The Epitome of Pity

resurrection brings hope

The Apostle Paul commented, “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied,” (1 Corinthians 15:19, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

He makes this statement in the context of proving the resurrection of Jesus Christ and what it means to believers. In fact, First Corinthians, chapter 15, is called, “The Resurrection Chapter” which can be outlined into these key points:

I.     Verification of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection by many eye witnesses who were actually there at the time (vss. 1-11);

II.    The significance of believing in Jesus’ resurrection (vss. 12-19);

III.   How the certainty of his resurrection plays into the future of God’s kingdom (vss. 20-28);

IV.   Further into reasoning with anyone who might doubt the reality of Jesus’ resurrection (vss. 29-49);

V.    Revealing the “mystery” of the future resurrection of all believers (vss. 50-54);

VI.   Encouraging believers to remain steadfast in their work for the Lord (vss. 55-58).

In verse 19, Paul sums up the significance of Jesus’ resurrection in view of the hope we have in regard to the future resurrection of all believers when Jesus returns. The point is…

We are to be most pitied if we do not have such hope of the future. In other words, if all we have is hope in this life without believing there is something better to come, such as the resurrection to immortality in the coming Kingdom, then pity and misery on us! There’s not much reason to be a Christian if Jesus was not resurrected and the resurrection of the dead is not going to take place! This would, indeed, make all professing believers down through past ages, to the present, and beyond, the epitome of pity.

Death without hope is like going down a dead-end street and pity those who are travelling on it. Sadly, there are persons who do not have hope beyond this life. I found an illustration of this printed in PreachingToday.com which cites Philip Yancey from his book, “Where Is God When It Hurts?”

Yancey describes a unique funeral custom conducted by African Muslims. Close family and friends circle the casket and quietly gaze at the corpse. No singing. No flowers. No tears.

A peppermint candy is passed to everyone. At a signal, each one puts the candy in his or her mouth. When the candy is gone, each participant is reminded that life for this person is over. They believe life simply dissolves. No eternal life. No hope.

Upon reading this, we can only feel pity for persons who think life simply dissolves like peppermint candy and that’s the end. Persons who deny that God raised Jesus from death to immortality deprive themselves of the hope that makes this life abundant and meaningful. For, in contrast to those who do not follow Christ, the believer’s hope is deep and rich and genuine. Or, as someone has said, “Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.”

That’s why Jesus’ second coming is called, “the blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). It’s a blessing because it gives us a reason to live for the “better things to come,” (Hebrews 6:9). Unlike those who deny that Christ (who himself was raised to life) will come again to raise all the dead to life (Daniel 12:2; Revelation 20:1-6; 11-15), our hope keeps us secured and strong even when there are difficulties and sorrows in this present life…

“…in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil…” (Heb. 6:18-19).

The Apostle Peter calls our hope in Christ, “…a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,” (1 Peter. 1:3-4). The hope of our inheritance is reserved in heaven now through Christ. But it won’t be received until he comes back to raise believers from the dead to give it to them (a.k.a., “the crown of life,” James 1:12; “the crown of righteousness,” 2 Timothy 4:8; also, cp., 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Cor. 9:24-25).   While we as believers go through the various trials and tribulations of this present mortal life, we look for an inheritance that will never fade away resulting in “praise, and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ,”—that is, when he comes to reward all of his faithful followers (Matthew 25:14-31; Heb. 11:39-40).

Without this hope in Christ, what do we REALLY have to live for? This is the underlying question of our faith. And it comes to mind, especially as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For what is the TRUE meaning of Jesus’ resurrection in the first place if it doesn’t affect our hope for the future?

Pity us if we have hope only in this life. For such hope is not really hope at all. We groan within ourselves due to the miseries of this life yet we wait expectantly for the “redemption of our body,” (Romans 8:23). That is, if we have immortality within us now, do we not already have our hope fulfilled? But we’re looking forward to “putting on immortality” and incorruption” when Jesus comes to awaken believers sleeping in death to give them everlasting life (1 Cor. 15:51-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). We have not seen this hope fulfilled yet. But with perseverance, we wait eagerly for it…

“And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it,” (Romans 8:23-25).

If we do not want to be the epitome of pity, then we will place our hope in Jesus Christ who himself declared, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies…” (John 11:25).

Good News to YOU!
And have a blessed Resurrection Sunday!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here is Tenth Avenue North singing, “I Have This Hope,” http://youtu.be/eBg9jHQtE44

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Prophecy and ‘The Triumphal Entry’

Palm Sunday_Jesus entry into Jerusalem

The headlines might have read, “Hundreds hail Nazarene prophet as King,” with the subheading, “Words of the prophets ‘fulfilled’ according to many.”

One of the most significant reasons for recognizing Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on that day, we also know as Palm Sunday, is because it coincides with ancient prophecies concerning the Messiah. In all four of the Gospels, the recorded events of his grand entrance into the City of David includes references found almost verbatim from the writings of Old Testament prophets: Matthew 21:1-17; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-40; John 12:12-19.

At the time, the crowd anticipated that Jesus was fulfilling his Messianic role to restore greatness to Israel as the prophets foretold. Hailing him as their King (John 12:13), they thought that he was going to turn Israel back into a mighty kingdom like it was when one of his ancestors, King David, ruled over them (Mark 11:10). Then, they could overpower Rome’s  dominance over them for good.

