse. Finally, one little fellow raised his hand and said, “Teacher, I don’t have any sins to confess for myself, but I know some people who do!”

It’s much easier to spot the sins of others than be able to detect our own sins. Why is that? The answer could boil down to one word: pride.

It’s said that pride hides one’s faults to one’s self, but magnifies them to everyone else. In other words, what you can’t see on account of personal pride, others can clearly see. And, on account of it, everyone else is guilty but yourself.  Why, according to the way you view it, you’ve become a victim of their injustice! And that’s unfair!

I read about a governor who visited incognito a large penitentiary. It was his secret plan to pardon a prisoner who met a certain condition known only to himself.

He entered into conversation with a large number of inmates. All of them said that they were victims of injustice, and had been wrongly treated and were innocent of any crime.

Finally, one inmate said, “I have no reason to complain. I have been a wicked, desperate wretch. I believe it is a great mercy I am here, for I deserve to be hanged!”

The governor, disclosing his identity to the honest prisoner, said, “It is a pity you should be here among so many ‘innocent, honest’ men! According to your own confession, you are bad enough to corrupt them all ! You shall not stay with them a day longer!” Having said that, the governor pardoned him and ordered his immediate release. (Walter B. Knight)

Here was a man who set aside his pride and humbly admitted how he deserved his punishment. And seeing the man’s sincerity, the governor pardoned him and set him free. Confession literally saved that man!

While pride stands in the way of confessing our sins, humility moves us to say, “I have sinned!”

It’s reminds me of a parable Jesus told about the Pharisee and the tax-gatherer who went up to the temple to pray. The Pharisee proudly prayed, “God, I thank you I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.”

But the tax-gatherer humbly stood at a distance. He was feeling so ashamed that he could not even look up to heaven. Instead, he beat his chest in grief, pleading, “God be merciful to me, the sinner!”

Jesus said, “I tell you, this man [the tax-gatherer] went down to his house justified rather than the other [the Pharisee]; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

The lesson on confession we learn is this: That if we humbly confess our sins to God, he will pardon us, forgive us, and set us free from the guilt of our sins through Christ Jesus his Son. First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

On the other hand, verse 8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

The truth is, as it says in verse 7, “If we walk in the light as he [God] himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

When sinners are converted to Christ and confess their sins as followers of Christ, then they are pardoned and set free from the guilt of sin (Psalm 32:5). This has been made possible because of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross and the blood he shed as the payment price for our forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 2:1-2). Therefore, confession of sins is imperative for the sake of our own freedom and salvation in Christ.

Dr. Alva Huffer wrote,

“God is able to be ‘just’ when he forgives the Christian’s sin because Jesus paid the penalty for that sin. God will cleanse the Christian from all unrighteousness if the Christian will confess his sins to God.” (Systematic Theology).

He goes on to emphasize how this applies to our daily lives:

“As the believer progresses in the spiritual life, he will constantly recognize additional factors in his life which are contrary to God’s will and which need to be changed. The Christian’s attitude toward sin is hatred of sin in his own life and forgiveness of sin in the lives of others. He will make immediate, specific confession of all known sin to God.” (Ibid.)

Confession of sins, therefore, becomes an important part of Christian growth. It’s not something we try to cover up by pointing to the sins we see in others— like offering to remove “the splinter” from someone else’s eye without seeing clearly to first take “the log” out of your own eye (Matthew 7:1-6).  Rather, it requires that we examine ourselves each day so that we can experience the kind of life that enables us to enjoy God’s many blessings.

Good News to YOU!

Pastor Michael

P.S. Here is Maranatha Vocal Band with a medley of songs, “The Steadfast Love of the Lord,” and “He Is Faithful,”  https://youtu.be/yObMyLq4zRI

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Saved by My Grandma and Her Apron

grandma in the parlor

The following story is in memory of my dear Grandmother, Mary Katherine Pearson, in celebration of National Grandparents Day this Sunday, September 13, 2020:

One time when I was a youngster I can remember what happened when a big storm was coming our way. I was probably around four years old. My mom and I were visiting my grandparents who lived in the country. Like most other country homes, they had cellars underneath the house, not basements like modern homes have. The cellar was more for storing canned goods lined up on dusty shelves, keeping garden equipment, old junk, and grandma’s wringer washer she routinely operated.

That cellar was usually dark inside with only one or two light bulbs hanging down from the ceiling to make just enough light to see. This, of course, created a lot of spooky shadows that left a lot to the imagination of a child my age. Not only was it dark and dreary, but dirty and dank as you can imagine with that musty smell all around.

The nearest way to the cellar was to go outside through the back door of the kitchen and down a few steps to ground level. Just a few feet away there were two doors leading down into the cellar. To open the doors, you had to bend down and pull each one open which led to some narrow steps going directly down into the cellar below.

cellar_door

Of all the things a cellar was good for, it was especially useful whenever a big storm arose. Even if the house blew away during a tornado, you’d still be safely sheltered below ground. Naturally, it was the first place to flee when danger threatened. The trick was to get to the doors outside right away and open them before anything happened.

This gets us to the time I remember when one of those storms was starting to brew. I’m not sure where my grandpa was at the moment we saw it coming. But my mom and grandma were getting worried as they saw the dark clouds swirling and felt the wind gusting with greater force. Keep in mind, this was a time before tornado warnings were officially issued by the weather service. But the way the sky was looking, my mom and grandmother decided they’d better get to the cellar as fast as they could.

I don’t know what they were doing the moment the storm was coming. They could have been canning some green beans or pickled beets for they always had a nice big garden which kept them busy. I can just see the two of them working in that hot kitchen, no air-conditioning, of course. And I can especially picture my grandma with her apron on as usual, busy at the table.

Grandma Pearson

Now this wasn’t an apron she only put on when she worked in the kitchen. As a matter of fact, she always wore an apron around the house regardless what she was doing. I don’t remember a time she wasn’t wearing one. And it wasn’t the skimpy kind you tie around the waist, either. It was one of those full-bodied kind tied around the neck and waist, hanging down to the knees; plain or flower-decorated material; and a big deep pocket at waist level in front.

So, as the tornado-like storm is starting to pound away, I’m watching my mom and grandma running around like two hens about to be attacked by a wolf. Suddenly, my mom flings open the kitchen door and they start to make a mad dash to the cellar.

In aiming to protect her little grandson on the way to the cellar, my grandma snatches me up, wraps me in her apron, and carries me down to the cellar as my mom yanks open the doors. We get down to that cellar, my grandma unwraps me from her apron, and there we wait in the dark for that storm to pass.

I can still remember how safe and secure I felt. I was shielded not merely by that apron, but by my grandma’s love and protection over me! At least we didn’t all blow away! Finally, it grew silent outside and we knew it was safe to leave and go back into the house.

My dear grandma’s act of love is a reminder of God’s love over us. Her apron stands for the way our loving God wraps his protection around us when the storms of life suddenly arise in our midst. He is our shield and defender who keeps us safe and secure even when times are difficult to bear. We know he will lead us to safety through it all according to his marvelous grace.

passages from Psalms_God's protection

God demonstrated his love and protection when he gave his only begotten Son for our salvation. The Apostle Paul wrote, “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:8, ESV). Jesus was the perfect sacrifice who obeyed his Father’s will and shed his blood for the forgiveness of our sins (Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:11-14).

