The Credibility Factor

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Political Commentator George F. Will wrote that the three least credible sentences in the English language are,
1. “The check is in the mail.”
2. “Of course I’ll respect you in the morning.”
3. “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.”

As these sentences illustrate, credibility is lost when promises or guarantees are not kept. When people do not keep their word, they cannot be trusted and believed. In essence, they lose respect, dignity, and influence. This goes for individuals as well as groups.

Whenever there are scandals of famous people who are alleged to commit offensive acts they quickly lose their credibility. There doesn’t seem to be a day goes by when the media exposes someone—whether it be an athlete, entertainer, politician, billionaire, or even a religious leader—of some kind of abuse or immoral act that stirs the ire of public opinion. Ironically, the media is also held in contempt if the public discovers that it is not exactly reporting the truth. This is otherwise known as “fake news” — a poison to any information that’s asserted to be credible.

With human nature the way it is, it is not surprising that credibility will be lost if persons exchange the truth for a lie. The Bible makes this point very plain. In Romans 1:25 the Apostle Paul goes back into the history of Israel and says, “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen,” (New American Standard Bible, NASB). As a result, the people lost their credibility with God as well as with other nations. They were supposed to represent the one true living God and be an example of the nation chosen to reflect God’s high standards of living (Exodus 19:5-6; Deut 4:20; 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; Ps 135:4). But when they disobeyed God, they could no longer be trusted to be the kind of people they were supposed to be.

Christians are also called to be credible followers of Jesus Christ (Matt. 16:24; John 8:12, 31-32; Ephesians 5:1-2; 1 Peter 2:21-22). In fact, when we give our lives to him, we become a part of God’s special people with the same expectations that were meant for Israel: Titus 2:14; 1 Pet 2:9. So, if we do not live up to the higher standards of God’s teachings, we will also lose our credibility with him as well as in the eyes of the world. What could be worse than “fake news”? What about “fake Christians”? Not a pleasant thought, to be sure.

The mainstay of our Christian credibility is the manner in which we conduct ourselves. When the Apostle Paul anticipated visiting the church at Philippi, he expected to hear that they were working together in the faith of the Gospel: “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,” (Phil. 1:27).

When a church is united in “one spirit” and “one mind” it will show the community what it means to live up to the gospel, that is, the Good News that’s based on Christ. This was a basic theme of the early church leaders for they knew that working together in the unity of faith was a sign of credibility to the world. In so doing, it kept the church strong and productive so that others might accept the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:12-14; 1 Peter 3:15-17).

Credibility achieves believability. As believers, we aim to build credibility by proving our trustworthiness to the truth we profess. As long as we can be trusted to practice what we preach we can earn the confidence of others, including children.

The story is told of a little boy who was walking down the beach, and as he did, he spied a matronly woman sitting under a beach umbrella on the sand. He walked up to her and asked, “Are you a Christian?”
“Yes.”
“Do you read your Bible every day?”
She nodded her head, “Yes.”
“Do you pray often?” The boy asked next, and again she answered, “Yes.”
With that he asked his final question, “Will you hold my quarter while I go swimming?”

Even in a child’s eyes, Christians must pass a sort of litmus test to see if they can be trusted. But it’s not necessarily about being approved by saying what we believe but proven by doing what we say we believe. Like the adage, it’s not just talking the talk, but walking the walk that a Christian builds the credibility of his or her faith.

But then comes the dreaded moment when credibility is put to the test and we don’t pass. Even while we do our best to maintain our credibility, we fail. We’re not perfect, of course. Like the Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Rom. 3:23). In other words, we all screw up and cannot reach the perfection of God’s glorious nature. So, when we find ourselves in the sticky predicament of losing that trustworthiness, then what do we do?

First, we must accept the fact that we’re not perfect. We’d like to think that we can handle any situation but when we’re tested and fail it’s easy to feel all alone. But when we realize that we are just as susceptible of getting off the straight and narrow as any other person, we can begin to deal with reality. As they say, misery loves company. But it doesn’t stop there lest we fall into the trap of self-pity and this leads to depression. Remember, God makes a way out of temptation which includes feeling sorry for ourselves: 1 Cor. 10:12-13.

Second, the next step is what takes humility. While the tendency is to cover-up our sins and denying, the Bible says we are to humble ourselves and confess our sins. This takes guts but it is the way toward recovery. First John 1:8-10 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

Confession of our sins comes in three parts: Part one, we must get ourselves right with God first for, after all, we first lose the credibility of our standing with him when we violate our commitment to his sacred principles of conduct. Part two, we must get ourselves right with ourselves by accepting the reality of our shortcomings, repenting of our sins, and then making the decision to change our ways. Part three, we must get ourselves right with others by being transparent, truthful, and sincere with them.

The Apostle Paul is an excellent example of earning credibility. After having the bad reputation of persecuting Christians and then being converted to Christ, he had a lot of work to do to gain his credibility with his former enemies. At first, the church leaders had a difficult time accepting the validity of his conversion (Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-26). It took some time before he could convince the church leaders that he had truly given his life to Christ, and dedicated to serve him as he was called.

This is the third step: Patience with prayer. Just as it took time for Paul to gain the trust of the church leaders, so it takes time to gain our credibility, too. While we must be prepared to accept the fact that some people may never forgive us or believe us, there are others who will down the road. Due to human nature, most people tend not to change their attitudes overnight. But by setting the right example, proving our words by our actions, being persistent in prayer (Ephesians 6:18-20; Philippians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2 Thess. 1:11), and faithfully serving the Lord, credibility will grow. In the meantime, while reminding others that you’re always going to make mistakes, you are setting your sights on a higher goal, (Phil. 3:1-21).

By being transparent concerning his personal struggles with sin, the Apostle Paul reminded his listeners that in spite of it all, he could still claim victory through Christ his Lord (Romans 7:14-25). And this, in itself, provides the hope that comes with genuine credibility: being ready for the crown of righteousness at the return of Christ (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Indeed, the credibility factor is important for making kingdom seekers effective (Matt. 6:33) in their daily walk with the Lord.

