Caught Up in the Christmas Rush

Christmas Shoppers Rushing

In the rush of last-minute Christmas shopping, a woman bought a box of fifty identical greeting cards. Without bothering to read the verse, she hastily signed and addressed all but one of them. Several days after they had been mailed, she came across one card that hadn’t been sent, and she looked at the message she had sent. She was horrified to read: “This card is just to say…a little gift is on the way.” (selected)

If this woman thought she was being rushed before she sent the cards, imagine the panic she must have felt after realizing what was printed on those cards. This scene begs the question: Why does Christmas always seem to put us in a rush?

I suspect tradition has a lot to do with it. No sooner do we head into the beauty of fall when we’re reminded once again to get ready, for Christmas will arrive before we know it. Retail stores start putting up their Christmas decorations and merchandise earlier every year, weeks before Thanksgiving has even come. Online ordering is advertized as being more convenient, but timing is also important: You still have to make your selection a.s.a.p. “while supplies last” and before the accumulation of orders slow delivery time down.

Time flies faster as we approach this most wonderful time of the year. While thinking about all the things you have to do—shop for presents, get out the decorations and put them up, find the Christmas tree you want or, if artificial, retrieve it out of storage and decorate it. Make sure the lights work and get bulbs, if necessary. Preparations for company that will be coming: What you’ll fix for the meal; how many to expect; getting the house cleaned up, and so forth. Then, of course, we have to make time for the Christmas parties and activities coming up—such as, the company party, the church or social parties and gift exchanges, or the many school “holiday” programs (formerly called “Christmas” programs) parents and grandparents are expected to attend. And, on top of all this, what about getting those Christmas cards ready and sending them out ON TIME?

All of these traditions can help make the season bright but they also have a tendency to weight us down, adding to all the other usual things we have to do according to our calendars. In all that busyness that builds up this time of year, do we stop, take a deep breath, and pause to reflect on WHY we are doing all these things in the first place? Do we “stop to smell the roses”—that is, do we stop to take a good look at the writing on the Christmas cards we’re sending, so to speak?

Getting caught up in the Christmas rush is exhilarating to some and wearisome to others. Some just love the last minute stuff. That’s the way it’s always been for their family. That’s their tradition. And there’s nothing wrong with that, except unless they send out the wrong Christmas cards. But it can also be wearisome, too—stressful, irritating, and very costly. According to a survey by Healthline, 62% of people said their stress level increases during the holiday season.

At this point, we ponder: Is this what Christmas is all about? Should Christmas really be this way? Need it be a rush in the first place?

Whether we’re in the Christmas rush, or not, it is good and especially healthy to remind ourselves what—or, rather, WHO this time of the year is all about. Jesus Christ is the proverbial “Reason for the season.” He is “the Gift that keeps on giving.” He is the “Prince of peace” who gives us inner peace even during all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you, not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid,” (John 17:27, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

If we don’t keep our focus on the Christ of Christmas, the rush will overwhelm us. Then it will overtake us and make us all worn out. And we’ll be setting ourselves up for sending out Christmas cards without realizing what they promised—or some other such embarrassing situation.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. When you feel the Christmas rush, rush to Jesus for he is at the heart of the matter that matters most in our hearts. Here’s Matthew West singing, “The Heart of Christmas,” http://youtu.be/Z3XYaeB22FQ

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God’s Impeccable Timing & Christ’s Birth

Fulness of Time_Gal. 4_4

In a debate with the atheist (and now deceased) Christopher Hitchens, William Lane Craig noted how Christ’s first arrival occurred at the perfect time. Craig said:

“Human beings have existed for thousands of years on this planet before Christ’s coming. But what’s really crucial here is not the time involved; rather, it’s the population of the world. The Population Reference Bureau estimates that the number of people who have ever lived on this planet is about 105 billion people. Only two percent of them were born prior to the advent of Christ. Erik Kreps of the Survey Research Center of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research says, ‘God’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Christ showed up just before the exponential explosion in the world’s population.'” (selected)

Mr. Craig is correct: God’s timing is perfect. Besides the world’s population, God’s Son was born at a time that was just right for fulfilling the words of the prophets, too.

Here we find that timing is everything. For, around four thousand years, God’s prophets under his inspiration wrote about the arrival of the Messiah, the Anointed One, for the people of Israel. And on the night of his birth, the time finally came for God’s Son to be born.

In Galatians 4, verses 4 and 5, the Apostle Paul wrote, (4) “But when the completion of the time arrived, God sent forth his Son, having been produced from a Woman, born under Law, (5) in order that he might redeem those under Law, that we might receive the sonship,” (The Emphatic Diaglott).

Taking a closer look at this text, notice three important truths about, (1) God’s Timing; (2) God’s Son; and (3) God’s Purpose.

God’s Timing

There were two arrivals: First, the arrival of time; Second, the arrival of Jesus Christ. While some translations read, “the fullness of time,” another word for “fullness” is “completion,” which comes from the Greek word, pleroma. It refers to “that portion of time by which a longer antecedent period is completed; hence, completeness, fullness of time,” (Thayer’s Lexicon). A new time arrived when Jesus came on the scene.