Again, I think of my grandma’s apron used as a covering to save me during a storm. Jesus’ blood was poured out as a covering for our sins to save us eternally in God’s perfect Kingdom—the age to come when all the storms of life will be things of the past. And God, himself, “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away,” (Revelation 21:4, ESV).

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Indeed, we have many things for which to praise the Lord but the greatest is when he gave his Son to give us peace, joy, and hope. Here’s a timeless hymn with a wonderful message to encourage us when we face the storms of life: “To God Be the Glory,” presented by the Vagle Brothers, https://youtu.be/qESGVcfLZEE

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The Courage to Take Courage

courageous_clip art

O love the LORD, all you His godly ones! The LORD preserves the faithful, and fully recompenses the proud doer. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD. (New American Standard, NASB)

—Psalm 31:23-24, A Psalm of David.

In a world filled with violence, confusion, and fear, we turn to the words of King David who encourages all those who hope in the LORD God to take courage. We need these words today. The corona pandemic, riots in the streets, shouts of justice, and economic uncertainty are testing our resolve to be strong in the face of these woes.

Many turn to a variety of sources to deal with these circumstances—such as, politicians, the media, scientists, medical professionals, professors, and even religious leaders. And there may be good and bad advice in all of these sources, depending on your view.

But considering these are all from human perspectives, the only tried and true Source for taking courage is from the Word of the LORD. For the bottom line is that God offers the one and only true hope we have of seeing the world change for the better.

Unfortunately, there are some who do not want to accept the premise that God is the solution. Secular humanists believe that humankind will solve all our problems, not the God of the Holy Bible. In fact, many of them don’t even believe that God exists. Therefore, by denying God, they deprive themselves of taking courage through his divine Power.

But our position is that if you ever want to know the best way to have courage, then the best place to start is to set your mind to believe in the one, true God of the scriptures. And when I say “believe” I’m not talking about just thinking there’s a God. A lot of people will say, “Yes, I believe in God.” But by their actions and their thinking you wouldn’t know it.

No, I’m talking about believe in a way that shows it. “But,” you might ask, “how do I show it?” Answer: Basically, it’s about loving God and being faithful to him.

“O love the LORD,” is prescribed to those who believe that God is AND that he is a rewarder of those who seek him. We’re talking about faith. (I wrote about it in my last blog post, “The Faith Factor,” published August 29.) For when it comes to faith, this verse is most encouraging:

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and he is a rewarder of those who seek him,” (Hebrews 11:6, NASB).

Once we accept, by faith, that God does exist, and that he rewards us for having such faith, then we’re able to believe in the Person who will indeed give us the courage to face our problems. What’s more, we’re able not to only to face them, but to boldly overcome them so that they won’t overcome us.

In essence, what we’re saying is that faith in God and love for him provides the ability to take true courage. Believing in God is believing what God can and will do out of sincere love for him. It’s what helps us to be strong and bold. This is true love for him. And it forms the very foundation for God’s laws. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (NASB) says,

“Here, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

When we have faith in God, and love him with every ounce of our strength—mentally, physically, and emotionally—then we show it by humbly obeying him. This is how we can “be strong,” and in our hearts, “take courage.”

The result is rewarding: “The LORD preserves the faithful.” In other words, God will watch over us, guard us, and keep us in accordance with his promises. That’s not to say we won’t go through suffering for standing firm in our faith.

Jesus said that believers will be hated and persecuted for their faith (Matthew 10:22; 24:9). But the reward is that in the end, eternal life and entrance into God’s glorious Kingdom will be given to all those who’ve endured unto the end (Matthew 5:10-12; Romans 8:12-25). This is what all those of courage who have “hope in the LORD” expect to receive in due time.

Speaking of this, another reward will be handed to those who do not qualify as the LORD’s faithful. These are not the godly ones who love God. Instead, they are the “proud doers” who do not have the hope of the Lord in their lives. And the reward is this: The LORD will “fully recompenses” them for their deeds. Sadly, this kind of reward is not the kind they will want to receive (Matthew 25:30).

Here’s where it’s important to distinguish between a false idea of courage and a true one. Sometimes people believe they’re showing courage but when it’s said and done all they’re showing is their foolishness. For example, what are we seeing in the news every day? It’s flashed on the screen 24/7: Stealing, destroying others’ property, seething rage, mob violence, intimidation, slander, and vulgarity of all kinds.

Some might think this sort of conduct is showing courage to change the system and for bringing about justice. But, honestly, it’s only cowardice masquerading as courage. There’s no love for God or other fellow human beings with such violent behavior on display. The hard fact is—speaking of their reward—the cowardly will be among the ones who will not enter the Kingdom of God according to Revelation 21:8,

“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Even the Hindu leader from India, Mahatma Gandhi who stood for nonviolence, had the sense to know that cowards are not capable of love but it’s only for the brave. For he once said, “A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.”  Ironically, the peace-loving Gandhi was murdered January 30, 1948, by the hand of a violent man. Indeed, it’s out of cowardice that hate prevails and violent people want to kill those who strive for peace. 

Real courage is shown by those who risk their lives for saving others, defend law and order even at their own peril, and stand up for truth and morality regardless of abuse, threats, and defamation by others. They are the ones with courage—men and women who take the bullets, run into burning buildings, take the cuts and bruises, and come to the rescue of helpless victims. And for what purpose? Not as the cowardly “proud doers” but as the bravely humble doers believing that love for God, family, and country means doing and defending what’s right. And it’s what God expects, as well.

Yes, one must have courage to take courage. And it’s demonstrated by serving God and one another out of faith, hope, and love. And as God’s Word shows, the courage to take courage is indeed worth the sacrifice one unselfishly makes for the good of all. For the rewards are endless.

“Be strong in the LORD,” and you can’t go wrong (Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:9; 1 Chronicles 28:20; 1 Corinthians 16:13; Ephesians 6:10-11; 2 Timothy 1:7).

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here are some encouraging words from the song, “Be Strong and Take Courage,” by Don Moen, https://youtu.be/LKaZmKMtXfg

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The Faith Factor

faith is_word art

As I was doing some research on faith, this remark caught my eye:

“Faith is to the soul what a mainspring is to a watch.”

Not knowing much about the mainspring of a wind-up watch, I decided to learn more about it and how faith is analogous to it.

According to the headline of an article by Jack Forster in Bloomberg.com, the mainspring is “Watchmaking’s Most Essential and Underappreciated Component,” (2/20/2020). He says that without the mainspring, there would be no watches or watchmakers.

The same would be true with clocks, wind-up toys and radios, timers, and music boxes. They all rely on the mainspring that David Boettcher, a watch expert, calls “the power source for the watch movement,” (Information/images from VintageWatchstraps.com © David Boettcher). It’s easy to see why.

