Wisdom We Can Learn From the Wise Men

three-wise-men

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:

‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.

—Matthew 2:1-12, New American Standard Bible, (NASB)

There are a lot of wise cracks about the wise men in the Christmas story. A few of my favorites are…

~ In a Peanuts cartoon, Charlie Brown says to Snoopy who’s perched on top of his dog house, “And the wise men brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Snoopy sits there thinking, “No puppy?”

~ Two ladies are chatting with coffee cups in hand and one says to the other, “A virgin birth I can believe, but finding three wise men?”

~ When the wise men arrived to find Baby Jesus, they told Joseph and Mary, “Just to be clear, these gifts are for BOTH his birthday and Christmas.”

~ The wise men would have been on time for that first Christmas but they got sidetracked when they heard rumors about a fat guy riding on a sleigh with lots of gifts and went looking for him.

All jokes aside…

In the Bible, Matthew is the only Gospel writer who mentions the wise men, otherwise known as “the magi,” (more likely, astrologers) who came to worship Jesus after his birth. This is in accord with the main theme of his Gospel—that is, to point out the entitlement of Jesus as King of the Jews in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. This is shown by his account that when the wise men arrived in Jerusalem in search of the Christ child, they were inquiring, “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews?”

By the way, unlike what we see in pictures and hear in stories, the wise men didn’t come to the manger upon the birth of Christ. Rather, according Matthew 2:11, it says, “After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary his mother…” And that’s when they presented the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, to the young child. At this time, Jesus is believed to be between 1 and 2 years old.

The gifts were expensive and customary for presenting to a person of royalty. Gold was a gift for a king (Psalm 72:15). Frankincense was a fragrant incense that Isaiah envisioned as an offering, that, along with gold, “…will bear good news of the praises of the LORD,” (Isaiah 60:6). Myrrh was a spice and perfume of great value that was used for embalming (Psalm 45:8) which, of course, plays into the death of Christ (Mark 15:23; John 19:39). Interestingly, a major reason for the contention that led to Christ’s death on the cross was because his opposition didn’t understand or accept his future kingly role as Messiah (Luke 23:1-38).

If only the unbelievers of our day would be as wise as the wise men were after Jesus was born. Then, they would turn their hearts toward the only One who can save them and give them the kind of joy felt by those like the wise men when they saw the star (or, perhaps a constellation or alignment of stars as some theorize) pointing them in the direction of Christ: “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”

What a contrast of their great joy with the evil intentions of King Herod who was only interested in finding out where Christ was born so he could have him killed. He lied, he schemed, he attempted to deceive all because of his fear that a newborn king was going to be a threat to his own power. He is a fitting representation of those who manipulate, ridicule, and destroy all that pertains to good just because of their own selfishness and pride.

When it was learned that Bethlehem was the place to find the Christ child according to prophetic writing (Micah 5:2), the wise men kept on their mission. Their minds were focused on the right place—or, more accurately—the right person, Christ Jesus. They wanted to find the King of the Jews. And so they were looking for the Christ with eyes wide—the way WE must also look for him in our journey of life.

Let me just say here…

While it’s often debated on whether there were three wise men or not, we don’t really know the exact amount. Just because three gifts were presented to Christ, there’s no actual proof there were three wise men. And even though traditional stories specifically give names to three wise men, the scriptures are silent on this, too. Evidently, if it was important to know how many wise men there were and what their names were, it would be included in the Biblical account.

The more important emphasis should be placed on the wisdom we can learn from them. If we want to be wise like the wise men, there are four things we can learn:

(1) We must look willingly with unfaltering determination. Just like it was with the wise men, our journey is often difficult. At times, the search can get rough, lonely, tiring, and even life-threatening. Aware that Herod could not be trusted, they were wise to listen to God’s warning not to return to Jerusalem. So, “they departed for their own country by another way.” 

(2) We must hope expectantly, even though we might face the unexpected. The wise men set out to find the Holy child with great expectations. They were following the star yet not knowing exactly where it would lead. We also have great expectations as we follow our Star, but we do not always know what lies ahead, or where the journey will take us from day to day. We only know that when the time comes for the King to return, all of our hope will be fulfilled when his Kingdom comes. That’s why it’s called “that blessed hope” (Titus 2:13) for it’s what keeps us on our mission.

(3) We must search wisely. We look for signs or indications to how we’re doing. We let the Word of God inspire and instruct us along the way. The wise men wisely followed the prophecy that spoke of the location of Christ’s birth. Whatever the star was, they didn’t just blindly follow it.  Rather, they listened to what God had to say and used his divine guidance and wisdom all along the way. This is wise for us to do, as well (2 Peter 1:19).

(4) We must have a heart to worship. Just think of it: The goal of the wise men was to go to a worship service. They came a long way for it—from as far as Iran or one of the Eastern countries. Would you travel a thousand miles on a camel, no less, to go to a worship service? Would you be willing to offer your precious gifts to the One who would save you and bring everlasting joy into your life? You would, of course, if you yearned to worship the Lord and behold his wonderful, inspiring, beauty and glory. A personal encounter with the Lord awaits every believer who seriously goes to worship the Lord in Spirit and Truth (John 4:23-26). And you are wise to worship him with this kind of attitude. For once you do, like the wise men, you’ll never be same the same again.

As they say, “Wise men (and women) still seek him.” We seek him for the wisdom he provides. It comes by living a lifestyle that brings him honor and praise. It comes by gladly presenting our gifts to him. It comes by applying humility and service out of obedience and love.