The Greek word for “time” is chronou from which we get “chronology,” or “time in sequence or duration,” ( ibid.) The old dispensing of time or dispensation via the Law came to a close when Christ was born. His birth marked a new dispensing of time or dispensation via Grace, “that we might receive the adoption as sons, (New American Standard Bible, NASB). (See Romans 5:20-21.)

God’s Son

There are two characteristics concerning the nature of Jesus Christ: One, that Jesus is the Son of God (divine); Two, that Jesus is the Son of Man (human). The Apostle Paul includes both of these characteristics in one sentence in Galatians 4:4, “God sent forth his Son (divine), having been produced from a Woman, born under Law (human).” The arrival of God’s Son was timed to occur at his miraculous conception.

In Luke 1:31, the angel appeared to Mary and said, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.” When Mary asked, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (v. 34), the angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason, the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God,” (v. 35).

Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, had a real beginning. He began when Mary conceived him through the overshadowing of God’s Power. In due time, Mary gave birth to God’s Son.

The sending forth of God’s Son began after Jesus was born. The Greek interlineary translation reads, “God sent forth his Son, having been born from a woman, having been born under law…” (The Emphatic Diaglott). Having been born from a Jewish woman, having been born under the Law of Moses, God sent forth his Son into the world.

The Geek word for “sent forth” in Galatians 4:4 is exapostelló, from ek and apostello, meaning “to send away forth, i.e., to dispatch, or to dismiss.” The meaning of “sent” is also applied to John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus: “There came [into being] a man, sent from God, whose name was John,” (John 1:6). John was sent forth by God to be “a witness that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him,” (John 1:7). Years later, when Jesus was in his ministry, he testified, “I am the light of the world,” (John 8:12).

The sending forth of God’s Son commenced when Jesus began his earthly ministry (Mark 1:14-15). In John 17, Jesus offered his intercessory prayer for his disciples as he was about to enter his last days of suffering and death. He prayed, “I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them [out of the power of evil]. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world, Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth. As thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world,” (vss. 15-18). The Greek word forsent” is the same as before: apostello, “sent forth, sent out,” or, literally, commissioned, as on a mission.

Jesus was fulfilling his mission in his earthly ministry which included appointing those who would carry on his work when he entered his heavenly ministry, to sit at the right hand of God’s throne as our High Priest. Jesus sent forth the twelve disciples (or, followers) who became his apostles (Matthew 10:2).

As the early church grew, other apostles were divinely called (Eph. 4:11) including the Apostle Paul who was sent to the Gentiles (Rom. 1:1; 11:13). Interestingly, the Greek word for “apostle” is in the same context as “sent.” The Greek word for “apostle” is apostolos, from apostello, “to commission, send forth.” Jesus sent forth his apostles and commissioned them just as both he and John were sent from God. In one of his post resurrection appearances, Jesus met his disciples behind closed doors and said to them, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent me, I also send you,” (John 20:21).

God’s Purpose

In Galatians 4:5, God’s impeccable timing is revealed in the purpose of Jesus’ birth. It’s all about redemption. The Greek interlineary has, “he might buy off,” in place of “redeem,” (The Emphatic Diaglott).

In fact, to redeem is illustrated as going to the agora or market place for making a purchase. But in God’s redemption, this is no ordinary market place. It’s the slave market where sinners are bought and sold. The sinners are slaves to sin. God is pictured going to the market place. There, he purchases the slave or servant of sin with the precious blood of his Son. And then he sets the sinner free. Thus, the redeemed sinner is so grateful for what was done to set him free from serving sin, that he becomes the Redeemer’s lifetime servant through loyalty and love. (Matt. 20:28; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; 1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Pet. 1:18-19)

Keeping in mind this illustration, there are two parts to God’s redemption through his Son: One part concerns his people Israel. The Bible says that the Good News of Jesus was for the Jews first, then the Gentiles (Romans 1:16). God’s redemption plan was for the Jews first. God Son was sent at a time when Israel was in need of a Savior.

Since the time of Moses, Israel has been under God’s Law. But God’s Law was only a shadow of things to come (Heb. 10:1; Colossians 2:17). It was meant to teach God’s people how to live, like a schoolmaster who instructs and disciplines his students (Galatians 3:24-26). But a time would come when Someone, the true Messiah, would appear to fulfill what the Law and the prophets stood for in regard to God’s salvation plan (Matthew 5:17-20). Jesus, therefore, was sent to redeem his people, Israel. He was born to “save his people from their sins,” according to the angel who appeared to Joseph, (Matthew 1:21).

