‘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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The Politics of Lying

lying_politics

Earl Long (1895-1960), a former eccentric governor of Louisiana, once said of another politician: “You know how you can tell that fella’s lying? Watch his lips. If they’re movin’, he’s lying.”

You’ve probably heard the saying, “It takes one to know one.” Do you think Long may have made this observation from his own failings? By the way, Long apparently wasn’t a paragon of virtue himself. It has long been reported how he had a liaison with New Orleans stripper, Blaze Starr.

It’s not too difficult to point fingers at someone and accuse them of lying. Just twist the facts a little, make up something sensational that might sound appealing, and there you have it…a scandal that can smear someone’s name beyond recovery. Never mind the promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It’s only lip service for them.

We are seeing this strategy of telling lie after lie, time after time, again and again, especially among those seeking political gain for themselves. Of course, this is nothing new. Lying has been around ever since Adam and Eve gave in to the serpent’s lie (Genesis 3:1-21; John 8:43-47).

But with modern media and instant access to information, spreading lies becomes even easier and faster than ever. Unless you never watch the news or never read a tweet or never see a post on Facebook, or unless you’re from another planet, you know how politics is being deviously used to manipulate the masses through lies and distortions.

For Christians, the politics of lying is a serious issue because it negatively affects human relationships in various ways. It can cause confusion by not knowing who can and can’t be trusted, especially when crucial decisions are made. It can cause division amongst members in churches and families. It can lead toward apathy for some or aggression for others depending on the emotions deeply aroused—all because of someone’s lies. It can get rather sickening to hear people say they want to know the truth when they are actually lying and trying to cause trouble at someone else’s expense.

But the biggest reason why the politics of lying is of deep concern in the eyes of  Christians is that God Almighty hates it. Period. “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD…” (Proverbs 12:22a). God detests lying by anyone in any position and in any situation.

Because God our Holy Father hates lying lips, we do, too.  Therefore, we choose honesty and truth instead of dishonesty and lying because we know this pleases God.  “…but those who deal faithfully are his delight…(Prov. 12:22b). Unlike those who lie, good people hate what is false (Prov. 13:5). It’s the Godly thing to do.

The gravity of lying starts with the laws God gave to Israel through Moses. God’s directive, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16) is not an option. Whether it be from a legal or personal perspective, lying opposes God’s moral nature and his will. According to Pulpit Commentary,

“False witness is of two kinds, public and private. We may either seek to damage our neighbor by giving false evidence against him in a court of justice, or simply calumniate him to others in our social intercourse with them.”

This command coincides with Leviticus 19:11 and 12 where God plainly says,

“You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, NOR LIE TO ONE ANOTHER. And you shall not swear falsely by my name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the LORD,”  (New American Standard Bible, NASB).

In the New Testament, Jesus reiterates and confirms God’s commands, including bearing false testimony or lying. Quoting the Mosaic Law, Jesus said,

“Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, DON’T LIE, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself,” (Matthew 19:18, The Message, MSG).

The early church dealt with lying in a very severe way. In one incident, Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, held back some of the money from the sale of a piece of their property instead of giving it to the church. The Apostle Peter confronted Ananias alone about it, saying,

“Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of price of the land? While it remained unsold did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God.”

At that moment, Ananias fell down and died and they buried him.

Three hours later, Sapphira came in to the room and Peter questioned her. She didn’t yet know what had just happened to her husband. Peter inquired,

“Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price.”

She responded, “Yes, that was the price.” But it was a lie. So Peter said,

“Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door and they shall carry you out as well.”

So, like her husband when he lied, she died when she lied. And they carried her corpse out of the room and buried her beside her husband. (Acts 5:1-11)

The Apostle Paul stressed the importance of telling the truth as opposed to lying to one another. He instructed the Ephesian church, “Therefore, laying aside all falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another,” (Eph. 4:25).

Since truth is an essential virtue that Christians are committed to pursue (Philippians 4:8-9), it is very sad to think that some will use falsehood just to gain notoriety and power in the world. There are those who mistakenly believe that twisting the truth and telling lies will get them the approval and recognition they so desperately crave. And politics is just full of it. To us, this creates very shaky ground upon which to base any semblance of civility in our society.

It’s truly a shame that there are those who are not as interested in truth as they are in hurting others and stepping on innocent people to make themselves look innocent and pure. There are even those who want to believe falsehoods so much, that they don’t want to hear the truth from others, and will even attack them when the truth is told.