The wisdom of the wise speaks out and she cries, “I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek will find me,” (Proverbs 8:17; see also Matthew 7:7-8). This is how we learn wisdom like the wise men displayed.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s “The Wise Men’s Song”… https://youtu.be/lwnXK55VeSU

 

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The Co$t of Christmas

cost of christmas

Christmas is just a few weeks away. As advertisers, retailers, and media have been reminding us for the past month or two, it’s time to buy those holiday gifts, get your orders in ahead before the rush, and get prepared for that Holly Jolly Holiday Season.

In the meantime, one of the concerns most of us have is how much is going to be spent on gifts. Some may be more concerned about it than others, depending on how much money one has to spend.

According to Investopedia (updated Nov. 8, 2019),

       Nearly every year since 2008, the amount of money that American consumers spend on holiday gifts has been increasing over the previous year.
       For 2019, industry experts expect the average American to spend $920 per person on holiday gifts, up from $885 in 2018 and reaching a total of more than $1 trillion in holiday spending.
       Over the past decade, e-commerce has captured an increasing swath of the holiday spending market share, with many buying their toys, electronics, and jewelry online.

When I go Christmas shopping, I’m astounded to see carts piled high with all the presents shoppers have purchased. Check out lines seem to stretch out endlessly while customers stack their selected goods along the counter. Cashiers are frantically trying to keep up with the customers anxious to get their items bagged and taken away. One by one, I see customers doling out their hard earned money which is usually in the form of credit or debit cards or, sometimes, out right cash. On rare occasions these days, you might see checks written out. But now, there’s a growing trend to order on line or over the internet (a.k.a., e-commerce) as was previously mentioned in the above report.

Indeed, Christmas is a wonderful time of the year to buy gifts for those we love, but it doesn’t come without a price. It takes money to celebrate it, and more and more each year, or so it appears. CHA-CHING!$!

Now, as we think about the very first Christmas—long before it was ever called by that name—one might ask if it was costly or not. Of course, the cost wouldn’t be in terms of money, per se. But, when you think about it, it DID cost something. For example, as one person wrote,

It cost Joseph and Mary the comforts of home during a long, arduous journey on foot and donkey to the town of Bethlehem, (Luke 2:1-5). Even after Jesus was born, it cost them to have to flee to Egypt in order to protect the Christ child from the evil intentions of King Herod who wanted him killed, (Matthew 2:13-15).

It cost many mothers and fathers in and around Bethlehem the lives of their babies two years old and younger by the wicked Herod who had them unmercifully massacred as he sought out the Christ child, (Matthew 2:16-18).

It cost the shepherds the neglect of their livelihood for a journey to Bethlehem to see the Babe lying in a manger, (Luke 2:8-20).

It cost the wise men a long journey (likely up to 2 years) searching for the Christ child while, carrying expensive gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to present to the Child, (Matthew 2:1-11). It also cost them changed lives to see and worship the Holy Child, (Matthew 2:11). Then, they had to escape for their lives by going another route home so as to avoid the threat of King Herod, (Matthew 2:12).

In time, it cost the early apostles and the church persecution and even sometimes martyrdom, (Matthew 10:16-23).

Over the years, it has cost missionaries untold suffering and privation just for reaching out to others with the Good News of Christ and his Kingdom.

And think of what Christmas cost our Heavenly Father. It cost him more than all for it cost the life of his only begotten Son, (John 3:16).

Finally, what did it cost Jesus? It cost him a life of service and sacrifice, a cruel death on the cross that is unmatched in history. (Pastor T.T. Crabtree, Pastor’s Annual, Zondervan Publishing)

Does Christmas cost for us? You bet. First, we DO think of what it costs in terms of money. Comedian Larry Wilde once opined, “Christmas is the season when people run out of money before they run out of friends.”

But it can cost in other ways, too…

Think about the cost of accumulating too many calories that come with the Holiday Season. It’s so hard to resist those delectable, irresistible, morsels of delight—cookies, candy canes, cheese balls, brownies, shaped with festive designs—making the season one glorious binge, not to mention the consumption of beverages from hot chocolate, eggnog, and punch to wine, rum, and liquor (Note: Consumption of alcoholic drinks are not my preference anytime.).

Overindulging is a great temptation that’s proven to come with cost to our digestive system as well as to our heart, blood pressure, weight, and that bulging tire around our waist. Perhaps our guilt of eating too much during this season is why so many resolve to go on diets and enter exercise programs when the new year has dawned. Just think of the costs that could be saved if a little more moderation or, better yet, abstinence were practiced. But then I could hear some bemoan that this would take the festive part out of the holidays. And, yet, is this REALLY what it’s all about?

Christmas could cost you some sadness: memories of loved ones who are no longer living, losing one’s job and source of income this time of year, suffering from an accident or ill-health, facing a split in one’s marriage, feeling loneliness and isolation, being bombarded by all the bad news in the world, and so forth. Sportswriter Jimmy Cannon remarked, “Christmas is a holiday that persecutes the lonely, the frayed, and the rejected.”

But even in the midst of having a “blue” Christmas, one can enjoy cashing in on a funny joke or two…

There was six-year-old Beth. Little Beth was asked what she was going to give her brother for Christmas. “

“I don’t know,” she answered.

“Well, what did you give him last year?”

“Oh,” she said, “I gave him the chicken pox.!”

It could cost you an embarrassing moment…

Young Stevie forgot his lines in the Sunday School’s Christmas pageant. His mother was in the front row to prompt him. She gestured and formed words silently with her lips. But that didn’t help. Her son’s memory went blank.

Finally, she leaned forward and whispered the cue, “I am the light of the world…I am the light of the world!”

Suddenly, the boy spoke out, “My mommy is the light of the world!”

His mother felt like hiding under the seat.

Considering how much Christmas may cost, you can’t emphasize enough how important it is to focus on the REAL reason why the season should be celebrated in the first place. If the bottom line is not centered on the birth of Jesus, then ChristMAS will be ChristLESS. And that will come with a huge cost. For if Christ and his teachings are not factored into the cost of Christmas, then truly the holiday has lost its true purpose and meaning.

