Stouthearted Fathers

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Brave…Determined…Courageous…Gallant. These are the words that come to mind when you speak of being stouthearted. It’s also what comes to mind when you describe the characteristics of good fathers.

A child’s natural image of a father, for example, is usually one of admiration, trust, and respect. A child tends to think, My Daddy can fix anything. Daddy is my protector. Daddy is my provider. Now, of course, there might be exceptions to this situation in some homes. But for the most part, families with stouthearted fathers have not become extinct yet.

Being a good father requires the kind of qualities that call for strength and boldness. It all starts from the time one becomes a father. Regardless how many children a father has, he must strive to be a model of stoutheartedness to each one from the day they are born. Of course, the more children one has, the more of a challenge it could turn out to be. This reminds me of a joke:

Four men are in the hospital waiting room because their wives are having babies. A nurse goes up to the first guy and says, “Congratulations! You’re the father of twins.”
“That’s odd,” answers the man. “I work for the Minnesota Twins!”
A nurse says to the second guy, “Congratulations! You’re the father of triplets!”
“That’s weird,” answers the second man. “I work for the 3M company!”
A nurse tells the third man, “Congratulations! You’re the father of quadruplets!”
“That’s strange,” he answers. “I work for the Four Seasons hotel!”
The last man is groaning and banging his head against the wall. “What’s wrong?” the others ask.
“I work for 7 Up!” (boyslife.org)

I can’t say I ever had more than one child born at a time. But when my wife was about to give birth to our first child, there’s one moment I’ll never forget. I remember the nurse at the hospital sending me and a friend of mine, whose wife was also in labor at the same time, to the waiting room designated for expectant fathers. Meanwhile, the two mothers-to-be were getting prepped for the labor room. When the nurse directed us guys to the waiting room, I vividly remember her saying, “Okay you fathers, follow me to the waiting room until your wives are ready for you to go in to the labor room with them.” Though I’d been looking forward to this blessed event, no one had really called me a father until that moment. The word, father, just jumped out at me! I’m thinking, “I’m about to be a father!”

Being a father, as well as a grandfather, presents both a privilege and a responsibility. It’s a privilege because it’s a blessing to see your children and grandchildren grow to become successful and happy in their lives. It’s a responsibility, as well, because it requires setting a good example and doing whatever it takes to keep their trust. As a family, we depend upon the support and love of one another in spite of any difficulties any one of us might face. A father plays a vital part in setting the tone of such support. A father needs to have a stouthearted spirit to maintain his fatherly duties and reflect a Christlike character—a demanding yet rewarding task that never ends.

As a father fulfills his fatherly role, he will enjoy the recognition and honor he fittingly deserves. In fact, this is how Father’s Day got started in the first place. According to tradition, Father’s Day originated in 1910 due to the efforts of Sonora Louise Smart of Spokane, Washington. A year earlier, she’d heard a sermon about a recently recognized Mother’s Day at the church she was attending. The subject led her to thinking about fatherhood—something about which she felt so strongly.

sonora-louise-smart

1882 – 1978

Sonora wanted to honor her father whom she held in high esteem. She was the daughter of William Smart, a sergeant in the Union’s First Arkansas Light Artillery during the Civil War. Sonora’s mother, Ellen Victoria Cheek Smart, died when giving birth to her sixth child when Sonora was only 16 years old. Being the only daughter, Sonora along with her father, helped raise her five younger brothers. We can imagine the bond she must have developed with her father as she helped him with this demanding task.

Following through with her plan to recognize fathers, Sonora approached the Spokane Ministerial Alliance. She proposed that June 5 be the day all fathers were to be honored. Why June 5? Because that was the date of her father’s birthday. However, the Alliance chose the third Sunday of June, instead. The very first Father’s Day was set for June 19, 1910.

In the following years, this special day for fathers became more and more popular throughout our nation. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson was so impressed with the celebration of Father’s Day services in Spokane that he sent a telegraph that praised it highly. Many years passed as Father’s Day became a part of American culture. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day. And in 1972, President Richard M. Nixon established Father’s Day as a permanent national observance to be held on the third Sunday of June.

We appreciate what began with one grateful daughter who was so devoted to her father and the respect she had for fatherhood. Had it not been for her good efforts, Father’s Day might not have become the kind of day we’ve come to celebrate. It has become a wonderful occasion for honoring our fathers in a way that makes it special and meaningful to families from one generation to the next.

Honoring our fathers falls in line with the scriptures. “Honor thy father,” (Exodus 20:12; Deut. 5:16; Matthew 15:4; Ephesians 6:2) is a command to commend our fathers with honor in the Lord. Even if your father is not all that you’d like him to be, as imperfect as he might be, he is still your father and you are still his son or daughter. The fact that we are required to honor our fathers, as well as our mothers, brings the benefit of God’s blessings: “And it shall be well for you and your life shall be long on The Earth,” (Eph. 6:3, Aramaic Bible in Plain English).

Naturally, it’s the stouthearted fathers who are honored with our praises and respect. They are hailed as heroes in their own right. They are there when we need them. They provide the discipline that corrects us. They show us the right example for which to pattern our lives. They are honest to admit their mistakes. And they are bold in their convictions yet willing to change as needed. And they are admired as men of faith in God and his Word.

Stouthearted fathers stand strong in their commitment toward serving the Lord, making him first in their families. In the words of Joshua, the commander and leader of Israel as well as a father, himself, “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” (Joshua 24:15, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

Was Joshua perfect? No. He had his weaknesses, too. Even though Joshua always sought God’s instruction, one time he failed to do so when the Gibeonites deceived him into entering a peace treaty with them. Joshua could have spared himself and the nation the grief of falling into this trap if he’d followed God’s command to destroy all his opponents. Nonetheless, Joshua spared them and it caused some serious repercussions. Had God not intervened, it would have been a bigger disaster. (Joshua 9-10)

Joshua, however, was still a strong, stouthearted man of faith and he encouraged his people to be “strong and of good courage,” too (Josh. 1:7; 23-24). When the walls of Jericho fell down (Josh. 6), Joshua was the courageous leader as he and his army put their faith into action (Heb. 11:30). Among those valiant warriors, there were many stouthearted fathers including Joshua, himself, fighting in the name of the Lord.