Because of the stubbornness of their hearts and blindness to the truth, Israel rejected Jesus as God’s Son and Savior. But God did not cast away Israel for good (Rom. 11:1). In Romans 11:25, Paul wrote, “Blindness has happened in part until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” At just the right time, God will intervene just as he did when Jesus was born. Israel’s eyes will be opened and their hearts will be changed for in verse 26, Paul goes on to say, “And thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. And this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’” (See Isaiah 59:20-21; 27:9; Heb. 8:10-12)

The Bible says that Israel will be converted to Jesus when he returns. They will recognized that he is the One they rejected and had crucified on the cross. And they will repent of their sins and be saved (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:37).

Dr. Alva Huffer wrote,

“When Jesus returns to earth as King of kings, Israel will accept Him as their long-awaited Messiah. When they see Him, they will repent from their sins and wil be converted to God and Christ. God will cleanse repentant Israelites from their sins, give them a new heart, and establish a new covenant with them.” (Systematic Theology.) (See Jeremiah 23:6; 24:7; 31:9, 31-34; 32:37-40; 33:8; Ezekiel 37:23-28)

At that time, Israel will be a blessing to all nations of the earth (Isa. 60:1-22; Zechariah 8:20-23; Revelation 21:12). Jesus will reign on the throne of his father, David, in accordance with the human lineage of Jesus (Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:30-33).

The second part of God’s redemption has to do with his church—those who are converted to Jesus as God’s Son and Savior. All those who are “one in Christ” (Galatians 3:28), are adopted as God’s children, (“…that we might receive the adoption as sons,” Gal. 4:5; also, Rom. 8:15, 23; 9:4; Eph. 1:5; ). Therefore, believers who have entered into Christ through faith, repentance, and baptism (Acts 2:38-39; Gal. 3:26-26-29; Rom. 6:1-11), not only have their sins forgiven, but have the hope of inheritance in God’s Kingdom when Jesus returns (Rom. 8:12-17; Col. 1:12).

God’s timing is impeccable in view of his marvelous plan. The birth of his Son is a wonderful example of the way God works according to his timetable. And yet, when the time is exactly right, there are even more great things to come!

Give a listen to, “When the Fullness of Time Was Come,” https://youtu.be/7L7p_CBeDgE

Good News to YOU,
Pastor Michael

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The Terror of the Untamed Tongue

tongue is a fire

It’s said that a slick tongue causes bad slips and loose lips.

A man working in the produce department was asked by a lady if she could buy half a head of lettuce. He replied, “Half a head? Are you serious? God grows these in whole heads and that’s how we sell them!”

“You mean,” she persisted, “that after all the years I’ve shopped here, you won’t sell me half-a-head of lettuce?”

“Look,” he said, “If you like I’ll ask the manager.”

She indicated that would be appreciated, so the young man marched to the front of the store. “You won’t believe this, but there’s a lame-braided idiot of a lady back there who wants to know if she can buy half-a-head of lettuce.”

He noticed the manager gesturing, and turned around to see the lady standing behind him, obviously having followed him to the front of the store. “And this nice lady was wondering if she could buy the other half” he concluded.

Later in the day the manager cornered the young man and said, “That was the finest example of thinking on your feet I’ve ever seen! Where did you learn that?”

“I grew up in Grand Rapids, and if you know anything about Grand Rapids, you know that it’s known for its great hockey teams and its ugly women.”

The manager’s face flushed, and he interrupted, “My wife is from Grand Rapids!” “And which hockey team did she play for?” (selected)

James has much to say about the difficulty of controlling our tongues (James 3:1-12, The Message, MSG, and The New American Standard Bible, NASB). Though it is small, it is known to…

~ Boast of great things, vs. 5. (NASB)~ Spark great destruction like a forest fire that starts with a careless or wrongly placed word, vss. 5-6. (MSG)

~ Ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, and be the cause of death, itself, vs. 6. (MSG)

~ Be untameable, uncontrollable, running wild, like a wanton killer, v. 8. (MSG)

~ A restless evil, full of deadly poison, v. 8. (NASB)

~ Bless God on one side, but curse men and women who are made in God’s likeness on the other side, v. 9. (MSG)

James tells it like it is about the human tongue and the way it ought to be used. He emphasizes the need for Christians to put more restraint on their tongues for, “from the same mouth come both blessings and cursings,” (vs. 10, NASB).

Inconsistency appears to be a distinct problem of an untamed tongue. James remarked, “My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?” (vss. 10-12, MSG).

The terror that results from an untamed tongue speaks of the necessity of building our lives on Godly wisdom. It means our priority is to “live well, live wisely, live humbly,” (v. 13, MSG). Our style of holy living will have a positive effect on our relationships and the way we communicate.

James says,

“…It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats,” (vss. 13-16, MSG).

James urges believers to not merely talk the talk but walk the walk (James 1:22-27). What we say will be revealed by the way we’re living according to the wisdom that is from above. And this can only produce good results. Indeed, we won’t be so apt to slip on a slick tongue and spread its terror.

James concludes,

“Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor,” (vss. 17-18, MSG).

The use of our tongues for building up rather than bringing down includes telling others about the Good News (Matthew 28:19-20). As others see us living the way we say we ought to live, then our witness will be more believable when we share our hope and faith. The Good News of Christ and his Kingdom will be validated by our wisdom and actions toward our desire to obey God and his Word.

