The Honest Truth

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There is truth, and then there is the honest truth. That is, you can tell someone the truth he or she may or may not want to hear, but are you being honest, too? The truth is, you must be honest as well as truthful.

Here’s a case in point:

A woman and her husband were invited to her rich aunt’s home for dinner. The wife insisted that the husband treat the aunt politely. Her dessert was an original recipe. It was terrible. The husband responded, “I must say this is the best cake I have ever tasted.”

On the way home his wife told him that she had not meant that he had to lie to her aunt.

The husband replied, “I told the truth; I said, I must say this is the best cake I ever tasted.” (1001 Humorous Illustrations)

Technically, the husband did tell his wife’s aunt the truth for he did include the words, “I must say….” But it was a forced truth, not an honest one. He didn’t have to say anything about the cake for he was never asked. But if he were asked about the cake, how do you think he should have been honestly truthful while being polite at the same time? It’s your call.

In the meantime, a Bible passage comes to mind. The Apostle Paul says, Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love,” (Ephesians 4:14-16, The New Living Translation, NLT)).

Speaking truth is one thing but speaking it in love is something else. Some people might tell you what appears to be the truth, and maybe in some respects it is. But are they being honest?

You can’t help but be cynical when you’ve been let down by those who make you promises and guarantees but then do not keep their word. The columnist, George F. Will is cited to remark, “The three least credible sentences in the English language: 1. “The check is in the mail.” 2. “Of course I’ll respect you in the morning.” 3. “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.” (Ibid.)

When people tell you something you believe is the truth, you expect them to be honest, as well. But let’s be honest: There are persons who are out to “trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.” Some will purposely try to deceive you with just enough truth to sound good but deep down they are, as my mom used to say, “as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.”

The Apostle Paul urges Christians not to fall to this level but to be more like Christ. In order for there to be unity in the Body of Christ, we must “speak the truth in love.” If truth is spoken in love, it will exclude dishonesty and include honesty. In First Corinthians 13:4-7, underscore what love is not and circle what love is and then you’ll find the honest truth of the kind of love Christians are to live:

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” (New American Standard Bible, NASB).

So, going back to the husband who wasn’t being honest to his wife’s aunt. How could he have been both truthful and honest about the cake? What about, “I honestly appreciate the work you put into this cake and for the delicious dinner you prepared.”

How does this compare to YOUR answer! Now, let’s be honest!🙂

Here is Acappella singing, “Teaching the Truth in Love,” https://youtu.be/rFil51BLSaQ

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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A Prospect’s Proper Perspective

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In sales, the way to gain new clients or customers is to do what they call “prospecting.” The word is derived from the old frontier days when fortune hunters went panning for gold. They dreamed of finding gold and striking it rich. They were willing to overlook the drudgery of labor and painstaking disappointment that came along with their dream just to find that one nugget which would turn their lives around.

Sales is similar to prospecting. You go out looking for prospects—potential persons who will buy your product. Some of these prospects might even be qualified to join your company or organization. You can see in them the ability to help provide an even greater opportunity for not only increasing your income but theirs, as well. Your vision or goal is be successful and help others to be successful, too. Not only that, it is your belief that what you and your company have to offer to your clients or customers will benefit them, too. Therefore, everyone has something to gain.

In similar fashion, Christianity is also about prospecting and gaining prospects. Of course, I am not talking about prospects in terms of material riches like gold or money but spiritual riches like the Bible describes. You can get an idea of what these spiritual riches are as you consider the standard definition of “prospect.”

According to Oxford Dictionaries, the noun “prospect” means 1. the possibility or likelihood of some future event occurring (syn., likelihood, hope, expectation, anticipation); 2. a person regarded as likely to succeed or as a potential customer, client, etc. (syn., candidate, possibility); 3. an extensive view of landscape (syn., view, outlook, perspective).

Let’s look at the first meaning. You want to know the “prospects” of your future. What’s your perspective on your future prospects? Are they hopeful, optimistic, encouraging? Or, are they just the opposite—hopeless, pessimistic, discouraging? If you are a Christian, your “prospects” ought to be the former. It’s been stated, “Optimism doesn’t wait on facts. It deals with prospects. Pessimism is a waste of time.” (SermonCentral)

One who is in Christ is always striving to prospect on the positive as the Apostle Paul who, himself, faced many challenges to his ministry. Was the apostle going to give up his goals toward achieving success for himself and other believers? His reply: “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Romans 8:37-39, New Living Translation, NLT).

