In Loving Memory of a Wonderful Mother-in-Law

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Rosemary Shute (August 14, 1930-July 1, 2019)

She lived, she laughed, she loved. These words repeatedly pop into my mind as I think about my mother-in-law, Muriel Rosemary Shute (nee Beardwood), who fell asleep in the Lord at the age of 88 years on July 1, 2019 after a long and valiant struggle with Parkinson’s disease.

From the time of her birth, August 14, 1930 in Welland, Ontario, Canada, Rosemary was a fighter. She entered the world a premature breech baby weighing only 4 pounds, was incubated on her parents wood stove, and was so delicate she had to be carried on a pillow, according to the family. Yet she overcame and lived a good, long life.

Her younger years were not without sorrow, however. Her mother, Flora, died of cancer in her early 50’s, when Rosemary was only 16 years old. Her older siblings took her under their wings especially her sister, Ivy and her brother, Edgar. Ivy, who was 15 years older than Rosemary, became a kind of surrogate mother to her.

Rosemary’s father, Harry, suffered from hardening of the arteries which is known today as Alzheimer’s. He had to go into a sanitorium and died when Rosemary was only in her early 30’s. It was another devastating loss in the family. But close ties with the family and friends kept them strong over the years. And Rosemary grew up to appreciate the preciousness of life as well as the importance of family, friendship, and faith.

Many in her church family fondly remember the times she went on golf outings and bowled with fellow members. Indeed, she was quite active in her church, singing in the church choir, presenting solos, and duets with her husband, Howard, a dedicated church leader in his own right. She also served in various church positions including Sunday School superintendent and church deaconess, as well as involvement in church fundraisers.

But one activity in which Rosemary will always be remembered is her “incredibly funny skits” for church socials, as members close to her recall. Not only did the members get many laughs, but she got a lot of chuckles out of the skits herself. As one couple reported, “Rarely could she get through one of these presentations without her breaking into giggles and snorts and eventually full on laughter, infecting all of us to join in.”

And that was her nature.

Yet, along with her jovial nature, my mother-in-law was a hard worker. Moreover, she was very efficient at what she did whether it was cleaning hotel rooms, tying grapes, or simply keeping house. Indeed, she always kept a tidy house!

She even opened a restaurant she called “Rosemary’s Inn.” Well, actually, it was only open for one evening. That’s when I came up from my home in Ohio to visit Diane, at that time my girlfriend. So, to make the occasion romantic, Rosemary fixed the two of us a nice meal, served on a small table for two, complete with a lighted candle illuminating the darkened living room for effect. Diane’s mom played the part of a waitress, apron and all. And nothing would do but Diane and I had to dress up for all of this. It was all in fun.

Us two “love birds,” as she called us, had an elegant evening much to the joy and pleasure of the one who would become my mother-in-law. Every time I brought back the memory of that romantic night at Rosemary’s Inn and asked if it was still open, she would grin and say, “Nope! It’s closed.”

Whether it was a game of Sorry, Checkers, or Crokinole (a Canadian board game consisting of flicking small wooden discs into the center and scoring points) with her family, my mother-in-law always enjoyed herself, win or lose. 

Everyone you’d talk to, including her children, testify of her joy for life and sense of humor. Words like “fun loving, caring, friendly, smiley, joyful” describe the kind of personality she had. And I remember how she liked making others smile, too.

When my wife and I returned from our honeymoon in Toronto (Was it REALLY 45 years ago? My, how time flies!), we stayed at her parents’ home in Niagara Falls before leaving the next day to live in the states. Just a few days earlier we were married at the Glad Tidings Church of God in Fonthill, Ontario, about 12 miles away. All of our wedding presents were being held at her parent’s house until we were going to leave.

When we returned to their house from our honeymoon late in the evening and came up to our bedroom, we pulled back the bed covers only to find rice spread everywhere in the sheets and pillows! Diane’s mom put them there as a sort of “welcome” to our new married life together. The next morning, when we told her about the “surprise” we found, she just grinned from ear to ear acting innocent about the whole thing.