Sadly, the Jews who honored him did not understand that his entrance into Jerusalem was a foreshadow of prophecy to come. The people didn’t expect the shocking turn-of-events that would take place by the end of what would be called, Passion Week. Nor did they realize what more and greater things were still down the road for Israel, along with the whole world, more than 2,000 years into the  future (Matthew 25:37-39; Revelation 1:7).

Thankfully, we have the luxury of hindsight to look back and know how The Triumphal Entry as well as the other Passion Week events fit into the whole prophetic picture. Those converted to Jesus Christ with knowledge of his saving truth can envision what it all  means in terms of fulfilling God’s plan of salvation. And we can appreciate how that first Palm Sunday verifies what we know and believe about our Lord from God’s inspired Word.

Key prophecies which were fulfilled on the first Palm Sunday confirm the mission of our Lord in connection with his second coming. Fulfillment not only applied to Jesus then but, even more importantly, in his future role when he will reign as King. What is called The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem then, is merely a small snapshot compared to The Triumphal Entry when he enters Jerusalem the next time (through the Eastern Gate which he shall open: Ezekiel 44:1-3; Psalm 24:7-10) to sit on the throne of his father, David (Luke 1:31-33), ruling over all nations of the world (Zechariah 14:4, 9-11, 16-21).

Consider these Old Testament prophecies of his triumphal entry which are quoted in the Four Gospels (from the English Standard Version, ESV):

Matthew 21:4. This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'”  (also Mark 11:2-3; Luke 19:30-31; John 12:14-15)

Zechariah 9:9. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

While this verse from Zechariah 9:9 applies to the first triumphal entry of Messiah Jesus, the verses that follow suddenly jump ahead to include his next triumphal entry—that is, when he establishes his power and authority over all the nations to forge peace during his 1,000 year reign as King (Revelation 20:4-6). For example, verse 10 predicts, “….and he shall speak peace to the nations (Isaiah 2:1-4; 9:6-7; 11:1-10; Psalm 72:7); his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River (Euphrates River, Exodus 23:31) to the ends of the earth (Psa. 72:8; 2:1-12; Daniel 7:14, 27; Micah 4:1-3; Zechariah 14:9).

The prophecy regarding his mode of transportation into Jerusalem, the donkey, is also significant for three reasons:

(1) It stood for peace. Most generally, when kings rode on horses, it indicated war. Jesus, “the Prince of peace” entered Jerusalem on a donkey which symbolized peace. But when he comes again, he will come as a conquering King envisioned as riding on a white horse to deliver his people from their enemies (Rev. 19:11-12).

(2) It stood for the common people.  Jesus the humble servant (Matt. 11:29; Luke 22:27; Philippians 2:5-11) who rode upon a lowly beast of burden, did not come to call the self-righteous but humble sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). He came to serve as King and, in turn, we serve him as the King of our lives.

(3) It stood for a sacred purpose: “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here” (Luke 19:30). In ancient tradition, animals were regarded as sacred if never ridden before and used for special religious purposes (Numbers 19:2; Deut. 21:3; 1 Samuel 6:7). A young, unridden donkey was used to indicate the sacred role Jesus would play as Israel’s future King.

Isaiah 62:11. Behold, the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion (Zech. 9:9; Matt. 21:5; John 12:15), “Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.” This prophecy not only points to Jesus’ first entry into Jerusalem, but beyond to a future time when he comes again to bring the reward of eternal life to all of the faithful: In Revelation 22:12 Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with me, to render to every man according to what he has done.”

The palm branches they used to honor Jesus, and to voice their to praise God [“So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him….” (John 12:13)] were a foreshadow of what is to come when Jesus returns to earth: “After this I [John] looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands…” (Revelation 7:9).

Interestingly, the use of palm tree fronds used by Israel to celebrate the Feast of Booths (a.k.a., Feast of Tabernacles) was a sign of rejoicing over God’s shelter of the Israelites during their forty years of wandering in the wilderness (Leviticus 23:40; Nehemiah 8:15-18). Just think of it: They rejoiced then. And they rejoiced when Jesus rode into Jerusalem. But imagine the kind of rejoicing there truly will be when Jesus gloriously returns from heaven to save and exalt Israel, gather his Church, and bring peace to all the nations! (Note the restoration of the Feast of Booths when the Lord reigns: Zechariah 14:16-21, cp. Rev. 7:9). 

The fact that the crowd shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13b) takes us back to Psalm 118:25 and 26, “O LORD, do save, we beseech Thee; O LORD, we beseech Thee, do send prosperity! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD; We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.”

These verses from Psalm 118 are part of the Messianic prophecies fulfilled by Jesus including his rejection by his own people (verse 22). “Hosanna” is an expression of praise with the prayer, “Save us, we pray!” A prayer of praise is extended for Jesus, Israel’s Savior and Deliverer who comes in the name of the LORD God Almighty.

Such glorious praise dovetails with the rejoicing to which I previously referred. In Psalm 118:24 it says, “This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” The great Day in which all of creation will rejoice and offer praise to God is when the curse of sin and death are removed and Jesus the King establishes God’s Kingdom over all the earth (Romans 8:18-25; Revelation 22:1-4, 12). And all of the prophecies concerning Christ the King will be completely fulfilled. Amen!