As we can expect, this not uncommon. We see it happening more and more these days. Christians are not surprised when they are abused and mocked for believing and teaching truth in contrast to the lies of others. It’s typical, as well, that we are despised by them for asking questions and wanting to get at the truth. It’s a sign of the times (Matthew 5:11).

Speaking of signs…one of the signs of the last days before Jesus returns is the rise of the Anti-Christ (a.k.a., the Beast) and False Prophet (Revelation 13). The politics of their lies will deceive many who are not fully grounded in God’s Word of truth (2 Timothy 3:1-1-13; 4:3-4; 1 John 2:18-24).

It saddens us that a lot of gullible people, even many who profess to be believers, will follow these liars all the way to their own destruction. God will send them a delusion that they will believe a lie, for their “pleasure in unrighteousness” will lead them to be deceived (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12; Revelation 19:20-21). It will be a true test of our faith seeing that anyone who does not fall for their lies, and take a stand for the truth, will be persecuted for it (2 Peter 3:3-4; Rev. 13:6-10, 15-18).

We can expect these things because Jesus Christ, himself, was attacked by the liars of his day even though he IS the Truth (John 14:6). Hypocrisy, which amounts to living a lie, was at the heart of Jesus’ pronouncement of seven woes to the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:13-36).

Interestingly, these prominent leaders made a feeble attempt to use flattery when they sent, among others, some politically inclined Jews called Herodians to approach Jesus saying, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for you are not partial to any….” (Matthew 22:15-16). Jesus could see right through their scheme to “trap him” and taught them a truth that silenced them in sheer astonishment (Matthew 22:17-22).

In the Spirit of Christ, Christians do not let the politics of lying keep them from pursuing the truth. For we can expect that one day, the truth will triumph over falsehood forever. In fact, God will rid the world of lying when all liars will be consumed in the lake of fire on Judgment Day:

“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and ALL LIARS, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death,” (Revelation 21:8, English Standard Version, ESV).

The truth that God will judge all liars one day might sound like doom. But it only sounds like doom to those who are guilty of it. Those who habitually lie for profit or gain of any kind ought to know what they are in store for: God’s righteous wrath, (2 Thess. 2:8; Rev. 20:11-15).

On the contrary, to those believers who sincerely and faithfully follow Christ all the way to the end (Rev. 14:5, 12-13; 20:4-6; 21:4), it is Good News to know that truth will finally triumph over lying (1 Thess. 1:10; 5:1-10). It means that God’s Kingdom will not be inhabited by liars when his Son comes to establish it.

Rest assured, the politics of lying will cease for good as God’s Word promises. Yes, we can truly have peace of mind knowing that we will never have to put up with lying lips again (1 Thess. 5:23-24). Glory to God!

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Man may lie but God doesn’t because, as it says in John 3:33, “God is true.” Here is Mercy Masika singing, “He Never Lie,” https://youtu.be/P55QrD3oI6s

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Troubled About Troubles?

Women in horror

Let’s face it: We all have our own troubles. If not now, sometime. Whether big ones or small ones, it doesn’t matter.  There isn’t anyone who isn’t troubled about their troubles. And talking about troubles, get a load of this sad story…

A story is told of a man who could not give a convincing explanation about his broken arm. He kept muttering some story about accidentally sticking his arm through his car window that he thought was down.

That’s the public version.

In private he confesses that it happened when his wife brought some potted plants inside that had been out on the patio all day. A garter snake had hidden in one of the pots and, later, slithered out across the floor where the wife had spotted it.

“I was in the bathtub when I heard her scream,” he related. “I thought my wife was being murdered, so I jumped out to go help her. I was in such a hurry, I failed to even grab a towel. When I ran into the living room, she yelled that the snake was under the couch.

“I got down on my hands and knees to look for it, and my dog came up behind me and cold-nosed me. I guess I thought it was the snake and I fainted. My wife thought I’d had a heart attack and called for an ambulance. I was still groggy when the ambulance arrived, so the medics lifted me onto a stretcher.

“When they were carrying me out, the snake came out from under the couch and frightened one of the medics. He dropped his end of the stretcher, and that’s when I broke my arm.” (Selected)

Needless to say, that man was really having a bad day. But any day is a bad day when you have troubles like that.