We had so many wedding gifts, we could barely fit everything into our car. We were concerned that we’d have to pay a large duty for them when we crossed over the border at customs.

As we were preparing to leave the house, my mother-in-law not only sent us away with a teary good-bye, and a hug. She suddenly threw a handful of confetti on us in the car as we began to drive away, wishing us newlyweds a fond farewell. Confetti was everywhere: On the dashboard, in the seats, on the gifts that we had packed, and all over our clothes and hair.

When we arrived at customs in Buffalo, New York, we pulled into the office for inspection. We had a long list of the gifts and their estimated value to report to the officials. When we told them we just got married, they said, “Obviously. We can tell by all that confetti on you!” They took it humorously and let us a cross into the U.S. without paying any duty—thanks in large part to my mother-in-law and the confetti!

One thing I think is most unique and that’s having my mother-in-law as one of the members of the church I pastored. This includes all my in-laws, as well. For the Glad Tidings Church of God (Abrahamic Faith), Ontario, Canada, is my wife’s home church where her siblings continue to remain active. I was privileged and blessed to have pastored the church there for almost 12 years (2002 to 2014).

And throughout those years, I greatly enjoyed being my mother-in-law’s minister. When I was up at the pulpit each Sunday, I appreciated seeing her seated in the pew beside my father-in-law, as they took part in the worship services. And when I would come up with a mother-in-law joke in the message, especially on Mother’s Day, I could always count on getting a laugh out of her each time.

When she eventually entered the retirement home, I often visited her, ate meals together, and sometimes I’d bring her communion. In fact, she always looked forward to my coming there to help the social director, also from our church, who led hymn singing with all the other residents each month. As I mentioned, she loved to sing and enjoyed the camaraderie with all the other fellow residents and staff.

“Mom” Shute truly had a spirit about her that everyone came to love and admire. Her bright smile and sparkling eyes were seen in her love and zest for life. I could not have asked for a better mother-in-law and the encouragement she gave me even when she laughed at my corny jokes and puns.

It always tickled me whenever she called me her “most favorite son-in-law.” Never mind the fact that I was her ONLY son-in-law. But I could turn that around, as well, and say, “She was my most favorite mother-in-law,” even though she’s the only one I ever had. I can just hear her chuckling about this remark.

Her love for life was reflected by her love for her beloved husband, her children, her church family, her relatives and many friends. She loved to be with people. And I believe this stems from her love for the Lord and being able to use her talents and gifts for his service. From the time she helped with the children in the church, and even being a foster parent for a while, she loved to help others and make their day a little brighter.

Although much more could be said, suffice it to say that my wonderful mother-in-law left an indelible print upon our hearts. And while we’ll all miss her, we eagerly look forward to the Day when we shall see her again—that Day when Jesus comes to raise all the faithful asleep in Christ to immortality, and we shall forever be together with the Lord in his Kingdom. For this passage comes to mind:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

My we all find comfort in these words as we eagerly prepare for that Great Day!

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here is a song that was sung as a duet by my mother-in-law and father-in-law at church, and lovingly presented at this time in their memory: “He Touched Me” https://youtu.be/oJNSlJqTku0

 

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Timing Is Everything

Timing-is-everything

Back in 1960, singer/songwriter Jimmy Jones made the million-seller song, “Good Timin’.” The R & B song relates the historical encounters of David and Goliath, and Columbus and Queen Isabella to the prospects of a boy meeting the right girl at just the right time. https://youtu.be/OfeRtYZsVOU

Good timin’ is important in many other ways, too. Whether it’s hitting a home run, performing a death-defying stunt, telling a funny joke, making a sale, saving someone from danger—all these examples show that timing is everything for achieving success.