Celebrating Jesus’ birth brings to mind why Jesus was born and what it all has to do with his place in our lives. It’s why we sing “Joy to the World” and all the other Christian songs that herald his birth with the hope it gives his followers. So, whatever cost that comes to you in preparation of the Festive Season, remember to keep Christ in the heart of it all.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. To give you a smile in this stressful time of the year, here’s a funny parody of the Holiday Classic, “It’s Beginning to Cost a Lot Like Christmas (new holiday song!): http://youtu.be/9TnhQ3lqxoc

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The Problem of an Ingratitude Attitude (And How to Solve It)

ingratitude_cats

I had to laugh at a cartoon I saw about a beggar sitting on a sidewalk, tin cup in front of him, and a sign beside him that said, “Please help me!” A passerby felt sorry for him and dropped a couple of coins into the cup. The beggar looked up at him with surprise and complained, “Where’s my tip?” (jantoo cartoons)

While the beggar should have been grateful for the two coins, he still wasn’t satisfied. He didn’t show any gratitude for what he received. He wanted more.

Do you know persons like this?

An ingratitude attitude is a sign of the times. Gary Bauer, president of American Values and chairman of Campaign for Working Families, wrote in the Washington Examiner,

“Gratitude doesn’t seem to come easily these days. We live at a time and in a culture that values grievance over gratefulness, presents over presence, and selfies over selflessness. Pessimism abounds about the state of the country and the condition of the culture. It’s tempting to feel unthankful, resentful, and downright embittered.” (“Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving in a Time of Ingratitude,” 11/23/17)

The ingratitude attitude of many is an example of the “perilous” or “difficult” times prevalent in “the last days” before Jesus returns. Writing his second letter to his young colleague, Timothy, the apostle says,

“But understand this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, savage, opposed to what is good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, loving pleasure rather than loving God. They will maintain the outward appearance of religion but will have repudiated its power. So avoid people like these,” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, New English Translation, NET).

Notice that “ingratitude” is listed smack dab toward the middle of other ungodly issues adding up to “difficult times” in “the last days.” Ingratitude is a key indicator that shows why people are selfish, covetous, undisciplined, malicious, immoral, hypocritical, and so forth, as Paul points out. Those who have an unthankful attitude will reveal it by actions that result in an insecure, unstable, and divided society.

Like Bauer says,

“Our kids are busier, more stressed out, and more anxious than those of any other recent generation. We are expected to accomplish more in every area of life and to prove how wonderful it all is by constantly posting it on social media. Opinions polls show Americans are not happy with their core institutions, with their politicians, and with the direction of their country.” (ibid)

I find it ironical that so many should be so dissatisfied given that we have so many things for which to be thankful. And I’m not just talking about all the material things we possess. We are spoiled compared to the larger portion of the world in that regard.

Materialism, aside, it would do well if more would sincerely show gratitude for the freedom we have as a nation, for those willing to come to our aid in times of need, for opportunities to learn, for the love of family, friends, and the church family, too. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The greatest thing that we ALL should be thankful for is the way God our Heavenly Father so abundantly showers his blessings on us even though, because of sin, we do not deserve them.

In Luke 6:34 and 35, Jesus made an astonishing statement about God’s kindness, even toward those who have an ingratitude attitude:

“And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people,” (NET).

Jesus reminds us that no matter how ungrateful people are, God still blesses them. (e.g., Matthew 5:45). And, with that in mind, he shows how much more important it is for us to love our enemies and be kind even to them “expecting nothing back.” Do you know people with an attitude that if they do a good deed for someone—even someone they don’t necessarily like—they expect it “quid pro quo?” According to the scriptures, Jesus highly discourages this kind of attitude, doesn’t he?

By the way, Luke 6:35 and 2 Timothy 3:2 are the only two Bible references of the same Greek word (acharistos) for “ungrateful” or “unthankful.” It literally means, “ungraceful”. So, for example, when you say “grace” or prayer at the table, you are really saying to God how thankful you are for your meal.

It’s sad to see people showing their attitude of ingratitude when they dig into their food without even so much as a “thank-you” to the One who blessed them with it in the first place. While some might think that neglecting prayer before a meal is not a serious issue, that in itself shows their attitude. And, as I’ve already shown, it illustrates how low humanity will go which is in reality a crime of its own. And it stems from a decline in respecting religious values.

In fact, regarding our two references, one commentator wrote,

“Ingratitude has always been regarded as one of the worst of crimes. It is said here that it would characterize that wicked age of which the apostle speaks, and its prevalence would, as it always does, indicate a decline of religion. Religion makes us grateful to every benefactor – to God, and to man.” (Barnes Notes on the Bible, as cited in biblehub.com)

The problem of an ingratitude attitude could easily be solved. Taking our minds off ourselves and on to God and others would be a good start. Like the Psalmist declared, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples…!” (Psalm 105:1, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!
And Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s a song in Scripture, “Oh, Give Thanks to the LORD” (Christian Praise Worship w/ Lyrics) by Esther Mui: http://youtu.be/AgCm675tKas

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7 Common Mistakes When Misteaks Are Made (And How to Avoid Them)

oops

Onetime I made a mistake about something I said in a sermon. I caught the mistake right after I said it and corrected myself. But I was noticeably embarrassed. After the service, as I greeted the members filing out the door, one of them consoled me saying, “Pastor, if we didn’t make mistakes, pencils wouldn’t have erasers.”

Everybody makes mistakes. All of us know this. To say the opposite is, in itself, a mistake.

When making mistakes, it’s important that they be dealt with. In fact, it’s a mistake if we don’t deal with them. One little mistake can lead into a bigger mistake unless it is confronted in the correct way.

