The Invisible God

Seeing the Invisible God

There’s a cute story of a little boy who was working on a drawing. His daddy asked him what he was doing. The son replied, “Drawing a picture of God.” His daddy said, “You can’t do that, honey. Nobody knows what God looks like.” But the little boy was undeterred. He continued to draw, looked at his picture with satisfaction and said very matter-of-factly, “They will in a few minutes.” (selected)

Although he was sincerely determined to draw God’s picture, the little boy did not understand that no one has ever seen God entirely. True, it is written that Moses saw the backside of God (Exodus 33:18-34:9). But no one can actually see God face to face and live to tell about it even as God exclaimed to Moses, ” But He said, ‘You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!’” (Ex. 33:20, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

In that context, John the Baptist testified, “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known,” (John 1:17-18, New European Version, NEV)

The fact that God hasn’t fully been seen is why he is called, “the invisible God.” Colossians 1:15 says that Jesus Christ is “…the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation…” (NEV).

Though God cannot be totally seen by the naked eye, he has revealed himself to humanity in several ways:

• God has revealed himself in the universe. David spoke of God’s glorious creation of heaven (Psalm 8:3-4). David marveled at God’s handiwork in the heavens as he declared, The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. (Psa. 19:1-6 NASB)

• God has revealed himself by his creation of Earth (Gen. 1:1), including day and night (Gen. 1:2-5); Earth’s atmosphere and formation of continents and oceans (Gen. 1:6-10); vegetation and plants (Gen. 1:11-13); sun, moon, stars and the four seasons (Gen 1:14-19; 8:22; Isaiah 55:9-11; Rom. 14:17); aquatic and fowl life (Gen. 1:20-22); animal and human life (Gen. 1:24-31; 2:7-25).

• God reveals himself by the fact that mankind was created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27). Yes, God is a living person because he had made us in his physical image. Moreover, unlike the animal species, he created mankind to have the ability to think, feel, and choose. Ergo, we are conscious beings with a built-in conscience. Even though we might never have been directly taught the Law of God given through Moses, we have a natural inclination to consciously know what is right and wrong because of conscience (Romans 2:14-15).

• It’s also pointed out that God reveals himself through history. Dr. Alva G. Huffer wrote,

…The historic divine judgments—the Flood, dispersion of nations from the Tower of Babel, destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues upon Egypt, the captivity of Israel, etc.—were revelations of God. Fulfilled predictions God made concerning ancient nations were divine self-revelations. In his providence God uses one nation to punish another and his guiding hands upon the destiny of nations. (Read Habakkuk). According to Ezekiel the recognition of God’s work among the nations will be the major result of the fulfillment of future prophecies. The key phrase of Ezekiel is “that they might know that I am God.” (Systematic Theology, p. 50.)

• We learn about God and how he reveals himself to us primarily through his inspired Book, the Bible. Both Old and New Testaments show us the truth of God’s Word to mankind. We know his work and will through the way he inspired holy men to write the holy Scriptures (2 Peter 1:20-21). The Scriptures are the ultimate written source for receiving instruction of holy living and understanding God’s plan salvation (2 Tim. 3:15-17).

• Now we come full circle to the aim and purpose that God has for revealing himself in so many ways. The living manifestation of God’s Word is the revelation of himself through his only begotten Son, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus was in God’s plan even before God began his creation (Col. 1:15-16). Jesus suffered and died but God resurrected him to immortality to be “firstborn from the dead,” (Col. 1:18; cp. Rom. 6:9) He is, therefore, “before all things” in that God his Father exalted him higher than any thing he ever made before or ever will make in the future: “And he is superior to all things, and in him all things consist,” Col. 1:17, NEV; also Philippians 2:9; Hebrews 1:1-4). When the “reasoning” [Greek: logos, “word”] of God “became flesh” at the birth of Jesus Christ (John 1:14), God was literally revealing his plan of salvation for mankind. Though we cannot see God our Father, we can see him through the eyes faith (Heb. 11:1). For Jesus—God’s Son—is the perfect image who, like a mirror, reflects God’s perfect moral character (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15; 2:9). That is why Jesus could make the claim, “He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me,” (John 12:45, NASB).