With God, timing is everything, as well. It’s all a part of his perfect nature. For, since he is perfect, so is his timing.

From the time he created the world to the time he called a people for his name, God’s timing has always been and always will be spot on. In fact, the eternal God who invented time controls time according to his own plan and purpose.

In Ecclesiastes 3:1, wise Solomon declared, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven…” (New American Standard Bible, NASB). Whether in good times or bad times, God never loses control of the times and seasons in which he has put into motion (See verses 2 through 8.). In effect, we humbly recognize his power over time and put our trust in his ability to provide for our needs.

Solomon’s father, David, prayed, “But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD. I say, ‘You are my God. My times are in Your hand; Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me,’” (Psalm 31, 14-15, NASB).

When we put our trust in the Lord and his timing, we can be assured of his blessings. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end, (New International Version, NIV).

As we put our trust in his perfect timing, the Bible instructs us to wait patiently in the Lord. This is often more easy to say than do. We want him to act upon our wishes immediately not later when he is ready to respond. It’s like praying, “Lord, give me patience and I want it now.”

Lamentations 3:25-26 says, “The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord,” (NASB).

Speaking of waiting on the Lord, I especially like Isaiah 40:31, “Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles; they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary,” (NASB). I believe this verse not only touches our hearts in the present, but applies even more importantly to a future time when God will give his people eternal safety, prosperity, and peace. As the eagle majestically soars higher and higher over the all the tumult below, believers will soar in the heights of glory in God’s wonderful Kingdom, to overcome life’s difficulties and disasters forever in the Kingdom of God.

God demonstrated his ability for perfect timing when his Son was born at just the right time and place. According to Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,” (NIV). Not only Jesus’ birth, but his entire ministry including his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to heaven came at the precise time God had planned—all for the sake of keeping his promises.

God’s timing is such that he is giving us adequate time to commit our lives to Christ, his Son, so as to be ready for the coming Kingdom (Acts 17:30). God is patient, giving us all the opportunity to repent and turn to him through Christ (2 Peter 3:9). But one day, when the right time comes, God will send his Son back to this world and only those who are ready for his coming will enter God’s Kingdom (Matthew 24:42-51; 2 Corinthians 6:2).

Good timin’ is God’s timin’. And, when we live according to his timin’, we will be in perfect timin’ for the countless blessings he has promised to those who follow him. Yes, timing IS everything!

Good News (and Good Timin’) to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s a beautiful worship song, “In His Time,” http://youtu.be/UptqAjXLZWo

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Happiness and the Law

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July 4th

The joke is told about an officer in a police helicopter who spotted a car speeding down the Interstate. He radioed his partner on the ground and the patrol officer in the car stopped the speeder and began writing a citation.
“How in the world did you know I was speeding?” the man asked.
The patrol officer didn’t say anything but pointed skyward.
“Aww,” the man moaned. “You mean, He’s turned against me, too?”

The speeder wasn’t happy, thinking that the police wasn’t the only authority out to punish him. His conscience bothered him for he knew there was a Higher Power to whom he must answer for breaking the law.

This scene brings to mind the proverb that says, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law,” (Prov. 29:18, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

Another word for “vision” is “revelation.” God’s Law was divinely revealed through Moses who recorded it when he was leading Israel to the Promised Land. It is outlined in what is called, “The Ten Commandments,” (Exodus 20:1-17; 34:28; Deuteronomy 4:13). Without his Law, there would be no restraint in a civilized society. And without restraint, there is no order.

Sadly, some believe that we do not need God and his Laws of order in our society. They assert their belief on the words, “wall of separation of church and state.” Besides what they’ve already done to take God out of public institutions and property, they would also like to abolish words like, “In God we trust,” from our money, and “So help me, God” from oaths stated in Congress.

Just the talk of these issues cause strife and anxiety among many.

