A Matter of Faith in Times Like These

faith in uncertain times

I heard a commercial start out with, “Since these are uncertain times…” And I thought to myself, Duh! That’s an understatement! Covid-19 controversies over masks, vaccines, lockdowns, in addition to worker shortages, fear of inflation, the debacle in Afghanistan, the southern border crisis, rise in Marxism…Yes, I’d say that’s so true!

But then I started to realize there IS one thing certain: I am certain many are uncertain on how to cope with the times. About a year-and-a-half ago when the pandemic was starting to rage, Psychology Today commented, 

“These are difficult times. We are facing an unprecedented problem, and no one knows what the answer is. So, how do we cope in these uncertain times? Start by focusing on what you can manage. You cannot control the crisis, but you can control your response.” (Gustavo Rozzetti, “How to Cope With Uncertain Times,” Psychology Today, posted 4/7/2020)

While it’s true that we are still going through difficult times, I beg to differ about no one knowing the answer to the problem. In my view, the answer comes down to a matter of faith. Focusing our faith in God is something we CAN manage if we’re willing to trust and obey him.

We know we can rely on the one, true, and living God who certainly IS in control. In Isaiah chapter 45, around 700 years before Christ, God predicts through Isaiah the prophet how he will raise up a man named Cyrus who would one day deliver Israel from captivity. What’s amazing about this prophecy is that about 160 years later, King Cyrus the Great of Persia did fulfill this role just as it was foretold. In the prophecy, God speaks as though the future has already arrived and he is talking to the king he has selected to help Israel. In verses 5 through 7, God describes himself as the One in control of all things that happen just he plans:

I am the Lord, I have no peer,
there is no God but me.
I arm you for battle, even though you do not recognize me.
6 I do this so people will recognize from east to west
that there is no God but me;
I am the Lord, I have no peer.
I am the one who forms light
and creates darkness;
the one who brings about peace
and creates calamity.
I am the Lord, who accomplishes all these things. (New English Translation, NET)

God’s control is what makes our faith legitimate and real. Even though we can’t see what lies ahead, God can because he sees it. He is all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful. For that reason, we can put all our trust in him.

Dr. Alva G. Huffer wrote,

“Faith is recognition of invisible realities. It is reliance upon the testimony and faithfulness of another. Faith is man’s response to God’s attribute of truth. One can trust God because He is trustworthy; one can have faith in God because He is faithful; one can rely upon God because He is reliable; one can believe God because He is truth.” (Systematic Theology)

How we deal with our problems in these uncertain times is a matter of how much faith we are willing to put in God. He is the only One we can look to (Isaiah 45:22) as proven by the fact that he gave his Son in accordance with his salvation plan (Galatians 3:26-29) and to give us hope of the life to come (1 John 5:11-12). That is why faith in God through Christ matters. It anchors us in hope. It points us toward salvation. It lifts us up whenever we’re down.

Faith matters for those who have faith in God for God, himself, is faithful to his Word (Deuteronomy 7:9; 1 Corinthians 1:9) And since he is faithful, we can have faith in him. He will fulfil all that he has promised in his time. In these uncertain times, we can be certain that faith matters (Numbers 23:19; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Peter 1:4).

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael
P.S. As this song sung by Peter Furler says, it’s a “Matter of Faith,” https://youtu.be/ZUWpc5Q1AJk

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Putting the ‘Grand’ in GRANDparents

Happy Grandparents Day 2021

Grandparents Day is officially recognized in many countries and on different dates. In the USA, Grandparents Day is the first Sunday after Labor Day. Seeing that it’s right around the corner, we reflect on the role of GRANDparents and the legacy they leave for their GRANDchildren. 

Concerning this day, Dr. David J. Merkh remarked,

“It’s wonderful to have a day that celebrates the importance that grandparents have in their families and in society…..grandchildren. Yet, even more important than a one-day celebration is the legacy that these grandparents are leaving behind in young lives.” (The Grandparents’ Legacy, Inspirational Quotes)

Having eight grandchildren ourselves, my wife and I wholeheartedly agree that leaving a good legacy is one of the most important aspects of being a grandparent. I can personally attest to this because I have wonderful memories not only of my grandparents but also my great grandparents.  Not only that, I’m thankful for my parents as well as my wife’s parents for being wonderful grandparents to our children, too.

My wife and I both are grateful to come from several generations of Christians deeply devoted to serving in the church and teaching us Biblical truth. And that’s what we’ve aimed to do having raised our children then passing this on to their children even to the day we become great grandparents providing we’re still around, of course.

We are one of those proud grandparents who, like other proud grandparents, enjoy showing our grandkids off to others whether we’re with them in public or sharing pictures or videos of them with people we know. Someone has quipped that no cowboy was ever faster on the draw than a grandparent pulling a picture of his grandchild out of his wallet.

Showing off our grandkids is also a telltale sign of getting older. The remark has been made that a person begins to show his age about the same time he begins to show pictures of his grandchildren. But we’re willing to reveal our age for the pleasure of bragging on them.