Yes, we still need stouthearted fathers today. And we highly honor those who are. In the daily battle against sin and evil, God is looking for believers willing to join his army, to win against “the schemes of the devil,” (Ephesians 6:10-20). The Lord is especially looking for fathers with spiritual backbone and grit—men who are not afraid to show courage in the face of disaster, passion for upholding the truth, and compassion for helping the helpless. Their highest priority? To strive for the perfection that can only be found in our Heavenly Father (Matthew 5:48). Their relentless faith, their respected character, and their remarkable example inspire us to recognize them for the men they genuinely are: Stouthearted! Like the song calls forth, “Give me some men, who are stouthearted men….” https://youtu.be/1vjqfvZVReM

Good News to YOU!
And to all our fathers: Happy Father’s Day!
Pastor Michael

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Absolutes? Absolutely!

 

the-bible-is-the-absolute-truth-of-god

Stanford Research Institute was studying the differences in vocational perceptions. They devised a short but succinct test. The first to be tested was an engineer. The researchers asked him: “What does two plus two make?” The engineer simply said, “In absolute terms: four.” After making their notes and dismissing him, they called an architect. To the same question, he responded, “Well, there are several possibilities: two and two make four, but so does three and one — or two point five and one point five — they also make four. So, it is all a matter of choosing the right option.” The researchers thanked him and made their notes. Finally, they called an attorney. When he heard the question, he looked around slyly, asked if he could close the door for privacy, and then came over close, leaned toward them and said, “Well, tell me, what would you like it to be?” (Sermon Central)

When it comes to absolutes, it doesn’t come down to whatever you’d like them to be. The attorney knew that facts are facts and facts don’t change. Regardless how much you’d like to change it, you can’t change the fact that two and two make four.

Neither do God’s laws change. For example, God’s laws are set in stone—literally. When God gave his ten commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai, God wrote them on two stone tablets with his own finger for his people, Israel, to obey for all time (Exodus 20:1-26; 31:18; 32:15-16; Deuteronomy 5:22, 29). When Moses came down from the mountain, what do you think he should find? The people were doing the very thing that violated God’s command, “Thou shalt not make other gods besides me; gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make for yourselves,” (Ex. 20:23, New American Standard Version, NASB). They were caught in the act of worshipping the golden calf and committing some of the most lewd revelry you could ever imagine (Deut. 32:6-10)! In his indignation over this despicable sight, Moses threw the tablets down, shattering them to many pieces against the rocks at the foot of the mountain below (Ex. 20:19).

The LORD severely punished the people for their evil (Ex. 20:20-35). In fact, had Moses not interceded, God would have destroyed the people and, instead, would have made of Moses a great nation. But God, through his infinite mercy, did not carry out this proposal (Ex. 32:11-14). After everything started settling down, the LORD said to Moses to cut out two more stone tablets like the LORD provided before and God rewrote the commands on them (Ex. 34:1-9).

This scene not only illustrates there are absolutes established by God, but the serious consequences which follow when those absolutes are not obeyed (Ex. 20:5; Deut. 7:1-26). It’s been said that God did not issue the ten suggestions. They are commandments that God wants followed for the simple reason that they provide the way to productivity, order, stability, and peace (Ex. 20:6, 24; Deut. 5:31-32; 6:16-25).

Thus, God provided ten commandments to live by. The first four pertain to our duty to God (Ex. 20:3-17; Deut. 5:6-21):

1. “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
2. “You shall not make for yourself any idol or graven image.”
3. “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.”
4. “Remember to keep the Sabbath holy.”

The remaining commands pertain to our duty to one another:

5. “Honor your father and mother.”
6. “You shall not murder.”
7. “You shall not commit adultery.”
8. “You shall not steal.”
9. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
10. “You shall not covet.”

These absolutes are key to wholesome living. They apply to everyone. And they are the basis upon which God will judge us when we stand before him on the Day of Judgement. Ecclesiastes 12:13 and 14 state, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: Fear God and keep his commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act into judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” (also, 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:11-15; 21:7-8)

Jesus, likewise, emphasized the necessity of doing as God instructs. Onetime a rich young ruler came up to Jesus and asked him what he should do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not defraud; honor your father and mother’” (Mark 10:17-22). Even though the young man claimed to have done all these things, Jesus lovingly told him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Unfortunately, he went away sad because he was very wealthy. To which Jesus remarked, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” (v. 23). Jesus went to the spirit of the law and right down into the heart of this rich young ruler. And of this we can be sure: We are measured by our attitudes and intentions according to the absolutes we are required to apply.  

The absolutes we are to absolutely live by are defined according to two commands which summarize all of God’s commands. Jesus pointed out these commands when he referred to God’s law given to Moses (Deut. 6:5-9). Onetime an expert in the Mosaic law inquired of Jesus, “Teacher, which is the great command in the Law?”

Jesus replied, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the the great and foremost commandment. The second is like unto it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets,” (Matthew 22:36-40).

Onetime another expert in the Mosaic law asked Jesus, “Teacher what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus responded, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?”

And he answered, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus remarked, You have answered correctly; Do this, and you will live,” (Luke 10:25-28). At that, the “expert” asked, “And who IS my neighbor?” Then, Jesus proceeded to tell the Parable of the Good Samaritan (vss. 30-37). In essence, like he did with the rich young ruler, Jesus was applying an absolute that captured the spirit of the law: “Treat everyone, with whom you come into contact, with dignity, compassion, and love.” Just think of it! If this absolute was absolutely followed by more people today, how much better off all of us would be!

The problem these days is that society questions these absolutes. Years ago, the popular saying was, “Do your own thing!” This is the epitome of disregard for God’s absolutes. It displays attitudes of selfishness rather than self-discipline; of looking out for Number One rather than looking out for others. It flies in the face of faithfully complying with higher standards set by God himself.

But God’s standards never change because God’s nature never changes (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalm 102:12, 25-28; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). Our eternal God was, is, and always will be holy, love, and truth. And these are the absolute standards we, as believers, pursue as we strive to emulate God’s perfect qualities through Jesus Christ our Savior (Matt. 5:48; 2 Cor. 13:11).

Human philosophy is known to question these absolutes. We might hear it said, “The only absolute is there are no absolutes.” But are they absolutely correct? Not necessarily (Isaiah 5:20; 45:9-24; Prov. 14:12; 1 Cor. 1:18-25). When it comes to God’s truth and morality, we have shown how God provides the way in which we are to live. And when we absolutely live by faith in God, we will abide in those absolute standards (Galatians 3:11-14; James 2:14-18). And we are absolutely sure of it!