Of great significance regarding our legal system is that the Hebrew-inscribed Ten Commandments held by Moses are sculpted on the Supreme Court building. Not surprisingly, there are some who are trying to have this removed, too. Just think of it: The Supreme Court of our land without a visible reminder of the Supreme Laws of God to guide and direct the ones who make landmark decisions according to their own interpretation of the laws by which we live.

While most persons will agree that something just doesn’t seem right in all of this, others insist they are justified for removing God from our laws and institutions. Unfortunately, this situation is created because many do not understand what “wall of separation of church and state” truly means.

Here is a simple explanation from a Time.com article updated January 16, 2018, written by James Lankford, Senator from Oklahoma, and Dr. Russell Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. An excerpt from the article titled, “The Real Meaning of the Separation of Church and State” says,

Jefferson’s famous phrase came in an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut. The Baptists were worried about the freedom to practice their faith, writing to Jefferson, “what religious privileges we enjoy, we enjoy as favors granted, and not as inalienable rights,” which is “inconsistent with the rights of freemen.”

Jefferson wrote back that religious liberty, free from state tampering, would be a key part of the American vision. The Constitution, he wrote, would “restore to man all his natural rights.” In this same letter, Jefferson explained the intent of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution, which reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” This, he said, built a “wall of separation of church and state.”

Jefferson was not suggesting that religious people or religious motivations should be exiled from public debate. As a matter of fact, the letter was from a religious people appealing to an elected official for their rights — an elected official who, by the way, attended church services during his administration inside the United States Capitol. http://time.com/5103677/church-state-separation-religious-freedom/

We understand, therefore, that God’s Law was never meant to be kept separate from our government and the constitution. In fact, it’s because of respect and obedience of God’s Law that our nation was formed. Our founding fathers knew, for example, that without God we could not enjoy the freedom he has given to us—freedom of speech, freedom of religion, along with basic human rights. They knew that without God’s Law our country would inevitably suffer from unrestrained chaos and disorder that would prohibit such freedom and bring on oppression and tyranny.

Here’s what a few of them said:

  • “The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.” [Alexander Hamilton, “The Farmer Refuted”, February 5, 1775]
  • “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” [JOHN ADAMS, Signer of the Declaration of Independence; One of Two Signers of the Bill of Rights; Second President of the United States]
  • “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.” [THOMAS JEFFERSON, Signer and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence; Third President of the United States]
  • “Righteousness alone can exalt [America] as a nation. Reader! Whoever thou art, remember this; and in thy sphere practice virtue thyself, and encourage it in others…[T]he great pillars of all government and of social life: I mean virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that renders us invincible.” [PATRICK HENRY, Patriot and Statesman]

The Declaration of Independence, signed by our nation’s founders, recognizes God and his Law. They referred to the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God—in other words, Laws of a higher, divine order—”…endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness…”

When Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence and inserted, “Laws of Nature,” and “Nature’s God” he was referring to God’s Law, founded in God’s Word. But where did Jefferson get these now-famous words?

It is pointed out that Jefferson was a student of Lord Bolingbroke, an English politician, government official, and political philosopher. According to Lord Bolingbroke the Law of Nature’s God is the Law which is found upon God’s Word. Bolingbroke reportedly wrote to English Poet, Alexander Pope, saying,

“You will find that it is the modest, not the presumptuous enquirer, who makes a real, and safe progress in the discovery of divine truths. One follows nature, and nature’s God; that is, he follows God in his works, and in his word.” (article by Bill Fortenberry, “What is the Law of Nature’s God?” The Federalist Papers, Current Events, 4/6/2013. https://thefederalistpapers.org/current-events/what-is-the-law-of-natures-god)

Those who would try to erase God and his Law from our American system are fools. They reject our historical foundation—a foundation based on the moral and spiritual instructions of God’s Word. Without it, we have no liberty. Freedom is lost.

As the wise man wrote, “Happy is he who keeps the law.” When the Law of God was given to Moses, the key to blessings was revealed. Psalm 33:12 says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.”