Dr. Merkh also said,

“There may be no greater joy than that of a grandparent showing off a grandchild. Grandchildren are the ‘crown of the elderly’”!   (The Grandparents’ Legacy)

He probably had in mind what it says in Proverbs 17:6,

“Grandchildren are the crown of the elderly, and the pride of sons is their fathers,” (Holman Christian Standard Bible, HCSB).

The reference to “crown” is figurative of honor and glory. Indeed, it’s an honor and glory to have grandchildren—to watch them grow, to spoil them just a little because you love them, but especially to be a Christian role model for them, and to see them accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Prayer is also important. I like the saying,

“A grandparent is one who strengthens you with prayer, blesses you with love, and encourages you with hope.”

I know that even though my grandparents are asleep in their graves, their prayers are still being answered for me to this day and this remains a wonderful blessing. It’s something that all believing grandparents are encouraged to do.  

All these things, to me, is what puts the “grand” in GRANDparents and their GRANDchildren.

Good News to YOU!
And Happy Grandparents Day!
Pastor Michael
P.S. Here’s the Official Grandparents Day video song for Grandpa and Grandma: https://youtu.be/KjAECeBqM3s

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Help Wanted!

Jesus_Help Wanted_jpeg

Recent headlines seem to say it all—worker shortages. Here is just a small sample…

    • Some fear staff shortages at Las Cruces hospitals as Friday deadline looms for healthcare worker vaccine mandate. Las Cruces hospitals will comply with the state order, but workers and leaders aren’t ruling out potential staffing shortages …(USA Today, 8/25/2021)
    • Examining Skilled Worker Shortages. Workforce shortages continue to plague the industry. Dodge Data & Analytics has been tracking contractor concerns about …(Construction Business Owner Magazine, 8/16/2021)
    • Knoxville restaurant owner joins other businesses in closing twice a week from worker shortage. Bettina Hamblin, the owner of Farmacy Knox, closed her doors on Mondays and Tuesdays due to a shortage of cooks and …(10 News on MSN.com, 8/27/2021)
    • Critical shortage of workers in Baltimore City government affects city services. WBAL NewsRadio 1090/FM 101.5 – A critical shortage of workers in Baltimore City government is affecting city services, data …(WBAL, 8/26/2-21)
    • Shortage of trade school instructors means fewer industry workers. Action News anchor Tricia Kean spoke with a Las Vegas A/C repairman who says there’s a serious problem when it comes to … (YAHOO!News, 8/25/2021)
    • Some Chick-fil-A locations temporarily close indoor dining due to worker shortages. If you’re looking to get a chicken biscuit or a chicken sandwich today, the only option will be drive-thru for some Chick-fil … (WSB Atlanta on MSN.com, 8/27/2021)

Perhaps you have observed worker shortages in the area where you live. Or, maybe you work in those places yourself. It’s of grave concern just about anywhere these days. You can’t drive very far without seeing “Help Wanted” signs, or similar versions like, “Now Hiring,” or “Now Accepting Applications” posted wherever you go. You also notice they often add a monetary incentive, as well, offering so many $$ when starting.

The desperate need for filling jobs is blamed on various issues—the Coronavirus pandemic, government subsidy for not working in lieu of the pandemic and lockdowns, along with a mismatch between labor supply and demand in some professions, according to news resources.

Some claim that raising the minimum wage would raise the incentive for more going to work. On the other hand, experts warn it would hurt small businesses since they are struggling to pay the workers they already have on their payroll. Eventually costs would soar. 

In the face of this dilemma, businesses are suffering. In fact, the Wall Street Journal reported,

Businesses nearly everywhere in America say they’re desperate for workers, and the latest statistical evidence is the Labor Department’s Jolts report Tuesday of a record 9.3 million job openings in April. Get the message, Congress? (The Great American Labor Shortage, The Editorial Board, pub. 6/8/21)

There is even a growing concern over the shortage of Christian workers. In an article titled, “The Coming Shortage of Christian Leaders: Facing the Facts, Finding the Way,” by Bruce McAllister ,

On March 1, 2017, the Barna Group sounded the alarm in a study called “The Aging of America’s Pastors.” In summary, they found that there are far fewer young pastors than in the early 1990s. The average age of pastors has advanced by 10 years since then. Christian young people are less interested in vocational church ministry and more interested in other models of influence. Most pastors are finding it difficult to find a successor to mentor. David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, said: “There are now more full-time senior pastors over the age of 65 than under the age of 40. It is urgent that denominations, networks and independent churches determine how to best motivate, mobilize, resource and deploy more younger pastors.” (Gospel Fellowship Association, pub., June 4, 2020)

This news puts me in the mind of something Jesus said to his disciples in Luke 10:

1Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. 2And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. (New American Standard Bible 1995, NASB, 1995)

Luke goes on to record that when the seventy workers reported the results of their mission they “returned with joy,” (Luke 10:17) because of their success. It seems kind of peculiar to me that if the work is that gratifying to carry out then why would there be so few laborers available? With all the opportunities to share the Good News of Christ and his Kingdom in a world that is confused and suffering, you’d think workers would be joining by the millions to be a part of it all. Indeed, while “the harvest is plentiful,” and the reward so wonderful, there should never be a worker shortage in the church.