Boettcher explains what the mainspring is:

“It is a spiral strip of metal contained in a circular enclosure called the barrel. The outer end of the mainspring is hooked to the inner wall of the barrel. The inner end of the spring is hooked onto the arbor, a shaft around which the barrel can turn, or which can turn inside the barrel. By turning the arbor or the barrel the spring can be wound up, storing the energy that makes the watch run.” (Ibid.)

mainspring

Watch Mainspring in Going Barrel

I think of how faith is compared to the mainspring of a watch. For one thing, a Christian’s faith is based on an important Power Source. In First Corinthians 2:4-5, the Apostle Paul said to the church, “…and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God,” (New American Standard Bible, NASB).

True faith does not rest upon those who appear wise in the eyes of those who do not follow the One who created them. This is what unbelievers do not get. They might sound smart. They might look like it. They might have the highest degrees anyone could ever achieve. They might even win the Nobel Peace Prize, or make appearances on TV, or write best selling books, or Tweet tall sounding words.

But like a watch without a mainspring, these unbelievers are useless in God’s eyes since they deny him and the strength he offers. What’s missing? Faith.

But like a watch without a mainspring, these unbelievers are useless in God’s eyes since they deny him and the strength he offers. What’s missing? Faith. It takes faith to believe that God exists and that he is the rewarder of those who seek him. As it says in Hebrews 11:1 and 6:

[1] Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. [6] And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Human theories and philosophies might appear wise to the world, but this is foolishness with God. True wisdom comes from God. And true faith rests on his Power in us through Jesus Christ, his Son (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). Without Christ in our lives, we do not have the real Power Source to keep us ticking, so to speak.

In addition to Power, another factor about faith is that, it is an integral part of an intricate system designed for achieving God’s timing and work. Every detail, every season, every thing ever created, has a purpose and place in God’s scheme of things (Ecclesiastes 3:8).

By faith, we accept the fact that God works in his own time, and in his own way, (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Like the mainspring of a watch, our place is to fit and function in sync with his timing. Faith is part of the process that works in accordance with God’s plans. It comes with believing and trusting him.

By faith, God’s people, can claim this promise:

“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart,” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

And here’s another factor about faith: It’s comes with a condition. If the mainspring of a watch or clock is working correctly, then it can be depended upon to keep the right time. Likewise, with faith in God, we are able to operate accurately at all times.

Before digital watches came on the scene, wind-up watches were the norm. I remember wearing those old style watches. You always had to be careful not to wind the stem up too much or the mainspring would stop working. With experience, you learned how to set the watch properly including winding it just enough to keep it running all the time.

You also want your faith running all the time, too. That means you must wind it each day. For our faith to keep working, we must keep our faith strong every day.

One word of caution, however. If you’re wound up too tightly, thinking that faith alone is all you need, you’ll run down quickly. “Faith without works is dead,” wrote James (James 2:26).  Our faith is revealed by the actions we take to apply it. With that comes experience. You must let faith and experience work hand in hand if you want to get the most of a full life in Christ.

Faith, therefore, is a must for the Christian just like a mainspring is a must for a watch. And, just like a good, dependable watch, experience comes by putting that faith to use. Someone said,

“You must work to keep your faith alive. You must have faith and experience in order to live life fully. You must have faith that all of the things you expect from life are possible for you. You must have faith that no matter what life brings you, you will be able to handle it. You must have faith that your faith will eventually lead to good experiences. Experience teaches you that your faith is paying off. Once you have had an experience, you know that you know. When you know, you become more faithful. Once you have an experience, it makes you want better or different experiences. The difference between faith and experience is this: One you must work on. The other one works on you.” (Source Unknown, as cited in searchquotes.com)

Faith is the mainspring of not only the way we live, but one of the basic factors affecting our salvation.

Faith is the mainspring of not only the way we live, but one of the basic factors affecting our salvation. We accept the gift of God’s grace so that we might be saved for receiving eternal life. So, we accept his gift by faith. For it says in Ephesians 2:8,

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

Faith is one of the three elements of conversion to Christ, the other two being repentance and baptism (Hebrews 6:1-2; Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:4; 1 Peter 3:21). Dr. Alva G. Huffer cited how true faith includes belief, confidence, trust and surrender:

“Faith is based upon facts. Alone, however, belief and confidence do not constitute true faith. True faith results in trust and surrender. One might know all facts about Christ and salvation, and he might have complete confidence in Christ’s ability to save, but he would not experience that salvation unless he personally went to Christ and surrendered himself entirely into his hands,” (Systematic Theology).

Like the mainspring of a watch, faith is an essential factor in the way we live and the way we are saved. We are to grow in God’s grace through faith. As our faith grows, so do we grow in Christ. And as we grow, we experience the abundant life that only Christ can give.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Join with Hillsong Worship as they sing, “Faith,” https://youtu.be/GOr46CLT2-Q

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What ‘I Can Do’ Can Do for You

I can do it 
“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
—Philippians 4:13 (King James Version, KJV)

When the Apostle Paul made this claim to the church at Philippi, he was held prisoner under arrest because of his stand for Christ. For him to make such a powerfully positive statement in the midst of such a dreadful situation is astounding. Not only that. His words are encouraging to us as well as those he was writing to at the time.

I have often repeated this verse, myself, when I’ve been under trying circumstances. It’s not easy to have patience when waiting for an answer, or to be strong when tempted to give in under pressure, or to find comfort when saddened by personal loss. But it’s possible to deal with these experiences by having that “I can do” attitude like the Apostle Paul.

To better understand this attitude, consider Paul’s words from the Emphatic Diaglott by Benjamin Wilson based on the interlineary word-for-word translation from the original Greek:

“I am strong to endure all things with him who strengthens me.”

To know what the apostle meant by these words, it’s important to know what he did not mean. He wasn’t saying that believers can do anything beyond reason. He’s not necessarily indicating that if we set our minds to it, we can be strong like Superman or Superwoman—able to leap over tall buildings with a single bound, fly in the air without a plane, bend steel with our bare hands, outrun a locomotive train, or reflect bullets off one’s body.

Neither was Paul saying you can have anything you so desire. He wasn’t proclaiming a get-rich strategy. “All things” doesn’t mean “everything you want.” You can want a lot of things—fame, fortune, perfect health, and the like. But you can’t always get what you want, even if you’re a Christian.

Somehow, human beings tend to think that if they only get what they want, they’ll be content. But what is contentment, really? Simply put, it means a state of happiness or satisfaction.

It’s been said that the best way for a person to have a contented state of mind is for him to count his blessings, not his cash. It reminds me of this funny story I read:

Two old friends met each other on the street one day. One looked sad and almost on the verge of tears. His friend asked, “What has happened to you, my old friend?”

The sad fellow said, “Let me tell you. Three weeks ago, my uncle died and left me forty thousand dollars.”

“That’s a lot of money,” said his friend.

“But you see,” the sad man continued, “two weeks ago, a cousin I never knew died, and left me eighty-five thousand dollars, free and clear.”

The friend replied, “That sounds like you have been very blessed.”

“You don’t understand!” the sad fellow interrupted. “Last week my great-aunt passed away. I inherited almost a quarter of a million from her.”

The friend was really confused and said, “Then, why are you so sad?”

He answered, “This week I didn’t get anything!” (SermonCentral)

It was in the context of contentment that the Apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ….” In Philippians 4:11, he stated,

“Not that I speak concerning want: for I have learned in whatever condition I am to be contented,” (Emphatic Diaglott).