If wonderful blessings are granted to God’s chosen inheritance, Israel, then think of the blessings our nation will enjoy if all Americans follow those same principles, too! We, likewise, will be happy as a nation enjoying power, prosperity, and protection “under God.”

Have a happy Independence Day to all fellow Americans!
Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. You’ve heard the song, “America the Beautiful.” But you’re probably only familiar with the first verse. Here’s the song presented by Twila Paris with other verses that are also inspiring. Notice, especially, the verse that has the words, “America! America! God mend thine every flaw, Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law!”   
https://youtu.be/w_poBkPb2N8

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Sweet Surrender

surrender to God

“Surrender and come out with your hands up!”

Usually, these words conjure a scene in our minds where police have surrounded a robber caught after committing a crime. The robber is left with a decision: to give up to authorities and face the consequences, or hold out hoping to find an escape someway, or sadly, take his own life.

To surrender implies giving up or giving in to someone who will have complete control over you. Naturally, this isn’t easy to do. The human nature in us doesn’t usually want to surrender to anyone. Instead, it is our tendency to resist, rebel, reject the demand to submit to another person.

Perhaps this explains why many are reluctant to surrender their lives to a higher Power like God through accepting his Son, Jesus Christ. Though they are guilty of sin, like we all are, their inclination is to resist. They bristle at the thought of having to give up what they perceive is a care-free life to be chained down to rules and rituals.

But I propose that surrendering to Christ is the best thing you can ever do. In fact, it’s the ONLY thing you can do if you ever hope to truly be happy and free. That’s why it’s called, “Sweet Surrender.”

This, by the way, happens to be the title of a Christian song some years ago recorded by singing artist Jaci Velasquez. The song carries the idea that when we surrender to God’s love, he will give us inner rest and peace. The lyrics are…

It’s not a mysterious wind,
And it’s not the thunder rollin’ in.
It’s a spirit that I feel within that’s callin’,
I understand but I can’t explain.
Now I see love in a different way,
And with a single leap of faith I’m fallin’

Into Your lovin’ arms,
Showing no resistance;
There’s a peace that flows over me.

[CHORUS:]
Sweet surrender,
Love me tender.
You have captured my desiring heart — completely.
Sweet surrender;
Yours forever.
I will gladly give my all to You — receive me
,
Oh Lord, I am ever Yours.

Your love offers no escape
But I don’t feel the need to run away.
My heart has found a place to stay — here with you,
Nothing else could satisfy
The deep void that I had inside
From all the worldly battles I have lived through

Now here in Your loving arms,
I have gone the distance,
I will rest my soul in your embrace.

[CHORUS]

Notice the words, “I will gladly give my all to You…Oh Lord, I am ever Yours.” There is no reluctance or resistance when you surrender to Christ and make him Master of your life. You put your complete trust in him and all his peace to be your peace.

It starts by confessing your guilt as a sinner and believing that God raised his Son from the dead to give you a new life centered on obedience and acceptance of his eternal salvation.

Romans 10:9-10 says, “…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation,” (New American Standard Bible, NASB).

And Hebrews 5:9 says, “And having been made perfect, He [Jesus] became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,” (NASB).

Surrendering to Christ through obedience and acceptance includes faith (Ephesians 2:8), repentance (Acts 2:38), and baptism (Romans 6:1-7). Faith is believing, knowing, and trusting God and his Word. Repentance is recognizing sin, regretting sin, and renouncing sin in your life. Baptism, an ordinance of Christ, is immersion in water. It symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord (Colossians 2:12).

Just as faith and repentance, baptism is also a requirement in order be saved (1 Peter 3:21). For it results in remission or forgiveness of sins (Acts 22:6) and entrance into Christ (Galatians 3:27). When you enter into Christ, you receive the Spirit or Power of God to change and improve your life (Rom. 12:2; Gal. 5:19-26), to enable you to serve him through his many gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-11; Rom. 12:6-21; Ephesians 4:4-32), and to give you the hope of inheriting eternal life in his kingdom as demonstrated by the resurrection of Christ (Rom. 8:10-11; Philippians 3:9-11).