This gets us to the second meaning of “prospect.” While the gold miners looked for “gold in them thar hills,” God is prospecting for believers over every hill and dale the world over. Each one of us who accepts Jesus Christ through faith, repentance, and baptism and pursues a Spirit-led life is a part of God’s riches. In fact, we are his spiritual treasure in clay vessels, according to the Apostle Paul in Second Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not ourselves,” (New American Standard Version, NASB).   

An important role of believers who are already God’s prospects is to go out and gain more prospects no matter the cost. Paul spoke of the dedication of those, like himself, who went out prospecting for lost souls in need of salvation in Christ. In fact, it was rough, risky business but they were not ashamed or afraid to carry the message of hope to all who would listen: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but  not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested [revealed] in our body,” (2 Cor. 4:8-10, NASB).

As God’s prospects, we prospect for him with the same dedication and willingness to sacrifice as the Apostle Paul. For we know the glory that is to come; the golden opportunity that lies ahead. The apostle goes on to conclude, “Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light after affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal,” (vss. 16-18, NASB).

So we now come to the third meaning of “prospect.” We get a better view of the “landscape” when we envision what’s in store for us. Our prospects for the future are brighter than any of us can imagine: everlasting life, no more sickness or pain; ruling with Christ along with other immortal believers over all the ages in his kingdom, inheriting the earth in all his beauty and harmony, and so much more. First Corinthians 2:9 declares, “That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him,'” (NLT).

So, with that vision, in mind we keep on persevering through faith and devotion to the Lord and his Word. Indeed, we are like “the wrestler who never gave up.” Pastor Larry Semore shares this inspiring story about a young aspiring wrestler named Caleb:

Caleb teaches us to never give up on God or His promises.

One of my favorite stories is about a scrawny kid from West Texas who attended a small high school. They didn’t have a wrestling program, but he read a book on wrestling and asked one of the assistant football coaches if he would enter him in some of the wrestling matches in that region.

The coach agreed to help the kid. This little guy was neither strong nor skillful, but he had one enduring quality—he refused to give up. He won every single wrestling match because he tenaciously held on to his opponents and wore them down.

By the end of the season, he was undefeated and made it to the state finals for his weight classification. The kid’s opponent was a two-time state champ and a bona fide college prospect. As the scrawny kid faced the state champion, the guy made a couple of quick moves, and soon had the West Texas kid on his back and about to get pinned.

The coach knew his athlete was about to lose, and he couldn’t bear to watch it, so he turned his head away. Suddenly, the coach heard the roar of the crowd and when he turned around, his kid was on top of the state champ, pinning him. He had won the match!

The little guy bounced across the mat and hugged the coach and said, “Coach, I won! I won!”

The coach said, “Sure, son. But I missed it. I turned away just before you were about to lose. What happened?”

The kid said, “Coach, that guy was good. He had me twisted like a pretzel on that mat. But you know me, coach. I NEVER quit. I refused to give up! So I opened my eyes, and there in front of my face was a big toe. I don’t even know if it’s against the rules or not, but I bit into that big toe with all my strength…and coach, it’s amazing what you can do when you bite your OWN toe!”

If you’re ever tempted to give up on God and his promises, just remember that little guy. Take a grip on the promises of God and never release them—God honors persistence.
(SermonCentral, From a sermon by Larry Semore, “The Spirit of Expectancy – Part 3 – Caleb,” 6/15/2011)

As God’s prospects, we strive to persist, as well. In spite of our weaknesses and imperfections, there’s always a nugget of truth we can learn and apply if we have the desire to dig for it. For though we might be down for the moment, like that young wrestler, we are not out as far as our prospects are concerned. Our eyes are on the kingdom of God. And that’s a prospect’s proper perspective. http://youtu.be/L9GhCVj2YY8

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Thankful Living

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It’s one thing to say you are thankful for this or that. But what about living thankfully? You can be thankful for any thing—from the clothes you wear to the food you eat—any circumstance that brings a reward or personal satisfaction—or, any one you love—your beloved partner and your dear children. And yet, shouldn’t the entire Christian life show an attitude of gratitude for all the blessings God has showered upon each and every one of us?

