Our Guardian Shepherd

Jesus the Good Shpherd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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

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

Danny

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

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

Way #1. Deny God’s existence.

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

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

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

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

Way #2. Mock at sin and guilt.

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

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

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

Way #3. Be arrogant and conceited.

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

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

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

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

Way #4. Stir up strife.

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

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

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

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

Way #5. Spread Slander.

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

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

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

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

Way #6. Be Quarrelsome.

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

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

Interestingly, there’s a cost when fools quarrel…

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

Way #7. Be a hypocrite.

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

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

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

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

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

Way #8. Be narrow minded. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A THOUGHT TO PONDER:

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

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

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

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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

http://youtu.be/RYxJc0PTXiY

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Excelling in Excellence

excellence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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

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‘God Created Them Male and Female’

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

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

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

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

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

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

(1) God created man in his image.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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

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Loving Good, Hating Evil

 

Romans 12_9

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

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

Consider each of these three statements:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to one source,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(3) God loves good and hates evil.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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

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The Politics of Lying

lying_politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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

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Troubled About Troubles?

Women in horror

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

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

That’s the public version.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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

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