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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Making Sense Through Our Senses

Seeing_eye

One of the elementary lessons we learn in science class is that humans have five basic senses: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touch. Believers attribute these senses as gifts from the one true God, our Creator. For example, “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the LORD has made both of them,” (Proverbs 20:12, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

God has created each of our body parts for the purpose of glorifying him: “…therefore, glorify God in your body,” (1 Corinthians 6:20). Logically, this is why we have eyes, ears, a nose, a tongue,  fingers and hands. When he wrote to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul compared members of the church body to members of the human body saying,

“I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it. (1 Cor. 12:14-18, The Message, MSG).

Indeed, our senses demonstrate how we are unique in the scheme of God’s handiwork or workmanship. God has created us with these abilities so that we can use them to be his witnesses and do good works for him through Christ. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them,” (NASB).

If you study the many Bible passages that specifically point to the five senses, you can see how they make a lot of sense when it comes to using them for serving the LORD. To show how this applies, I have compiled the following scriptures for your own study with fill-in-the-blanks just to make it more intriguing. Most of the passages are from the NASB, but you might like to compare them to the translation you prefer.

SEEING

1 Corinthians 13:2 For now we see in a __________ dimly
Psalm 119:18 ________ my eyes that I may behold wonderful things from Thy ________
Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in ___________ for they shall see God
John 1:14 We have seen his __________
Matthew 6:33 Seek first the ____________ of God

HEARING

John 5:24 He who hears my Word…has _________ _________
Romans 10:17 So _________ comes by hearing and hearing by the _________ of Christ
Matthew 11:15 ________ to hear (also, 13:9; Mark 4:9; Luke 8:8)
Revelation 2:7 Hear what the __________ says (also, 3:6)

SMELLING

Ephesians 5:2 Christ…gave himself…an _________and _________ as a fragrant aroma to God
Ezekiel 20:41 As a soothing aroma I will ___________ you
Philippians 4:18 …what you have __________, a fragrant aroma…
Ecclesiastes 10:1 Dead _________ make a perfumer’s oil stink, so a little __________ is weighter than __________ and __________
2 Corinthians 2:15 _________ are the fragrance of Christ to God; 16 to the one a (or, an) _________ from death to death and to the other a (or, an) __________ from life to life

TASTING

Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that the Lord is ____________
Psalm 119:103 Sweet are thy __________ to my taste (also, 19:10)
Hebrews 6:5 Tasted the good _________ of ________ and the __________ of the age to come
1 Peter 2:3 Tasted the ____________ of the LORD

TOUCH

Mark 10:13 And they were bringing __________ to him so that he might touch them           (blessing)
2 Corinthians 6:17 Touch no _________ thing (also, Isaiah 52:11)
Matthew 9:20-22 If I only touch his ___________
Isaiah 41:13 I am the LORD you God who upholds [takes hold of] your ________ _________ (also, Isa. 42:6)
Deuteronomy 33:27 Underneath are his __________ __________

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s a catchy tune for kids from 1 to 101… http://youtu.be/vXXiyIGqliE

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‘Happy Trails to You’

Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Trigger

When I was a kid growing up in the 50’s and 60’s one of my favorite programs was The Roy Rogers Show. This action-packed TV Western series, popular among kids, was set in the traditional style of cowboy and cowgirl attire, six-shooters, and galloping horses.

The show featured the owner of the Double RR Ranch, Roy Rogers (“the King of the Cowboys”) and his Golden Palomino, Trigger (“Smartest Horse in the Movies”), Roy’s wife, Dale Evans (“the Queen of the West”), and her horse, Buttermilk, along with their German Shepherd, Bullet (the “Wonder Dog”) as well as their comedic sidekick, Pat Brady, and his jeep, Nellybelle, that sometimes seemed to have a mind of her own.

At the close of each episode while the credits were rolling, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans rode away on their horses singing, “Happy Trails to You,” written by Dale, herself…

Happy trails to you, until we meet again,
Happy trails to you, keep smilin’ until then,
Happy trails to you, ’til we meet again.

As I look back on it, what made the show most meaningful is that the characters were always on the side of good. They were heroes who rescued victims from villains and brought justice to the west. There was always a moral lesson to be learned in each show. And sometimes they would even give pointers on conservation and gun safety.