Coming out with your hands up signifies true surrender. We raise our hands to him, reaching out to the One who died for our sins, offering confession, as well as praise for his love. And it’s out of hope that we look forward to receive eternal life when he returns in glory and power. What peace, joy, and love we can experience each day even when times get rough as we submit to him. No wonder it’s called, “Sweet Surrender”!

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. May God speak to your heart as you listen to this beautiful song: http://youtu.be/3U8r9AP1KZU

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Special Gifts for Dads

Happy-Fathers-Day

Fathers love gifts…as long as they’re practical, of course.

One Dad suggested that the family get him a gift that the whole family could get something out of. So they did. They bought Dad a new wallet.

But to decide on what gift is actually practical may depend on the Dad and the gift. One wouldn’t think of buying Dad a coffee mug if he doesn’t drink coffee. Or, a ticket to a ball game if he’d prefer to go the opera. Dads who love the outdoors—hunting, fishing, hiking, and the like—would probably not want puzzles to put together, mystery novels to read, or dominoes to play.

Some Dads enjoy sports; others don’t. Some Dads are attracted to clothes that are hip, fashionable; others only wear duds that are as common as an old shoe (And he probably owns only one pair, at that!). In essence, gifts vary in accordance to a Dad’s interests—or, as a philosoper might say, “To each Dad according to his own preference.”

By the way, speaking of preferences…you’ve heard the old “Not another tie!” lament. But, personally, as a guy who doesn’t mind ties and has a lot of them myself, you wouldn’t hear me complain…too much. (lol)

If one knows not what one’s Dad would really like, all one has to do is go on the Internet and enter words like, “Father’s Day gifts” or “Gifts for Dads.” There you will see oodles of items that you can pick for finding just the right gift for your Dad. Depending on the source of your information, you can pick anything from the ordinary (clothes, dinners, tools) to the bizarre (parachute diving, giant face cushion, registering a star in his name). But, again, it’s according to your Dad’s likes and dislikes. 

The aim of any son or daughter is to get a special Father’s Day gift—that one gift your Dad will appreciate and use for his good pleasure. We want to please our Dads and get them something that will bring a smile to their face. Sometimes finding just the right gift comes easy. Other times, however, it might be difficult. You might find one right away. But some gifts may take a little more effort to find and that takes more time.

Whatever gift you give to your Dad, there’s one you can add that will make it MORE special. This includes the honor you give him—showing him your love, respect, and gratitude in special ways. In fact, these are gifts themselves—gifts that will please your Dad. And they will last much longer than whatever material gift that you present to him.

This might sound too difficult for sons and daughters who have serious differences with their fathers. And granted, some fathers may not seem worthy of these special gifts due, perhaps, to their own mistakes in the past. But in a Christian world, that’s where these special gifts are definitely needed in order for that kind of situation to change for the betterment of the family. Only through an honest effort of genuine forgiveness and reconciliation can conditions change for the best (Mark 11:25; Ephesians 4:32; 1 Peter 3:8-12)and what better time than Father’s Day to begin that change?

Special gifts are special because they are based on a commitment—a commitment of loyalty to the virtues God our Father has laid forth through his one and only Son, Jesus Christ. It’s all a part of God’s command to honor your father as well as your mother as Jesus, himself, affirmed (Exodus 20:12; Matthew 15:4). The result? “…that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord gives you.” (See also Ephesians 6:1-3; Deuteronomy 5:16).

Happy Father’s Day to all Dads!
And Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. This song is dedicated as a special gift to all Dads—heroes in the sight of their children, https://youtu.be/hM4gOls0R48

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The Hope of All Hope

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The S S Hope was a hospital ship. Having voyaged from 1960 until 1974, it was the first peacetime vessel in the world.