One thing is absolute: God will make a way even when there seems to be no way. Here’s Don Moen with this important message: http://youtu.be/_ff6tOfuRyc

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Belief and Prayer

yoga - sunset meditation

The story is told about a tavern being built in a town that until recently had been dry. A group of Christians in a certain church opposed this and began an all-night prayer meeting, asking God to intervene. Lightning struck the tavern building, and it burned to the ground. The owner brought a lawsuit against the church, claiming they were responsible. The Christians hired a lawyer, claiming they were not responsible. The judge said, “No matter how this case comes out, one thing is clear. The tavern owner believes in prayer and the Christians do not.”

They say that you’d better be careful what you pray for. You just might get it. I say that if you do get it, you might also consider how much you believe when you do pray.
Belief is the part that makes prayer what it is. So when God answers our prayers we should not be too surprised. Amazed? Yes. Surprised? Not really.

There is a scene in the Bible, however, that was so amazing that there was much surprise even though one church spent a whole night in prayer. It’s kind of funny, in a way. Perhaps we could humorously identify with the reaction that one person had at the time.
The incident goes like this:

The Apostle Peter was seized and put into a Roman prison for being one of the top church leaders promoting the Good News of Jesus. He was guarded by four quaternions or squads of soldiers. Each quaternion of four soldiers were on duty for a three-hour watch that night and the next day.  This assigned guard of sixteen soldiers were in charge of holding him with chains until his execution would take place right after the Passover was over.  (Carter & Earle, The Acts of the Apostles).

The king, Herod Agrippa I, believed that if he turned Peter over to the Jewish officials he could curry favor with them as he did when he put the Apostle James, the brother of John, to death with a sword. This ruler was known to do all he could to elicit support of the Jews. He observed their strict regulations  and was careful to be on good terms with them. He knew how much the Jewish leaders hated the Christians so he saw an opportunity to get them closer to his side. 

We don’t know what manner the king had in mind for having Peter killed. It is reported that there were four methods of persecution that could have been chosen, including stoning, burning, beheading with the sword, and strangling. It is pointed out that the Talmud (primary source of Jewish law), which required beheading with a sword, was the standard punishment for those who drew the people away to a strange worship. To the Jewish leadership, following Christ would have been strange to them. So, this could explain why James was killed by being beheaded with a sword. (ibid.) Perhaps this was the same form of death Herod had in mind for Peter. Of course, Herod’s dastardly plan was a political ploy. But God had another plan that would foil Herod’s diabolical scheme.

While Peter was tightly kept under guard in prison, the church assembled in prayer. Perhaps many felt that if the church had prayed harder, maybe James would have been spared his unfortunate plight. This time, the church was not only praying, they were calling on the Lord “fervently.”

The Greek word for “fervent” is ekteino and literally means, “to stretch out.” The church was stretching out to God in unceasing prayer with intensity and full extension without any slack until its necessary outcome was revealed. This description reminds me of passages in the Bible that describe how we should pray (New King James Version, NKJV):

  • Romans 12:12, “…rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer….”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
  • James 5:16, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

When God sees that we fervently pray what we mean and fervently mean what we pray, watch out! You just might get it! But be prepared! It might not exactly happen the way you’d expect.

While the church was in fervent prayer for Peter, that same night just before he was about to be executed the next day, the Lord miraculously intervened. As Peter was sleeping between two soldiers and the other two were guarding the prison door, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared. And a bright light shined in the place he was kept. In spite of what awaited him, Peter must have been sleeping rather soundly. The angel had to jab Peter’s side to awaken him. Without disturbing the soldiers, the angel helped Peter to his feet, and suddenly the chains that bound him to the soldiers fell from his hands.

The whole procedure seemed like an illusion or dream to Peter. “Could really be happening or I am just seeing things?” he probably thought. But Peter quickly woke up to the fact that it was all real as the angels secretly and quietly led him past the first two unsuspecting guards, then the other two. They didn’t even knew that a jailbreak had taken place right under their noses! Making their escape, the iron gate leading into Jerusalem opened by itself like the automated doors we have in stores today. In fact, the phrase stating that the gate opened “of its own accord” is written as one word in the Greek, automate, which means “automatically,” (also, Mark 4:28). (ibid.) The angel that escorted him out of prison disappeared and, the next thing Peter knew, he was out on the street. He wasn’t dreaming after all!

Having put the whole incident into perspective, he decided at once to go to the house of Mary who was the mother of John Mark who was a “cousin” or, more likely, nephew of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10). To show how much of a connection the family had with the church, Barnabas would eventually play a future role in the missionary work of the Apostle Paul. This Christian woman is said to have been a wealthy widow of prominence. Her home was sizable enough to be a meeting place for the church.

When Peter knocked on the door of Mary’s gate, Rhoda the maidservant, came to answer. Peter asked her to let him in. She could distinctively tell it was the voice of Peter. Now, you would think she would immediately fling the door wide open. This is the comical part: Instead, she left the poor guy standing alone outside while she ran back inside. In her excitement, Rhoda announced to the people that Peter was at the gate.

Keep in mind, these Christians were still up all night having their prayer vigil and likely a little weary from lack of sleep. They just couldn’t believe it. They reacted, “You’re crazy!” She insisted, “No, I’m NOT crazy! It IS his voice! It MUST be him!”

The people said, “Then it must be his angel!” There was a Jewish belief in those days that each one had a guardian angel who had a physical appearance and the voice of someone the angel protected (Psalm 34:7; Daniel 6:20-23). But their denial, that it could really be Peter standing at the gate, shows the human side of their response and how God could answer prayer in such a miraculous way.

Meanwhile, here’s Peter knocking away at the door. I can hear him yelling, “Hey, you people! It’s me, Peter! Let me in!” Finally, they opened the gate, and stared in awe. Can’t you just see them rubbing their eyes, looking at him with their mouths wide opened in sheer shock and amazement? Voices were crying out: “Is it you, really YOU, Peter?” They could hardly contain themselves.

Then, Peter raised his hand to calm them down. You could hear a pin drop. Each one listened in silence as he told them the entire story of the miraculous way God delivered him out of prison that night and told him to share his testimony with the others. (Read the entire account: Acts 12:1-17). We can conclude that from this time on, the church would never forget what happened and the way God can answer prayer.