The Apostle Paul gives us some insight into the characteristics of living a thankful life. It all revolves around the message of Christ and how we let him direct our lives. In Colossians 3:15-17 the Apostle Paul wrote, Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him,” (New International Version, NIV).

The true mark of a Christian is not only to be thankful, just as we are admonished to do, but (1) having the peace of Christ in our hearts; (2) teaching and admonishing one another through public worship; and (3) applying every word or deed in the name or authority of Jesus while giving thanks to God through him. This is how the message of Christ transforms our minds and our hearts and prepares us for the kingdom to come.

You can spot persons who live thankful lives like this. They are known for having peace of mind even when they have experienced some kind of tragedy in their lives. They are dedicated to their church and regular worship. They are grounded in the message of God’s Word and simply live it with thanksgiving in their hearts.

Lois Stahling is one such person. In the prime of her life, she suffered a stroke and has been confined to a wheel chair. She is mentally alert but due to her physical condition cannot walk or do many normal activities. Lois lives in a convalescent home and the only time she gets out is once a week when she goes to church. The highlight of her week is Sunday morning when someone from the church gives her a ride to the services.

One Sunday, the pastor came by to pick Lois up. Because the pastor’s car is a compact, it was difficult for her to get in. But she had with her a plain looking fiberglass board which fits under her legs allowing her to slide pretty easily from the wheelchair to the seat in the car.

One day, the lady pulled the pastor aside and said, “Do you know what I thank God for everyday?”

“What’s that, Lois?”

She answered, “I am thankful for my slide board. Because then I can come to church.” (SermonCentral, Pastor Aaron Burgess, Echo Church)

Lois was not just thankful. She lived her thankfulness in spite of her circumstances. I imagine her attitude of gratitude was an inspiration to her church and all who knew her.

Thanksgiving is a reminder to all of us how important it is to live it and not just give it. We can be a blessing to others as they see the peace of Christ and his message being applied in our lives each day. Our dedication of worship and praise brings encouragement to others who are also dealing with their own challenges day by day. It’s what thankful living is all about as we seek first the kingdom of God.

http://youtu.be/8QRgmXlqfro

Happy Thanksgiving!
And Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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When Temptation Comes Knocking

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The comment has been made that sometimes it’s difficult to know who’s knocking— opportunity or temptation. An opportunity is something we look for, to take advantage of, so as to seize for advancement or success. Temptation, on the other hand, is associated with either the inclination to sin or undergoing a test to prove one’s ability to endure a trial.

Opportunity and temptation may appear the same, at times. It’s said that if opportunity came in the form of a temptation, knocking once would be sufficient. For instance, a thief sees some money in a cash register drawer that was unintentionally left open. He then gives in to temptation by taking the opportunity to steal the money. Knocking upon that door of temptation only takes one time for that thief to enter his opportunity to commit a crime.

The Lord’s brother, James, had some instructive thoughts about temptation that will help us in our daily walk of life. In the first chapter of James, he addresses two kinds of temptation. One has positive consequences; the other, negative consequences. One provides the opportunity for achieving good works; the other, the opportunity to bring forth disastrous results.

First, consider temptation as the opportunity to pass a test when undergoing various trials of faith. In writing to the scattered converts, James says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations,” (v. 2, King James Version, KJV). The New American Standard Bible (NASB) puts it this way: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.” Now, it might be difficult to understand how various trials such as afflictions, suffering, persecution, or losses of any kind can be taken with joy. Christians are able to rejoice under these circumstances because of the positive outcome they eventually produce: “Knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect [mature] and complete, lacking in nothing,” (vss. 3-4).

James goes on to cite the perfect result of enduring our trials and temptations: “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved [passed the test], he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love him,” (v. 12, NASB). If we keep that goal in mind whenever we undergo our trials, we will be able to endure. We endure by asking God for wisdom (v. 5) and putting our unwavering faith in him (v. 6). This is our opportunity to persevere with the crown of life in mind.

The crown of life is on par with two other crowns: “a crown of righteousness” and “a crown of glory.” All three crowns relate to the future reward of the faithful in Christ who will be co-rulers with him in his kingdom. The crown of life has to do with receiving eternal life (Revelation 2:10-11; cp. also the “imperishable crown,” 1 Cor. 9:25), the crown of righteous has to do with receiving the inheritance from the Righteous Judge when believers stand before him on Judgement Day (2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Pet. 1:4; 2 Cor. 5:10). The crown of glory is connected with receiving the victory over sin and suffering when Christ comes (1 Pet. 5:4; Rom. 8:17; Phil. 3:21; Colossians 3:4; Rev. 7:9).