Ideally speaking, churches ought to be bursting at the seams with willing workers eager to bring the lost into the fold with the vision of joy that will come when saved souls go marching in on that Glorious Day (Psalm 126:6; Matthew 20:1-16). It is with that hope in mind that each worker is promised, “…your toil is not in vain in the Lord,” 1 Corinthians 15:58, NASB 1995).

As we see the signs of Jesus’ coming being fulfilled day after day with “perilous times” upon us as the Bible predicts (2 Timothy 3:1-7), we can see the need for more laborers to go out into the harvest. Opportunities are everywhere. In essence, Jesus’  “Help Wanted” sign is more important now than it has ever been.

Who’ll answer the sign? Will you?

Good News to YOU!
And have a safe and happy Labor Day!
Pastor Michael
P.S. No matter who you are, if you are a follower of Christ, you are a laborer in God’s vineyard and, just as this song says, “Your Labor is Not In Vain,” (lyrics video) feat. Paul Zach & Madison Cunningham:  https://youtu.be/bPj3Kf7Dorw

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‘To Compromise or Not to Compromise?’—That Is the Question

compromise

When two opposing parties come to an agreement or make a settlement by each one giving up certain demands while giving in to the demands of the other party, we call it compromise. It’s humorously described as the art of dividing a cake in such a way that everybody believes he got the biggest piece. The word is also associated with negotiation, trade-offs, making a deal, and bargaining.

We live in a world of compromise—from the business world, to the political world, to the military world, to personal encounters in the everyday world. This is on account of the differences that exist between one another and the conflict that results from them.

Which leads to the question: Is there ever a time when compromise is appropriate and beneficial? In other words, is there anything to gain through give and take? You could answer “yes” in certain circumstances, according to these quotes (as cited in askideas.com)…

  • The best thing to learn in life is the habit of COMPROMISE. Because, it’s better to bend a little than to break a beautiful relation. (Unknown)
  • Compromise is the work of mature people. (Rita Mae Brown)
  • A lean compromise is better than a fat lawsuit. (George Herbert)
  • Compromise is not about losing. It is about deciding that the other person has just as much right to be happy with the end result as you do. (Donna Martini)
  • Compromise used to mean that half a loaf was better than no bread. Among modern statesmen it really seems to mean that half a loaf is better than a whole loaf. (Gilbert K. Chesterton)
  • Life is a compromise between your feelings and reality. At every stage you have to quit your feelings and accept the reality. (Unknown)

The other side of the coin—the negative side—in regard to not compromising basically comes down to the issue of principles. It’s said that compromise is always wrong when it means sacrificing a principle.

According to the famous industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), “The ‘Morality of compromise’ sounds contradictory. Compromise is usually a sign of weakness, or an admission of defeat. Strong men don’t compromise and principles should never be compromised.” (Ibid.)

Giving up principles for the sake of compromise is what led to much of the misery ancient Israel suffered according to their history. From the time of their wilderness wanderings, Israel repeatedly compromised the standards laid forth in God’s laws by turning to idolatry, sexual immorality, indulgence in pleasure along with pride and arrogance.

We learn from their bad examples of compromise just as Paul reminded the church at Corinth in First Corinthians 10:

 Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. (New American Standard Bible 1995, NASB 1995)

We have to be careful not to compromise Godly principles. It’s important to remember that we humans do not naturally drift toward holiness but away from it. Sin can have that much control over us if we give in to it.

New Testament Professor, D. A. Carson is quoted,

People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord.

We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated. (“Reflections,” Christianity Today, 7-31-00 as cited in PreachingToday.com)  

The temptation for us to drift away from holiness and compromise the higher standards in God’s Word is hard to resist. But it can be overcome as we resolve to rely on God and his Power through Christ to make us strong. The Apostle Paul went to say to the Corinthians,

13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (NASB 1995)

To compromise or not to compromise? Yes, that IS the question. What’s YOUR answer?
Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael
P.S. Here’s the Christian band, Planetshakers, with a Rockin’ song simply titled, “No Compromise,” https://youtu.be/-W0UzN1dRVE 

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When the ‘Ball of Confusion’ Comes Rolling Your Way

ball of confusion

I remember back in 1970 a hit song on the pop charts titled, “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today),” by the Temptations. The psychedelic soul song pointed out the conflicting issues creating confusion in society at the time. As one verse says,

Well, the only person talking about loving thy brother is the preacher,
And it seems nobody’s interested in learning, but the teacher,
Segregation, demonstration, integration, determination, aggravation, humiliation,
Obligation to our nation.
Ball of confusion,
That’s what the world is today, hey.

Here we are over 50 years later and can we say the world is no longer in a ball of confusion? NOT! If anything, it has snowballed into one giant monster rolling speedily to eat up anyone standing in its path.

We can point to the circumstances of our day and say that the ball of confusion is just as big as it has ever been due, in large part, to conflicting ideas and contradictions concerning what are right and what are not, and whose rights are really right.