Believing is everything when we make our requests known to God, even when God does the things that we don’t think about. When we pray for God to do something, be ready to believe it when he does. For we can be at peace knowing that if we keep on believing, God will answer prayer as his will is done (Philippians 4:6-7).

Here is an old hymn with a message that always stays new in our hearts, “Keep on Believing” by the King’s Heralds Quartet: http://youtu.be/vwQVpX0tNhQ

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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History (and Prophecy?) in the Making: US Moves Embassy to Jerusalem

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New US Embassy, Jerusalem (photo: Ken Klukowski / Breitbart News)

History was made just days ago on May 14 when the United States officially opened its embassy in Jerusalem after being formerly located in Tel Aviv. The move was in accordance with a proclamation signed by President Trump last December 6 that stated the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. As festivities began on May 13, the eve of Israel’s 70th birthday, Jerusalem Day was also celebrated in remembrance of the reunification of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War.

To the joy and admiration of Israelis and those Americans who support his effort, President Trump kept his word. This was not like his predecessors. Past US presidents including Bill Clinton and George W. Bush stated their intentions to move the embassy but didn’t keep their word once they were took office in the White House. The main reason given for failing to move the embassy during their terms was out of fear that peace negotiations might be hampered. But President Trump decided to move ahead anyway and the timing couldn’t have been better.

The unprecedented move came at the same time Israel celebrated its 70 years of independence as a nation. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined in the momentous day by tying history with President Trump’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem. According to the Jerusalem Post (5/14/18),

Sixty-nine years after Israel declared Jerusalem as its capital, and 23 years after the US Congress passed a law mandating that Washington move its embassy there, the US formally opened its embassy in the city on Monday afternoon, in a move Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called “courageous” and “momentous.”
“What a glorious day. Remember this moment!” Netanyahu entreated the applauding crowd. “President Trump, by recognizing history, you have made history. All of us are deeply moved. All of us are deeply grateful.”

For many Christians, the move not only has historical importance but could have prophetic meaning, as well. When Israel gained independence on May 14, 1948, it is believed that a prophecy, recorded by Isaiah the prophet over 2600 years ago, was fulfilled. After 2,000 years of its destruction, the new State of Israel was born. The Prophet Isaiah wrote,

Before she [Israel] travailed, she brought forth; Before her pain came, she gave birth to a boy. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born [travailed with] in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once? As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons,” (Isaiah 66:7-8, New American Standard Version, NASB).

In this passage, the woman who is giving birth symbolizes Israel and the land God has promised since the time of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:17-21; 17:1-8). On the day of Israel’s independence, President Harry Truman issued a statement that The United States recognized Israel as a sovereign state. Just prior to this, Britain’s control of the land ended when a United Nation’s mandate expired. Not more than 24 hours had elapsed when Israel’s independence was recognized. As the prophet wrote, the nation of Israel was brought forth at once, the land was born in a day, and many sons [children] came forth to live in the land once again as the scripture says.

It’s relevant to note that the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem comes exactly 70 years from the time Israel was born as a sovereign state. The number 70 could indicate a turning point of something special in regard to prophecy. In the Bible, important events transpired with the number 70. Jews believe it has sacred meaning for it is comprised of seven which is said to be God’s number of perfection and ten which is God’s number of completeness, for example, through his Ten Commandments. Thus, 7 times 10 indicate complete perfection in power and judgment.

So, there are numerous references to 70—for example, the 70 elders Moses appointed to accompany him for a meal on Mount Sinai where the law was given (Numbers 11:16; Exodus 24:9-11). Israel spent 70 years in Babylonian captivity because it disobeyed God’s laws as predicted (Jeremiah 29:10). The people were to keep 70 years of Sabbaths during Judah’s captivity in Babylon (Jer. 25:11). And Daniel 9:24 prophesied seventy sevens or 490 years determined upon Jerusalem when the transgressions would be fulfilled, sins ended, and everlasting righteousness to prevail. We are still in the process of this  prophecy to be completed. Also, we could add the 70 elders that made up the Sanhedrin dating back to the establishment of the law (Exodus 24:1; Num. 11:16). And we are also reminded of the 70 disciples sent out by Christ in Luke 10. Jesus is also said to have given at least 70 parables in his many discourses during his earthly ministry. (BibleStudy.org)

In view of the sacred number 70, we can’t ignore the fact that Israel is celebrating three historical events—Jerusalem Day, its 70th birthday and the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem —simultaneously. In fact, we wonder, could we be turning a momentous corner that leads to the signs pointing us closer than we’ve ever been to Jesus’ return?

In regard to Israel, and more specifically, Jerusalem, Jesus said that when “these things” begin to take place, know that his coming is drawing nigh (Luke 21:28). In Luke 21 and Matthew 24, Jesus presents the Parable of the Fig Tree which is in reference to Israel’s budding forth as a nation. “These things,” therefore, are the timely events that will take place during Israel’s existence as a nation. This includes a perilous time among the nations amidst the talks of “peace and security,” (1 Thessalonians 5:3-7).

We note that in the process of arriving at a “peace deal,” the nations will all have a huge interest in peace between Israel and her neighbors. Some might find this hard to believe seeing that on the day the US embassy moved to Jerusalem, the terrorist organization, Hamas, was stirring up riots along the border of Gaza. They claimed to be protesting the move of the embassy to Jerusalem. But sources have reported that Hamas was using the occasion to create sympathy by sending women and children to the front lines of fighting. More than 60 Palestinians were reportedly killed. It is also reported that at least 50 of those who were killed by Israeli soldiers were alleged to be members of Hamas, and many were paid terrorists.

Even while this bloody scene took place, other nations were said to be interested in following the US in moving their embassies to Jerusalem, too. Just two days after the US made it’s move, Guatemala joined in the move. More countries are interested in moving their embassies to Jerusalem including Paraguay, the Czech Republic, Romania, and Honduras. It looks like the US started something that will enable Jerusalem to gain more and more attention in the world. Could it be why Jerusalem is spelled, J-e-r-U-S-A-l-e-m? One ponders, will the USA have much more to do with prophecy being fulfilled in JerUSAlem?

If other nations follow suit, this would bring more focus upon Jerusalem and the role it will play as an “international city” in the last days before Jesus comes. According to prophecy, “all nations will be gathered together in Jerusalem” before the great and final battle takes place and just when Jesus appears from heaven to save Israel and the world (Joel 3:1-3; Zechariah 14:1-8; Revelation 16:13-16). The more the nations invest in Israel with Jerusalem as the officially recognized capital, the more they will be attracted to the benefits they will receive for investing in the blessing of God and his people (Gen. 12:2-3).