Revelation 21:7 says that believers who overcome the trials and temptations of this life “will inherit these things”. On the other hand, those who fall into the temptations of sin will not inherit these things but instead, “their part will be in the lake of fire and brimstone, which is the second death,” (v. 8). Verse 8 lists those various sins. It behooves us to examine ourselves to see if we’re living in those sins now, and repent of them before that Great Day comes.

Going back to James 2:13-15, we read of “temptation” in regard to sin. Verse 13 says that “no [one] can be tempted by God,” why? Because “God cannot be tempted by evil” [or, “of evil things”], and he himself does not tempt anyone.”

So, where does the temptation to sin come from? Verse 14 says, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.” You may have been told that the temptation of evil comes from without, from another person or a supernatural power. The saying, “the devil made me do it,” is not a good alibi for giving in to temptation. We only have ourselves to blame. For as Jesus said, evil comes from the bad stored in one’s heart: Luke 6:45. And he added, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders,” (Matt. 15:15-20; Mark 7:14-23).

By the way, speaking of the fact that God cannot be tempted by evil…this rules out the false idea that Jesus is God because, unlike God, Jesus was “tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin,” (Heb. 4:15). Jesus was tempted just like we are but he didn’t give in to it. He never opened the door of his heart to it when it came knocking. So, he is our perfect example to follow. We must likewise refuse to open our doors to it, as well. Of course, this is much easier said than done.

Temptation often knocks in ways that men especially find hard to resist. One time a man and his wife were shopping at the mall when a shapely young woman in a short, form-fitting dress strolled by. The man’s eyes quickly started following her. Without looking up from the item his wife was examining, she asked him, “Was it worth the trouble you’re in?”

We know the consequences of temptation if we do open the door: “Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren,” (James 1:15-16).

The good news about all of this is that God has given us the opportunity to deal with trials and temptation from walking in and destroying us. First Corinthians 10:13 says, “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.” Although we are all tempted, we can be thankful to know that God is faithful to his Word. God guarantees that he will provide the way of escape through his Son, and give us an opportunity to endure it and to overcome it when it comes knocking on our door. Whatever trial and temptation we face, God is still in control as we put our faith in him.

Just remember, that whenever temptation comes knocking, just like the song says, God is able to deliver thee: https://youtu.be/X9JytyAnssw

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Survey Reveals Bible Cynics Are ‘On The Rise’

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While most Americans still have a “positive perception” of the Bible, the latest survey reveals that “Bible skeptics are on the rise,” according to the American Bible Society (ABS) and Barna Group.

The ABS published a new report, The Bible in America, that showed Americans still have a high regard for the Bible. The report, which was concluded on an annual State of the Bible survey over six years, found that two-thirds of Americans still believe the Bible has “everything a person needs to know in order to live a meaningful life.”

The report also reveals that a majority of Americans believe the Bible has more influence on their society (64 percent). But while they have a desire to read the Bible more often for themselves (62 percent), only one-third reportedly read it at least once a week.

Here is a startling find that raises our concern: The report says, “…the percentage of Americans who view the Bible as a book of teachings written by men has risen from 10 percent to 22 percent over the past six years. In this same period, the percentage of Americans who view the Bible as sacred literature has dropped, 86 percent to 80 percent, and the percentage of Americans who say the Bible is not a sufficient guide for meaningful living has risen, 23 percent to 33 percent. (http://www.americanbible.org/features/state-of-the-bible)

In addition to these statistics is the current trend among millennials (ages 19 to 35 in 2016) that the Marxist philosophy is reportedly more popular than the Bible. According to Christian Today, (Hazel Torres, 10/31/16) a new poll by YouGov and Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation reveals that nearly two-thirds of millennials are Marxists. And it reports that more millennials agree with statements by avowed socialist U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (71 percent), economist Milton Friedman (68 percent), and philosopher Karl Marx (64 percent) than the Bible (53 percent). (http://www.christiantoday.com/article/millennials.agree.with.karl.marx.bernie.sanders.milton.friedman.more.than.the.bible.study.shows/99390.htm)