Here’s an old spiritual, “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” by Tennessee Ernie Ford:
http://youtu.be/LdWi_5w3__w

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Doomed to Repeat It?

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Historians, philosophers, archeologists, and others who’ve studied the past are fully aware that history often repeats itself. That is why they are among the first ones to alert others not to repeat mistakes made by previous generations. Consider those who have sounded the “doomed to repeat it” warning to the world:

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” —Edmund Burke
“Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.” —Sara Shepard, Wanted
“Those unable to catalog the past are doomed to repeat it.” —Lemony Snicket, The End
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” —George Santayana

I am reminded of Solomon’s words when he said, “There is nothing new under the sun,” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). In terms of repeating past mistakes, this is certainly “nothing new.” Time and again, from one generation to another, humans are known to ignore history and make the same errors made before them. Thus, they are doomed to repeat the same troubles that others have gotten themselves into in previous generations.

Why do people ignore history in the first place? Perhaps they are conceited to think they are wiser than those who’ve lived before them. Maybe they are misled about the past due to revisionist views. Or, learning about history may be irrelevant or unimportant to those who think that humanity is more advanced than it used to be.

There are some who do not like history because they see it as a bunch of facts, names, and numbers. So they conclude it is boring. On the other hand, there are others like myself who are fascinated with history because it teaches us about the success and failures of humans. And, to be sure, this is anything but boring!

Oftentimes, when we study history, we can see ourselves in the lives of those who’ve gone before us. And for this simple reason: No matter what period of time in which we live, we all face the same emotional ups and downs all humans have faced since the beginning of time. Since all are born with certain strengths and weaknesses, there’s always something to appreciate and learn regardless of what time period we are talking about. The Apostle Paul alluded to this fact when he wrote his first letter to the Corinthian Church of God. Consider First Corinthians 10:1-13,

For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; (2) and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; (3) and all ate the same spiritual food; (4) and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. (5) Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.
(6) Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. (7) Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” (8) Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. (9) Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. (10) Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. (11) Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. (12) Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. (13) No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (New American Standard Bible, NASB)

The Apostle Paul was giving his readers a history lesson. He was reminding them of Israel’s past, when their forefathers wandered in the wilderness after their miraculous escape from Egyptian slavery. Their spiritual leader, Moses, led them under the guidance of God who provided for their various needs all throughout the forty years they were in the wilderness.

The apostle draws an analogy by using several examples of what happened to the people at that time: They were under the cloud which they followed in the daytime. They were saved when they walked on dry ground through the parted sea as Pharaoh and his army pursued them. Once all the children of Israel passed to the other side, God closed the waters upon the pursuing Egyptians which drowned them in the process, thus saving  Israel, enabling them to move ahead toward their promised land. Israel also drank from the water that gushed forth from the rock that Moses struck. Paul uses these events to illustrate God’s deliverance and salvation which he ultimately fulfills through Christ the Rock of our faith.

But Paul reminds his readers that not all was wine and roses when the people were in the wilderness. Israel made God angry because they defied him and turned from him to follower after other gods. As a result, they wandered for forty years until the original generation that came out of Egypt died off and did not enter the promised land with two exceptions—two faithful persons and their families, Joshua and Caleb. For everyone else, only their children were left to enter the promised land.

Paul sums up Israel’s history by saying that all the mistakes they made are examples to us, that we might learn from them as a warning not to repeat their misdeeds. The people paid a heavy price for their disobedience to God. Their allowance of sexual immortality and idol worship led to over 23,000 deaths in one day (Numbers 25:1-9). When the people complained against God and Moses, his spokesman, the LORD sent snakes to bite them and many of them died. Had God not intervened by instructing Moses to make a bronze serpent which was used as a sign to provide healing, many more would have perished (Numbers 21:6-9). Speaking of complaining, the people often found themselves in lots of trouble just because they couldn’t keep from whining every time something didn’t go the way they wanted (For instance, Numbers 16 and 17).

Paul reminds his readers and us that we shouldn’t take anything for granted and assume that nothing bad can ever happen to us. About the time we start thinking that way, that’s when disaster will come. Furthermore, no temptation is so great that God won’t provide a way out. So, we shouldn’t worry about unforeseen circumstances for God is faithful to his Word. But we still don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past. So, stand firm in the faith.

We cannot emphasize enough how essential it is to learn from history. “Now these things happened to them as an example,” Paul says. What’s been recorded about them “were written for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages have come,” (1 Cor. 10:11). If we believe that it doesn’t matter to learn the lessons of the past, Paul warns, “Therefore, let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall,” (v. 12).

I like the way The Message version puts it:

These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence. You can’t make the point any more sharp than that!

In order not to be doomed to repeat the past, we must stand strong against those sins that get us down. As it says, “God is faithful” even though we are tempted to fall into those same mistakes others have made before us. God will make a way out upon the condition that we trust and obey him. By being aware of history, we can beware when enticed by wrong desires. Examples of past failures can be signals for us to avoid so that we can achieve success. If we steer clear of the kind of sins that Israel committed in the wilderness, for instance, we will have gained much. So that when Jesus comes, we will be ready to enter our promised land—that is, God’s eternal Kingdom.

By the way, when you think “history” remember that it is really all about HIS STORY—God’s Good News about our salvation through his Son, Jesus Christ. To keep from repeating past mistakes, we do not want to forget that God gave his Son to die for our sins and provide for our forgiveness. Truly, what Jesus did on Calvary will help us confront the past with hope for the future when Jesus comes to give everlasting life to all who are faithful. Here’s Don Moen singing, “Lead Me to Calvary”: http://youtu.be/ewKugGDO6JM

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Here’s Mud and Spit in Your Eyes!