On the other hand, if mistakes are not handled correctly, you can bet more will follow. Therefore, I would like to point out at least seven common mistakes when mistakes are made. By identifying these mistakes, we’ll know how to prevent them from becoming bigger mistakes.

Mistakes are made when…
1. You do not admit you made a mistake when you know you did. (Denial)

To deny you made a mistake when you know deep in your heart that you did is an unmistakable blunder. Perhaps it’s because of pride or fear or just plain stubbornness. But if you keep it bottled up inside, and do not fess up to it, you will eventually explode with denials and excuses and blames of all kinds. More on these things as we go through the list.

Biblical solution: Proverbs 28:13, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion,” (New American Standard Bible, NASB)

King Saul went into denial and made many mistakes when he didn’t follow God’s plan to wipe out the Amalekites for the way they mistreated Israel after they escaped from Egyptian bondage (1 Samuel 15:2; Exodus 17:8-16; Deuteronomy 25:17-19). Not only did he make the mistake of not utterly destroying the Amalekites and all their possessions, including animals, but he completely denied it altogether when Samuel the prophet confronted him. In fact he even outright lied about it, (1 Samuel 15:4-23). And then he made another mistake when he tried to rationalize his misdeed saying he only intended to keep the best of the animals as sacrifices to the LORD (vss. 15, 22).

King Saul’s dishonesty also made the nation less safe since he didn’t eliminate all of his enemies. When leaders cover up their mistakes and do not sincerely admit them as mistakes then national security can be at risk.

God said to King Solomon as well as all the leaders of Israel, “…if My people who are called by My name put away their pride and pray, and look for My face, and turn from their sinful ways, then I will hear from heaven. I will forgive their sin, and will heal their land,” (2 Chronicles 7:14, New Life Version, NLV).

King Saul’s repeated mistakes reminds me of the statement in the play, Marmion, by Sir Walter Scott, “Oh! What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!” The sooner one confesses his mistake and clears the web, the sooner one will be on the right path to clearing one’s conscience, restoring one’s character, and healing one’s relationship with God and others.

This builds the case for the other six mistakes made when…

2. You make the mistake of calling it a mistake but it was really a sin. (Transgression)

We find that when a mistake is consciously and purposely denied, it’s really a sin. For example, when Samuel confronted King Saul about the cover up, he said to Samuel, “I have sinned; I have transgressed the command of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and listen to their voice,” (1 Samuel 15:24). The king recognized his sin. Well, sort of. Blaming the people for his disobedience did not make his “confession” all that believable (v. 21).

When he asked the prophet, “Please pardon my sin, and return with me that I may worship the Lord,” Samuel would not fall for the plea. King Saul was about to be, according to modern terms, “impeached” by God himself for the sin he’d committed. (1 Samuel 15:27-35).

You may hear persons who are caught in the act of doing something wrong, and then say, “I misspoke, or “I made a mistake.” It’s only a mistake, however, if it’s an innocent error in judgment due to misinformation or carelessness.

In reality, however, what some call a “mistake” is really a way to keep from using the word “sin.” And if someone says, “I misspoke,” it would actually be more accurate to say,  “I lied.”

Sin that some soft-pedal as “mistakes” is a way of disguising problems that are far more serious and potentially damaging than people care to admit. When a person commits a crime, for example, he or she might say they made “a mistake.” But it’s really a sin since the crime breaks a moral law whether it be lying, stealing, cheating, and the like. For when one sins, one commits transgression (literally, “stepping over a boundary”) against God’s commands, whether one is conscious of it or not (Romans 1:18-25; James 4:17).

For example, King David’s adultery against Bathsheba and the consequential arrangement of her husband’s murder (2 Samuel 11) was not merely a mistake. It was a sin. And David knew it and confessed it with true repentance. When God sent Nathan the prophet to David and confronted the king with his sin, David confessed it before him and the LORD: “I have sinned against the LORD.” And God forgave him: “And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD has taken away your sin; you shall not die,’” (2 Samuel 12:13; Psalm 51).

Nonetheless, there would still be consequences to David’s sin just as there always will be when one goes against God’s will (v. 14; Proverbs 6:12-19). But when we do sin, we have a way to deal with it according to God’s grace through Christ (Romans 6).

Mistakes are made when…

3. You mistake the mistake as something out of your control. (Blame)

It’s a mistake to think that the mistake you make is not your fault. This is the mistake of playing the blame game. I’m reminded of the character, Geraldine, played by comedian Flip Wilson, who said, “The devil made me buy this dress.” But obviously she was just casting blame for what she knew was really her own choosing. Buying that dress was not out of her control.

The blame game has been played ever since man willingly sinned by eating from the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-21). The act was not out of Adam and Eve’s control. When God revealed his knowledge of their disobedience, the man blamed the woman and insinuated that it was God’s fault for creating the woman in the first place (v. 12). Then the woman blamed the serpent, for deceiving her (v. 13). And the serpent? Silence (vss. 14-17).

Sin entered the world, not because of a big mistake, but because of man’s sin. Period. And death for all of us has been the result ever since (Romans 5:12). Just think of it: Had Adam and Eve stayed away from that tree, they could have avoided a lot of trouble.

To avoid the mistake of thinking something is out of your control, the best thing is to know your vulnerability, stay far away from your temptations, and keep committed toward following God’s standards. James said, “But each is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own list. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deived, my beloved brethren,” (James 1:14-16).

Mistakes are made when…

4. The mistake is mistaken as a lost opportunity. (Pessimism)

When you make a mistake, you might tend to think you’ll never recover from it. The guilt is such that you convince yourself you’ve lost any opportunity to gain anything from your mistake. But the truth is, there IS every opportunity. You just have to not make the mistake of thinking negatively. You must decide to turn your pessimism into optimism.