This is the real key that opens one’s mind to “I can do” thinking. From experience we learn how to condition our thoughts. Some experiences are good, and others are not so good. But whether good or not, how we think is how we’ll respond to them, positively or negatively. Paul chose the positive over the negative side. In this way, he was able to say,

“I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need,” (Philippians 4:12, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

Think of all the problems going on in the world today—from marriage breakups, to social upheaval, to mental disorders, and so on. Many are at wits end, not knowing how to deal with these kind of circumstances. These things affect rich and poor and everyone in between. But Paul said he’d learned the secret of how to endure under such conditions.

In verse 13, he says he can find strength through Christ who gives him the strength to face them. It’s important to realize that he’s not claiming that Christ will make his circumstances go away. Rather, Christ will give him the strength to prevail, no matter how extreme the situation is.

Even Paul, himself, had to accept that even in weakness, he could find strength. Though he prayed three times that his so-called, “thorn in the flesh”  be removed (2 Corinthians 12:7-8), he accepted the fact that God was not going to take it away for there was a Divine purpose for it. So, Paul concluded,

“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong,” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

It is with such conviction that he could say, “I can do,” for his strength came from the strength of Christ in his life. And all of us need Christ’s strength to give us the power to deal with any circumstance in our lives, whether in happy times or sad times. It’s the power of Christ that’s lacking in so many lives today. But it need not be that way in our lives if we personally accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and allow him to be our strength (1 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 1:7; 1 Peter 4:11).

“That “I can do” spirit is productive in terms of the strength we find not only when we choose to do what’s right, but when we refuse to do what’s wrong. For the antithesis of “I can do” is “no can do.”

That “I can do” spirit is productive in terms of the strength we find not only when we choose to do what’s right, but when we refuse to do what’s wrong. For the antithesis of “I can do” is “no can do.” This is the other side of the proverbial coin. For example, I can endure all things through Christ by saying “No!” to the things in which he does not approve.

“No can do” is living up to the higher standards that has been set forth in God’s Word. For example, we are familiar with the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). These commandments give us the knowledge of knowing what God does not approve, and to understand how we ought to live, (Galatians 3:24; 1 Timothy 1:8-11). They actually point to the pattern Christ set for us to follow, (Matthew 5:17; Hebrews 8:5-6), and that is to love God, first and foremost, and to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:38-40).

“Thou shalt not…” gives us the reason to say, “No can do” to the things God doesn’t want us to do. We can say, “No can do” to the things that go contrary to God’s will by the strength we have in Jesus Christ our Lord. We can resist temptation with a “No can do” attitude because we claim the Power of Christ to overcome the sins of the world (1 John 5:1-5). In fact, you can say, “No can do” to sin when you’ve made your commitment to Jesus. For it is he who gives you the power, instead, to say, “I can do,” therefore, enabling you to endure all things in him.

When you measure the “I can do” possibilities with the strength you find in Christ, you can see the benefits of following him. The Apostle Paul was able to rejoice in any situation because he knew where that strength comes from. We can rejoice, as well, for through him we can likewise declare, “I can endure all things through him who strengthens me.”

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Through Christ, God gives us the Power to be strong to endure all things. Here’s Matthew West singing, “Strong Enough”: https://youtu.be/knuHDPbE5es

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How About Bowing the Knee…In Prayer?

prayer_bowing the knee

Silhouette of a man kneeling in prayer

“Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice….” (Psalm 95:6-7)

(Note: All Bible quotes are from the New American Standard Bible, NASB, unless otherwise noted.)

When we speak of bowing the knee we’re talking about bowing down in worship and prayer to God. In fact, the Hebrew word for “worship,” (shacah) literally means, “to bow down.”

For instance, when King David recovered the sacred Ark of the Covenant from the hands of the Philistines, he offered a Psalm of Thanksgiving to God. He declared,

“Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; Bring an offering, and come before him; Worship [bow down to] the LORD in holy array,” (1 Chronicles 16:29). (Compare, Psalm 96:9).

In the Bible, whenever a person or group bowed down on their knees to God, it was out of reverence as well as praise.

For example, when Israel’s King Solomon dedicated the temple to God, it says he stood before the altar, knelt down, and lifted up his hands to the Lord (2 Chronicles 6:12-13; 1 Kings 8:22, 54). He appeared on a platform, approximately 7½ feet square, and 4½ feet high so he could be publicly seen thanking God and asking for his blessing upon the newly constructed temple. The wise king knelt before the LORD in gratitude for fulfilling the desire of his father, David, to build the LORD “a place for Thy dwelling forever,” (2 Chronicles 6:1-3). It was a happy yet solemn occasion.

Later, in Israel’s history, after the Jews returned to their land from Babylonian captivity, the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt. The project took place under the leadership of Ezra the priest and Nehemiah the appointed governor. They didn’t take their achievement for granted. After reading God’s Law to the families gathered there, the Bible says,

“Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen!’ while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground,” (Nehemiah 8:6).

The prophet, Daniel, proved that when the going gets tough, the tough get going…DOWN ON THEIR KNEES. It was after King Darius signed an executive order stating that anyone who bowed to God or anyone else other than the king, then that person shall be cast into the lion’s den and eaten alive (Daniel 6:7-9). But did that stop Daniel from his loyalty to the One God?  No! For it says,

“Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously,” (Daniel 6:10).

As it turned out, after Daniel was discovered praying to God, he was cast into the lion’s den. But God miraculously saved him (Daniel 6:16-24). His life was not only spared, but peace was declared for Daniel and his people, Israel. Moreover, Darius made a decree, “…that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel…” (Daniel 6:25-28).

From these examples, we get a picture of what it means to bow our knees to God our Maker. Bending our knees in prayer is an expression of submission to a Higher Power. When one bows his or her knees to the Lord, that person is demonstrating humility.

Indeed, bending the knee in prayer gets positive results.  It’s a way of coming before the LORD, “with a contrite heart,” like the prayer of David when he confessed his sin of adultery with Bathsheba (Psalm 51:17). One who bows down to our heavenly Father, asking for his forgiveness, will actually put away a bitter, angry heart often displayed at protests.

Kneeling in prayer is the best solution for seeking change. For when we bow before the Lord, we are calling on the One and only One who transforms our lives as well as the society in which we live.

In effect, when your knees are down, your chin is up for God is there to lift you out of the things that get you down.

Bowing to God lifts us up in Spirit. It’s doesn’t bring us down to doom and despair. In fact, when we’re on our knees in prayer, we’re in better standing with our Father in heaven who will “lead us not into temptation” but “deliver us from evil,” (Matthew 6:13). In effect, when your knees are down, your chin is up for God is there to lift you out of the things that get you down.

I’m reminded of the poem in “The Passing of Arthur” from Idylls of the King, by Alfred Lord Tennyson who made famous the words, More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of. If more would bow their knee to the Lord, we’d have a happier society than the one we have now.

The early church knew this, too. Even in the midst of suffering and persecution, New Testament Christians realized the value of humbling themselves before the Lord as they knelt in prayer. The Apostle Paul testified concerning his ministry to the Ephesian church and the personal sacrifices he was making for them and for the sake of the Gospel message. Then he said to his fellow believers, 

“For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father…that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner man…” (Ephesians 3:14-19).