Good News to YOU!
And have a blessed Palm Sunday!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here is the timeless hymn, “All Glory, Laud and Honor,”  http://youtu.be/h3a8fTTrAdE

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Our Guardian Shepherd

Jesus the Good Shpherd

A fascinating story is told about the hymn writer, Ira Sankey, who was traveling by steamboat boat on the Delaware River in 1987. He was a well-known song leader for the evangelist Dwight L. Moody. Some of the passengers recognized Sankey after they’d seen his picture in the newspaper. So they asked him if he would sing one of his compositions. Instead, Sankey said he’d rather sing a hymn by William B. Bradbury, “Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us.”
When he finished the song, a stranger asked, “Did you ever serve in the Union Army?”
“Yes, in the spring of 1860,” he replied.
The man asked, “Did you do any guard duty in Maryland at night about 1862?”
“Yes, I did.”
“I was there, too,” said the stranger. “But I was on the other side, in the Confederate army. One night at Sharpsburg, I saw you standing there in the light of the full moon. I had you in my gunsight, just about ready to pull the trigger. But just then, you started singing the same hymn you sang tonight,” he told the astonished Sankey. “I couldn’t shoot you.”
The man explained to Sankey that when he heard the words in one of the stanzas, “We are Thine, do Thou befriend us, be the guardian of our way,” the would-be-sniper thought back to his God-fearing mother. She sang that song to him many times. And when Sankey finished, the soldier just couldn’t pull the trigger as he thought, “‘The Lord who is able to save that man from certain death must surely be great and mighty.’ And my arm of its own accord dropped limp at my side.” (ref., cited sources from Preaching Today and Family Times)

As this incident and the hymn so fittingly remind us, Jesus is our Guardian Shepherd. He must have had a purpose for guarding Sankey as he stood on guard that moonlit night in Maryland long ago. And he also guards us, if not by sparing us from a sniper’s bullet, at least by his saving grace that leads to everlasting life in God’s coming Kingdom.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 10, Jesus repeatedly says, “I am the Good Shepherd.” Jesus pointed out that just as a good shepherd sacrifices for the sake of his sheep, he was going to give his life for his sheep—those who follow him…

10:11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” (New American Standard Bible, NASB)

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, died on the cross to save believers from their sins and will give them eternal life when he returns to set up God’s Kingdom (John 3:16). Our desire is to be among those believers (Revelation 20:6).

10:14 “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.”

The first sheep Jesus came to save was his own people, Israel. But because he was rejected as Messiah and Savior, “other sheep” were called in the meantime, namely those who were not of Israel. One day, when Jesus returns to earth, Israel will accept Jesus Christ as God’s Son and Savior. And so, Israel will be saved along with all of his sheep not originally of his fold. And together, whether Jew or Gentile, bond or free, male or female, all will become one flock with one Shepherd, Jesus the Christ (Romans 11; Galatians 3:28; Revelation 1:4-7).

10:27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”

We believers, the sheep, know the voice of the Good Shepherd and he knows us. The closer we follow him, the more we know him. We go where he wants us to go, we do what he says to do, and we believe what he teaches us to believe. We loyally follow in faith knowing that even though we die, we shall be raised to live again, forevermore (John 11:25-26). For Jesus is the One who was raised from death to immortality by God his Father and, therefore, the “firstfruit” of those (the faithful) who sleep in death awaiting the first resurrection when Jesus returns (Acts 2:22-24, 29-39; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 20-28; 50-58; Rev. 20:6).

The Apostle Peter reminds believers, “…and he himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by his wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls,” (1 Peter 2:24-25). There it is: Jesus the Good Shepherd, is theGuardian of our souls.” In other words, he is the Bishop or Overseer of our lives.

As the good Lord spared Sankey from a soldier’s bullet and kept guard over his life that  night, we are reminded of the way he keeps spiritual guard over our lives, too. His loving care for his flock protects us from falling prey to the enemy, sin. He constantly keeps his watchful eyes over us, providing for our needs in so many wonderful ways. And, when it’s all said and done and the Kingdom has come, we will have an eternity to praise God our Father for it, thanks to his Son Jesus Christ, the Guardian Shepherd.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here is the sacred hymn, “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us,” by the Joslin Grave Choral Society: http://youtu.be/yuEgj3hp1iM

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How to Be a Fool in 10 Easy Ways (at Least)

Danny

The approach of April Fool’s Day brings to mind what the Bible says about fools. There are many references that show us the characteristics of a fool. From a tongue-in-cheek perspective, I have put many of these characteristics into a list of at least ten ways you can be a fool.

Please note: You can take this list in any order. Also, any one or more of these way can qualify you to be a fool. Keep in mind that if you make a conscious effort to keep from following these foolish ways, you just might be well on your way toward becoming wise. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!

Way #1. Deny God’s existence.

“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psalm 14:1a, New American Standard Bible, NASB)

If you don’t believe in God, you’re off the hook. You don’t need to waste your time in worship and prayer. This reminds me of a joke: An atheist, upon viewing a few people praying together, commented to his friend, “Will they ever learn that prayers are a total waste of effort and time?” And then, out of habit stated, “Thank God I’m an atheist!”