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I was listening to an Old Farmer’s Almanac Radio Report that said something intriguing about spit. Usually, the term “licking one’s wounds” is a metaphor for recuperating from disaster. But researchers studying why animals literally lick their wounds made an interesting discovery. It turns out there’s a protein in saliva that helps to speed up the healing process, according to the report. This doesn’t mean you should go out and lick your cuts or wounds. But it does mean it could lead to a new approach for developing healing drugs, the report says. (www.almanac.com)

The news about this discovery reminds me of the times Jesus used spit to work miracles of healing in his ministry. One Bible reference records Jesus using his saliva to cure a person who was hearing and speech impaired: Mark 7:31-37,

Again He went out from the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis. They brought to Him one who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, and they implored Him to lay His hand on him. Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself, and put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva; and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!” And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began speaking plainly. And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it. They were utterly astonished, saying, “He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

Two other references record Jesus healing persons who were born without sight: Mark 8:22-26,

And they came to Bethsaida. And they brought a blind man to Jesus and *implored Him to touch him. Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around.” Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly. And He sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”

John 9:1-7 says,

As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing.

As gross and unsanitary as it appears, there are valid reasons why Jesus would use his saliva in these special cases. For one, if there really is a protein in saliva that promotes the healing of wounds, then what better source to receive it from than the Son of God, himself. Matthew 4:23 says, “Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.” (See also Matt. 9:35.)

Second, those who received the healing from Jesus’ use of his saliva shows a certain amount of humility and submissiveness noteworthy of belief and faith. There is no record that any of those Jesus made whole refused treatment or questioned him. They simply obeyed as they were instructed.

Third, once they were healed, they could not keep silent even though they were told to keep the news to themselves. One might wonder why Jesus would instruct them not to make their healing public. One reason might be that Jesus was using psychology on them—sort of like telling a child not to take a cookie from the cookie jar, knowing full well that telling the child not to take the cookie will entice him to do it that much the more. Or, perhaps Jesus was concerned that making his miracles public might divert attention from his message. Observers might have been interested in the thrill of seeing a miracle and forget what Jesus was teaching them. Or, another possibility might be that if so many knew about his miracles then he couldn’t move around so freely in order to proclaim his message. Mark notes that due to Jesus’ increasing popularity, he could no longer enter towns openly. So, he moved his ministry outside of the towns into less populated areas. Of course, this didn’t prevent the crowds from going out to him (Mark 1:45).

Public reaction of the news regarding Jesus’ healings was mixed. Many were amazed. Many were curious. Many believed. Many were skeptical. And in the cases where Jesus used his spit to heal someone of incurable diseases, who would ever have dreamed of that? Well, to us in this modern age of medicine it would seem most preposterous. But, in Jesus’ day, there was another prevailing view.

To first century Jews, there was a tradition of the Sages that the saliva of a first born legitimate heir would have healing properties against diseases and injuries. If a son’s saliva touched an affected person, a miracle of healing was expected to take place to prove legitimacy. (http://www.jewisheyes.org/newsletters/Healing_with_Spit.pdf)

In the context of the healing in John 9:6, there was dispute among the Jews concerning the true identity of Jesus. In John 8, Jesus was teaching that he is “the light of the world,” and that anyone who follows him “shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life,” (v. 1). Right away, the Pharisees, a strict religious sect of the Jews, attempted to discredit Jesus for making this claim. This led Jesus to testify that he is the One who bears witness of himself and the Father who sent him also bears witness of him (v. 19). Bearing witness was important for establishing legitimate proof, a standard going all way back to the Law of Moses. At least two witnesses were required to establish credible evidence in any charge (Numbers 35:30 ; 17:6 ; John 8:17 ; 2 Corinthians 13:1; comp. 1 Tim. 5:19). Jesus provided that evidence when he said, “He who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him,” (8:29).

Jesus made it clear that because he was sent by God, his Father, he was the legitimate Heir, the Messiah or anointed of God, who came to save them from their sins (John 8:23-24, “I am he,” referring to his Messianic role, Matt. 16:16). And at that moment, “…many came to believe in him,” (John 8:30).

To provide more evidence, Jesus points back in time to their forefather Abraham who was shown the promises of a coming Messiah: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad,” (8:56; cp. The Abrahamic Covenant: Gen. 12:1-3; 17:1-8). Because of their narrow-mindedness, the Pharisees could only think in literal years: “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” (v. 57). But Jesus was thinking in spiritual terms as he responded, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am,” (v. 58). Jesus was establishing the fact that he superseded Abraham, himself, according to God’s own plan from the beginning of time (1 Peter 1:20, 21). Jesus, anointed as the heir of God’s plan of salvation, was greater than Abraham (John 8:52-58). Of course, this point made the Pharisees furious, so much so that they wanted to stone him. But Jesus escaped for his time had not yet come (v. 59).

Though many came to believe in Jesus as God’s rightful Heir (John 8:30), there were others, like the Pharisees, who refused to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, God’s Son. So, in chapter 9 of John, Jesus proves his legitimate position in a miraculous way: the use of spit and mud to heal a man who was without sight since birth. Notice the question the disciples asked about this man: Was his impairment due to a sin the man committed or was it because of something his parents did? (9:2).

In Bible times, it was believed that people suffered from any disease or illness because God was punishing them for some sin. Or, it was assumed, perhaps their parents sinned and their child was being punished for it. But Jesus said that the man’s affliction was not due to his sin, or his parents but “in order that the works of God might be displayed in him,” (v. 3).

And, again, he repeats the fact that he is “the light of the world,” (v. 5). Now, why did Jesus bring this up again? Because he was about to prove that he is the light by bringing sight to this man who had never seen the light all of his life. So, spitting on the ground, Jesus reached down and made some mud which he applied to the man’s eyes.

The man never argued or questioned Jesus when he said, “Go to the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). And so he went away and washed, and came back seeing,” (9:6-7). The phrase, “pool of Siloam (which is translated, Sent)” is found 3 times in Scripture (Neh 3:15, “Pool of Shelah”; Is. 8:6, “waters of Shiloah”; Jn. 9:7, “pool of Siloam”). It was Siloam where water was brought in a golden vessel from the Temple during the feast of Tabernacles. It may have been here that Jesus proclaimed, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink,” (Mark 7:37). (http://www.bible-history.com/jerusalem/firstcenturyjerusalem_pool_of_siloam.html) Again, the pool of Siloam (meaning, “Sent”) is significant for reminding the people that Jesus is the One whom God has sent to be the Messiah and Savior.