Here are some suggestions: Ask yourself how you can learn from your mistake. As they say, “Mistakes are the stepping stones to learning.” This doesn’t mean you go around trying to make mistakes so you can learn more. Be determined not to make the same mistake again (Proverbs 26:11). After all, you’re only striving toward perfection as Jesus says to do: (Matthew 5:48). Those who do not learn from their past mistakes are bound to repeat them. Use the mistake to gain wisdom (James 1:2-4). Moreover, you can even learn wisdom from others’ mistakes so that you won’t make the same kind of mistake they made (2 Peter 2:18-22; 1 Corinthians 10:6-11).

Mistakes are made when…

5. You do not accept the fact that you’re not the only one who makes mistakes. (Self-pity)

In other words, if you can’t seem to come to terms with your mistake, it’s likely because you’re too focused on yourself. “Poor me!” you say to yourself. “I’m the biggest idiot ever born! I made the worst mistake ever!” This is feeling sorry for yourself.

When you make the mistake of getting down on yourself because you’ve made a mistake, the Bible assures each one of us, “Indeed, we ALL make many mistakes.” Get that? Apparently, we’re ALL in the same boat for making mistakes.

It goes on to say, “For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way,” (James 3:2, New Living Translation, NLT). An uncontrolled tongue leads to many mistakes. And since everyone makes mistakes, you need not feel all alone if your tongue slips now and then. But, the truth is, no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. “…but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison,” (v. 8, NLT).

So since we all naturally stumble, don’t be too hard on yourself when you mess things up. You’re not the only one. Remember: “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure,” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NLT).

Mistakes are made when…

6. You’re unwilling to forgive yourself or others who’ve made mistakes. (Unforgiving)

This is the next mistake resulting from No. 5. If you’re not going to accept the fact that you’re not the only one who makes mistakes, then naturally you’ll make the mistake of thinking that you can’t forgive yourself or, for that matter, others for their mistakes.

Forgiveness is how we’re able to relieve the pressure that comes with making mistakes.

Colossians 3:12-13 says, “And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, who has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you,” (NASB). (also, Psalm 32:5)

You can head off mistakes, and not make bigger ones when you apply the kind of virtues listed in this verse, including forgiveness. It’s based on the Lord’s forgiveness of you and I. And if you really accept his forgiveness of you, you can forgive yourself as well as others regardless of the mistake.

Mistakes are made when…

7. You think that you can’t make mistakes. (Overconfidence)

This takes us full circle. Often, the reason one will not admit a mistake (No. 1) is because one is convinced that a he or she cannot make a mistake. This is overconfidence in overdrive. There’s the attitude that mistakes are not in MY nature. There’s always a “reason” for something that happened and you’re just an innocent bystander. You’re a good person. Mistakes are the problems of others, not you. Oh, really?

The avoid this mistake, one’s attitude needs to change.

First John 1:8-10 says, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts,” (NLT).

You can see that each of these common mistakes tend to overlap themselves in certain ways. That’s probably because one mistake is affected by another mistake and another mistake, and so on. If I’m not making a mistake, only when mistakes are corrected are you and I able to get off that cycle. And, as I humbly see it, I don’t think I’m making a mistake saying so. Am I?

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. If it were not for God’s redeeming grace through His Son, there would be no way to deal with our mistakes. Here’s Unspoken presenting, “Mistakes,” http://youtu.be/m5mhB6qInVk

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Boasting the Right Way

In God We Boast_psalm 44_8

The story is told of a certain dog that had always boasted of his ability as a runner. Then one day a rabbit that he was chasing got away. This brought a lot of ridicule from the other dogs because of his previous boasting. His explanation: “You must remember that the rabbit was running for his life, while I was only running for my dinner.”  (“Illustrations for Biblical Preaching,” Michael P. Green, ed.)

You could say this boastful dog had gone to the dogs when he tried to explain why he didn’t catch the rabbit. Due to the dog’s own ego, he couldn’t stand ridicule which he only brought on himself. Ironical, isn’t it? A rabbit, running for his life, outruns a hungry dog who thinks more highly of himself than he ought to think.

It reminds me of something the Apostle Paul said to the Roman church:

“For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith,” (Romans 12:3, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

Those who brag about themselves and their abilities are in for a let down, sooner or later. So, if they do fail—and surely they will—they’ll have to come up with a “reason” for it, like that boastful dog. We see it with rich people, famous people, media people, educated people and the like who walk around like a proud peacock, attracting attention to themselves.

But one doesn’t have to be a celebrity to always go around blowing one’s horn without regard of the consequences. It could be a co-worker, someone you do business with, a next-door neighbor, you’re closest friend, a family member, and—dare I say—even a fellow church member!

Yes, those who brag and then make excuses for themselves when things don’t go right can be as annoying as someone singing out of tune—the words are there but the sound is painful to the ears. We’re inclined to avoid these kind of persons. There’s a saying, “He who toots his own horn has everybody dodging him.” And they are often known to be among those who attract the most criticism.

Such is the tragedy of bragging, as noted by the instruction of God’s Word. For example,

~”Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring,” (Proverbs 27:1, English Standard Version, ESV).

~”As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil,” (James 4:16, English Standard Version, ESV).

~”Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant…,” (1 Corinthians 13:4, ESV).

Paul the Apostle warned his fellow Jews not to boast in God about relying on the Law (Romans 2:17) if they couldn’t live up to its holy standards (vss. 18-22). “You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God?” (Romans 2:23, New American Standard Bible, NASB, also v. 17). Paul was chastising those legalistic Jews who egotistically wrapped themselves in self-righteousness just because they were benefactors of the Law of Moses. This was not to be the attitude of a true Jew, according to the apostle (vss. 28-29).