Here are some examples of what I’m talking about that immediately come to mind:

    • Mask or no mask?
    • Covid vaccination or no vaccination?
    • Home school or go to school?
    • Identify as male or female?
    • Stay home, collect unemployment or go to work, earn a living?
    • Stand up or take a knee?
    • More government or less government?
    • Socialism or capitalism?
    • Global warming: true or not?
    • Real news or fake news?
    • Join the protest or mind your own business?
    • Vote or not?

This list is just a tip of the iceberg but you get my drift. It’s hard for many to know what side they’re on in regard to the many unsettling issues confronting them each day. One side says one thing; the other side says something else. What’s a person to believe in these uncertain days?

You don’t have to look very far to see many people portraying puzzled faces these days. Some new fad or movement or discovery comes along and there they are, scratching their heads on what to think and do about it. While some look behind and others look ahead, searching for answers, most look confused.  

Unless one has a moral base upon which to build one’s life, the ball of confusion only continues to swell more and more day after day. As it comes rolling your way, what WILL you do? What CAN you do?

I assert that those who have a strong, strict, secure faith founded on God’s Word are the best equipped to handle these confusing times. We know which side of the proverbial coin we are on when we put our trust in God’s truth and place our lives under his grace and power through his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

The solution to confusion is found when we entrust our lives to God through Christ. Why? Because we walk not by what we think we see or know but by faith in God’s standards for guiding us each day. The Apostle Paul said,

“For we walk by faith, not by sight,” (2 Corinthians 5:7, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

Another word for “sight” here is “appearance,”—that is, we have not yet seen the fulfillment of God’s promises when his eternal kingdom commences, but believers by their faith expect to see them fulfilled at the appointed time of Jesus’ return. One of those promises include the resurrection of all the faithful in Christ and each one receives immortality at that time (v. 4; also 1 Corinthians 15:50-58). As such we are of “good courage” as we aim to please God (vss. 8-9) remembering that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” when he comes again (v. 10).

There’s no uncertainty here. By accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior through faith, repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38-39; Romans 6:4-7; 10:17), we walk on a journey of faith leading to the Kingdom of God. We are, therefore, following the direction God would have us go so that during times of confusion, we are able to find peace of mind, “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace,” (1 Corinthians 14:33).

When one follows God’s wisdom and puts faith in him, there is order. But when one follows the foolishness of the world (which thinks it is wise but, in reality, is foolish) there is disorder (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). Thus, you can trace anything that lies at the root of confusion today to the foolishness of the world for it does not rely on the wisdom of God but its own foolish concept of wisdom.

Here’s where we’re all left with a big choice: Be foolish like the world and be confused; be wise through the wisdom of God and not be confused. You won’t regret taking the latter choice. For when the ball of confusion comes rolling toward you, then you’ll know where and who to turn to for getting out of its way.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael
P.S. Here’s a song about the one person you can trust to go to when you are confused: “I’m Listening” by Chris McClarney,  https://youtu.be/Ef52AmdVwYI

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When Opportunity Knocks

opportunity_knocking-on-a-door

There’s the joke about a mother who was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin 5, and Ryan 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. She told the boys, “If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.’” Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, “Ryan, you be Jesus !” (selected)

While the mother saw an opportunity to teach her sons an important lesson about giving, little Kevin saw it as an opportunity to get the first pancake. The mother intended it for good; the older brother intended it for only pleasing himself.

Whenever opportunity knocks we would do well to examine our motive before opening the door. If the opportunity will bring about something good, then welcome it in gladly. But if it will produce something bad, then it’s best to turn it away.

Sometimes it’s hard to determine whether it’s opportunity at our door or temptation. One way to tell is that an opportunity usually doesn’t come along very often. But temptation is always waiting to enter our lives.  It has been said that opportunity knocks once at the door but temptation leans on the doorbell. 

One writer commented,

“An opportunity can take a few seconds to engage with and bring massive returns. A temptation sucks everything you have got and when you have finally extricated yourself from it, it sits in the corner making faces at you.” (https://seymourjacklin.co.uk/2010/10/26/opportunities-vs-temptations)

Whenever we answer the door of opportunity it’s up to use to decide if we’re going to use it for God’s glory or abuse it for our own selves. Of course, there’s the temptation to choose the latter. But we know that only leads to a dead end. The correct way to take advantage of an opportunity is to ask whether we are going to please God with it or not.

The Bible says that whenever there’s an opportunity, make the most of it while you have the time (Ephesians 5:16; Galatians 6:10) But at the same time, make sure you do not give in to the temptation to use it for evil—that is, for something that doesn’t please God (Ephesians 4:27; 5:8-10; Colossians 1:9-10) It wouldn’t be right and you’d only end up disappointed.

Rather, make sure that when you open the door of opportunity, give thanks for it and do it heartily for the Lord’s sake. And then you’ll be greatly rewarded not merely in this life but when you receive your inheritance in the Kingdom of God.

Here’s the way the Apostle Paul puts it in Colossians 3:

17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. 23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. 25 For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. (NOTE: All scripture quotes are from the New American Standard Bible, 1995, unless referenced otherwise.)