Here’s a song taken directly from scripture titled, “Taming the Tongue” (James 3:1-10):
https://youtu.be/NUBj_d5a5Hw

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Being Thankful for 25 Things That Are Not

gratitude-cartoon

We are thankful for many things—good things that we have, or nice things that happen to us, or happy things that we’ve done. Yes, we’re grateful for our many blessings. And, as Thanksgiving Day arrives, we will be reminded of how thankful we are for these blessings.

But there’s another perspective on being thankful. And this includes the things for which we can be thankful that did NOT happen, or that we do NOT have. It all depends on how we look at it.

For example…

Snoopy is getting dog food for his Thanksgiving Day dinner, and he is aware that everyone else in the family is inside having turkey. He meditates and talks to himself: “How about that? Everyone is eating turkey today, but just because I’m a dog I get dog food.”

He trots away and positions himself on top of his doghouse and concludes: “Of course, it could have been worse. I could have been born a turkey.” (“Peanuts”)

Snoopy was grateful in spite of the fact that he couldn’t have some Thanksgiving turkey, too. He was able to look at the bright side even though he was a disappointed dog. But this illustrates a positive way we can handle the times we feel hurt or let down in some way.

Here is a list of 25 things you can be thankful for which didn’t happen to you. You can be thankful that…

1. You were not born a gnat because people would always be swatting at you.

2. You are not an Oscar Mayer wiener because people would love you so much, they would want you for lunch, and that wouldn’t go down too well.

3. You’re not the temperature because you would always be up and down. And someone, somewhere would complain about you. (“Too hot,” “Too cold,” blah, blah, blah!)

4. You are not a skunk because you’d be making a big stink and no one would want you around.

5. Your nose does not grow an inch longer each time you tell a little white lie.

6. Your car doesn’t turn into a pumpkin if you get home too late.

7. You don’t have as many eyes as a nearsighted fly with double vision.

8. You are a match because people would be striking you and that would burn you up.

9. You are not someone’s appendix about to burst—a big pain who needs to be cut out.

10. You did not see your name in the obituary today.

11. Your ears don’t burn and you set off a smoke alarm when someone talks about you.

12. Your deepest secrets haven’t gone viral on the Internet yet.

13. You are not over 9 feet tall like some say Goliath was or you’d be bumping your head all the time and that’s just ONE problem!

14. You don’t turn into a pillar of salt like Lot’s wife just because you turned to look back.

15. You are not a penny for you would not make much cents and people would throw you away.

16. You are not a sidewalk because people would walk all over you all the time. Ouch!

17. You were not raised by apes or you’d make a monkey out of yourself.

18. You are not a snowman having a REAL meltdown.

19. You aren’t a hamster on a wheel going nowhere fast.

20. You are not a hurricane full of much wind and causing lots of damage.

21. You are not a worn out shoe—tongue hanging and not much sole.

22. You are not a bump on a log and getting bored.

23. Your toes do not actually curl when you drink a strong beverage.

24. You do not really hit the ceiling when you hear bad news.

25. You are not struck by a lightning bolt every time you say something wrong.

Yes, you CAN be thankful for some things that do not happen. When you start feeling down and out or, like Snoopy, just plain left out, remember this verse: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” First Thessalonians 5:18. Give thanks! Things could always be worse!

Here’s an uplifting music video that reminds us to be “Grateful”: http://youtu.be/s7eVr-OUYkQ

Happy Thanksgiving!
And Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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What We Can Learn From Noah

days of noah

Noah is a fascinating person we much admire for, had it not been for him, all of humanity as well as all living creatures would have been completely washed away in the worldwide flood. God was contemplating wiping out everyone from the face of the earth, because, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,” (Gen. 6:5, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

But, thank God, there was one righteous man, Noah, and his family who were spared. For “Noah found favor [grace] in the eyes of the Lord,” (v. 8). And, following God’s instructions, Noah built an Ark or huge boat that saved him, his family, and the animals that entered it from total destruction.

You can learn many lessons from Noah.  Here are several witty ones that someone listed…

Don’t miss the boat.

We are all in the same boat.

Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.

Stay fit. When you’re 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something big.

Don’t listen to critics; just do the job that needs to be done.

Build your future on high ground.

For safety’s sake, travel in pairs.

Speed isn’t always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetah’s.

When you’re stressed, float a while.

Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.

No matter the storm, when you are with God, there’s always a rainbow.

Noah is one of our heroes of faith. While everyone else undoubtedly thought Noah and his sons were nuts for building this huge, odd-looking structure on dry ground, they kept working on their boat building project day after day. While the mass of humanity was flooded with corruption and violence (Gen. 6:11-12), Noah and his three sons were faithfully getting read for the big flood of water that was going to cleanse the earth of this evil.

Hebrews 11:7 says, “By faith, Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prpared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.”

When God saw that Noah was a man of faith and integrity, God knew that Noah would follow his instructions. This example shows that God will reward anyone who honors and obeys him in faith (Heb. 11:6).