As one might expect, there was controversy over the healed man. Once again, the Pharisees raised a big issue over what Jesus had done. First, some of them didn’t like the fact that he performed the miracle on a Sabbath (9:13-16a). Others, who felt that Jesus was just an ordinary sinner, couldn’t figure out how such a person could perform “a sign” like that (v. 16b.).

Then they decided to talk to the man who was allegedly healed. All the man could say was that he was healed by a prophet. But, of course, the Pharisees would not believe the man. So they interviewed his parents. Of course, the man’s parents could not deny that their son was unable to see since birth. But as for his ability to see now, they were afraid to answer. They simply said, “We do know how he came to see or who opened his eyes. You’ll have to speak to our son about that. He’s an adult. Ask him.” (vss. 18-23). His parents were terrified of these Jewish authorities for if anyone confessed Jesus to be the Messiah, they would be thrown out of the synagogue (v. 22).

So, the Pharisees interviewed the healed man a second time. They really grilled him this time. But they could not get the poor guy to say that Jesus sinned by what he allegedly did. “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know,” the man responded, “One thing I do know, that whereas I was blind, now I see,” (vss. 24-25).

But the Pharisees kept on badgering the man with the same questions, attempting to break him. But the man turned the tables on them and said, “I told you already, and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to be his disciples too, do you?” (v. 27). I imagine this retort made them as mad as hornets. But the man was only being honest.

Then, the Pharisees tried another tactic. Heaping insults on the man, they brought up Moses, the Lawgiver: “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses,” (v. 28). The Pharisees argued that they knew God spoke to Moses but they didn’t know where Jesus “came from,” inferring that since they didn’t know who his real father was, how could he claim to be from God. All the man could say to them was, “Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where he is from, and yet he opened my eyes…” (v. 30). The man went on to tell the Pharisees that no one could have done this great miracles unless he was from God: “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing,” (v. 33).

The Pharisees heard enough. They said, You were born entirely in sins, and are YOU teaching US?” So, they put him out of the synagogue.

How ironical. It took a man who was born blind but now could see to show the Pharisees who, although had their eyesight, were really spiritually blind to the truth of Jesus. The mud was in their eyes for they could not see due to their own disbelief. They didn’t want to wash away the mud of doubt and denial which kept from seeing Jesus, the Light of the world. So, they did not open their eyes to the Light that would guide them to eternal life. They purposely spurned the One who would satisfy the thirst for real righteousness.

In essence, the Pharisees were willing accomplices to the rejection of Jesus as Son of God, Messiah and Savior. They thought they were right. They thought they didn’t need to have their eyes opened. Thus, they deprived themselves of true forgiveness for they were the real sinners. Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains,” (John 9:41).

Their pride blinded them to the truth. Jesus, however, worked miracles to prove that he is, indeed, God’s beloved Son. And the eyes of many who did believe were truly opened. Jesus demonstrated that he is the Heir of God and future Ruler in his coming Kingdom. His marvelous works which included the use of mud and saliva were signs of his true identity and purpose. And his teachings went forward to reveal that he is the One whom God gave so that we might live eternally in the Kingdom (John 3:16).

We do not want pride like the Pharisees had to keep us from seeing what God, through Christ, will do in us as we serve and obey him. We look to the One who brings light and quenches our thirst for righteousness. May God open our eyes to his truth as he works wonderful blessings in our lives each day!

Here is Hillsong presenting, “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord”: http://youtu.be/wutmEjdbedE

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. For another angle to John 9, see ‘Here’s Mud in Your Eye,’ dated April 9, 2016.

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Christianity’s Central Theme

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Here is a True/False Quiz for Christians:

1. God was despised, mocked, and put through suffering according to Old Testament prophecy. ( T / F )

2. God claimed that he fulfilled the prophecy that he was numbered with the transgressors. ( T / F )

3. God cried out his seven last sayings on the cross. ( T / F )

4. God cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit” and breathed his last on the cross. ( T / F )

5. God died on the cross and gave his life as a ransom for many. ( T / F )

6. God was declared by the Centurion who cried out, “Truly this was God!” ( T / F )

7. God was buried in a rich man’s tomb. ( T / F )

8. God was three days and three nights in the tomb. ( T / F )

9. God raised himself from death. ( T / F )

10. God ascended to heaven forty days after he resurrected himself. ( T / F )

If you answered “false” for each of these statements then you’ve scored 100%. I purposely put God in place of the one person who would make all of these statements true—God’s one and only Son, Jesus Christ. The truth that God did not turn himself into a man makes all the difference between fact and fiction. Jesus Christ is not God the Son but the Son of God and Son of Man (Matt. 16:13-20).

Once we understand who Jesus is, as opposed to certain dogma, then we can understand Christianity’s central theme in regard to the Good News of salvation. Take a look at what the Bible really says for making each statement true in our quiz:

1. Jesus, not God, was despised, mocked and put through suffering according to Old Testament prophecy. Two primary messianic prophecies are Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. If you read these chapters, you will get a detailed picture that prophesied what Jesus literally went through from the time of his arrest to his agony on the cross (Matt. 17:12; 20:22; 26:28, 47-68; 27:27-50).

2. Jesus, not God, claimed he fulfilled the prophecy of being numbered with the transgressors: (Isa. 53:12; Mark 15:28; Luke 22:37). This was a sign that Jesus fulfills the scriptures concerning his identity as Messiah. Another word for “transgressors” is “rebel.” The two swords in possession of the disciples at Jesus’ arrest was to carry out what was prophesied in Isaiah 53:12. Jesus said, For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in me….for that which refers to me has its fulfillment,” (Luke 22:37; also 24:44-47). But even more importantly, by being numbered with the transgressors he could represent all sinners by suffering and dying for them even though he, himself, was without sin. “He bore the sin of many and interceded for the transgressors,” (Isa. 53:12; cp., Heb. 4:15; 9:26; 1 John 3:5).

3. Jesus, not God, cried out his seven last sayings on the cross. Not once did God cry out because he was not the one nailed to the cross. But Jesus, his beloved Son, did speak these words: (1) “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:24); (2) “Truly I say to you this day thou shalt be with me in paradise,” (Luke 23:43); (3) “Woman, behold your son…” (John 19:26-27); (4) “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34); (5) “I thirst,” (John 19:28; (6) “It is finished,” (John 19:30); (7) “Father, into thine hands I commend my spirit,” (Luke 23:46).