The lessons depicted in the show were emphasized outside the show, in the real world, as well. In fact, Roy Rogers reportedly had a group of young fans known as the “Roy Rogers Rider’s Club.” To be a member in good standing, you had to follow 10 rules:

1.    Be neat and clean.

2.    Be courteous and polite.

3.    Always obey your parents.

4.    Protect the weak and helpless.

5.    Be brave but never take chances.

6.    Study hard and learn all you can.

7.    Be kind to animals and care for them.

8.    Eat all your food and never waste any.

9.    Love God and go to Sunday School regularly.

10.  Always respect our flag and country.

I believe these are the kind of rules that today’s kids would do well to follow, inspite of those who would jeeringly say they are “too old fashioned.” Could such rules be revived? But where are the heroes inspiring kids to follow them? They seem to be few and far between. Otherwise, perhaps kids would not be so unhappy and troubled as so many are today.

In her article, “The Truth About Troubled Teens,” (verywellmind.com, 10/6/2018), Psychotherapist Amy Morin reported,

In the next 24 Hours in the United States…

… 1,439 teens will attempt suicide.

… 2,795 teenage girls will become pregnant.

… 15,006 teens will use drugs for the first time.

… 3,506 teens will run away.

… 2 teens will be murdered.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. According the report, there many more alarming statistics pointing to problems of youth and crime, teen pregnancy, suicide and mental health. This is hardly a picture of satisfaction and innocence among our youth.

We need good guys of today to show the youth of today that the rules of yesterday will lead them to happier trails than the ones their traveling on now. Kids need to understand that those rules are not silly or boring or out-of-touch. Rather, they are most valuable for instilling stability, security, and safety in their lives.

The Bible calls on us to instill wisdom into our young people. “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it,” (Proverbs 22:6, New International Version, NIV). And this is done by teaching them and showing them how much happier they’ll be if they follow the rules God sets forth in his Word (Deuteronomy 11:18-25). In this way, we can become their heroes as much as Roy and Dale and the cast of other good guys when we were young.

We all want to see that we show our kids the right way to live and be happy in preparation for the Kingdom of God. For that is the ultimate goal of every follower of Christ, both young and old. And what could make us more happy than entering his Kingdom when Jesus returns!

So, happy trails to you, ’til we meet in the Kingdom of God!

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here are Roy Rogers and Dale Evans singing their classic song: https://youtu.be/eEqUyNaSdvg

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Turning the Other Beak

Bird on feeder

My wife and I have a blue bird feeder shaped like a house hanging just outside our living room window. In fact, I can see it very well from my recliner as I’m seated right next to the window. All I have to do it lean over in the front of my chair, turn to my right, and look right at those birds through the glass just a couple of feet away.

We enjoy watching different kinds of birds—from finches to sparrows to cardinals with their many colors, sizes, and sounds—landing on the feeder looking for something to eat. With beaks wide open, snatching up a tiny seed no bigger than a BB, rolling the seed around in their beaks, peeling off the outer shell, then gulping the remainder down, and all within the blink of an eye, is like poetry in motion.

It doesn’t seem to take a whole lot of seed to satisfy their hunger before they speedily fly off somewhere else. It reminds me of what people say about someone who doesn’t put much food on their plate: “She (or he) eats like a bird.”

One day, as we were sitting in our living room, my wife and I heard some rather loud squawking outside the window. I said to her, “What is going on out there?” “I don’t know,” she replied, “but I’ve heard that noise before.”

We both got up to take a close look. And we were surprised to see one small bird actually bullying another slightly bigger bird. No kidding. The smaller bird was just raising fury as if scolding the other bird who was merely minding his own business, trying to eat peacefully. But that pesky bird would not leave the other one alone. He’d even use his beak  as a weapon to peck at the other bird’s beak, as though trying to provoke a fight. I said to my wife, “What a bully!”

The victimized bird tried to get away from the bully bird by walking around the edge of the feeder to the other side. But the bully bird kept on stalking him, squawking louder than ever. A time or two, the victimized bird pecked back at the other bird just to show he wouldn’t be bossed around. But all in all, he seemed to turn the other beak and take the whole thing in stride.