To have faith, however, doesn’t mean we are without flaws or weaknesses. As a reminder of this fact, even Noah’s imperfections are exposed when he got drunk one day (Gen. 9:20-21). But this, too, is a lesson that teaches how we must always keep on our guard, continually praying to our Father in heaven, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” and pleading, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” (Matt. 6:9-15).

Noah’s role of building the Ark and being saved from the Flood waters are symbolic of our salvation. The Flood was a type of God’s judgment upon the ungodly people of the world. The Apostle Peter cited the Flood as an example of the reality of God’s retribution: “[God] did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly,” (2 Pet. 2:5).

What we can learn is that because of God’s judgment or justice, he is able to rescue us from the disaster that ungodliness brings just like he did for Noah and his family (2 Pet. 2:9). One day, the earth will be cleansed of sin with fire just as it was once cleansed with water (2 Pet. 3:3-13).

And let that be a warning to those heading for disaster—that is, those who are NOT living in faith and virtue including, “those who indulge in the flesh in its corrupt desires and [those who] despise authority…” according to Peter (2 Pet. 2:10).

Noah and the Ark illustrate how we are saved from eternal condemnation by obeying the command to be baptized [immersed] in water. First Peter 3:20-22 says,

(20) “…who once were disobedient , when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. (21) And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (22) who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and power had been subject to him.”

God wants to save us from eternal condemnation (2 Pet. 3:9). He is patiently waiting to see us enter the “Ark” of safety, Jesus Christ, by being buried into Christ’s death under the waters of baptism, and coming up alive in the power of his righteousness, having our sins washed away through God’s forgiveness and grace (Acts 2:38-39; 3:19-21; Romans 6:4-11).

Those who have entered into Christ at conversion are reminded to remain faithful, looking eagerly for the return of our Lord and his eternal kingdom, even as we live in a world of sin and corruption today. Although humanity has always had its dark periods of evil, it will get worse according to the scriptures (2 Timothy 3:1-7, 13).

We are told that in the last days before Jesus comes to restore all things, social conditions will be like it was in the days of Noah. In Matthew 24:37-39, Jesus said,

(37) “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. (38) For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, (39) and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.

Noah’s day teaches us that we need to be ready, unlike those who did not get themselves ready when the Flood was sent upon them. The vast majority of people in the world today remain in ignorance of the times in which we’re living which points to the nearness of his glorious return (2 Pet. 3:3-4). Jesus warned, “For the Son of man is coming at an hour when you do not think he will,” (Matt. 24:44).

Noah and what happened when the Flood came teaches us that we can’t afford to have our heads buried in the sand. We must not make the mistake of going about our own daily routines, like they did in Noah’s time, without knowing what is going on in the world and what God’s Word teaches. Our duty and privilege is to be about the work of building our lives in Christ, proclaiming the Good News, in preparation for the Great Day that WILL come.

Let’s give a listen to Tennessee Ernie Ford in, “Noah Found Grace in the Eyes of the Lord,” https://youtu.be/rDtjBeIktJ4

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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How to Be a Good Soldier for the Lord

Gods army

The United States Army abides under what is called, “The Seven Core Army Values.” They are, Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. Soldiers learn these values and their meanings when they first begin their basic training. They are to learn them, understand them, and use them in everything they do from then on. Their minds are as conditioned as their bodies in order to be good soldiers for their country.

In his second letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul encouraged his young associate to, “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus,” (2 Tim. 2:3, New American Standard Bible, NASB). Metaphorically speaking, Paul was applying one of the core values of a good soldier serving the Lord Jesus. Paul could make this comparison since he had many encounters with Roman soldiers in his missionary journeys. Undoubtedly, he had witnessed the fortitude, discipline, and loyalty of the soldiers and their commanders he had met during his ministry (for example, Acts 21:31-40; 22:23-29; 23:10; 23:17-35; 24:1-27; 25:1-22; 25:23-27; 26:1-32; 27:1-44; 28:1-30). And the apostle observed how their military life reflected the values of an even more meaningful spiritual life of a soldier in Christ.

Applying the kind of values expected of believers, we consider how to be a good soldier for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Here are seven core values for those in his army:

Core Value #1. A good soldier has faith.

Faith is belief, confidence, and trust. All three characteristics are essential for being a good soldier in Christ. If a soldier doesn’t believe in the cause for which he or she is fighting then the soldier is bound to be defeated. If the soldier lacks confidence, he or she will be weak on morale and motivation to overcome the enemy. If a soldier doesn’t trust his fellow soldiers and especially his superiors, he or she will likely be unfit for duty. Christians live by these standards of faith as they fulfill their duties as good soldiers of the Lord. Paul reminded Timothy, “And that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation THROUGH FAITH which is in Christ,” (2 Tim. 3:15). In fact, Paul commended Timothy for his sincere faith that was instilled in him through the influence of his godly mother and grandmother since childhood (2 Tim. 1:5). And Paul testified how he, himself, “Fought the good fight…finished the course…kept the faith ,” once he accepted the call of Christ in his career (2 Tim. 4:7).