4. The Bible says that Jesus, not God, cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46) and “yielded up his spirit,” on the cross: “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit,” (Matt. 27:50, NASB. Also, Mark 15:37-39; John 19:30).Where it says that Jesus “yielded up his spirit” (“spirit” also used in John), Mark and Luke use “breath”—e.g., “breathed his last.” The word “spirit” is from the Greek word, pneuma ( http://youtu.be/vR4AO490Gp8 ) meaning, “wind, breath.” The Hebrew counterpart is ruach ( http://youtu.be/bATLyGf-8BQ ) which has the same meaning. One’s spirit or breath of life is not a personal being apart from the body. Rather, it is primarily the air we breathe. When God created man, he “…breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul [being],” according to Genesis 2:7. The breath or spirit is what enables us to think and feel. At death, the opposite happens. At the moment we take our final breath, our thoughts perish or vanish and we return to dust from which we came (Psalm 146:4; Ecclesiastes 3:20). Our breath or spirit returns to the One who created us (Psa. 104:29-30; Eccl. 3:19; 9:5, 10; 12:7; Job 34:14-15). When Jesus shouted, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit,” he was committing his last breath to God, his Father. When he died, his breath returned to God and he didn’t know anything until his Father raised him from death to life three days later.

5. Jesus, not God, died on the cross and gave his life as a ransom for many: The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross is an essential part of the Good News of our salvation (1 Cor. 1:18; 15:1-4). Jesus died and was raised to life to carry out God’s salvation plan from the beginning of creation (1 Peter 1:18-21; Rev. 13:8). Jesus testified of himself, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many,” (Mark 10:45). By the way, the Greek word for “life” in this verse is from the root word psuche (pron., psoo-khay’) or “soul” which primarily means “life,” and secondarily, “creatures that possess that life,” In Hebrew, the equivalent word is nephesh (pron., neh’-fesh) which means “creature,” “life,” “person,” “being.” There are no such terms as “immortal soul” or “undying soul” in the Bible. Souls are persons who sin and die (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). One does not receive a soul, one IS a soul. Jesus’ soul was his life. He gave up his life so that he, the soul, died as “an offering for sin,” (Isa. 53:10; also v. 12). Jesus was without sin but he took our sins upon himself to ransom us from our sin and provide that we should escape condemnation and receive eternal life when he comes again (Matt. 20:28; John 1:29; Rom 8:1; 1 Cor. 5:7; 2 Cor. 5:21; Galatians 3:13-14; Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 3:16). When Jesus, the soul, died he was placed in hades (pron., hah’-dace), a Greek word for hell (Acts 2:27; Psalm 16:10, sheol [pron., sheh-ole’] or “hell” the equivalent of hades). This is not the burning hell of popular myth. Rather, it’s a reference to death, in general, and the grave, in particular, the common receptacle of the dead. Jesus’ corpse was not entombed long enough to decay but he was there long enough to fulfill Jesus’ own words (Matt. 12:40).

6. Jesus, not God, was declared to be Son of God by the Centurion. In his own way, the Centurion understood it was not God who died for he proclaimed, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39; cp., Matt. 27:54). It’s noted that this could also mean, “a son of God” or “a son of a god.” Nevertheless, the Centurion uses “Son” and not God. Even he could tell the difference. Why? Because God cannot die. God Almighty is from everlasting to everlasting; eternal, immortal, and incorruptible (1 Tim. 1:17; Deuteronomy 33:27; Psa. 90:1-2; Isa. 40:28). Jesus, however, as God’s Son did die because he was made mortal (Rom. 8:3), suffered as a mortal (Matt. 4:1-2; Heb. 2:9, 18), and served as a mortal (Mark 10:45; Matt. 20:28). God gave his one and only Son, not himself, for our sins (John 3:16).

7. Jesus, not God, was the One who fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 53:9, “His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth.” About 700 years before Christ, Isaiah the prophet recorded that the Messiah would be put to death with wicked men and that he would be buried with the rich. This was literally fulfilled when Jesus was crucified between two thieves and laid to rest in the grave of the rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, as recorded in Matt. 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42.

8. Jesus, not God, was buried three days and three nights in the tomb. Jesus, himself, predicted this when he likened it to the prophet Jonah who was three days and nights in the whale’s belly: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth,” (Revised Standard Version, RSV). There are numerous passages where Jesus predicted that he, not God, would be buried in the tomb for that amount of time. Here are just few examples: Matt. 16:21; Mark 9:31; Luke 18:33; John 2:19-21; Matt. 27:63. This fulfillment was taught by the church (Acts 10:39-40; 1 Cor. 15:3-4).

9. Jesus, not God, was raised from the dead. I heard a minister say recently that God raised himself from the dead. But nowhere do we read this in the Bible. We do read, however, that God raised Jesus from the dead and, furthermore, raised him to immortality: “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power,” (Acts 2:24). Jesus said, “I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades,” (Rev. 1:18). The Apostle Paul wrote, “Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him,” (Rom. 6:9). God, our heavenly Father, raised his Son from death to life which entitled Jesus to be “the firstfruits of them that slept,” (1 Cor. 15:20). Jesus, not God, is “the firstborn from the dead,” (Col. 1:18).

10. Jesus, not God, ascended forty days after his resurrection. In Acts 1:3, Luke wrote, “To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.” Luke’s reference to “he” is Jesus (v. 1). After the forty days, Jesus and not God, ascended to heaven: “And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven,” (Acts 1:9-11). Jesus is presently at the right hand of God’s throne in heaven (Acts 7:54-56; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 1 Pet. 3:22) just as was predicted in the Old Testament (Psalm 110:1; Heb. 1:13). God our Father did not sit down beside himself at his own right hand but Jesus Christ the Son of God did (Heb. 1:5-12). Jesus is now interceding as Mediator and High Priest in the heavens (Heb. 3; 1 Timothy 2:5) until he returns in great power and glory (Matt. 24:27-30; Colossians 3:1-4; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Peter 1:7, 13; Rev. 1:7). He will return to establish God’s Kingdom on the earth, which gives believers the hope of the resurrection and change to immortality (Rom. 8:11-25; 1 Cor. 15:50-58; Rev. 1:4-8). When Jesus returns and finishes his kingdom work, including judgment (Rev. 20:4-15) and putting an end to death, the final enemy, (1 Cor. 15:25-28), then God himself will come down (Rev. 21:1-8).