So, when opportunity knocks at your door, don’t just sit there. Who knows? It might be Christ standing behind it. Jesus said in Revelation 3,

20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. 21 He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael
P.S. Here’s an old spiritual sung and performed in modern fashion: “Somebody’s Knockin’ at Your Door,” https://youtu.be/_qDq8MFDDTQ

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The Facts of the Matter

Facts-scaled

I remember the old Dragnet TV series from 1967 to 1970 when Police Detective Sargent Joe Friday (played by Creator, Jack Webb, 1920-1982) was investigating a crime. In his line of questioning women he was known to say, “I just want to get the facts, ma’am,” or “All we want are the facts, ma’am.” From these words came the popular catchphrase, “Just the facts, ma’am.” Interestingly, it’s also the title of an authorized biography about Webb written by Daniel Moyer.

dragnet_just the facts

Detectives aren’t the only ones who want “just the facts.” We would all like to know the facts, right?  Maybe that’s one reason the phrase has been echoed in so many books, news publications, entertainment, education, and even market research. And yet, the fact is, facts are often hard to find.  

How do we distinguish fact from fiction; truth from opinion? The fact is, you can’t always rely on opinion because it’s usually mixed with prejudice and emotion sprinkled with a few unrelated facts. That’s not to say it’s wrong to have an opinion but no one has the right to be wrong about the facts. And what is fiction but fantasy faked as fact.

All too often, feelings frame what we perceive as fact. But the fact is, you can’t simply trust your feelings, because feelings tend to come and go like rolling waves along the shore. Like it’s said, “Fact is fact and feeling is feeling; never does the second change the first.”

Opinions blossom into beliefs planted on solid ground when feelings are firmly founded on facts. Facts not feelings should form the foundation of what we believe. Facts never change but they ought to change us if we’re willing to believe them.

The all-important questions we arrived at in all of this is, Who’s got just the facts and who doesn’t? Is there a true answer to this question? Can we truly get to the facts of the matter?

The fact is we can. But we can’t find the facts by solely trusting human-based theories and philosophies for they can vary from time to time. There’s only one authoritative Source where the facts are found for forming all our beliefs and our actions.

It starts with the recognition that the Holy Bible is the inspired Word of God. In other words, facts are founded on Divine authority, not human fantasy or will. Divine authority is the final authority for the facts of the matter whatever that matter is. How we respond to this authority will shape how we think, feel, and act.

In Second Peter 1:20, 21, the Apostle Peter pointed out how the Scriptures did not originate from  human ideas but from men who were divinely moved by God’s Power or Holy Spirit:

20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (New American Standard Bible 1995, NASB 1995)

What we are able to know as facts of any matter is only possible via the inspired Word of God. It’s the guide that genuinely and unquestioningly equips us for doing every good work. According to Second Timothy 3:16-17, the Apostle Paul stated,

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man [and woman] of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (NASB 1995)

The word “inspired” literally means, “God-breathed.”  This fits the fact that men were moved by God’s Spirit or Power, for “spirit”(Greek: pneuma; Hebrew: ruach and neshamah) is rendered “breath,” as well as power and wind. Therefore, God divinely and supernaturally revealed himself to us through those he chose to record his Word.

Dr. Alva G. Huffer summarized the evidence of the inspired Word:

The inspiration of the Bible is evidenced from the fact that the Bible itself claims to be the inspired Word of God. Old Testament writers, for example, used such statements as “thus saith the Lord” more than 3,800 times. Jesus and the apostles recognized the Old Testament as being inspired and authoritative. The apostles claim to have received the Spirit and to have spoken under its influence and authority.
The amazing unity of the Bible written by almost forty men over a period of time of more than sixteen centuries shows its divine origin. (Systematic Theology)

There are numerous other examples proving how God’s Word is inspired. Dr. Huffer went on to write,

The exact fulfillment of prophecies, the lofty standards of conduct required for men, the tremendous influence it has exerted in the lives of men, its survival through centuries of opposition, and its confirmation by archaeology, history, and true science are among the many evidences of the Bible’s inspiration.

We can fully trust God’s Word for nothing but the facts because the fact is he cannot lie, (Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18). That is why we can believe that his Word is not only inspired but entirely credible, not fictitious; genuine, not fake. When it becomes clear in our minds that all facts revolve around the fact that the one true person, God, exists and that he inspired men moved by His Power to write down his Word to us, then we’ll be on the right course for determining what is truth and what is not.

There are many voices in the world that want us to believe what they assert are the facts of the matter. What they say can seem very convincing. But when you’re looking for proof, doubt can enter your mind. On the other hand, there’s no doubt if you look for the truth based on the perfect principles and teachings of God’s sacred Word.

We know this for a fact because the Truth of all truth entered this world when he was miraculously born in a stable over two thousand years ago. God’s only begotten Son, Jesus the Messiah of God, provides living proof that we can depend on the facts put forth in his Word. First Timothy 3:16 says,

16 By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:
He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory. (NASB 1995)

Jesus the Savior given for our eternal salvation (John 3:16; 1 John 5:12) fulfills what God’s Word promises us. Our hope is in the fact that Jesus will come again to establish God’s everlasting Kingdom on earth just as God’s Word tells us (Jeremiah 23:5; Daniel 7:14; Acts 1:11; Revelation 11:15).