One of the first passages I thought of when I read these reports is First Peter 3:3, “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts…” (King James Version, KJV). The original Greek has “scoffing mockers.” They scorn the teachings of the Bible because they are skeptical that it is God’s inspired Word. And in the process they discount the promises of the Bible, especially where it applies to the future coming of Jesus Christ. So, the apostle continues to describe how these skeptics will scoff at believers who are looking for the soon return of Jesus. They will mock us saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation,” (v. 4, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

These people are not unlike the skeptics in Noah’s day when he and his sons were building the ark in preparation for the impending world-wide flood. In Matthew 24:37-39 Jesus predicted, “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be,” (NASB).

Noah, “a preacher of righteousness” must have told the people, who had never seen a boat before since it had never rained by that time, that a flood was coming (Gen. 2:5-6; 6-9). Because of their skepticism they couldn’t muster enough faith to believe that God was going to send a flood that would wipe out all living creatures off the face of the earth. They were too interested in going about their own personal business mixed with moral decay, the breakdown of marriage, violence and disregard for law and order (Gen. 6:1-22; 1 Pet. 3:20; 2:4-5). Kind of reminds you of today, doesn’t it?

Given the dire statistics that show the rise of Bible skeptics, the growing trend among our younger generation to replace the inspired Word with the writings of socialists, and societal corruption, we are most concerned about the difficult times in which we live. These are signs that Jesus IS coming soon regardless what the skeptics say. So, knowing how close we are to that Great Day, we take advantage of every opportunity to be prepared while proclaiming the Good News of Jesus and his coming to others.

If we’re living like righteous Noah who found “favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8-9) and if we have the faith like he had to prepare for what lies ahead (Hebrews 11:7), then we won’t have to worry about our future outcome. For our hope and expectation far exceeds the worries and fears of this mortal life.

Recall what the Apostle Paul declared: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God,” (Rom. 8:18-21, NASB).

The coming kingdom of God will put an end to the skeptics’ arguments and their foolishness once and for all. When Jesus comes, all of creation will be free from the corruption brought on by human sin against the God of creation. When the glory that is to be revealed in us comes to pass, the entire earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord and new generations will come to believe him (Isaiah 11:9; Habakkuk 2:14; Jeremiah 31:34; Heb. 8:11). But let it be known: In order to know and believe these truths and be encouraged by them, however, one must read and study these scriptures daily and put them to heart (Psalm 119:105).

Here’s a classic song to sing along with: “The Bible Stands” http://youtu.be/s4Ze0Wh5o1I

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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What Is Your Final Destiny?

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When he was eighty-eight years, the late Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Homes once found himself on a train. When the conductor came by, Justice Holmes couldn’t find his ticket, and he seemed terribly upset. He searched all of his pockets and fumbled through his wallet without success. The conductor was sympathetic. He said, “Don’t worry, Mr. Holmes, the Pennsylvania Railroad will be happy to trust you. After you reach your destination you’ll probably find the ticket and you can just mail it to us.” But the conductor’s kindness failed to put Mr. Holmes at ease. Still very much upset, he said, “My dear man, my problem is not ‘Where is my ticket?’ The problem is, ‘Where am I going?'” (1001 Humorous Illustrations)

We could apply the same question in a personal way: “Do you know where you are going?” One’s destiny is important, especially when it comes that final one. For when that moment comes (and it WILL come), will it be at the place where you want to arrive? Hopefully, you won’t be disappointed when you get there.

Speaking of destiny, let’s first talk about what it means. A dictionary definition is, “the events that will necessarily happen to a particular person or thing in the future.” Example: “She was unable to control her own destiny.”; “the hidden power believed to control what will happen in the future; fate.” Example: “He believes in destiny.” (Google)

In this definition, destiny is described as something that you cannot control. What you turn out to be or whatever happens to you is beyond your own power. You do not have a choice in the outcome. This concept, however, is in contrast with the Biblical idea of destiny.

One’s final destiny, according to the scriptures, depends on one’s choice. For example, Romans 8:28-29 says, “(28) And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (29) For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren,” (New American Standard Bible, NASB). Some use this passage to say that God has “predestined” persons to be saved—as though he has predetermined some to be saved and others not to be saved. But salvation is not a foregone conclusion. For it says that “God causes all things to work together for good TO THOSE WHO LOVE GOD…” God’s foreknowledge is such that, although he wants everyone to repent (2 Peter 3:9) he knows those who will answer his call to follow him and those who will not. Everyone has free will, (Joshua 24:14-15). 