One day, after Jesus has returned and completely established God’s Kingdom, God himself will come down from his heavenly throne to this planet (Revelation 21:1-4). Only those who’ve been faithful to him through conversion in Jesus Christ will be able to see God for they will be glorified with immortality just as Jesus is now (1 Cor. 15:51-52; Philippians 3:21). Just think… believers won’t need to draw God’s picture then to know what he looks like because he will actually be among us! Sadly, as for everyone else who has not accepted God’s Son as Savior, the Bible says that they will never be able to see God (Rev. 20:11-15).

By faith, we turn to the God we cannot literally see in this life, but believe we WILL see in the Kingdom Age to Come. Through his own self-revelation we can see evidence of God’s personal existence. If we know the Son of God, Jesus Christ, as our personal Lord and Savior we can also know God our Father and his salvation plan even though we don’t visibly see him at present.

What’s the benefit of all this faith in our invisible God now? “Spiritual wisdom and understanding…walking worthily in the Lord…producing fruit for doing God’s good work…being strengthened with all power…patience and endurance with joy…being made suitable to be partakers of the eternal inheritance with all the other believers in Jesus Christ…forgiveness of our sins…” (Colossians 1:9-14).

Here is Steve Green singing his rendition of, “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise,” http://youtu.be/MlbnP4_yj18

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Motivation Through Inspiration

God's Word Inspired

I was reading a funny story about one way a father motivated his family to pitch in and help set up a campsite where they were staying. After their loaded station wagon parked at the only remaining campsite, the four children leaped from the vehicle and began feverishly unloading the gear and setting up the tent. The boys then rushed to gather firewood, while the girls and their mother set up camp stove and cooking utensils. A nearby camper marveled to the youngsters’ father: “That, sir, is some display of teamwork.” The father replied, “I have a system. No one goes to the bathroom until the camp is set up. (selected)

Funny how it takes certain ways to motivate people. Some use a conditional approach like the father: You may all go to the bathroom upon the condition you set up camp first. Others use bribery: mother to son… I offer to pay your ticket to go to a movie if you finish your homework. Still, others resort to black mail: sister to brother…I will tell dad you got a traffic ticket when you drove his car unless you do all my chores for the next few weeks. There’s also the time approach, often used in sales: Get this widget now at this low price before time runs out. Ah…another one I just thought of is the threat of punishment : Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time. There are also other examples of motivation you can probably think of.

The point is…motivation can be found through many means and methods. But the best way is through the inspiration of the scriptures. In fact, God’s inspired Word provides the kind of instruction that truly motivates us for achieving genuine success in our lives.

Second Timothy 3:16 and 17 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (New American Standard Bible, NASB)

Let’s break this passage down. The word, “inspired,” literally means, “God-breathed.” All Scripture is “breathed out by God,” (English Standard Version, ESV). Through his Holy Spirit or Power, God spoke to the eyes and ears as well as the minds and hearts of holy men who recorded his Word and will to them (2 Peter 1:21). Therefore, everything you read from Genesis to Revelation is not something that human beings made up. Every word or thought derives from that divine Source which makes the Bible true, accurate, and trustworthy. God is the sole author of his Book.

God’s inspired Word, therefore, is profitable or useful in various ways–namely, teaching or instruction; reproof or persuasion; correction or setting right again; training in righteousness or discipline in doing right under God’s justice. The profitability of God’s inspired Word is so that believers can be adequately equipped for doing God’s good work. In effect, there can be no better way to be motivated than by applying God’s inspired Word in one’s daily life.

Let’s cite some examples:

  • Teaching. Joshua 1:7, “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go,” (ESV).

There are many books on the market that tell us how to achieve success. But the foundation of true success from the Christian standpoint is by doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. God’s laws of do’s and don’ts provide the ethics that motivate us to move forward toward whatever we’re doing. And it keeps our conscience clear and our minds confident knowing we’re doing what God requires by following his instructions.

  • Reproof. Romans 8:38-39, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (New King James Version, NKJV).

Whenever we’re presented with an opinion or idea that we question we want evidence. Reproof requires proof of evidence by testing our conviction. God’s Word is meant to convict us in our beliefs even if it takes reprimand or rebuke (2 Timothy 4:1-4). Motivation through reproof is when we are convinced or persuaded to accept God’s truth regardless of those who would challenge us to believe otherwise. Like the Apostle Paul, whose conviction was also tested and proven, we are motivated knowing that nothing and no one can come between us and the love of God through Christ our Lord (2 Tim. 3:1-15).

  • Correction. 2 Timothy 2:23-26, “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will,” (ESV).