And it lived up to its name.

The ship was equipped with typical facilities found in a typical hospital. Its mission was to provide medical and surgical care to the sick and disabled to countries around the world. The goal was to provided health and opportunity for people everywhere.

The S S Hope was originally a US Navy hospital ship, the USS Consolation. Interestingly, Consolation was turned to Hope when it was donated to Project HOPE in 1958. HOPE is an acronym for Help Opportunities for People Everywhere.

Project HOPE continues as an international health care organization found in the United States. Ever since the S S Hope ship was retired, Project HOPE has changed to land-based operations in Germany and the United Kingdom as well as the US.

While we can appreciate the efforts put forth by Project HOPE and the years the S S Hope brought hope to many people in distant lands, the Bible talks about an even greater hope for all the world. Titus 2:11 through 15 reads,

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds,” (New American Standard Bible, NASB).

You will notice the phrase I’ve put in bold type, “the blessed hope”. It’s the hope of all hope because it’s about something more than wishful thinking. It doesn’t come from any human theory or philosophy or fantasy of some kind. Rather, it’s the hope that comes from the inspiration of God’s own Word which teaches something far greater and better than anything we could ever imagine or wish for.

In his book, Systematic Theology, the late Dr. Alva G. Huffer gave a fitting description of this hope. He wrote,

“Hope equals desire plus expectation. Desire minus expectation equals a mere wish. Expectation minus desire equals dread. Hope must include both desire (Proverbs 13:12) and expectation (Prov. 10:28). He who hopes for something to happen wants that event to occur and expects it to happen.”

Titus 2:13 places that “blessed hope” in anticipation of a future time—namely, at the “glorious appearing” of Jesus Christ. The fact that the blessed hope of Christ and his next coming occupies one out of every 25 verses from the Gospel of Matthew to the Book of Revelation shows the importance of hope for the church.

Dr. Huffer went on to say,

“Christians have many hopes for the future. The one hope which supersedes all other hopes, however, is the return of Christ, because it will make all other hopes possible. The blessed hope, our Lord’s return, is the open door to God’s Tomorrow.
The believer’s hope is centered not in a thing, but in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Since God’s beloved Son is the person in whom we put our hope (Colossians 1:27), we know we can put our trust and faith in it. Jesus is the One who brings hope alive when all other hope falls short of making our dreams and desires come true. Through Christ, we are sure without a shadow of doubt that the blessed hope will be fulfilled. And this gives us the incentive to live for him—to let him transform our lives so that we’ll be prepared for his return.

The desire and expectation of believers is to “…be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time,” (1 Peter 1:3-5).

In this present age, our hope of all hope is being reserved in heaven where Jesus is interceding as Mediator between God and humankind (1 Timothy 2:5). When Jesus returns, he will fulfill that hope and bring with him the reward of eternal life for all believers (Revelation 22:12). This is the inheritance that will never fade away— immortality (1 Corinthians 15:50-58)—and which includes the new earth, restored (Acts 3:19-21); co-rulership with Jesus (Romans 8:17) when he reigns over the nations (Rev. 17:14; 19:16) bringing true justice for all (Psalm 72:1-7) with Paradise conditions (Rev. 21:4; 22:12) covering all the earth (Daniel 7:14, 27; Isaiah 11:9).

Now that’s what I call the hope of all hope! And it’s available for people everywhere!

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s Bible Truth Music presenting, “I’m Looking for That Blessed Hope,” http://youtu.be/6s1XKt0m8oY

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Fearing Fear

fear_home alone

On March 4, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt presented his inaugural address during one of the darkest times of the nation’s history. The United States was in the grip of what would be called The Great Depression. The nation desperately needed hope and encouragement as the newly elected president began his first term of office. So, in his opening remarks, he used ten words (I’ve put in bold type) that has become famous for all time. He starts out,

I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance….