Indeed, the recent events concerning the US embassy in Jerusalem and the 70th birthday of Israel are awesome and breathtaking as we eagerly anticipate the return of the Lord. We are compelled to be ready as we see the signs taking place before our very eyes. In view of these events, let us keep our eyes on the prize promised to all those who are prepared for that wonderful Day.

As we reflect upon the recent news in Israel, here is the Israeli National Anthem, Hatikvah: http://youtu.be/1DPqNHkm1bM

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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My Godly Mother

Joann Lee Brown

Joann Lee Brown
Jan. 25, 1933 –
May 8, 2018

On May 8, 2018, my mother, Joann Lee Brown, peacefully fell asleep in death at the age of 85 years, after suffering for 12 years from Alzheimer’s disease. She will always be remembered as a Godly woman with a lovingly devoted husband, loving children (Mary, Michael & wife, Diane), 8 grandchildren, and 15 great grandchildren along with two remaining brothers.

My mother was a great influence on us because she was primarily devoted to serving the Lord. Although she was not without her own faults (Who isn’t?), Mom’s desire was to give of her best to the Master in whatever she endeavored to do. She gave her life to Christ and was baptized in a nearby creek when she was in her teens along with eight other youths. While the others hesitated to be baptized first, she stepped forward and said, “I’ll go, then!”

When she was in high school, my mom was head majorette for the school band. She played sports like basketball and softball. When I was real young, I remember my mom playing fast pitch softball in a local women’s league. She was a catcher who played with all the zeal you’d expect from a take-charge leader. “Let’s get ’em out 1-2-3!” she’d shout out to her players when the opposing team came up to bat. Then she would whip that ball to the pitcher. And when she’d hit the ball, she’d keep running around the bases just daring someone to get her out. She was safe about every time. Her competitiveness showed a winning spirit that was part of her energetic nature.

My mom was a very talented singer. She had a wonderful alto voice. It blended in quite well with her mother’s soprano voice as well as her brother Dean’s baritone voice. They’re all resting in their graves now. But I can still see them singing in our church choir, and taking part in duets, trios, and quartets.

I am humbly grateful to have inherited my mom’s singing ability. In fact, the very first time I sang was with my mother at church when I was only four years old. I was too small to be seen behind the pulpit so I was lifted up and put on one of the front pews. As I stood on the seat, my mom and I sang, “Give Me Oil in My Lamp.”

For as many years as I can remember, mom led the children’s choruses at Sunday School each week. She picked out the songs from our chorus book at home and then rehearsed them in the car as my dad drove to church that morning. She would also practice any  hand motions that might be in a chorus. When it came time for the choruses during the Sunday School opening, my mom would come up to the front and invite all the kids to come forward. Facing the congregation, the kids all stood in a line singing the choruses as my mom directed and sang with them. The rest of the congregation joined in, too.

My mom’s favorite song was, “Jesus Loves Me.” I imagine it was taught to her when she was a little girl by her mother. My mom not only sang it to my sister and me but her grandchildren when they were growing up. The tune and the words always stuck in her mind. Even when Alzheimer’s was erasing my mom’s ability to remember, she could still be heard singing that song word-for-word right up to the last year of her life. Amazing!

My mom set an example of what it means to be a follower of Christ not only by what she said but how she lived her life. She, as well as my dad, believed in prayer, regular church attendance which, in those days, included Sunday night and Wednesday Evening Bible study as well as Sunday School and Worship. She also, along with my dad, took part in every church activity and meeting. She and my dad were involved as senior youth leaders when I was fairly young. She was a Sunday School teacher for many years, and had a significant influence on a lot of children in her classes. One student fondly tells of the time she literally demonstrated the story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. To impress the story upon her kids, she actually got down on all fours and had the children ride on her back as she played the part of the donkey.

My mom had a great bearing on my entering the ministry. She liked to brag to others (admittedly, to my embarrassment at times) that when I was a youngster I would stand in my bedroom and preach to the imaginary people sitting in some chairs I had lined up. Somehow she knew I was destined to be a minister someday and was glad to not only show her consent but to give me encouragement, as well.

I believe her support for me to enter ministry was because of something she disclosed to me many years ago. My mom said that she was not able to have children before I came along. But she said she earnestly prayed to the Lord just like Hannah in the Bible, who also could not bear children. She prayed that if the Lord would bless her with a child, she would dedicate him (or her) to the Lord just as that Godly woman in the Bible did. God answered Hannah’s prayers and graciously blessed her with a baby boy, Samuel, who grew up to become a prophet of the Lord. (1 Samuel 1:1-28). When God answered my mom’s prayers and I was born, I am sure this is why she was so dedicated to raise me up in the Lord and to serve him.

I could go on to tell you how she demonstrated a mother’s love to my sister and me, including her nature to protect us (Maybe a little over-protective sometimes but I can appreciate it now.), to comfort us, and to nurture us. Her concern was also to discipline us. “The rod of correction” was applied more than once on our bottom sides but always followed later by a tender hug to show she did it out of love.  And like a good mother, she sacrificed for us including her time and possessions to provide for our needs. And most of all, she taught us the truth of God’s Word and how to keep it dear to our hearts. As for my sister and I, we will certainly treasure her in our hearts.

As I thought about what it means to have a Godly Mother, I came across a poem by Bonnie Campbell Bratcher which fittingly describes my mom. It is patterned after two Bible passages which read, “Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.” “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it” (Prov. 31:28; Ps. 127:1).

A Godly Mother

A Godly Mother is a treasure –
A gift more precious than gold…
Her children rise up, and call her blessed,
And in high esteem do hold.
Her love is like that of our Savior
Who sacrificed His own life…
That we might live joyful, Godly lives
In a troubled world of strife.
Her heart is like His, holding us close
No matter how far we roam,
And her arms are always open wide…
To forgive and welcome home.
Her hands are busy molding our lives
From the moment we are born…
Planting seeds, loving, disciplining,
Even when weary and worn.
Her feet are always careful to go
Where her child can follow there…
How could we thank our Mother enough
For her tender loving care?
A Godly Mother fervently prays
For that child she loves so much,
For she knows the fruit of her vineyard…
Depends on the Master’s touch.