Just think of it: If you’re an Atheist, you can do anything you want without having to worry about a divine authority telling you, “Don’t to do this!” or, “You have to that!” You can be a proud evolutionist and believe that everything happened by chance. You can lift your head high claiming that you came from a monkey! Yes, you’d make a perfect humanist—oh, and a perfect fool, too!

By the way…QUESTION: What is so ironic about Atheists? ANSWER: They’re always talking about God.

Way #2. Mock at sin and guilt.

“Fools mock at sin [guilt], but among the upright there is good will [the favor of God].” (Proverbs 14:9)

An easy way to be a fool is to not take sin seriously and make fun of making amends. It’s never your fault if something you’ve done is thought to be wrong or dishonest. “I’m sorry,” or “I apologize,” are unthinkable to you. “Confession” is not in your vocabulary. Rather, it’s always somebody else’s fault. In this way, you don’t have to make amends for your actions. And if someone tells you otherwise, then they’re just being judgmental and silly.

Comedian Henny Youngman joked, “I have a very fine doctor. If you can’t afford the operation, he touches up the X-rays.” To mock at sin and make light of guilt is like touching up the X-rays: You may be avoiding the expense but that doesn’t get to the problem that needs to be fixed. This would conveniently qualify you to be a fool.

Way #3. Be arrogant and conceited.

“An arrogant man stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper. He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered.” (Prov. 28:25-26)

Arrogance and conceit form one big ball of wax that fits the mold of a fool. According to sources, “arrogance is an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner. Conceit is excessive appreciation of one’s own worth or virtue.” (StackExchange.com)

To fit this mold all you have to do is think of yourself constantly. Your mind is always taking a selfie of yourself. The only three people that mean the most to you is me, myself, and I. You are Numero Uno in your book. Your theme song is, “I Did It MYYYYY WAYYYYY!!!.” And when you’re dealing with others, you gleefully tell them, “My way or the highway.” Never mind their feelings or concerns and the strife it causes. (Speaking of strife, see the next Way.)

Consider how conceit dovetails with Way #2. American rock singer, David Lee Roth is credited with the quip, “I’m not conceited. Conceit is a fault and I have no faults.” This reminds me of C.S. Lewis who remarked, “If a man thinks he is not conceited, he is very conceited indeed.”

Way #4. Stir up strife.

“A fool’s lips bring strife. And his mouth calls for blows. A fool’s mouth is his ruin. And his lips are the snare of his soul.” (Prov. 18:6-7)

Do you like to stir up strife? Do you take delight in saying things that cause conflict, controversy, contention? And are you attracted to the disaster that follows? Then you’d fit in well as a fool who stirs up strife. This is a temptation that not even religious people can sometimes resist.

Humorist and author, Mark Twain (born Samuel L. Clemens) gives this illustration:

So I built a cage, and in it I put a dog and a cat. After a little training I got the dog and the cat to the point where they lived peaceably together. Then I introduced a pig, a goat, a kangaroo, some birds, and a monkey. And after a few adjustments, they learned to live in harmony together. So encouraged was I by such successes that I added an Irish Catholic, a Presbyterian, a Jew, a Muslim from Turkestan, and a Buddhist from China, along with a Baptist missionary that I captured on the same trip. And in a very short while there wasn’t a single living thing left in the cage!”

Way #5. Spread Slander.

“He who conceals hatred has lying lips, and he who spreads slander is a fool.” (Prov. 10:18)

You, too, can be a fool if you like to whisper behind people’s backs, spread some juicy rumor, and gossip with a flare for digging up some dirt. Spreading slander is especially gratifying to use on those you can’t stand—persons you’d like to get even with for doing something that hurt you.

R. G. LeTourneau was for many years an outstanding Christian businessman—heading a company which manufactured large earthmoving equipment. He once remarked, “We used to make a scraper known as ‘Model G.’ One day somebody asked our salesman what the ‘G’ stood for. The man, who was quick on the trigger, immediately replied, “I’ll tell you. The ‘G’ stands for gossip because like a talebearer this machine moves a lot of dirt and moves it fast. (Encyclopedia of Illustrations #707).

The fool who slanders others knows no bounds in destroying the good reputation of others they despise. It has been said that the slanderer differs from the assassin only in that he murders the reputation instead of the body.

Way #6. Be Quarrelsome.

“Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man. But any fool will quarrel.” (Prov. 20:3)

While some people prefer to do the honorable thing and stay out of quarrels, fools find themselves in the middle of them. Rather than avoiding a fight, a fool is looking for one. It often comes out in tones of rage and revenge. This sort of person is easily offended. He or she has a short fuse and will explode even if someone looks at them the wrong way. There is too much hate and not enough love in a quarrelsome person (Prov. 10:12).

Interestingly, there’s a cost when fools quarrel…

“But why did you leave your last place?” the lady asked of the would-be cook.
“To tell the truth, mum, I just couldn’t stand the way the master an’ the missus used to quarrel, mum.”
“Dear me! Do you mean to say that they actually used to quarrel?”
“Yis, mum, all the time. When it wasn’t me an’ him, it was me an’ her.”

Way #7. Be a hypocrite.