The apostle was bowing in prayer for the people he was serving. It was positive, encouraging, and instructive for the sake of growth even while the church was undergoing trials and difficulties.

When Stephen was being stoned by the Jewish court for being a witness for Christ, it says,

“And falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ And having said this, he fell asleep [expired],” (Acts 7:26).

Notice that Stephen didn’t kneel in protest to his accusers, but humbly to God asking that they be forgiven. Don’t you think that Stephen’s testimony and kneeling in prayer, even while drawing his final breath, had an impression on his persecutors? Indeed. The scene would especially stick in the craw of one of them condemning him—a man by the name of Saul who would later be converted, himself, and renamed, Paul, the Apostle of the Lord, (Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-31).

Luke recorded how a miracle took place one time when the Apostle Peter knelt in prayer. There was a devout Christian woman, Tabitha (also called, Dorcas) who had died. When the Apostle Peter came to the house of the deceased, he went into the room where her body was lying in state. As all of her family were gathered there in mourning, it says that Peter “…sent them all out and knelt down and prayed, and turning to the body, he said, ‘Tabitha, arise.’ And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up,” (Acts 9:40).

Even Jesus, himself, knelt in prayer. He prayed in one of his most intense moments in the Garden of Gethsemane just prior to his death on the cross. It was night time. And while his disciples were sleeping nearby, Luke writes,

“And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and he knelt down and began to pray, saying, ‘Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will, but thine be done,’” (Luke 22:40-46).

Just consider he we, too, may also kneel to pray for God’s will to be done. Our desire is to ask not according to what we want but what he wants. Doing his will is to be done the way he wants it.  That’s why we pray for it in the proper frame of mind, of course.

When the early church bowed their knees, it was out of brotherly love. After the Apostle Paul gave his farewell sermon to members of the Ephesus church, it says that when he said his last good-by, “…he knelt down and prayed with them all.” A lot of tears were shed because he said that it would be the last time they would see him. After all the members surrounded him with hugs and kisses, they accompanied him all the way to the ship he was sailing on. What a picture of love and unity! (Acts 20:36-38.)

Some might be surprised to know that a day will come when everyone will humbly bow their knee to the Lord.

When kneeling in prayer, we also think of the future. Some might be surprised to know that a day will come when everyone will humbly bow their knee to the Lord. Every man, woman, child from every nation, culture, race, and language will bow down to Jesus Christ. The prophet Isaiah recorded God to say,

“I have sworn by myself, the word has gone forth from my mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. They will say of me, ‘Only in the LORD are righteousness and strength.’ Men will come to him, and all who were angry at him shall be put to shame,” (Isaiah 45:23-24).

This is a prophecy of the coming Judgment after Christ returns and establishes God’s Kingdom on the earth. The Apostle Paul refers to this text in Romans 14:11-12 in reference to appearing before the Judgment Seat of God:

“For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise [confess] to God,’ So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God.”

Paul also explains the role Jesus will play in this scene. When every knee bows to God, it will be at the name of Jesus Christ. At his name, all will confess Jesus as Lord of all to the glory of God:

“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” (Philippians 2:9-11).

Bowing the knee in prayer is a gesture of submission to the One, True God in the name his beloved Son, Jesus Christ. There is no salvation under any other name than the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12). And he is the only source for bringing changes to our lives and to the world. For this, we bow our knee in prayer.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s Christian singing artist Twila Paris with her rendition of, “Every Knee Shall Bow”: https://youtu.be/oEAljL-1kNM

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He Came Not to Bring Peace, But a Sword

make me an instrument of your peace

In my last blog post, “Peacemakers Are ‘Worth Their Salt’” (published August 1), I discussed how Jesus is our ultimate Peacemaker who wants us to be peacemakers, too. And yet, there’s another aspect of my point that needs to be addressed.

In Matthew 10:34, Jesus said,

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword,” (New American Standard Bible, NASB). (NOTE: All scripture quotes are from the NASB unless otherwise noted.)

Sort of sounds contradictory to peacemaking, doesn’t it?

On the one hand, we see that Jesus is “our Peace.” In Ephesians 2:14, the Apostle Paul said,

“For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.”

Through the death of Christ, the barrier between us and God has been broken so that we are no longer divided but reconciled to God through him, “…thus establishing peace,”  (Ephesians 2:15). Through Christ, all believers have peace with God. And it’s through him that the unity of peace is established for both Jews and Gentiles. We are all one in Christ if we put on Christ through baptism (Galatians 3:27-28). Peace is one of the wonderful benefits of putting on Christ (Galatians 5:22).

In Christ, believers are “one body,” (Ephesians 2:16)that is, the church. Peace is meant for everyone, offered first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles (Romans 1:16; 2:10; 9:22-33; 11:11). In essence, Jesus becomes our Maker of Peace in fulfilment of God’s plan and purpose as Paul points out in Ephesians 2:17:

“And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near,” (Ref., Isaiah 57:19; Romans 10:14).

Therefore, all those in Jesus Christ have access in one Spirit to the Father (v. 18). Believers are given this access because they are citizens of God’s household or family built up together in Christ (vss. 19-22). This is how we have his peace in us (“My peace I give to you,” John 14:27). It’s also why we want to be peace makers to others (“Blessed are the peacemakers…,” Matthew 5:9).

Having said this, on the other hand…

Jesus indicated that instead of peace, he was bringing a sword. Does that mean Jesus is advocating war and not peace? Is he saying his people should take up arms and physically fight for him? Did he intentionally plan to agitate and cause trouble in the world?

The answer to each question is an emphatic “NO!” Otherwise, Jesus indeed would have contradicted himself. To advocate violence would have defeated the peace principles he taught. Furthermore, it would put believers in a predicament. For the truth is, human wars and fighting fall in the realm of carnality, not spirituality (James 4:1-3).

Think about it like this: Peacemakers are peace loving people. You’d think everyone would like peace and would appreciate those making peace. But, sadly, that’s not the way it is. Peace loving people are targeted by peace hating people. In fact, Jesus told his peace loving followers the reality is,

“You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved,” (Matthew 10:22; also, Mark 13:13; Luke 21:17).

This creates a clash. Peacemakers are hated because they stand for law and order. Peace haters are opposite of them. They stand for lawlessness and disorder. They might be sincere in what they believe but they are sincerely wrong, particularly since it’s such a contrast to the peace that the Prince of Peace promises us (Isaiah 9:6).

In Matthew 10:34, Jesus is using a figure of speech when he speaks of sending a sword and not peace. In my last post, I shared a comment on Mark 9:50 made by a renowned expert in the Aramaic language, Dr. George M. Lamsa (1892-1975) from his book, Gospel Light. Dr. Lamsa also commented on Matthew 10:34 in which he wrote,

“Jesus did not mean his mission was to start agitation, strife, and war but his ideas were so revolutionary and contrary to the social and religious order of his day, they could not be carried out without revolution and war. His teaching upset dogmas and traditions and challenged the priestly authority….” (p. 82).