Although I grieve the loss of Mom, I am truly comforted with the comfort she instilled upon her children through her unswerving faith in the promises of God’s Word— namely, her anticipation of the Lord’s glorious return and the resurrection of all those who died looking for that Great Day to come. Many times she shared her hope in the coming of the Lord and the time when Jesus will come to awaken the dead who are asleep in Christ and give them immortality to reign with him in his Kingdom on earth. In her own Bible which I have before me, she has underlined these words from First Thessalonians 4:16 and 17, “For the Lord himself shall descended from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” She shared this comforting promise with us as the next verse says, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words,” (V. 18).

Here is one of the many songs my mom and I sang together at church, “(I am So Glad) Jesus Loves Even Me,” brought to you by the Cedarmont Kids: http://youtu.be/cr1po3RmfDs

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Ten Important Questions Jesus Answered

Jesus answers questions

One of the signs of a good answer is being able to provide a quick and accurate response to a difficult question. Here’s an illustration I came across:

A trial lawyer was famous for his courtroom techniques and legal arguments. His opponents feared him; his clients loved him. He was always sure to win the case. He began writing in law journals concerning how these techniques could be acquired. He used a standardized lecture to be used for speaking engagements.

He traveled with his secretary, a bright young man who was proud to be associated with this renowned lawyer. After several months of listening to the same lecture, the bold secretary announced to the lawyer that he had heard the same speech so many times that he could give that speech himself. This so intrigued the lawyer that the switch was arranged.

It was agreed that the next time they were out of town, and no one would recognize them, they would exchange duties. The lawyer stood in the back of the room while the secretary addressed a room of expectant lawyers.

The secretary waxed eloquent, demonstrating techniques and addressing intricate details with precision. At the end of his speech the secretary was given a standing ovation. It was truly a splendid speech! The moderator indicated that there were still a few minutes left on the program and asked the appreciative audience if they had any questions for their honored guest.

One lawyer ventured to ask a question concerning the legal precedents for one of the techniques referred to early in the speech. The lawyer in the back of the room felt his heart sink. He could easily field the question, but there was no way to let his secretary know the answer. They were about to be exposed! The secretary began to laugh. With just a tinge of mockery he responded, “Why, that is such a simple and well-known precedent of which all of you should know the answer! Even the common layperson should know the answer to that question. In fact, to demonstrate my premise, I am going to let my secretary give you your answer.” (selected)

Answering tough questions takes skill. Jesus had the skill to respond to questions that would ordinarily be impossible to answer for anyone else. But Jesus was not just like anyone else. He had the divine skill to know what was in the minds and hearts of others (John 2:23-25). So, when the scribes and Pharisees and other Jewish leaders asked tricky questions, Jesus could answer them in ways that ended their argument and made them look foolish (Luke 5:21-26; Matt. 9:3-8).

Jesus also knew when inquiring minds were sincere and really wanted to know the true answers to their questions. Some people were able to accept his answers and others were left perplexed and unconvinced of his teachings. There are important lessons we can learn as we examine his answers to the many questions posed to him while he was in his ministry.

Here are at least 10 questions and their follow-ups that will help us understand the important answers we need to know and apply:

1. (chief priests and elders) By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority? (Matt. 21:23; also, Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:1-8)

Sometimes the best answer is a question especially when confronted by those contesting our views. Jewish leaders challenged Jesus’ authority. But he silenced his opposition by answering a question with a question. Since they couldn’t answer his question, he didn’t answer theirs. He put them on the spot and, in effect, turned the tables on them, making them look foolish:  And answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” He also said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things,” (Matt. 21:27).

This scene is one example of the many questions asked by Jewish leaders to trick him into saying something that would give them cause to accuse him of breaking a law so they could kill him. Other examples: Matt. 16:1; 19:3; 22:15; Mark 8:11; 10:2; 12:13; Luke 11:53-54; 20:20-26; John 8:6. As usual, the leaders were left speechless for Jesus spoke the truth and they refused to listen. In Matthew 23:1-12, Jesus warns his followers not to be like these leaders, labelling them “hypocrites,” for “they do not practice what they preach.” They were too proud to humble themselves and accept the teachings of Jesus the true Messiah. We, too, are called upon to humble ourselves to the truth concerning Jesus, and his teachings (Luke 14:11; James 4:6).

2. (the rich young ruler) Good Teacher , what shall I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 18:18; also, Matt. 19:16; Mark 10:17)

The rich young ruler thought he could earn his way to salvation by doing something which he could conveniently afford. We don’t doubt his sincerity. But Jesus made it clear that it’s not what a person has or does but how a person thinks and responds. A true follower of Jesus is one who not only obeys the scriptures, but is sincerely willing to give up everything for the sake of entering his kingdom. Because he was rich, the young ruler went away sad and disappointed to hear the Lord’s instruction. He could not accept the fact that inheriting eternal life requires giving up even the most important things in order to pursue the eternal riches in the age to come. We do not want to have the same reaction as this wealthy young man. Those who desire to inherit eternal life in God’s kingdom are willing to give their all for Jesus since he gave his all for us.

3. (the lawyer) Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 10:25; Teacher, which is the great commandment of the Law? (Matt. 22:35-36 Mark 12:28)

This is like the question posed by the rich young ruler but it was asked by a lawyer, an “expert” in the Mosaic law. He was among the Pharisees, one of the Jewish sects that continually opposed Jesus (Matt. 22:34-35). Unlike the rich young ruler, the lawyer was not really being sincere for it was asked with the intention of putting Jesus to the test, (Luke 10:25). The question was more about the legalistic side of the law than a willingness to live according to the spiritual principles of the law. First, the lawyer challenged Jesus by asking him, Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? (Matt. 22:36). This leads to another question asked by the lawyer….

4. (the lawyer) And who is my neighbor? (Luke 10:29)

When Jesus quoted the two greatest commandments that summarized the law, including loving God first, and second, loving your neighbor as yourself, the lawyer then asked this question. Jesus proceeded to tell the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) who showed compassion and benevolence for someone in need—the sign of true neighbor. The “expert” in the law was, in all probability, disappointed to hear Jesus’ response because in the parable he reveals the indifference of religious men like the lawyer. Furthermore, the Samaritans who were despised by the Jews, could hardly be considered by them as persons who showed the true qualities of a good neighbor. But Jesus wanted the lawyer, as well as the others who opposed him, to know what it truly means to love your neighbor as yourself.