“But the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. You foolish ones, did not he who made the outside make the inside also?'” (Luke 11:39-40)

Jesus repeatedly call these self-righteous Jewish leaders “hypocrites.” The Greek word for “hypocrite” literally means “stage actor.” It’s all about putting on a phony front, putting on a mask, and hiding behind fake religion. The Pharisees were talented actors when the public, their audience, was watching them. But behind the scenes, when the audience wasn’t around, their masks came off, and they reverted to their true selves.

They could give an outstanding performance, appearing to be fine upstanding leaders. But it was all for show. In their hearts and minds they were only interested in serving their own personal interests, and usually at the expense of the people they professed to care for.

The Pharisees and others like them perfectly followed the letter of the Law, down to dotting every “i” and crossing every “t”. But they took everything too far and completely squelched the spirit and intent of the Law. Thus, they twisted everything around and used the Law to give themselves overbearing power over the people.

These and other leaders in Jesus’ day were lacking true justice and morals in much the same way that crooked, corrupt leaders do today—from politicians to religious fanatics to law professionals, to social elites and the like. Be a hypocrite and you can also be a fool like many of them.

Way #8. Be narrow minded. 

“A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind.” (Prov. 18:2)

To be a good ol’ fool, be so narrow-minded that you convince yourself that you are wise. Fool yourself into thinking that understanding of the truth is not relevant, only your own feelings and inclinations.

It’s like what the Apostle Paul was talking about when he said there were many in the past, “Professing to be wise, they became fools,” (Romans 1:22). Their attraction to lust and corruption, instead of the one and only God and his standards led them to think they were smarter than God. But they were actually acting like fools.

Their narrow-minded thinking led them to exchange the truth of God for a lie. Thus, they thought they were really being wise when all the time they were really being fools. As a result, God gave them over to their own “degrading passions,” not unlike the way fools think and live today. Any person can be a fool in this way if one is too narrow minded to believe the truth that they are believing a lie.

Way #9. Repeat the same foolish mistakes over and over again.

“Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” (Prov. 26:11)

Irish Statesman Edmund Burke coined the saying, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” There are various versions to this saying. Similarly, it could also be said, “Those who refuse to learn from past mistakes are bound to repeat the same ones over again.”

The underlying reason fools repeat their mistakes is because they never learned from their experience in the first place. First, they fail to understand their mistake. Second, they refuse to accept they made a mistake. And third, that’s the mistake. Result: They repeat their folly.

To be a real good fool at repeating mistakes do the following:

  • Fail to learn from your failure;
  • Don’t tell yourself you’ve failed;
  • Don’t make room for the possibility that you could fail;
  • Make excuses if you do fail.
  • Blame others for causing your failure.
  • Don’t believe you can do better when you fail.

Way #10. Despise God’s wisdom and instruction.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov. 1:7)

True knowledge begins when one fears a just and holy God. But fools despise his wisdom and instruction. Even those who say they believe God exists, foolishly refuse to revere God and his moral standards. In turn, fools tend to follow the many ways we’ve just listed. In time, justice according to God’s wisdom and instruction is affected and respect for decency and order vanishes.

The late Chuck Colson once commented, “Without ultimate justice, people’s sense of moral obligation dissolves; social bonds are broken. People who have no fear of God soon have no fear of man, and no respect for human laws and authority.”

A THOUGHT TO PONDER:

Now, after reading this list, you might think to yourself, “I’m not guilty of any of these ways. I must be pretty wise!” Be careful not to think this way! For this could be another sign of foolishness!

First Corinthians 3:18 says, “Let no one be under any illusion. If any man [or woman] among you thinks himself one of the world’s clever ones, let him discard his cleverness that he may learn to be truly wise. For this world’s cleverness is stupidity to God. It is written, ‘He catches the wise in their own craftiness’,” (J.B. Philipps New Testament).

Ironically, the best way to be “wise” is to be a “fool” for the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:18-31). No fooling!

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. If you sincerely do not want to follow the ways of fools, remember the lines in this song,
Seeking You as a precious jewel,
Lord, to give up I’d be a fool.
You are my all in all
.

http://youtu.be/RYxJc0PTXiY

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Excelling in Excellence

excellence

“…if there is any excellence…think on these things,” (Philippians 4:8).

The aim of every Christian is to excel in excellence. To excel is to be exceptionally good at something. Christians want to be exceptionally good at following Christ. Striving for excellence means to excel by being nothing but the best Christian one can be in body, mind, and spirit.

With a mind set on excelling in excellence, believers don’t want to drift along in daily life just by barely doing what is required to serve Christ. There are no “if’s,” “and’s,” or “but’s” when one strives for excellence in Christ. Rather, it takes a conscious desire and effort to be more than what anyone could ever expect. (See Ephesians 3:20.)

Take, for instance, the great Italian operatic tenor, Enrico Caruso. Onetime, a committee asked Caruso to sing at a concert that would benefit a charity.

The chairman said to him, “Of course, Mr. Caruso, as this is a charity affair we would not expect much from you. Your name alone will draw a crowd and you can merely sing some song requiring little effort or skill.”

Caruso drew himself up and replied, “Gentlemen, Caruso never does less than his best.”

Christians have the same kind of attitude since their minds are set on excellence. But it is not based on personal pride or accomplishment. We want to be our best because that’s what God expects of us.