Now, while the Bible does not favor bragging about ourselves, there is a way on the other hand to use bragging in a positive sense. Jeremiah the prophet wrote,

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord,’” (Jeremiah 9:23-24, ESV). (Compare Psalm 34:2; 44:8.)

While noting the negative or foolish side of bragging—such as, acting like a wise guy, or getting a big head over one’s accomplishments, or spouting off about one’s possessions— the positive and wise side consists of one’s understanding and knowledge of the Lord. In essence, it’s based not on being ashamed or afraid to humbly live in sync with God’s steadfast love, justice, and righteousness.

The bottom line: One who sincerely loves and respects the LORD will brag on him and the spiritual principles whereby one is committed to live.

The Apostle Paul bragged in such a way when he wrote his second letter to the Corinthian church:

“But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence. ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends,” (2 Corinthians 10:13-18, ESV).

Literally quoting from Jeremiah, Paul applies the “foolishness” of boasting as a way to point out the wisdom of the LORD. (e.g., 1 Corinthians 11:1)

In his first letter to the Corinthian believers, he likewise quotes Jeremiah’s passage about boasting in terms of those who’ve been won over to Christ. He credits the wisdom and power of God for enabling him to be a part of the conversion and growth of new believers. Although those of the world would consider this foolishness, the apostle states this is according to God’s wisdom. Paul wrote,

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord,’” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31, ESV).

Had the dog in our opening illustration boasted in the LORD, the canine would have spoken less of himself and more of what God has done by graciously bestowing him with natural instinct and ability such as running. The other dogs would have respected him more for it. And he wouldn’t have needed to make any excuses, rabbit or no rabbit.

It leaves us to ask ourselves, “How might I have ever boasted?” “Do I toot my horn a little too loud at times?” “What excuses have I made when I didn’t quite live up to what I boasted I was going to do?” “How can I boast the right way—boasting in the LORD through Christ?”

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Because God gave his Son to redeem us from sin, we can boast in Christ who alone saves us. Here is Hillsong Worship singing, “I Will Boast In Christ”: http://youtu.be/h_dsUhYUqwc

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Hard of Hearing or Hardheadedness?

hearing his voice_sheepDid you ever attempt to have a conversation with someone who appeared to be hard of hearing? You’d say one word and he’d think you said another one? He’d get mixed up with what you were trying to say and you’d feel a little annoyed trying to get him to understand you.

Here’s a funny story that illustrates such a situation…

One of the most frustrating conversations in theatrical history is recorded by Theatre Arts magazine: A subscriber dialed “Information” for the magazine’s number.
“Sorry,” drawled the lady, “but there is nobody listed by the name of ‘Theodore Arts.'”
The subscriber insisted: “It’s not a person; it’s a publication. I want Theatre Arts.”
The operator’s voice rose a few decibels. She repeated, “I told you, we have no listing for Theodore Arts.”
By now the subscriber was hollering, “Confound it, the word is Theatre: T-H-E-A-T-R-E!”
The operator came back with crushing finality: “That—is not the way to spell Theodore.” (Illustrations Unlimited, James S. Hewett, ed.)

One wonders: Was the operator REALLY hard of hearing? Or, was she just being hardheaded?

We can wonder the same thing when it comes to hearing what God says to us through Christ and his Word. Many times we read where Jesus spoke words like, “But I say to you…”; ” Truly, truly I tell you…”; “I tell you the truth…” Jesus was not only making his instructions known to the people, but he was contrasting them with misconceived ideas especially pertaining to the Law that became their tradition: “You have heard it said but I say…”

Sadly, however, while there were those who clearly heard his words and accepted it, there were others who had perfectly good hearing, but were too stubborn to accept what he had to say. In affect, they were not really hard of hearing but were simply too hardheaded to listen.

The prophets, likewise, attempted to get Israel to listen to God’s instructions but in those instances the people appeared to lose their hearing. It’s not that there was REALLY something wrong with their ability to hear. No doubt, they could pass a hearing test. They had ears alright but they refused to listen and obey God’s Word.

When Israel was being formed as a nation while wandering in the wilderness, God through Moses reminded the people how they witnessed with their own eyes God’s deliverance from their trials back in Egypt at the time they were slaves. But they were still too hardheaded to listen to God’s instructions: “Yet to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear,” (Deuteronomy 29:4, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

The people were not fit to know, see, nor hear the LORD their God because they were not altogether willing to know, see, and hear him. Yet, all they needed to do was obey and then their hearts, eyes, and ears would truly be opened. “So keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do,” (Deut. 29:9).

By the time Jesus came on the scene, he reminded his people of this very same need to hear and heed what he had to say. He usually urged them this way by telling them parables. A parable is told as a story that compare two objects for the purpose of teaching a lesson (Pictorial Bible Dictionary). This was the simplest approach for getting his listeners to understand and believe his teachings, yet many of them still had their ears closed.

Jesus commented to his disciples, “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand,” (Matthew 13:13). Only those who were sincerely following him would, in due time, listen and understand him (Luke 24:8; John 2:22).

Sometimes we might have a hard time hearing and fully understanding what God wants us to know and do. Admit it. It’s in our nature, as humans, to be a little hardheaded at times. It’s not because we’ve lost our hearing. Rather, it’s because we’re inclined to hear only what we want to hear.