Call it human pride, but no one usually likes to be corrected. We all like to think we’re right. But when someone sets us straight on a certain matter, we’re either going to resist or admit our error. Motivation rests on how we take correction when we need it. We can either take it with a positive or a negative attitude which is why the Apostle Paul instructed Timothy to correct his opponents with gentleness. Motivation is strengthened if correction is done in the correct way: With gentle words rather than with harsh or judgmental words (Matthew 7:1-5). Another thing to remember is that God’s Word provides the truth that keeps us corrected. If we keep it hidden in our hearts (Psalm 119:11), then we’ll be divinely motivated to follow his correction in a positive manner. And that gets us to the next principle…  

  • Training in Righteousness. Hebrews 12:4-13, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. 
    ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

          nor be weary when reproved by him.
    For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
          and chastises every son whom he receives.’
    For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left       without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.”

Any kind of training you undergo takes discipline. To be trained in God’s righteousness or justice is no different. Among other things, it includes great sacrifice, hard work, intensive learning, and gut desire. Motivation is imperative if you want to be trained in God’s righteousness. By remembering that God’s correction is what trains us to pursue those principles that bring us success, we will be motivated through his perfect, genuine love, “For the Lord disciplines [trains] the one he loves.” Even when you don’t feel well and you are so weak you think you can’t go any farther, God’s discipline will motivate you with peace of mind and strength and hope to move forward in your midst of trial and temptation.  

If you need motivation to get you going in whatever you pursue to do, get inspired by God’s inspired Word. Nothing is so essential and so rewarding as following God’s Word to get you motivated. As the Apostle Paul noted in his own testimony of life-long commitment, it is most profitable for equipping us to serve as we look forward to the appearing of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 4:7-8). Nothing could be more motivating than to anticipate the crown of righteousness the Lord will award to believers when he comes again!

Here’s an inspirational song that will motivate you: “Word of God Speak” by Mercy Me, https://youtu.be/4JK_6osCH74

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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A Matter of Interpretation?

Bible says

A young mother had been too busy to visit her elderly neighbor, who was ill. She said to her small son, “Johnny, run over and see how ‘old Mrs. Smith’ is.” Within a few minutes, the boy was back. “She says it’s none of your business how old she is.” (1001 Humorous Illustrations for Public Speaking, Michael Hodgin)

Johnny must have interpreted his mother to say one thing but she meant it another way. This sort of thing happens all the time, doesn’t it? We say something to someone but they interpret it another way. Usually, it results in confusion and, sometimes, strife.

It is no different when Christians have opposing views on the Scriptures. I remember oftentimes discussing a specific Bible verse with someone and the person will say, “It depends on how you interpret it.” In other words, that person is saying it doesn’t really matter what the truth is but what you think about it that counts. But will that kind of attitude bring us any closer to the true meaning of a Bible passage? And won’t that just bring confusion and, perhaps, strife over it?

Yes, we can agree to disagree just for the sake of maintaining love, civility and mutual respect. But there can only be one truth and, therefore, one faith for building the kind of unity taught in God’s Word (Ephesians 4:1-6). In fact, wasn’t this the goal of the early church leaders? The Apostle Paul said to the church of Ephesus:

…till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ… (Ephesians 4:13-16).

Whenever we study the Bible, and want to come up with the truth of a word or passage, we need to be very careful not to let our own bias or personal preferences interfere with the meaning. What we want to believe about a certain teaching or subject and what it is actually saying has to be closely considered whenever we search the Scriptures. There is such a thing as “interpretive bias,” as author, Michael Hodgin, has illustrated:

Whenever we interpret Scripture, we tend to lean toward our own bias. We need to recognize the reality of such biases that we all have. I like the story I read in Sunday Sermons about the driver of a tour bus in Nashville, Tennessee. The driver was pointing out the sights of the Civil War Battle of Nashville. He said, “Right over here a small group of Confederate soldiers held off a whole Yankee brigade.” A little farther along he said, “Over there a young Confederate boy, all by himself, fought off a Yankee platoon.” This went on and on until finally, a member of the tour group asked, “Didn’t the Yankees win anything in the battle of Nashville?” The bus driver replied, “Not while I’m the driver of this bus, they didn’t.” (ibid.)