Furthermore, just by calling ourselves “Christian” does not automatically mean we are excelling in excellence, any more than a person who calls himself or herself a musician or athlete or business person, and so forth. Christian or not, excelling in excellence has to do with the way we think and how we put our thinking into action.  

For Christians, excelling in excellence is actually when we’re absolutely, positively, without a shadow of doubt, set on having the mind of Christ. The Apostle Paul firmly declared, “We have the mind of Christ,” (1 Corinthians 2:16, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

Christ is our perfect model of excellence. He fits the very meaning of it: “a virtuous course of thought, feeling, action; virtue, moral goodness” under God’s power. (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, Strong’s) It fits the same description the Apostle Peter gives in the context of pursuing “moral excellence” or “value” for Christians:

“…applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love,” (2 Peter 1:5-7).

Notice the benefits in this life: “for if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (v. 8).

It’s encouraging to know you’re not spinning your wheels or wasting your time if you make these qualities yours. Instead, you will enjoy the riches of God’s goodness and grace. And your personal relationship with Jesus will bear wonderful fruit or results in building your relationship with others in Christ.

In addition, according to Peter, moral excellence is one of those qualities that not only keep us from stumbling in our faith but provide us with the hope of entering the Kingdom when Christ returns (2 Peter 1:10-11). On the other hand, he who does not excel in excellence, as well as in other Christian qualities, “is blind or shortsighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins,” (2 Pet. 1:9). Therefore, it is very vital for every Christian to excel in the moral excellence of Christ, the Lord.

One who has the mind of Christ has a humble attitude like Christ. The believer serves the Lord by looking out for the interests of others above his or her own interests, as the Apostle Paul pointed out to the Philippian church:

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude [mind] in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Phil. 2:3-5).

Likewise, the apostle instructed the Colossian church: “…put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience bearing with one another, and forgiving each other…And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you…” (Colossians 3:12, 13a, 15, 16a).

Excelling in excellence, therefore, is to think and act the way Christ would in any circumstance we encounter. So Paul says in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, what is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute [report], if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.”

Here’s an activity for you to try: Make a list of each of these virtues or qualities and write down examples of how they may be applied from your own experiences. Concentrate on what you think the attitude of Jesus would be in each instance and claim that attitude for yourself. This is an excellent way to reach your aim toward excelling in excellence.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. No matter how much we strive to be excellent according to worldly thinking, the only name that provides true, lasting excellence is the name, Jesus. Here’s Casting Crowns singing, “Only Jesus,” http://youtu.be/VXIBP2BdYR8

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‘God Created Them Male and Female’

male-female-gender-symbols-drawn-in-chalk

Genesis 1:26-27 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (New American Standarde Bible, NASB)

Genesis 5:1-2 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In that day when God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created. (NASB)

Matthew 19:4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female…” (NASB)

Mark 10:6 But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. (NASB)

In consideration of what God’s inspired Word says about our human nature, three observations need to be made: (1) God created man in his image; (2) God created only two genders: male and female; and (3) God has a purpose and plan for mankind. Let’s examine each of these points.

(1) God created man in his image.

The first chapter of Genesis is a grand summary of God’s creation over a six-day period. It presents the truth that the One and Only God (Deuteronomy 6:4; 1 Timothy 2:5) is the sole Creator of all that exists (Isaiah 45:8, 12, 18, 22). On his last day of creation, God created man.

His creation of man was unique. Unlike his creation of “cattle, creeping things, and beasts of the field,” man was created in God’s own image or likeness.

The Hebrew word for “image” is tselem (pron., tseh’-lem), noun masculine, and translated, form (Psalm 73:20), likeness[es] (Gen. 5:3), image[s] (Numbers 33:52), and phantom (figuratively, a mere semblance man walks about, Psalm 39:6). The Hebrew word is also applied to heathen gods (Amos 5:26), tumors and mice of gold (1 Samuel 6:5, 11), idols in male form, used for harlotry in idolatry (Ezekiel 7:20; 16:17) and in molten images of painted pictures of men (Numbers 33:52; Ezek. 23:14). (https://biblehub.com/genesis/1-27.htm)

From the meaning of the word for “image,” man was made or “cut out” in the physical, outward form or semblance of the One God. God is a real, living person with real characteristics which he fashioned or shaped into man. From “the dust of the ground,” God shaped man into his likeness and then “breathed into his nostrils, the breath of life.” And the man became “a living soul” [“creature,” or “being”], (Gen. 2:7).

The Hebrew word for “man,” is “adam,” which correlates with the fact that God used the dust of the ground to form man in his image. “Adam” applies to human beings, in general (Genesis 5:2) It is derived from “earth” signifying that man is “earth-born.” (0The Soncino Edition of the Pentateuch and Haftorahs, Rabbi Dr. J.H. Hertze, ed.) And, thus, where it says God “created them male and female” (Gen. 5:2), they were named “Man” (NASB) or, as other translations state, “mankind.”

(2) God created only two genders: male and female.

In Genesis 2:20, the first man that God created is specifically named, “Adam”:

“And the man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.”

In both Old and New Testaments, all humanity is traced back to the first man God created, Adam — Genesis 5:1-3; 1 Chronicles 1:1; Luke 3:38; 1 Corinthians 15:21-2; 1 Timothy 2:13. As the first man, Adam is the progenitor of the human race (1 Cor. 15:45-49).