In the meantime, however, that bully bird just would not quit even when the other bird flew away. He kept on following that victimized bird from tree to tree, hounding him where ever he flew.

A little bit later, they both returned to the feeder. And would you believe that bully bird was still at it? But in spite of the trouble that bully was causing, we admired that other bird for his patience and endurance. It didn’t keep that poor bird from eating the seed he could get to.

Now, we can’t figure out why that bully bird was taking it out on the other one. Did it have to do with protecting his territory as animals are instinctively prone to do? Assuming they were male birds, did it have to do with fighting over a female bird?

Interestingly, the bird being bullied was more colorful having a reddish color in his head and feathers. The bully bird, on the other hand, was brown and plainer looking. Moreover, the bully bird was a tad smaller than the one he was picking on. So, was he trying to compensate for his color and size, and make himself feel better by berating and bossing the other one around?

I ask that last question because, if you didn’t know any better, you’d almost think that the bully bird was jealous or prejudiced toward the other bird. I doubt, however, this was really the case. Animals act out of instinct not emotion like humans. But it does give us an intriguing analogy from which to draw.

There may have been times when you’ve felt like that bullied bird. Or, perhaps you’ve seen someone else treated that way. It’s a pitiful situation, isn’t it? And, if I may say, it usually goes afoul like fowls that appear to fuss and feud all the time. Feathers tend to fly when one person bullies the other person around, and the victim who has more than he or she can take, finally tries to strike back. Here’s where Christians must step back and consider what Jesus would do under those circumstances.

Jesus, who was himself bullied more than one time by self-righteous, arrogant men, said something astounding: “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also,” (Matthew 5:38-39, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

Like the bird who turned his other beak, Jesus turned the other cheek when he suffered, bled, and died for our sins. For when it comes to bullies, turning the other cheek is being able to keep on doing what’s right in spite of the wrong others do to you, trying to keep you from your good work. Of course, like that bird that was bullied, you might be continuously hounded and picked on. Jesus said it would happen to anyone who sincerely followed him (John 15:18-27). But, also like that bird, you can endure with patience taking it with one seed at a time.

Jesus made it clear that our seed is the Word (Mark 4:14; Luke 8:18). And when we spiritually feed upon it through love, we find strength to overcome the way those bullies treat us (Matthew. 5:40-48). For our reward is knowing that in the end, there’s something far better coming that no bully can ever take away (Matthew 5:10-12).

And then there was another occasion. Again, we heard two birds making some noise. I looked and saw one of the birds pecking at the other bird’s beak. At first I thought, “Here we go again! Another bully bird.” But upon closer examination, I realized this time there was no bullying. Instead, one bird was actually feeding the seeds to the other bird. The one bird would pick up a seed with his beak, and very quickly poke it into the opened beak of the other one waiting to be fed. I am told this was an instinct for male birds when providing food for their female birds.

Just think of it: No squawking. No fighting. No bullying. Just teamwork, cooperation, and mutual contentment between those two birds. You could say this fine feathered couple flew away, happy as larks. Could we learn a lesson from this scene? You bet!

We have much to gain when each one looks out for the other and goes about doing good rather than picking at each other. God wants his people to work together through Christ (Ephesians 4:13). He gives each person a role to play without our having to worry about the blessings he sends.

Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Matthew 6:26). Of much more value are we than even the birds for God has promised his Kingdom (Matthew 6:33). And if we’re seriously making his Kingdom and righteousness our priority in life, then we can expect many wonderful results as we bravely endure the bullies of our day.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s a country melody by Breakin’ Ground titled, “He Turned the Other Cheek,” http://youtu.be/il6gMDelDQw

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‘Bring Your Bible to School Day’

Bring Your Bible logo

This coming Thursday, October 3, is designated as “Bring Your Bible to School Day.” It is sponsored by Focus on the Family, a Christian ministry helping families to thrive in their cultures.

The annual nationwide event led by students “will celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends,” according to Focus on the Family. Students are encouraged to use that day to express their “beliefs in the truth of God’s Word” and “in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.”

Focus on the Family has gone all out to promote the day—broadcast media (TV, radio) print media (posters, conversation cards, invitation flyers) and, of course, social media (Facebook, Instagram, You Tube, Twitter). In the process, students are being signed up to participate through Churches, Christian bookstores, Christian clubs and youth groups.