It is imperative that any student of the Bible not allow outside influences to distort the actual meaning of Scripture. What you’ve always been taught by your parents, or your church’s creed, or your Sunday School teacher, or college professor, or even your preacher or priest has to be weighed against what you are reading and studying for yourself. It may just be that what you are discovering through your own studies may not agree with the traditional views others have given you. Remember what it says in Second Peter 1:19 through 21. Scripture must interpret itself.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible that I’ve used as a guideline for interpreting Scripture is Second Timothy 2:15, where the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” (King James Version, KJV). The Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC) puts this verse in context with verses 14 and 16 and states the text this way:

(14) Remind [the people] of these facts and [solemnly] charge them in the presence of the Lord to avoid petty controversy over words, which does no good but upsets and undermines the faith of the hearers. (15) Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth. (16) But avoid all empty (vain, useless, idle) talk, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness. (vss. 14-16)

I cannot over emphasize the need to study God’s Word on your own and see if you come up with same conclusions as others. This is what the Berean Christians were commended for. In Acts 17:10-12 it says,

The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men. (New American Standard Bible, NASB)

As I’ve pointed out, when studying God’s inspired Word, one must approach it diligently and allow it to speak for itself. This includes going to the original languages in which it was written (Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic), understanding the culture, customs, and history of the time, and taking everything into context what was written. It’s also advisable that you use Bible translations which come closer to the original text rather than paraphrases which are basically modernized versions of what translators think it says. Commentaries are okay to an extent but I believe you must still be somewhat objective with a little bit of skepticism added in until you can see proof of what is being asserted.

All of this might sound too overwhelming for some. But you don’t have to have a degree in Theology or a be an expert in linguistics to understand God’s Word. There a many more resources to consult now that we have access to computers and other technology tools in addition to books. And be assured. God has revealed his Word in such a way that even the most simple-minded person can read it and absorb it into one’s life. In Psalm 119:130 it says, “The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.” Through Christ, God wants us to know his truth so that we can apply it for our spiritual growth as we serve him and prepare for his Kingdom (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 4:1-8).

Here’s Amy Grant singing, “Thy Word”: http://youtu.be/M_3Ad3Q4Rrk

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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The Fallacy of Humanism

humanism

Have you ever heard of a building literally making someone sick? It happened one time in 1996 when a mother, Randi Armstrong, and her two daughters moved from California to Staten Island. According to the New York Times, Randi and the girls started mysteriously suffering from recurring itching, fatigue, headaches, and cold and flu symptoms. They spent days at a time in bed, missing school, and work. Randi spoke to the landlord and her doctor but no one could help her identify the cause of the problem.

Suffering for months, one day she saw a television news program describing maladies caused by a noxious mold called Stachy-botrys atra (pronounced stock-e-BAH-trus AH-tra) that grows in dark, warm, moist conditions. It had become a problem in some buildings on Staten Island because of the borough’s high water table. A library and a day-care center had been closed because of the mold. Instantly, Randi recognized the streaky patches of black, slimy mold on some of the walls and ceilings of her apartment. As quickly as she could, she moved out of the apartment. (Craig Brian Larson & Leadership Journal)

Sick buildings make a person physically ill. And in the same sense, when people make their abode with human philosophies and worldviews that are spiritually harmful then they, too, will suffer the consequences. This points to the fallacy of modern secular humanism.

What is “humanism”? It’s said to be…

…a term widely used within the church to describe the prevailing philosophy of today—the world’s mold that Christians have to resist deliberately. But what, specifically, is “humanism”? Probably its clearest definition and most aggressive repudiation of Christianity appears in the Humanist Manifesto II [Sept. 2, 1973], which contains the following basic tenets:

  • We believe that traditional dogmatic or authoritarian religions that place revelation, God, ritual, or creed above human needs and experience do a disservice to the human species.
  • Promises of immortal salvation or fear of eternal damnation are both illusory and harmful. They distract humans from present concerns, from self-actualization, and from rectifying social injustices.
  • We affirm that moral values derive their source from human experience. Ethics is autonomous and situational, needing no theological or ideological sanction. Ethics stem from human need and interest. To deny this distorts the whole basis of life. Reason and intelligence are the most effective instruments that human kind possesses. There is not substitute; neither faith nor passion suffices in itself.
  • No deity will save us; we must save ourselves. (as cited in 1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Baker Book House, Michael P. Green, ed.)

This manifesto is one of three that have been published by prominent humanists for the past 85 years. Humanist Manifesto I was first published in 1933, at the time John Dewey and others organized the American Humanist Association, AHA. The tenets of the first manifesto essentially advocated socialism over capitalism.