After God created Adam, he placed him in the Garden of Eden, “to cultivate it and keep it,” (Gen. 2:15). But the man was alone. Of all living creatures on the earth, there was no other human being around. So God said, “I will make him a helper suitable for him,”  (Gen. 2:18).

“So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh. And the LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which he had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. And the man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man.” (Gen. 2:21-23)

God performed the first marriage when he joined the man and woman together as husband and wife. God instituted and ordained marriage between man and woman from the time of creation. This set a precedent that was intended to be for all time (Gen. 3:24), as Jesus also pointed out (Matthew 19:4-5), as well as the Apostle Paul when he was writing to the church (Ephesians 5:31).

For a time, everything was “very good” in Eden. But when Adam and Eve ate from the fruit of the forbidden tree, sin and death entered the world (Gen. 3:1-24; Romans 5:12-14). From that time on, mankind has been under the curse of sin and death. It was after they sinned, Adam called his wife, Eve, which means, “the mother of all living,” (Gen. 3:20). In essence, Adam and Eve are our first parents.

(3) God has a purpose and plan for mankind.

With God’s creation of male and female came the blessing of families. God said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth,” (Gen. 1:28). The female was created for the male to be his help-mate. God made her from one of man’s ribs, his side (Gen. 2:21-23). This has special significance as I am reminded of the Bible commentator, Matthew Henry, who remarked,

“The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible)

The Bible notes that while God created the two genders with contrasting differences, each is a perfect complement to the other. The woman is made for man (1 Cor. 11:9). And the man is to love and honor the woman as Christ loves the Church and sacrificed himself for her (Ephesians 5:25). Just as there is to be order in the Church, so is there to be spiritual order in the family: husband, wife, and children.

God makes it clear that social order is contingent upon following his order for families, starting with a godly marriage between a man and woman, and the submission of children to their parents, “in the Lord,” (1 Cor. 11:3; Ephesians 5:22-6:9; 1 Peter 3:1-12).

Each one—husband, wife and child—has a vital role to play in the family.  This Divine order for families has always been an important teaching Christ gave to the Church. And God has never given an alternative to it.

In fact, the Bible shows that anything contrary to God’s intended purpose for the family—as instituted and ordained by God from the beginning—is harmful and destructive and will draw the wrath of God in due time: Romans 1:18-32.

God’s purpose for the family—husband, wife, and children—all throughout history is to pass along his teachings from generation to generation and, therefore, cultivate a standard of living for providing prosperity, security, and stability in the home, community, and nation.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 provides the spiritual foundation for fulfilling his purpose for home and family:

“Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got! Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.” (The Message, MSG)

God’s purpose for the family includes his salvation plan for mankind. For example, when the husband, wife, and children fulfill their roles according the instruction given to the church (Ephesians 5 and 6), each one will be equipped to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might,” (Eph. 6:10). As a result, each member will be prepared for the Age to Come when Jesus returns to establish God’s Kingdom.

Our preparation for God’s Kingdom starts with faith, repentance, and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.

“For you were all sons of God through faith in Christ. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise,” (Galatians 3:26-29).

In this passage, the Apostle Paul is not asserting that God has abolished ethnicity (Jew/Greek), class (slave/free), and gender (male/free), as some might assume. Rather, he is saying that through faith in Christ, believers are all one in God’s family regardless one’s ethnicity, class, and gender.

According to the apostle, believers in Christ are of Abraham’s offspring, and heirs according to the promise or covenant God made with the patriarch long ago (Gen. 12:1-3; 17:1-8; 22:15-18). This dovetails with our faith in Christ and the blessings of God’s future Kingdom on the earth when Jesus returns. Those—both male and female—who are converted to Christ through faith are “heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 4:7; Titus 3:7; Hebrews 1:14; 6:13-20)

No matter how much the attempts are made to deviate from God’s purpose and plan for mankind, God doesn’t change. His blessings are showered upon all those—both male and female—who abide according to his instructions. And we seek those blessings through obedience, faith, and love toward God, our Heavenly Father.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. For your enjoyment and edification, here is a video presentation of “God Creates Man and Woman”— http://youtu.be/g6IysidPT1k

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Loving Good, Hating Evil

 

Romans 12_9

Romans 12:9 “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”
Amos 5:15 “Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.”
Psalm 97:10 “Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.”
1 Thessalonians 5:21 “…but test them all; hold on to what is good…”

The Bible passages above (taken from the New International Version, NIV) make three points perfectly clear: (1) There is a contrasting difference between love and hate; (2) There is a definite reality between good and evil; and (3) God loves good and hates evil.

Consider each of these three statements:

(1) There is a contrasting difference between love and hate.

Love and hate are polar opposites. They are as different as day and night. Love is light; hate is darkness. Love is life; hate is death. Love builds; hate destroys. Love breeds health; hate breeds sickness. Love is positive; hate is negative. Love sows unity; hate sows disunity. Love favors what is true; hate favors what is false. Love is for winners; hate is for losers. Love enables relationships; hate disables relationships.

Incidentally, as someone pointed out, doctors tell us that hating people can cause cancer, heart attacks, headaches, skin rashes, and asthma. It doesn’t make the people we hate feel too good either. On the other hand, love is good for both mental and physical health as doctors will also tell you.