As a result of Christ’s teaching, which included the Gospel of peace, division would follow. This would not only affect the religious order of the day, but all of society including families (Matthew 10:35-42). Jesus wanted to make it perfectly clear that if anyone was going to follow him, he or she must understand the consequences to follow.

In essence, Jesus was telling them, “You’re either in it with me, or out of it. There’s no halfway. If you’re in, you must go all the way. The decision is yours.” Thus, the “sword” stands for division between the ones who would truly follow and those who wouldn’t and, as a result, turn against them.

The division Jesus was predicting, therefore, was the result of the Gospel of peace going forward. Christians were simply following the principles laid forth by Christ—godly principles that the world rejected and rebelled against. There were people who deeply opposed Jesus’ teachings. They hated him and anyone who became his disciple. Christians were merely peace loving people carrying out the mission of peace that, as they proclaimed, can only come through Jesus Christ.

For this reason, as the Gospel spread, the church leaders were charged with “turning the world upside down,” (Acts 17:6, King James Version, KJV). All throughout the Book of Acts, where ever peace loving believers went proclaiming the Good News of Christ and his Kingdom, there were those who violently opposed them, falsely accusing them of all kinds of things, slandering and defaming them all because they hated the name of Jesus. And, not only that, they hated the changes that are required upon accepting him as Lord and Savior of their lives.

And the reality is, it still goes on today. Christians are being targeted all the time and mistreated so much the more because of their stand for Christ and his teachings. Division is imminent if we’re faithfully serving the Lord as his Peacemakers.

Indeed, the Gospel of peace is part of the armor of Christ that Paul described to the Ephesian church, (“Having shod your feet with the Gospel of peace,” Ephesians 6:15). Incidentally, there’s another part of the armor he lists, as well: “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” (Ephesians 6:17). Yes, God’s Word does divide, as well, since it instructs us to live in The Way that distinguishes between peace lovers and peace haters, (Hebrews 4:12).

Peace loving Christians must be prepared for the difficult times coming for them for it’s one of the last day signs before Christ’s triumphant return, (Matthew 24:9-14; Revelation 12:17; 13:7-10; 17:6). Jesus, the Prince of Peace will come to this earth and rescue his people from the evil of this peace hating world and its corrupt leaders.

The Bible tells us that Jesus will not be immediately accepted by the nations of the world when he descends from heaven in power and glory (Zechariah 14:1-4; Joel 3:2, 9-21). When Jesus comes, the nations will wage war against him, but he will conquer them for good,  (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; Revelation 17:14; 19:11-21). And in this way, he will forge world peace forever (Isaiah 2:1-4). All nations will submit to him and his authority, one way or another (Zechariah 14:9-11, 16-21).

Now, when we think of the peace haters of today and the problems that they are causing, we peace loving people ought to feel somewhat at peace within our hearts knowing what our Peacemaker promises us. Don’t you think?

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s a simple yet catchy tune, “Blessed Are The Peacemakers,” https://youtu.be/jin6jXj6ZOk

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Peace Makers Are ‘Worth Their Salt’

blessed_are_the_peacemakers_t_nv

Salt is good, but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty [Lit., season it] again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.
—Jesus (Mark 9:50, New American Standard Bible, NASB)

With so much violence going on in many cities these days, we might wonder if they’ll ever find peace. What will it take to convince people to build up rather than burn down; to get along rather than get even? While some might offer one answer and others might come up with another one, Jesus spoke of a solution that would never occur to most persons.

It metaphorically has to do with salt. I know that might seem somewhat strange to say—that salt has something to do with peace.

But Jesus said, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” Of course, as I said, he was using salt as a figure of speech. But what did he mean?

Compare it to similar phrases we often use: “worth its salt” and “worth their salt.” In other words, it’s something or someone deserving of respect and reward or pay due to showing value or worth.

It’s related to the word “salary.” which comes from the Latin word salarium. And sal is Latin for salt. According to most scholars salarium was the money allowed to the Roman soldiers for their purchase of salt and probably other supplies, as well. Salt was highly valued in ancient times because it was primarily used for preserving food. Therefore, someone worth his salt was worth his pay.

According to the dictionary, a peacemaker is “a person, group, or nation who tries to make peace, especially by reconciling parties who disagree, quarrel, or fight,”  (dictionary.com). Those who make peace with others are worth their salt. They play a valuable role in preserving society. It’s just the opposite of all the strife and chaos dividing one another today.

Peace is good just as salt is good. It’s good for health, healing, and wholesomeness. It brings out the best in flavor and favor—flavor, for it seasons us with values that rise above pettiness and pride; favor, for it draws unity and teamwork. Thus, it pays off by providing stability, safety, and security.

To understand the connection between salt and peace, check out the way salt is viewed by those living in Middle Eastern culture. In his book, Gospel Light, Dr. George M. Lamsa explained Mark 9:50 according to the Aramaic language, the spoken word of those living at the time of Christ. Lamsa was an expert in Aramaic, having grown up in the Middle East and raised speaking that language. He also translated the Bible from the Aramaic and wrote many books on the original meaning of Scriptures. https://noohra.com/dr-george-m-lamsa/

Lamsa, George M.

Dr. George M. Lamsa   (1892-1975)

Lamsa identified salt as a sign of friendship. He wrote,

Salt is a sacred token of friendship. When Easterners eat salt together, they pledge their lives for each other. When kings and princes enter a city, they are greeted with an offering of salt as a token of welcome.

He also said that salt is precious in some places and used for exchange:

Salt is also a precious article and in some regions very scarce. From ancient times to the present day salt has been a medium of exchange in some eastern countries. It seems very probably salt was the first medium of exchange before gold, silver and copper were discovered and before man employed scientific method for manufacturing salt.

He added that salt is sacred. According to Lamsa,

In eastern regions, far from seas and oceans, salt is not only precious and scarce but also sacred. Small deposits of it have been discovered in mountains but because of crude mining methods, a sufficient quantity could not be secured for human and animal consumption.

Lamsa concludes,

Salt, therefore, becomes a valuable possession. Taxes are paid in salt. Buying and selling, in some parts of the east, are still conducted through the medium of salt. Salt, moreover, is necessary not only to preserve food but also to preserve life. It is said human life cannot be sustained for any length of time without the use of this precious article. Matt. 5:13; Luke 14:34.

So, now we can get a better idea of the way salt stands for making peace with one other as Jesus stated. Like salt, peace is precious. In some places it’s hard to find—places where there are wars, riots, lawbreaking, and quarrels. Salt and peace are valuable in that when they are used in the right way, they make a way for progress and prosperity for all involved in their use. And they are also sacred tokens which produce friendship. Usually when one makes peace, it paves the way toward making new friends.

The Bible shows us how peace makers are worth their salt because of the good things they are able to accomplish. In Romans 12:9-21, the Apostle Paul gives a long list of characteristics for which every Christian should be known—such as, love, humility, industriousness, prayer, benevolence, blessing those who persecute you, unity, respect, and overcoming evil by doing good to others. You’ll find that each attribute leads to ways we can make peace with one another. In fact, verse 18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone,” (New International Version, NIV).