In 2003, Humanist Manifesto III was published in The Humanist. Although it did not include the various tenets of the first two manifestos, it was printed in paragraphs containing words that did not directly oppose Christian beliefs like the second one. However, it still advocates a humanistic philosophy that is contrary to a belief in anything supernatural (i.e., God’s existence and that he is our Creator). (LINK: http://www.icr.org/article/evolving-humanist-manifestos/ )

When you think about it, humanism is basically the worship of humanity rather than worship of the one, true God. It denies God and the teachings in God’s Word. It believes that humanity is the solution to the world’s problems, and not God. Humanism couldn’t be more wrong.

Humanism is a sick building. It extols “the creature” rather than “the Creator” just like the Apostle Paul stated to the Roman Church:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 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. (Rom. 1:18-25, New American Standard Bible, NASB)

Evidence of God’s is everywhere, just as the Apostle Paul points out. But well-educated philosophers who profess to be wise turn out to be fools because they deny their own Creator. They are like the fool described in two Psalms (NASB):

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds;
There is no one who does good. (Psalm 14:1)

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God,”
They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice;
There is no one who does good. (Psalm 53:1)

The fallacy of humanism is that humanists believe it can succeed. The truth is, however, it will never bring lasting joy or prosperity or security and peace and especially love. Humanism travels on a one-way street going the wrong way. It goes against the flow of God’s moral character since it denies him. Humanism asserts its own “moral value” which is really “immoral” since it is without the One who establishes true moral value.

In essence, humanism is a “sick building” built on a weak foundation of sand rather than the solid rock of Christ’s highest standards (Matthew 7:24-27). Those who promote socialism, materialism, cultism, hedonism, and many other kinds of ism’s breed the spiritual sickness and diseases the lead to disappointment, disillusionment, and disaster. The Apostle Paul goes on to list these “sicknesses” and their results:

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (Rom. 1:26-32, NASB)

Have you ever noticed how those with a bent toward humanism tend to give their “hearty approval” for the very things God does not approve of? You might be watching a TV show and hear someone endorse something that is not according to God’s moral standards even though that person likes to make it look most popular and acceptable. But what they want you to accept leads to the sickness of a “depraved mind to do those things which are not proper….” When you observe the ills of this world, you can always trace it to the humanistic frame of mind, attributed to this problem called SIN.

It all started when our first parents disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were humanistic in their depraved minds when they humanly thought that they could be gods themselves rather than obeying the one, true God (Genesis 3:5-6). This led to their sin. And humanity has been suffering ever since.

It took the “second Adam,” Jesus Christ, to give humanity the hope of overcoming sin and the curse we are all under (1 Corinthians 15:45). Jesus was born to undo what Adam did and provide forgiveness of sin which is available since he died to save us from the penalty of sin, namely, eternal death (Isaiah 53; Rom. 5:6-8; 1 Cor. 15:3; Galatians 3:13-14; Ephesians 5:2; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 10:12; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 3:16). Those who accept Jesus Christ as Savior through faith, repentance, and baptism are able to escape the sickness of humanism and the misery it breeds. Believers find a better “house” to dwell in which they are able to really live through the power of God’s wisdom and grace (Psalm 84).

Here’s Jason Silver with a song from Psalm 84: http://youtu.be/W1_RuGwZEj8

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Taking the Long View

looking ahead

Once upon a time there was a pig who was eating his fill of acorns under an oak tree. Then he started to root around the tree. When warned that his digging would kill the tree, he answered, “Let it die. Who cares as long as there are acorns?”

The pig was short-sighted. And foolish. Had he taken the longer view, he would have realized that killing the tree would eventually end his feast of acorns and he would starve.

Not unlike the pig, there is the human tendency to look only at the moment and not see what’s down the road. The Apostle Peter speaks of such persons as spiritually “blind or shortsighted”:

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. (2 Pet. 1:5-9 New American Standard Bible, NASB.)

Peter wanted his readers to know how important it is to keep moving forward in the knowledge of Christ by looking forward to the precious promises of the future. Verse 4 states,

For by these [ “everything pertaining to life, and godliness…” vs. 3 ] he has granted to us his precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

The apostle is reminding believers that taking the long view—that is, living for the day when Jesus returns to give all the faithful “the divine nature,” when they are changed to receive immortality like Jesus (1 John 3:2) is far more productive than merely living for what you can get now. In other words, the reason we choose to grow in Christ is not for the “acorns” that can only bring us temporary pleasure for this is “useless” and “unfruitful,” (vs. 8). Instead, we are urged to make sure we take care of the whole “tree” that produces the fruit of salvation in God’s eternal kingdom. For as Peter went on to say, “For in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you,” (vs. 11).