Participants will be involved in special activities— or, “fun things”—during the event. They are encouraged to wear stickers and T-shirts featuring the logo, “Bring It, Share It , Live It” with a Bible verse printed on them. They will distribute “conversation cards” (but not during class time), host a “Bible-read-aloud” (during lunch or other free time), take part in “pass-the-verse-forward” contest (similar to “pay-it-forward”), and a number of other ways to share God’s Word with others, including personal testimonies to other students. In addition, participating students are encouraged to continue in their aim to share God’s Word all throughout the year.

While we commend Focus on the Family for sponsoring the event, you probably wouldn’t be too surprised to learn there are some who are against it. Just recently NFL quarterback, Drew Brees, drew a lot of heat from left-leaning activists opposing his promotion of the event. Brees was criticized for supporting the activity of an organization opponents consider as a “hate” group for advocating traditional Biblical views on marriage and family. 

This is most puzzling to Christians who see “Bring Your Bible to School Day” as a time to simply shine the light of God’s Word (Matthew 5:16) and his love (John 3:16) for everyone. In fact, in the 22-second video, Brees quotes 2 Corinthians 5:7 (“For we walk by faith, not by sight.”) and says to kids, “I want to encourage you to live out your faith on ‘Bring Your Bible to School Day ‘ and share God’s love with friends. You’re not alone.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if there will be protests going on the day it is held. I pray it doesn’t happen. But, if it does, let’s hope it doesn’t get out of control for everyone’s safety.

I might add that students taking part in the activities are instructed to be respectful toward others. Focus on the Family says that students are expected to share the truth of God’s Word in “a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.”

Nonetheless, Focus on the Family is prepared should any opponents of the event attempt to prevent students from their activities presumably under legal restrictions. Students are informed of their First Amendment right of freedom of speech and religion. In addition, Focus on the Family is backed by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), “a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith.”

In fact, Focus on the Family states in bold type, “ADF offers pro bono legal assistance as deemed appropriate for Bring Your Bible to School Day students who encounter unconstitutional roadblocks to their free speech rights.”

As I think about “Bring Your Bible to School Day,” I can’t help but reflect upon my own days when I was in school—in the 60’s and 70’s. I know I’m dating myself. But even though I grew up during a time of protests and social upheaval (Hippie mania! “Make love, not war!” “Peace, man!”), I felt free to take my Bible to school anytime I wanted. And I did, regularly!

Sure, friends would tease me sometimes when they saw me reading my Bible during Study Hall period. Or, they might make some kind of wise crack when I expressed disapproval of their swearing or refused to listen to their dirty jokes. And if I shared my view of a scripture they questioned, then I would usually hear something like, “That’s just YOUR opinion!”

But there was never the kind of criticism or threats I might get today just for bringing my Bible to school, let alone sharing my views with others. There wasn’t all this concern  about needing legal assistance like there is nowadays. I’m thankful I didn’t have to worry about getting into trouble by school authorities just because I had my Bible with me and talked to others about it. I had the freedom to share my faith without activists labeling me as part of a “hate group.”

In those days I was in school, I found that most students did sincerely show respect for someone like me who brought his Bible to school. In fact, now and then I did spot someone else with his or her Bible, too, and that was encouraging. But, in the long run, I’m glad I did bring my Bible to school for it gave me an opportunity to share the Good News of Christ and the Kingdom. Not only that, it provided an excellent way to sharpen my knowledge in the Lord’s Word and serve him out of love for him and for my fellow students.

I have to say that I would be no different today if I was a student. Yes, maybe I’d get into trouble for bringing my Bible to school, sharing God’s Word, and giving my personal testimony of faith to fellow students. But it wouldn’t matter. I’d still do it. NOT out of defiance. NOT out of spite. Not even out of hate. On the contrary. It would be out of humility, obedience, and love for God and his truth, and with a sincere desire to show his love to others according to his Word.

What was it that the Apostle Peter said about being ready to give any answer? Ah, yes…

”But in your hearts revere Christ as LORD. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15, New International Version).

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s Lester Lewis who won the Jamaican Gospel Festival in 1988 for singing this song, “Everytime I read My Bible,” https://youtu.be/AwdhimkaTgQ

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