When we are troubled on account of our troubles, we wonder how we ever got ourselves into those troubles in the first place. Sometimes we bring on our own troubles just because we do not obey God’s instructions and then we get into trouble. Other times, troubles just seem to fall into our laps: We just happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

But regardless how our troubles come, we realize that trouble is a part of life even from the time we’re born, for as Job opined, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble,” (Job 14:1, King James Version, KJV).

You may recall the popular song “Ya Got Trouble,” from the hit 1957 Broadway musical, “The Music Man.” I remember the 1962 film version starring Robert Preston who played Harold Hill, a slick talking con man posing as a traveling salesman who sells band instruments and uniforms.

Hill’s plot was to convince the citizens of River City that they could end youth corruption, represented by a pool table in the community, if they invested in musical instruments to form a boys marching band. Hill intended to collect the money the town raised and sneak out of town with it.

“Professor” Hill stirs the naive citizens to action with the song, “Ya Got Trouble,” a catchy tune with funny rhyme and nonsensical reasoning….”Ya got trouble with a capital ‘T’ that rhymes with ‘P’ that stands for pool….” http://youtu.be/LI_Oe-jtgdI

The film is a fitting portrayal of how trouble, with a capital “T” can get started. Human nature, the way it is, can easily be led into trouble through emotion, temptation, and plain ol’ ignorance.  But followers of Christ do not need to be troubled about such trouble for they have a Source that will help them overcome these situations. Just remember…

So if ya got trouble,
With a Capital “T”,
You can give it to Christ,
With a capital “C”.

Like the spiritual says, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen; Nobody knows but Jesus.” Only Jesus Christ will help us with our troubles because he is the only one who understands the root of our troubles—sin.  

Jesus was tempted like us yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He is the one who suffered, bled, and died on the cross for our sins. Galatians 1:4 says that Christ “gave himself for our sins that he might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father….” (See also 1 Peter 2:24.) Thus, he took our troubles upon him, putting them on his shoulders, giving us rest, restoration, and relief (Matthew 11:28-30). 

Jesus remarked that “each day has enough trouble of its own” so don’t worry about tomorrow, “for tomorrow will take care of itself,” (Matthew 6:34, New American Standard Bible, NASB). Jesus recognized the fact that trouble is a part of life. But if we worry ourselves into a big dither about tomorrow, we’re more likely to bring more troubles on our own.

This is where it takes belief and trust in God through his Son. In fact, Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me,” (John 14:1). God not only knows the troubles we face but will deliver us from them. For as the psalmist declared, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” (Psalm 46:1, NASB).

By the way, in my Thompson Chain Reference Bible, “trouble” is rendered, “tight places”—a fitting description of the troubles we often find ourselves in. When we’re going through troubles, we can truly find ourselves in tight places—or, as we also say, some real big “jams” that seem impossible to escape.

When we find ourselves frantically struggling to get out of those troubles, it’s reassuring to know that God is with us through his Son, Jesus Christ. We need Jesus and the Power we receive in his name especially when troubles arise. For as Paul declared to the Corinthian church in the opening of his second letter,

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ,” (2 Cor. 1:3-5).

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s Selah singing, “You Raise Me Up,” http://youtu.be/2DorNUsi5LE

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Jesus Prays for Us

Jesus Prays for Us

At the YMCA where I’m a member, there is a Bible verse inscribed on a wall in the lobby area that quotes John 17:21, “That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me,” New King James Version, NKJV).

This is the Bible verse that the YMCA founders adopted as their motto in the mid 1800’s. It served as a call for unity amongst all of its members in alignment with the prayer that Jesus prayed for all of his disciples, that they be one so that the world would believe. (ymcamission.org)

While the YMCA is generally associated with physical fitness, most persons are aware that it is a Christian organization. After all, Y-M-C-A does stand for Young Men’s CHRISTIAN Association. The reference to John 20:21 shows the importance of building a healthy spirit in addition to a healthy body. By the way, this verse is inserted within its equilateral triangle—spirit, mind, and body.

Ymca logo

It’s commendable that the YMCA adopted this Bible verse as their motto. For one thing, it speaks to the conscience of every member—that the Y is serving a higher, spiritual purpose that is to be respected and implemented. Another thing, the verse is an important reminder that all Christians need to work together in the same spirit as Jesus prayed.