“With everyone,” entails a lot of people, doesn’t it? It even includes people who can really rub you the wrong way. Yes, it’s not easy, unless of course, you have the peace of Christ in your hearts.

Jesus commends peacemakers as God’s children. In Matthew 5:9, one of the “be happy attitudes” listed by Jesus is peacemaking: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God,” (NIV).

He’s the ultimate Source of peace all of us should strive to emulate in our lives. Jesus said, “My peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world give, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful,” (John 14:27, NASB).

Indeed, Jesus makes peace available for it’s HIS peace. In fact, he’s the ultimate Peacemaker for those who allow him into their lives. Thanks to our Savior, that truly does make peacemakers worth their salt!

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. We are thankful that peace with God is possible through his beloved Son (Romans 5:1; Philippians 4:7). Here’s “Peace” (Official Lyric Video) – Bethel Music feat. “We The Kingdom | Peace,” https://youtu.be/uW6xcmqfiY4

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Ignorance Is Not to Be Ignored

head in the sand and ignorance

We often here certain people claim that “ignorance is bliss.” Ironically, this is stated by those who are essentially ignorant but don’t know it. On the other hand, they don’t worry about it, either. But maybe they should, d’ya think?

Speaking of which…

I admit it. I was ignorant of where “ignorance is bliss” came from. I didn’t worry about it. But I was real curious to know where the phrase originated. So, I looked into it. According to my findings, it was coined by Thomas Gray in his 1768 poem, “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ode_on_a_Distant_Prospect_of_Eton_College

And now that you know where this phrase started, you are not ignorant of the fact either. (Unless, of course, you already knew in the first place!) What’s more, your knowledge of who coined the phrase could turn out to be lucrative for you. For example, it might be of great worth if you should ever go on a game show and the host asks the question, “For one million dollars, who coined the words, ‘ignorance is bliss’?”

Or, you could say the information is very important if the question, “Who came up with the words, ‘ignorance is bliss,’?” was on a history exam. And, the correct answer depended on whether or not you passed the course.

Or, maybe you’re just trying to make an impression on someone—especially one who thinks ignorance IS bliss—by sharing what you know from your vast storehouse of knowledge.

People who are comfortable with being ignorant tend to feel safe. They believe the more they know, the less they have to answer for in terms of responsibility and accountability. It’s kind of like the idea that “what ya don’t know, won’t hurt ya.”  They take the “neutral” way out. It’s their way of ignoring conflict.

And yet, there are others who are ignorant of certain things but don’t realize it just because they’ve never been made aware of what they don’t know. This is where education comes in. If education is ignored, then one misses out on the opportunities that bring growth and satisfaction to one’s life. It’s said that education is knowing what you want, knowing where to get it, and knowing what to do with it after you get it.

It’s one thing to be satisfied to be ignorant, or to be ignorant of things due to lack of education. But it’s another thing to be ignorant while acting on things you think are right but are actually wrong. People join a cause that seems good. They’re excited. It makes them feel good, thinking they are doing good based on what they believe. But when they get involved in their cause, they end up creating more harm than good.

All of this reminds me of the comment I just saw: Ignorance is not the real problem. It’s not knowing we’re ignorant that causes the difficulty.

Consider the difficulty that accompanies ignorance, particularly in the time we’re living now. It’s hard to ignore the news these days—headlines like, “A Global Anarchy Revival Could Outdo the 1960’s” (Bloomberg.com, 12/18/19. NOTE: This grim prediction was before the pandemic and riots we’re seeing this year!); “COVID-19 cases rise by over 70,000 again in an America divided over mask mandates” (AM New York, 7/18/2020); “‘Race,’ ‘Violence,’ ‘Looting’: Words Matter When Talking About Race and Unrest, Experts Say” (USA TODAY, 5/31/2020).

As we look at the many problems going on in the world, we cannot ignore how ignorance is making a major contribution to the matter. People tend to be afraid about things they hardly know anything about. They often react in violence, hate, and even murder because they haven’t been fully informed of every side of an issue.

It’s largely out of willful ignorance that people become destructive. They tear down and disfigure statues and monuments without really wanting to understand the history and background of them. They shout obscenities, throw rocks at police, loot and burn buildings based on their own biased views. They seethe with anger over issues without really caring to know why. Given this situation, I’m reminded of the statement, “Ignorance must not be bliss or lots of people would be jumping for joy all the time.”

I therefore believe we cannot afford to ignore ignorance. We must face it, head on, and get rid of it. But where do we start? My answer is…

We must not ignore the basic source that makes us aware of why we have problems in the first place. And then we can find out what is to be done about it. Of course, what I’m driving at is our need not to ignore the guiding principles of God’s Holy Word.

Some might be surprised to know that the Bible has much to say about ignorance and its pitfalls. At the same time, it has much to say about the advantages of not being ignorant. Consider these passages:

+ “… even as the Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind, having been darkened in the understanding, being alienated from the life of God through ignorance which is in them, because of the stupidity of their heart…” (Ephesians 4:17-18, The Emphatic Diaglott, TED).

POINT: One who strives to please God will not be empty minded or stupidly hard-hearted like someone who favors ignorance.

+ “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being my priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children,” (Hosea 4:6, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

POINT: When you gain the knowledge of right and wrong as God has revealed through his law, you will not be ignorant of those principles necessary for effectively serving him.

+ “Therefore, indeed overlooking the times of ignorance, God now commands all men, in every place, to reform,” (Acts 17:30, TED).

POINT: Ever since God gave his Son to be our Savior and give us hope, there is no longer any excuse for anyone to be ignorant of the need to change.

+ “When my heart was embittered, and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before Thee,” (Psalm 73:22, NASB).

POINT: If you don’t want to be an ignorant, senseless person, then get rid of that beast within, your embittered heart.

+ “…that we may not be overreached by the adversary; for we are not ignorant of his devices,” (2 Corinthians 2:11, TED).

POINT: Nothing can be more satanic than being willfully ignorant of the schemes that end up opposing God’s will.

+ “For such is the will of God that, by doing right, you may silence the ignorance of foolish men,” (1 Peter 2:15, NASB).

POINT: To prevent ignorant people from accusing us of not being good citizens (vss. 13-17), we can do no wrong by doing what is right as God instructs.

+ “And concerning spiritual persons, Brethren, I wish you not to be ignorant,” (1 Corinthians 12:1, TED).

POINT: If we’re ignorant of the gifts God gives through his Spirit, we will be uninformed and confused concerning the special abilities we have as members of his church.

+ “But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels,” (2 Timothy 2:23, NASB).

POINT: Don’t get into arguments with those who are ignorant because all it will cause is contention which will result in ruining your Christian witness.

+ “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing: that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day,” (2 Peter 3:8, King James Version, KJV).

POINT: Do not ignore the fact that God is eternal and, therefore, he is not affected by time as we mortals are. Although his patience is long lasting toward us, he has set a time in which judgement will come and we must give an account for our motives and actions in this life.

From reading these verses, you can conclude that if one willfully ignores studying and following God’s Word, then one will be vulnerable to deception and fraud. This, by the way, is a key sign concerning the closeness of Jesus’ second coming.