If you really want just the facts, then Jesus Christ is the One who will point you in the right direction while you sincerely seek the truth written in God’s Word (John 14:6). Through him, the facts of the matter do matter.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael
P.S. One important fact of the matter is that, no matter what, God will never let go of you. Here’s “No Matter What” ~ featuring Bart Millard ~ Ryan Stevenson — https://youtu.be/PbtQCkSLv9c

 

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Do You Know All There Is to Know?

God knows

An amateur pilot took off for a distant city. He had flown only a few solo hours, but he thought he knew all there was to know about flying and navigating.

His airplane was equipped with a radio so that he could get his bearing from time to time if he so desired, but the pilot decided he would fly the distance without any help, solely by his own mathematical skill. He was a foolish and overconfident pilot, indeed. The route was easily followed for a while, but before long the pilot was in trouble.

Darkness was falling and he could no longer get his bearings from objects on the ground. A strong wind came up, and he ran into the edges of a storm. The wind drift and his own foolish maneuvers had carried him far off his course; he was hopelessly lost.

Then he decided to use his radio. Too late! For neither he nor anyone else knew where he was or how he got there. (The late Editor and Minister Harold J. Doan, as cited in Truth Seekers Adult Quarterly, Church of God General Conference, publishers, 2021).

We shake our heads at such a sad story. Had the pilot not thought he needed to know all there was about flying and navigating, he would have kept himself out of jeopardy. And, yet, it’s just as sad when we think we know all there is to know about living and navigating our own lives.

Filled with overconfidence and pride we think our knowledge and skills alone are enough to carry us through our journey safe and sound. But, when the storms of life blast upon us, we drift helplessly, depending solely on our own misjudgments and foolish choices while trying in vain to gain control.

It will be too late if we stay on this course. We will find ourselves dangerously lost, putting our lives on the line UNLESS we do one thing: We do not shut off our communication like the pilot did. If we’re wise, we will keep in contact with the One person, God our Father, who steers us safely through the storm and puts us on the right course that successfully brings us to our destination.

Through prayer, we keep our communication line open to God in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ. In my last post (“The One Who Bridges the Gap,” 7/24/2021), I pointed out that the man Jesus Christ is our Mediator or Go-between between the One God and us according to First Timothy 2:5. Here we have the true and only Way through God’s Son to keep in contact with our Heavenly Father for asking his help as we travel through our journey of life.

But if we make the mistake to take the misguided view—believing we know all there is to know and ignore the need to keep in contact with God—we will be as lost and disoriented as that pilot. This is why must not forget what the Apostle Paul said to the Ephesian believers:

“With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit…” (Ephesians 6:18, New American Standard Bible 1995, NASB 1995).

When overconfidence gets us thinking that we only need to call upon God for guidance as a last resort, then we deprive ourselves of inner peace and the ability to handle anxiety especially when problems arise. So, Paul says to the church in Philippians 4:6-7,

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, (NASB 1995).

And along the same vein, if we develop the attitude that we can handle our own lives and overcome our own problems we’re more likely to suffer broken relationships, get discouraged, and lose interest in helping others. On the other hand, if we continue to maintain a positive attitude through consistent prayer with a humble spirit, we will be on the right course for receiving God’s blessings and achieving happiness. We can learn from Paul’s recommendation to the Thessalonian church in First Thessalonians 5:14-21,

14 We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. 16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances.
21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good (NASB 1995).

The benefit of realizing you never know all there is to know opens you to depending squarely upon God not only for your happiness in this present life, but in preparing you for the day Jesus appears at his second coming. With this in mind, Paul went on to offer this benediction in his letter to the Thessalonians,

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Thessalonians 5:23, NASB 1995).

That’s the destination where we strive to arrive regardless the storms we face in this life. And, through prayer along with our desire to seek God’s Kingdom and his righteousness first (Matthew 6:33), we shall get there.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael
P.S. When we accept the fact that we’re not strong enough to overcome our problems, and reach out to the Lord, that’s when we’ll experience the joy of his strength to carry us over them. Here’s Matthew West singing, “Strong Enough,” https://youtu.be/knuHDPbE5es

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The One Who Bridges the Gap

Jesus bridges the gap

(REMINDER: In my posts, you can conveniently read the scripture references by clicking or tapping on each underlined passage linked with Bible Gateway.)

Bridging the gap between others can seem like an impossible task. It takes very skillful persons to get two or more opposing parties connected for arriving at some kind of satisfaction. Indeed, it can sometimes present a challenge that only the Lord knows how to resolve.

A biker was riding on a highway along a California beach when suddenly the sky clouded above his head and in a booming voice, the Lord said:

“Because you have tried to be faithful to me in all ways, I will grant you one wish.”

The biker pulled over and said: “Lord, please build a bridge from California to Hawaii so I can ride over anytime I want.”