Core Value #2. A good soldier obeys the commands.

No soldier should even think about questioning the commands of his officers. Rank is essential when a soldier is given orders. God, the Commander-in-Chief, gave his Ten Commandments to Israel. Jesus Christ, who was granted “all authority and power in heaven and on earth,” (Matthew 28:18) serves as God’s Appointed Supreme Commander in the office of Prophet (Deut. 18:15, 18; Acts 3:22), Priest (Psalm 110:4; Heb. 5:5-10; 7:1-3), and King (Isaiah 9:6-7; Luke 1:31-33; Rev. 19:16). We, as good soldiers, are expected to live according to the commands given through God’s Son. We are instructed to practice unconditional and unquestionable obedience to our Master for he knows those who are loyal to him (2 Tim. 2:19). We’ve enlisted in God’s army through Christ. And, therefore, we are under obligation to not allow ourselves to be entangled in worldly matters. “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier,” (2 Tim. 2:4). Our duty is to obey the commands found in God’s Word. It is the instruction manual for achieving complete victory. “Be diligent to present yourself approved by God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth,” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Core Value #3. A good soldier makes sacrifices.

Good soldiers of Christ are willing to give of their time, their toil, their talent, as well as their blood, sweat, and tears for serving and honoring the Lord. When Paul spoke of suffering hardship like him, he wasn’t just blowing smoke. He went through more than most of us ever will as he took his stand for the Lord (2 Corinthians 11:21-33; 12:7-10). One of the distinguishing characteristics of a Roman soldier in Paul’s day was that every new recruit was branded with a hot iron. To have that brand mark is said to be an honor for being in the Roman army. The Apostle Paul used this as a metaphor for his sufferings for Christ. He said to his fellow soldiers in Galatia, “…I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus,” (Gal. 6:17). Just think of all the scars and wounds his body suffered from the beatings, whippings, and all other abuses for proclaiming the Good News of Jesus! But Jesus said this is what his recruits would suffer (Matt. 5:10-12). And then, of course, there’s the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus suffered, bled, and died for the sake of completing his mission—a true mission of love. He said to his little army of disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you,” (John 15:13-14). Stories are often told of brave soldiers who died falling on grenades or standing in front of gunfire or diffusing loaded bombs in order to spare fellow comrades from fatal danger. Any good soldier of Christ is just as brave if it comes to sacrificing one’s own life while under persecution for sharing Christ with others and saving them.

Core Value #4. A good soldier has endurance.

You can’t think about sacrifice without including endurance. It is for the Gospel that Paul endured hardship. He stated, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned,” (2 Tim. 2:8-9). Endurance, like sacrifice, takes divine love in one’s heart. Love of this kind “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” (1 Cor. 13:7). You can have much faith, sacrifice everything, and endure all things, but without love, nothing is profited (1 Cor. 13:2-3). With godlike love you can endure with patience and kindness without becoming jealous, boastful, arrogant, unbecoming, selfish, or vengeful. Rather, you can endure because you are rejoicing with the truth rather than rejoicing in something not true (1 Cor. 13:4-6). When times get tough, the tough will endure. We are told that at the end of the age when perilous times will really get tough, it will be those who “endure to the end” that “will be saved,” (Matt. 24:13). It begs the question, “How tough am I to endure?” Our love for God and others (the primary essence of living God’s commandments—Matthew 22:36-40) provides the ability to endure with perseverance which can accomplish great things. It is written that “there are four steps to accomplishment: Plan purposefully. Prepare prayerfully. Proceed positively. Pursue persistently.” You never give up if you’re enduring as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

Core Value #5. A good soldier has strong will.

A soldier must have a very strong will to succeed. One cannot enter a battle without having the will or desire to move forward even when it’s against all odds. That does not mean one will not have fear in the face of the adversity. But the determination to enter any conflict with the help of God’s guidance and power will yield greater gains. Paul remarked, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline,” (2 Tim. 1:7). The strength of our will depends upon how resolved we are to win life’s battles. But such strength does not merely stem from what WE want but from what GOD wants. He has supplied us with the grace or favor to make us strong through Christ. Paul said to Timothy, “You, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,” (2 Tim. 2:1). It is our reliance upon God that strength is found and the will to make progress regardless of the circumstances. Paul relied on God’s grace even though his “thorn in the flesh” was never removed (2 Cor. 12:7-10). We can endure only if we are willing to accept God’s will and, like Paul, declare, “that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

Core Value #6. A good soldier knows the enemy and is adequately equipped.