Deafness seems to set in when God’s Word tells us something we need to change about ourselves or beliefs that requires us to change our old ways and habits. But we’d rather not hear it. It’s like a kid who puts his hands over his ears when he is told: “You can’t have that candy right now.” Refusing to listen, he holds his hands over his ears and shuts his eyes while repeating out loud, “Na, na, na, na….” to block out his parent’s voice.

child-covering-ears

Of course, Jesus doesn’t want us to react like this. Rather, he wants us to keep an open ear to what he wants us to know. He’s saying to us, “He who has an ear, let him hear…” (Matthew 11:15; 13:9; Mark 4:9, 23). When John relayed Jesus’ message to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, each one was told, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Good results were guaranteed, such as the one to the Church of Ephesus: “To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God,” (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).

Indeed, Jesus’ exhortation is even more fitting for his church today than it was then. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy saying, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine [teaching]; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths,” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). The reality is, we’re living in that time.

One sign that we are getting closer to the return of Christ is that many are closing their ears to the truth. They make up their own ideas (myths) on they want to believe. They’re departing from God’s instructions, not much differently than the way Israel did way back in Bible days.

In fact, The Barna Group has reported that, “Overall, 50% of the adults interviewed agreed that Christianity is no longer the faith that Americans automatically accept as their personal faith, while just 44% disagreed and 6% were not sure.”
https://www.barna.com/research/christianity-is-no-longer-americans-default-faith/

“Professing themselves to be wise” they’ve “become fools” (Romans 1:22), because they’ve departed from God’s Word. Christian leaders tickle the ears of their followers by telling them what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. They ignore the moral teachings that society mocks and despises so they won’t be criticized. They desire to please the world rather than God for their own gain. They turn to human philosophy instead of God’s truth which they consider to be too old and out dated. Thus they become hardheaded fools.

On the other hand, those with good hearing—that is, those willing to keep their ears open (eyes and heart, too) and obey God’s Word—choose not to fall into this very grave error of the hardheaded. We cling to the Good News taught by Jesus who bids us to keep our ears open to his truth—and with the promise that when he returns, we will be eternally rewarded with wonderful blessings. (Rev. 2:25-29)

Just as Jesus told his followers, he says to us, “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear,” (Matt. 13:16).

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here are The Heralds with their rendition of “Open My Eyes That I May See”: http://youtu.be/sfUlCof-aM8

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‘It’s a G-G-G-Ghost!’

scooby ghost

Remember the old cartoon shows—you know, the ones where the character sees something so scary that his eyes bug out, hair stands on end, with mouth agape, tongue sticking out, while making a loud shriek? We laugh out loud, don’t we? Yes, cartoons are funny in this way for we know they are mere fantasy.

In the REAL world, however, fear is no laughing matter. It’s especially true when we are terrified of something we see but cannot explain. Now and then we may hear a thumping sound in the attic, or think we see something looking at us in the night shadows, or the rocking chair in the living room suddenly starts to move back and forth. We’re alarmed. We freeze with fear. We speak in quivering voice, “Who’s there?” But no one answers. In wide-eyed bewilderment we ask ourselves, “Could it be a g-g-g-ghost?”

If such a thing ever happened to you, then you’re not alone. Something like this happened to the twelve disciples of Jesus. Both Matthew and Mark record the time when Jesus walked on water but they thought they were seeing a “ghost”:

Matthew 14:25-27 25Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 27But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (New International Version, NIV)

Mark 6:49-50 49.…but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out 50because they all saw him and were terrified.” (NIV)

To put this scene in proper perspective, imagine if you were one of the disciples. You had just witnessed one of the most fantastic miracles the previous day. It was still fresh on your mind: More than 5,000 people who gathered to hear Jesus speak were fed and filled from only five barley loaves of bread and two dried fish, the lunch of a young boy in the crowd.

As the disciples started to pass these morsels around to each person, the food literally multiplied right before their eyes. When it was all said and done, “They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish,” (Mark 6:42-43, NIV).

By the time everyone was fed, sunset was approaching. Jesus “immediately” told his disciples to get into their boat and go across the Sea of Galilee (actually a large lake about 13 miles long and 8 miles wide) to Bethsaida on the other side while he dismissed the crowd. But why immediately? What was the rush?

According to John’s Gospel, after the crowd witnessed the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000, they wanted to make Jesus king “by force” (John 6:15). It’s thought that since Jesus’ time had not come yet to be king, Jesus didn’t want his 12 disciples to stay around and get all caught up in the crowd’s excitement. So, right away, he sent them away in the boat while dismissing the crowd, then escaped to a mountain alone to pray and spend time with God.

Imagine…you’re one of the disciples, and here you are in a boat with your other friends, in the dark of night, rowing, rowing, rowing. You get to about the middle of the lake, and you start to feel a strong breeze blowing in your face. You pull your tunic a little tighter around your neck as the mist flies off the water. Ripples turn to waves which are getting higher and higher, pouring over into your lap. Now you’re soaked from head to foot. As the night wears on and you find it harder and harder to pull the oars in the direction you want to go, your body is also wearing out. Exhaustion has set in. And frustration, too. For every stroke of the oar forward, the wind blows you two strokes backward. You’re getting nowhere fast!

And it’s been a long day, anyway. You’ve already  went through an exciting yet stressful time earlier…first, worrying about how you and the other disciples are going to feed five thousand hungry men (not counting women and children), watching in amazement the miracle taking place as you passed out all that food, then being rushed away into a boat not knowing when you’d be seeing Jesus. Then, to row all night to the other side, half way across the water, so tired, hands and back throbbing, all worn out…and now, stuck in this dastardly storm. And all the while you’re wondering, like everyone else, “Where’s Jesus at a time like this? Where’s our Master when you need him the most? Off on some mountain retreat!”

It gets to be somewhere between 3:00 and 6:00 in the morning. The wind is howling,  the waves flying over the edge of the boat, the sun hasn’t quite come up yet…then, in the distance someone shouts, “I see something coming. Does anyone else see it?” Peering over the waves, squinting through the mist, you along with the others see a figure of a person coming your way.