The Lord said, “Your request is materialistic. Think of the enormous challenges for that kind of undertaking. The supports required would have to reach the bottom of the Pacific! The concrete and steel it would take! It will nearly exhaust several natural resources. I can do it, but it is hard for me to justify your desire for worldly things. Take a little more time and think of something that would honor and glorify me.”

The biker thought about it for a long time.

Finally he said, “Lord, I wish that I could understand my wife. I want to know how she feels inside, what she’s thinking when she gives me the silent treatment, why she cries, what she means when she says nothing’s wrong, and how I can make a woman truly happy.”

The Lord replied, “‘Bout that bridge—you want two lanes or four?” (Aish.com)

When dealing with people, bridging the gap is the job of a mediator—someone who acts as a “go-between” between two parties for settling disputes. According to the dictionary,

A mediator is a person who mediates —helps to settle a dispute or create agreement when there is conflict between two or more people or groups by acting as an intermediary or go-between for those parties. The act or process of mediating is called mediation. (Dictionary.com)

Professional mediators specialize in many areas such as sports, finances, environment and media. Just about every organization requires a certified mediator when it comes to the need for conflict resolution.

The need for a mediator even reaches into the spiritual realm. Because we are fallible human beings, we all need some kind of divine guidance from a Higher Power whenever we encounter some disputes that seem impossible to settle. But who do we call on for this kind of help?

According to one source,

Every culture has had a mediator with the divine. Whether it was shamans who would interact with ancestor spirits or priests who would offer incense and sacrifices to deities, human beings are fascinated with interacting with the nonphysical world. Modern-day psychics, mediums, and spiritualists are sought out for their ability to supposedly interact with the spiritual world. Even presidents and governors have sought the advice of psychics and mediums during their term. (Illustration Ideas)

While these are the ways of the world, Christians turn to Someone even better to be our Mediator: Jesus Christ, Son of God and Man. Only he can be the true Mediator for bridging the gap particularly the big one between God and humanity. First Timothy 2:5 and 6 summarizes it this way:

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time, (New American Standard Bible 1995, NASB 1995).

In this passage, we arrive at three facts: 1) There is only one person who is God; 2) There is only one Mediator between God and humanity, the man Jesus Christ; 3) Humanity was ransomed by the Man, Jesus Christ, who bridges the gap between humanity and God.

That gap is due to sin which separates us from the one God. We have been under the curse of sin ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden by partaking of the forbidden tree, “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” (Genesis 3:1-24).

Sin goes against the perfect moral character of God, violates his moral laws, and opposes his perfect government. In essence, sin puts us in a rebellious state against God, and the result is death—a state of final separation from the One who is eternal. According to Romans 5:12,

“Therefore, just as through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned,” (NASB 1995).

Because of our sinful nature, it is impossible to attain to the perfect nature of God through our own efforts. As the Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23, NASB 1995). But because God IS perfect, he has provided the perfect Way for us to be forgiven of sin and be able to be saved from the penalty of sin which is eternal death:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life,” (John 3:16).

The Man, Jesus Christ, is the only begotten Son of God and the Savior of the world. Though he, himself, did not sin, he was crucified on the cross as the perfect Sacrifice, for our sins:

“He [God] made him [his Son, the Man, Jesus Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him,” (Romans 5:21).

Therefore, Jesus is the One who paid the ransom price for purchasing our salvation and for redeeming us with his own blood (Acts 20:28; Galatians 3:12-14; Romans 5:9). Jesus is the One and Only person through whom we can be saved (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).

After God resurrected him from death to immortality (Acts 2:24, 32-33; Romans 6:8-10; 1 Peter 1:21), God’s Son ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9-11) to where he is now seated at the right hand of God’s throne (Hebrews 8:1). He is now exalted in his heavenly ministry, interceding as the High Priest on our behalf (Hebrews 7:26-28). Since he is our High Priest before God our Father in heaven, we pray through him, in his name (Hebrews 4:14-16; John 14:13-14; 16:23-24). In this way, Jesus performs his role as Mediator between God and humanity:

“For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance,” (Hebrews 9:15, NASB 1991).

As the Mediator, the man Jesus Christ is the only person who bridges that gap between God and humanity. Therefore, you can say that Jesus is the bridge and God is the One who built it. As the late Dr. Alva G. Huffer wrote,

Man through his own efforts could never build a bridge between himself and God. Salvation does not originate in man; it is not based upon human works. Salvation originates in God. It is planned by His Wisdom, prompted by His love, and performed through his power. Jesus Christ as Mediator is the bridge between God and men. That bridge is a reality because of the divine initiative. ‘God so loved the world that he gave.’ God is the one who had erected the bridge between Himself and man, (Systematic Theology, 236).

The One God who gave his One and Only Son, the Man Jesus Christ, has promised that his Son will someday return from heaven to appear on earth (Acts 1:11) to establish God’s Kingdom. Christ our Mediator will literally appear again and “with great power and glory,” (Hebrews 9:28; Mark 13:26) to take on his new earth position as “King of kings and Lord of lords,” (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:11-16).