5. (the disciples) Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven? (Matt. 18:1)

The disciples were struggling to understand their position in the kingdom of God. At the time, they could only perceive the kingdom in terms of political power and rank. Their personal ambition caused strife amongst themselves. Jesus set them straight when he set a child before them and said that the only way to be greatest in his kingdom is to humble themselves like that child. Once again, we learn the importance of humility rather than pride for entering God’s kingdom.

6. (Martha) Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me. (Luke 10:40)

This is all about priorities. Yes, it’s important to provide for guests and prepare a nice meal for them, especially those we honor and care for as dear friends. We can imagine that Martha was one of those who went all out when someone came to visit: The house had to be spotless, everything picked up and put away, and the meal had to be perfect. Martha had been working hard to get dinner ready when Jesus arrived. But her sister, Mary, didn’t seem too concerned about helping. Mary was more interested in listening to the Lord and what he had to say than working in the kitchen and preparing the meal. So, Martha questioned if Jesus cared that she was left all alone to do the serving. Why didn’t he instruct Mary to help her? Jesus responded, Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her, (vss. 41-42). Jesus showed Martha that she shouldn’t be worried about the temporal things. More time needed to be spent absorbing the teachings of Christ that give greater blessings which can’t be taken away. Our real priority is to be more like Mary who hungered for the spiritual things which lead to the eternal reward to come.

7. (the Samaritan woman at the well) How is it that you, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman? (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) (John 4:9) You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do you get that living water? (John 4:11)

As was pointed out previously, the Jews were prejudiced against the Samaritans. They had long standing antagonism for over 600 years, ever since the Assyrians invaded Israel (see https://truthbook.com/jesus/illustrated-stories/why-the-jews-hated-the-samaritans) But Jesus demonstrated that the Good News was for all, including the Samaritans. He asked the Samaritan woman for a drink of water but he was about to offer her the living water that springs up to eternal life (John 4:13-14). After a long discussion concerning her marital circumstances and the subject of worship, the woman realized the Jesus was not only a prophet, but that he is the promised Messiah (vss. 15-30). She could not be silent about her conversion. She shared the Good News of Christ all throughout her community. What a lesson for us! We long to drink the Living Water that Jesus gives, proclaiming the Good News to others who also thirst for him.

8. (Pilate) Are you the king of the Jews? (John 18:33) I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered you up to me; what have you done? (John 18:35) So, you are a king? (John 18:37) What is truth? (John 18:38)

Pontius Pilate, Roman governor of Judea, was curious about the accused man standing before him. He’d heard much in regard to what others alleged about him. Pilate asked him point blank whether he was the king of the Jews. Jesus, being the teacher that he was, answered his question with a question: Are you saying this on your own initiative or did others tell you about me?” (v. 34). Was Pilate’s inquiry out of hearsay and did he truly want to know if Jesus was king of the Jews? Pilate avoided Jesus’ question and put in a disclaimer that he is not a Jew. But the Jewish leaders who delivered Jesus to him is why he is standing before Pilate. So Pilate wants to know what Jesus has done to deserve their accusations. Jesus reveals that his kingdom was not of this present age or else his followers would rise up and fight. Rather, his kingdom was coming at a future realm of time. This led Pilate to ask if Jesus was therefore a king and Jesus confirmed, You say correctly that I am a king…. Jesus then points out that his purpose in life is to witness this truth and to bring others to accept it, as well. Pilate then asks the all-important question, “What IS truth?” Here, the truth was standing right before him but Pilate just wouldn’t bring himself to believe it. This is a question we must all settle in our minds. Jesus said he is the truth, the only way to the Father and life everlasting in his kingdom (John 14:6). Unlike Pilate, we follow him as our Savior and Lord.

9. (the disciples) Lord, is it at this time you are restoring the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6)

The disciples had already witnessed the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord. Forty days after he rose from the dead, Jesus appeared to the disciples and reinforced the teachings concerning the kingdom of God in their hearts and minds. But they still couldn’t understand the timing of everything and when Jesus was going to set up his kingdom. They wondered if the time had finally come for Jesus to restore Israel as a powerful nation according to the ancient prophets (Isaiah 60-61; 65; Jeremiah 30-31; Ezekiel 36-39; Amos 9:11-15). Jesus did not answer the question directly for he said it’s not for them to know. Rather, God has the time planned under his own authority. What they really needed to be concerned with was what God wanted them to do in the meantime: Receive God’s Power and be his witnesses starting in Jerusalem, then throughout the regions, and eventually to all parts of the world. This is our responsibility, as well. (Acts 1:8; Matt. 28:16-20). Right after this, Jesus ascended to heaven with the promise that he will one day return in power and glory (Acts 1:11). We continue the mission of being his witnesses as we share the Good News of Christ and his coming kingdom. Israel will be exalted among the nations on that day and the church will be co-rulers with Christ when he rules from Jerusalem.

10. (the disciples) Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled? (Mark 13:4; also, Matt. 24:3; Luke 21:7)

The disciples were longing for the day when Jesus would fulfill the promises concerning the kingdom of God. They were in the dark, however, as to what was going to take place before that time comes. Jesus probably startled them when he predicted that the temple buildings that Herod was constructing was going to be destroyed. They wanted to know three things from Jesus: (1) when will these things occur, (2) what will be the sign that Christ is coming, and (3) the end of the present age (Matt. 24:1-3). Matthew 24 presents a detailed list of the signs presented by Jesus that answers these questions. As we study the conditions prior to the second coming of Christ, we see that much has already taken place pointing to the nearness of Jesus’ return. Jesus concludes his discourse by warning us to be ready for his coming by keeping alert, “for you do not know which day your Lord is coming,” (Matt. 24:42). Each day that goes by gets us closer to that glorious day. May we get our lives in order and be prepared by serving him vigilantly every day!

Here is Marshall Hall singing, “Jesus Is the Answer”: https://youtu.be/u-UpOjZAsuE

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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10 Important Questions Jesus Asked

questions_jesus_asked

There are many questions asked in the Bible but exactly how many is hard to tell. Due to the fact that both the Hebrew in the Old Testament and Koine Greek in the New Testament do not use punctuation, we cannot count question marks to know for sure. But, we can look at the context and get a rough idea. It’s estimated there are more than 3,000 questions recorded in the scriptures.

Of those thousands of questions, Jesus is said to have asked more than 130 questions in the course of his three-and-a half year ministry. Before I share some of them, keep in mind that every question the Lord asked is a good one. In other words, there is never a wrong question. All questions he asks are meant to get a response or, at least, for leading a person to examine one’s own thoughts, motives, and actions.