What is a good soldier without knowing who he’s fighting and what he will need to fight with? Can you imagine a soldier going out to fight without any weapons and equipment? A good soldier of Jesus is no different when it comes to spiritual warfare. First, a good soldier must know the enemy—his strengths, his weaknesses, his knowledge and abilities and fighting patterns, and so forth. In Ephesians 6:12, our enemy is identified. Christians are not in a fight against an invading army of troops (“flesh and blood”). Rather, we’re in a battle “against the rulers, against the powers, against world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly (or, higher) places.” It would be easy to shoot from guns, fire the artillery, and march in an infantry against an opposing army that is fighting you compared to the kind of spiritual war we Christians are in. The forces opposing us are of a spiritual nature—higher powers that operate in the darkness of their wickedness, spreading their propaganda, persuading their victims to depend on them for false security, support, and strength rather than God and his Word. So, we take our stand against these powers but not with conventional weapons. No, we fight spiritual battles with something far more superior—spiritual weapons and equipment—“the full armor of God,” (Eph. 6:13). This will help to resist evil and take a firm stand in God’s truth. Therefore, “Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” (Eph. 4:14-17, New Living Translation, NLT).

Care Value #7. A good soldier expects victory.

What good is fighting without expecting to win? A good soldier sees beyond the present conflict to the joy of receiving the crown of honor and glory. This is his hope. It’s the driving force behind one’s desire to succeed no matter the price. And there IS a price—a kind of spiritual death which will ultimately lead to life eternal. For Paul said to Timothy, “For if we died with him, we shall also live with him. If we endure, we shall also reign with him. If we deny him, he also will deny us. If we are faithless, he remains faithful; for he cannot deny himself,” (2 Tim. 2:11-13). Dying with Christ means that once we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior through faith, repentance, and baptism, we are no longer living in the dictates of our own sinful inclinations. Rather, we are now living a new way of life, under the Power of Christ taking priority in our lives so that we are now serving him as good soldiers and not ourselves. Since we are now living as his good soldiers, we can claim the promise that one day we will “reign with him.” This is referring to the Day of the Lord, when Jesus comes to call forth all the faithful—those in Christ who are living and those in Christ who are resurrected from their sleep of death (1 Thess. 4:16-18). And believers will be co-rulers with Christ in his kingdom when he reigns on earth as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rom. 8:17; Rev. 1:6-7; 5:10; 11:15; 19:16; 20:6). When the Kingdom of God is finally established, and all of his judgements are complete, those who will inherit his kingdom will be the good soldiers who served faithfully according to the scriptures. Sadly, all others (the unsaved who do not accept Christ) will be the fallen victims of their own refusal to join the army of God and his Son (Rev. 20:11-15; 21:8).

By the way, another metaphor regarding the war we are in as good soldiers in Christ is the sound of the trumpet. The trumpet, often the blowing of the ram’s horn, was like a bugle that called the soldiers to commence fighting. This goes back to the Old Testament when Israel went to war against their foes (Numbers 10:9; Joshua 6:4-20; Judges 7:8-20). Paul used the trumpet or bugle when he was speaking of misusing the gift of languages or tongues in worship services. He said to the Corinthian church, “For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?” (1 Cor. 14:8). In other words, if someone is speaking in a foreign language that others do not understand, then they would be as confused as soldiers who did not recognize a certain sound of the bugle that called them to war.

Then there’s the reference to the trumpet that will sound when Jesus returns to gather his church and to fight his battle with the nations. First, the resurrection of believers: First Thessalonians 4:16 says, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and WITH THE TRUMPET OF GOD; and the dead in Christ shall rise first….” The sounding of the trumpet will signal the start of the coming eternal age of God’s kingdom as the dead in Christ are resurrected to immortality. Paul also refers to the sound of the trumpet in the Resurrection Chapter—First Corinthians 15:52. Next, is the REAL war that WILL END ALL WAR. After gathering his church which has met him in the air, Jesus will come down to Mount Zion and defeat the enemies who fight against him. This will be the final war known as Armageddon (Psalm 2:1-12; Joel 2:1-3:21; Zech. 12:10-11; 14:1-21; Rev. 16:16).

Good soldiers of Jesus Christ look eagerly forward to their eternal reward. The curse of sin will be removed for good (Rev. 22:3-4) and death will be no more (Rev. 21:4). And this gets us full circle to Core Value #1—Faith. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world—our faith. And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?…He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life,” (1 John 5:4-5, 12).

We are soldiers of the Lord for it his battle to win. Here is, “The Battle Belongs to the Lord,” by Maranatha! Music: http://youtu.be/vKD9ywL_OmA

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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A Clean Mind

Businessman Wash And Clean The Brain Of His Colleague

I was reading a cute story about a Sunday School teacher who had carefully prepared his lesson for the kids in his class. He was talking to them about the need for keeping their minds as clean as their bodies. To make his point, he held up a bar of soap.

“Uh, oh,” murmured one of the boys. “Here comes the commercial!”

In this day and age, it would probably be a good idea to teach this lesson to young AND old alike. I don’t doubt there are a lot of dirty minds that could use a good scrubbing. But it would require more than what a bar of soap could do.

Now here’s MY commercial…

Are you suffering from DMS? Do you know others suffering from it? What IS it, you are wondering? DMS is Dirty Mind Syndrome also known as “lust of the flesh.”