We eagerly look forward to that Day (Romans 8:19; 2 Peter 2:13; 2 Timothy 4:8) when the Man, Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God, will reward all his faithful with eternal life (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18; Revelation 22:12). In a manner of speaking, that will be the time when we cross over that bridge to enter the glory of God.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael
P.S. For your inspiration, here’s the Christian version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” presented by the Sammy Hall Singers, https://youtu.be/DArFuBAcO-Y

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Listening to the One God

Listening_the LORD is ONE

(REMINDER: In my posts, you can conveniently read the scripture references by clicking on each underlined passage linked with Bible Gateway.) 

Truckers are commonly heard to say over their CB radios, “Got your ears on?” It’s their way of saying, “Are you listening?” They are signaling the attention of someone tuned in on air.

When Moses was giving God’s instructions to his people, Israel, he was signaling their attention, too. In Deuteronomy 6:4 he announced, “Hear, O Israel….” The word for “hear” is more than merely receiving sound that hits upon one’s ear drum. Actually, it’s an imperative word and means to listen with the intent of obeying. Through the prophet Moses, God is calling Israel to get their ears on, so to speak, and act upon the Truth he is about to tell them.

This command to “listen” is most sacred to devout Jews. It’s from the Hebrew, “shema” (sh’ma) and according to Jewish resources, “…sounds the keynote of all Judaism, and has been its watchword and confession of faith throughout the ages. Here the fundamental Truth of the Unity of God is proclaimed,” (The Soncino Edition of the Pentateuch and Haftorahs, edited by the late Chief Rabbi, Dr. J.H. Herte, 1969).

In Jewish liturgy, the Shema is prayed twice each day, morning and evening, and is included with three sections of Scripture: (1) Deuteronomy 6:4-9; (2) Deuteronomy 11:13-21; and (3) Numbers 15:37-41. The first section is about total devotion to the One God through love for him. The second section is about God’s rewards for obeying his commands. The third section is about wearing tassels on the corners of their garments as visible reminders to do all of God’s commandments, to be holy, and how God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. (ibid.)

The Shema of Israel (Sh’ma Yisrael) is founded upon the Truth that, “The LORD our God, the LORD is One.” God’s oneness is based upon what is termed, “pure monotheism.” In other words, there is only one person who is God (“mono” = “one”; “theism” = “God”).

God, himself, has revealed that he is one person as indicated by the inspired writers of his Word. In the Old Testament, he has shown that not only is he One God but the Only God and there is no one else besides him:

+ 2 Samuel 7:22 “There is no God besides Thee”

+ 2 Kings 19:15, 19 “Thou art the God, Thou alone”

+ 1 Chronicles 17:20 “There is none like Thee”

+ Psalm 86:8-10 “Thou alone art God”

+ Isaiah 44:6, 8 “Is there any God besides Me…I know of none”

+ Isaiah 45:5, 6, 14, 18, 21, 22 “I am God, there is none else”

+ Joel 2:27 “There is none other”

+ Malachi 2:10 “Has not one God created us”

The New Testament also chimes in with the oneness of God. Jesus stated it in his prayers (John 17:3) and declared it to his people (Matthew 19:17; Mark 10:18). He even quoted the Shema to his opponents (Mark 12:28-34).

The teaching of God’s oneness was passed forward in the Gospel message of the early Church:

+ Acts 17:24 “The God who made the world”

+ 1 Corinthians 8:4, 6 “There is no God but one”

+ Galatians 3:20 “God is only one”

+ Ephesians 4:6 “One God and Father of all”

+ 1 Timothy 1:17; Jude 25 “To the only wise God”

+ 1 Timothy 2:5 “There is one God”

+ James 2:19 “God is one”

The oneness or unity of God is central to our fundamental duty to live for him and, not only that, to experience his wonderful blessings, as well. For, by listening to the One God, we come to know the One Truth that genuinely radiates love, peace, joy, and hope in our lives. So that when we base our beliefs and behavior on that Truth, we will know him, all the more.

For this reason, we are commanded,

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9, New American Standard Bible, NASB 1995)

When we truly listen to the One God we can focus on loving him and others as we strive to receive the riches of his glory and grace.

According to the Rabbis, loving the One God with all your heart means giving him your undivided allegiance with all your desires, even your earthly passions and ambitions, in service to him.

Loving the one God with all your soul is said to include “with your whole life”—that is, with every drop of blood and, if he requires it, to the point of giving up your life, the supreme sacrifice given out of love.

Loving the One God with all your might means giving full concentration of feeling and power to him. That includes loving him not only during the good times but during the bad times, too. It also applies to giving him all that you possess because you love him and recognize that he alone created all of us and gives us all things. (ibid.)

The oneness of God is the foundation for doing his will and living in ways that honors and glorifies him. It’s the key that opens the door to God’s salvation through his one and only Son, Jesus Christ (Acts 4:8-12). Got your ears on?

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael
P.S. Here’s Deuteronomy 6:4 and 5 put to music with this nice tune: https://youtu.be/S5AwtFCsQjs

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