Now I ask, Does everyone love God? Does everyone repent? What about those who question or deny God’s existence? What about those who do not accept Jesus Christ as God’s only begotten Son? What about those who choose a life of evil and not good? What about Christians who forsake Christ and his Word? Even though God forgives us, there is one sin he does not forgive: Mark 3:28-29.

Jesus said something intriguing in Matthew 10:28, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell,” (NASB). This verse is hard to understand unless you know the Biblical meaning of certain words. For example, from the original Greek, “soul” (psuche, pronounced psoo-kay)primarily means, “life” and secondarily means, “creatures who possess that life.” It is not the same meaning as “spirit” which comes from an entirely different Greek word, pneuma (pr. noo mah), defined as “breath, wind, air,” and the like. (Emphatic Diaglott, Benjamin Wilson)

The life Jesus is referring to is not this present life but the future, eternal (aionian) life in the kingdom age to come. This is the life he was also talking about in Luke 18:30, “…who will not receive many times as much at this time and IN THE AGE TO COME, ETERNAL [AIONIAN, or AGE LASTING] LIFE.” (Cp. Matt. 16:25-26.) Even though persons can kill our bodies in this life, no human can kill one’s soul or future life no matter how hard they try. Our future is in God’s hands according to our submission to him through trust and obedience (Psa. 19:8; 31:14, 19, 23, 24; 1 Peter 2:13-3:7).

We know that Jesus is talking about the future life because he says that we should, rather, “fear Him who is able to destroy both soul (future life) and body in hell.” First, this proves that one’s soul (future life) is not naturally immortal for it can be destroyed at judgement time. Second, the Bible word “hell” implies future judgment in the lake of fire, also known as “the second death,” (see Revelation 21:11-15). Please note: This word is not to be confused with “hell” in other places of the Bible which comes from the New Testament Greek, “hades” and from the Old Testament Hebrew, “sheol” which literally mean, “the grave,” (for example, Psa. 49:14-15; 1 Cor. 15:55; Rev. 20:14).

It must also be pointed out that the word “hell” in Matthew 10:28 from the Greek, Gehenna, is not a place of eternal fire where persons (souls) are tormented forever at death according to pagan myth. Rather, it is a word that is translated according to Hebrew derivation as “the valley of Hinnom.” It was the place that acted as the garbage incinerator outside the city of Jerusalem. In Jesus’ day, all kinds of filth was burned up there including animal carcasses, waste and debris. In fact, unburied bodies of criminals who had been executed were cast there, as well. Fires were kept there continually to consume these things. (Ibid.)

Jesus was, therefore, alluding to the fact that a day of judgment was coming in which the wicked will be destroyed just as undesirable things were consumed in Gehenna. This is known as “hell” in conjunction with “fire” which is referred to several times: Matthew (5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33), Mark (9:43, 45, 47), Luke (12:5), and James (3:6).

Just as John recorded in Revelation 21, the Apostle Peter also indicates this time of judgment is not at death as some traditionally believe, but after Jesus has returned and cleansed the earth of those who have turned away God’s offer of salvation (2 Peter 3:3-18). Sadly, this will be the final destiny of many who have opted not to enter the narrow pathway of God’s righteousness or justice through Christ (Matt. 7:13-14; Rev. 21:7-8).

On the other side of the coin, those who do love God and have answered his call to salvation through His Son, their final destiny lies in the hope of receiving eternal life in God’s coming kingdom age (Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; 1 John 5:12). Jesus is the Ticket on the Gospel Train of Hope. The time to get on board is now, in this life (2 Cor. 6:2). When it’s all said and done, may this destiny be desired with the same intensity and faith as the Apostle Paul who declared toward the end of his life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved his appearing,” (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NASB). Paul knew that his departure from this mortal life would come soon but his eternal destiny was awaiting when Jesus will appear in the clouds with great power and glory (2 Thess. 4:16-18).

What is YOUR final destiny?