The long view means that while we are expecting Christ to return to bring an end to all the misery and difficulties we face in the present, mortal life, we are careful to grow in faith, seek the truth, and serve the Lord out of love and loyalty to him. That’s what Peter’s list of Christian graces is all about: Faith, moral excellence (virtue), knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, love. These are the “qualities” we pursue as we depend upon God’s Spirit through Christ to fill us each day (Galatians 5:22-23).

These qualities are important because if we stop striving to grow in them then we’re only living for this present life. And the sad result will be “the works of the flesh” which will only end in disaster for, “those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” (see Galatians 5:16-21). Living only for the “the works of the flesh” in this present life is a sure-fire way to kill the tree that produces any hope of receiving eternal life in God’s wonderful kingdom.

The long view leads to a better attitude, a better choice, and a better hope for the future. The fact that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, transforms our lives, and gives us something to live for that no one else can give, is why we can enjoy these better things. In addition, by taking the long view, we will not forget how we’ve been saved from our sins through him (2 Pet. 1:9). Like the Apostle Paul, we “press on” toward the goal of a higher, better reward than anything we’ll ever achieve or receive now (Philippians 3:14-16). We never want to be sidetracked with our fill of acorns without taking that longer view.

We can’t take the long view if we don’t give our lives completely over to Jesus and ask him to change us. Here’s a song that speaks to this very truth: http://youtu.be/8m8Ivi4Gu-I

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Gabriel’s Horn

Gabriel Appears to Mary

There’s an old Spiritual that was sung by African Americans titled, Blow Your Trumpet, Gabriel, that says,

De talles’ tree in Paradise,
De Christian call de tree of life;
And I hope dat trump might blow me home
To the new Jerusalem.

Blow your trumpet, Gabriel,
Blow louder, louder;
And I hope dat trump might blow me home
To the new Jerusalem.

Paul and Silas, bound in jail,
Sing God’s praise both night and day;
And I hope dat trump might blow me home
To the new Jerusalem.

https://www.negrospirituals.com/songs/blow_you_trumpet_gabriel.htm

This is just one of many examples that portray the angel Gabriel as blowing a horn. According to Wikipedia,

The earliest known identification of Gabriel as the trumpeter comes in John Wycliffe’s 1382 tract, De Ecclesiæ Dominio. In the year 1455, in Armenian art, there is an illustration in an Armenian manuscript showing Gabriel sounding his trumpet as the dead climb out of their graves. Two centuries later, Gabriel is identified as the trumpeter, in John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667):

Betwixt these rockie pillars Gabriel sat
Chief of the Angelic guards (IV.545f)…
He ended, and the Son gave signal high
To the bright minister that watch’d, he blew
His trumpet, heard in Oreb since perhaps
When God descended, and perhaps once more
To sound at general doom. (XI.72ff).

But is the depiction of Gabriel blowing a horn Biblical? 

In the Bible, Gabriel is the heavenly messenger (angel) who interpreted the prophet Daniel’s vision of the ram and the goat (Daniel 8:15-27). Gabriel appeared to Daniel again after the prophet prayed for his people of Israel (Dan. 9:20-27). Gabriel’s message from the LORD had to do with the future of Israel, the nations of the world, and the signs preceding the coming of the Messiah. Jesus directly referred to these “end of the age” prophecies from the Book of Daniel (Old Testament) in connection with his second coming (Matt. 24:1-31; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-36).  

In the New Testament, Gabriel’s name is mentioned once again when he appeared to announce the births of John the Baptist, who prepared the way for the Savior (Luke 1:8-20), and Jesus (Luke 1:26-38).

From these references, Gabriel is called an angel (Luke 1:19, 26) who appeared as a man (Dan. 9:21). Although some traditions speak of Gabriel as an archangel, the Bible never applies this term to him. Neither does the Bible refer to Gabriel as a saint as some Christian traditions assert. “Saints,” in the Bible actually refers to Christians. Dr. Alva Huffer wrote, “A believer becomes a saint, not when he dies, but when he enters into Christ and becomes a Christian. The New Testament refers to all Christians as saints, regardless of their spiritual attainments. (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; 13:13; Eph. 1:1; 4:12:Phil. 1:1; 4:21; Col. 1:2, 4, 26; Heb. 13:24; et. al.)” (Systematic Theology, p. 387.)