In absolute terror, you all scream out, “It’s a g-g-g-ghost!”

Now, it’s important to understand at this point what they were probably thinking when they cried out “ghost” as most translations put it. Of course, the writers of the New Testament didn’t know the English word, “ghost.” In the Greek, the word for “ghost” in this account is phantasma. It means “apparition” or “specter.” The Greeks associated it with magic or charms.

Although it’s hard to believe that the disciples—devout Jews who knew their Bible, as well as being followers of Christ— actually believed in ghosts, per se. But it is easy to see how fear could lead them into irrational thinking at that moment. When one is terrorized, one will imagine anything even if one knows deep down it’s not true.

And if there’s no logical explanation as to what’s really happening when gripped in fear, all kinds of theories are conjured in one’s mind. For all the disciples knew, Jesus was still up in the mountain. How were they to reason that it was actually Jesus out in the middle of the lake walking on top of the water? Who had ever done that before? It seems they forgot that Jesus, who had just hours earlier performed one astounding miracle, could do another one, too.

Just think of it… They could imagine seeing an apparition but they could not imagine the obvious—that the silhouette of the man walking on water could only be, who else, but Jesus coming to their rescue. Imagine that!

From a human standpoint, we admittedly might jump to the same conclusion, too, if we were scared and confused as much as the disciples. In that respect, we’re all in the same boat, so to speak. Given the right situation, it’s much easier for us to imagine the absurd than to accept what we should already know.

It was in such a situation that Jesus immediately revealed himself: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Mark 6:50). We can also take courage with the assurance that Jesus will come to us through the Spirit even when we least expect it, and even in the most terrifying situations we could ever experience (John 14:16-27).

In the meantime, there was one disciple who was more daring than the others when Jesus came toward them walking on the water. If you guessed the impulsive Peter, you’d be right. “Lord if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” He went from thinking he’d seen a ghost to being brave enough to get out of the boat and step out onto the water.

Even a little bit of faith will get us out of our comfort zone when things get scary. If we just have enough courage to believe in Jesus then we won’t hesitate to come to him. He is waiting, patiently for us to come. (Matt. 11:28)

Seizing an opportunity to teach Peter and all of them another lesson, Jesus said, “Come.”

“Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” (Matthew 14:28-29). The others must have stared at the sight in amazement.

And then reality suddenly hit Peter. Noticing the roaring wind and the waves slapping  him, “he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord save me!’” (Matt. 14:30). Think about it: Peter had good intentions. He started out fine. As long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, he could do the impossible. But as soon as he allowed himself to be distracted by the wind and waves, he took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink. In his fear of drowning, the fisherman desperately cried out to the Lord, “Save me,” Jesus then reached out and took Peter by the hand, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

This must have been an embarrassing moment for impulsive Peter—and yet, we know there would be many more to come. But it was a lesson all of his disciples needed to learn especially in terms of faith. Faith is imperative, but just a little is not enough if we expect to successfully weather our storms. We must not have any doubt in Jesus’ ability to save us in any situation. We must always keep our eyes on him. He is there to take our hand and help us through the trials and temptations that will test our faith.

The Bible says that when Jesus and Peter got into the boat, the wind ceased. And so did their fear. (Matt. 14:32; Mark 6:51) Before they knew it, they arrived safely at their destination on the other side of the lake. (John 6:21).

And then there was another time the disciples thought “they saw a ghost”.

Luke 24:37-39 37They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

This is when Jesus suddenly and unexpectedly appeared to the disciples who were hiding in seclusion behind locked doors after his resurrection. In the back of their minds, the disciples must have thought that the authorities might come at any time and take them like they did Jesus. 

You can imagine the disciples staring in stunned silence as Jesus was standing in their midst. One minute they’re talking about a report that his grave was empty and that he’d possibly been seen by two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:33-35). The next minute there he was standing right in front of them even though the doors were completely closed. The apprehension and shock must have been so thick in the room you could cut it with a knife. He even tried to calm them down: “Peace be with you!” (v. 36.)

They were very afraid, troubled, and skeptical. They quickly assumed they were looking at a ghost. In this case, the Greek word for “ghost” is not phantasma like when Jesus walked on water. Rather, the Greek word is pneuma, rendered, ” wind, breath, spirit.”

Again, fear overwhelmed them so much they thought Jesus was a figment of their imagination. Keep in mind, no human being had ever witnessed someone raised from the dead who was immortal—that is, until they saw Jesus. What were they to think? What would YOU have thought?

Jesus was actually showing them what an immortal person could do and what he looked like—not some invisible spirit—but someone with real flesh and bones who could be touched and seen and heard (Luke 24:36-43) and yet who also had the ability to appear and disappear at will. (Compare 1 Corinthians 15:35-49).

Jesus once told Nicodemus that one who is “born again” (John 3:5-7) is “born of water and the Spirit” and can move like the wind. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8, NIV). This fulfillment is yet future.

When our immortal Lord suddenly appeared to the disciples behind locked doors, he was giving them a demonstration of what they, as well as all “born again” believers, will be able to do when they receive immortality at his second coming (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58; 1 John 3:2). Believers will not walk around as disembodied “ghosts” (a contradiction, anyway, since something without bodies can’t have feet to walk around with) but will be literally changed to immortal, imperishable flesh and bones with wonderful abilities we can only imagine now.

If we have faith in God through Christ, we will not allow our fears to run away with us. Neither will we believe in g-g-g-ghosts as some imagine them. For as long as we’re following Christ, we have the kind of hope that will help us face our fears as we look for a better Day to come—the Day Jesus comes in great Power and Glory!

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s an original song about Jesus walking on the water written from Peter’s perspective: http://youtu.be/53oD8mjgMvE

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