And while all this is true, I believe there is even more to understand and appreciate about John 20:21something that points to the very nature of Jesus Christ himself. It has to do with a unique relationship between Jesus and his Father plus our relationship with both God our Father and his beloved Son.

Think of the verse in terms of horizontal and vertical positions. Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, is praying to his Father in heaven. This is the vertical position. Jesus is offering a very special prayer to his God and Father for his disciples because he knows what’s about to happen, something that will test the commitment and character of his followers—his trial, his suffering, his death on the cross, his resurrection and, ultimately, what will happen to them once he has ascended to heaven (Matthew 5:11; 10:22).

And Jesus also knew that in future generations, anyone who confessed him as their Lord and Savior would also be tested by the unbelieving world. His prayer, therefore, is also for us—his church. This is the horizontal position. It was intended to reach forward to all his followers from his day to the entire present age until he returns to set up his Father’s eternal Kingdom on the earth.

Jesus’ prayer concerning his oneness with the Father and what that means for us reveals the special closeness they had, something that even transcended time itself. This oneness is not to say that Jesus, himself, is God. Nor is it to say that he was God who literally sent himself to earth from heaven in the form of a baby as is popularly believed.

Rather, Jesus was sent by God in the same context as John the Baptist, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John,” (John 1:6). John, obviously, did not pre-exist his birth. Rather, he was divinely sent on a mission, foreknown and thus foreordained from the very beginning of God’s redemptive plan, “to bear witness” of the one, true Light, Jesus the Christ (v. 7). Therefore, to be sent by God is an indication of one’s unique purpose and mission for fulfilling the plan God has for the world.

The fact that all believers have been chosen from before the foundation of the earth (Ephesians 1:4), and that Jesus Christ was in God’s plan ever since creation (“All things came into being through him and for him…,” John 1:3; also, Colossians 1:16-17.) proves the significance of Jesus’ prayer.

Those who’ve been converted to Jesus Christ through faith, repentance, and baptism, are able to claim oneness with Jesus just as Jesus is one with God. And, therefore, believers have access to that unity of which our Savior prayed. Christians are truly one with Christ because they are one in Christ (Galatians 3:27-29).

Such unity validates our aim to be likeminded in Jesus’ name with the claim of loyalty to his cause according to the Gospel or Good News. As the Apostle Paul urged the Philippian church,

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may 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; also, 2:1-7).

Jesus prayed for us to be unified in him, standing firm as Paul stated, in the same spirit that brings us together as believers. His prayer should encourage us to know that he is still thinking of us while he is currently acting as our Mediator at the right hand of God’s throne in heaven (Acts 7:55-6; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; 1 Timothy 2:5).

While Jesus’ inspiring prayer in John 17, and particularly verse 21, continues to be in effect, it’s our joy and privilege to serve him by working together under God’s bountiful blessings of grace and truth. And that is truly what having a healthy spirit, mind, and body, are all about. Indeed, it’s mainly Y we follow Christ!

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. The unity Jesus prayed for reflects the love we have for him and for one another. And the world will know us by our love. Here is For King and Country presenting, “By Our Love,” http://youtu.be/d9zoq3k-3K0

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Talking About Love…

love-animated-gif-2018-39Valentine’s Day stokes our conscience about love—namely, the romantic kind. Go to any store, link to any site, read any ad, watch any commercial, and you’ll be reminded of it. Even in comic strips.

In one of the “Peanuts” comic strips, Lucy says to Charlie Brown: “You know what I don’t understand? I don’t understand love!”
He says, “”Who does?”
She says, “Explain love to me, Charlie Brown.”
He says, “You can’t explain love.”
She says, “Well, try, Charlie Brown, try.”
Charlie says, “Well, let’s say I see this beautiful cute little girl walk by.”
Lucy interrupts. “Why does she have to be cute? Huh? Why can’t someone fall in love with someone with freckles and a big nose? Explain that!”
Charlie: “Well, maybe you are right. Let’s just say I see this girl walk by with this great big nose.”
Lucy: “I didn’t say GREAT BIG NOSE.”
Charlie: “You not only can’t explain love, you can’t even talk about it.”

Talking about love was difficult for Lucy. But I imagine she was in good company with most of us. I think, for just about everyone, love’s kind of hard to explain. 

What’s even harder, however, is to explain WHY we can’t explain it. Maybe that’s because love is basically thought of as an emotion more than, say, an act of obedience.

What?!? Love? Obedience?