Those who ignore God’s Word by not studying it and applying it in their lives will be among those who’ll be led astray by the rise of “false Christ’s and false prophets.” They “will show great signs, and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect,” according to Jesus (Matthew 24:24, NASB).

Moreover, ignorance of these signs will lead to the great falling away of believers from the faith, known as “the apostasy” when “the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction” [a.k.a., “the antichrist”] whom Jesus will destroy when he returns, (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Evidently, Paul wanted to remind the Thessalonian church about this prophecy in his second letter to them because some members were ignorant of his previous message having to do with the timing of Christ’s return. In fact, some of them were assuming Jesus was already on his way to earth, causing them to be greatly disturbed over it (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).

Ignorance is not to be ignored if we sincerely put our hope in God’s promises. We want to be informed about his truth, especially as it pertains to being ready for the Lord’s return. This was one of the biggest concerns the Apostle Paul in regard to the church.

When he wrote to the Thessalonians in his first letter, Paul didn’t want the church to be ignorant of the future. He referred to the sleep-like state of death and the glorious day when Jesus will come to raise the dead and give all believers eternal life. He said,

“But we do not wish you to be ignorant, Brethren, concerning those having fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve as those others who have not a hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and arose; so also [we believe] that God, through Jesus, will lead forth with him those who fell asleep,” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14ff., TED).

Ignorance is not bliss, especially if it keeps us from having hope through Christ. It is on account of the hope we have in Christ that we don’t want to ignore ignorance. Instead, we want to do something about it by growing in the knowledge and wisdom of God. For it pays to be informed.

Good News to YOU1
Pastor Michael

P.S. Accepting God’s truth will lead us out of ignorance and into the way of salvation in Christ. Here’s the English Christian Devotional Song, “Be Someone Who Accepts the Truth,” https://youtu.be/PWgF34E957o

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Was Jesus ‘not perfect’?

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CNN host Don Lemon sounded a sour note to Christians recently when he reportedly said that Jesus Christ was “not perfect.” On Monday, July 6, Lemon told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, “Here’s the thing. Jesus Christ, if you believe—if that’s what you believe in, Jesus Christ—admittedly, was not perfect when he was here on this Earth….”

The host’s remark was made when he and Cuomo were discussing the move by protesters to remove statues and monuments of U.S. historical figures. “So why are we deifying the founders of this country, many of whom owned slaves, and in the Constitution—the original one they didn’t want—they put slavery in there, that slavery should be abolished because it was the way the king wanted?”

Lemon’s comparison of Jesus Christ with the founding fathers as “not perfect” flies in the face of many, including Christians. It only adds to the “fake news” image that he and other media members are accused of portraying in the eyes of conservatives.

Former Arkansas Governor and Baptist minister Mike Huckabee appeared to voice the sentiments of many professing believers when he commented, “Just when I didn’t think Don Lemon could say something any dumber than stuff he’s already said, he ‘dons’ his ecclesiastical hat and declares ‘Jesus wasn’t perfect.’ In the faith world, we call that kind of arrogant comment ‘blasphemy.'” (Gov. Mike Huckabee tweet).

Any Bible believer would find it difficult to disagree with the former governor, especially his charge of “blasphemy.” The term includes the act of insulting, showing contempt, or showing irreverence toward God, Christ, or anything considered sacred. For Christians, calling Jesus Christ “not perfect” perfectly fits the meaning of the word.

Our Source for refuting Lemon’s “blasphemy” is the Word of God. For example,

  • Jesus said, “Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe me?” (John 8:46, New American Standard Bible, NASB).
  • Hebrews 5:9. “And having been made perfect, he became to all those who obey him the source of eternal salvation,” (NASB).
  • Hebrews 7:28 “For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the earth, which cam after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever,” (NASB).
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21. “He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him,” (NASB).
  • 1 Peter 2:22. “Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his moth,” (NASB; see also, Isaiah 53:9).
  • Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin,” (NASB).

The “without sin” part proves Lemon is wrong. It shows how his assertion is an outright denial of the truth concerning the nature of Christ. If Jesus was “not perfect,” then he would be “with sin.” And if he was “with sin,” then he could not have died for OUR sins on the cross.

The Bible says, “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself WITHOUT BLEMISH to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14, NASB). In Old Testament times, animals were sacrificed as a sacred act of worship to God. The shedding of animal blood was offered as atonement for the sins of the people (Hebrews 9:7). The animal chosen for the sacrifice was required to be without any defect (Exodus 12:5; Leviticus 22:17-20; Deuteronomy 17:1).

But the animals sacrificed in the Old Testament were only types or symbols of the perfect Lamb, or Son of God, who was “without blemish”—that is, “without sin,” (Hebrews 9:11-12; 10:1-18; Revelation 5:11-14). As such, Jesus Christ was able to serve as our Redeemer, taking our sins upon him, to “cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

For as the Apostle Peter declared to Christians, “Knowing that were not redeemed [ransomed] with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited by your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ,” (1 Peter 1:17-18, NASB).

Likewise, the Apostle Paul said, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us,” (Ephesians 1:7-8a, NASB).

To say that Jesus was “not perfect” is to deny what the Bible says about Jesus being the Christ or Messiah, meaning, “the Anointed One” of God. Jesus commended Peter who confessed Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” (Matthew 16:16-19). This is the confession of all those who believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Logically, he could not be confessed as Christ, the Anointed One, if he wasn’t “the author and perfecter of faith” who “endured the cross,” died and rose again, and then “sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” in heaven (Hebrews 12:2, NASB) as Mediator between God and us (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

When we hear people like Don Lemon say that even Jesus Christ was “not perfect,” we think of what the Bible says about the antichrist that is coming prior to Jesus’ second coming. John wrote,

“Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. “Dear children, this is the last hour,” (1 John 2:18, NASB). 

The Don Lemons of the world who think Jesus was not perfect are only setting themselves up for believing the lie of the antichrist—that Jesus is not the Christ, the Son of God (1 John 2:22-23; 4:1-3). Unless they are converted to Jesus Christ (And we sincerely pray they will turn to him!) they will swallow this lie hook, line, and sinker because they have not overcome the world and its ungodly nature (1 John 2:15-17; 4:15; 5:4). It’s all part of the deception that is coming in the last days for those who are not ready (2 John 7; Matthew 24:4-5, 10-13).

The Good News for devout followers of Jesus is that he IS Christ “without sin,” the only One who saves us and gives us that “living hope,” (1 Peter 1:3-5). We have Someone who “cleanses us from dead works to serve the living God.” And we have been “called” of God through Christ that we may “receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” in the coming Kingdom of God (Hebrews 9:15, 27-28).

Just think of it: If Jesus wasn’t perfect—a perfect example of his perfect Father—we would not have Someone to show us what perfection is and how we can strive for it, too, (Matthew 5:48; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Colossians 1:28; James 1:4; 1 Peter 2:21-25; 5:10; 2 Peter 1:10-11).

Good News to YOU!

Pastor Michael

P.S. Because he is perfect, Jesus is our Perfect Sacrifice, giving us that hope we all need and cherish. Here’s “Perfect Sacrifice (All My Hope Is In You)” – by Trent (Live Vineyard Worship taken from Burn Bright) http://youtu.be/YA6rq9v5AzA

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