It’s something that anyone can catch. Young and old; rich and poor; Christian or non-Christian. It’s not that difficult. For you see, our minds have this tendency to think nasty thoughts. And when they get control of our brains they are not so easy to control. Like it says in Isaiah 64:6, “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind,” (New Living Translation, NLY).

Before you know it, our minds are cluttered with unclean thoughts. A vulgar joke here, a naughty image there, an urge to satisfy those carnal desires and, before you know it, a kind of sludge starts settling in the mind. As it builds, it clogs the brain cells and bogs them down so that pure thoughts are prohibited from functioning thus leading to DMS. This disease can create so much corruption that it even causes addiction. Unless something is done to cure this malady, there is grave danger of eternal death instead of inheriting eternal life in God’s Kingdom.

That’s the bad news. But the good news is that healing CAN take place. One’s mind can become clean and whole again. DMS can be treated and cured once a person starts on a rehab process known as TIS—The Indwelling Spirit. Here is the antidote recommended by the Apostle Paul:

“The mind set on the flesh [DMS] is [eternal] death but the mind set on the Spirit [TIS] is [eternal] life and peace. Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God…But if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit dwelling in you,” (Romans 8:6, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

Paul also addresses the problem of DMS in his letter to the Galatian churches. Amongst the many symptoms that arise out of “the desire of the flesh,” such as idolatry, sorcery, uncontrolled anger, envying, drunkenness, and so forth, sexual immorality (adultery), impurity (fornication), and sensuality are at the top of the list (Gataians 5:16-21). Those who are plagued with these symptoms will one day find themselves disinherited from living in God’s Kingdom. “I have forewarned you,” the apostle says, “that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” (v. 21).

So, just as he does in his letter to the Romans, he recommends TIS to the Galatians for it produces just the right ingredients or “fruit of the Spirit” for curing DMS. “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (v. 22-23). These not only cure DMS (v. 24) they enable us to walk in hope as we seek to enter the Kingdom of God.

When we start thinking and doing according to the way Christ Jesus directs us, we can enjoy the good health that comes from TIS. This means, however, that we must be willing to set our minds on the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and walk the way Christ would have us go rather than our way.

In writing to the church at Ephesus Paul reminded them how once walked in their own way and how they suffered from DMS on account of it. Their “former manner of life,” that is, “their old self” which was being corrupted “in accordance with the lusts of deceit,” was due to walking in the “futility of their mind.” They became “callous” or indifferent having “given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice ov every kind of impurity with greediness,” (Ephesians 4 17-23). Besides other problems, they really had a bad case of DMS.

But now their lives were changed and their minds renewed by living on TIS through Jesus Christ. They had put on the mind of Christ and now they were restored to good spiritual health. Paul encouraged the believers, “that you be renewed in the spirit of your minds and put on the new self which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth,” (Eph. 4:24).

And thus, a whole transformation takes place with TIS. The mind is made clean and one can feel much better in the process. Unlike the way the sinful world thinks (breeding ground for DMS), believers think differently. Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world [philosophy and trends of this modern age] but be transformed [changed] by the renwing of your mind, that your may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Interestingly, clean minds affect clean hearts. While your mind is pictured as the source of your thinking and reasoning, your heart is pictured as the source of your emotions and attitude. What affects the one affects the other. That’s why the heart is metaphorically referenced along with the mind for being focused on Christ.

In Ephesians 4:17, when Paul pointed out that the members were to no longer walk in the “futility of their mind,” he added, “…being darkened in their understanding, excluded [alienated] from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart…” (v. 18). When DMS is contracted, it’s also advisable to get a heart check up, as well.

As they say, the mind is a terrible thing to waste. The mind is truly a part of you that you want to keep clean at all times. And not only to prevent DMS, but to experience something that only TIS can provide. For one thing, it starts with having the kind of attitude Christ had. This includes looking out for the interest of others and not just your own interests. And when one starts thinking this way, one can expect to be blessed by it with wonderful joy and gratification. (See Philippians 2:1-18)

And, with this attitude comes peace beyond comprehension. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus,” (Phil. 4:7). Did you get that? Both “hearts” AND “minds”? So that with TIS, you can keep your mind trained on the positive features that produce such peace, namely “whatever is is true…honorable…right… pure…lovely [lovable and gracious]…good repute, if their be any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things,” (v. 8).

The Apostle Peter chimes in with the same kind of recommendation. He puts it in the context of being holy—that is, to stand apart from the crowd, and be a true fellow thinker like Christ. “Therefore, gird [prepare] your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation [second coming] of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet. 1:13).

A clean mind is a most important objective for followers of Jesus Christ. A clean mind is a clear mind and a clear mind is a mature mind focused on the power we receive through him. You can have an open mind or a closed mind on certain things, but a clean mind is needed for better health. As it has been written, “If you want to be the picture of health, you’d better have a happy frame of mind.” Jesus is the One who puts us in that frame.

Here’s a lovely guitar special, “May the Mind of Christ My Saviour,” http://youtu.be/Y_ZBhSxWots

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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