Well, yes…If you approach it from a Biblical perspective.

Look in Deuteronomy 6:4 through 6, for example. There you’ll see it does NOT say, Just love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might whenever you’re in the right mood for it.

Rather, Moses makes it quite clear that loving God is a strict command given by the Almighty, himself, and in no uncertain terms: “Thou shalt…” adding, “And these words, which I am commanding you today shall be on your heart.”

Now, isn’t that interesting. A command that shall be on your heart? Is it possible that obedience to a command, like loving our Maker first and foremost, can come from the heart—our deepest and dearest emotions? Of course!

If it were NOT a command, how else would we aim to make the love of God our highest priority? Emotions go up and down like a rollercoaster. They change like night and day.

But if our lives are dedicated on truly loving the one, true God not only with our “heart” feelings (including earthly passions and ambitions) but sincerely with our “soul” (willingness to give up our whole life) and our “might” (full concentration regardless the circumstances and with all of one’s possessions), as the Rabbis explain it, then truly we have something tangible to apply in our lives (For example, read verses 7-9).

It’s with our deep love for God that we are able to “love our neighbor” as we love ourselves. The law given to Israel was, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” (Leviticus19:18).

Moreover, the command to love your neighbor wasn’t to be applied only to their own people. It also extended to loving the stranger or foreigner in their land: “The stranger [alien] who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God,” (Lev. 19:34). In other words, love was commanded to be toward all—both natives and foreigners alike.

Jesus confirmed the command to love God first, and second, to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-37). In fact, he says these are the foremost of all God’s commands.

Jesus even went so far as to say that not only are we to love those who love us but those who hate and despise us. “Love your enemy,” he said, not as an option but as a requirement for all of his followers (Matt. 5:43-48; Luke 6:30-35—NOTE: v. 31 is what we call, “The Golden Rule.”)

The early church continued to stress the necessity of loving your neighbor as yourself as Christ instructed. James called it “the royal law,” (James 2:8). The Apostle Paul said it summed up the whole law (Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14). He even wrote a “Love Chapter” about it (1 Corinthians 13). The First, Second, and Third Letters of John all go into detail about it including the truth that,

“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also,” (1 John 4:20-21).

Interestingly, the word for “love” in these references have to do with the highest form of love that one could ever have. The Greek word for it is “agape” (pr., ah-gah’-peh). And it applies to God’s measureless, incomparable, and purest love. As the Bible clearly states, God not only has love (John 3:16), he IS love and he who abides in agape love, abides in God and God in him (1 John 4:8, 16).

The one who abides in the love of God through Christ is able to love one another unconditionally no matter the cost or the circumstance. Such love is what makes all other kinds of love possible, whether it be love of family, love of fellow Christians, love of our fellow human being, or (speaking of romance) intimate love between a husband and wife.

When we abide in God’s love, all other love is TRUE love in God’s eyes. And it goes beyond looks. Perhaps this should have been the discussion between Lucy and Charlie Brown. Then, maybe Lucy would’ve had a more satisfying answer to her question. At least, they wouldn’t have needed to get all hung up on a cute girl with a great big nose. Ya think?

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!
And Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s the Rhett Walker Band singing, “Love Like Jesus” http://youtu.be/XkiFoJRn2j0

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Indulging in Kingdom Joy

kingdomjoy

Some mistakenly turn to food and drink for achieving joy. They overindulge to the point of wrecking their health, oftentimes ruining personal relationships in the process. When dealing with depression, some will turn toward the consumption of food and alcohol to “drown” their woes.

Commercials put out the idea that satisfying our appetites will solve our worries and make us happy. This time of year, we see a lot of advertising for Valentine’s Day and the allurement of candies and treats to express love to our significant other. And dining with that special someone to share a scrumptious meal and favorite beverages are presented as the traditional time of enjoyment.

But Christians know that indulging in food and drink are not what leads them to the eternal blessings of God’s kingdom. The Apostle Paul stated, “Therefore, do not let what is for a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men,” (Romans 14:16-18).

What the apostle is proposing is to satisfy our appetites by indulging in spiritual values. Indulging in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit through Christ bring nourishment and health to our lives. And in view of the Kingdom hope, they last longer, too.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, feed me with righteousness, peace, and joy in you Holy Spirit each day. Amen.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here is “Joy”: http://youtu.be/E-r7ogDaaEQ

 

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