Here is Kevin LeVar singing, “Your Destiny”: http://youtu.be/V9zMAWVaW94

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Are You a Chicken or An Eagle?

eagle

More and more we are hearing about many who are suffering from an identity crisis. People are stressing themselves out questioning their roles, their achievements, their sexuality, their beliefs and values. At one time, the confusion of self-identity was confined to teenagers as they struggle with their own natural growth and development. But now it is spreading into adulthood as people are challenged with personal changes while dealing with radical changes in culture and the pressures that accompany them.

We, as Christians, also face a kind of identity crisis. When we consider the decision to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior into our lives, each of us must deal with a hard, cold fact and confess: “I am a sinner. I fall short of God’s glory and stand condemned,”  (Romans 3:9-23). For that reason, we must take on a new identity. Through faith, repentance, and baptism, we put on Christ (Acts 2:38; Romans 10:9). The old life is dead and the new life has begun (Rom. 6:4-7; 2 Corinthians 5:17). We have hope in the glorious age to come (Luke 18:30; Titus 2:13). Now, as we grow in the grace and knowledge of God and His Word, we develop an identity where Jesus Christ is living in us. Through Jesus, we have access to God’s Power as we face life’s challenges and changes.

Our new identity isn’t easy, however. We must struggle with day-to-day problems that confront us. There are always temptations that attempt to allure us away from our identity in Christ. Sudden losses, failures, disasters, can trigger doubts, fears. and regrets. We may be told that being a Christian means having endless blessings and happiness for the rest of our lives. But, one day, we discover that being a Christian is not all that easy in a world where even our own family or friends may turn against us for trying to live as Jesus calls us to live. It’s during times like this that we must not question who we are “for the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,” (Rom. 7:14-25; 8:1-39).

Speaking of our identity, I found this parable attributed to James Aggrey to be most fitting:

A certain man went through a forest seeking any bird of interest he might find. He caught a young eagle, brought it home, and put it among the fowls and ducks and turkeys, and gave it chicken food to eat even though it was an eagle, the king of birds.

Five years later, a naturalist came to see him and, after passing through his garden, said: “That bird is an eagle, not a chicken.”

“Yes,” said the owner, “but I have trained it to be a chicken. It is no longer an eagle, it is a chicken, even though it measures fifteen feet from tip to tip of its wings.”

“No,” said the naturalist, “it is an eagle still; it has the heart of an eagle, and I will make it soar high up into the heavens.”

“No,” said the owner, “it is a chicken and it will never fly.”

They agreed to test it. The naturalist picked up the eagle, held it up and said with great intensity: “eagle, thou art an eagle; thou dost belong to the sky and not to this earth; stretch forth thy wings and fly.”

The eagle turned this way and that, and then looking down, saw the chickens eating their food, and down he jumped.

The owner said, “I told you it was a chicken.”

“No,” said the naturalist, “it is an eagle. Give it another chance tomorrow.”

So the next day he took it to the top of the house and said, “Eagle, thou art an eagle; stretch forth thy wings and fly.” But again the eagle, seeing the chickens feeding, jumped down and fed with them.

Then the owner said: “I told you it was a chicken.”

“No,” asserted the naturalist, “it is an eagle, and it has the heart of an eagle; only give it one more chance, and I will make it fly tomorrow.”

The next morning he rose early and took the eagle outside the city and away from the houses, to the foot of a high mountain. The sun was just rising, gilding the top to the mountain with gold, and every crag was glistening in the joy of the beautiful morning.

He picked up the eagle and said to it: “Eagle, thou art an eagle; thou dost belong to the sky and not to the earth; stretch forth thy wings and fly.”

The eagle looked around and trembled as if new life were coming to it. Yet it did not fly. The naturalist then made it look straight at the sun. Suddenly it stretched out its wings and, with the screech of an eagle, it mounted higher and higher and never returned. It was an eagle, though it had been kept and tamed as a chicken.

We have been created in the image of God, but men have made us think that we are chickens, and so we think we are; but we are eagles. Stretch forth your wings and fly! Don’t be content with the food of chickens! (Illustrations Unlimited)

In a world where many are having an identity crisis, Christians don’t need to be confused over who they are and what their purpose is in life. Once we cast our eyes on the SON, we can soar as eagles knowing full well that God our Father has a better plan for us: “Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weary,” (Isaiah 4:31, New American Standard Bible).

Here is Chris Tomlin singing, “I Will Rise”: https://youtu.be/WlHUKY3jBv0

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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