The name, Gabriel, means “strong or mighty man of God.” As implied in the meaning of being God’s mighty messenger, Gabriel’s chief role was to proclaim the coming of the Messiah. This is evidenced in both Daniel’s prophecies and the birth of Jesus. When Gabriel announced that the virgin Mary would give birth to Jesus, he also predicted the return of Jesus when he will reign as King forever in God’s coming Kingdom (Luke 1:32-33). Of course, this includes the resurrection of believers.

It’s probably due to the fact that Gabriel is associated with the announcement of Jesus’ return that the angel is connected with blowing a trumpet. Interestingly, however, the Bible never speaks of Gabriel’s use of a horn at the second coming. There are various references to the sound of a trumpet when Jesus comes again but Gabriel is not mentioned as the trumpeter.

The fact is, Jesus “…will send forth his angels with a great trumpet…” (Matt. 24:31) but no names of angels are specifically given. Likewise, God’s trumpet shall sound along with the voice of the archangel and the Lord’s shout when he descends from heaven to raise the dead in Christ, according to First Thessalonians 4:16. [NOTE: The only reference to an “archangel” in the Bible is Michael the Archangel and he is believed to be the protector and defender of Israel (Jude 9; Rev. 12:5-9, cp. Dan. 10:13, 21).] There are also seven unnamed angels with each one sounding a trumpet in Revelation 8-11 for announcing God’s judgements at the end of the age. And, First Corinthians 15:52 mentions “the last trump” that will sound when the dead in Christ are raised to immortality and incorruption at the return of Christ which echoes the passage in 1 Thess. 4:16. Yet, none of these references state that Gabriel  will blow a trumpet.

We can be encouraged to know, however, that Gabriel’s messages to Daniel the prophet, Zacharias the father of John the Baptist, and Mary the mother of our Lord, all relate to the wonderful promises of God’s Word. Thanks to Gabriel, we can be comforted to know that the Messiah Jesus is the One who will fulfill God’s plan of salvation. Gabriel appeared to give us the hope that can only be found in Christ and the assurance of a Great Day to come. And just think of it: Won’t it be amazing to one day be able to meet Gabriel in person!

Here’s a catchy little tune titled, “The Angel Gabriel”: http://youtu.be/nSq_T3lVOOk

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

 

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‘Is Jesus God?’

Jesus Christ Son of God

I was perusing through some old issues of The Restitution Herald which has been the primary publication of the Church of God General Conference, McDonough, Georgia, for over 100 years. One of the articles that caught my eye was dated February 19, 1952, and titled, “Is Jesus God?” It was written by Harold Doan (1924-1983) from a radio message he presented on station WAIT, Chicago. Doan, an Oregon Bible College graduate who was pastor of a church in Chicago, went on to become editor of The Restitution Herald three years later as well as Executive Secretary of the General Conference for many years.

Since one of the important truths the Bible teaches concerns the nature of Jesus Christ, I am taking the opportunity to share this article. God’s Word never changes and this includes the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God as well as the Son of Man. Although the article goes back 66 years, Brother Doan’s message is just as true and inspiring now as it was then:

Is Jesus God? Our answer is “No, Jesus is not God but he is the only begotten Son of God.” We could stop right here, but, because this answer is not in agreement with popular theology, we must go on to explain from God’s Word why Jesus cannot be called God.

God is one. “The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4). God said, “I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God….I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself” (Isa. 44:6, 24). There are no mathematical miracles connected with these texts. The God of Israel was and is one God, who alone created all things, who alone is the Father of all.

This God, whom we serve, is immortal. Paul said of him, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God” (1 Tim. 1:17). God is immortal, yet we read that “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3). If Jesus were God, “invisible” could he have been seen of Cephas, five hundred brethren, James, and later by Paul himself, even after his resurrection? Could he have died for our sins if he were “immortal…the only wise God”? If immortal God could die, then hope of immortality is in vain and Paul was wrong when he promised, “When this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory,” (1 Cor. 15:54). If Jesus is God, then God is not immortal or Jesus did not die for our sins. Jesus is not God. He is God’s only begotten Son, born of the virgin Mary, Son of God and Son of Man, able to die for us. “God so loved the world, that he gave [himself? No!] his only begotten Son,” (John 3:16).