Since Jesus ministered in the power and wisdom of his heavenly Father, we do not need to worry about stupid questions like the kind that people often ask. One humorous illustration I found is a golfer searching for his golf ball that lands in the rough and someone asks, “Did you lose the ball somewhere?” or, “Did you find it yet?” What do you expect the golfer to say, “No, I’m just trying to find fire ants.” Or, “No, I’m looking for pretty wild flowers to decorate my golf bag.” Or, you’re trying to dig your car out of a deep snowbank and someone asks, “Are you stuck?” You feel like answering, “No, my car died, and I want to give it a decent burial!” Or, you might get a flat tire on a busy road at night when it’s pouring down rain and you have to get out to change it. Here you are, drenched and dirty when someone stops and asks, “Do you have a flat tire?” You are tempted to reply, “Oh, no, of course not! I always rotate my tires at night on a busy road in the rain!”

Stupid questions get stupid answers, naturally. But in asking smart questions, one is able to evoke smart thinking, hopefully. Jesus asked the smart questions that not only got his listeners thinking at the time, but they still get us to think, as well.

Of the many questions which Jesus asked, I have selected 10, plus some of his follow-up questions and cross references, that make any of us stop and think about important matters in our lives:

1. Who do people say the Son of Man is? (Matt 16:13) Who do you say the Son of Man is? (Matt 16:15) By this time in Jesus’ ministry, many were asking questions about Jesus true identity. There were different theories. Jesus wanted to get his disciples to search their own thoughts. First, he questioned them to consider what others were saying. Then, he pointed the question directly at them. Peter, who was usually the first to speak up, hit the nail on the head when he said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” (v. 16). Jesus commended him for his answer. This is our answer in regard to Jesus’ true identity, too. In the midst of many false theories and misunderstandings concerning the nature and mission of Jesus Christ, we confess the truth that Peter stated.

2. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or, how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” and behold, the log is in your own eye? (Matt 7:3-4) Jesus wants us to examine our own lives before we start judging or condemning others. We are given the challenge to be consistent in our standard of living by treating others with the same standard God expects of us. If we can’t adhere to these standards ourselves, we should not condemn others, too.

3. Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robber’s hands? (Luke 10:36) When asked, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) Jesus proceeded to tell the Parable of the Good Samaritan. He was exposing the hypocrisy of the religious leaders who were self-righteous and arrogant. They exalted themselves at the expense of those they judged unfit for God’s work, including the Samaritans. Jesus turned it around and showed how a truly good neighbor is one, like the Good Samaritan, who helps the downtrodden and comes to their aid.

4. What king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and take counsel whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? (Luke 14:31; also, Matt. 10:24-42; John 12:23-25) The main point in this question is about counting the cost of one’s commitment to Christ and his work. When you give your life to Christ, you must be prepared to make sacrifices at whatever the cost. The stronger we are spiritually, the stronger we will be to withstand the tests of our faith and prove how serious we are as true followers of Christ.

5. A lamp is not brought to be put under a peck-measure, is it, or under a bed? Is it not brought to be put on a lampstand? (Mark 4:21; also, Matt. 5:15; 10:26; Luke 8:17; 12:2; Jeremiah 16:17) We are not to hide our faith by trying to blend in with the ways of the world or not sharing it openly with others. Instead, we let our faith shine by doing what he says and letting others know where we stand in Christ. If we don’t shine as examples of Christ, we will not be fit to receive the reward of life promised to those who are truly serving him.

6. Salt is good, but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another. (Mark 9:50; also Mt 5:13; Lk 14:34, 35) Similar to the light analogy, believers are to be the salt of the earth. As salt provides healing, cleansing, and preservation, so the church spiritually provides these things by applying God’s Word in the community where it serves. As we look about our communities today, we can readily see that where the church has allowed its saltiness to become flat, there is much more disarray, disorder, and disaster for the people living there.

7. Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter his glory? (Luke 24:26; also, Luke 24:44-49; Heb 2:10; 1 Pet. 1:11) Jesus was speaking to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection. It was important for them to understand what the scriptures said concerning his mission and purpose to suffer and die and be resurrected. Jesus reminds them of this fulfillment by going back to the writings of the prophets. It’s also important for us to understand and believe that Jesus is truly the One who fulfills God’s Word. Our acceptance of Jesus not only leads to our repentance and forgiveness, but makes us his witnesses for sharing the Good News with others who do not know him (Luke 24:44-49).

8. For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or, what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matt 16:26) The “soul” that Jesus is discussing here is primarily life, and more specifically, the “aionian” life, or age-lasting life in God’s coming Kingdom. You can have all the material treasures of this life, and come out worthless for the never-ending life in the age to come. Similarly, Jesus asked this question: If therefore you are not trustworthy with worldly wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? (Luke 16:11; also, Matt. 6:19-21) Jesus made it clear that we cannot serve the material things of this life while serving God at the same time. If we’re going to be loyal to God, we will have our priorities set in their proper places. Our aim is to seek God’s kingdom first, and he will take care of our needs (Matt. 6:33).

9. Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I say? (Luke 6:46; also Matt. 7:22.) Jesus is not only telling them to make sure their actions prove what they say, but that they should be ready in the process for the day they stand before the Lord. Both references in Luke and Matthew reflect upon the actions of those who profess to be religious on one hand, but disobedient on the other. According to Jesus, when Judgment Day comes, many “religious” people will sadly be rejected to enter the Kingdom because they didn’t live up to the truth to which they were called.

10. When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8) This is a most serious question in view of how solid we truly are in our faith. As Jesus predicts, God will certainly send justice for his people. For millenniums, innocent persons have suffered at the hands of wicked, ungodly persons. But a day will come when God will right all wrongs through his Son, Jesus Christ (Rev. 20:11-15). The question we must all ask ourselves is, Will I be found faithful to Christ when he returns to bring justice to the world? (2 Cor. 5:10).

Of course, we can find even more questions Jesus asked. But as we think about these ten-plus questions, we note the importance of each one since they lead us to seek answers for serving the Lord better and more productively each day. In turn, we are blessed by applying the answers Jesus wants us to discover through the Good News of his Word.

Here’s Bonnie Deuschle and Celebration Choir singing, “The Christ (Official Video)”:
http://youtu.be/RypQsDN88yc

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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