To illustrate the difference between love and hate, consider this story submitted by J. Allan Peterson in Sermon Illustrations:

Newspaper columnist and minister George Crane tells of a wife who came into his office full of hatred toward her husband. “I do not only want to get rid of him, I want to get even. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has me.”

Dr. Crane suggested an ingenious plan. “Go home and act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him. Make him believe you love him. After you’ve convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him, then drop the bomb. Tell him that you’re getting a divorce. That will really hurt him.”

With revenge in her eyes, she smiled and exclaimed, “Beautiful, beautiful. Will he ever be surprised!” And she did it with enthusiasm. Acting “as if.” For two months she showed love, kindness, listening, giving, reinforcing, sharing. When she didn’t return, Crane called. “Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?”

“Divorce?” she exclaimed. “Never! I discovered I really do love him.” Her actions had changed her feelings. Motion resulted in emotion. The ability to love is established not so much by fervent promise as often repeated deeds.

And, I might add, this story shows that the difference between love and hate makes the difference between a happy marriage and an unhappy one.

(2) There is a definite reality between good and evil.

Some will say that there is no such thing as good and evil; right and wrong. They call this “moral relativism.”

According to one source,

“Moral relativism is the view that ethical standards, morality, and positions of right or wrong are culturally based and therefore subject to a person’s individual choice. We can all decide what is right for ourselves. You decide what’s right for you, and I’ll decide what’s right for me. Moral relativism says, ‘It’s true for me, if I believe it.'” (moral-relativism.com)

But the Bible does distinguish between good and evil for each is real. All one has to do is go back to the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden. Among the many good and fruitful trees God created, there was one special tree called, “The tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

God took the man he’d created, Adam, and put him in the garden to cultivate and tend it.

“And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die,'” (Genesis 2:16-17, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

From Adam, God made “a helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2:18-25), a woman who would later be called Eve. And they both enjoyed living in Eden, a true paradise, a place of beauty and tranquility. Then, one day, Eve gazed upon the forbidden tree with wonder and curiosity:

“When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings,” (Gen. 3:6-7).

This direct violation of God’s command, not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, was the fall of humanity into sin with the result being death. It was just as God said would happen. And it has been happening ever since.

The fall into sin shows there is no such thing as “moral relativism.” Rather, it proves this is such a thing as “moral absolutism.” That is, there is a right and there is a wrong. For, in the Garden of Eden, man broke the one and only command: Do not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Morality, therefore, is not on how WE want to define it or believe it. That’s the kind of thinking that got Adam and Eve into trouble in the first place. They badly wanted to believe that it would be okay to eat of that fruit because it looked so good and wonderful. But they found out differently which proves that morality is how GOD defines it.

In time, God would give ten commandments to Israel through Moses. Why? Because the people of Israel needed to live by a moral code that would define right and wrong. And it would distinguish them as God’s chosen nation in contrast to the pagan, ungodly nations around them. But no sooner had God given these commandments when Israel broke them, leading to their demise everytime.

And so we discover that whenever any of God’s commandments are broken, suffering results. Why? Because, just like sin and death, good and evil are real. Thankfully, God has graciously given us choices in this matter. We can choose the good or the evil, and both come with their own rewards.

(3) God loves good and hates evil.

Since God is the source of establishing moral absolutes, it’s only logical that he loves the good and hates the evil. This is in accord with his own moral nature. For God’s moral nature primarily consists of holiness, love, and truth. All of these attributes fall under the category of good. And so, he despises the evil of unholiness, hate, and untruth—human traits due to sin.

But regardless our own sin, we discover something fascinating when we understand the difference between love and hate; good and evil: The more we love God, the more we love good and hate evil like he does.

I believe such a transformation is possible because when we submit to God through his Son, Jesus Christ, we develop a sensitivity that helps us to change our thinking and way of life for the better. God’s Son paves the way for this change since he provides the perfect pattern for following the good which God loves.

Those who do not know Christ personally as their Lord and Savior do not realize this reality. But those who are of the mind of Christ do. Those who’ve fully accepted Jesus into their lives are striving to be transformed by the renewing of their mind through Christ, and not conformed by the ungodly ideas of the world (Romans 12:2). Thus, the Apostle Paul urges the followers of Christ, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,” (Rom. 12:21).

Paul’s instruction is especially fitting in the world that we live today. As Christians, we are appalled at propaganda that asserts good is bad and bad is good depending on how you feel. Many allow themselves to be influenced by fads and trends and ideas which go against the traditional values which were once respected and upheld in a civilized society. But now, for the most part, these values are being turned upside down. This reminds me of Isaiah 5:20-21,

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!”

Christians need to be very wary of the ways the world is redefining good and evil; right and wrong. Our love for God and others through Christ (by the way, the underlying reason for obeying God’s commands, Matt. 22:36-40), along with unfaltering faith (2 Timothy 1:12-14) will keep us from falling prey to the deceptions of the world (1 John 2:15-17). And, as such, we will be better prepared for the Age to Come when good will triumph over evil for good.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. One who loves good and hates evil appreciates the goodness of God. Here’s Jenn Johnson singing, “The Goodness of God”: http://youtu.be/n0FBb6hnwTo

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