It has been said that the only way God could do away with sin was to die for it himself. Where does Scripture teach this? It does not! The Bible clearly teaches that God condemned man to die for his own sins. At the same time, God made provision for a seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15), to eventually stamp out sin. He also made provision for a blood substitute for sin. Eventually, he provided a substitute for man in his own Son, one of his own blood, but never did God even so much as imply that he himself would or should die for the sin of man.

harold-doan_circa-1955.jpg

Jesus was limited in knowledge. God is not limited. Jesus once said, concerning the date of his second coming, “Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father,” (Mark 13:32). Jesus said, “No man knows when I will come again. The angels do not know. Even I [the Son] do not know. Only the Father knows.” Was Jesus the Father or the Son? Did he know or did he not know? Could he both know and not know at the same time? How much more reasonable and Scriptural to acknowledge that God in heaven knows all things, and that his Son on the earth was limited, at least in this matter, in knowledge! God knows all; Jesus did not know one fact, the date of his return. Jesus is not God!

1 Timothy 2:5 is a verse extremely important to the Protestant church in that it shows that believers have only one access to the throne of God and that is through Jesus Christ. The verse reads, “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” There is one God, and one mediator, or go-between, between God and men, Jesus. Now I learned in the first grade that one and one is two. Paul probably learned that outstanding fact at some time in his life also. There are three parties mentioned in this verse. There is God. There is the human race. There is the man between the two, reconciling them, even Jesus Christ. Could Christ be God and also the mediator between God and men? Paul said, Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one,” (gal. 3:20). If Jesus and God were literally one, Jesus could not be mediator between himself and man. The very work Christ is now performing, interceding for man before God, makes it impossible that he himself be God. Jesus is not God; he is the Son of God, mediator between God and men.

In the course of his ministry, Jesus exerted himself to make it clear that he was not God. As Paul said in Philippians 2:6, “Jesus counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped,” (R.V.). Never did Jesus try to usurp the place of God nor proclaim to be God. He always made it clear that his words came from God, the power to do his works came from God, and that God was greater than he. “I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I,” John 14:28). If Jesus had claimed to be God, that claim would have been the first accusation thrown at him when he was tried. Such a claim was not mentioned. In fact, the accusers said only of him, “He ought to die, because he made himself [claimed to be] the Son of God,” (John 19:7).

After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to Mary and said, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended unto my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God,” (John 20:17). Could Jesus have been speaking of himself? We can see no possibility that he was. Later, when Jesus revealed himself to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos and delivered to him the Revelation, Jesus said, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write them upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I write upon him my new name,” (Rev. 3:12).

Four times in this verse, Jesus, who was at God’s right at the time, referred to “my God.” In this verse, Jesus made the additional distinction between himself and God by saying, “I will write upon him my new name.” Not only will the overcomer bear the name of God and the city of God, but in addition he will bear the new name of Christ, whatever that may be. Jesus was careful, even after his ascension to make a distinction between himself and God. He would not let the rich young ruler call him “good” but said, “There is only good and that is God.” When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he first told Martha, “Said I not unto thee, that…thou shouldest see the glory of God?” Then he prayed unto God saying, “I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou has sent me,” (John 11:40-42). Jesus wanted it clearly understood that his power was derived power, coming down from God.

These texts and many more like them lead us to the reasonable conclusion that God is one. He alone created the heavens and earth. He alone has inherent immortality. He is the source of life. Jesus is his Son, flesh and blood, born of a woman, by miraculous, divine conception. Jesus lived as a man; he suffered; he thirsted; he tired; he was tempted; he agonized upon the cross and literally died. He was raised from the dead, by the power of God, ascended into heaven, and now acts as mediator between his Father, God, and the men [and women] he died to save. God is one; Jesus one; these make two, Father and Son, God and mediator. No, Jesus is not God, he is the only begotten Son of God.

Does this fact in any way detract from the glory of God or from the sacrifice of Christ? No, its truth magnifies God in our sight, and also makes Christ more understandable and real. “There is one God; and none other but he,” (Mark 12:32). How this clarifies our thinking and pin points our love. This God loves us. He had a Son, Jesus, who, because he was without sin was acceptable to God as sacrifice for the sins of all who would believe in him. God loved us. His Son loved us. Jesus died for us, and God raised him from the dead to be our Mediator. Believe in God; put your trust in him. Believe in his Son. Accept his sacrifice as your own and put on his name. You can come into the family of God by him!

Here is the hymn, “For God So Loved the World”: https://youtu.be/wexlu379AF4

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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