In summary, it is essential to believe that Jesus is the Messiah or Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man. In submitting to his Father’s will, Jesus is the One and Only One who has been given authority by God to fulfill all that we profess by faith as his followers (Acts 4:12). Jesus’ mission, purpose, and nature are not to be confused with the one God, our Maker and Provider. Christianity’s central theme revolves around this truth including the fact that Jesus is the Son of God and Son of Man. He is divine because he is “of God” and human because he is “of Man.” Therefore, Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection make up the central theme of the Gospel, the Good News proclaimed in God’s Word. Without his death and resurrection we would have no hope, no reason to live, no joy. Or, as the Apostle Paul put it, we would be of all people “most to be pitied,” ( 1 Cor. 15:3-19).

Here is an old spiritual with a message that still inspires us this day:

http://youtu.be/iGQ1wEleV4I

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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The Day When Jesus Shows Up

triumphant-entry-

There’s a cute story about a little boy who stayed home from church with a baby sitter one Palm Sunday because he had a sore throat. When his family returned home they were carrying several palm fronds that were handed out during the worship service. The little boy wanted to know what the palms were for. His sister smugly replied, “People held them over Jesus as he went by.” The youngster cried, “Wouldn’t you know it! The one Sunday I don’t go to church and Jesus shows up!”

In a spiritual sense, Jesus shows up in all kinds of places through the presence of his power. We can find him in worship, in our homes, and anywhere else if he is living in our hearts. Where we go, he goes as long as Christ is abiding in us through his Spirit. As the Apostle Paul remarked, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me, (Galatians 2:20, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

On the day we call Palm Sunday, Jesus literally showed up (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19). He appeared in grand fashion, hailed as a king by his own people. Riding on a young donkey as he entered Jerusalem, the throng of followers spread out their palm branches and outer garments on the road amongst cheers and praises to honor Jesus.

The crowd of followers hailed him shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” (Matt. 21:9). These words have much significance. “Hosanna” is both a cry of help and a cry of praise. A transliteration of the Hebrew means, “Oh, save now!” Or “Please, save!” It’s an expression of intense emotion. On the one hand, the crowd of followers who, according to John, had just witnessed the miraculous resurrection of Lazarus, were praising Jesus with great awe and thankfulness. On the other hand, they were honoring Jesus with a view that he, the Son of his forefather, David, was going to fulfill his prophetic role as their ruler and deliverer.

While their intentions were well and good, they were still unclear in regard to the timing and meaning of this whole scene. This is easy for us to say. They didn’t have the hindsight like we do to know that even though their words and actions were sincere, their understanding was murky to say the least. At the moment they were honoring him, they didn’t realize that in just a few short days, he would be rejected, arrested, beaten, and sentenced to die on the cross. They had no idea that it was all going to take place so that those who believe in him could receive forgiveness of their sins (Heb. 9:22; Matt. 26:26-28). Neither could they ever perceive that three days after his death and burial, God would raise him from the dead to receive immortality and that forty days later he would ascend to heaven to be at the right hand of God’s throne to intercede as mediator between God and humanity (1 Tim. 2:5-6). But most of all, they just couldn’t picture him returning from heaven in power and glory to reign over Israel and all the nations as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Unbeknownst to them was that their very own words are included in the prophecies concerning Jesus their Christ. Matthew and John both refer to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as riding on young donkey according to the fulfillment of scripture in Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; he is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even a colt, the foal (lit., son of a female donkey) of a donkey.”

Even though it is true that Jesus fulfilled this prophecy in verse 9, it’s the next verse that has yet to take place: “And I [God] will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; and the bow of war will be cut off. And he will speak peace to the nations; and his dominion will be from sea to sea, and from the River (i.e., Euphrates) to the ends of the earth.” In poetic fashion, the prophet is recording God’s Word that says a time will come when his Messiah in verse 9 will stop the war that will take place when all the nations are gathered against Israel (Zech. 14:2; Joel 3:1-3, 9-21; Rev. 19:11-16) for “the bow of war will be cut off. And he will speak peace to the nations,” (v. 10; also Psalm 2; Isa. 2:4; 9:7; Micah 4:3).

The words, “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” in Matthew’s account, have future implications pointing to his glorious return when he shows up the second time. Compare the other gospels:

Mark records, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9b-10). Notice the reference to “the coming kingdom of our father, David.” This is yet future since Jesus is not reigning on the throne of his father, David, yet (Luke 1:23-33).

Luke records, “As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’” (Luke 19:37-38). The praise of the people who had seen Jesus’ miracles, including the raising of Lazarus from the tomb, is in accordance with Psalm 118:25-26, “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.”

A closer look at Psalm 118 reveals that this is a messianic psalm. Notice, for example, verse 25: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” Although the Jews rejected Jesus “the stone,” he has become “the cornerstone” of salvation for all who confess the name of Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man, as Savior and Lord: Matt. 21:42-46; Acts 4:8-12; Ephesians 2:17-22.

Also, notice where Luke points out that the people shouted, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Not only are these words comparable to the praises offered to God by the angels when Jesus was born (Luke 2:13-14), but it’s a foretaste of the time when Jesus the King will indeed come “in the name of the Lord.” Jesus referred to this scene when he wept over Jerusalem knowing that he would soon be rejected as their Messiah but accepted in the future when the Jews will finally realize his Kingly role (Matthew 23:37-39). And then, when the Jews are converted to Jesus as the Messiah, the whole world will be blest: Isaiah 60:1-22; 61:1-11; Luke 4:14-21; Jer. 31:31-34; Zech. 8:20-23; 12:10-14; Rev. 21:12.