Not only Americans, but all humans have fear of one kind or another and at one time or another. No matter one’s age, gender, race, or creed, human fear like the kind the 32nd president of the United States described —nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance— needs to be addressed lest we fall into the kind of depression that paralyzes and destroys our lives.

There are countless kinds of fears that would take volumes to write about. And, indeed, volumes have already been written and reported about it. But at the crux of any fear is fear itself—an observation not only made by FDR but other notable persons:

  • The thing I fear most is fear. —Michel Eyquem De Montaigne, 1580
  • Nothing is terrible except fear itself.—Sir Francis Bacon, 1623
  • The only thing I am afraid of is fear.—Duke of Wellington, 1831
  • Nothing is so much to be feared as fear.—Henry David Thoreau, 1841

You might like to know that the medical jargon for the fear of fear is phobophobia. It comes from the Greek word, “phobos” which includes an extreme fear. It’s the kind of fear that brings on feelings of horror and terror which causes people to think and act irrationally.

When we see or hear people making statements that seem to make no sense at all, yet stirring up strife, insecurity, and danger among others, then we wonder about their underlying fears. How can we trust what these fearmongers are saying? They could be anyone from your closest friend to your most admired Hollywood entertainer, to your favorite politician to your most trusted media. Like a life-threatening cancer, they spread their phobic fear to infect fear in others, and maybe in you as well, whether they do it consciously or unconsciously; intentionally or unintentionally. Regardless the situation, panic soon follows.

Fearing fear is a fearful experience that we prefer not to fear because we know its fateful results. According to experts, those most vulnerable to phobophobia are those who are afraid of disclosing their fears for fear of being exposed. This, in itself, sparks anxiety and panic disorders of many kinds due to unreasonable fears.

As Christians, we understand that there is a way to resist the fear of fear and prevent the dire results. Although some might think it sounds contradictive to propose this, but the best way to deal with our fear is having the fear of God. In fact, if there’s anything that we SHOULD be afraid of, it’s if we DO NOT fear God. 

It’s been anonymously said, “When you fear God, you having nothing else to fear.”

Such a statement about fearing God is not without Biblical backup. In, The Faith That Satisfies, William Anderson is cited,

This phrase fear of the Lord” occurs over and over and over. I was really surprised to find more than three hundred references in the Old Testament that speak of the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is reverential trust and hatred of evil, and there you have the whole thing.

Point well-taken. It says in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding,” (New American Standard Bible, NASB). It’s a good thing to fear God because it helps us to deal wisely with our own fears. We do not need to fear fear because the fear of the LORD provides the antidote to the underlying fears that plague us.

Distinguished pastor and author, A.W. Tozer once wrote that the fear of God is essentially, “astonished reverence.” He went on to assert,

I believe that the reverential fear of God mixed with love and fascination and astonishment and admiration and devotion is the most enjoyable state and the most satisfying emotion the human soul can know. (as cited from, Whatever Happened to Worship).

When our fear of God grows, phobophobia shrinks. Knowing that God is watching us while watching over us moves us to live by faith and not by unreasonable fear. Striving to live and serve him in the contentment of his holiness, love, and truth, relieves us of having to deal with our fears no matter how deep or shallow they may appear.

So, if you’re afraid to face your fears, remember that fearing the LORD will bring you good health and a better life: “Trust the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body, and refreshment to your bones,” (Prov. 3:5-8, NASB).

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. When we place our fear at the disposal of our fear of God, we discover an amazing thing: the love of God swelling in our hearts. The One who makes this possible is God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who personifies God’s holiness, love, and truth. Jesus generates the “perfect love that casts out fear” (1 John 4:18) including the kind of fear that keeps us from accepting him as the Lord and Savior of our lives. Here’s Zach Williams presenting the official lyric video, “Fear Is a Liar,” http://youtu.be/sQTnREEtuNk

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