John records, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel,” (John 12:13). Jesus’ followers sensed that Jesus is “the King of Israel.” But they failed to realized that he is not only going to be Israel’s king (Acts 1:6), he will also be crowned King of all kings and Lord of all lords when he comes again (Acts 1:11; 1 Tim. 6:13-16; Rev. 1:5; 17:14; 19:16). All nations will come to Jerusalem to seek and worship the King (Zech. 14:9-21).

Yes, Jesus will show up again. But when he does, it will be in far greater splendor than the Jews on Palm Sunday could ever have imagined. And that’s something you won’t want to miss! For when he comes again, the world will never be the same again. Neither will Israel. Nor will the followers of Christ. What a wonderful day that will be!!! “Even so, come Lord Jesus! Amen!” (Rev. 22:20).

Here is the Crystal Cathedral Choir singing, “The Palms”: http://youtu.be/Etrgxd6fSvc

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

 

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What’s Luck Got to Do with It?

luck_ducks

What do four-leaf clovers, being Irish, horseshoes (ends pointing up), ladybugs, stars, the number 7, a rabbit’s foot, rainbows and coins all have in common? They’re believed to bring good luck.

What do black cats, Friday the 13th, breaking a mirror, horseshoes (ends pointing down), shoes on a table, walking under a ladder, opening an umbrella indoors all have in common? They’re believed to bring bad luck.

It’s believed that sometimes bad luck can turn into good luck. It’s also believed that sometimes good luck can turn into bad luck. For example, some think that if you take a pinch of salt and throw it over your left shoulder you will be able to get rid of bad luck. But don’t throw it over your right shoulder or you will have more bad luck. And if you do break a mirror, you must never throw away the pieces. Instead, grind them up into fine dust and scatter them to the wind if you want to change your luck. However if you’re too close to a full moon, you will still have some bad luck. On the other hand, if you reflect the moon with a mirror and gaze into it, you will then negate your bad luck.

Of course, what many believe about good or bad luck has a lot to do with superstition, chance, and folklore. Shamrocks and clovers, such as what we see around St. Patrick’s Day, are believed to bring good luck according to Celtic mythology. The four leaves are said to symbolize fame, wealth, love, and health. But what about people who’ve actually found fame, wealth, love, and health and never carried a shamrock or clover at all? Oh, well, maybe they carried a rabbit’s foot instead! Just sayin’! By the way, as someone quipped, depend on the rabbit’s foot if you will, but remember it didn’t work for the rabbit!

Luck, if there really is such a thing, doesn’t just happen. It’s written that luck is a wonderful thing. The harder a person works, the more of it he seems to have. It’s also said that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. In other words, real luck is when one works hard to accomplish success. And if you are not prepared for success, you may miss the opportunity to achieve it. Keep in mind these words: Good luck often has the odor of perspiration about it.

Although luck, whether good or bad, is attributed to chance—such as being in the right or wrong place at the right or wrong time—has nothing to do with success or failure if you are a Christian. Think about it in regard to Biblical accounts. Was Jonah having a case of bad luck when he was swallowed by the great fish many believe to be a whale (Jonah 1:1-2:10)? Was Noah and his family just lucky to escape the great flood and be the only ones saved from being drowned (Gen. 6:1-22)? Was Moses’ mother carrying a four-leaf clover when she placed her baby into a basket floating on the Nile River among the reeds only to be discovered and rescued by Pharoah’s daughter (Ex. 2:1-10)? We can think of many circumstances in the scriptures where certain persons received blessings and others didn’t, not because of luck, but because of God’s power and control over all situations.

Consider the casting of lots. It was common practice for the Israelites to make their decisions based on the Urim and Thummim, two precious stones carried by the high priest (Exodus 28:30; Numbers 27:21; 1 Samuel 28:6). It would seem that the casting of these two stones was left up to random chance or luck to decide important matters. But these were only tools to determine God’s will which were under his control. Proverbs 16:33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD,” (New American Standard Bible, NASB).

One may wonder about righteous Job. Was it a stroke of bad luck for him to suffer so much loss even though he didn’t deserve it? Not once did he complain about his misfortune as bad luck but, instead, accepted it as something that God allowed. Job lost his livestock, his servants died, and his sons and daughters were killed and yet he didn’t blame God. In his deepest sorrow, he opined, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God,” (Job 1:21-22). Then, to add insult to injury, Job loses his health “with sore boils from the sole of his feet to the crown of his head,” (Job 2:7). The pain must have been unbearable. So what did Job do to deserve this? Was it because he needed to find his lucky stars? Or, rub a rabbit’s foot? Or, look over a four-leaf clover that he overlooked before?

Job’s wife was at wit’s end and she was ready to give up. “His wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!’ But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips,” (Job 2:9-10).

Job’s friends didn’t make it any easier. They blamed Job for something he must have done wrong to deserve what happened to him. But Job held to his position of innocence and still trusted God. In the end, God restored what Job had lost and “the LORD increased all that Job had twofold,” (Job 42:10). In the New Testament, James wrote, “Behold, we count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful,” (James 5:11).

God, not luck, is how we find comfort and guidance when things are not going our way. God, not luck, is who we turn to in order to find success and opportunity. Even in Ecclesiastes we find that “time and chance” (Eccl. 9:10-11) are, in the end, under God’s control for “God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil,” (Eccl. 12:14).

When we work hard, pray fervently, and put our faith into practice, God will reward us according to his will and his grace and his glory. Luck has nothing to do with it. But God’s blessings have everything to do with it. All blessings, not luck, flow forth from Almighty God our Maker (Psalm 103).

Here’s Gordon Mote and Jason Crabb singing, “Thank You, Lord, For Your Blessings on Me”: http://youtu.be/v0svXA-oRTk?list=PLHhwLX7B2qU7ijFfhKy1FLL4XjApxZZZe

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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God’s Order

Slide1

A man hurt his finger when he was downtown. He asked someone where to go for help and he was told to enter a building just down the block. There were two doors marked “Physical” and “Mental.” He went in the “Physical” door. Inside that were two doors marked “Bone” and “Muscle.” He went in the “Bone” door. Inside that were two doors: “Surgery” and Therapy.” He went in the “Surgery” door. Inside that were two other doors: “Major” and “Minor.” He went in the door marked “Minor,” and he was outside.
Someone said, “Did they help you in there?”
“No,” he replied. “But that’s the most organized place I’ve ever seen.” (selected)

We can be thankful that while God is most organized, he’s more helpful than the place where the man with the injured finger entered.

The Apostle Paul said that God is “not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all churches of the saints,” in First Corinthians 14:33, according to the King James Bible (KJB). Or, as the New American Standard Bible (NASB) puts it, “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” The Greek word for “confusion” or “disorder” is akatastasia (pronounced, ak•at•as•tah•see’•ah) which means, something that cannot remain steady; unstable; anarchy first in the sense of political and then moral; leading to things being out of control; tumult; and chaos. (biblegateway.com)

God, on the other hand, is a God of peace. God’s peace comes through order. That’s why Paul told the churches, “But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner,” (1 Cor. 14:40, NASB). Paul exhorted the church to do things “properly.” This means they were to act in “good form” outwardly as well as inwardly. Not only were they to act honorably within their system but outwardly to the community as a whole.

Order would make them attractive and influential so as to fulfil their purpose as God’s people. In fact, the word “order” (Greek: taksis) was a military term in ancient Greece and it applied to an ordered troop arranged in detail according to rank. Thus, in a metaphorical sense, Paul is suggesting that if there is to be any effectiveness in the church, it must be done properly, which denotes discipline, detail, and decency of order. (ibid.)

A number of situations in the Corinthian church were getting out of hand, as Paul points out in his first letter to them. They were not setting a good example to others outside of the church. Paul had heard there were divisions and quarrels in the church (1 Cor. 1:11). Immorality in the form of incest was not met with disciplinary action. There were even those who had an attitude of pride about it rather than remorse (1 Cor. 5:1-13). The ordinance of holy communion was being abused. The wealthier class was not regarding the poorer class of Christians in their fellowship meals (a.k.a., “love feasts”), thus causing divisions and strife (1 Cor. 11:17-34).

Paul also addressed a number of questions the church was dealing with including whether the members should eat food offered to idols (1 Cor. 8); proper attitudes and conduct in worship among the men and women of the church (1 Cor. 11:2-16); use and abuse of spiritual gifts which led to Paul’s comments regarding order and decency (1 Cor. 12-14); and the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15). Although these issues were not insurmountable, they were causing serious concern in regard to the kind of unity Paul and the other church leaders were seeking in the churches (for example, Ephesians 4:3-13).

The fact that order was an important matter to those like the Apostle Paul illustrates how God requires peace and order rather than conflict and disorder. God, himself, works in systematic order. Dr. Alva G. Huffer wrote,

System and order are characteristics of God and His works. God always works in an orderly way. One can observe system and order everywhere throughout nature from the structure of atoms to the movements of stars. God’s work of creation, recorded in the first chapter of Genesis, reveals the progressive realization of a definite plan and program. God instructed Noah to build the ark in an orderly manner according to specific dimensions. The construction of the tabernacle was according to a definite blueprint. The unfolding of God’s plan of salvation has been progressive, orderly, and systematic. (Systematic Theology, pp. 21, 22.) 

In these comments, Dr. Huffer was explaining the meaning of systematic theology, the title also given to his book. Thus, he says, “A systematic study of theology, therefore, finds its basis and necessity, not only in man’s organizing instinct, but also in God’s nature and work.” And he quotes 1 Corinthians 14:40.

The truth that God’s nature and work is orderly is Good News for believers in Christ. Why? Because God provides peace and order to our lives through his Son. Since Jesus is the focal point of our salvation, our lives can find order in him even when facing difficult and confusing times in our lives. Though we struggle now and then, we have someone who has overcome the struggles. And because he has overcome, we can overcome also if we put our faith and trust in him.

In John 16, Jesus revealed to his disciples what was going to happen soon. He was nearing his final days leading up to his death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven. For awhile, the disciples would be confused because they didn’t really know what the whole plan of Jesus was all about. But now he was making it plain to them. The disciples remarked,

“Finally! You’re giving it to us straight, in plain talk—no more figures of speech. Now we know that you know everything—it all comes together in you. You won’t have to put up with our questions anymore. We’re convinced you came from God,” (vss. 29-30, The Message, MSG).

Jesus’ response, however, came with this warning followed by a reassuring word: Jesus answered them,

“Do you finally believe? In fact, you’re about to make a run for it—saving your own skins and abandoning me. But I’m not abandoned. The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world,” (vss. 31-33, MSG).

We can claim the same reassurance when we’re facing our own difficulties in this old world. Regardless of our perplexing problems, the God of order will bring us the peace that passes all understanding if our lives are ordered and patterned after his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:7). Jesus wants us to have inner peace of mind, but it’s his peace that he wants us to receive (John 14:27; Eph. 2:14-18).

In the world there is disorder where ever you go—in our public institutions, our workplaces, our places of entertainment, in our homes and, dare I say, even in our churches. But where there is order there you will find those who have the God of peace in their hearts for they are following his commands, living according to his will, being productive in the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-26) while seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matt. 6:33).

The more that Christians follow the God of order, the more changes the church will make for having better and safer communities today. For, in so doing, the church will have a better influence in society (Matt. 5:13-16). Genuine law and order and peace will be restored the way God intends. We long for this order even while we are told that perilous times will come in the last days due to humanity’s bent toward division and anarchy and rebellion toward God (1 Timothy 4:1-5). Yet, we strive to live according to God’s order while anticipating the Day when God will permanently remove all of the disorder in the world—the day his Son appears to end all wrong and bring everlasting peace and harmony to the world (Psa. 2:8-9; 72:3, 7; Isa. 2:4; 9:6-7; 11:3-5; Zechariah 9:10; Rev. 19:11).

The fact that God works according to his order shows that he is in control even as his marvelous plan through Christ takes place. Here’s Twila Paris singing, “God Is In Control”: http://youtu.be/-DrHKcPDh4o

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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